“So how’s the training for Kona going?” Each and every time I get this question, I pause, a bit unsure of how to craft an accurate response. Physically the training has been going as well as can be expected. My body has sent out a few warning signs that maybe it isn’t too keen on training for another ironman right now, but I’ve been able to take care of myself pretty well and stay healthy. In training, I’ve been feeling relatively strong on the bike and consistent on the run. My swimming is “ehh” as it has been for a while, but you can’t be feeling great in every discipline when training for an ironman. Something has got to give. So you would think the question posed at the outset of this post would evoke a positive response, as physically I feel like I’m in a good spot. My hesitation arises from my mindset. My mental game. This is the area where I feel a bit unsettled. A bit uncertain of where I’m at. This unsettled feeling stems from the fact that I’m not quite certain of what I’m trying to accomplish when I toe that starting line in Kailua Bay.
I generally don’t share my personal goals with too many people. They are designed to inspire me, motivate me, and provide direction for my training. I’m not looking for outward publicity and congratulatory remarks when I reach my goals. They are all enveloped in a personal mission where I’m trying to prove something to myself. Since it’s all said and done, I’ll throw it out there now – a primary goal for my 2016 triathlon season was to qualify for Kona. I thought I could do it, and I wanted to prove to myself that I had the mental and physical discipline to make my dream a reality. I managed to accomplish this goal — I made it to Kona. I reached my objective for the season. So I’m left to wonder, what now?
I’ve been told to treat Kona like a “victory lap.” Just “go out there and enjoy the experience. You’ve done the hard work that it takes to qualify. Now just soak it all in.” But really, no one actually trains for a victory lap. Usually the victory lap immediately follows the victory. But in this case, the victory lap takes place 2.5 months after the victory. And unfortunately the victory lap is not just a lap. It’s another ironman…. Which requires some significant training. So now that I have accomplished my primary objective for the season, I’ve been questioning what specifically I’m training for now. A victory lap? That’s not quite motivating enough for me. I need something more. Something more inspiring than just training for a victory lap.
I find it difficult to focus in training when I don’t have a clear target in mind. Yesterday I was out on a moderately long ride, which included 3 x 20 minute “push” intervals. I finished the third interval and was still quite a ways from my house. I was faced with two choices: 1) do a 4th 20-minute interval or 2) cruise on home at an easy pace. My body maybe would have preferred to cruise, but my mind was yearning for that 4th interval. My mind was seeking a purpose, a clear target – something to fixate on to finish out the ride: the power numbers, my heart rate, the interval clock. I knew my body would follow my mind, so I hit the end of my rest interval and my body instinctively picked up the pace. Intuitively, it seems odd to me that it’s easier for me to ride hard than it is to ride easy. When my mind sees specific targets, my body responds and kicks it into gear to attack those targets. I firmly believe that the mind drives the body, not the other way around. Ultimately, this workout reinforced the notion that my mind needs clear direction in order for my body to perform.
I know that I can’t just muddle through training in an uninspired fashion. That’s just not me. I need to give it my all and put my best foot forward. And in order to make the most of my training, I know that I needed a goal for Kona. A specific goal with a clear vision of where I’m trying to go and what I’m trying to accomplish. Having a specific goal in mind provides me with a concrete reason to keep pushing and keep my foot on the gas pedal when it would be easier to back off to avoid the discomfort.
So what’s my goal for Kona? Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out later (maybe!). And really, it doesn’t matter much to me if I achieve my specific goal or not. Goals are to inspire training. They provide you with direction on a daily basis. They inspire you to push on when you may question whether or not you really want to. My goal will ideally enable me to maximize my training so that I put myself in the best possible position to perform up to my capabilities on race day. And ultimately when race day arrives, my training goal takes a bit of a back seat, while my race day goal take center stage. My race day goal is always the same – manage every situation the best that I can, put my best foot forward and enjoy the experience. And of course, finish the race with a big smile on my face. Because I’ll be in Kona after all!! J