"...People usually fail when they are on the verge of success. So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure..."
Of all the posts in this series, this has been the most difficult to write. Perhaps it is because this one hits so close to home for me personally.
I don't think any of us have a hard time dreaming big because as triathletes we all have some mountain to climb whether it be a goal race, or a finishing time, or place on a podium. Triathlon with its times and schedules and rankings can be very, very goal oriented. It is easy to lose sight of what attracted you to the sport in the first place. In an environment like this the actual "process of triathlon" can get overlooked. And as fitness increases it is so easy to start to believe it will continue to increase with more effort and less attention. If you fall into this pattern of belief, your behavior will soon follow and you could wind up undoing all the quality work you have done. This can signal the beginning of the end. Check out Brandon's post on a similar subject here.
The other day at the end of a solid three week block of training, feeling strong and satisfied, I picked up the phone and called a friend to see what he was up to. I hadn't talked to him in a while so, he was very excited to hear from me. He started suggesting we get together to either ride or run. As he talked a feeling of absolute dread came over me. There was a reason I hadn't talked to him in a while. Our life and training goals were very, very different. I experienced this first hand last year when I wound up on the verge of overtraining after agreeing to workout with him a few days a week. For him there was no "off" button. Sessions continued endlessly and without much purpose. It was easy to train too much and too hard when I was around him. Fortunately we both got busy and went our separate ways. And I eventually recovered.
What I have noticed in my own experience is the fitter and more confident I become, the more I think I can do both inside and outside triathlon. Ultimately time and time again this one small fallacy has wreaked havoc on my results. Calling my friend to see what was up is just one example of how a single act can have far reaching, entirely foreseeable consequences.
That experience made me sit down and consider the implications of my recent phone call. What was most troubling was the realization that I had done other things just as counterproductive before. There was the year I was tapering for a big race and had told my girlfriend I could not help her move and to either call her brother or hire movers. She did neither and I wound up spending two days, 12 hours each, lifting and moving furniture. I could feel myself actually using stores of energy and fitness in the process. I still raced but was sluggish the whole day. Needless to say my results that day were not what I was looking forward to.
The thing is decisions like this seem so small at the time. A phone call to a friend. Spending two days helping a girlfriend move. They don't seem like the end of the world or the reasons some of your personal goals are no closer now than when you first conceived of them. But if you take some time and look at your own life and find there are some phone calls you could have left unmade, or emails left unreturned, or that “can't miss” party that you could have skipped just to get a few extra hours of sleep, or taken more time to prepare better food versus grabbing something quick in a drive thru, or even just make a small adjustment to your training schedule because you sense a change is needed, then you might find that you are actually closer to realizing your goals than you think. It can be easy to forget that our goals matter to us and one of the ways we can remind ourselves is to acknowledge the larger picture in our lives and give it the attention it deserves. Of course becoming conscious of our patterns of limiting behavior and addressing them has implications that extend far outside the world of triathlon.