Here we go again!

My 2017 race calendar is starting to take form. I had this idea about doing all of the half-marathons in Vancouver, but there are so many of them, and the Fall Classic is in November, which just barely meets its title criterion of being in the fall.

I’ll start with a return to the course where I currently hold my half-marathon PR: Vancouver First Half.  I was a few pounds lighter (read: faster) in 2011, so I’m not expecting another PR.  But hey, I’ve 13 weeks to get into race-ready condition.  Who knows?

I’ll finish the season with something I’ve never tried before: two races in one weekend: 10km on October 21, and 21.1km on the 22nd.  I don’t really know what strategies to employ here, but I have a few months to figure that out!

Between those two, I’m not really sure.  I’m thinking of the BMO Half, or possibly the BMO Marathon as a relay.  Maybe Scotiabank in June.  Seawheeze if the Online Registration Gods are in my favour.

Is it goal-setting time again?

Taking a two-week vacation is like hitting that “reset” button on my brain.  And it’s really nice to sit back, and take stock of things.  It also opens up that cavern in the back of my mind, and there are some monsters back there.  I won’t get into those, because they’re like Gremlins: I shouldn’t feed them, lest they become stronger and creepier.

I’ve said before that I don’t believe in resolutions; I believe in goals.  But, frankly, no matter what you call them, both fail equally miserably.  I still think there’s value in the process.  Stop, review, think, plan, act; repeat.

So here’s something I’m throwing out there: The most important part of goal-setting is retrospective.  Setting attainable goals is easy, because we keep our ideas tethered on what we know is possible.  A whole realm of possibility is untapped, simply because we’re not looking for it.  Not because we can’t, but because we don’t.  Chances are, it’s the things that didn’t go well that are hiding the opportunities for breakthrough.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’

Isaac Asimov

Sometimes, you just have to suck at something

Tonight, while sweating up a storm, a spark: Sometimes you have to really just suck at something before you can start to get with it.

In the last five years, my life has changed at least as many times.  I set goals and succeeded at a lot of things.  But I fell flat on my face a few times too.  I’ve been injured and sick at times, and I used that as an excuse to stay on the couch.  I let each of my failures dictate how I’d spend the next few months.

For me, that meant wallowing in a sort of self pity.  I felt sorry for myself all the time.  I couldn’t even walk down the street without being reminded of just how much I screwed up on the one thing I believed so much in.

A spark: Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.  After all:

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

-Winston Churchill

and

Life is full of setbacks, success is determined by how you handle setbacks.

-A Shopping Bag

Do I need to fail more?  I’ve learned more from my failures over the last few years than I’d ever learned by succeeding at anything.  (Remind me, and maybe one day I’ll get more into that, and how a major setback at work led to a major epiphany…)

So I remember, thinking to myself when I moved to Kits, that there would be “no more excuses”.  Screw that.  Excuses are something that you make for something you don’t want to do.  The real joy is in surrounding yourself with the people that you want to be around, and kicking ass at the things that make your life — and their lives better.

So, this is now.  And that’s really it.  Is it the excitement of something new?  Or is it the spark of nostalgia?  Or does it matter?  It’s a spark.  And it’s my job to share sparks with you.

Moving forward…

Seawheezed

Wow, sure has been quiet in here.  See, I’ve been building robots (to take over the world), and spending too much time being ill, lately.

Robots are fun; being sick isn’t.  I had a really stubborn cough that just wouldn’t go away.  Still have a bit of it.  It comes and goes.  I’d like for it to go away, really.

This cough started around the beginning of July, and caused me to miss a lot of training, and even a few days’ work.  But of course, I had gone through the trouble of signing up for Seawheeze, and I wasn’t about to give up a ridiculously heavy carrot medal just for a cough.

My respiratory system is feeling much better than it was a month ago, when I could barely walk a few blocks without going into a coughing fit.  And I know that my physical form can take a half marathon — or at least, I’ve successfully run them in the past.

I’m not going to talk about my performance, but rather how this race became a step in my recovery from injury to health.  Yesterday’s race was about a few “moments” that really stuck out to me.

  1. Spin class on the Dunsmuir viaduct.  Maybe they shouldn’t tear down that thing after all.  Turn it into a gym!
  2. Running off the Burrard St. Bridge onto Cornwall: Wall-to-wall people, all running, all being amazing.
  3. Band on a barge, making up running-based lyrics to well-known songs.
  4. Legs hurt, can barely walk home.  Can’t wait to do it again.

The Multisport Event Formerly Known As Subaru Victoria

Success in triathlon is all about successfully carrying out a set of well-orchestrated tasks, in a specific sequence.  Whether you’re one of the professional elite, or whether you’re an enthusiastic age-grouper, it’s all the same.  Flawless execution of a race plan is what we strive for.

Of course, flawless execution is only half the battle.  Triathlon is as much about going through the physical actions, as it is about the mental discipline and preparation.  Leading up to the race, I spent a fair amount of time, creating a race plan.  Well, I can’t really call it a plan, because it It became more of an over-analytical checklist than anything, and landed as something of a race visualization guide.  I wrote my checklist, choosing words which created a mental and emotional picture of each step in the process.

