Perfect is the enemy of good

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Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well
-Duke of Albany (King Lear by William Shakespeare)

I started this post about two weeks before Ironman Arizona, then got distracted by life. After the race I wanted to make this post a mixture of a season review and a statement of the plan going forward into 2016.  To that end I went and wrote some notes and started reforming the post, but I struggled to find a theme and title for it.  Then a single sentence on slowtwitch was like a baseball bat to the back of my head: “Often on slowtwitch, perfect is the enemy of great.”  I realized that was the thought that tied everything together.

When the end of the season rolls around I often take stock of my results, set some intermediate goals to focus the next year on the larger goal, and finally create some benchmark targets based on both the longer term goal and the intermediate goal.  This usually results in some very detailed and objective plans laid out with the intention of getting me from point A (current me) to point B (ass kicking me).

Do you know how often I have successfully executed these painstakingly crafted progressions?  Zero.  This, despite having more or less followed this process almost yearly since 2005.  You can see tidbits of these plans scattered throughout my blog.  Inevitably what happens is that things don’t progress well, or I question the appropriateness of the plan based on a blog I read, or a post by the “short list” on slowtwitch, or a new study I read, and I change the plan.  Or as has happened twice (possibly thrice) – a full blown mental meltdown ensues and things get real ugly.  Despite knowing that amidst a constantly shifting plan or a mental meltdown the result is completely ineffective training. I bang my head against this approach time and time again.  Insanity.

To be clear, it’s not that I’m not training, just that I’m training ineffectively or perhaps aimlessly and with a lot of mental baggage and frustration.    I have periods where I am able to focus and bring it all together, which generally results in some good results, but it always leaves me asking the “what if” question.  What if I could string together 40 focused and constructive weeks of training instead of 7 to 12 weeks.  I don’t necessarily mean focused in high volume, or long rides, etc – but more in the way that I mindlessly execute training without bouncing around like a headless chicken.

In the vein of following my own advice, I’m going to try something new this winter. This approach also happens to be something I do with the athletes I work with.  I’m not going to create a highly detailed and complex plan.  Meaning that rather than focusing on creating and executing a perfect training plan designed to perfectly bridge the gap from where I am and where I want to be, I’m going to go in the complete opposite direction, because I’ve decided I don’t want to be insane.

To that end here is my plan for 2016.  Simple and focused on good, not perfect.

Race schedule:

  • 3/20/2016 – March Madness Half Marathon or
    4/02/2016 – South Shore Half Marathon
  • 5/01/2016 – J-hawk Earlybird
  • 5/20/2016 – Triple T
  • 6/11/2016 – Elkhart Lake
  • 6/26/2016 – CDA 70.3
  • 7/17/2016 – Racine 70.3 (maybe?)
  • 8/21/2016 – Pigman (maybe?)
  • 10/8/2016 – Kona

Writing this only a few days after Arizona – depending on the point of view, I am either at the tail end of my 2015 triathlon season, or at the very beginning of 2016.  I prefer to think of it as the beginning of 2016, starting off with 3 weeks of training that is going to range from nothing – to whatever I feel like.  Once I get through those three weeks it’s time to start the work again.

Having had a great race at Arizona, it brings the obvious focus of next season to the lingering goal that has been out there since this time in 2011.  The top age grouper at Kona.  This is a stretch goal, no question.  Stretch might even be stretching it a bit.  The difference between 8:49 at Arizona, and 8:49 (or faster) at Kona is pretty significant.

Previously, I’d dive into that 8:49 (or faster) statement and create some concrete targets for me to focus on.  I’m pretty sure that starts treading some dangerous water given my desire to approach 2016 in a new and completely different manner.  The facts are simple, given the desired outcome my swim is adequate, my bike and my run are not.

To bridge that gap, I need to stay focused on the process of improving, much like how I approached the day in Tempe:

My best results have happened when I’ve executed with the mindset of going through the day in a bubble separated from the world – don’t let anyone or anything cause me to execute a race that my training has indicated is not feasible.

At the end of the day remember, success or failure at this race is ultimately about having a positive experience during the race, and that choices that lead to that positive experience will lead to the fastest outcome.  Focus on making the small choices during the day that will lead to that positive experience.

I need to focus on the process and let the result happen by choosing to live the process and making the many thousands of small choices correctly over the next 11 months.  That means I’m not going to create any fancy plans or training blocks, I’m just going to focus on training and adjusting my training when I appear to hit a plateau or my race schedule demands race specific work.  What is important is the progressive and consistent nature of the work that I do, combined with a focus on nutrition, sleep, and overall life well-being.

It is inevitable that I will poke around at what type of a performance it will take to get the desired outcome, I’ve already done it, but I am not going to allow those benchmarks, or my current status relative to those benchmarks to influence my direction.  The process is important, not the outcome.

I will judge success  based on if I am including progressive quality workouts on a regular and appropriate basis.  Success here is judged by a periodization adjusted 2x key swims, 2x key bikes, 1x key run.  If I accomplish that – progress will come.

Some closing thoughts/action items:

  1. I need to continue to address and improve the situation with my adductors.  I have made great strides with them in the last couple months, but there is still work to do.
  2. Continue to evolve my bike fit.  Based on sensations in the race, I feel that my saddle position is good, my bullhorn reach is good, but I need more reach on my elbow pads, and possible a small amount more for my extensions.  I may want to slightly adjust my saddle pitch downward – only a very small amount.
  3. Continuing on from number two – I need to really focus on my posture while riding indoors.  When riding outside I am nearly 100% sure that I roll my hips open and sit a lot more forward then when inside – which I think is why I felt the need for additional reach during the race and probably why the saddle felt like it was digging into my crotch. I need to focus on sitting the same on the trainer as I do outside.
  4. Weight management. I did an excellent job in the final weeks of IMAZ managing my weight – after a brief carefree period I need to maintain that focus – so that I don’t refocus next fall only to end up treading water.
  5. Similar to number 4 – I need to make sure I stay focused on the “plan”and not get distracted by a lack of progress, a lack of motivation, shiny new studies, mental craziness, etc.  A solid and focused 13 weeks just before Kona will only do so much and won’t get me where I want to be without the focused foundation work prior.