Monday, March 12, 2012

Roots (back to my)

Around the holidaze, a lot of the guys I used to swim with were around Chicago visiting family and friends.  I’ve said in previous blog entries that my “new year” begins after Kona in October.  Kona is my end of the year.  My Christmas.  My New Year’s Day.  Whatever you want to call it.  My 2011 “season” (if you could call it a season) really ended with the local races I did in Madison.  You know the kind.  The ones where they control finishing order with recycled popsicle sticks with hand written numbers on them.  We had some conversations on where we are currently, where we are going and of course where we have been. 

Everyone had their plan of action for their particular goals (or at least a buzzed up version of one).  What struck me wasn’t where we each were planning to take our families, career or athletics (in whatever state they currently are in).  Nope, what struck me is how each guy or gal I talked to discussed the mental toughness that they needed to maintain to be successful and how they learned that in our previous years of swimming. 

The most exciting thing that has come out of that is the support and encouragement of each other from whatever corner of the globe the guys are in.  Ironically, this has been over Facebook to the largest extent.  Roughly 90% in the form of instant messages; Ironic because at the beginning of the year I felt Facebook was largely a giant waste of time.  But I was wrong.  It’s a waste if you post crap or take the time to read crap.  (I have a lot of friends and former colleagues who have ‘unique’ causes and opinions.)  I don’t get into those conversations anymore mainly because I’m more focused on my goals and encouraging my closest chums on their goals versus arguing left or right politically or religiously.  To be honest, I don’t care what you believe as long as you don’t kill anyone for your beliefs, obey the law, and you pay your taxes.  That is off topic.

My roots are in swimming and running.  Eat, sleep and breathe the sport.  According to my coach I’m a “runner with a vague interest in triathlon”… well, we have some work to do there. 

What comes into play is how “back in the day” the guys I swam and ran with were “stone cold killers” in competition and workouts.  What many people thought was great we thought was mediocre.  Right there is the difference.  One swim comes to mind when Gregg won the 400 IM by several “touchdowns” (long course meters) and broke the state record.  About five minutes later he was also top seed in the 50.  Gregg won easily, but got out of the water seriously pissed off because he missed his own state record by .03 seconds.  What some will say is that he should be happy with the “win”.  He was.  He was also mad that he didn’t swim his best 50, because EVEN TIRED he felt he could swim better. 

All the guys on the teams I swam on demanded more of each other.  You'd swim a pretty good time and then the guys would give you a hard time for missing a turn or being "left" on the blocks.  You make the all-academic team (not me) and the guys give you shit for getting a B+ in Philosophy.  (One of the guys on my team got all A's and one B+.  The class he got a B+ in was one where several of us (including me) got an A.  The team never let him live that down.  He was the best student on our team.  He probably didn't even study for the B+ where we did for our As.  Still... you can do better.)

Those are the expectations of myself.  Not necessarily to break records and win, but to have higher expectations of myself in my self-discipline, how hard I’m willing to push myself in sets, sessions and weeks of work outs.  The “swimming mentality” has been re-established in me, but I’m applying it across three sports.  The only goal is my fitness and overall health.  The funny thing is realizing that

I remembered how tough we were on ourselves.

Saturday, I protested the main set as “too easy” and everyone in the pool looked at me like I was on drugs; everyone except those who are hard core swimmers/triathletes.  This time of year a “main set” for people who can do 15x 100 on 1:25 and hold 1:15 or better should NOT be 5x 200 on 3:20.  So we changed it to 4x 200 on 6:00.  The idea of the set is to swim at full power.  Zone 5c+.  I wasn’t swimming very well and still went a 2:2x 200 IM, 2:0X 200 Free, 2:3X 200 Breast (2x) from a push (no blocks and at the end of 4,000 yards.)  If you never swim 100%+ in practice you will never swim 100% in races.  (Same goes for cycling and running.  Just ask my computrainer class at Village Cycle.)

The biggest change is how I’m looking at my own workout results and “what my definition of good” is. 

I challenge you to look at your own workouts with an eye on the very best guys/gals you know.  How about the guys/gals in your age group in Kona?  Why not compare yourself against the best and try to achieve more?  When Peter Reid was the Ironman World Champ, he was in my age group.  Sure, he kicked my ass, but I looked for similarities in our workouts and training habits.  Then I tried to improve on what I was doing.  Before you go ape, I know that some folks are just “freaks”.  Super talents and no matter how much effort you put in it is HIGHLY unlikely that any of us mortals will get to that level.  Case in point – Michael Jordan.  It doesn’t mean you can’t compare yourself and try to learn from his training habits and shorten your learning curve.  This is a topic I’ve been beating like a drum with my clients lately.  What CAN you do?  How can you mirror what a champion is doing?  It comes down to this – you may fail to reach the stars, but then you’ll still reach the moon. 

Pro athletes are still just people.  Many have superior talent or skill – but they are still human.  I’ve always believed that hard work can get you in the ballpark if you believe in yourself and have superior fitness.  (Ballpark may be gigantic… but you have to remember where you came from.)

Demand more of yourself.
Do one more.

Nobody ever drown in sweat.