Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Coaching Myself Part II

In "Coaching Myself Part I," I said that I was going to ask myself if I did my best each week. Turns out that is HARD to do. Maybe I shouldn't have started it right before the holidays, but even into January, I'm having a hard time with it. On the weeks where I know I didn't do my best (even though they were during Christmas and when I was sick for a week), I could not get myself to actually write down that I did not do my best. I thought about it, tried to rationalize it, stared at my notebook for a while, but never actually wrote down the word, "no." For the weeks where I'm on the fence about what my best was, I've had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out what my best even means.

I'm not quite sure what kind of psychological issues we're dealing with here, but I'm not giving up on this one. I'm not going to continue to shy away from things that make me uncomfortable, especially when they stand in the way of my progress. The funny thing about triathletes, is that on the surface, it looks like we do uncomfortable stuff all the time. I'll only speak for myself, but I think I've gotten relatively comfortable doing hard workouts, to the point where my current incremental progress is due primarily to consistency (not to be undervalued), rather than finding ways to dig deeper than I do on a regular basis. This would all be well and good if it matched my goals. Let's say my goals were to get a 15 minute Ironman PR and get back on the podium, like I did in 2018. I could probably accomplish these things by continuing to do what I'm doing, but that's not why I'm here.

This was right after finishing my first ever triathlon (check out my kit), back when everything was hard, every time
.... including shaping my eyebrows, apparently.

When I first got started in triathlon, I didn't even know what a comfort zone was. I had just graduated from UConn and my favorite part of playing college lacrosse was our strength and conditioning workouts. I had a weird masochistic obsession with pushing my body as hard as it could possibly go, then being told to do it again, and somehow finding more in the tank. (If any of my teammates are reading this, yes- I know I was the only one who liked that.) So I've decided that I need to hit reset on my current routines and get back to that mindset.

I have 2 themes that I'm focused on for 2019. They apply to all aspects of my life, and I haven't figured out all of the specifics for some areas, but I know exactly how they apply to triathlon. They are:

1. Show Up

2. Stay Uncomfortable

They can be interchangeable at times and so far, they've mostly manifested as me cursing at myself under my breath when my alarm goes off earlier than I want it to, and I have to drag my ass to masters instead of doing my own swim at a more reasonable time of day. Showing up is about not making assumptions or having any expectations about a workout before it starts. If the workout is in my plan, I'm going to show up no matter how tired I am, and leave the door open to surprise myself with what I can accomplish.

Staying uncomfortable is the only way I'm going to make the progress that I want to make. Last weekend I went to the first of a group bike trainer series (that I prepaid for so I couldn't get out of it), and we worked on all of the exact things that I suck at. I've been ignoring working on cycling drills like ILT and high cadence because I've convinced myself that my time would be better spent just working on getting my power up. We spent the entire 2 hours doing both of those things to exhaustion, and while I'm pretty sure my average watts were around 7, I could barely lift my leg through the pedal stroke by the end.

And then I went running after that group trainer ride. 

Every year, I have my athletes fill out a goal sheet. Since I am currently enlisted on my athlete roster, I made myself fill one out as well. It was harder to fill out than I thought it would be, which I appreciate, because now I have a better understanding of the level of deep thinking and commitment that my athletes have to pull out of themselves when they put theirs together.

The goal sheet starts with the race schedule, and here is what I know of mine so far:

4/6: 70.3 Oceanside
6/9: Escape from Alcatraz
7/28: Ironman Canada

As it has been for the past few years, the second half of my season is left open for the chance that I qualify for Kona.

Aside from my themes, which apply to all levels of goals, the rest of the goal sheet looks like this:

Write your list of goals for the upcoming season, and split them into 3 categories:

Process goals: These are the goals that you have the most control over. What are you going to do in your training that is going to make you a better athlete? Example: be consistent with your strength training, spend x days per week in the pool.

  • Train more consistently with other people, especially people who are faster than me
  • Ride outside when I have the chance, rather than relying too much on my trainer
  • Stay focused on eating nutrient-dense food, rather than just paying attention to macronutrients
  • Meditate and journal regularly to stay connected to the roots of my motivation
  • Ask myself on a daily basis, "am I making the kinds of choices that someone who podiums in Kona would make?"

Performance goals: You have some control over these goals, especially if you line them up with your process goals? Example: raise your FTP to x
  • Run 1:35 off the bike in Oceanside
  • Run sub 3:40 off the bike in Whistler
  • Swim under an hour in Whistler
  • Get a new Ironman PR: sub 10:35

Outcome goals: These are not always under your control. You could have the outcome goal to win a race, and you could have the fastest time of your life, and still not win the race, depending on who else shows up. It’s still important to write them down so that you have something that you’re shooting for.   
  • Qualify for Kona
  • Podium in Oceanside
  • Podium in Alcatraz

If there was a goal that you didn’t reach last season, why did that happen? Were you too focused on outcome goals, and not enough on process goals? Were you consistent in your training, focus, and in your mental toughness?

Ever since I raced on the big island in 2016, it's been my goal to get back, and I did not accomplish that goal last season. Admittedly, I'm always more focused on my outcome goals but that doesn't mean I didn't follow through with my process goals and make a lot of performance improvements. I'm just competitive and I want to win more than anything else. That's what drives me to stick to my process goals. What I need to change is my inner dialogue.

Even though I was consistent with my training, I was not consistent with my mental commitment. I have a really hard time being fully invested in someone else's training plan (someone else being whoever my coach is). I always think I know better and I'm constantly questioning things, which more than anything else, wastes energy. The success of any plan is determined by the level of buy-in, and I've held myself back by not buying in. I needed this coaching change for 2019 because if I can't buy in to my own plan, then I'll never be able to move forward.

New Bio, who dis?

As I've witnessed myself shift and change, I've been experimenting with some new coaching strategies. Most of my athletes know that ...