So, while my splits (except perhaps for my T1 and T2 times) don’t come close to world-class, my performance in Victoria was a near-flawless execution of my race plan.  It was a successful race, in my books.  By the numbers:

500m Swim 10:04
T1 1:13
20km Bike 42:59
T2 1:18
5km Run 31:44
Final Clock 1:27:17

Package Pick-Up

I don’t think I’d normally include a comment about the package pick-up as part of a race report, but in this case, I must.  I felt that the organizers were more interested in making sure we all knew that the race was Ironman™-branded, than actually giving us useful information.  Especially for those of us racing the short course events.  The process of finding my race number, and making sure all the forms were filled out, was very disorganized.  Upon arriving at the athlete registration tent, I was told, “Go there first, and then come back.”  There was a small tent, crammed full of athletes trying to figure out their race numbers and which forms they needed to fill out.  It was as much a melée as a mass swim start.  Nevertheless, we were all able to figure it out.  But it wasn’t a great first introduction to the race experience, and in all honesty, I wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with it.  Fortunately (and I’m getting ahead of myself), the night’s sleep would help.

Bike Check

Once I had my race package, I went back to the car for my bike.  This is where the execution of my race plan begins.  This is the last chance I’ll have to make sure everything is in good shape before leaving my bike in the transition area overnight.

  1. Race number goes on the bike.
  2. Check that wheels are installed with quick-release levers at an appropriate tension.
  3. Check that brakes are well-aligned, and I didn’t forget to tighten the little screws on the brake pads.
  4. Get air in the tires.
  5. Take a quick spin to make sure everything is still in sound mechanical order.
  6. Make sure the gears shift smoothly and correctly.
  7. Choose an easy or appropriate gear for the start of the bike course (in this case, a short flat and a slight uphill grade).

Bike Drop-Off

After a successful test ride, I took my bike into the transition area.  I’m familiar with transition areas, and how little space is normally available.  I know to only bring the absolute necessities into transition.  But, when I found my race number on the rack, I wasn’t quite prepared for this.  What I found, was a clearance of at best 15cm to the bikes on either side of mine.  Not to mention, those stupid short racks that simply don’t work with my 58cm tri bike frame.  Fortunately, I hadn’t removed my rear bottle cages (as I have sometimes done in the past for a sprint distance), so I racked my bike off the rear of my saddle, so I’d be able to simply lift it out of the rack in T1.

I left transition, after trying to make sure that the adjacent bikes wouldn’t rub their icky metallic grossness on my carbon.  But I couldn’t quite shake the worry about being able to get my bike out and back in to transition without trouble.

Hotel Check-In and Dinner

Once the logistics were taken care of at the race site, it was off to the hotel to relax and get some food in.  We went to the hotel restaurant.  At this point, it’s worth noting that the adage, Never try anything new on race day, should be extended out to at least one day before the race.  This is all I will say about my pre-race dinner.

And then, after a suitable amount of time spent doing as little as possible, it was bedtime.  I set my alarm for some ungodly hour, and turned out the lights.

Race Morning

Setting up transition always seems to take me longer than it should.  But I think I’m getting the hang of it.  When I got into transition, everything was like clockwork.  I set down my backpack, and  went through it like a checklist, starting with the bike.

  1. Aero bottle on handlebars.
  2. Elbow pads on aero bars.
  3. Bike shoes un-velcroed and clipped into pedals, with elastic bands.
  4. Spare tubes and repair kit in one of the rear bottle cages.
  5. CO2 and inflator attached to rear of bottle cages.
  6. Gel taped to top tube.
  7. Helmet ratchet loosened.
  8. Helmet placed beside front wheel.
  9. Sunglasses, with arms out, inside helmet.
  10. Garmin mounted to bike, in Auto Multisport mode.

Then the run:

  1. Race belt in hat
  2. Hat behind bike helmet
  3. Bodyglide rubbed on shoes (inside edge of heel)
  4. Shoes on top of hat

And finally, the swim:

  1. Anti-fog applied to goggles
  2. Swim cap and goggles in back pocket of tri top
  3. Post-swim gel in back pocket of tri top

Once all my stuff was in the right place, I visualized all of the critical stages of the race.  I wasn’t really going through a checklist at this point; rather, drawing on my past race experiences.  And yes, everything was where it needed to be for my race plan.  My race day went perfectly.  While I didn’t win (nor even come close), I executed on my plan almost flawlessly.

 

Part Two: What do you want?

Goal setting is a journey.  Let’s start this journey with the end in mind.  And I’m talking about the end.  The when they’re writing your obituary end.  Bleak?  Maybe.  But if you could look back on your life from that perspective, what do you see?  What do you want?

For me, I look back, and I see a life lived in good health.  I sort of envision a kind of younger-looking version of Jack LaLanne.  Maybe someone like Sister Madonna Buder.  I see someone who didn’t need a walker or a mobility scooter, right up until the end.  (However, if I ever do need a mobility scooter, I call dibs on this one.)

