Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Winter Training"-The Ultimate Oxymoron

Something I've struggled with the last two years is the notion that if I preferred happy hour, second helpings of homemade mac n' cheese and Law and Order reruns to the self-flagellation of running or riding in the fifth level of hell known as "the Pacific Northwest in December," I wasn't a "real" triathlete. Guilt is truly a pain in the ass.

For 2007 I am going to make two triathlon-related resolutions. First-embrace the off-season. This year I let myself to get (relatively) out of shape in the fall because I was burnt out and hurting after a nine-month season, but still felt guilty every time I chose to relax, shop or socialize instead of working out. And instead of doing the yoga, long walks and balance training I promised myself I would do, I kept slogging through runs that weren't fun and walking out of spin classes irritated and unmotivated. I fell into the trap many athletes fall into: we believe that if we take a break, not only will we lose the fitness we worked so hard to gain, but we'll also lose the motivation to start up again in the spring.

That being said, every year I'm wrong about these losses. Now that my body and mind have rested for a few months, I can't wait for longer, warmer days (notice I don't say "drier"-Oregonians know better than to leave their rain coats home until June) and the camaraderie of weekend long rides. Granted, it will take me a few weeks of hard work to regain the mindset that a ten mile run is "no big deal" and to develop the fitness to back it up, but I know that I will get there in time for Pacific Crest.

Second resolution-embrace myself as a "perfect athlete." Triathlon is a sport that can give people great confidence, but it can also wreck havoc with a person's self esteem. I like to joke that three things are standing between me and my career as a professional triathlete: being employed, dating a brewer and genetics. The third factor is the trickiest one.

You know in magazines where some socialite writes into the fitness columnist all worked up about building up bulky muscle from spin class and the columnist responds that cycling just tones legs and the socialite will look great in her Roberto Cavalli holiday dress. That columnist is a LIAR. That columnist has obviously not had sufficient exposure to those of us with the "backyard" gene. This is the gene that creates a very interesting phenomenon: the faster and longer I am able ride, the less likely it is that my damn pants will fit around my ass by the end of the season. I've seriously thought about getting coaching credentials so I can write my pants off as a business expense.

I can joke about this now because the same legs that have a summer and winter wardrobe frequently redeem themselves by working over skinny chicks at races, both on and off the bike. But what isn't funny is how often my notion about "athletic" bodies frequently finds me judging race success by how many skinny chicks I beat off the bike instead of through my own goals for pace and nutrition. This, obviously, is not a good strategy for developing a long-term love of the sport.

I am going to talk about mental training and positive self-talk to the TNT participants next spring. I don't know whether feel like a bit of a hypocrite or an actual expert on the topic.

That's all for now-I still have to write another email to Santa begging for a metallic hot pink time trial helmet.

Merry Christmas-


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