Bad seasons come in different forms. One is that you set goals for one or more races and didn’t make them. Or it could be that you went to one or more qualifiers, let’s say for Kona, and didn’t make it. Or perhaps you had your heart set on doing a race that has a lottery for entries (i.e. the New York City Triathlon) and didn’t get in, which cast a pall over your season. Or you had a bad season because your training was interrupted for a variety of reasons, and you didn’t get to do nearly the number of races you had planned. The latter, with one bright spot, characterizes my 2014 season.
I had planned to do at least eight races. However, life intervened. First, the spring weather in the New York City region where I live made life difficult with cold, wind and late snow. At age 77, the cold and I don’t get along too well anymore and I couldn’t do much training outside. Then I missed my regular first race at the end of March, because of foul weather. Increasing neck, shoulder and arm pain led to a diagnosis of cervical spine disc problems for which I had fully successful surgery at the end of April. Gone were four weeks of training and another race.
Next on the medical side, I developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot, which limited me to pace-walking the runs very slowly. This issue lasted all summer. I did not get to my first race of the season until the end of June. Then came the season’s only bright spot, the Duathlon National Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I qualified (barely, because of the plantar fasciitis) for the 2015 ITU Sprint Duathlon World Championships in Adelaide, Australia. Next, I missed a scheduled race because of an acute gastroenteritis. I managed to do one more duathlon then missed my last two scheduled races because my wife needed hip implant reconstructive surgery. I immediately stopped cycling to avoid any injury to myself which could interfere with caring for her. Actually, due to time constraints, at that point I had to shut down my training almost completely. Not a fun year.
And so, what to do?
I turn 78 this year. I’ve been doing multisport races for 32 years and totaled 241 races. I could give up the sport. Well, no. What a bad taste that would leave in my mouth. Triathlon/duathlon have meant so much to me, as many of you know. When I started at age 46, I became an athlete for the first time in my life (except for downhill skiing, which I took up in my early 20s). Then I found the writing side of multisport athletics and found USA Triathlon where I have made so many friends. This is to say nothing of all the friends that I have made at the races over the years. No, bad season or not, the fewest races I have done in any season except my first or not, health problems or not, I cannot, and will not, quit now.
I will be able to get back into winter training in December. I have determined that with the help of my great physical therapist, Frank McCoy of Advanced Sports PT in East Setauket, New York, I’m going to develop an expanded, more demanding program for the winter. Hopefully putting my own physical problems behind me I can come back stronger than ever and perhaps a bit faster too.
If you’ve had a bad season, too, and are thinking about quitting, think again. What does the sport mean to you? What has the sport done for you and what have you done for the sport? What has the training done for both your health and your self-esteem, to say nothing of your looks? Think about the fun, friends and adventure you would miss. Are the goals that you set truly realistic or were you setting yourself up for failure? Are they worth a serious re-look? This is what I’ve done. It surely didn’t take me too much time to decide I have got to go for it. And next season couldn’t possibly be as disappointing as this one was. And so, come next spring, I hope to see you out on the course. Given how slow I am, we likely won’t be together at the finish line, but I will look for you at the start.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multi-sport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His first book on multi-sport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.