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When you're better than your training plan

I have, unfortunately, reached the point as an Age Group athlete where I would need to shift gears to improve. I'm in that middle category of "not quite serious enough" to really put in the time/money/effort to reach my full capability. There's nothing wrong with those who do that. Admirable maybe even. And I am maybe a little curious about whether or not I can run the, say, significantly faster marathon I know I can. (My PR time for a 5k would predict over an hour shaved off my marathon PR. So there you go.) It's just that in order to get those gains I need to, you know, hire a coach...workout 6 days a week...pick training plans that would leave me exhausted for the rest of my life as a parent. It's not worth it, for me at this point, to become the kind of full time athlete I'd need to become.

Right now I'm a 3-4 day per week kind of athlete. I can easily handle a beginner-to-moderate training plan. I know, for instance, exactly what workouts I need to hit during a marathon season to push myself just enough. Hit the weekly long-distance run. Make sure to push hard on the weekly speed session. Cross train. Done. Get my nutrition right and stay injury free and I'll probably PR. It keeps me reasonably fit (in season, at least). I have fun and it doesn't monopolize my life. It maybe makes my eventual goal of finishing an iron-distance triathlon a bit on the low end of weekly mileage/time. But I also don't want to be that person who is spending 20 hours per week training. I wouldn't like that person nor would anybody else in my family.

That leaves me this triathlon season with a difficult situation. My training plan for the Chicago Triathlon officially starts next week. But I come into the first week over-prepared. In short, I could do the early workouts in my sleep with an arm tied behind my back. Maybe less so in the water. But the biking and running leave me wondering if I've got the right plan. There's the obvious solution of working on intensity...it is a sprint race, afterall. Even if the endurance aspect is beneath me, I can still work on needing to go all out for the duration of the race. I can focus on transitions. I can focus on brick workouts running off the bike. I can focus on improving my bike speed over shorter distances.

As I've written about before, however, I'm several seasons removed from the days when I'd come home needing to nap with sore muscles. Which, of course, is a testament to my fitness gains over those years. But it's also a problem. If it's no longer a challenge then I'm no longer improving as much. Did I under-pick my training plan because we have a busy summer planned and I want to be able to phone it in a little? Yup. Am I selling myself short, competitively? Yup. The trick is trying to decide whether I feel guilty about that. The other side of that coin, of course, is that in a few seasons when I finally get around to that Ironman, I'll probably be feeling guilty about all the time training instead. We're always struggling to find balance...how many races? What type? How much money and time should we be spending on this hobby? Would I rather have a family weekend away or extra races out of our family budget? It's tough.

As I look ahead, I try to tell myself that I'm making a longterm commitment to endurance sports in general. Better, in my opinion, to maybe feel like I could be putting in a little more than feel like I'm putting in too much. The burnout rate for folks like us is high. Plus, there very well may come a time when I can do more. That day just isn't today.


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