Working Smarter Not Harder

This past weekend I ran the same 4 mile XC race that I competed in seven years ago when I first got to Boulder. In 2007, I ran 22:21; this year, I ran 22:36. (Please don’t be fooled by the 5:3x pace, it ain’t a cake-walk and we are at altitude.) There are a couple factors that may have assisted this year’s time- much better weather, altitude acclimation, and smart racing. January 1, 2007, I began racing as a professional triathlete. I was a pretty decent runner in 2007- not just a solid triathlete. Admittedly, this winter, I have not gotten in the same kind of mileage or speed work. January 1, 2014, I departed the professional multi-sport ranks.

Over those seven years, my engine grew, and I got faster. I set personal records for each split and overall distance and even in some open run races. I also did some pretty cool and fast stuff on my bike. However, I did not get that much faster. In the ironman, my swim got five minutes faster (-7%), my bike 13 minutes faster (-5%), my run 9 minutes faster (-5%) and overall only 19 minutes separate my best amateur ironman from my best professional race (-3%). I really did work hard and I did my best to execute ideal race plans. I never DNFed or went over 10 hours in an ironman. The blessing and the curse, is that I might be stuck at fast, but I might not achieve really fast. I think I am ok with that.

However, my full immersion into sport was not without its benefits. I am definitely a smarter and more knowledgeable athlete now. I have made some mistakes and learned from them. I have taken several approaches to each discipline with successes and failures. I am now using these lessons for myself, but with more satisfaction with many of my athletes. More than once a week, I end up using my experience to assist an athlete. I don’t always explain, “Been there, done that,” because it is not always appropriate. I do find joy in thinking about how I had made a similar mistake, or utilized a similar tool to achieve similar success. It’s a great part about sport; there is no need for each individual to re-invent the wheel. I certainly had my mentors and coaches.

Over the next several years and hopefully more, I look forward to more of the coaching side of athletics, but I do still selfishly look forward to some races. I want to set a few PRs and see my age climb and the times stay consistent. I want to beat some cocky younger dudes who don’t have the same experiences. I am going to run on the shoulder of a teenager because we are going into a headwind. I am going to properly pace my watts off a fancy roadie pouring his guts out on a climb knowing I can recover quicker on the upcoming downhill. I am also going to take this knowledge into my training. My roommate at USNA, Carlos the rocket scientist, used to say “Study long, study wrong,” or “Work smarter, not harder.”There are a lot of other FUN things I want to do, so I will be forced to do things much smarter.

In three weeks, I toe the line against the best harriers in the U.S. at XC Nationals in Boulder. I don’t have any business being in that race; I won’t be racing for the cash. For example, I will casually spend the first part of the morning with the kiddos, likely not even thinking about racing. However, when the gun goes off for 12km of XC madness, I will race smart, finish respectably, and have some fun.

I am guessing the same will happen in August at Ironman Boulder, but for now, I will smartly take it one race at a time.

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