One week following the Canmore Xterra, here’s a moment to reflect on the race and the six-month season leading up to it. I came woefully short of achieving my goals of 30min swim, 1hour45min bike and 55min run. I didn’t even come close to those times! To be fair, barring several extremely fit outliers, very few people in the race came close to my desired run and bike times (the swim goal was more reasonable). The bike and run course were significantly harder and slightly longer this year, so determining a reasonable goal was unlikely. My unrealistic goal aside, other performance metrics have to do with my place in the pack. Last year, I was 82nd out of 102 competitors (3rd out of three in my category). This year, I was 57th out of 73 finishers (4th out of seven in my category). The former is worse than the latter, so I did improve my place in the pack this year. Furthermore, relative to the pack, I discovered that I improved in the swim and the bike this year, but not the run.
Improvement in finishing place is encouraging, but my goal times were planned with the intention of winning. Had I achieved those goals, I would have won. Winning is contingent on who shows up on race day. But if the only thing I can control is my performance relative to my own training and I can’t control the preparation of my competitors, then I am well-advised to do a better job of my own training. My goal is to win. And if that’s going to happen next year, I better be honest with myself on how.
I suspected all along that I’d shortchanged myself during training. I drafted a six-month training plan and followed it almost exactly, but I now know the difference between winning and finishing is what happens during non-training hours. Rest, nutrition and training volume are all critical components of training. But fitting in 14 hours of training during the week so that I can go to the lake with my friends and drink and snack around the bonfire on the weekend is not an effective training strategy. It’s not the friends or the lake that are the problem, it’s the dehydrating effect of the alcohol and chips, the disruptive sleep schedule from the late nights and the stress that ensues from trying to fit in more training after a long weekend of not training.
Following the realization that non-training hours are as critical as training hours, I ask myself what I want from this triathlon business. What’s all the training for? Canmore Xterra 2018 was my eighth triathlon. The first was the Midnight Sun Triathlon in Yellowknife in 2001. If I’m dedicating 12-15 hours per week to training, and fifteen or more years to the cause, I better be clear on what it’s all for. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than an elaborate fitness plan.
So what’s it going to take? Pain. Dedication. Commitment. Sacrifice. The workouts have to be completed, attention to nutrition has to be observed, rest must be prescribed. To be the fastest, I have to be the best at training. There is no luck in triathlon and achieving this goal of winning the 2019 Canmore Xterra will not be a lucky break. It will be the product of commitment, endurance and deliberate attention to improved performance. Even though I didn’t achieve my goals this season, that doesn’t mean I didn’t teach myself how to schedule workouts, dress for fluctuating temperatures on runs, and incorporate strength training. I just have to do all those things combined with specific nutrition choices and adequate recovery.
The winning formula is training hours + recovery + nutrition. My commitment to training hours is intact. The addition of recovery time and adequate nutrition will be the catalyst for changing my outcome from a finisher to a winner.
Some photos from Xterra Canmore 2018: