With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, races have been cancelled or postponed and future scheduling plans for a lot of athletes are having to be adjusted. We wanted to follow up with some of our professional sponsored athletes to see what their training plans look like and how they’re staying motivated without a race finish driving them. Here’s what they had to say.
1. How many of your races have been cancelled or postponed since the beginning of 2020?
I was able to sneak in one race in February, 70.3 Dubai. Since then, all of my real world planned events have either been postponed or cancelled. In their place, I have been invited to do a few virtual races: the Ironman VR1 and Ironman VR15, a ZPRO Zwift race and a SuperLeague invitational Zwift race.
I am constantly changing my race calendar due to COVID-19, while also evaluating my recovery from my ACL and meniscus surgery. The year is certainly turning out way differently than I had envisioned.
I was fortunate enough to squeeze in my first target race of the year in Campeche. That was the last race that Ironman held prior to the shutdown. My schedule was going to be Galveston 70.3, IM Australia, Chattanooga 70.3, Coeur d’Alene 70.3, Traverse City 70.3, then Kona. So far, all of these races have been cancelled or postponed. Coeur d’Alene is the next race on the pro schedule in September that I would be targeting followed by Ironman St. George.
2. How have you maintained your focus during this pandemic? What do you say to yourself to keep the intensity during those difficult Z3/4 periods when you’re not sure when the next race is?
I did take a short break (ish!) when things really started to hit the fan, which quickly bumped my motivation back up mostly because I just missed pushing myself as an athlete. I’m constantly reminding myself that even if we’re not racing soon or at all this year, that this year is a HUGE building block for me and that keeps me driven.
I have actually been able to do pretty well with maintaining a training focus. I seem to struggle a bit more on the Z1/Z2 days than I do the harder interval days. I enjoy really pushing myself and the feeling you get after a really hard session. While I’m training alone here in Iowa, the longer aerobic stuff can be harder for me to get out the door. Of course, there are a few bad days mixed in, but for the most part I have been able to stay focused on the process and remind myself what the purpose for each training session is. Sure, it may not be in preparation for a specific race. So, the focus has been in making myself a better athlete. I developed a plan with my coaches to address the low hanging fruit and we are viewing this time as an opportunity to attack those areas specifically.
Overall, I’ve stayed focused during the pandemic because training is one of my anchors and it gives me structure to my day. I also enjoy the daily grind of training and relieving stress by moving my body and doing hard things. When I am doing a challenging workout, I know that it is providing a strong foundation for me and the sessions are building upon each other. So, even if I don’t get to race this season, the training is not wasted. I am in this for the long haul, so I am giving myself more grace and modifying sessions if needed.
3. What types of goals do you set on a weekly, daily, and hourly basis to keep yourself motivated?
I have been learning how to respond to this pandemic since I tore my ACL back in late October. When I was learning how to walk again, I could not think about swimming/biking/running at the level I was pre-surgery. All I could focus on was the present moment. My goal each day was to focus on the controllable, while taking proactive steps to become better each day. What has helped me stay motivated is not relying on motivation to get the work done. My motivation wanes, but the habit is always present. That perspective has helped me still put in the work without excuses. I set small deliberate goals to keep me going. For instance, this week I told my sister (so I could have accountability) that I am going to do 30 straight days of mobility work. I can guarantee that on some days this mobility work will be the last thing I want to do! But I am forming a healthy habit that will ultimately help me become a better triathlete.
Working with my coaches has been priority #1. It’s impossible in my opinion to navigate through this time without someone in your corner to bounce ideas off and guide some of those goal making decisions. For me, it was about identifying the weaknesses that we wanted to work on, establishing a concrete plan on the ways we were going to improve those and mixing in plenty of fun activities/ adventures that allow me to mentally reset and refresh.
And a big aspect that could be easily forgotten during this lockdown is taking enough rest. Sometimes we all focus on what it takes to stay motivated that we ignore the fact that triathlon is a very tough sport on the body and mind so ensuring you are taking enough easy days, off days and recovery weeks is key to ensuring you can make it through whatever the future may hold for us athletes. I like to have at least one day a week that is pretty low stress training wise and then every 8 weeks or so my wife and I try to plan something different and fun to do that is not triathlon related (sometimes easier said than done as we are both professional triathletes!)
I’ve actually tried to not set too many “goals” necessarily during this time. Of course, I want to see all my workouts in TrainingPeaks turn green (completed) as a source of accomplishment! It’s really just become more of a process of bettering myself as an athlete. The motivation will always come and go, but dedication to the whole process is what keeps me going.
4. What are your goals for the next year?
The outcome-based goals are fairly tough to set in stone right now with so much up in the air. 2021 could potentially have 2 Kona events, which could be a huge opportunity. At this point, I am preparing to have an opportunity to qualify for the February World Championships. Ideally, I get the opportunity to attempt this in St. George in 2 months. I’m holding off on making any additional outcome-based goals beyond that until we have a bit more clarity on what the fall/spring schedules might look like.
My goal is to be at my peak fitness by 2021. Plain and simple.
I want to have the opportunity to show the work that I have continued to do all of 2020. Just because the races are gone does not mean that I stopped. I am at such a pivotal point in my career trajectory so it was key for me to continue to work hard day in day out to become the best athlete I can be in hopes that when we do get to return to racing, you will see a new version of BIGMETZ.
5. What do you think racing will look like in the future? How do you see the future of triathlon, and do you think IRONMAN and similar brands will survive?
Racing will certainly look different. We may never see huge mass starts again, pre-race athlete meetings, and podium celebrations. Race day may also be more self-sufficient with less touch points. I do believe IRONMAN and other brands will survive if they adapt. Companies must also remain resilient during the challenging times. I believe in the brands and am confident that they will properly pivot and we will race again.
While many people are understandably upset about all the race cancellations and postponements, I think that those who are truly dedicated to themselves will continue to show up to races when they begin happening again. I think self-supporting will be a big push in some races and *hopefully* even less illegal drafting! The race numbers themselves may look a bit smaller and much more spread out.
Ironman will survive, but I fear that smaller brands may not have the same luxury. The good thing is that I’ve seen smaller, local races, continue to happen in some places and I hope that helps keep those afloat because everyone starts somewhere. In my experience, that start is at their local race!
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