Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Thin Red Line

This post has two points, which I am going to try and make clearly and separately.  We shall see....

Two types of training camps exist:

1) group camps that provide a peer-group with which to do far more volume than you would do alone, and hopefully, but not always, the supportive environment within which to do the rest, recovery, and recuperation required by that increase in volume [i.e. more training than at home, but better recovery than at home]

Ex. A group training camp in Las Vegas with time spent on the strip each night never works.  For anybody.  Just ask these guys.

And: 2) solo camps that provide the isolation in which to do exactly what you want (which is sometimes the big volume of #1, but also could be certain intensities, repeats, bricks...the world is your oyster), and hopefully, but not always, the freedom to do the rest, recovery, and recuperation you want [i.e. different, but not necessarily more, training than at home, but more control and better recovery than at home].

Ex. Solo camps that involve roughing it, or actual camping, means finding firewood after your transition run.  The fourth discipline perhaps?

Pros build and structure their lives to provide #2 Every.Single.Day.  Pros generally avoid #1, except in very certain situations and only with very trusted peers, because doing generically "more" is never really the goal (except the very certain situations) and getting into "racing" scenarios or balls-to-the-wall efforts each session isn't always constructive (hence the very trusted peers).

But age-groupers do not have the ability to create the ideal #2.  So they set aside money and vacation days to travel and create either #1 or #2.

My point - [insert big flashing arrow here] - is to know which camp you want/need and be very careful that you get it.  Both types of camps serve an important purpose in an annual training cycle; getting the wrong one or only half of the right one can prove a waste of time, or worse, destructive.

My second point - [insert another big flashing arrow here] - stems from this and is more general: when you know what you want and need in training and recovery, stand up for it.  Hold the line, however thin or red it may be.  Holding that line takes courage, resolve, and self-confidence, in knowing what your goals are and what it takes to achieve them.

Do you have the resolve to skip the fun Saturday group long ride and do your scheduled long run?  Or do you flip the Saturday and Sunday on your schedule?

Do you have the courage to leave a swim group that talks too much to make sure you get in enough yardage?

Do you have the self-confidence to turn around early on a group run because tomorrow is your track workout?

Going with the group is perfectly fine, if that is truly what you want or need that day.  It can be fun and show you speed and skills you never knew you had.  But more often than not, or even once, go out for a recovery jog and end up doing 400m intervals at the track ....and [poof] goes your whole week.

The camp - and resort - where I am right now has reinforced these two points.

Playitas is the Devil's play-ground for the power of peer-pressure, group-think, and whatever else Freud had to offer.   Large numbers of people are here to attend various training camps, but many without their own personal direction.  The camps provide a smorgasbord of options - basically every activity at least once per day, sometimes twice in different forms - and the campers get to pick and choose what they do and how much of it they do.

As a wise old man once told Indiana Jones, some choose poorly.  They frequently engage in one-up-man-ship, or racing, or riding a group too fast, or never swimming, or always chasing on the run...  and the truth is that many of us only have the fitness and recovery ability to choose poorly, whether we know it is a poor choice or not, only once or twice before our week or entire camp is compromised.

A few choose wisely.  They have a plan for their days and weeks (and years when it comes to Kona) and they execute it, even when everyone else is drinking beers by the pool or trying to ride 10km farther than their friends.  Recovery days are for riding a group slower; time is spent in the gym if my core class does not meet their needs; open lane time is found, usually in the scant hours between our rides and runs, if the swim group does not meet their needs.

As someone who is constantly tailoring my coaching requirements here to my personal training needs, I am walking this thin red line like a razor.  And as someone who crashed (not on the pavement; the other kind) epically hard at the end of last week, I offer this final (bonus!) point - [insert third big flashing arrow here] - sometimes the hardest person against whom to hold the thin red line, at a camp or in real life, is yourself.

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