Having had to pull out of DW this year, the obvious question that people have asked is “are you doing DW next year?”. Maybe… A good part of the reason I planned to do DW was to push me into training again. That worked, but now it’s time to have a reassess.
I raced some sprints the other week and really enjoyed it, even if I wasn’t anywhere near as fast as I used to be. You can’t really focus on training for sprints and endurance things like DW at the same time though. So there’s a decision to be made. It's made me look again at what I want to do and think about why I train.
Wanting to paddle fast and win races sounds cool. It’s easy to sit around with friends and hype it up. If you ask anyone if they would like to paddle faster or lift more etc they'll say yes. But when it comes down to it you have to love the grind. 99% of your time is spent training, not racing. When it's time to get out of bed at 6 am you have to want to get up because you like the training not because the multi year goal of winning such and such race sounds cool.
If you break paddling into roughly three categories - 1, sprint - 2, marathon - 3, DW/ultra etc - then you can probably train for sprint + marathon or marathon + DW but trying to cover all three is trying to ride too many horses at once! Marathon appeals the least to me right now, I can't put my finger on why, it just does. Sprint appeals more, I kind of like being in a lane and just having to go fast, there's no blaming a messed up portage or bad tactics, you just have to be the fastest. On the other side of it, I like the long personal challenge type endurance stuff like DW, but I don’t think I would ever be especially good, even if I focused fully on it - long stuff was never my natural strength since I was a kid. But then neither do I expect to be an amazing sprinter so really it comes down to what I enjoy the most.
I love training and I feel so much better when I’m training daily. Being out on a river where there's no chance of grabbing your phone and checking Twitter or getting a message is a wonderful way to de stress. I think get most of the benefits people talk about getting with meditation you can get from training as well. The same goes for gym if I focus properly and don’t keep playing on my phone between sets… When you’re having a bad day and work is a nightmare knowing you got a good session in is a great feeling. However bad the rest of the day went, you got that session done or got a new PB and that can’t be taken away from you.
Knowing I have a race makes me tighten up my focus, I’m always competitive so I hate the thought that I didn’t get everything out of a session. If I knew I would never race again I wouldn’t care much that I short stroke on the left but because I will race again every time I’m warming up I think about it to try and improve it. Racing also makes me focus and do the sessions I don’t like, which will make me better. I like the hard deadline and the pressure and since I’m training on my own I don’t have the competitive group environment to push me. On the days when I don’t want to get out of bed having a race is the kick I need.
Fundamentally I prefer training for sprint than long endurance training. I enjoy it more while actually doing the training and I feel better the rest of the day, more alert rather than drained like after a long paddle. I like doing heavy gym. I like doing start sessions. I’m not going to be getting paid, I’m doing it because I like it, so why ignore that… So I’m going to train for sprint for now. That could sound like flip flopping but it's not (not that changing your mind is a bad thing if it’s for a legitimate reason!).
I committed to DW to make me train and fall back in love with it, and that worked (even if I ended up not being able to race). Now I just want to focus on the training that I like more. I still think I’ll do some longer races, e.g. DW, but they will be more for the challenge. Also, I think if I can paddle a sub 3:50 1000m if I add a handful of long sessions is I’ll be just fine doing long races.
Paddling isn't my number 1 priority like it used to be, but it’s to be back doing it regularly again. I’ll be racing sprint this year and aiming to get back to somewhere near to my previous speed, but really I’m just stoked to go training!