Elite athletes who cheat are making a bed in which they ultimately will have to sleep -- if not now, then certainly down the road. Circumvent and play the system as they may, the impact of their failed morality boomerangs back to hit them square between the eyes -- always. They may not ultimately get caught cheating. But, whether it be a failed test, a whistleblower dropping dime, a life-threatening malady like cancer, severe depression or worse, being held to account will happen for each of them in turn.
For some bizarre reason, people think triathlon is a squeaky clean sport. Nothing can be further from the truth. I was provided a stark reminder of this when I overlapped the Boulder Ironman race course at the tail end of a long ride. Doping is alive and well in the SBR.
Levels of fatigue – surface, deep muscle, systemic.
In the past, I’ve written about being tired and fatigued, and the need to differentiate between the two sensations. Today’s blog will be complementary on the fatigue sensation.
There are different types of fatigue, which I separate into three layers – surface, deep muscle, and systemic. Rather than basing these on scientific research, I instead base them on years of experience and feedback from my body.
Surface fatigue is what we feel during workouts based on the stress of the workout itself – so independent of any carryforward fatigue from previous workouts. Certainly, carryforward, or latent, fatigue impacts how we feel day-to-day; I’m simply explaining what each layer is. So, the burning in the muscles during a hard interval workout, for example. Surface fatigue is also what we feel directly after a workout as we start to recover from it. For example, when we ‘hit the showers’ after a grueling swim workout. The surface fatigue fairly quickly ebbs away as HR drops back down to recovery levels or below, and we start to flush out the lactic acid which has built up in the working muscles. In anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour, we tend to start feeling pretty normal again.
Deep muscle fatigue can be categorized as the latent fatigue we feel later in the day or in the subsequent days after a tough workout. Maybe we get lightheaded if we stand up too quickly, or the legs feel heavy up a flight of stairs, or the muscles start to burn in the opening minutes of our warm-up. The body is in a fatigued state and this is manifesting itself at least in how we feel, and maybe even as a negative impact to a subsequent workout’s results. Deep muscle fatigue isn’t always bad and doesn’t always lead to negative impact. A little of it can be thought of as good – we know we’re challenging ourselves and the body is being forced to adapt and get stronger. However, in this case, a lot of a good thing becomes a bad thing fairly quickly. Because if we do not allow for proper recovery, we blunt our ability to perform like we need to during key workouts and, ultimately, competitions. If you’re dragging ass during warm-up, typically it’s a sign to back off and live to fight another day.
Systemic fatigue is what affects the CNS (Central Nervous System). This is when we are overreaching for too long and we’re starting to break down. Systemic fatigue can manifest itself as elevated HR, low back aches because the adrenal glands are exhausted, muscle soreness or tightness due to lack of recovery, a general malaise that makes us believe we might be getting sick, and more. Systemic fatigue can hit from one particular workout, or a series of them. What’s important is to clue in on the signs and course correct accordingly.
I’m feeling some systemic fatigue this week. Work has been stressful the past month and, while I handled it well day-to-day, the extra responsibilities definitely added up. Also, I rode really hard a week ago, doing three of the hardest climbs in Boulder. The first two went extremely well. Halfway through the third, however, I cratered big time. It was shocking because it hit fairly immediately. It’s not like at the beginning of the climb I thought, “This is going south.” On the contrary, I felt it would go just as well as the first two climbs did. The implosion halfway up blindsided me. My power dropped first 10%, then 20% and finally 30%. I was doing a poor impression of a paperboy up a steeper straightaway later up the climb. Sheer agony. But I wasn’t going to quit. I had bonked. Big time. And there was nothing to be done about it unless I decided to climb off, which I wasn’t going to do.
Because I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, I knew it was going to take longer to recover than had I not imploded. I’ve ridden really hard for 4-5 hours and bounced back in 24-48 hours no problem. In this case, I knew it would take longer. When I got back home, had showered, fueled up and hydrated, I found that I was both sweating and super tired the rest of the day. My core was running hot, and I just wanted to sleep. I NEVER want to nap! But, it’s all I could think about that afternoon. I was cooked.
Here, a week later, I’m feeling some telltale signs of systemic fatigue. My low back has been much tighter, as have been my hamstrings. My right glute isn’t firing very well. When I ride, my low back starts to ‘scream’ at me when it should not be. I FEEL the fatigue much deeper than in the muscles, if that makes sense. It’s like the fatigue is in my soul.
