What do I think about when I train

Posted by on March 6, 2008 in Racing, Random pontification, Training

When one spends many hours swimming, cycling, running, etc., there’s the inevitability of being a prisoner to the mind. Of course, there’s the focus on the actual activity such as counting laps, remembering to exhibit proper form and technique, monitoring any telemetry (e.g. heart rate, treadmill data, cycling computer info), but all of this aside, the mind can serve to be a huge obstacle to overcome.

In most endurance events, any form of electronics is prohibited. In the NY Road Runner races, more people have their iPods then don’t and to be honest, there’s not a whole lot wrong with it in my book. Running can be dreadfully monotonous without that external stimulation… to some. For others, it’s a distraction or simply unnecessary. In triathlon, it’s strictly forbidden. In sprint or Olympic distance events, so much is happening in a short period of time that makes the inclusion of music almost silly. For half-Ironman or full IM distance events, there might be a better argument for it… except for the fact that getting caught gets you disqualified which is probably the worst thing that can happen given how much goes into training for those events.

Race day isn’t supposed to be a big deal for a half or full IM. “They” often say that race day is truly just a long training day, the thought being directly attributable to the crazy hours that went into the preparation. Leading up to my participation at the IM in Lake Placid in 2005, I remember doing 100 mile rides followed by 10 mile runs. That’s 7 hours or so of being active both physically and mentally. Early on in my training for that event, I used my iPod nearly every time I cycled or ran, but purposely and common sensically did away with it to build up the mental strength of being alone without that kind of stimulus. What I found is that it’s incredibly difficult to be focused for such a long period of time even with the visual stimulation, especially for someone like me who might have some ADD issues (or hadn’t anyone noticed?).

So, this begs the question, “What do you think about when you’re training?” My reflex response is, “What DON’T I think about?” I don’t claim to be the most complex individual in general, but I can only make the statement when I’m finished with a training session and relaxing on the couch; while I’m out training, everything is troubling. These days, I’m consumed with woman issues, self-worth questions (“I’m never going to be ready in time for IM Brazil”), desires to do more with music (I should practice more and start performing), figuring out how to make more money and save more money, etc. It’s funny that as I write this, I feel good, I feel confident, I’m at peace, etc., but out there, every little insecurity is magnified. Like I wrote, I’m a prisoner to my mind and there are no escapes. Why? Because I committed to achieving this goal and as anyone who knows me can attest, I’m loyal beyond measure which actually bodes well for being committed to training (and hopefully to finding a wife!).

Bleak as this picture has been described, there’s tremendous good that comes out of it too. Almost always, I come out with a better picture of who I am and that self-awareness enables me to make good decisions about the issue(s) du jour. Not everything is resolvable especially when someone else is involved, but I’ve learned to accept that the only element I can truly control is my behavior. Among the hundreds of good things that have come out of this “hobby” of mine, this knowledge of how powerful the mind can be might be among the best learned. I’m well aware of my shortcomings (some of you have been kind enough to point them out regularly), and while triathlon may not be the panacea to them, trust me when I tell you that not doing this would make me committable. [Here’s where my brother would insert the punch line.]

I wonder if on race day in Brazil, I’ll fare better having resolution on most things or if the ambiguity and uncertainty of life will serve me better as a distraction from the fact that… gasp… I’ll be on the course for 13 hours or so. Gimme a break; 13 hours stuck in this brain? Who knew I was such a masochist.

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