I am now firmly entrenched in the season of "racing less." I don't like to say "off" season because, let's be honest, I am never really off. I may have taken 2 weeks of basically no activity except for a few easy swims however, after that it was game on as far as getting healthy and starting to build a base for the 2012 season.
I headed out on a run this morning sans Ipod because I used it yesterday and then, instead of turning it off when I was finished, I put it in my pocket still on. So guess what? No battery power this morning leading to a silent trail run. I used to get annoyed by running without music but I have learned to embrace it and to be honest, sometimes the quiet is nice. I did not even have a watch or garmin beeping to keep me on pace. Yep, I was just putting time in on my feet. Paces, heart rates and intervals will come soon enough.
For me, part of the racing less-season includes planning for the RACE season. I just started putting together a race schedule for 2012. I have a few "for sure" races and then I am filling in around those races with others. My plan is to hit up as many TriCalifornia events as I can along with Rev3 and a few independent races of varying distances.
Since I have nailed down a few races my mind was free to wander this morning and I got to thinking about goals. As I looked back on my first 2 years competing as a professional I found that my main goal was just "to improve." As I continued to think about this approach I came to the conclusion that it is a bit limiting. There is no question I am improving. However, how much can I improve? How will my goals help me to push harder in training? I think if my goal is just to improve I run the risk of allowing myself to just do "good enough." I am afraid I won't hold myself to a high standard during the really tough times in training and I will be allowed to let myself off easy. If I have concrete, steadfast goals I won't be able to let down in training, or in racing, for that matter. I will either have to DO it or DON'T.
The concrete goals--say top 5 at Alcatraz--mean that I have to commit, work hard and get it done on race day. It will take tenacity, confidence and trust in myself and the work I have done. It will also take sheer competitive drive. As I was running I pondered this question of competitiveness for awhile. Do I have it? Or do I allow myself to just do good enough? For example, do I think in a race-- "6th place, that's pretty good and I am going faster than I used to. This means I have hit my goal." To be honest, I probably do. Why do I want to endure more pain than I already I am if I am hitting my goal? Since I was calling myself out I decided to remember a time when I was intensely competitive. I worried I was not going to think of anything. Then, something popped into my head....
It was my senior year in high school. We were having our league swimming championship. Preliminary heats were on Friday and then Finals on Saturday. Since I was a pretty strong swimmer I had the luxury of being able to cruise the Friday heats, make the finals and save up some energy for the next day. The only goal of the day was to not get DQ'ed and secure a lane in the finals on Saturday. I was swimming the 200 IM. A girl for the rival school, Lakeview, named Jayna Kurti was a very strong swimmer and was in the heat before me in preliminaries. She swam her race and put up a good time. I was in the final heat as the top seed going into the meet. I swam a solid race that evening but held back in an effort to save up for the next day. I touched the wall and qualified for the final in second position behind Jayna. I looked over at my coach who gave me a thumbs up---in the finals without tiring myself out, perfect! I glanced over at the Lakeview coach, Dave Stubbs, because I heard him yelling. He was high fiving, screaming out "yes!!" In typical teenage fashion I sneered and rolled my eyes. Doesn't he know that I cruised it? Doesn't he know that tomorrow is when it really counts? I went up to my coach and said defiantly, "Coach Stubbs can cheer all he wants right now because he won't be too happy tomorrow. Jayna and I are not going to even be in the same zip code." My friends on the team were asking me about it since everyone on the pool deck saw and heard Coach Stubbs' reaction. My response was unwavering---I would win BIG on Saturday. My mind did not have any doubt that I would win. Of course, there was a chance I would fail but I guess my mindset was "I will win and if not, guess we will deal with it if it happens." I was so unafraid of failing I did not even consider that it could happen. Perhaps being a jerky, defiant teenager served me well in competition. To end the story, I won the league championship the next day. As I had predicted it was not close. Jayna was a great competitor and pushed me from the time I was 10 years old until I graduated from high school.
After I recalled this race in my swimming career I came to the realization that I am extremely competitive and I do have the ability to get the things done that I set out to do. Ultimately, I need to set the bar high (Top 5 at Alcatraz?) and not be afraid to fail. If I say out loud, or on my blog, that it is my goal then I am going to go for it. I am going to find a way to get it done. I am not going to worry about what people will think if I fail, if I don't get 5th. I think being afraid of failing is only holding me back. I will focus on myself and get the work done day in and day out and will execute the best race I can on June 10, 2012. I will dig deep and focus on MY RACE to achieve MY GOAL. I will not settle for less. I will be confident and trust in my ability. Ultimately, I believe I am capable of more than I think I am.
In closing, a couple fun pictures....
This is me swimming for UM in 1998. I loved those winged helmet caps. Notice the head tilted to the left. I always do that when I am working hard...
At Alcatraz this year. I'll be digging deeper next June.
Hmmm, still drop that head to the left!