Learning from 2014

Jeff Gaura cycling over a bridge at the 2014 USAT National Championship
Crossing a bridge over the Mississippi river

After months of training hard and racing harder, my tank is nearly empty.  I am SO ready to switch to low impact weight training to build up my strength for next year. I celebrate the big 50 next year, and it is so awesome to conclude 49 was the fittest year of my life.

I read an article that convinced me that I owe it to myself to thoroughly review what happened (and what didn’t) during the race season. Like most athletes, I saw that I was caught in the trap of focusing solely on the race results.

Win or not?

PR or not?

Allowing my success to be determined solely by the finish line clock or my ranking is not fair to all the effort and time invested.

Here are nine critical, but often overlooked, questions I asked to evaluate this season.

NOTE: I was told to put these answers in writing.

  1. In hindsight, were your season goals clear and attainable?
    I wanted to complete in Worlds and get an opportunity to do it again. I competed, albeit in an injured state, but I was able to look back at the preparation and the event and feel good about that effort. It cost a lot of money and time to prepare, but I am grateful for what it did to me, inside and out.  After Nationals, I got the wild idea of training for and doing an Ultramarathon.  I trained for it and did it and felt like I could conquer the world when I was done.  This was an awesome year of competition.
  2. What were you most proud of this season?
    Overcoming physical adversity. My wife has broken her foot and blown her Achilles in the last few years, and she set the standard for being an overcomer. I was most proud of doing the Long Distance National Championship and being competitive in the run, even though I had not run that distance even one time this year, until that race.  Fitness is fitness, and that event proved it.
  3. What would you like to duplicate next year?
    I would like a chance to return to Worlds and do well at both the standard length and long distance National Championships. I know I most excel at ultra-distances and not at the quicker events.
  4. What frustrated or disappointed you the most this season?
    My neuroma in my foot prevented me from ever following a complete training program. I am not used to injury dictating my behavior, but last year, it did. Can’t even count how many times the song, “Take It Easy,” went through my mind.
  5. What do you not want to happen again next year?
    I have had too long of a Duathlon season. Training for this Powerman event in Florida next month is not for me as much as it is for my son. I am ready to be in off-season mode; alas, I still have 3 more weeks of hard training.  My off time in 2014 hasn’t been long enough.
  6. What did you learn by going through these experiences?
    What I learned from going to Worlds goes beyond words. I got a new value for the words “national pride,” and I got to see the power of para-athletes and the adversities that they face. They are my heroes.  I also learned that a well-trained athlete at less than 100% is more valuable than an amateur at 100%.  I also learned that having a coach as a guide and voice of reason is priceless.
  7. What decisions did you make that were empowering for you?
    I decided to invest in myself and not go “cheap,” on some things. I got good equipment and committed to regularly replacing my running shoes. I committed to cross-training using Pilates. It is expensive, but my overall conditioning for a full range of movement has totally exceeded any expectation that I had.  I committed to eating “clean food” that only contained ingredients that I could identify and explain.  That phrase, “one day I will do that,” has been replaced with “I did that, with my wife, when I was in my late 40s.”
  8. What habits seemed to hold you back from achieving your potential?
    Overeating made my race weight too high to be competitive on the World stage. I have dropped poundage so that I can wear my high school clothing; however, I am still 166 lb. at 5’10”, about 10 pounds more than I should be if my goal is world class/podium competitive. Inclement weather never caused me to skip training.  However, work commitments often did, and I wouldn’t always try to make up training time lost to my day job.  When my portable running application would indicate that I did a slow run, it would affect my self-worth, even if it was incorrectly calibrated.  I still don’t judge my performance though objective eyes.
  9. What decisions should you make in order to have your best racing year ahead?
    Late night glasses of wine need to get out of my diet. I need to find or create a cycling community where we live, as we have some of the best roads around to climb and learn to compete on. Lastly, I need to get more deeply into coaching, as I have compiled enough information now to have a message to share with others.

The latter part is the most exciting.  I am going to coach!

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