One of the things I have probably not talked about enough, although I have alluded to it quite a bit, is what has kept training [mostly] "fresh" for me. I do not train a ton relative to my peer group. I would say it is similar. So week in and week out it averages out to be anywhere from 14-18hrs a week throughout the year (peaking at 22-25 on SOME good weeks and some obviously smaller weeks in there as well).
That's a good bit of swimming, biking, and running. Which, when you really think about it, gets fairly stale even for a three sport...uhhh...sport. If you train "right," most running is basically "easy" or "aerobic," most biking is "aerobic," and most swimming is "hard." I use those terms in parentheses loosely but the point is that most training is in the same "zone," or at least it averages out to be...
Weekend of Trails from James Haycraft on Vimeo.
But if ALL you do is train for triathlons your "training life" may get stale. It may not, but...it may. At least it did for me. I have shown in the past that I have about a 3-4 year "lifespan" with sports. Golf lasted about 4 years, competitively. Cycling lasted 2.5-3 depending on how you time it. Triathlon, so far, has remained the longest I've done a "single" sport in quite some time.
That being said, that type of longevity has not been without its ups and downs. I've written about motivation here and there over the years and anyone that knows me know that it can be pretty easy to tell when I'm feeling one way vs another in the context of my levels of motivation...
One of the ways I've found to combat the boredom that comes with strictly triathlon training (because it really is about fitting as much SBR into your available hours as you can and mixing in the right intensity with enough volume in a progressive, consistent, and overloading fashion...right?) is by pursuing events that are similar, but different. Bike racing, mountain biking, and XTERRA have all made me more excited about competition in general over the past two years.
Backyard Trails from James Haycraft on Vimeo.
Of all of those (and other options that I'm forgetting) mountain biking has been BY FAR the best "waste" of my time. I use "waste" in quotations because it is not really a waste, per se, but it is not as good as road riding in terms of triathlon physiological equivalents. So, waste was really a terrible word but I would imagine that many a triathlete would potentially see it that way.
It's another bike (woe is me), it's a different type of shoe, it's a different set of "rules" and "etiquette." It involves learning new skills and getting over fear and intimidation. There's a different type of athlete in trail races/training. New places to learn where to park and how to pay, new forums to read, different strangers with whom to interact...etc. It's all very intimidating.
I am fortunate in that I learned the simplest of ropes back in college. I had a mountain bike for one of my years at The College of William and Mary but I honestly didn't use it very often. I feel fairly confident in saying that I pretty much only used it on the campus trails and maybe for one training camp in Harrisonburg. BUT, the important part is that I first dipped my toe into the waters of mountain biking when I was 21-22 years old, which does a lot for getting over the "fear" factor. At that age you are, of course, invincible and capable of doing anything (it's only later that the reality sets in).
WWC Sunday from James Haycraft on Vimeo.
That drop off? Easy. That double? Sure, why not! That loose berm section? Full speed ahead.
I was not particularly good but I tackled it with somewhat reckless abandon, following my WM teammates to the degree I could. Pounding the uphills, losing ground on the downhills and flowy sections, slamming the uphills again. It made for tiring excursions!
But when I started getting back on the mountain bike 8 years later it meant I had already dipped my toe in and I was ready to start again. I was intimidated, but only because I have since realized the fragility of my skin and other body parts. I knew what I was capable of and, generally, what bikes are capable of.
Warrior Creek from James Haycraft on Vimeo.
The hump to get over for most newbies is that their skill levels are far below that of what the bike can actually handle (for the most part). It's easy to be unsure of how much the bike will "take" but today's technology (big tubeless tires, hydraulic disc brakes, 100-120mm travel forks, etc) will make up for a LOT of your own mistakes. It's fairly rare, at least when biking in a "normal" fashion on the trails - i.e. not nailing huge jumps or attempting big obstacles/elements, that the bike is not capable of more than the rider.
Once you get over that mental hurdle and concentrate on picking smooth lines (bumpier = slower) and learning how to use your body weight to help "transfer" and balance the bike you will have learned two of the most important things for trail riding. Then, you will be golden.
It is far easier (for me) to get psyched about riding 2 hours on the trails than 2 hours on the roads, especially in the winter. I may not be getting in a steady, aerobic ride but I am working on my overall bike skill level and am improving my torque "abilities" and my body's proprioception and understanding of its "place" on the bike.
Backyard Trails 120fps experiment from James Haycraft on Vimeo.
Plus, it adds in the whole element of doing XTERRA triathlons! So all of a sudden you have a huge new component you can add to your season. Plus, if you are a mediocre swimmer in road triathlons you will become an FOP swimmer as soon as you do an XTERRA! That part is pretty awesome.
It's also pretty easy to see if you would like mountain biking as the WWC has an entire rental fleet of bicycles and plenty of trail difficulties from which to choose.
WWC 1.19 from James Haycraft on Vimeo.
So, get on the trails.