What Will Stick From 2020?

I don’t need to reiterate the fact that 2020 has been tough.  No one has been through this year without some sort of unexpected challenge – closed schools, lack of social interaction, health concerns, financial worries, and the list goes on.  But out of all this, there seems to be a few things that will actually lead to growth and progress.  Taking time to realize these things and being grateful for them has been a useful practice for me.

2020 has been quite a sh*t show

But first a really quick recap of the 2020 “season”:

Races lined up.  Races canceled.  More races.  More cancelations.  Keep training.  But what for?  Mental sanity.  Endorphins.  Try new training approaches.  Sign up for more races.  More cancelations.   Virtual Races?  Suppose its better than nothing.  ½ Marathon.  Good but can do better. Few days later a solo marathon sounds like a good idea.  So painful. I guess worth it.  2:47 and a PR at 39 years.  But now a strained shin.  39 now feels old.  Back to back races maybe not so smart.  Lots and lots of biking and not much running. Daily dinner conversations about shin start to get old.  Alice very patient with my neurosis.  Excited for great fitness but shin not feeling so good.  Sign up for races.  Races not canceled.  I’ll get to race.  Races modified.  Not ideal but better than nothing.

Hagerstown Sprint Duathlon.  Aim for beating my 2015 course record.  I smashed it.  Oh wait, I got my first DQ for going off course.  No record.  But still faster at 39.  Will try again next year.   Small pro 70.3 in NC.  Fast course.  Can I go under 4 hours again? Swim training going really well and can’t wait to PR my swim.  Complete fog.  Swim 10 minutes slow.  Under 4 not happening.  Can’t feel toes from the cold but a solid bike.  Start run.  In contention for prize money at 3rd place.  Run turnaround.  Damnit!  I’m actually in 4th There goes a really nice dinner tonight.  Want to throw in the towel but keep moving legs.  End up with a strong run split and 4th place pro finish.  Not what I planned but that is what 2020 has been all about.

70.3 in NC. 4th pace in a small pro field

So what from 2020 will I try and take forward into next year?  Below are a few of my thoughts.

Power naps/meditation – A Rich Roll podcast on neuroplasticity introduced me to Yoga Nidra, which is essentially a practice that aims to get you into a level of consciousness somewhere in between sleep and awake.  I would highly recommend trying.  Just Google Yoga Nidra and there are plenty of videos to get you started.  I often end up just falling asleep, but I’ve found doing a 15-30 minute Yoga Nidra meditation is as beneficial as a much longer nap.  Definitely keeping this going into next year.

30/30 Bike intervals on the indoor trainer – If you haven’t tried them yet, I would highly recommend. 30 seconds very hard, 30 seconds recovery.  They can be structured in many different ways, but I’ve found that this type of a workout allows me to get tons of time at a high intensity, without totally destroying my legs the next day.  Plus they are really fun.

Lunch  – Prior to Covid and working from home, lunches were nonexistent.  Food during the day was a mishmash of snacks and recovery shakes.  I almost never had a “meal” until I got home from work when we sat down for family dinner.  Thanks to Covid and working from, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy Alice’s salad creations on a daily basis.  And while I have no idea if having a sit-down lunch has helped my triathlon performance, it has been really enjoyable and something I will aim to continue.

Open water swimming – In years past I have really struggled – like I suspect many – to translate my pool swimming with my open water racing.  In part due to the pool closures and limited availability, I explored options for open water swimming and was able to find a great option (thanks  to a work colleague of Alice’s).  In just a few lake sessions, I was able to see huge progress and I hopefully can keep working on this more next year.

Ramp into good fitness does not take long – With lack of pool swimming and also a shin injury for much of 2020 (doing a virtual ½ marathon race and then a full marathon race one week apart is not such a good idea), most of my fitness was through strength work and lots of time on the bike.  When it came time to really hone in on my race prep for the 70.3, it only took a month or so of focused swim and run training and I was feeling pretty good.  It’s a reminder that with strength training and a solid aerobic base,  building into race fitness doesn’t take all that long.

Appreciation of sport– 2020 was reminder that triathlon serves a huge role in my life – physically, mentally, and even spiritually.  Reflecting back, I am confident that without my training and opportunity to focus on something other than the challenge of Covid, I would have struggled a whole lot more.   I often get caught up in all the hype of social media, races, and gadgets, and lose sight of the true essence of sport.   This year has certainly been practice in patience and means to really be grateful for things that I otherwise would have overlooked.

Although not mentioned, another perk to 2020 was some more time with the family