Good Luck to my athletes Aleck Alleckson (M35), Garren Watkins (M35) and David Lowe (M65) as they race IM Hawaii Saturday.
This place doesn’t seem to get old. I have 9 qualifications in as many years I’ve been a triathlete, 2004 being my first time racing here. This race comes with some baggage as well, as I have only started 6 prior races here and have finished 5.
I always enjoy the Island, and I entirely love the concept of a true world championship for Amateur triathletes. What I mean by “true” is simply based on the history of this place, and the evolution of the race. This event had 28 qualifying Ironman races in 2012, and will have 29 in 2013. Of these races, with the exception of 3, there are 50 total qualifying slots for the average 2500 amateurs throughout the race series. The M45 group had an average of 4 qualifiers per race this year, and thus around 110 Ironman qualifiers and a few from the 70.3 series races out there as well as the 3 IM events with double the slots for a total of around 130. Throw in those from the lottery and a total of 170-190 M45 athletes is typical. Of these, there will essentially be 28 Ironman M45 division champions here, with the exception of a few that are injured, or cannot race for whatever reason. This is the environment I enjoy. Head to head with the fastest assembled men in each division, on one day. Those that have never been hear or raced here, and say to their friends, “good luck, we know you can podium”, either have no idea how competitive this race is, or just don’t understand what Kona is. The year my wife Ann went entirely undefeated, breaking course records in her Ironman, 70.3 as well as ITU, and being crowned world champion in ITU as the top female amateur….she was 6th, missing the podium by just a few minutes.
So, it is important to remain grounded. Important to know where you stand. If you were 3rd in the division, or received a roll down and you had a good qualifying race? There is a 99% chance or greater that you will not podium (nothing is 100%). For myself? A goal of top 25 in the M45 would place me amongst the group of division champions who have also qualified here. I have placed in the top 50 a few times, even on those years I came in as a division champion, which placed me in the second tier. So, top 25 is a realistic goal for someone in the middle of the age group at age 47. I realize anything can happen, and my training this season has gone very well, setting me up to capitalize on any others who don’t have a stellar race, and thus I am prepared to reach for more and not to “settle” if I am having a good race.
I pulled out my logs last week. Yes, 20 years of training and racing, 2 years per log.
Writing down every workout, how I feel, logging summaries of blocks going into races, tapering, and recovery.
This has allowed me to make simple analyses of past performances and repeat the things that lead to good performance, and eliminate those workouts or techniques that are not as effective. Since I entered triathlon in 2004, and raced Hawaii that year, I have documented each season. I have not fully repeated every season, but have subtle tweaks, thus enabling me to capitialize on the effective strategies and techniques. Even once I found the best coach I could hope for, who sent me workouts each week for 5 years, I wrote down everything we did together, and offering him feedback based on direct evidence. Maintaining a good old fashioned written log allows me to quickly reference races, big weeks, and summary pages. This is how you create foresight.
This is how you learn from mistakes and repeat the positive workouts that lead to positive outcomes. This is how you improve. In my case racing at age 47, this is how you either maintain year to year, or keep the losses to a minimum. So, if you do not do this as an athlete, don’t count on your coach to do it for you. This is the athlete’s responsibility. In coaching Aleck for his 3:16 marathon at Kona in 2011, I drew from effective running workouts I utilized in 2004 and 2005, over 6 years ago, after studying my logs. This is effective. If you don’t utilize this strategy, then you are missing a component that can make you significantly better.
The Seven Deadly Sins
The controlled emotional state of resentfulness for events that that may or may not be under our control. The state of anger will lead to a negative effect on a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings, view of the world, and will diminish your physical well being. Negativity will leas to an emotional distraction, and will undermine your goal as an athlete. Of those previously discussed, anger is the characteristic that can be completely under your control and thus, the consequences of one’s choice to alter the outcome of an event.
