By Rusty Smith
So, this season has not turned out as I previously imagined it might.
Last year I had a true, breakout season: I hit virtually every workout, and made the podium in 12 out of 13 races (all but Age-Group Nationals). I went in to the off-season healthy, and surprisingly still fresh and chomping at the bit to perform even better the next time around. Training went well through the fall and winter, and I even pulled of a couple of PR’s in winter running races.
But then things went sideways a bit just as triathlon season began in earnest: I first injured my elbow in a freak non-sports related event that all but shuttered my swimming.
Then I missed a race due to a death in the family.
And then another due to unexpected work travel.
Through all that I continued to train consistently, although I was really in management mode when it came to swimming due to the elbow. At my first real race of the triathlon season (John Tanner) I took the swim easy, and when I got out of the water I was excited to realize I had not thought about the elbow once during the swim – and on the bike I distinctly remember being elated that I had finally turned the corner, and was feeling great. Grinning ear-to-ear, I flew toward T-2.
And then I hit the deck, really, really hard.
Recovery took weeks, and weeks, and weeks. Frustration mounted as I missed race, after race, after race. Just as I would begin to think I was on top of my injuries, another injury would take its place. After a rather dismal showing in Milwaukee (Age Group Nationals) in which I hit none of my targets, I thought, “I give up,” and quite dejected (but honestly somewhat relieved), threw in the towel. I finally realized that rather than recovering as I should I had instead blown the whole race season by cutting corners trying to get race-ready. In other words I had replaced “healing properly” with simply “compensating for injury.”
Rusty post Age Group Nationals at Milwaukee
My biggest frustration is that after racing for almost three decades, I actually DO know better.
You see I had raced so well last season because throughout the year and in both training and racing, I focused solely on goals, rather than outcomes. Stated more simply, I only worried about the things that
were within my control instead of those things that are not.
What is always within our control is to prepare a realistic plan and execute it well. At the other end of the spectrum what is beyond our control is what place we finish in a race, or (as I learned this season), whether we even race at all.
So this off-season I have gone back to the basics and prepared a plan focused on truly recovering. It is well within my power to execute. Most importantly I know if I can focus on the real goal of healing properly, the outcomes I desire are sure to follow suit.
I know triathlon is a long game, and requires a long view. There are no shortcuts to success. And in the end our success is not really measured by our outcomes, but rather by our ability to set appropriate goals, and whether we meet them. In this way goals are like tiny drops of rain. And as we all know, over time and with great patience and persistence, similar drops of water ultimately carved the Grand Canyon.