Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wishful Thinking

Every Tuesday I show up at masters ready to go (hurt, cry, scream, ache....).

I get two swims a week to hurt myself. In a good way. I eat my oatmeal, drink my coffee, say a prayer and walk out on to the pool deck. This Tuesday was like every other except I added a little challenge.

I put myself in Timmyboy’s lane.

Timmyboy because that’s what the tattoo on his arm says. I assume his name is Tim but then again I would assume that Johnny’s name was Winona and it wasn’t and so…I have never understood people that tattooed names to themselves. Just seems like one of those decisions that will come back to bite you in the ass. Or the arm. Or wherever that name is.

Tim is fast. Not like Coach Dave fast (which is like lapping you in freestyle while he does backstroke fast) but fast nonetheless. Last week I had my first swim with Tim. That rhymes but not on purpose. Tom and I were in our usual lane along with Susan. In a bizarre pre-mainset turn of events, the next lane over said “We’ll trade you Tim for Susan.” Before Tom could speak I shouted “DEAL” and Tim moved into our lane. The look on Tom’s face was absolute disbelief but I knew better than to let this trade go by. Susan would be in our lane. Tim would lead our lane. As the one who would otherwise be leading the lane, I know a good draft when I see one. I welcomed Tim with opened and paddleless arms.

Last week we did 4 x 700 as our mainset. My goal was to not get lapped by Tim and I made it for all but one. It’s always humbling when your goal is to not get lapped. It keeps it real. In case I was starting to think I’m fast or something. Good thing my wickedly fast team reminds me every time I am there that I am most certainly…not.

This week I walked into practice and see Tim alone in a lane. That’s ashame. Someone should keep him real and keep him company. I ask if I can swim with him and he says ok. The mainset was 5 x 400. Numbers 1 through 3 were descending the pace, number 4 was easy and number 5 was balls out. The board didn’t say that but when you see 95% effort on the board you assume it is a pace just under ballistic which turns out to be balls out.

Tim on the other hand got a special state meet workout. Because he’s swimming the 200 free he got to do 2 x 200 with 20 seconds rest. So my goal was not to get lapped by Tim on his first 200. That sounds pretty weak but last week I was nearly lapped on a 150 when I got mistakenly put into the fast fast lane. That would be the faster than Coach Dave lane – the lane with the guys that do things like repeat their 100s on 1:00 or swim 500s in under 5 minutes. There is something quite wrong with those guys and also something very wrong when I was assigned to their lane because we were ‘all doing the same interval anyway’.

Something can be the same but different. Like me doing 150s on the 2:15 is nothing like those guys doing 150s on the 2:15. Same interval but they were coming in at 1:30 and I WAS NOT!

The 400s were all right. We were supposed to drop 5 – 10 seconds with each 400. The first one I cruised along at a comfortable pace. The next one I actually timed it perfectly so that when Tim pushed off for this second 200 I was right behind him. That pulled me to a new personal best in the 400. The third one I decided for fun to see what it would be like to sprint for all 400.

It was not fun.

All in all it was my usual Tuesday make it happen hard swim. I show up ready to go and looking for hurt. Before each practice I set a goal and focus until arms are ready to fall off. I don’t make excuses – I just try to make the interval. And when I can’t...I take one breath, push off and try it again. There’s nothing easy about it and I love every minute of it because of that. If it was easy every would win. If it was easy everyone would be fast. If it was easy it wouldn’t mean so much when we finally reach our goals.

I write a lot about swimming this year because there is a lot of swimming on my wish list. My wish list is a long list of “things” I would like to achieve this year. Not really race-specific goals but the little things that will help deliver me to my specific race goals. It’s nice to say “I want to be in the top 10” but really how are you going to get there. What will it take week to week to arrive at that goal? That’s where the wish list comes into play.

It started with me just scribbling down a few goals for January. When I finally looked back at the list a month later I realized I had accomplished everything on the list. And the list was not easy! I thought to myself that I might be on to something here. If I write down the little things maybe I am that much more likely to achieve them. Rather than just walking around with these “wishes” floating around in my head, make them concrete on a list.

I have always written down my goals for races but sometimes those goals seem so far away. There is nothing more fulfilling than a sense of accomplishment so by setting the smaller goals that you might achieve every week you get that gratification. And you feel like you are building towards your bigger goals. The little successes add up to bigger success.

So far I have crossed 8 things off of my list. I am 30 percent there! The problem is that every time I achieve a goal I have to redefine it and set a new one. I wanted to break :55 for a 75. I did that. Now it’s time to break :50. The list keeps building and the process of bettering myself never ends.

Race goals are great. But one (of the many) thing(s) I learned last year is that if for some reason you fall short of your race goal (and there are many reasons that can happen) you need to have a sense that all of your work wasn’t for waste. Many would argue at the end of the season your race results are all that matter. True – at a certain level and if everything with your health and training goes your way. But if it doesn’t, how do you reconcile with the fact that you did all of that work – all of that time and sacrifice – where did that go? At the very least I can look back now and say you did 24 strong things leading up to that race. That’s worth working for no matter how the race plays out.

When you finally get to the race you will either achieve or not achieve your goal. Part of it is setting appropriate goals, part of it is hard work, part of it is good health and the last part is a little luck. Week to week something else needs to keep us going. Big goals are great but it’s easy to get off track or lose sight. Break it down into smaller pieces. Set smaller steps that lead you to your big goal.

And then every week attack them with full force. Get hungry for your goals and do the work to make them happen. Little by little, cross off the smaller steps that will help you get there. And remember: anyone can write down a goal – but can you do the work, the tedious, hard and uncomfortable work it takes to get there? That is what separates the achievers from the completers.

Which will you be this year?

4 comments:

Molly said...

Swim goals are what drag me out of bed at 5am 2-3 times a week and get me through one miserable lap after another. Either I'll drown or I'll improve :)

Wes said...

Hey Coach! I got questions!

1. How exactly does a woman go balls out?

2. Do you borrow someone else's balls? Say, Tim's for example?

3. When you are done with them, do you give them back?

4. What does Tim do if you have his balls?

That's enough for now. I have more... :-)


Very good points... I need to jot down my goals now for the Super Sprint in June. 10%, while a lofty goal is probably not very reasonable. I must do better and come up with something challenging, yet realistic...

TRI-james said...

Very motivational – thank you!

PCR said...

Elizabeth, I really like your posts. For me, this one might be the best one yet - very motivational and also practical. I have to break down my swim improvement much more than I have. I am just out of the pool (solo effort) and I didn't really do anything more than mileage - not a lot of drills, not a lot of speed, put in the time, but kind of average. I spin with a guy who always says... "if we leave it in the room ... if we give it our all, we will get stronger". I am sure that you are getting stronger in your swimming. Thanks for the motivation. pcr