Athletes I have trained become angry when they don’t have results they wanted. Yet, their goals are far too lofty. An athlete doesn’t keep a log, is unorganized, and never has an inclination to analyze their season. Yet they are angry season after season when the improvements aren’t there. Angry because they expect upon hiring a coach they will automatically improve
We make choices. We choose to react to events or results. Reaction with anger wastes time and energy, and leads to no positive outcome in endurance sport.
I have been quietly training to high fitness all summer, since CdA. My ankle injury from IM Texas in 2011 has been pain free for 6 weeks and my running has gained nearly 100% strength. My cycling is as strong as ever. Lastly, my swim, upon attending numerous masters sessions with Dennis Baker this summer, is the strongest it’s been for 3-4 years. So, going into Kona this year, well prepared and ready to race from start to finish. Taper has gone perfect and my fitness has grown to its highest level of the year, a week before race day.
So, cycling down Alii 5 days prior to race day, along the sea wall, my front wheel struck the edge of a reflector. This burst my tire and flipped my wheel 90 degrees, launching me off the front and right of my bike. I struck the sea wall with my left chest and neck with my head over the wall looking straight down at the rocks about 8 feet below. Instead of continuing to flip onto the rocks, somehow my legs settled downward, drawing my weight backwards and I fell back off the wall onto the pavement. After the fallout and a couple hours in the ER, I have 2 distracted rib fractures and a fracture of the transverse process of my 2nd thoracic vertebrae. Some ugly road and wall rash on my hip, back, right leg, and left arm. The next morning it was clear I had whiplash injury with severe spasms in my neck and shoulders. The distracted rib fractures of stretched my intercostal nerve, resulting in sudden burning pain across my ribs that’s nearly unbearable for about 5 seconds, and occurs without warning over and over again.
I knew immediately upon crashing that I was out of the race. All those years here, and my first crash here.
I have appreciated all the comments by those close to me regarding my situation. The comments “oh my God Dave you must be devastated” or “man that has got to suck sooo much” do not bother me. I presume those (with good intentions) that have commented to me in this way do not realize I can qualify here every year and have raced here 6 times. So, to me, I realize the race will be here another day. This Saturday however, I cannot race.
When a friend of my told me he would be unbelievably pissed off, and why I was not angry with the whole situation I explained to him that it is a total waste of emotional energy to be angry. Events cannot be changed, I’ve raced here 6 previous times, and it’s not the “most important” thing in my life that I race Hawaii. I will simply race again…that’s it. It is difficult to understand for some I suppose, because they place ironman events on such a high level compared to other things in life. More importantly, have diminished foresight to realize racing is just what it is…racing. I’ve been racing endurance events for more than 25 years now. I understand that I will simply race again, and events that occur that alter immediate plans cannot be reversed. Dirk Bockel, 3rd last year at Kona in 2011, broke his hand on Monday of this week. Luke McKenzie coming in best shape of his life 2 years ago injured his back a couple of weeks before Kona. There are numerous examples of high level pro’s, who are racing for their income for the year, sponsors, and their livelihood, who incur injuries right before their biggest race of the year. Yet, Dirk and Luke both show up throughout the race week at Kona at all their media events, their autograph and appearances, etc. This is the mind of an athlete. They don’t dwell on events that cannot be changed, and they don’t allow anger to alter their outlook.
Anger is the first and acceptable reaction to an unwanted or unexpected poor outcome to an event.
Take a moment to realize the immediate past cannot be changed. Then begin looking to the future, and how the behavior you embrace may alter the events to come. Utilize negative events to draw from and instead re-gain focus on your goals, even if that means placing your current goal on hold.
When someone you know has a negative event happen to them that prevents them from competing in a race they’ve trained 6 months for? Instead of saying, “wow that sucks for you” or “you must be devastated” or “man that’s terrible for you”….
“Dont’ worry you’ll race again” or “You’ve been down before, you’ll be back soon”, or “You’ll get ’em on the next one”. This takes your projection of negativity, and changes it to allow positivity to infuse into the situation.
Glass half full.