I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to hear the elites in the sport talk about how they train and race. Getting a glimpse into their training, recovery, and mentality is often invaluable. I’m always looking to glean tidbits of information to incorporate into my training and life. Something that has never resonated with me though, is the idea of using your competition as a source of motivation.
For the majority of us, triathlon is a very individual sport. We train to race as fast as we can, maybe set a PR, and hopefully have some fun. I love racing, but (so far at least) I’m not routinely hitting the podiums. I’m usually just trying to be as fast as my fitness will allow, and when it allows, hopefully a little faster than the last time. But I couldn’t tell you what percentile I finished in, or who beat me and by how much. I have no nemeses, it’s just me.
The motivation that some take from “doing what the competition is not,” just never made sense to me. Who’s the competition?
September 1 marked the beginning of a new “season” for me, after taking most of August off to have fun, unwind a bit, and give an injury a little focus. I had a 2-hour ride with 3x15 minute efforts on the schedule for the day, and to make the most of my session, I hopped on the indoor trainer and got ready to work. And as I started my warmup, I realized I do indeed have competition to motivate me, and this year I aim to crush them.
(unfit)Justin. Now (unfit)Justin (aka overweight and out of shape Justin) is pretty sure triathlon is just a thing crazy people do in Hawaii, Gatorade is involved, and sometimes it’s on NBC. He’s sitting on my couch, playing video games and watching Parks N Recreation on Netflix, eating chips and drinking a beer. (unfit)Justin hasn’t actually been real competition for a while, but certainly continues to provide motivation.
(fun)Justin. (fun)Justin skipped the 2-hour ride and instead rode the cross bike around Lake Monona. He still got some training in, and also probably got distracted by TV and or other shenanigans. You might not expect it, but (fun)Justin can still throw down a fast time at a sprint triathlon without too much training. But a little extra beer, M&Ms, and consistent lack of quality sleep will keep (fun)Justin out of contention for any PRs indefinitely.
(unfocused)Justin. No real goals or plan. Is totally committed, except for not really, as there isn’t anything on the schedule. (unfocused)Justin went outside and rode for a couple hours, but “forgot” to do the 3x15 minute efforts. He tries but lacks consistency and commitment and is full of excuses. He’s also easily distracted by (fun)Justin (I mean, who isn’t, that guy is great).
(SUPER)Justin. (SUPER)Justin, despite the intimidating name, overdoes everything. Never misses a session, eats super clean, never eats BBQ sauce or drinks beer, and goes to bed by 8. (No BBQ -what kind of life is that?) (SUPER)Justin is fast, fit, unrelenting. But also cranky, neurotic, and his burnout potential is high. (he and (fun)Justin do not get along…).
The competition now identified, we return back to the trainer, first 15-minute effort underway. I look over to (unfit)Justin on my couch, relaxing.
Sorry (unfit)Justin -that couch does look nice, but I’ve got work to do…
Second 15-minute effort underway, starting to get uncomfortable. (fun)Justin is also now on the couch too, “Wanna watch TV?”
Sorry (fun)Justin -when it’s time to race I’ll be waiting for you at the finish…
Third effort underway, legs are hurting now. (unfocused)Justin is in one ear: “You’ve done enough, no reason to suffer, just call it a day, what are you training for anyway?”
Sorry (unfocused)Justin -YOU call it a day, I’ve got plans…
I finish up my session feeling great, I work on some bonus strength work and even do my PT. I eat and drink focused on recovery. I relish in the mild euphoria that follows a hard effort. And just as I start comparing myself to SUPER(Justin), I instead keep some balance and head out to hang out with (fun)Justin for the night (like I said, that guy is a fun time).
The competition is out there, they aren’t doing what you are doing, and that’s a good thing.