So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Strengths And Weaknesses

It's a nice day today; sunshine, blue waters, a little breeze here and there. Vicious rumor has it the weather won't be so nice over the weekend. That's all right. I'll settle for something close to nice, considering the alternative. I could be working. Worse yet, I could be unemployed and looking for a j-o-b. That's right: As the song in the end of the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian goes, '...always look at the bright side of life.'
I haven't touched my bike (save for putting on and taking off my race wheels) at all this week; no spinning class and no ride since Sunday morning. I'm not that concerned about the bike, because right now it's probably the most confident discipline I have. I'll need to have a decent swim and a strong run in order to have a better finish than last year. It would be nice to finish a little higher in the age group, but if I finish with a better time than last year and don't score any hardware, that's all right, too. My goal is to put all three disciplines together without looking stoopid.
One of the uber-gods of triathlon/coaching/mental and spiritual aspects of athletics, Mark Allen, wrote a really neat piece for this week's on-line version of Triathlete magazine, talking about how to fix your weakest link in the sport. The biggest thing I take away is to, as he said, work on your weaknesses to make them strengths. If you can take your race, regardless of the distance, and work it backwards to the beginning, you will probably find where things begin to go awry. At that particular point is where you can find the weaknesses in your own training.
I've talked about some of this before. Often we train our strengths and try to overcompensate so our weaknesses don't (we hope!) show on race day. If you (like me) tend to peter out in the latter stages of a 10-K run, it might mean looking at more 20-to-30-minute tempo runs. Other folks may go out too quickly in the first half mile of a 5-K, and that's all she wrote during the remaining 2.6 miles of the race. Some 500-to-1000-meter repeats at a consistent, sustainable pace, with brief rest intervals might do the trick. Lack that acceleration to get away from a pack in the middle of the race, or you're not able to kick at the end? How about some acceleration drills of 150-to-350 meters?
One area that can't be trained on the road or the track, or the gym, or the pool, is that gray area between our ears. Some coaches are great at tapping into the mind of the individual athlete, making them believe they are capable of great things. Others like to use tools like (as Mark Wetmore was quoted...) "ridicule and sarcasm..." to influence the athlete to think, 'well, I'll prove that blankety-blank wrong by succeeding where they think I can't.'
It takes honesty on both the athlete and the coach to look at a performance and ask the question, 'okay, where did things go wrong?' Not that every performance needs to be picked apart with a fine-toothed comb; some days nearly everything goes right and you say 'cool, I think we're on the right track.' However, more often than not we can find something to work on if we look hard enough.
Just make certain to enjoy yourself; there's plenty of folks who can't get out to do what many of us are blessed with by opportunity or physical ability. As for me, my thoughts will be with my sister this weekend, especially as I try to turn the scenery along the southern Alabama coast into a blur on my triathlon bike.

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