Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Look Back at the First Season - What I Learned

By crossing the finish line in San Diego last Sunday, I completed my first season of triathlons. All told the count was three tri's and one du (that one having originally been scheduled as a tri).

I've chronicled a lot of that in the last nine months or so and I don't plan to rehash it all here. That would be like watching a television show where an episode is mostly just a bunch of flashbacks to previous episodes. Not here.

However, there is something more to be gleaned from looking back at this first year: the most important things I've learned and what I'll talk with me going into my next year. So in no particular order, here's the list:

  1. A well-thought-out and faithfully executed plan is a road map to success. I made the decision to get into triathlons just as last season was coming to a close. It gave me lots of time to prepare and then tweak a plan to get ready. I made use of a lot of great online resources including Trifuel, Trinewbies and blogs like this one. While any plan needs to be flexible, having a fairly good idea of what you want to do and by when does much to drive success.
  2. There is nobility in working hard during the off season. No one completes a successful triathlon without a lot of hard work. I believe that is as true of a sprint as it is of a full Ironman (though granted I've never done the latter). It says a lot about your character and your perseverance to keep slogging out those early morning swims, long tedious rides on the trainer and runs in the bitter cold. The payoff is evident when you're in the event and you feel like you're prepared.
  3. Equipment is fun, but having the best stuff does not make you better. I'm a big fan of those Xtra Normal computer generated cartoons. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this one:

There's another along a similar vain in which one of the characters points out that triathlon causes diseases such as "major douche-bag syndrome" and "self important bitch-itis." That's too true. I would love to have one of those feather light carbon tri bikes with a really cool set of carbon wheels. They look like bikes from the future. Hell, I'd be happy with a new Garmin 310! But the fact of the matter is that the real work is done with your arms, your legs, your head and your heart (the later in both the literal and figurative sense). I've got just as much respect for the lady that finished last in the Greeley Triathlon riding an old heavy steel bike as I do for the guy with the $5000 set-up.

4. This sport is really addictive. After every race I finished, I found myself anxious for the next one. Even after this past Sunday when I knew the season was over, I felt a little urge to do more. There's something so cool about doing three sports. It's like we all get to be Olympic athletes for a short period. It is the Randian notion of man as heroic being in its very best sense. I can't wait for next season!

 5. The support of friends and family is the fuel that keeps this all going. My wife showed up to all four events I did this year. That meant some really early mornings just to take pictures and yell "Go Paul!" a few times as I ran in and out of transition. My parents and in-laws were also in attendance at various races. My nieces cheered me on to the finish of the Creek Streak. Even just the likes I got on Facebook regarding my status about doing a triathlon were encouraging. I'd still do all of this if no one cared, but it sure is nice to have so many people behind me.

So the season has ended. Lakes will soon be too cold for open water swims. The days are getting shorter and that means cycling after work will become more and more difficult before just becoming impossible. In my part of the world, there are very few events scheduled. Some already have their 2012 information up on their website.

For me, the next few weeks involve my prep for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon on October 9. I had a good 9 mile run this morning and followed it with any easy fifteen minute spin on my hybrid bike. Once the race is over I'm going to take a week and do nothing at all. Then it's time for off-season conditioning including the building of a big mileage base. I'm leaning toward trying a Half Iron Man next summer. I think I can do it, but I'm going to take a little more time to make that decision. And, of course, I've got a plan. Two of them in fact: one for conditioning and one for a HIM in August.

I think I'll still have a lot to write about on these pages. There's a little bit of travel (Hawaii in about six months for example) and plenty of stuff going on this winter. It's a time of year I tend to spend more time in the kitchen and I think that's going to find it's way here as a new blog feature.

Thanks for reading and I'll be back with more soon!

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