As the tri season has come to a close, and I have only a lowly little 10k and a half marathon on my schedule for the rest of the year, my thoughts have turned to goals for next year.
I know, I know........I should probably just enjoy my last couple of events, and then *really* enjoy a couple of weeks of down time before I start jumping into next year's goals. It would seem though that I'm just not wired that way. Maybe it's partly due to heading out to Kona to perform the role of Spectathlete Extraordinaire in a couple of weeks, but my thoughts have been turning towards Ironman.
I have thought, to myself as well as out loud, that I'd someday like to do another IM. The difficult part is deciding when someday has arrived and secondarily, where that IM should take place. Further complicating the decision is that if I want to do one of the 'branded' IM races, I'd need to sign up a year in advance. Truth be known, I'd really like a rematch with Kona. But I am realistic enough to know that I am never going to qualify for a slot to Kona, and so would need some extraordinary luck to be drawn in the lottery again. So the "where" and "when" are questions still to be answered.
The more important word that follows closely on the heels of any IM thoughts is "if". Or maybe more appropriately, "want". If I could commit to training for another IM. Do I want to? To be sure the time commitment is substantial, but that's not the bigger issue for me. When I was training for Vineman last year, I had a great training partner right along with me. There was someone to bitch to, commiserate and celebrate with. As will happen, things shifted in schedules, work commitments, life in general, and this year I trained almost exclusively on my own.
In some ways, training alone is easier. You're always racing alone, so training alone prepares you for the day ahead. In working with a coach, I'm almost never just going out to run or bike without some specific goals. I have specific workouts on specific days, all set up with the big picture in mind. I am looking to hit certain paces or HR (for running), or certain wattage or sometimes HR (for cycling). Swimming I'm mostly just looking not to drown. Okay, okay, there are specific intervals to hit occasionally even in the pool. The point is that there are goals to be met. Which doesn't always align with another person's goals. Now not everyone I know works with a coach, but even the athletes I know that don't, still have jobs, families etc. Meshing schedules alone is enough of a challenge. Add in trying to mesh goals, race schedules, and everything else and it really does become much simpler to train on my own.
The problem is in learning to be comfortable with that. Or perhaps the bigger problem is learning to be UNcomfortable. Pushing myself to get in the hard workouts, the hard paces, on my own. I think I handled things fairly well this year. I pushed myself in training and in racing. Not as much as I'd have liked, but I'm still learning. But.....towards the end of the year....and my longest event, the HIM......I was getting discouraged. Losing focus. Becoming unmotivated. Not as much on runs, where I feel okay with music in my ears. But I found it's not easy to go for 3, 3-1/2, 4 hour rides alone. It's a long time to be alone with just your own thoughts to keep you company. Well, your own thoughts, and at times the cars rushing by at arms length.
So as thoughts turn to training for an IM, thoughts naturally turn to the 7, 7-1/2, 8 hour rides that are necessary for that kind of training. Could I, do I want to, ride for that long on my own. I just don't know. Last year, even with my trusty training partner along for the rides, I would find myself in some pretty dark places on those long rides. Alone....on my bike....for 8 hours, could I find it within myself to tackle that? Could I suppress the urge to chuck my bike off the side of the road? Because I certainly wanted to do that at some point this year training for the HIM, let alone last year while training for the full IM.
For now, I *think* I'm pretty much set on a plan for next year that will be very similar to this year. Shorter races throughout the year working on my version of 'speed'. Maybe a half iron towards the end of the season. Maybe the same half iron so that I can compare. Maybe something entirely new. Hard to say. Luckily....I don't need to decide right now. Good thing, cuz it's time to run.