I recently wrote an article called "The Extra Gear" on xtri (posted below this). After finishing I had an afterthought that applies nicely. I was standing on deck at the Elks Pool in Boulder with Wolfgang Dietrich. He was coaching the club team there and they were in the midst of a workout that consisted of some best-effort distance repeats. Wolfgang and I were chatting and he pointed out that the times the fast lane was swimming was far, far below their racing potential, but he continued by stating that "he didn't care." His reason, he explained, was that they all show up on race day.
Something happens when they step on the blocks and they become their potential. As long as that continued to happen, Wolfgang had little concern with having them hit faster times in training.
This was a very insightful move by a coach. This coach knows how to get performance from his athletes when it actually matters. Its a nice balance of art and sport.
The Extra Gear
Have you ever had a training partner that you can train side by side with, but seems to pull away from you every time you both race? I bet you do.
How about the flipside: Do you know someone who is always dropping you in training, but finishes well behind you on race day? I bet you do.
A few months ago I was reading one of Bobby McGee’s books and he mentioned how crucial it was for Long Course (tri)athletes to hold back during their long training; particularly as they approach season best fitness before their key race. Many years ago, I remember reading an article (or interview) with Peter Reid in which Peter recalled training with Mike Pigg. On one particular day things were going along nicely in training and Peter shifted to the biggest gear: the 11. Mike turned to him and said “save the 11 for race day.” That statement stuck with Peter and, in turn, Peter’s recollection of the moment has stuck with me (Thanks).
It is easy to understand why we, as athletes, want to get into that last gear. If we are convinced that hard work produces results, then harder work must produce even better ones. However, chances are that the results you want on race day were left in those best effort sessions conducted day after day in your training. A much better scenario is to conduct your training in a manner where you consistently find yourself holding back.
In a recent conversation, B. McGee mentioned that the power behind consistently holding back shows itself on full force on race day. Why? You will have something that no one else has. You have the extra gear available to use when you so desire. Everyone else has exposed their capabilities in training; while you toe the line ready to discover yours.
When I was 14 years old I got my first job: carrying skis for tourists at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. My father told me that the first 250 dollars I earned had to be put into a savings account which he would then match to bring me to 500 dollars. From then on I could spend as much as I wanted, but the 500 had to remain in the account. 500.00 had become the new zero. This seemed highly irrational at the time; especially when you consider how long it took me to get to 250 when I was only working after school one day a week (and the minimum wage was 4.25/hour).
It took a while, but my father’s point finally kicked in and I still apply this minimum balance principle to this day. I might never spend that 500 dollars, but I still could; that’s the point.
When you arrive on race day, you can have the psychological edge of having that last piece of your fitness that has yet to be used. When everyone else is cashed out, you will still have somewhere to go.
Have a great 2010 everyone,