March 08, 2015

Setting goals and measuring up

What is this unfamiliar glowing orb in the sky? Aggh, my eyes!!
Enough snow has melted that I can see the sidewalk (at least, most of it). Rather than go for a skate or tromp around in my snowshoes, it's time to get down to business. I've written out some goals. Made some plans for how to get there. I've got schedules -- times, distances, target paces -- all in place to help me reach those goals. And I've discovered something... I have a lot of work to do.

I might as well have out with it. My next big goal is to qualify for the ITU age group World Championships. I'm hoping to hit this goal within a 3-year timeframe, building my fitness base and more big-event racing experience till I get there. If you're a stud triathlete, you might be thinking "pfftt... not that hard". But that depth of field is a bigger pond than I've been swimming in (figuratively speaking). I make the mistake of frequenting a tri forum where egos are measured in watts, and those outside the sub-10 hour Ironman club are seen by some as lower life forms. Now, there are a lot of very helpful folks there as well... but the undercurrent of what is "good enough" versus what is not can be insidious, even when my rational self knows that is not the yardstick to measure myself by.

Best way to hide Easter eggs this year... leave them white
Racing is all relative. You race the field that shows up, on the day that presents itself, on the course that is available. Everyone's got to swim in the same 15 degree chop. Everyone's got to avoid the same potholes. Everyone pushes to the finish line in the same downpour. The actual time becomes almost insignificant... it's the course on the day that decides how long it will take for the victor (and those behind) to finish. That said, to come up with smaller goals in pursuit of my larger one, I looked through results from last year at Magog -- the race where I'll do the Olympic distance national qualifier this season. Top 10 in each age group get a spot on the team. To come in the top 10 based on last year's results, I set the following as targets:

  • swim 1500 m in 30 minutes
  • bike 40 km averaging 28 km/h (on the hilly Magog course... on flatter courses this season I want to average 30 km/h)
  • run 10 km in 51 minutes

Until now, I've been almost embarrassed to voice those targets. Because for a pure swimmer, cyclist, or runner, or an elite triathlete, those times are not particularly fast. At all. However, if I put it in context, I've only ever done one Oly distance race. I'm pretty close on the bike and the run if I can get back to my peak fitness levels from last season (and do it without getting injured). But I am not even in the same ballpark for the swim. Like, not even in the same swim universe. I've tried to remind myself again of context. In 2013 I built up to swimming 200 m (included in there was trying to remember how to do front crawl). In 2014 I built up to 2000 m, and was really happy with my 49:02 swim time at my first half-Iron distance. This year I have to inject some serious speed if I don't want the swim to tank my chances at success. 1500 m in 30 minutes works out to an average of 2:00 per 100 m. To a swimmer, I have learned that this is pretty laughable. I did a few time trials of different distances last week to see where I'm at -- the fastest I could manage for 100 m was 2:10. For a single 100 m... forget holding that over half an hour. Oh shit. So, what can I do but create a plan to swim more, get some guidance on technique, include intervals to help my speed, build volume to help my endurance, and maybe a little dash of praying to the universe that the plan works. It's going to take all my hard work to meet this goal.

This brings me to the real thing that drove me to post today. It's been a long winter on the trainer and indoors in general, and to get motivated and feel encouraged I've been reading some blog posts and race reports. One, from coach Geordie, was titled Rich in Admiration, Free from Envy. The thrust of the post was the following -- which I have taken directly from that blog entry:

Compare yourself to others but remember these things:
1. If you see your performance as greater than others, be thankful and humble.  Remember that there are always greater and always lesser, and that you may be blessed to be in a position to inspire others.
2. If you see your performance as lesser than others in comparison, do not envy their achievement but admire it and use it to inspire your drive forward.  And, remember, you too are in a position to inspire others for you're not on the sidelines, you're in the race.

I've always admired athletes who are faster, stronger, better than I am. I see the hard work they put in, and the returns reaped from that. I've also watched athletes honour their pure giftedness, and been inspired -- and gobsmacked. Have you ever seen Mirinda Carfrae or Gwen Jorgensen blow past half the field on the run, as if everyone else was standing still? It's worth checking out. At Abu Dhabi yesterday, they said at one point Gwen was running 2:58 min/km. She holds this sort of pace for 5 km. Let me put that in perspective for you -- if I set the treadmill at 2:58 and tried to run on it, I would get shot backward into the wall of the gym like I was fired out of a cannon.

Photo by Janos Schmidt
Hope that motorbike has some extra gears

photo by
Somewhere, angels are singing... and watching with a bowl of popcorn

I had a similar "holy crap" moment yesterday, reading a blog post by a talented young woman in my tri club (her blog is The Happy Triathlete -- go check it out). She is a former competitive swimmer who has made a very successful transition to triathlon. A swim workout (that it seems would have been even longer if her lane mate wasn't on a rest week) went as follows... 4000 m... with sets of 100 m at times between 1:25 and 1:35 with 20 seconds of rest in between. ...Right? And racing a single shot at 100 m, this young fish can cover the distance in LESS THAN HALF the time it takes me. Wow.

Photo by
Kelsey ready for total swim annihilation

Now -- elsewhere in Kelsey's postings, she discusses being somewhat worried about her cycling. Which reminded me that everyone, even the most gifted, has something they worry about. Allegedly, Rinny (aforementioned uber-runner and 3-time Ironman world champ) at one point complained to her husband that she was getting fat. "No way," he apparently replied, "if you were getting fat, your swim would be faster." Now that's love right there. And those seemingly effortless crushings we witness? A lot of sweat, time, and suffering went into those "effortless" performances. So I'm posting my goals, which for me will take effort and time to achieve.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum athletic or otherwise, there will always be someone lesser and someone greater. Let's appreciate other's strengths, support each other in pursuit of our goals, and remember that we're not just measured by the clock. That schedule I've built? At its core are mornings of getting kids off to school and evenings of bedtime stories and snuggles. The non-negotiable items that I'll never skip.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go spend some time in the pool.


  1. I will be cheering you on! And do you mean ST (the forum)? While some of the people on there are pretty crazy, the guppy workouts and a swim coach mean I've gone from 4 min/100scm to about 2:30. I aspire to be as speedy as you :-)

    1. Whoa -- what an incredible improvement! That gives me hope that it can be done... thanks. :)

  2. I totally believe in you Kirsten! You are going to rock Magog. Remember that the journey is just as important as the end goal, and to make sure to have fun on the way to July. Get in the pool and do some fun sets, find some fun people to swim with and motivate you. Before you know it, you'll be crushing the swim too. And if you ever want some help, I'm happy to chat with you or even come to the pool with you. Thank you so much for your kind words :) (I do have a slight advantage on the swim, having spent 20 hrs/week for 11+ years at it.) Love that post from Geordie too.

    1. Thank you, Kelsey! You're right, if the journey's no fun, there isn't much point. We spend a whole lot more time training than we do racing. :) I would jump at the chance to swim with you and have you give me some pointers... will bake in exchange for swim tips. :D