As I sat down to write my New Years resolutions and/or my 2011 reflections it somehow warped into this – a letter to my 2011 self, had I known what I know now, at this time last year. 2011 was a truly special year for me, and if I can take what I learned into 2012 I have the opportunity to make it even better.
First, get a watch. A good watch. That takes splits. And learn how to use it – you will need it this year.
You are about to begin a year that is going to stretch you beyond what you thought you were capable of. You will do more in the hours of each day, more in the minutes of each hour, than you ever have before. You will survive on less sleep than you did during your 2 year stint at the Naval Academy – never thought you’d willingly do that again, huh? You will get in the pool. A lot. Things will start slow, but Hillary knows exactly what she is doing and will make a fish out of you yet. Swim hard. The benefits are great in the first part of the year. You will be encouraged by the seconds and minutes that drop off your times in the pool. Be patient. It will take time for that to translate into open water. Don’t get caught up in the numbers either. Remember that an improvement can be measured in using less effort to swim the same times. You will swim many of these workouts alone, but be thankful when Ryan joins in the work. Enjoy the days when you can out swim him…there will only be a couple 🙂
Get a new saddle early. Changing it up a couple weeks before IM LOU probably isn’t the best approach. Get comfortable on it, and stock up on movies and TV shows to watch on the trainer. You’ll spend a lot of time there. Go riding with the boys any chance you can. You don’t need fancy tools. You don’t need a power meter. You have a handful of really talented guys in your area willing to ride with you. They are your fancy tools and your power meter. Ride hard, and keep up for as long as you can. Ask questions. Learn to fix your own bike. And for the love of god, make sure you have 2 tire levers before you start a big race.
Get uncomfortable with running. Yes, you can run a really long time, longer than most people like to drive. Learn to run fast. Learn to hold on when you think you’re going to die. Because none of the workouts this year are going to kill you, no matter how much you think they will. Your arms will tingle and go numb. Your form will go to shit and you’ll feel like an ogre trying to keep up. Work on it. Think it through and stay calm. Similarly to the bike, you’re lucky because you will have the opportunity to train with a group that is much faster than you. Take every opportunity you can to run with them. It sucks to always be the slowest one, and that is not ever going to change this year, so suck it up and get used to it. These girls work hard too and deserve their speed, so don’t resent them for it. Learn from them. What do they do when they are tired? How do they recover? How do they run their easy days? Take it all in and apply it in your training. Work hard.
Give back when you can. If you can help another get through their long run, do it. If you can help brainstorm training plans with a friend, do it. Watching those around you achieve their successes will keep you going.
Build your tribe. Not everyone is going to understand what your goals are this year. But do not be offended by their lack of understanding. Keep those who do get it close. You will spend many weeks in the cocoon of Hillary, Ryan and Carly’s support. These are the people who will be there for you every single day. These people will bring you out of the bad days (expect one in late August). And they will be there to celebrate with you on the good days. Be observant and seize the chance when you have the time to reach out to those who have seemingly lost touch. You will find it’s not a lack of caring that has caused it; you will rebuild the bonds and they will be stronger than ever. Oftentimes what seems to be a lack of support is really just uncertainty in how to support you.
Don’t let that make you shy away from holding yourself accountable and letting people know what your goals are. Don’t undersell yourself. You’re working hard and deserve credit for what you’re attempting to do. Stand with your head high, even after failed workouts, even after you raced slower than you ever thought you’d have to suffer through, and keep your eye on the prize.
You know all those cliché statements about hard work paying off, and talent only taking you so far? The ones about using your heart to compete? Hold on to them because they are true, and will become your mantra for the year. Don’t be jealous of those who had the opportunities to swim, bike or run competitively from an early age, or compete at the highest level in college. Take solace in the fact that your meager Evergreen Dolphins Swim Team in the summers of the 90’s gave you a decent freestyle form. Running local 5k’s with your dad instilled a competitive edge in you that will never burn out. Playing soccer and lacrosse allowed you to realize the value of a team early on, and you will build a team in a seemingly individual sport.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, you still have to go to work. You still have to pay your mortgage. You still have to be a friend, a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, in addition to being a triathlete. Life will get in the way some days, and that’s okay. No one is going to think what you’re doing is cool if you’re grumpy and angry all the time. So if it starts going down that road, take the time to re-evaluate what needs to change. Similarly to how you schedule in races, schedule in time to *not* race. Cross something off your bucket list. And if you go to run in the Grand Canyon, pack food and water for 2, because Dave will not bring enough. And you probably want to check the shuttle times before you start that run. Just sayin’ 🙂
Do the work, and have faith in what you are doing. You are working with Hillary for a reason and that is because you believe in what she is going to have you do. Believe in the process. Have patience. There will be a time this year when all of the hours of training will come down to one minute. Let it all go, and (spoiler alert) run your butt off. That will be what you came for.
You will realize that in achieving some goals this year you have found yourself not nearing the end of a road, but only at the beginning.
PS – If you go for a long run, pack toilet paper.