August is a pretty tough month to begin HR training, and I get that. I started out with my coach by doing a max HR test, and he created zones and numbers and training from there. I trained using those numbers for a few weeks and something just wasn't right. So he adjusted my numbers, and adjusted them again, and again and again. And instead of seeing progress, I was seeing that I was getting slower and less efficient across the HR board. When I asked questions about what was happening, I was presented with a complicated series of baffling graphs that were supposed to "prove" that I was getting faster even though my watch plus the earth were saying otherwise and in the end, I was essentially told to just do my workouts and not try and understand ("Hush, silly girl, let the big people talk.").
Fast forward to Waterman's, where I didn't have a great day for a lot of reasons, almost none of them related to my level of fitness at the time. In an attempt to salvage value from the day, I pulled together some questions I had about events that occurred on race day (other than crashing my bike) and sent them off to my coach. This led to a series of interactions that solidified the decision I had been considering making for the last several weeks: to search for a new coach, one with whom I was a better match. I was hesitant to do so only because I've seen others bounce around among coaches, never sticking with one long enough to actually see any progress, and I'm not a quitter, I don't give up on things. But it suddenly became very clear what the right answer was.
In my original search, I only looked for local folks because I believed that it was important to be working with someone nearby, just in case I needed to bang on their front door at 4am with a burning question about EFS or lock laces. In the three months I spent with my first coach, I learned that location was really not all that important, especially in a city like DC where there is a glut of triathlon resources, and certainly not as important as finding someone that I could have a good relationship with and not be too terrified of to ask questions. So I carefully crafted an email and sent it off to one of my super duper triathlon girl superstar crushes who I had been stalking through twitter and the blog world for quite some time. I squealed with delight when I got a response (I still do this sometimes, sorry, Sonja) and after lots of discussion with the mafia and the poet and the rest of my support system, I was in.
We decided that I'd take November off from being coached entirely to see just how much of a mess I could make in four weeks and I'd start at the beginning of December. I gleefully went back to my old ways of running lots of miles all the time as hard as I could without much recovery and ran myself through a half marathon PR and right into a fatigue hole. I essentially collapsed on her doorstep on December 1 puking and raving. Try and make this pile of slobbering Katie into an ironman, aaaand good luck with that. And I'm now about halfway through month two and I can say, without a doubt, that this was absolutely the right decision for me.
I felt back in August, and I still feel, that one of the best parts of being coached is that it removes so much stress from my training life. I'm a hamster on a wheel. I wake up, check Training Peaks, do what I'm supposed to do and that's pretty much that. Someone else is making the giant spreadsheets and figuring out when to push and pull based on my races and my recovery and the schedule of my life, and I'm so relieved that it's not me. I'm a young athlete - I can swim without drowning, ride
One of the other parts of working with her that is so fabulous is that she takes a very holistic approach to training (as in, you can't compartmentalize; not as in, go live in the woods and drink dirt), and that is meshing really well with how my outlook has been changing over the past several months. I can't remember the last time I felt this at peace with my training. I used to be obsessed by numbers, I used to post weekly recaps of my training that showed everything I did all week, and in the late spring, for a number of reasons, I stopped doing it. I think that by posting my weekly dallies, I was focusing on what I was doing compared to everyone else instead of focusing on what my own progress looked like. That's a really hard mental game to play. I was also constantly comparing my training load to the load of those around me and wow, does that get tired and old REAL fast. I don't need to prove that I'm the biggest bitch in this playground, that I can go harder or longer or faster than anyone else. Because I'll never win that one, and even if I did, who cares who wins on a training day?
There is a place in training for checking in with numbers, to make sure that progress is moving in the right direction. That's a MAF test on the track, or a TT in the pool, and once it's not 30º out it will probably be a TT outside on the bike. In seven weeks I've been surprised by the progress that I've seen at these checkpoints, but I'm not going to lay it all out so you guys can tell me how awesome I am, because that doesn't matter either. I'm not running at a 4 minute/mile pace or swimming hundreds on :45 seconds in the pool, I'm not cycling at 25mph while playing the banjo and not breaking a sweat, I'm not changing the world, I'm just training for an ironman.
So I'm going to sit back and just keep on keeping on. I've been trying to quiet my mind and my training and draw it all inwards to hang onto this peace that I've found. I'm working so hard on letting go of all the noise that surrounds me, and there is a lot of it here in DC, as there probably is everywhere. Lots of noise telling me that I'm not training hard enough or fast enough or that I need to be spending piles of money on fancy equipment, and boy oh boy is THAT one of my soapbox topics right now, wealthy assholes throwing their wallets around instead of looking in the mirror and facing the work that needs to be done. So letting go is a process in itself, but I'm trying. Trusting in the fact that I am on a good path that is straight and true and will lead me to have the best possible day on June 24th. But I'm even learning that while race day is special and magical, it's still just one day. Sure, I'm darn proud of the PRs I've set and I'll be excited to set more, but what matters more is when I have the days like I did on New Year's Eve - where I've done the work that will let me go out and just explode with joy because I'm moving and sweating and breathing and I'm surrounded by friends and love. I'm going to cross a lot of finish lines in my life and if I can cross every single one as happy as I was that night, as happy as I was at Philadelphia last fall, then that is really all I need. That's why I'm here. I got a good strong reminder of what really matters, and I just dare you to try and convince me that it's numbers on a clock.