“An overnight success usually takes 10 years”
That is the favorite quote of one of the athletes I coach. I like the quote for being obviously true and for the values it teaches. Patience and long-term commitment are an integral part of “what it takes”.
But 10 years of doing what? In the first instalment I talked about doing the “right kind of work”. This is an expression that shocks a lot of people. Because nowadays, there is not such a thing as right or wrong. We are told that “protocol” is not important. Go ahead and one season do one thing and the next season something completely different. Do not go beyond your confort zone. Go through a random trial-and-error process to find out what works for you. Take an extended off-season. Do that for 10 years and achieve your overnight success. Good things come to those who wait, right? Wrong! What you do during those 10 years is important and will influence decisively if you achieve your overnight success or not.
Even if triathlon is a relatively young sport, it is been around long enough for plenty of people to have it figured out. Obviously that in the early days some experimenting had to be done in order to find out what worked and what did not work. But that was 10-15 years ago and now there is plenty of people out there that have this sport figured out. And you know who those people are: those that are out there winning races and whoever coaches them.
So you want to get to the next level? In that case, “what it takes” means doing what others at the level you want to achieve are already doing. For the elite athlete the answer is surprisingly simple. It means putting in the work and making the sacrifices that others are already doing. Those that enjoy a lengthy off-season, while they are doing that, someone else is somewhere training for next season, and that someone will beat you. Those that do the same kind of training from year to year, never challenging themselves, never pushing the boundaries, while they are staying within their confort zone, someone else is somewhere challenging him/herself, pushing it, and that someone will beat you. Those that keep working saying that working provides balance to their athletic life, while they are working someone else is somewhere taking a nap or having a massage and that someone will beat you. Those that do not like to travel and like to stay home because things are so much easier, while they are in the confort of their homes someone else is somewhere doing a training camp where it is sunny and warm and that someone will beat you.
At the top of age-group racing, you have both the very talented athlete with limited time to train and the not-so-talented athlete with a lot of time to train. And of course every combination in-between. So finding out what it takes by looking at what the people at the top of the pile are doing can be a very tricky thing to do. The level of competition at age-group level is low enough to have several types of approaches working. Most true elite athletes would be winning their age-group on 10-15 hours/week of training. Does that mean that if you want to achieve success at age-group level you should just be training 10-15 hours/week? Obviously not. So for the age-group athlete, finding out what it takes goes back to the basics that I mentioned in the first part: You go through the process. You put the work in. You commit and you sacrifice. The product of that commitment and that sacrifice will tell you if you have what it takes to achieve your goals.
Do you have what it takes?