Ultimately, that’s OK. As long as we honor what we’re feeling and we allow ourselves to take a step back, objectively assess the sensations and course correct, we will be OK. One of my athletes is racing tomorrow and we decided to course correct today based on what he’s feeling. His gut was telling him to skip today’s workout but he felt guilty for suggesting it. My advice to him was to trust his instinct; it’s a powerful signal which rarely steers us wrong. Like him, I will forego my own typical tried-and-true pre-race tune-up tomorrow. I need a relaxed ride more than some openers, but I’m not comfortable doing nothing. I think the risk is being flat rather than ready to go for the race. We’ll see.
As you complete your workouts and progress toward your goals, keep these various layers of fatigue in mind. They’re different, they’re the result of different things, and they affect you differently. Trust your instincts and try to avoid blindly following your training schedule. If you work with a coach, proactively communicate with that person BEFORE it gets out of hand rather than afterwards. A coach should be there to help you adjust and more quickly get back on track, not browbeat you for skipping a workout. If your coach defaults to the latter, time to find a new coach.
Memorial Day, 13 year ago, I experience something I would not wish on my worst enemy.
Scott Kornfield -- a friend, teammate and athlete client of mine -- and I set off for what was to be an epic ride into the mountains. The goal was to beat each other senseless and into submission. An overcast day, much like this Memorial Day in fact, was going to keep us cooler and allow for greater pummeling. Scott was a freight train. Sometimes I would get the better of him; more often I would be the nail.
Forty minutes into the ride, we turned on to Highway 36, a popular cycling corridor that stretches north from Boulder to Lyons and then on to Estes Park up in the mountains. The shoulders are super wide and riding two abreast can easily be done without incident with motorists. A minute outside of Boulder, jamming comfortably at about 25mph on a slight gradient of a descent, we were chatting -- I riding near the white line and Scott toward the grass shoulder.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed it. A southbound SUV going 65mph started veering across the highway.
It was heading right for us. Time stands still in a time of crisis. The next 1-2 seconds felt like that many hours. Irrelevant senses shut off and the brain focuses all attention to those senses required to survival. In this case, our eyes. I remember vividly seeing the Ford Explorer coming at us; looking over at Scott and seeing his own look of incredulity; looking back at the SUV and realizing we were going to be hit.
And, then, I was calmly leaning hard left and veering into the northbound traffic lane, as if it were an evasive maneuver I had practiced hundreds of times for this occasion. As I veered, I looked right, to see if Scott had similarly veered off the road into the grass embankment. He didn't. I saw the collision. Heard it as I felt the rush of the SUV pass within inches of me. In that one moment, three things occurred: my friend was killed; I saw him killed; and I was nearly killed.
As I hit my brakes to come to a stop, I kept mumbling "Oh, my god; oh, my god" over and over and over. I threw my bike down, turned around and ran back to find Scott. His bike was still cartwheeling through the air and the SUV was bouncing through the grassy field off the road before lurching to a stop. I didn't see Scott, but somehow I knew exactly where he was. I ran past his severed leg in the road, barely registering it.
Scott lay off the road, on his back in the tall wild grass, looking as if he were taking a nap. I knew he was dead, but I had to be certain. I felt for a heartbeat, looked for a rising and falling of the chest. Nothing. The autopsy would state that his heart had been transected by the force of the calculated 85mph impact. At that moment, time sped back up. I looked up from his body to the SUV. Saw two teenagers climb out. Look back at me sitting by a prone, still body. The gravity of what just happened hitting them. The driver throwing his hands to the sky, looking upward and shouting to the heavens.
I suddenly felt adrift. I grabbed handfuls of the wild grass and pulled. I needed to ground myself.
Just as time slows down in crisis, the body can also shut down. Think of a circuit board. Any unnecessary circuits are tripped. It's self-preservation. The impact of this was incalculable; my body and brain had no clue how to process all of the inputs, so it decided to deal with it all later. I sat there, now in the drizzling rain and cold, for over 2 hours, never leaving Scott's side. Those 2+ hours felt like fifteen minutes.
My wife, a saintly woman who without question is my soulmate, came to get me. She helped me into our car and, as we prepared to drive away, a State Trooper asked Lori to roll down her window. The trooper had a pained look in her eyes. She motioned down the highway. "Do you want your bike?" she asked, apologetically. I looked hollowly out the windshield; my bike lay where I had dropped it. I just stared, unable to speak. Lori climbed from the car, jogged to my bike, wheeled it back and laid it in the back of our car.
