One of the best ways to improve at almost anything is to work the weakest link within the set of skills required to be good. For triathlon, we tend to keep things simple and focus on swim, bike and run. That seems easy enough, but before we put the bike away for a couple of months and set off for 50 mile run weeks, are we actually sure what makes up our true limiter?
A similar term we like to use when discussing limiters is an athlete’s “blind spot.” As the name suggests, it’s a weakness the athlete does not even know exists, although those close to the athlete can see it clear as day. If the athlete is lucky, his or her coach will put personal feelings aside and make the athlete aware of what is truly holding him or her back.
Using myself as an example, when I came to Endurance Corner I always viewed my run as my limiter and would constantly communicate to Marilyn, “We need to run more!!!” In my self assessment, I put “running” as my limiter. She made it very clear, “You have a much bigger blind spot: you view triathlon as three separate sports. It is one sport, first one to the finish line wins.”
I didn’t take that to mean my running was not weak compared to those I compete against, but rather I needed to fix how I viewed the sport before I could run faster off the bike.
For the first year working with Marilyn, we “only” focused on running consistently. Sure, we had some specific sets based on our goal race, but it was mainly a focus on running to stay in the game and get to the line. Shifting my focus from running fast to finishing fast took the pressure off my speed in training and kept me healthy. The result? In 2011, much slower training times led to much faster running off the bike when it mattered. Running slow didn’t make me faster; running more and running consistently made me faster… off the bike.
This mental shift took time and I do still catch myself looking at my run. Over time, I adjusted how I viewed the sport and realized the only thing that matters is getting to the finish line first. My 5k time in March means little, and if I’m the first one to the line off the bike in June, getting beaten on the road in March is meaningless.
After committing to the plan for over a year, we have just now started some focused run work. Although my mind is now focused on being fast in triathlon, I haven’t lost focus on the greater goal — getting to the finish line first in a triathlon — which is swim, bike and run.
As we approach the 2012 race season, January is a great time to focus on improving that which may be holding us back. Once we identify what needs work, it helps to discuss it with those close to us who always tell us like it is. There could be a hidden factor that is preventing us from taking the next leap forward.
Good luck in 2012.