Monday, March 20, 2017

Thoughts

Writing a "reflections and thoughts" is something that has made me feel icky and entirely self-indulgent, because honestly, I'm not sure who cares that much to read it that doesn't already know the way I feel. Still, it's one of those part obligation, part catharsis exercises that I'm instead trying to add more and more pictures and "copy editor humor" that I inherited from my mother.
I may have earned my elite license halfway through 2015, but realistically, that season was a throwaway for reasons including terrible race selection, below average focus, inconsistent training, and a less than stellar personal life that influenced many of the other factors. In addition to some personal issues and a great deal of uncertainty about my ordinary career, my foray into racing elite or "professionally" was an absolute ass-kicking. It wasn't enjoyable at all, and triathlon had actually become a source of stress for the first time in almost a decade of doing it. I realized I had the most fun in Richmond, despite finishing in last place, because it was just enjoyable, so I decided to go in on off-road triathlon as much as I could, limited by where I live.
Of course, I still got crushed in 2016, though maybe a little bit less. Even my race placings may not have been awesome or what I wanted, but there were times in training and racing that I started to really realize that I'd made the right decision. Some brief thoughts on the year:
I'm very happy that I was able to race a full schedule of the inaugural edition of the XTERRA Pan American Tour and finish 7th in the men's pro standings.
Armed Forces Championship was an absolute dream scenario for me individually, where I finally got into the front group and then backed it up with a great run.
I was ECSTATIC to finally be able to race the Breezy Point Sprint Tri. I'm pretty sure it's an unwritten rule that anybody in the Navy or Coast Guard that does triathlon has to race it at least once.
This season was definitely a grind at times, where I really felt like triathlon consumed me, but in a positive way. I realized that I had finally structured my life around it appropriately. I was away from home for 53 nights between when I first left for Clermont in March until I came home from Maui in October. That's a lot, and something that will likely decrease a bit in 2017 because I learned from it, where more time at a race venue isn't always better, and so on.
All in all, it was a great first full season. I made a little bit of money doing this, though nowhere near in the net positive. By the IRS's standards, "hobby income" is still very much a thing, and reportable at that. There's also the slang term of "hobby pro" that gets thrown out there from time to time in cycling, track and field, and triathlon, that certainly has a bit of a negative connotation. It's something I'm actually embracing, because frankly, it fits me extremely well. Due to commitments I've made, it's unlikely I'll be able to leave the Coast Guard much before I'm 34 or so, but I've been able to race more or less what I want to. Honestly, there's not really much of a thing as a true full-time professional triathlete outside of a small handful of people in the world, so the fact that I have a single, steady job rather than a smattering of half-jobs to make ends meet I don't see as a negative whatsoever.
I wouldn't be able to do any of this stuff without all of them, so I'm thankful for that.
San Telmo, Buenos Aires. I've had worse 36 hour layovers.
Just off the road, outside of Snowbasin resort in Utah. Utah is pretty in late summer/early fall.
Sherando Lake became one of my absolute favorite riding locations. Yes, we have 15 minute, brake rotor-heating singletrack descents in Virginia.
Relationship goals.
For four years, I'd been dreaming of this scenario: being off the front with nobody from any of the other teams. My personal ideal scenario, now for 2017 to just keep getting a little better with a larger gap at T2 and a faster run...
It's beautiful to have the sun just ever so slightly poking out from behind the mountains at sunrise, especially when I'm used to sunrise being right on top of the water (this photo from NAS Point Mugu, California, the day before Armed Forces Triathlon Championship)
Cornering is fun. ITU racing...I could take or leave.
Jonas was my coaching guinea pig, where I learned a lot more about myself as an athlete, and got him to get some of his own goals. 

My days in Virginia Beach are likely numbered, and my focus shifting to off-road means fewer and fewer weekend rides on the Pungo loop.

Now, starting off this offseason I was in a MUCH better place than I was the previous year, really excited to get to training. That said, I was actually taking an offseason this year, as opposed to last year which was two weeks of other stressors that hardly left me with any sort of recovery. These are all out of order. Don't hold that against me.


Monster Cross 2017 on the brand new bike. Love it. So much. I truly built it from scratch. Photo: Jesse Peters.

The brand new bike, fully built, on its semi-maiden voyage. I say semi-maiden because I'd had it for about 3 months, but was gradually changing almost everything on it to be EXACTLY what I wanted, with zero compromise.

Mount Trashmore at sunrise. After a few years since my previous masters group disbanded, I FINALLY found one that worked for both what I'm looking for and my schedule with Tide. That, and views like this make the 4:15 wakeups worthwhile.

Nothing overly special about this, but again, I know I won't live in quirky Old Beach, Virginia Beach forever, so I've found myself taking more photos on easy rides and easy runs (when I'm on call for work and have to carry my phone anyway). This is the LifeguART that only exists in winter. I like to pretend to hate Virginia Beach, but there are definitely things I'll miss about it.

I mean, how could I not?

"Congratulations, you're now an adult! Also, can you go work 72 straight hours because there's a blizzard coming and we have to close the port and queue up all the inbound vessel traffic"

Virginia Beach isn't just endless subdivisions and fighter jet runways. OK, it's mostly like that.

One of these days I will learn to throw a whip. Until then I'll settle for poorly timed bunny hops. Heaps of fun at Rustbucket Cross race in Norfolk.

I guess I have to go back to Cleveland every November now to close out my off-season.

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