Big Goals Are More Than a Result
by Alex Thompson
I’ve always felt uncomfortable about the phrase “big goals.” The bigger they are, the longer it will take to achieve them, therefor the journey becomes more and more significant. Also, by redefining enjoyable activities into “big goals” seems to me like the easiest way to suck the fun out of something. Don’t be in a hurry to get triathlon over and done with, with goals accomplished and ticked off list.
That said, it is good to have aspirations, things you want to do, and these things do take planning. When I’m trying to plan out how to do something I want to do, this is the metaphor I base my plans on. If you’re running across America the most important things to know are that you’re heading in roughly the right direction, you know the next turn, and you know the major landmarks. Things happen along the way -- roads could be closed, new roads could be opened, the weather could force a change -- rather than set everything in stone, it’s better to take a more relaxed and fluid approach. The plan doesn’t get you there, the work does.
My long term goal is to become a professional ironman triathlete, and win a WTC/Challenge brand iron-distance race. However the last training block before that race is so far off I can’t plan for it directly. I focus on what I need to do now -- I need a plan for the next training block, and I need a rough guide on how long my training blocks will last and the amount of work I need to do in them for the season ahead. What that work will constitute four blocks down the line isn’t set in stone; even the total TSS is negotiable. Despite this I still have a pretty good idea it will include a few long ass bike rides and some hill reps. I’m doing what I need to do to get there, and it will take as along as it takes.
There’s a lot to be learned from ultrarunners – generally, those athletes are more process orientated and their approach is less attached to results and in many cases, materialism. While triathlete seem to agonize over results, and in doing so spend a lot of money on all the latest and greatest go-faster gear (I’m always shocked at how many $10,000 bikes don’t have power meters), they never seem happy until they’ve completed an arbitrary goal.
I know people who talk about training to qualify for Kona. My advice is to train to be the best athlete you can be, executing the best race you can and have some money saved up if Kona happens. Training for a result rather than training to a process is the easiest way to get overtrained, or worse, unhappy. If and when Kona happens, it will truly be a well deserved moment of pride and a major achievement, but Kona qualification shouldn’t be the only way for someone to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment.
For me, I’ve found that once I knew I was on the right path, and I knew I was doing what it took to give me the best chance to achieve my dream, I relaxed about all of it and as a result became a happier person all round.
Alex has been a triathlete since 2005 and has competed several ironman and ultra distances races. He is currently working towards making the transition from age group athlete into the pro ranks. He has been working closely with Alan Couzens for the last few years to achieve his goal. You can follow Alex's progress through his blog, TriOnTrack, and on Twitter @XIronmanAlexX.