Although we are still in 2013, my thoughts have already started to turn to 2014. It's natural, I think, as a teacher to do this, after all, it is the 2013-2014 school year and so much of what I'm doing now, I hope, will lay the groundwork for students in 2014 - the second semester. The same can be said for the swim-bike-run thing. It's still 2013, but I've made plans for 2014!
After Vineman, I planned to relax and not follow any sort of a training plan, and I did just that! I did not try out new classes or do anything new and different, but I also managed to stay somewhat active, even during the heat of September (which is now a distant memory, especially today, which is grey, rainy and quite cold for southern CA). I chose, somewhat arbitrarily, November as the "get in gear" month. Shocking myself, I managed to focus a bit more and put in more yards and miles for the month. But I wanted to put some pressure on myself so that I wouldn't hit December 1st feeling that I would have to undertake a 180 degree turn regarding my 'training'. Because I am officially training for 2014!
And WOW is it different!
First of all, I should say that I've always taken a flexible attitude towards training and "racing". I consider myself fortunate to have finally found something that really clicked. For a while, Michael would joke with me about finding a hobby, a bit like the character Winston in Avenue Q who was looking for a purpose to his post-college life. I wasn't in the life after college phase, but I was still trying to find that other piece. Trying to add the swim and bike to the run challenged me in a different way, and I loved that! Plus, working towards definitive goals - yes, please!
And I've trained somewhat seriously at times, but I've also taken the view that this really is a hobby, something that adds to my life and I shouldn't be too serious about it. I still agree with that attitude because, as a middle-aged mid-pack age grouper, I don't foresee any podium wins in my future, unless there's a small field (which does happen at times!).
However, I also decided that I'd like to approach things with a somewhat more serious attitude - and greater focus, just to see. Out of curiosity, perhaps? So, I started to attend more group runs and rides and realized that I had a LOT to learn! Ditto for masters swimming, where I stay in the slowest lane, although I've happily become a wee bit faster and I push myself a bit more each time (okay, almost every time). The other major decision was to actually work with a coach. A part of me is still rolling my eyes at myself and I think "What's going on here?!" but then another part of me feels quite excited about this process. I contacted a few people and ended up connecting with someone who is not local but is in Southern CA and seems like a good fit for me. To be honest, I've never worked with anyone, so I can't say that I know what I'm doing here.
And we'll see how this process goes. I'm set up on TrainingPeaks which makes me feel like a "real" athlete as I can track myself and my data with a bit more accuracy than I'm used to - quite a difference from jotting down workouts and tallying totals for the end of the week in a date book (yes, I'm old school and still use a gradebook). This past week was the first week that she gave me my workouts, and it hasn't been crazy hard or difficult. After all, I'm just supposed to be building up my base, not doing anything too crazy.
But what HAS challenged me this week with the workouts is the fact that I am not the one choosing what to do for the day. It's both a positive and negative. Positive, because I don't have to think about it, I see what the workout is and I try to complete it and usually do. I shouldn't use the term "negative" when reviewing the first week of working with a coach, but it has been different. First of all, I feel quite responsible to report to my coach and to try my best at these workouts. And I suppose that latter point is what I find so challenging. I don't think that I half-assed my workouts in the past, but I often used the time in the pool, in the saddle, or pounding the pavement or trails as a time to lose myself in thoughts, let my mind wander and to relax. I now find that I cannot or should not let my thoughts wander. Today, I ran 10 hill repeats, or so I thought. I found out that I actually only ran 9 because I didn't keep track! It's not a huge issue, but it highlights the need for me to focus! Also, running by heart rate rather than running by feel or by garmin is a completely new experience. I am not opposed to new experiences, but it seems that I am a bit set in my ways and I find it very difficult to be so aware of my body when I run. Or aware in a different sense - paying attention to a device that tells me what is going on with my body. It feels so foreign to me!
It's early days yet, but it's already been a new experience, and I feel a bit like an old nag who is being told to run a different way. I suppose that it's also like eating spinach as a kid - it will be good for me in the long run. And by that, I don't know if I'll suddenly get faster or develop amazing endurance, but the awareness and the focus challenge me and force me to approach running (and biking, somewhat at this point) with a different view.
Finally, I definitely would NOT have set out for a run this morning without that external motivation. It was a bit wet and rather cold, and my bed was nice and warm and inviting, but a run was on the schedule, so run I did! Begrudgingly, at first, but then I found my pace, warmed up, did my hills - or most of them - and felt quite accomplished for the rest of the day.
And if this translates into a faster or better race, then I'll take it! And even if it doesn't, I think that I will learn from the experience.