Six days away from my ninth Ironman Hawaii. Now's the time to reflect on "what we've done to prepare for this". Jeff Molson recently posted a great article on my web site titled "The Report Card" which discusses how he loved report card day because it gave him an honest depiction of how well prepared he was, and his racing in his adult life became a great report card, even though he has adjusted his grading method a bit as he's aged as an athlete. It got me thinking about my report card for this Kona, and of course, comparing it to my other Kona builds.
The thing is, just as Jeff's self grading process has changed, so has mine. Even though I haven't raced yet, I like to give myself a combined total grade that's based on how I prepared for this race in training, with my family, and with my career. In other words, I've witnessed friends building for an IM who would receive an A in their training, yet they didn't go the extra yard at work giving them a B there, and sacrificed to much family time giving them a D there. So their GPA , in my opinion, is a C, which I guess by school definition is satisfactory, but in my middle aged life I feel it's more unsatisfactory.
So here's my honest assessment of my 2012 Kona pre-race GPA:
My training went well for the most part. I relied on my cumulative base and made most of my training quality. The race will be the true test of how this worked, but I always tell my athletes that we have to realistically look at what type of time we have each week and optimize that time. For me, this means an average of 10 to 12 hours per week which is quite minimalistic compared to most age group triathletes. So I made the most out of the 10 to 12 hours. I watched a video recently that Chris McCormack did where he answered some questions on nutrition. One of the questions was on post training nutrition, and he explained how the first thing we need to do is absorb that session we just did, by sitting down for awhile, resting, letting ourselves absorb the session. I guess toweling off quickly then changing clothes and forcing in a cliff bar while driving to my next client or to pick up my daughter from soccer practice isn't sitting down and absorbing the session. But in the real world, and I am by far the majority as an endurance athlete here, I don't have the 18+ hours per week to train and 7+ hours of non-sleep recovery to absorb sessions. I did put a lot of emphasis on recovery. I still feel as though I can crank out a hard effort like I did back in 97' however, it now will take me a day or two longer to recover from this. If I had a specific hard session scheduled for a particular day and I still felt unrecovered from a previous session the day or two before, I either went easy or took a rest day and did that specific hard session on the next day.
I did quiz's along the way to assess my fitness and progress. The VT ride was a nice quiz that assured me that I still had that aerobic cumulative base to go long. Sidetrack here, but I feel most overestimate building base, especially if they have been an endurance athlete for a year or more, and they fall into the trap of just logging junk mileage. Most triathletes can get on their bike and ride for 4+ hrs, regardless of their present condition. It may be at only 12 mph, but they could still do it. Now, how do we bump that up to 20 mph? I'll give you a hint - it's not by riding lot's more miles at 12 mph, or even 17 mph. Okay, back on track. I also did a weekly tempo ride on a somewhat closed course .8 mile loop which sounds boring as hell, but I liked the concentrated effort and I liked to track my progress each week. Some of these sessions, I'd pedal the 45 minute cool down home so beat that I felt as though my crank was square instead of round, yet I'd be smiling because there is something rewarding about suffering through a hard session to endurance athletes. I did a weekly track or treadmill session that went fairly well. I still have an imbalance in my right hip/si joint that screams at me when I'm not recovered - this is something I am really going to address after this race. It only bothers me when I run, but it can be quite bothersome. It never get's worse though, so I block it out. I don't pay any attention to it unless it's so bad that it's changing my run gait in which case i back off the session. Swimming - well, I began in late August and feel okay in the water. I don't dock myself here because it's not as though I just don't swim because I hate it. Again, I weigh the time I have and where it's best spent. Because I have a little bit of a swimming background, I can rally enough to get me through most IM swims in an hour give or take.
Mentally, I really enjoyed the training for this IM. It wasn't arduous like some of the catabalistic sessions I had done for previous IM's. I chose different bike courses than I typically would ride in training, and because I was only riding three times per week as compared to four or five in the past, I felt relatively fresh for my key sessions. Besides VT, I only did one other 100 mile ride. But I did a lot of hard four hour rides. We shall see how this pays off on Saturday - that's the key, right? But physically, I'd give this build a solid A, mainly because I made progress and enjoyed the process.
I'll keep this short regarding my career and family, just in case anyone is actually reading this or hasn't drifted back to their Facebook page yet out of boredom.
Career: I've been in my own business since 1995 and anyone in their own business knows that you are always working because your mind is constantly thinking about how to keep your business effective, and you never want to rest on your laurels. I have some great projects in the works and these things get put on hold while training for an IM. I also want to spend more time with the people and athletes I presently work with. I will pick both of these things up as soon as I get back to CT, and with renewed enthusiasm, because I'm always very motivated coming off this race. Actually just writing this paragraph down makes me more anxious to get some of these ideas rolling and also makes me more accountable, which I like. My grade here during this build was a C.
Family: I have a rule that my family shouldn't pay the price for my obsession. It's easier to state that rule than actually stay 100% true to it because the reality is that the family will always suffer a bit when one member of it is training for an IM. I made a concerted effort to be mentally present with my wife when we are together, even though she may disagree;) I always look for signs from her to see if my training is getting to her and address these early on and quickly. I remind myself all the time to do this, and to never take her for granted. Lisa made things really easy though as she was a gem with my schedule. She loves Hawaii and is as excited to show the kids this island as I am. Each time I asked her if it was okay for me to get in a bit longer session, she was fine with it. And yes, you should ask your spouse if it's okay, not tell them this is what you are doing. Sure, some of the home projects didn't get done, but they will, and she didn't pressure me here whatsoever. I didn't miss one of my kids events. I would still go out and play basketball in the driveway with my son, although maybe it was for only 45 minutes now instead of 90. I had dinner with my family just about every night. These are the things that I personally weigh heavily and I made sure they didn't slide, even if it meant missing some training. I'd give my grade here a B. I'm a very tough grader in this category.
I would say my honest assessment of my pre-race report card GPA would be a B. When training for an IM, I don't know if it's possible for anyone to honestly receive an A. I do know that it's not possible for me. And also that I'm content with a B given the fact that there is no such thing as life balance in IM.