All our athletes are very familiar with our stress on “process goals” in racing and training, so I thought I would highlight the importance of these goals in relation to my own recent training and racing.
Last weekend I headed out to my first Triathlon event this season – Marbella 70:3 after a DNF 2 weeks before (made 6mins!) . This was after Bedford Duathlon, (which I really should have stayed in bed for, being ill all week!) where I aggravated a flare up of tendinitis in my foot and had to miserably hobble around the run. Not the best start to the season, and lets not forget this same foot issue meant I could only swim / bike Paguera Challenge and had to pull out of the run at Vichy Ironman. This does not leave one in a good mental place when approaching a 70.3 with no run training for months, and a history of DNFs and poor run form. In fact if I am honest, I have certainly started eyeing up the Aquabike events! However, despite a little disillusionment along the way, I also do know, that the surgery was worth it, and these persistent little foot injuries are just part of the process of getting strong and faster. ( I might have had to be reminded of this a few million times as well from Ade!) They are not chronic issues, they are a result of running completely differently in terms of bio mechanics in the foot, and its just not used to it or strong enough to do it! So it would seem I am consistently moving 2 steps forward 1 step back for the last 2 years with it. Therefore, the goal post have to move. Yes, I hoped to have got a consistent progressive run block in over the winter, unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. The last 2 months have been a complete rest from running or the odd run / walk whilst Joe has managed to get the foot working to a point that I could contemplate the run. ( A decision made not until 3 days before the event) – Suddenly I find that I am no longer able to contemplate a podium finish, but actually the challenge facing me is actually finishing the race or to be honest finishing ANY race! This is quite a hard fact to take, and perhaps I should just not line up on that start line to avoid disappointment, but, I would have thrown away a lot of money, and we thought perhaps if I mentally approached the event, and broke it down very differently, I could use it as a starting point to regain some confidence in my ability to complete a race, and actually to run for more than 2 mins without walking. Also, there was a training session to be had on the mountains and sea!
Back to the importance of process goals. I mentally went into the race with a very clear strategy. Solid swim, see what I could do on the bike, and see if I could run off solid for 5k, (not half a marathon, not even 10k, just 5k, what we perceived to be a realistic distance) then adopt a run walk strategy to the end so not to trash my foot. Actually the race was going a lot better than I thought up until around 45k. I had no intention of hitting the bike really hard, because I was too concerned about that 5k (yes I know only 5k!) off the bike! However, the hard turbo work over the winter seemed to be paying off. Unfortunately my gear shifter broke, leaving me with just the small gears! Fine for going up mountains, but I had done that bit! slightly frustrating going backwards on the flat and very long downhill section, but to be honest, wasnt too worried. Fortunately, I had a plan, and nailing it as fast as possible to get on the podium was never part of it. So, I did what I could for the rest of the bike, determined to make it back to T2 and then after a positive little self talk in transition, I nervously and tentatively headed out on the run. My focus was the number 5 all the time, and I slowly counted each km marker until I got there, number 5, no walking and actually, no real pain in the foot! So I figured I would get to number 6, then 7 and so forth, and was chuffed to get as far as 10km without walking….ok, so it wasnt fast, and yes, I was very switched onto any niggles in the foot, but speed was not my goal, avoiding further damage and finishing were. After that, a run, walk approach, enjoying the atmosphere, views, and sunshine meant I made it across the finish line (at last!) with no further damage to my foot, and actually positive as to how it with stood a half marathon at this stage.
Without a very specific plan, I would have no doubt become disillusioned and quite negative, not so much with a bike mechanical, that happens, but knowing yet again running was going to be such a challenge and the fact that yet again, this foot has stopped me running and competing. However, Ade and I spent time discussing how to approach the race, mentally and physically, how to avoid the negative thoughts, and how to switch off from the other competitors, and where I was in the race. Having a number of process goals for me to focus on throughout the race was crucial for me to finish with a smile on my face. Without a plan, I would have pushed and pushed on the run, no doubt aggravating my foot, and to be honest, probably made it to 3rd at a push but for what? A mediocre run at best, further injury and frustration. Having these goals, actually turned my focus to specifics, rather than times / placings etc, and after that first 5k on the run – well job done – ease back and enjoy. Now? Well I am walking away from the race, being able to run! I am seeing a foot specialist next week, and with physio Joe’s support, working on strength, run technique and in the words of Brett ” Hurrying slowly!”
Process goals are so important for staying positive and focused when racing and training – and they change! You never know what may impact your training and racing, mentally and physically, but when it does, its time to re assess. Remember firstly why you do it! – because its fulfilling, it keeps you fit and healthy and you love it! If you are getting to a point where you are stressed by it, feeling demoralised with it for what ever reasons, then take stock, lets work out why, and change the goals. It is so easy sometimes to lose sight of progress. Remember your own goals / targets, not the next persons, we are all different, we all have very different challenges, so be selfish, focus on yours, and take pleasure in working towards them and achieving them.