Progress over Perfection
“Siri—get directions to West Mesa Aquatic Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico”
I was irritated as I walked away from Sandia pool—the city never bothered to update their posted, scheduled summer lap hours— and I now, according to Siri, had a 20 min drive to the next pool to stew on it. But I had been on a roll this month since I committed to swimming consistently, and I was stubbornly determined to get myself in a pool.
That same day, 2000 miles away, my teammates were smashing each other on their Tuesday brick sessions. Coach Steve even decided to write about it (here). I love Tuesday brick workouts when I am in town, but I obviously needed to do my own thing.
Travelling for work nearly every week and training for triathlons creates some special challenges. On that day, it meant driving all around Albuquerque to find a place to swim. I have learned to value progress over perfection and to realize something is better than nothing.
And if I’m being honest, it really wasn’t a great swim. The city of Albuquerque sits at about 6200’ above sea level and the air is just a little too thin for my unacclimated, Midwestern liking. If you haven’t swam at altitude, grab a straw, jump in the pool, and breathe through it like a snorkel while swimming laps. That’s what I would liken it to. You can get the work done, but you got to keep it low and slow or you will be gasping for air after 100 yards. Slower intervals, shorter sets, and longer rests are required.
But I got it done. I rounded out the night with a quick 30’ on the treadmill back in the hotel gym, and Tuesday was in the books.
Balancing Training and Travelling
As I balance travelling and training, Coach Steve and I start each week by understanding what is possible. Running shoes fit nicely into a suitcase. A swim cap, goggles, and jammers do as well. A bike? Not so much.
So this means that all my biking will be done in Madison, when I am in Madison, and we start there. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will have bike sessions. Very often, these will be my only bikes of the week, so we make them count. Power-focused sets, intervals, and volume work with the team fill my training peaks each weekend with a good mix of road and trainer riding. I have learned to love riding my bike, and I have found that I have responded well to the consistency of big weekend riding blocks every 4 days.
Because Coach Steve and I condense a week’s worth of riding into 3 days, rinse, and repeat, it leads to some pretty crazy swings in training peaks week-to-week. But we know that we are doing what we can, when we can, working within the realm of progress over perfection.
Until about a month ago, I found that swimming would be the thing that I cut out of a week in a time crunch. And like any bad habit, it compounded over time, and I found my lack of swim training would show in my overall results. I made a commitment to myself that if I was going to training as hard as I was, I needed to round it out and swim consistently—at least 3x week—no matter what. As someone who started swimming 3 years ago, I simply couldn’t fake it and hope to reach my goals.
So at the beginning of July, I signed up for the Madison Multisport Masters swim at Seminole Pool (26.5 meters is a whole new kind of confusing math) and knew that I could always make Monday and Friday mornings, regardless of my travel schedule. That just meant finding 1 day each week onsite while travelling where I would need to hunt down a pool, even if it meant driving across Albuquerque and yelling at Siri, and I would hit the magic 3x week goal. Sprinkle in a weekend bonus swim, and in my head, I would be approaching bona fide fish status.
Finally, running becomes the thread that ties my weeks together. I have found that you can run anywhere, and just about every hotel has a treadmill. I like to run when I travel, not simply for training but because it is a great stress reliever for me. So we make easy runs a staple of my time on the road, remembering that something is better than nothing.
I love to explore new cities, check out local running shops, and even join Tuesday night or Wednesday night running groups on occasion. There is work to be done, but we rarely put key sessions during days when I am out of town. When I’m onsite, it’s about rounding out the week and recognizing that work obligations often get in the way of the perfect workout we might have had planned.
Putting it all together
I have learned that there certainly is no one-size-fits-all approach to training. Even if there was, it probably wouldn’t fit my schedule. So finding the right balance has been a fun part of the challenge. I continue to improve and I had my best finish at a Race Day Events Wisconsin Tri Series race this past weekend at Triing for Children’s Triathlon at Ottawa Lake State Park. I took 6th overall, and I put together a well-balanced race.
I felt strong and smooth in the swim, surrendering less time than I typically do against many of the other men in my age group, and I closed the gap on many of my fast-swimming Madison Multisport teammates. It seems like commitment to swimming is starting to pay off, and I am thrilled with my swim result.
My bike was solid, and I rode my way steadily through the previous waves throughout the 15 miles. I found myself getting passed only a handful of times, including by Madison Multisport teammate Matt Boardman, who had the fastest ride of the day (congrats Matt on the huge result!)
Finally, on the run, I was in my element and I felt for the first time since breaking two ribs on my right side in June that I was able to push myself to my limits on a run. I know now where my run fitness stands, and I couldn’t be happier with the results overall.
Up next, I will be running the Madison Mini Half Marathon on August 19th, and I am signed up for Ironman North Carolina 70.3 Wilmington in October.