Challenging for the Podium in 2023

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I have a big triathlon goal this year.

The Goal – 🏅Podium in my age group at a MultiSport Canada Triathlon event at least once in 2023.

Insert Picture of Me Here, Dreaming of a Podium in 2023
Insert Picture of Me Here

It’s an ambitious goal that has me questioning myself, my capabilities, and if I have what it takes to win.

As I’ve struggled through many a long training session or contemplated skipping a workout, I’ve kept coming back to a story an old sales leader of mine once told about how his son, a budding soccer star, asked if he thought he’d make the all-star tournament team, and much to his son’s dismay, the answer was a stern “No.”

After the shock wore off, he explained, he had the raw talent, the desire, and all the building blocks to play with the best, and unfortunately, it probably wasn’t enough.

Then he asked:

“Are you living the life and making the choices that the player’s on that team have to make?”

“Are you putting in the time and effort that an “all-star” player puts in, or are you relying on your raw skills and self-confidence alone, because at the “all-star” level, it’s probably not enough?”

The story ends well. After some self-reflection, his son looked in the mirror and realized he wasn’t acting like the player he said he wanted to be. He doubled down on soccer, devoted himself to practice, practice, and more practice, studied the finer details of the game, and eventually made the team.

It’s safe to say, much like his son, I’ve been looking in the mirror a lot this year.

My Triathlon Story

As I entered my thirties, my days of high metabolism and endless nights of beer league sports were behind me. Life was slowing down, my waist was expanding, and I wasn’t happy with the path I was heading down.

After not having run since grade 9, in the spring of 2012, I set my sights on the Terry Fox Run 10k. By mid-summer, I realized I was setting my sights short, aimed higher, and completed my first half marathon at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

2012 Waterfront Marathon Finish
Finishing My First Half-Marathon in 2012

Running led to mountain biking and my first triathlon in 2016, followed by my first 70.3 a year later. After that, I was hooked.

Those early days were fantastic, with consistent year-over-year PRs. Culminating in a banner 2016 with a 19:41 – 5km, 40:18 – 10km, and a 1:30:44 half-marathon.

Then my forties hit, and try as I might, those days of PRs were getting further and further behind me.

Looking in the Mirror

Age-related declines suck.

I hadn’t had a PR in years, and I slowly began to accept that my best days were past.

I was at the proverbial fork in the road, to accept fate or double down. So I doubled down hard by attempting my hardest training efforts in years and striving to at least challenge my PRs.

Setting my 5 and 10k PBs at the 2016 Tannenbaum 10k

I signed up with a swim team, devoted myself to long bike rides, and followed the self-developed plan that led to my amazing 2016. It was gut-wrenching, with more stomach-churning interval sessions than I care to admit.

Did it work? Not really. The grind was killing me, and the gains were modest, with only minor year-over-year improvements. Nothing close to what was required to get me where I craved to be.

So I looked in the mirror and asked myself:

“Are you living the life and taking the actions that a forty-five-year-old man needs, to be the best he can be?”.

Not only was I not living that life or taking those actions. I didn’t even know what they were.

Becoming a Coached Athlete

Roger of PR Endurance Training

So in late June of 2022, I went on Instagram, connected with a few local athletes, thanks @KimLewis, and decided to sign up with a coach, Roger Hospedales of PR Endurance Training.

I’ll be honest after ten years of self-coaching and plan designing, following someone else’s plan was really hard. Those first few weeks were filled with modifying workouts, questioning recovery time, not believing the goals set for me, lots of second-guessing, and a general refusal to buy-in.

Then as time went on, I let go, and realized my job was really simple, show up, do the work, and leave the planning to the expert. I felt much like Lionel Sanders when he shared “Relinquishing Control: First Season as a Coached Athlete.”

After just three months of coaching, the results couldn’t be denied:

  • 🥈2nd fastest 5k at 20:00
  • 🥈2nd fastest 10k at 41:04
  • 🥇Fastest Half Marathon at 1:30.44
  • 🥇Fastest Marathon and a possible Boston Qualifier at 3:14.13
  • 🥇Fastest Olympic at 2:35.30
  • 🥇Fastest 70.3 at 5:20.10

Roger has been great to work with. If you’re serious about training, I will share what Chris, the bike fitter at Enduro Sport, told me “the best thing any serious triathlete can do is hire a coach, get a tri bike, invest in wheels, etc., etc.”

Goals for 2023

Finishing 7/27 at the 2022 Toronto Triathlon Festival

The most surprising thing was that for the first time in forever, not only was I doing well, but I was no longer just racing against myself. In fact, in many races, I was consistently in the top ten of my age group, finishing 7/37 at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, 10/20 at Kingston Long Course, and 7/17 at Lakeside.

At Lakeside, I was 17:15 from the podium, 20:30 at Kingston, and 10:30 at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.

Big time differences for sure, but with some modest improvements in my notoriously bad transitions, combined with another nine months of coaching, times I’m confident I can close.

My goal for 2023 is simple, to be in the top 5 and challenge for the podium at every race, and most importantly, to at least once stand on that podium sipping the proverbial champagne.

Getting to the Podium

To challenge for the podium, I’ll need to shave at least 15 minutes off my average Olympic distance race.

Here’s how I plan to do it:

  • 🏊‍♀️Drop my swim time from 30 minutes to 28:30.
  • ⌚Knock two minutes off my transition times.
  • 🚴Stay aero on the bike and reduce my time by eight minutes.
  • 🏃Improve my run from an average of 47:30 to 43:30.
  • 🕒Total Savings 15:30

Beyond that, I will challenge my PRs in the 5 and 10km, run a sub 1:30 half-marathon, and attempt a sub 3:10 full marathon.

Looking in the Mirror

These are not easy goals, and coaching alone won’t get me there. Here’s what I hope will:

  • 1️⃣Triathlon Bike – I’m retiring the road bike with clip-on aero bars, and investing in my first real triathlon bike, hoping the better position will both make me faster and better save my legs for the run.
  • 2️⃣Nutrition – I’ve basically given up alcohol and will start working with a nutritionist to dial in my overall diet and ensure my body has the building blocks it needs to build the best version of me possible.
  • 3️⃣Run Training – I’m looking for and hopefully have already settled on a running coach to review my form and find the inefficiencies and muscle weaknesses that are holding me back.
  • 4️⃣The Plan – Most importantly, following my coach’s plan for me, no matter how much I don’t want to, no matter how tired my legs feel, and putting in the time and effort that a “high-performing athlete” needs.

As I look in the mirror, I don’t know what 2023 will bring, but I do know it will bring the best version of me it possibly can.

I think the best way to end this post is with my favourite quote by my all-time favourite author:

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Haruka Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Thanks for reading,

Cory

6 comments

  1. Nice post. Hopefully I’m at one of those races where you reach your podium goal!! Go get it!!

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