Last weeks training started with just striving to maintain consistency in the face of fear. Four previous open water (OW) swims in the last two weeks had me feeling choked, stressed, hyperventilating and returning to shore with my inner voice screaming, "Don't drown!" well short of my intended goal, a full 1 mile lap.
On Thursday, my training partner and I headed to the lake for a mid week swim. I have swam this lake, this location over six years. I knew if I was consistent, if I just focused on the basics and not dwell on failure I would be out of this mental block. Standing in the 60* water I said to my friend, "Lets see what happens," and stroked out to the buoy and then headed into the canyon. My stroke, my breathing and my hips finally began to work in unison and albeit slowly I made my way past my previous freak out spots and made my way to the back of the canyon.
At the turnaround I was able to kneel on a rock along the side, defog my goggles and do a little fist pump congratulations to myself. I scanned the water for my partner to see how far ahead he was, when I heard, "Good job", echo off the canyon walls. He was on the other side of the canyon watching and waiting for me. What a pal.
Swimming slowly back and beginning to fatigue, I cut the buoy and headed straight for the beach. On unsteady legs I emerged from the water feeling as if I had broken through my mental barrier. Breakthrough Workout #1.
The previous week a teammate was commenting on a difficulty of a particularly hard bike course, (St. George or Silverman). I remarked, "Want to train for the hills, ride hills. Want to train for the flats, ride hills." Reflecting on that comment a bit later I realized I was not focusing enough on my cycling, defaulting to a task I truly enjoy, running. Now, I can run. I'm not a rabbit, but I can run far on little training and run far, faster when I train for something specific. Cycling to me is a chore. I enjoy it but I focus more on the flaws than the success.
So last week I dropped my run mileage by almost 75% and increased the cycling consistency to buildup that area of training. Friday morning, after a week of consistent cycling blocks and my still on a swim high, my training partner sends me a text, "Lets ride EOP (End Of Pavement) before the swim Sunday." EOP is a well known segment of road that wanders through the desert, past our swimming lake and ends in the middle of the desert. The last nine miles of it that we would ride is a particularly nasty grade. My mind said, "Ugh", my thumbs typed back, 'Sure'.
I've ridden EOP before, driven it and run it as well. Even though it had been a couple years since riding it (due to my injury) I know the course very well. Especially all the places I've practically fallen over for not pedaling fast enough to maintain any forward motion. Practically. Its times like that I whine for a third crank up front but really its an admonishment for not having stronger cycling legs.
I wouldn't say I blasted the ride but it was much easier than I remember it. Perhaps a trick of the brain, perhaps a testament to the cycling base I've created the last few months. Whatever it was I made it to EOP without any problems. I was able to stand at the roads end and revel in the accomplishment and not dwell on the effort. A little or a lot, it was enough to see me to the top. The cruel joke of EOP is that the decent is epically fast. Descending in 10 minutes what took 40 to climb. This completed Breakthrough Workout #2.
Aside from my Thursday swim success, I was planning on being too neuro-muscularly wiped out to swim after my first EOP ride of the year. However, I felt good enough to put on the suit and head out with a dozen other cold souls. Again I made it all the way to the back of the canyon, and felt even better than Thursday. I was able to focus on finer swimming reminders and not continuously stay in my head. This time I swam back to the buoy before returning to the beach and completed my first 1 mile OW lap of the year. Breakthrough Workout #3.
It is not often that multiple breakthroughs occur in one week. It is reward enough to just complete the key workout in each discipline. So I take the week as a large step forward for me, personally. Looking forward, I'll start putting more run mileage together and continue to challenge myself with hills and swims. It's starting to look like a triathlon could make it on the race calendar this year.
It is uncommon I survived the injury I sustained in my last triathlon. Its amazing two years later to prove all the medical experts wrong who told me if I worked out again, I'd die. It's satisfying that the limits I have now are all self induced and I know I can conquer those with a positive mental attitude, determination, consistency and most importantly, for me, to finally have the humility to listen to a team mate say, "Dude, thats enough."
Its not enough to exist. I am going to live.