What does it take to make it happen?  I’m a firm believer in goal-setting.  When I’ve done it, it works.  If you’ve never set goals before, a quick run-down on some of the criteria that make a goal a good one.  I like the “SMART” acronym, personally.

  • Specific.  Target a very specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable.  How will you know that you were successful/how successful were you?
  • Attainable (or Achievable).  Can it actually be done?
  • Relevant.  Does it really matter to you?
  • Time-bound.

Trouble with “SMART” is that it means different things, depending on who you ask.  For instance, some corporations use “A = Aligned with Corporate Goals”, which completely deludes both the company and the employee.  More often than not, corporations are only interested in year-over-year goal-setting.  But goals are really about making you great in the long-term, which in turn makes everything you do touched by greatness.  In other words, if you take care of your personal life, your health and your career, everybody wins.

Let’s stick with “Attainable”, and focus on those three areas of life.  We start with the end in mind, and work out the steps it’ll take to get there.  Think long-term.  That’s 10 years from now.  What will you have achieved by then?  Let’s try a fictitious goal as an example:

By January 2024, I have established a successful business, supplying widgets to the entire West Coast region.

And there it is.  It’s got a deadline, and it’s pretty specific about how and what will be measured on that deadline.  What’s more, it’s written in past tense, which is really just a trick to make you believe it.  Moving on… backward:

By January 2019, I am Regional Sales Manager, Western Division for XYZ Mega Corp.

Cool.  You’re going to need industry contacts.  Your boss won’t be pleased that you’re thinking about spinning off that sales division into your own company, though.  Best keep that under wraps for now.  But wait — maybe, just maybe, they’ll even help — if you can show that the National Corporate Headquarters can benefit by lopping off the Western Division.

By January 2015, I’ve successfully completed a Continuing Education course about writing a successful business proposal.

That’s only a year off, so now is the time to act on it.  This month, there are steps that you can take to attain that goal.  You might not be able to start your company tomorrow, but you can certainly pick up the phone and enrol in a course that will help you get there.

Rinse, lather and repeat.

By September 2023, I have completed five iron-distance triathlons.

or

By April 2019, I have 2.5 children and a house with a picket fence.

The sky is the limit.  Now try it in your own notebook.  And feel free to add some of your goal ideas in the comments section.  In Part Three (of what is becoming a poorly-planned three-part series in four [or more] parts), we’ll discuss some strategies for taking your goals from your notebook into reality.

All the best,

Darryl

Part One: Discovering the high-performance athlete inside

Triathlon is a unique sport in that professionals and amateurs often compete on the same course and on the same day, if not side-by-side. For many of us, it’s a lifestyle sport. Unlike many other amateur sports, even the shortest sprint distance triathlon demands a significant outlay of time and effort, not to mention the hemorrhaging of cash credit card debt.  It’s very easy to let the sport take over your entire life. And really, what better obsession? When the sport does take over your entire life, you put up pictures of Paula Findlay or Crowie on your cubicle walls. You derive a sick pleasure in watching people cringe when you tell them you spent more than $500 $5000 on a bicycle, and that you have at least two or three of them.

You probably do this for a reason. If you didn’t at least enjoy it, there wouldn’t really be a point at all, no? This is what discovering your inner elite is all about. Whether you are racing competitively against others, or whether you are racing for your own heart.

I do it because it is a challenge, to see whether I am capable of finishing things that ordinary people would call extraordinary. But it’s really not about that. There’s nothing special about the things that we do, except for the fact that we choose to do them.

So if there’s nothing extraordinary about the things that we do, or for that matter, the things that the elite do, then shouldn’t it mean that there’s no difference between the elite, and you?  There is no difference between any of us.

Through racing a few years ago, I learned that I am good enough to justify the time and expense of the triathlon lifestyle. An injury set me back a bit, but 2014 affords a new opportunity to start again.

There is nothing more rewarding in my life when I finally see that spark in someone’s eyes, when they finally get it.

So, make it real. Here are some ideas:

  • Get a personalized license plate for your car. Something like “TRI4PR” or “CARBON”.
  • Create an “Athlete” page on Facebook, so that you can have actual fans!
  • Get someone to take pictures of you and your bike (like you might see in Triathlete magazine).

I think the first point of order here is to really begin to accept myself as a high-performance athlete. That’s not to say that I’m pro-level or elite, but as a high-performance athlete, there is a slightly different bar that applies to me, my workouts, my day job, and my personal life.  But being a high-performance athlete means eliminating all those excuses, and making it real.  Not because I have to, but because there’s no better feeling than doing something that everyone else thought was impossible.

All the best to you, in 2014,

Darryl

Elite, yet normal.

I posted this link last year, but somehow it lost the video reference.  So here it is again.

We have Jens Voigt of Team Saxo-Bank showing The Internet around his hotel room.  I’m not particularly a follower of Voigt, but he is almost certainly a stronger athlete than I.  But he is still human, and shares the same kinds of concerns that us mere mortals do.

A Fish with a Bicycle