I know two women. They are in my age group. Two to three years ago, we were about the same speeds. We'd finish around the same time. Recently, one of those women said, "You've blown right past us. We're not even in the same league anymore."
First, I disagree with the language.
You know that saying: Don't compare your start to someone else's middle?
How about we stop comparing ourselves to other people? We are all in different places in our lives.
The only difference between me and those two women, is that two years ago, I made a commitment. Liz and I see eye to eye on so many things. The BIG one has been that she doesn't believe in goals. Goals don't mean shit if you aren't committed to what it takes to reach those goals. Liz asks her athletes, "What are you willing to commit to?"
If you say, I want to do Ironman. Liz will say, "This is what is required. Are you committed to that?" (She said those exact words to me when I started with her).
This is where, I believe, the disconnect comes in for many people. You want to do Ironman. You want to qualify for Kona. You want to qualify for Nationals. You want to move up to middle of the pack. But, they aren't willing to do what it takes.
I was thinking about this conversation. I have made tremendous strides, some can be seen in race finish times; some can't. More often than not, the progress that I've made has been mental. Liz has helped me understand pain and how to deal with it. Ultimately that will show up on race day. However, it is a lengthy process.
Still, the conversation got me thinking about some of the changes I've made and other "traits" (I guess) that I have that have really helped me over the last few years.
1.) I won't be outworked. At every workout, I give what I'm supposed to give to that workout. In strength work, I will go to failure. Rest. And go again. I'll do it again. It hurts. Sometimes it hurts so bad, I think I can't do another set or interval. I know, I will because the pain of not reaching my goals is more painful than any interval.
2.) My commitments and goals are aligned. I have no interest in being on my bike for 6, 7, 8 hours....whatever period of time is required to train for Ironman. Even if I want to do Ironman, I won't commit to that training. I don't do it. Instead, I have a laundry list of goals for shorter distances. All of which I am committed to.
3.) I stopped being realistic. I'm not interested in mediocrity. My goals go far beyond that. When I stopped being "realistic" about what I could do, I started making the biggest strides. When you stop putting a ceiling on yourself, you see there is a lot more than you ever imagined. I've been saying that I'll go sub 6 for a few years now....even back when I wasn't committed to the goal. My best 70.3 is 6:40ish. Is sub 6 realistic this year? I don't give a fuck. It's what I'm going to do. I recently shared a story with Liz that I have never told anyone. Not one person. It was a goal that I set for myself after I finished my first 70.3 in 8:45. It wasn't a realistic goal back then. That's why I never told anyone, but I knew one day I would do it. This will be the year. When I do, you can be sure that I will blog all about it.
4.) Focus on every seemingly small detail: sleep, recovery, fuel. I don't skip workouts. I don't move workouts around. You'll never hear me say, "I wasn't feeling it". I don't cut workouts short. Training isn't a 2 or 3 hour a day thing for me. It's a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week venture. No thank you, I would not like a piece of cake right now. I won't be able to hit up at 9pm movie with you.
I won't complain about workouts. I will do them. This is what I signed up for. This is what I committed to.
5.) I'm all in. I learned that to be successful, you can't go into this sport half assed. If you hire a coach, then skip workouts or move them around to fit your fancy, you're not going to get the results you want. If you do the workouts but don't focus on nutrition, you aren't going to get the results you want. If you focus on nutrition but don't focus on the workouts, you're not going to get the results. The list goes on and on and on.
6.) I'm a very patient person, but I don't hesitate to make changes when I don't see results. Results don't happen overnight, but there should be results. If not, you need to make a change. A couple of years ago, I was getting really frustrated with my swim. When I started with my (previous) masters program, I made improvements in leaps and bounds. Then, I plateaued...for a year. I kept going to practice, patiently waiting for a jump in my speed. I knew I still had room for improvement. I researched and switched masters programs. Within a few weeks, I started seeing improvements again.
Patience is important because it takes a long long time to get good at this sport. (Long time as in years). I was ok with that. It can be tough to know when you need to make a change. It was hard switching masters. Looking back now, it was the best thing for me. I need to be pushed. I will always take the easy way out.
None of us are perfect. Some of us just work better with our own limitations.
7.) This might be the most important one for me. I always want feedback. I don't trust people who tell me that I'm doing fine. I know when I'm doing well and when I'm not. I will lose respect for someone if they tell me I did well.....when I know damn well I didn't.
Then there are times that coaches will recognize behaviors that I'm not even aware of. When I started with Liz, after a few races, she said to me, "You're steady state Sally. You're afraid to go fast."
NO ONE EVER SAID THAT TO ME BEFORE. When she first said it, I was mad. I didn't respond. I took a few days, and I realized that she was right.
I went back to her, and I asked, "how do I stop being steady state Sally?"
More recently, I shared this story with Liz.
At masters this week, Coach D started the set. He says to me, "I want you to do something different than everyone else."
Of course, I'm like "whut?"
He says, "You start too fast. You do it every time. From now on during long days, we're going to start working on your pacing. Starting like a bat out of hell is great for 100's, but your races start at 600's."
He had me do 8 x 75 (basically a broken 600 in swim speak) as sort of a test. He timed each of my 75's. At the end, I learned that I failed miserably.
He even said, "Do you even look at the pace clock?"
POINT MADE, COACH.
Then he had me do a straight through 600. I did better. After the 600, he said, "Still too fast. You need to start slower. It's going to feel stupid easy. Over time, Your first half will go from being :03-:05 slower to :02-:03. Our goal will be to get you to an almost even first half to second half. "
Then I swam a 500. I did it perfectly. I was surprised at how hard it felt in the second half compared to my actual pace. He said, "That's something we're also going to work on. We're going to work on matching your effort with different paces. It WILL feel harder at the end, even though your pace is staying the same. The goal will be to learn that THAT'S ok and to match up the effort with early pacing and effort with late race pacing."
Feedback on something that I would NEVER have picked up on if it weren't for a coach that really cared about helping me improve.
I changed my mind. This next one is the most important one for me.
8.) If you haven't figured it out, I surround myself with the right people.
I won't name everyone by name because I will leave out someone inadvertently. I have Coach Liz as my tri coach. I have my swim Coaches Andrew and Dotson and to a lesser degree but still important Elliott. I have my lanemates who are much faster than me and have said, "You can do it, Tea." They have never told me to move down a lane. They don't mind lapping me, and I don't mind getting lapped.
My nutritionist still checks in on me; even though we stopped working together at the end of October. I received an email from her today wishing me luck and asking what my fueling looked like for Sun and Sat.
New friends: You know who you are. The ones who always say encouraging things or make me smile when I've had a tough day. You might not have been with me from the start, but you are an important piece of where I am today.
Old friends: There are no words for this group. The people who have been with me since I started. Some of whom have seen me go from runner to triathlete. They've put up with my moods. They've listened when I thought I had no one left to listen. They've been through every pivotal moment with me. You make me laugh and make sure I know when I'm taking myself too seriously....which hopefully, isn't very often.
Wherever you are in this process, start there. None of this happened overnight for me. Each day, do one thing better than you did the day before. Before you know it, a year has gone by. You've made 365 small changes that will pay you huge returns.
Don't compare yourself to other people.