Being open and intentional about learning is a key value of mine. From simply being a novice or ignorant about a topic or skill to improving something I may already be doing well, being open and intentional about it is fundamental to making positive improvement and change. Today I’ll share a recent example on a skill I think I’m good at but one I’m looking to enhance.
That skill is cycling and cycling fast. I consider myself a strong cyclist based on events I compete at in triathlon and duathlon races. That being said, being a strong cyclist isn’t good enough when competing with the best in the country. In four weeks I will be racing at the USAT Duathlon National Championships. With the race consisting of a run, bike and a second run I am training those two disciplines quite intense currently. The competition will be fierce so I’m looking for help in any way to race faster.
Since starting training for duathlons in November and competing in my first race in December I reached out to several top duathetes for knowledge. I have taken every bit of advice and adjusted my training and racing approach accordingly. So far I’ve been successful translating the knowledge and training in three races. Success in these races has been nice but racing at Nationals is another ball game. With four weeks remaining till the race I had an incredible learning experience.
I met Celia Dubey and a group of cyclists she trains at the San Antonio Sports Complex for a ride through the hills. Celia is not only a phenomenal coach, she is a Duathlon World Champion, also finishing in the top five six times, top five in triathlons twice and an All-American over 20 times. So I’m in good hands of course…geez! It was my first time riding with this group of elite cyclists.
Before we headed out on the ride we were setting up for a group photo, I lost my balance, and down I went. Lucky I didn’t take anyone down with me…the featured blog photo is proof of my elegant fall…no cuts. We all had a good laugh about it and at that point I knew I made a great first impression. I did know a few of the riders but had never trained with them…that made the fall a little less embarrassing…maybe…
I was excited all week about the ride. I had done more cycling in the previous four months than any four month stretch since starting five years ago and was eager to see how my fitness would measure up. Knowing some of the group and their cycling prowess I really had no idea if I would be able to keep up and if so for how long. Either way I was excited and was certain I would come away with a significant amount of learning.
I was curious about a lot of things:
- How would Celia structure the ride?
- What would warm-up look like?
- What intensity would we be riding and for what interval lengths?
- What was my role on this ride being the new guy?
- How do they approach climbing hills?
- How do they attack going down hills?
- What else will I learn that I’m not even considering?
Celia did a great job covering what we were going to do before we headed out. Next was to go out on the ride and see what I could learn. I paid close attention to how the group was shifting gears, climbing, descending, and positioning their body on the bike. While my cycling skills had improved over the years I knew I was among the top triathletes and duathletes in the world and would benefit immensely by riding with them.
I warmed up riding next to Dave Morrow who I do know well and had given me great advice prior to my first duathlon. Dave has four – 1st place National Duathlon Championships in the last six years. He is a World Champion (2014) and finished in the top four two other times. We had a good brief chat as we loosened up our legs.
After we warmed up and got into the ride, Celia immediately identified a few things about my form and position on the bike. She was coaching me in the moment and sent a recap via text after the workout that will be useful for me to make adjustments immediately.
After the bike and a run I was able to chat with one of the group members, Peter Skafar, for a bit. I had met Peter at a couple of previous races but never entered a significant conversation. I picked his brain on various aspects of training and competing. What a nice guy to take extra time with me as I asked question after question. He is also a decorated racer with an Olympic Distance Triathlon National Championship (Hungary) under his belt as well.
What a wealth of information I gained in three hours of training on this Saturday morning. I realized I could ride with the group but my endurance was not at their level. I worked my butt off to hang with them and by the end I was barely doing so. It was a true beat down in a great way and training with this powerhouse group is something I need to do more often. I will be tweaking a few things immediately based on what I learned and know it will translate to riding faster.
We all have different goals and starting points with what we are trying to achieve. Whether it’s starting something new, improving a weakness or trying to enhance a strength, I have found the following components helpful for me to learn:
- Be intentional – identify what you are trying to achieve as specific as you can
- Be humble – seek feedback and ask a lot of questions; we can always learn something new or a new approach to something we already do well
- Surround yourself with people who are successful with what you are trying to achieve
- Put learning to action, test, tweak, repeat steps 1-3, and put to action again; things don’t have to be perfect before we do something
- Accept failure as a means to success – learn from mistakes and separate yourself from the failure (Ex. I failed to get the result I wanted at x race but I am not a failure; use the experience to fuel learning and progress)
- Develop habits to learn – find what works for you to get into a routine of learning (Ex. I use time in the car, on the bike, on runs, and cleaning my condo to listen to my favorite podcasts or read a book (audio) on topics I want to learn more about; I also ask a lot of questions as you can see…)
Never stop learning. We can always benefit from different perspectives, knowledge, and experiences. My learning and journey continues to Duathlon Nationals. I am looking forward to every training session up to race day with intention.
– Add Health to Your Life