Sunday, May 15, 2011

Savings Account Problems

Out of Fuel
My family watched a lot of TV in my youth, myself included. Visit the parents today and one of the machines is constantly running. One of the major differences in the parents' house now versus a couple of decades ago is quantity of the devices. Back in my youth, people beat the electronics by 5:2. Currently, the number of televisions in my parents' house outnumbers the humans by 3:1. It's just the two of them and at least two picture boxes are on at any given time. You can count on an eerie blue-white glow to bathe you in its electromagnetic radiation in any room of their abode.

One of the mainstays in biology is the "competition for limited resources" concept. It basically says that when there are more organisms vying for the same stuff, someone wins and someone loses. This tenant is considered one of the driving forces of natural selection and has stood the test of time for over 150 years. However, contrary to popular Darwinian belief systems, my parents did not firmly believe in evolution. If they had, with me being the oldest and strongest, we would have had non-stop sitcoms and nature specials.

Sadly, I was subjected to the 'allow your brother/ sister to have a turn' mentality. Mom and Dad really need to read more on survival of the fittest. (They even have a copy of, "On the Origin of Species...," which I think has its spine still unbroken. Plus, I'm pretty sure Charles Darwin was a triathlete.) When it was the siblings' turn to pick a show from amongst the 6 channels offered, I had a decision to make. I had to pick between my brother's penchant for war movies/ my sister's desire for crappy Sesame Street-type shows (she's much younger, if you couldn't tell), OR I could find something non-TV to do. Naturally, I sat there, sulked about crappy TV and helped the boob-tube live up to it's name.

I remember a couple of the fighter plane movies that the bro would watch. They had some neat dog-fights with real men beating down the enemy in the face of oppression and unparalleled odds. There was a recurring theme in the movies that, for some reason, sticks to my brain. The hero-type pilots would remark about how they were "out of fuel". This struck me as odd because, as a kid, I knew that fuel was what kept the plane in the air. Yet here were the good ol' boys still flying their custom crafted war planes with no danger of going down.

As I reflect on this out of fuel concept as an adult, I get it. The term was describing the turning point of their machines' capabilities. You can only go so far on a tank of gas before you have to turn around and go home. Should you go further, you won't have enough fuel to make it back, which would ultimately lead to disaster. This is where I feel I am at in my training. Except of fuel, I'm out of time.

Out of Time
Every good training plan has a few caveats that are worked into the system. First, the plan must have at least one specific goal. The learned people would recognize this as a SMART goal. Whereas I'm not going to get into the details of goal setting process in this post, the goal should be the first step in the plan. No goal means the plan is pretty much useless anyway. Second, the plan should include training that is sufficiently challenging to satisfy the goal. You cannot run a 7:30 minute mile pace in a race if you haven't done it in training, especially when your prior season was set up for 8 mpm. Therefore, you must go out and train at a 7:30 pace. Third, you must give yourself adequate TIME to achieve said goal. Now, an intelligent planner (not necessarily me) works into the system some flex time. That is to say that you cannot be rigid and structured 100% of your season. There will be interferences along the way and that's alright. You might get sick or tired. You might need to take off for family reasons or work reasons. Therefore, when planning, you need to calculate how much time it will take you to achieve your goal(s) in a perfect world and tack on extras to allow for such distractions.

I think of step three as a savings account managed with a different type of currency. If you are ahead of pace in your training, you put time into the account. Should you need to take time off, you tap into your savings. Have a bad training session, you can draw from the account. The more often you tap into your account, the smaller your balance becomes. If the balance gets close to zero, you run out of flexibility. If your account is in the red, you won't (most likely) achieve your goals.

I am officially out of time. I am at the point where, if I continue on my current path without turning around, it will mean disaster in terms of my racing. These past couple of weeks, really since my last race, have been a time savings account nightmare. In January, my account balance was huge. I was able to beat my benchmarks, increase my speed, and was on task. With the track team that I coach, an illness, lack of motivation, chronic crappy weather, my pansy of an attitude kicking in full swing, a road trip tournament, blah blah blah, the balance is down to zero. Do I know this for fact. No. But I can sense it in a way that feels very real. In a nutshell, if I want to achieve my goals for the Ironman on July 25th, like the jet fighter pilot's fuel issue, staying the current course will not be pretty for my war engine.

I'm not making excuses here. I want to achieve my goals and I want to do well. I am not predicting a bad performance. I am simply stating what I know to be the obvious... If I can't bear down and do the training that I need to do, I will not achieve. Period. Hitting my training will in no way guarantee success. Not hitting my training from here on out will guarantee failure. If I am lucky, and I stress lucky, I will be able to build up a small savings balance. And I stress small.

Consequences of My Future
Understandably, if I miss my benchmarks, which include 20 mile runs, several 4+ hour rides, 5k's in the water, etc. I will be grumpy. I will know long ahead of time that I have doomed myself for failure. Do not confuse grumpy with defeated. I know full well what I am capable of and I know that I am not at full capacity. I also know that I enjoy doing what I do. I do not now look, nor have I in the past looked, at my lifestyle or decisions with regret. Quite the opposite. I am happy with myself and comfortable with myself.

Worst case scenario: I miss my Ironman goals in 2011, which are not guaranteed anyway. I know for a fact that I will be signing up for similar goals in 2012. I will actually sign up for 2012 before competing in 2011. That is the nature of IMLP. They allow this year's competitors the first chance at next year's race on the day before the event. I feel it's IMLP's way of saying thank you for your effort and training this year. IMLP sells out almost immediately. Signing up on Saturday automatically gets you in (while guaranteeing the race organizers and the WTC your cash up-front). Everyone else must wait until Monday. Plus, I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan. Our motto is, and has unfortunately been for more than a century, "There's always next year."

Even if I break 10:30 in IMLP (my current time goal)... Even if I qualify for Kona (my current IM dream)... Even if I take a podium slot away from one of the Pros (my current super dream)... I know I will be doing the Ironman next year and possibly years to come. Since I am enjoying myself and the lifestyle, I can't complain. Alright, I can complain, but that is the nature of the beast. I should say 'I shouldn't complain'. But, if I didn't have training and complaining, I wouldn't have much of a blog. I'd have to replace my current theme with training tips and real ideas. Not sure I'm ready for that commitment yet.

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