Before I headed to Navy boot camp, my dad took me aside and told me to remember that it was only nine weeks long, and to keep the "light at the end of the tunnel" in sight. In letters and the occassional phone call, he continued to remind me that there were only x-days left. This philosophy served well during boot camp, as well as during long deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf. Six months at sea is much easier to deal with when broken into smaller chunks and when that light at the end of the tunnel is kept in focus.
Monty Python has a different way of stating the same thing. Their version is, "Always look on the bright side of life..." (Now, sing it with me...).
These are two philosophies that work well in all of life, and are particularly handy for triathletes. They are meant to be used during long and/or difficult periods in life, and the challenges faced during training and racing certainly fall into those categories. So, we should remember them.
Though the race season is winding down and many of us are preparing for our "A" races, we know that those races are only the culmination of THIS year's training. Once the races are over, we go into our off season, ready to begin training focused on improving our weaknesses and maintaining our aerobic base. And early in the new year, we will begin training for a new season. We must break each year into "bite sized" chunks (training periods), and always keep an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. That beacon is different for each person. For some, it is their first ever triathlon. For others it is a longer race. And for a percentage of us, it is an Ironman race that is nearly a year away for which the entry fee has already been paid.
Keeping an eye on that goal allows us to overcome the challenges of rough spots in the journey. Perhaps it is a bad training session (or week). It might be difficulties balancing training with the rest of life. It could even be an injury that calls for a break in training. Most of these issues can be overcome when we keep our eyes on the target.
And when things get really tough, we can "Always look on the bright side of life." (Really, sing it with me). Tough training results in many benefits beyond race day success. Flexibility in scheduling can allow you to sleep beyond the common 4:30 wake up time. Missed training sessions mean more time to spend with family. For every "negative" we face, there are bright sides to be seen.
Last night, the catalyst to this post, was a perfect example. With Mrs. Pol heading to a retreat, today, our schedules called for me to take a half day vacation from work. Given the time off, I was juggling a morning run, an early afternoon bike, or both. I decided to skip the morning run, and plan a bike ride for after noon. That said, I reset my alarm for 6 a.m. and spent a bit of time working on my half-Ironman training plan and still got to sleep shortly after 10 p.m. I stayed up late, and still had 8 hours to sleep.
B-Boy had other plans. It seems he has a bit of a cold, and has some serious "Pol Family" sinus issues going. That made sleeping very uncomfortable for him. He woke up just before midnight, the start of a long night of poor sleep (for him, Mrs. Pol, or myself. Monster Girl was mostly oblivious, though she did wake up a time or two). B-Boy wound up crashing in my recliner, with me on the floor beside him. A less than perfect bed for a less than perfect night of "sleep."
But, there's always a bright side. B-Boy's timing was perfect. This bad night's sleep came on the day where the alarm had been set for an hour and a half later than normal. So, the only real loss was in "extra" sleep. I basically broke even. The "down" side was offset by the "bright" side.
Keep these things in mind as you train. They are just as valid today as they were those many years back. The light at the end of the tunnel that ensures there is always a bright side to life. That will get many a triathlete through rough patches in life.