How I got back on the bike is another story, for another time. What I would like to leave you with is the speech I gave a couple days later, at a gathering of Scott's friends, family and cycling brethren.
Today, I remember you, Scott ...
Phillippians 4:8 states:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
I think this passage is pretty poignant when thinking about Scott. Everything about the man is first-class. We are all gathered here to celebrate his life.
The first time I met Scott was on my first LVC ride. It was a Monday evening early last fall. As we rolled out of the parking lot and turned north on 95th, he came up next to me and introduced himself. I ended up talking to him quite a bit that ride and it never felt like I had just met him minutes before. It set the stage for a quickly burgeoning friendship. I think everyone gathered here has a similar story of his or her first encounter with Scott. Scott was an affable, caring, beautiful person.
My favorite memory of Scott is a rapport we recently developed. I started coaching Scott at the end of last year and we were doing things differently than he had been accustomed to. We had to rein in that boy’s enthusiasm and gradually let it out so he could hit the late-season races at the top of his game. At first, he worried that his fitness would suffer for it. “Trust me,” I would tell him. As we slowly let those reins out, Scott would talk about how strong he felt on group rides and in early races. He started to believe that some great things were going to happen come August and September; I never doubted that. Scott was a powerhouse on the bike.
So, one day Scott starts calling me before the evening LVC rides first and then later before the mid-week Mead crits. He would tell me he was feeling good and to listen for the sonic boom when he would drop the hammer. Then, after every single one of those rides, I would get a text message asking, “Did you hear it?”
I hear your sonic boom, Scott . . .
There is a Swedish proverb that states “Shared burden, half burden. Shared joy, double joy.”
The outpouring of love and support - for Kristyn, for her family and Scott’s, for me - from all those gathered here and from countless others not here has been tremendous. It has left me in awe. Our collective burden has been more than halved. And our collective joy in remembering Scott has so much more than doubled.
We have planted a seed this week. A seed for keeping Scott alive with us; for bringing us together and bonding us; for deepening friendships. As time passes and we all eventually re-engage into our normal routines, each one of us needs to remember to nurture that seedling. We need to foster it so it can grow into a big, strong, vibrant tree.
In Scott’s honor, we need to feed that tree.
Despite all the years as a competitive athlete, I'm never too old to learn new things. I've dealt with cold, wet race conditions and training conditions before. But, doing so within the context of today's type of race course was breaking new ground. And it was quite the shocker!
The state of the human species is in sharp decline. Rates of obesity have more than tripled since the 1980s, with over 35% of the US population considered obese, and over 30% of the world population - 2.1 Billion people! Adult-onset diabetes (Type II) is also alarmingly on the rise. In some States, 16% of adults suffer from it. And it is only getting worse.
A distinction between 'proof' and 'evidence' with regards to cheating in sports needs to be clearly understood. Proof is often defined as a failed doping test, yet AD testing is woefully lacking in effectiveness. However, there is a preponderance of evidence that cheating is still rife in sports. All we need to do is look for the patterns.
Don't Weight Your Racing Grades.
When I was in high school, we worked off a 4-point scale: A's were worth "4", B's were worth "3", and so on. If we were in college-level courses, our grades in those particular courses were weighted, meaning we got graded on a 5-point scale for them: A's were worth "5", B's were worth "4" and so on. On each report card, I had two class rankings and two grade point averages - one taking into account my college-level courses and one only taking into account my high school-level
courses. Got confusing at times because very little in this system was clear cut and precise.
Your racing needs to be black and white. As you decide how you are going to fill up your racing
schedule for the year, you will be determining which races are your most important (A), which are pretty important (B) and which are nothing more than hard weekend workouts (C). But once you designate your races as A/B/C, it is important to adhere to this ranking system (barring changes in priority due to illness or injury, etc.).
When you are preparing for an A race, everything you do leading up to that race is supposed to specifically gear you up to perform at your best during that race. Nothing less. You plant a stake in the ground at that A race and work backwards in order to create your training plan. Once you hit that peak, it is critical to recover, regroup and refocus for the next push. Inevitably, this will entail a short period of transitioning or de-training. If you have really prepared 100% for your A race - mentally, physically and emotionally - then the day after you should not be saying, "OK, I'm ready for what's next!" You'll need a short break to recharge the body and the batteries, whether you admit it to yourself or not.
