You do incredible things with your body on a daily basis and you have high expectations for what your body will do on race day. And unlike research laboratory studies, you are not exercising to see how long you can go but instead, you train to see how fast you can cover a specific distance on a specific date.
If you are training for an event, you are an athlete. If you are taking a break from training for an event, but you have completed an event in the past, you are still allowed to call yourself an athlete as nobody took away your past accomplishments - you just may not be able to eat like you use to as you are no longer in need of the energy that helped you train for your events.
For this very reason of being "an athlete" you are not like other people who can afford to make drastic changes in the diet (like restricting specific food groups for 30 days or excessively cutting back on carbs or calories) or experiment with different diet fads or exercise programs.
At the same time, just because you are an athlete, you can not abuse food because you will burn it off in training.
If you bring poor past dietary habits to your new training regime (or pick up on poor habits as you find that you have less time for meal prep because you need to train longer), you will learn that a dietary change is needed.
Even though you are training for an event, your extreme active lifestyle should not compromise great health. And for this very reason, performance focused nutrition is your style of eating.
It is important that you understand that nutrition is very important in your development and in order to achieve personal success in your sport, you need to stay on top of your daily and sport nutrition.
Through a well-chosen, varied diet it's important that you put an extra emphasis on providing your body with the nutrients that will most used (and needed) around workouts.
The same healthy living strategies that apply to the "normal" population apply to you as well.
Don't assume that you can just out-train poor lifestyle habits and still be a healthy athlete.