There are all sorts of setbacks athletes encounter in their training and preparation processes. Some include weather, injury, accidents and sickness. Most of us will face at least one, if not more, of these in a season. If you have trained for a specific goal over the past few years, you probably experienced all of these. The reason behind this article is my own recent experience with setbacks. With the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race looming this year, I have to readjust my plan. Setbacks are an inevitable part of the training process and that is why understanding your plan and having a good coach who can help you adjust it can mean the difference in achieving or falling short of your goals.
Setback #1: This Stinking Weather
This has been one of the toughest winter/spring seasons we have ever had here in the Midwest. It has been cold, cloudy, rainy, snowy and just plain miserable for the last eight weeks. This put a huge damper on getting the overall training volume necessary for me to be at the fitness level I expected. So, what have I done to adjust? I have worked more on some of the specific energy systems that can be controlled indoors. I have spent more time on the weekends with my family and friends, focusing on getting ahead in these other aspects of my life so when the weather does start to come back around, I have created some extra time in those areas, allowing me to train a bit more than usual to try and “catch up” a bit. And third, I really focused on my diet and reaching my race weight. I used discipline in this area that I might have directed at getting through some of the longer rides had the weather cooperated.
Setback #2: The Crash
About a month ago, on one of my only outdoor rides on my brand new MTB, I fell…really hard. The first thing people asked after the crash was “who crashed you?” My reply was (and always is) that crashes happen and putting blame on someone does no one any good. If you bike long enough, I will bet that you will “get crashed” and you will “crash” someone else. Most crashes are a combination of factors that come together in an unfortunate end. In this case, many of the factors could have been avoided–by me. I was overlapping a wheel (this is a big no-no!), we were all tired (tired riders make bad decisions) and it was one of the first road rides of the year so everyone was a bit rusty. The combination of all these things sent me hard to the ground and even now my ribs are still sore and my right hand is pretty mangled. This setback has cost me a month of preparation mostly because I have not been able to sleep and when you can’t sleep, you can’t grow.
When I crashed as a pro, I could come back on my terms. I had no business, family or other things in my life to take up my time. Now I have limited training time and must try to figure out that perfect balance point to coming back. Come back too quickly and I risk not healing all the way. Come back too slowly and I lose too much fitness and with an event like Leadville, fitness is everything. The solution for me is to come back pretty soon, but not to high intensity work until I am totally healed. Riding long and easy will not hurt my injuries or tear me down as much and as a result, recovery (sleep) will be less important.
The last adjustment I may have to make is my performance race goal. This is a tough one for me to swallow, but something that will allow me to enjoy the process without the pressure of being unprepared for my target performance.
Setbacks are part of the game. Everyone will encounter them as they move through their athletic careers. Part of our growth as people and as athletes is in how we handle the setbacks and experiences we take away from challenges along the path.