So, does it make sense to schedule two A races a month apart? No. Yes, it is possible to hold a peak for 4-6 weeks, but it's a bit of a gamble. It is hard to stay peaked mentally, physically and emotionally for a sustained period of time. If you absolutely must designate two races in close proximity as A races, then it would be best for them to be back-to-back or no more than 2 weeks apart. Better to spread them out so there is at least 2 months between A race efforts.
Likewise, be honest with your training and effort during B and C races. Sure, the goal is always to
race as hard and fast as you can, but you have to keep everything in perspective. Everything is a dress rehearsal for your A race(s). So, does it make sense to "weight" your B and C races, effectively turning them into A and B races? No, it does not.
Put 100% effort in all your racing, but realize that "100%" is relative. There is 100% effort and also 100% fitness, which are two different things. When you go into a C race fatigued and blunt because you haven't backed off in your training, "100%" may only be 80-90% of your full potential. And that's OK. It's a dress rehearsal, remember? You get into trouble when you back off your training leading into B and C races in an attempt to have great results every time you race. What you are doing is possibly improving your performance in you B and C races, but you are also running the risk of hampering your chances of having breakthrough performances in your A races. By "weighting" your B and C races - assigning them greater importance than they truly deserve - you are risking diluting the performances of your A races.
Think of your A races as the climax in a dramatic movie. Throughout the movie, you can feel the energy, restlessness and tension mounting with every passing minute until the climax is reached. In a great movie, that climax can hit you like an earthquake. In a bad movie, it kinda passes and you wonder, "Is that the climax or did I miss something?" Create clear and differentiating boundaries around your A/B/C races, and your A races will be similar to the former scenario. Put too much emphasis on the B and C races, and your A races will instead be similar to the latter
Define your racing goals clearly and adhere to them. Prepare the way you need to in order to have
breakthrough performances in your A races and chalk the rest of them up to rehearsal and experience. This does not preclude you from having very solid performances in your B and C races, but better for these to be nice surprises rather than something on which you are counting. I'd rather get beat at local/regional events and then win a national title than be a local hero and get throttled at nationals because I let my ego rather than common sense determine how I was going to structure my training around my racing.
Avoid this potential pitfall and you will have more energy and enthusiasm - as well as more power,
strength and speed - for your most important races of the season.
There are few topics as polarizing and emotionally-charged as diet. And by “diet”, I do not mean eating to lose weight. What I mean is the basis of the foundation by which you determine and decide what to put in your mouth. While I’m no nutritionist nor doctor, I did study anthropology and primatology for 5 years and received my B.A. in Anthropology. Effectively, I studied humans and our closest relatives (monkeys and apes) – past and present.
Let me start by saying that I don’t care what type of diet an athlete follows. What I do care about is two things: (1) that whatever diet athletes follow, they feel strong and empowered by the food choices they make; and (2) athletes basing their food choices on misinformation and propaganda.
So, let’s start by defining exactly what type of eaters humans are meant to be. There is little ability to refute that humans are omnivores. This is stated clearly and up front on some vegetarian websites as well. Here’s one example: “Humans are classic examples of omnivores in all relevant anatomical traits. There is no basis in anatomy or physiology for the assumption that humans are pre-adapted to the vegetarian diet. For that reason, the best arguments in support of a meat-free diet remain ecological, ethical, and health concerns.”
Omnivores are opportunistic feeders. In most basic terms, we eat what we can find in order to survive. An example of an opportunistic eater is the bear. They will eat whatever they can find – from meat to fish to fresh berries and so on. Both animals do so without shame. The underpinning here is that, as humans in civilized societies we have infinite food options in front of us, we have the ability to choose how and what we eat. Animals purpose-built as carnivores or as herbivores lack this innate ability to choose.
One area of confusion is when people start beating a particular type of diet drum without really understanding the distinction between taxonomy (classifying organisms in certain categories) and diet (dietary characteristics). Members of the mammalian Order Carnivora may or may not be exclusive meat eaters. Those which eat only meat are carnivores. Dietary adaptations are not limited by a simple dichotomy between herbivores (strict vegetarians) and carnivores (strict meat-eaters), but include frugivores (predominantly fruit), gramnivores (nuts, seeds, etc.), folivores (leaves), insectivores (carnivore-insects and small vertebrates), and more. It is also important to remember that the relation between the form (anatomy/physiology) and function (behavior) is not always one-to-one. Individual anatomical structures can serve one or more functions and similar functions can be served by several forms. In other words, there are not many hard-and-fast biological rules.
