Having already arranged a 6 month sabbatical break from work, I received the news of my redundancy with less disappointment than usually comes with this kind of blow. Sure, the financial picture changes somewhat but all kinds of new avenues open up for how I will spend the next few years. It is a chance to see how I could develop as a triathlete, and whether at the age of 32 I can figure out how to become competitive as a Professional. Triathlon aside Steven and I, never having co habited before, are embarking on this adventure together; establishing new levels of mutual support, dependency and cooperation in our relationship. Not least because it will primarily be his income from the sale of his central London ‘Bachelor Pad’ that will support me until I can at least make the racing pay for itself and kit requirements.
This throws a whole new light onto that aspect of my life which was started as just a hobby, and I find myself asking the question - what motivates me? Or rather what DID motivate me…. is that still relevant – and/or what are my new motivators? Can we pick and choose such things anyway? It is often said about the successful people (in sports and elsewhere) - it's nothing to do with their talent, but their attitude, determination and belief that distinguishes them from the mediocre. I believe No matter what your potential for achievement may be, Motivation is the key, and multiple levels – long (ambitions, goals) medium (races) and short term (daily/weekly training regime).
I’ll admit that being the best in my age group - which effectively amounts to being the best age-grouper - at my races was a huge motivating factor for me. Pretty shallow, I suppose, that my prime motivation was based on a comparison of myself to others, but it was sufficient inspiration to put in that extra work to make sure that amongst those women of my age who were working a full time job, I was the one putting in those few percent more and earning the wins. It didn't require much thought; just set the alarm early, refuse the beers after work, and don't let up.
Now, this no longer applies; I’ll still be racing age group but it's hardly a level playing field and the sense of pride in a good result is diminished - of course I should be winning my age group; I have it so easy. So if the same result were not to bring the same sense of accomplishment and reward for extreme effort and discipline, how am I going to motivate myself to put that same level of effort into my training? It feels as though I am in a sort of transitional state – that no- mans land separating the top of the age group field and girls up there collecting the prize money who are racing around an hour faster.
Christchurch has been a great place for getting that sort of perspective. Scott, the extremely well connected and ever sociable legend of triathlon, has hooked us up on some great rides with passing pro triathletes that he has or currently does coached, including Chris and Marilyn McDonald, and Tara Norton. It has been a brief thrill to ride with these guys and girls, turning rapidly into big fat reality as the bunch cruises up the road and into the distance ahead of me. Now, that's perspective which is a little hard to swallow if I’m honest, and it's really making me think about the mental adjustments that will be required to bridge the gap.
So arriving at a drinks stop (which was probably entirely for my benefit anyway) on an easy ride minutes after the rest of the guys yesterday, feeling done-in and humiliated, I promise myself that in a year's time it will be a very different story. So, there is my motivation - I can see how far off the pace I really am, but I also know that these girls started somewhere, and probably somewhere lower than this. They have worked consistently at it and are now capable of these performances, which I am in awe of. I know that I have a capacity for hard work and extreme focus on a goal. And there is no reason to doubt that I have the 'stuff' to make it happen for me too.
To date I have trained on the principle that I should do as much volume as possible within the time available, spiced up with some weekend racing and a few more intense sessions in the lead-in to races. It has worked out ok so far, and now that I have the time do twice as much of the same - I should become twice as good at it, right? Here, the phrase ‘unguided missile comes into mind. I have already demonstrated to my self that suddenly getting stuck in to a 40+ hr week is ok for a few weeks at a time, but will shortly follow with a real fatigue low and poor motivation associated with it. I have little knowledge of how to optimize my training to balance volume and intensity for a step up to this ‘next level’. But I do have access to resources, guidance and advice. So, despite the apparent expense of top level coaching fees, when considered against the ‘cost’ of a year without earning plus all of the racing and traveling, the money invested in the guidance of a real expert coach through this transitional phase, and perhaps beyond (after all most professional triathletes do seem to work with a coach through their career) will be money extremely well spent and potentially add value to the entire process. So I have enlisted the coaching services of Scott Molina – a legend in the sport himself, who has coached a number of class athletes and world champions, easy to get along with and having values and attitudes which align with my own. After a year of doing my own thing, and being successful with it, it will be strange to be following someone else’s plan, but I am totally confident that this is the way to achieve my goals it is the right thing to do.
I will take every opportunity to learn from others who have also “been there and done that” and prove generous enough to share some of their experiences. During Epic Camp, I can look forward to spending time with Tara Norton and Marilyn McDonald (though not on rides, it seems!) - my female comrades on camp; learning about their journeys in profession competition. In the short term, I need to remove my focus from my age group race results and towards improvements that I make in training through the year. Of course I feel more pressure to perform well in the age group rankings at New Zealand and Lanzarote but I should really be assessing against the top females overall, and come March 7th I will have my chance to see how it is done at Ironman New Zealand, as well as get a measure of how far I still have to go to get on that level.
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