Pre-Galveston: Self-Coaching Challenges

I'm headed down to Galveston today for my first 70.3.  I've done several half ironmans, but haven't done a 70.3 yet.  All of my halfs have been independents.  WTC always runs a great race, so I'm looking forward to it.  And with Lance racing, I'm expecting it to be a full on media circus. Should be interesting.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you probably know I'm self-coached.  Half the fun of this sport for me is putting together my training plan.  I love learning about training - what works, what doesn't and - most importantly - why.  It's a fun challenge.

As a self-coached athlete, I wear two hats:  Coach Mike and Athlete Mike.   I enjoy the challenge, but it can be tough to separate Coach Mike from Athlete Mike sometimes (when I first typed that I accidentally wrote Couch Mike...that's a completely different Mike).

As athletes we sometimes train on emotion and that can be a problem.  We don't always follow the plan.  We make last minute adjustments based on what our competition is doing (or what we think our competition is doing), what our friends are doing (who may also be our competition) or we may be searching for confidence.  Rarely do we make the training easier when we do this.

I'm pretty good about not worrying about what my competition is doing, but searching for confidence sometimes leads to bad decisions.  Coach Mike spends a lot of time putting together a training plan.  The problem is that Athlete Mike has the login and password to TrainingPeaks. 

Cycling is my strongest sport, and it's pretty rare I stray from the plan.  I have a lot more confidence in my abilities as a cyclist, so I don't worry about a bad workout here and there.  I'm also not afraid to ride easy....and by easy, I mean EASY.  I think being willing to go really easy from time to time is a sign of confidence.   

My confidence is most easily shattered in the pool, so I find I'm continually searching for reassurance.  As I continue to improve, I find that a bad workout here and there doesn't leave me wondering if I somehow forgot how to swim from one day to the next like it used to.  And with swimming being more forgiving physically, there isn't as big of a price to pay for straying from the plan and increasing the intensity to give yourself some confidence.  

But that doesn't make it right.  The plan is there for a reason, and sticking to the plan is where we need to find our confidence.  One workout doesn't make or break a season.  But one workout does affect another and sometimes an easy workout is there to allow you to recover to set up another workout.  Trust your plan and find confidence in executing the plan.      

With this knee injury I've been battling for over a year, my running fitness isn't where I want it to be.  This is where it's difficult being self-coached sometimes.  A few weeks ago Athlete Mike logged into TrainingPeaks and made a few changes.  Coach Mike had a running plan that was slowly building volume and intensity (and my knee was feeling great).  Athlete Mike needed some confidence and saw that the Crazylegs Classic (one of the biggest 8Ks in the country) was quickly approaching.  Suddenly there was a 5x1 mile track workout on the schedule.  

Athlete Mike nailed the workout and got his confidence back....and along with that came knee pain.  That led to a doctor's appointment and an MRI.  The tendon was doing well, but wasn't fully healed (there are small lengthwise tears, so it's not like it's torn across and hanging on by a thread).  I did some damage and set my recovery back a bit. 

I was training on emotion.  The plan was working, but I started searching for confidence and made last minute changes.  I always have key workouts in the plan to test my fitness (and build confidence), but I got impatient.  One thing that typically helps when I need some confidence is reviewing my overall plan to see where I'm at and where I'm headed.  That gives me confidence that I'm where I need to be and that everything is going to come together. 

So now I'm headed into my first race of the year, and my game plan is nothing like I had pictured when I registered for this race.  I thought an early season half would be great for winter motivation, and it would be fun to be 100% focused on a half ironman for a change.  Every other half I've done has been close enough to an Ironman that I haven't been 100% focused on the half.

But with my knee less than 100%, my new game plan looks like this:  Athlete Mike gets to swim and bike and Coach Mike is doing the run.  This means that in T2 I take off the athlete hat and put on the coaches hat (which looks a lot like a visor).  It means I run hard, but don't throw away my season.  It means I pay attention to...AND REACT TO....pain.  Athlete Mike would ignore the pain and tear his knee to shreds.  He's dumb like that.  He views pain as a challenge, something to push through and conquer.  Coach Mike knows when to pull the plug, to live to fight another day.  Coach Mike views the pain as a threat to the training plan and the season's goals.

Ideally, my knee will hold up well and it won't be much of an issue.  But I'm not going to throw away the entire season for one race....unless, by a very peculiar set of circumstances I find myself ahead of Lance.  All bets are off then.

I don't think we have to worry about that.  



Mike said...

Great post and good luck this weekend!

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