One lens into the irresponsibility of how some people justify certain dietary decisions is those who beat the frugivore and vegetarian drums while pointing to our closest relatives and say, “See, primates and great apes don’t eat meat. Look out powerful they are just subsisting on plants. Humans should turn their noses up at meat, too.” Well, what a lot of people seem to either not know or forget is that we are most genetically similar to chimpanzees. And, guess what? Chimps are omnivores. They hunt, kill and eat any animals they can. In other words, they are opportunistic when the chance to eat meat presents itself.
With growing interest, I’ve loosely followed the careers of some athletes in various sports who openly discuss their dietary changes. One notable example from a few years back is Arian Foster, a stellar NFL running back who started his career with the Houston Texans, and then ended it forgettably with the Miami Dolphins. Foster was arguably the most talented runner in the game who could do it all at the height of his career. A few years back, in an interview before the 2014 season, he stated he was a newly-converted vegan. While not fat or overweight, he said he had slimmed down a little bit, and felt both faster and quicker on the football field. And it showed as that football season began. He lit up the field. However, in the latter half of the season, his body started breaking down. But, football players get injured; it’s part of the game. As the 2015 season loomed, Foster tore his groin and required surgery, consequently missing the first few games of the season. Then, after a handful of games, Foster ruptured his Achilles tendon in a non-contact capacity. When the ball was hiked, he took one step, then another and his heel visibly popped and dropped to the turf. Foster collapsed to the ground, first looking like he had simply slipped on the grass. After all, no one had even come close to touching him. When he stayed down, the gravity of the situation started dawning on everyone. He immediately went on IR (injured reserve) for the rest of this season. It is widely wondered if his pro career was indeed over. He rehabbed and made enough progress so that the Miami Dolphins picked him up (the Texans had released him because he had become a financial liability). His contract was for a single year and heavily incentive-laden. In the pre-season, he was excited to earn his spot as the starting running back for the team; barely had the season begun and Foster did an about face and summarily retired.
This is just one example and, certainly, is not meant to intone that if you don’t eat meat that your body will unequivocally fall apart. However, it does raise this question. If we in fact restrict the types of foods we eat (food allergies aside and, of course, ignoring highly processed junk), are we then robbing the body of important nutrients that it is hard-wired to need in order to function optimally? Protein is not protein, so while plant-based protein is wonderful and does the body good, it’s made of different stuff than meat-based protein. And visa versa. The Paleo diet seems to rely too heavily on proteins and other types of dietary restrictions, thinking of humans more as carnivores than true omnivores. I've also seen a fairly new movement of people who only eat meat and, literally, nothing else.
I’ll admit, that we are sentient beings with morals, and consciences can make it more ethically challenging to make certain food choices. Videos of slaughterhouse cruelty tug at our heart strings (mine included) and we wonder “at what cost?” But, how many of us have it in us to hunt what we kill? I know I do not. At the end of the day, I choose to eat various types of meat because I know I feel better when I do and my body is meant to consume and process meat. I also tend to favor red meat over white meat. When I eat white meat, my system takes a lot more water and energy to break it down than it does with red meat. I don't avoid white meant, but when give the choice I almost always opt for red meat.
The operative word here is “choice,” and it brings us full circle. We humans are omnivores. We are purpose-built to eat anything and everything because from our nomadic roots we had to adapt to nature’s smorgasbord in order to survive. Despite settling down and becoming sedentary civilizations, our hard-wired dietary necessities have not changed. But, our morals around food have -- because food consumption is so much less about survival and more about choice.
Please, choose the diet that you feel does your body the most good and that allows you to best sleep at night. But, at the same time, please do not beat your drum loudly as if yours is the only viable option. It's not. If you revile others for choosing differently than you do, then you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself what the hell you're doing. If you feel your choice of diet puts you on some sort of moral high ground, you need to seriously rethink things.
And, if you find yourself breaking down or getting sick or injured, and you are restricting your diet in certain ways, it may make sense to rethink your choices. At the end of the day, food is nothing more than fuel. And, if the body is not receiving the right mix of fuel or enough of it, then like any machine it will break down. Back to veganism -- I have a friend who has chosen this diet for herself. Great. However, like Foster of the NFL, since she switched from being vegetarian to vegan, she looks unhealthy. Her eyes are sunked and she has dark bags beneath them. She talks about joint pain, which in the past was never part of our conversations. It seems like every third time I see her, she's battling a cold or some niggling malady. Is all this based on the switch to a vegan diet? I don't know; I do find the coincidental timing uncanny.
