Its nice to be in England as summer slowly creeps up on us, although I must admit I had forgotten how much it rains here, even on the warmest sunniest day, clouds suddenly appear and the heavens open to soak the unsuspecting. The beautiful green of the countryside along with bright early mornings and long warm evenings have been very nice, however the temptation to sit in the back garden with a beer while enjoying the sun has been a bit of an issue and training has slowed quite noticeably from the cold grotty days of winter and spring.
Of course one big reason for the rather lazy approach to training has been the postponement of my main target race from early July to mid-September (by way of early September), and once that urgency was removed I lost much of the drive to keep hard at it. Another point that was dragging me down was realising my race was going to be a) basically turn up, do it and get out, much the way many races in the times of Covid have been, with very little atmosphere, and basically no “bonding” with either other athletes or the amazing supporters, and b) as this was northern Spain, I wasn’t even going to have the pleasure of a friend or acquaintance racing with me, so really would be very sterile event. While I was OK to train and race, I had no real drive to push myself to do my best when I knew it was just going to be me, and it was much more about just getting it done. That can make it hard to make the effort to give up on the “fun stuff” when tired or when other more tempting things appear (that includes healthy living as well as training).
About the same time as I was mulling all of this, my tri club in Tokyo started murmuring about a mid-November road trip to the Cozumel Ironman in Mexico. Many more races in Asia have been cancelled this year due to Covid compared to US or Europe, so there has been a lot of frustration at another year of non-racing. One of our better organized members and a Kona qualifier is wonderful chap from Mexico called Ernesto, and he let us know more about the Cozumel race, including the beautiful course and the amazing party like atmosphere both during and after the race, but maybe more importantly, the fact that not one race in Mexico had been cancelled due to Covid. His enthusiasm was infectious especially the bit about a few post race Tequilas and many of us have started to consider the opportunity! Initially I had kind of dismissed it as it seemed so far away and would be expensive, but on doing further research it became clear that apart from a long flight, it was really easy to access and pricing for travel and stay was actually cheaper than doing Spain (especially if your team mate knows someone managing a fancy hotel next to the course so can get multiple rooms at excellent prices). I had a few calls and emails with fellow TiTs (that is Triathlon in Tokyo members for any who maybe confused), and the excitement for the race really seems to be brewing. Ernesto has already booked a bunch of rooms and is organising a WhatsApp group, and even though I have yet to sign up, I believe its very likely I will.
(As a side note, I haven’t really discussed with family either as I feel that me going to Mexico won’t necessarily go down well with those stuck at home, but as none of them reads this blog anyway, feel its safe to let my thoughts out here)
This whole thing, the Covid cancellations, injuries, races being moved around and changed, and ending up spending so much time alone really made me realise – even for an unsocial, anxiety ridden, slow and unskilled guy like me, who generally is happy to train indoors alone than out with others, who struggles to make conversation without a drink in my hand but can’t drink as don’t have the will power to stop, even for me the social aspect of the racing is really important, and training in a vacuum sucks. Having others who we can share our common goals and training with, our highs and lows, our achievements and failures, our fun and our distress, if only by text or social media, is a huge driver and makes the whole thing from start to finish so much more than a simple physical activity. It keeps us honest, gives us the motivation to get out and train and makes those extra efforts less of a struggle when we have a likeminded colleague with whom we can discuss all the boring details, find excuses for our failures and celebrate each little success. We need the support, encouragement, competition and friendship of our fellow athletes, and that makes up a huge part of the enjoyment of any sport, whether team or individual based.
So I am in in a holding pattern at the moment, have a month or so left in Europe before heading home to Japan for the first time in over half a year. I have until the end of this week to choose whether to stick or twist on Ironman Vitoria, so expect to make my decision on my next race very soon. And the biggest factor in that decision is something I had forgotten about, and that’s the human factor, the power of a shared goal, something that’s been missing since before the whole pandemic hit.