Eventually, I realized that this was a false sense of security of my athletic worthiness. While I did improve my fitness, it was only a matter of time before I found myself injured. My body was struggling. But like many athletes, when I was able to train again, I kept doing the same things over and over, hoping for a different result.
Although triathlon success continued to come my way through hard work and determination, I felt like I was always working so much harder than I should be working. While my work ethic and motivation was high, I never felt like I was making those big performance improvements to match my big dedication to training.
Something was missing.
When we moved from Jacksonville, FL to Greenville, SC in May 2014, I found myself training on a very new terrain. The terrain was challenging. Very challenging. At times, it scared me. I would often tell Karel "there's no way I can train here!"
With Ironman Austria and Ironman Wisconsin on my race schedule during the summer of 2014, I knew I had to face my fears and get outside and train. It was noticeable to me that my body was getting stronger and more resilient due to the new training stressors (hills), but I had no idea that with every workout, I was forced to improve my skills - whether I liked it or not. For the first time ever, I was focusing more on form, skills and perceived effort (and safety) than miles, pace, heart rate and power. I wasn't able to "zone out" and just bike or run but instead, I had to constantly stay present in what I was doing with my body. With every hill, turn and bump in the road, I finally understood the importance of having great biking and running skills to help me perform to my true athletic capabilities.
Needless to say, when I went to Ironman Austria, I shocked myself with a huge Ironman PR - without changing my training, I was riding stronger than ever. Twelve weeks later, I went on to qualify for Kona (with Karel) at Ironman Wisconsin. With it being my second time racing on the IMWI course, I felt SO much more prepared for the challenging bike terrain, not to mention feeling more resilient on the run.
It was evident that improving my skills was the key to unlocking some untapped fitness in my body!
Without a doubt, moving near the mountains has been the missing link to my training. It's also made training SO much more fun. As you probably know, I absolutely love training in Greenville, SC. Although I am racing faster, stronger and smarter than ever before, I contribute so much of my physical improvements to improving my swim/bike/run skills.
I have the skills to swim better in open water thanks to lake swimming.
I have the skills to bike better thanks to our rolling hills, steep mountains, punchy climbs, bumpy roads, sharp turns and fast descends.
I have the skills to run better thanks to lots of hills to climb and to descend on.
Although I was forced to improve my skills so that I could train safe, happy and effectively in my new training environment, I knew that if Karel and I could bring other triathletes to our triathlon playground, they could also have the chance to embrace fears and to build confidence in order to perform better in training and on race day. Above all, improved skills brings more enjoyment for the sport of triathlon.
This was a long time coming but we are so excited that finally, we have our first skills camp here in Greenville, SC. Starting tomorrow, for 2.5 days, we will provide our campers with a lot of information, education and hands-on work to make triathlon training/racing more productive, effective, safe and fun.