What I’m advocating here is thoughtful choice that leads to fueling your body in the way it needs in order to perform optimally – not just in races, but also day in and day out. Endurance athletes are machines. Food is the fuel that enables the machines to run. If the machines do not receive the right fuel, the machines break down. Like putting unleaded gasoline in a diesel fuel vehicle. Once that gasoline starts cycling through the motor, the machine locks up and shuts down. It breaks.
Don't allow your machine to break.
My first race of the season was yesterday, a nearly-20km TT abtly named the Frostbite TT because March weather in Colorado is anything but predictable. Luckily, yesterday peaked in the mid-60s. The wind was strong, but mainly a cross/tail on the way out and a cross/head on the way back.
I had prepared very well during the Fall/Winter. My power numbers were great and I knew it would be a good day. And, it was. I ended up winning the Masters race and came within 11 seconds of having the fastest overall time on the day. But, this didn't keep me from having doubts the days leading into the race or, especially, the night before/morning of. And the insecurities I was walking myself through were fairly silly ones -- was I fit enough; would I race well; was I ready for the discomfort of a TT; what if I had a bad day; and so on. All stuff that I knew the answer to already. Every indication supported yesterday being a great day of racing. About the only thing I could not control would be a mechanical or flat tire.
I recently re-read "The Race Against Time" which outlines the sometimes friendly, sometimes contentious rivalry between Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree, arguably the best two time trialists on the bike during the '90s and both British. Two completely different riders with two completely different personalities and two different approaches to training. Boardman was always considered the scientist, creating a methodical, surgical strategy to training and racing; if it could be quantified, Boardman measured it. Obree, on the other hand, seemed to fly by the seat of his pants, riding minimally and completely by feel; he was either full gas or not riding. Boardman trained and raced to the numbers while Obree wanted to see just how deeply he could descend into the Pain Cave.
Two entirely different approaches. Yet, nearly identical results. In the individual pursuit on the track, 10-mile and 25-mile TTs on the road, and in the pursuit of the then romantic and prestigious hour record.
We all strive to find the best, most advanced approach to our training. Sometimes that's getting back to basics; sometimes it's buying in to the latest and greatest training tips. Sometimes it's spending countless hours on the internet looking for some reference to a super secret training method that Racer X used to conquer the world. We track heart rate, sweat rate, caloric burn rate, power, RPE, cadence, stride rate, stroke rate and anything else we can in order to "gain an edge."
All of these things are important. To a degree. But without comprehension, the numbers are quite meaningless. I think we can all benefit from a greater comprehension of the signals the body is providing us with. Athletes suffer from a syndrome of training to the numbers while tuning out the body's signals. I'm prone to wonder how much less effective our training would be if we ditched all the numbers and just trained by feel. How long or short would it take to become proficient at it? How much confidence would we have in a back to basics approach? How many of us would be willing to go off the grid? Would training be more enjoyable if we set ourselves free? Some of my most enjoyable training sessions are those in which I have no expectations yet from which I derive plenty of challenge and fitness benefit.
In the hyperlink above, where I outline my approach to 2018, I've found what I feel is a nice balance between training by the numbers and training by feel. I have definitely found more enjoyment this time around than I have in recent years. For the past 2-3 years, I've been contemplating "Is the next year my final year of competition?" I was not burned out; rather, something was missing and I was unable to quantify it so I could address it. Given the tweaks I made this past Fall/Winter and the frame of mind I now find myself in, loosening the reins on training to the numbers has helped immensely. So, too, has reducing the overall volume of intensity and the sheer number of interval sessions I've been doing. And, yet, my numbers are up and I feel so much better day-to-day. After yesterday, my confidence is definitely up as well -- because the race result is the proof that the approach is working.
Too often, athletes are their own worst enemies. It is easy to overthink things and, consequently, think yourself right out of the race -- either figuratively or literally. So, I ask, "Why do you do it?" If the self-doubt or insecurities (and we all deal with them) are derailing your ability to race up to your potential, why are you racing? If instead of overcoming the self-doubt and re-channeling that energy into a positive direction and positive experience, you find yourself consumed by it, then it might be time to "hang it up." And, that's OK. At some point, we cease to compete in athletics. At some point, the pursuit of well-being is good enough to keep us getting out of bed at 0-dark-30 and pushing ourselves until we taste the tinge of blood in the back of our throats.
I guess what I'm getting at is that, at some point, it is critical to let it all go and just let happen what may. There is power rather than weakness in this.