Without a doubt, self-improvements have kept me enjoying each season of triathlon racing and training as I never feel bored or stale in a 3-sport sport. Although there have been many setbacks since I started endurance racing, I've learned that development from season to season and training consistency are key components to experiencing success on race day. In order to continually experience performance gains, my health has always remained my #1 priority. With a healthy body and mind, performance gains will come. Knowing that I can't always do the same things over and over and expect different results, every year as life changes, I carefully pay attention to better, smarter and more effective ways to nourish my body, fuel my workouts, train and race, never with rigid rules, methods or strategies. To me, training is a fun hobby that allows me to use my body, explore nature, travel and I use it to help me manage life stress and release energy, so I never like to put added pressure on my training/eating when it comes to performance improvements. Finding this balance between great dedication and just enough flexibility has been extremely important to my athletic development over the past 11 years.
There have been many times in the past 11 years when I have said to myself "I feel so strong" or "I have never felt this fit before." Just when I think that I can't feel any fitter or any more strong, I develop and find myself capable of even more with my body. Patience, hard work and consistency bring results and while it is great to have big goals and dreams, you must celebrate the small improvements and victories to let you know that you are making progress.
Since moving to Greenville, SC in May 2014, I have only completed one ride over 100 miles (summer of 2014). Despite training for four Ironman's since we moved, riding 100 miles in Greenville was never a focus as the terrain is extremely challenging and the miles go by very slow here. We always go by time for our long rides as this makes for quality training and a better return on our training investment.
Throughout our long Saturday ride and especially after our ride, I couldn't help but think, over and over, where I am with my cycling fitness and where I was in 2014 and even more so, in 2006 when I did my first Ironman. I kept telling Karel after the ride "I can't believe I did that!"
Now, I can ride with Karel and he doesn't have to wait for me. Now, my skills allow me to ride safe and efficiently. Now, I feel one with my bike.
As much fun as it is to PR, stand on the podium or qualify for an event, every small achievement in training moves you closer to becoming better than you were yesterday in training and even closer to achieving something with your body, that you never thought was possible. In the big picture, athletic development and athletic success is not about the results but it's about progress.
It's easy to lose motivation and enjoyment for your sport if you believe what you are doing isn't working or if you don't see big improvements so the next time you find yourself questioning why you do your sport and why you should continue to put in the work, take a moment to reflect back on the progress you have made over the past few weeks, months and years. Thinking about big goals can be overwhelming so make sure to celebrate the little milestones and track and share your progress along the way.