Sunday, September 15, 2013

The focused-relaxed athlete (and other oxymorons for athletes)

After enjoying the process of putting myself out to pasture for a month after Ironman Cairns, my focused shifted onto the next highlight of 2013's racing calender: Mooloolaba 70.3. When this event was first announced last year I had that rush of Christmas-morning excitement that flows through your body as a 7 year old (who am I kidding - still as a 33 year old). The race definitely ticked a lot of boxes: 
  • Fast course
  • Local (easy for my family to come and watch, as well as just being a short drive up the road from home) 
  • New and novel (which is great for motivation) 
  • Half the distance of Cairns!
My preparation was two fold. 1) Get a killer training program. TICK. 2) Reset the mind. TICK. 

After such an intense build up to my last race I decided that this time around it would be more relaxed. No pressure. Fun comes first. If I felt like riding with friends rather than hit some tempo efforts, I would. If I wanted to cruise through some running trails instead of knocking out 400m track efforts, then "so long suckers" I'm off to the forest. If the coffee at the cafe seemed more appealing then the drive there was my new training session.

This worked well for a while. With a shift in priorities and a relaxed attitude to training I was happy to miss sessions or shorten some longer rides. The small projects were getting done around the house and my dog was getting walked more. 

Plus, the quality of my training had improved. I was again loving the enjoyable-agony of hard sessions and would often have a crazed-grin on my face afterwards. I was starting to think that there was a method-to-this-madness as my pace in sessions was above what I had achieved in ages. 


That was the sound of my calf during one insignificantly-meaningful run. Out for 3 weeks which put me out of Mooloolaba 70.3.

Disappointing to say the least and a sometimes forgettable-lesson that we have as athletes. In my afternoon of brooding and kicking at rocks on the ground, I took the time to reflect on why. What went wrong? I thought that I had embraced the focused-relaxed mindset like Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze embraced the clay in 'Ghost' - with vigor and enthusiasm!

Then it dawned on me. I had forgotten about the incidental-necessities.  

Four Ironman race-preparations. Zero injuries. 

Two half-Ironman race-preparations this year. Two injuries. 

The difference?

The incidental-necessities. Regular massage. Stretching after sessions. Good warm-up. Post-exercise nutrition. 

I am fanatical about these aspects during an Iroman training period because of the workload and the importance of keeping this rig of mine healthy. But with a carefree outlook this time around (and less volume of training each week) these things got put on the back-burner more often. They still happened, but not as often as they should. For some reason I thought they were less important because I was training less and being ├╝ber-relaxed.

So for the focused-relaxed athlete, remember that there are still some cornerstone pieces of the puzzle that are important. I will try to let go of my moment of conscientious-stupidity. 

Through all of this, there is a saying that has stuck in my mind which has given me a smile and the energy for my next racing adventure:

"Chase your dreams passionately while holding them lightly"

Mooloolaba 70.3 was just a race. Some fun with friends. No sheep-stations on the line. With Noosa less than 8 weeks away, there is always something else in your life to pursue with enthusiastic vigor! 

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