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Taking a Year Off From Rowing

January 28, 2012

I guess I should admit to myself that I’ve basically decided to take the year off from on-the-water rowing. I still have to get comfortable with the decision, but I’ve basically made the decision. And really, I could see this decision coming for a long time. Before I registered for the Ironman, I already knew it might require giving up rowing for a year. And I decided I was okay with that, in theory at least. I have more time flexibility now that I will in the next several years, so this is a better time to pursue the Ironman. Eric told me “rowing is your bread and butter, you can always go back to that in the future.”

And yet, I persisted in believing that maybe, just maybe, I could somehow still do some rowing this year. Rowing is the sport that transformed me from a couch potato to an athlete. It’s been a central part of my life for almost ten years now. Photos and medals from rowing decorate my walls. My desktop background on my laptop is from crew practice last year. I think my dedication to rowing has played a key role in achieving success in other areas of my life as well. So maybe, just maybe, I could still row this year.

The Ironman isn’t until November. So I reasoned that maybe I could at least row in the spring. Rowers are some of the best athletes in the world for a reason — the sport demands a similar combination of strength and endurance to triathlons. So a lot of the base training would cross-over. I knew I couldn’t keep rowing through summer and fall, but spring, maybe?

But this past weekend, we began talking about coaching costs for the Ironman. And I realized even if I could make the time for spring rowing, there’s no way I can afford both sports (okay, I guess I realized this before, but I was forced to confront it in real numbers). I’m going to be stretching the budget to pay for coaching for the Ironman alone. And rowing is expensive in its own right. Sure, when I ran marathons in the past I was fine without a coach. But for the marathons I didn’t care about my time, I just wanted to have fun and finish them. So it wasn’t critical to have a perfect training plan. The Ironman is a different beast. Doing it fast would be nice. But even just finishing will require a lot more work than just finishing a marathon. Even just finishing the Ironman might require coaching.

So it came down to a question of priorities. Marathons might have been “on the side” in past years. But the Ironman is not on the side. My whole training schedule is devoted to this one race. And so the decision was easy… at least it was easy in the sense of I know what I have to do. It’s not easy to accept. Part of me is still fighting against it. I love rowing. And sure, rowing on the erg will be a big part of my training, especially right now before I start an Ironman-specific plan. But I’ll miss rowing on the water.

I know it’s worth the tradeoff. I know in the long-run, I’ll be glad I took the year off of rowing to really do the Ironman right. Maybe in the future, if I ever do an Ironman again (some people would say when I decide to an Ironman again), I’ll be at a point that I’m comfortable fitting in some rowing as well (especially if I learn to scull, and can do that on my own time). But right now, I have a lot to learn about triathlon, and just really need to focus on that. I need to learn more about each sport individually, especially the swimming, but also about how to fit the three together. And as Eric said, I’ll always have rowing, and can go back to it next year. It’s not going anywhere. I might be a little rusty after a year off, but every spring everyone is a little off after spending winter indoors, so I won’t be much worse off for the extra time away.

So I’m recommitting myself to focusing all my training energy on the Ironman this year. I’m still playing with trying to run a marathon in mid-April or early May, just for fun. I might be able to get away with that, if it’s before serious Ironman training picks up. But after that, I think I probably won’t even be doing marathons this year (well, until that marathon at the end of Ironman Arizona anyways…). But come that day in mid-November, I know it will all be worth it!

295 days till Ironman Arizona.

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