Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Change of Seasons: Moving on from Team Z

"Remember, when God closes a door, he makes lemonade."  
-Servant of Two Masters, Shakespeare Theatre Co.


In late 2007, just a couple of years into my triathlon career, I was fortunate enough to join Team Z, an amazing community of triathletes of all levels of ability.  Back then, I think the team might have been 100-strong, but now it numbers well over 500 athletes, a glowing testament to the effectiveness of the training program, the welcoming atmosphere, and the way it's changed lives for the better.  Although it is not an Ironman-focused team, I believe that over 700 Team Z athletes have completed Ironman races since Ed founded the team around 2005.  Many of those Ironmen had no athletic background and could never have imagined what they were capable of with a little belief coupled with proper preparation.

I'm one of those success stories.  When I joined the team, I'd never done a Vo2-max test to establish training zones, nor had I trained in a group environment.  I had finished two Ironman races, but I lacked direction and felt as if I spent an inordinate amount of time on my bike, by myself, in the middle of nowhere.  The team changed all of that for the better.  I met some amazing people, started training according to scientifically proven principles, and improved markedly in all three disciplines.  

How the time has flown.  I've now been part of the team for approaching five years, and over that span, I progressed from being a relative neophyte to becoming a mentor to newer athletes and leader on the team.  I helped to design and lead several clinics that have been successfully incorporated into the team's remarkable educational structure, and I facilitated the creation of a periodic cycling time trial series that allowed athletes to test themselves in a consistent and relatively controlled environment.  I've also delighted in giving advice every now and then to athletes facing certain daunting events, such as the Mountains of Misery ride.  I'd like to think that, in some small way, these efforts have helped to repay the team for everything it's given me in the last few years.

In recent times, however, I've found myself being increasingly drawn to novel athletic challenges and approaches to training.  I've raced first-year Ironman races in places like Wales that haven't aligned with the team race calendar, and lately I've been dipping my toes into the ultracycling world, a discipline that requires its own type of training.  Moreover, as a self-coached athlete, I've treated myself as something of a physiology experiment with n=1, adopting different philosophies and approaches over time in the effort to keep things fresh and interesting.  The result has been that, in small increments that have added up to something larger, I've found myself becoming less active in the team's training and racing environment.  I've enjoyed leading clinics and providing guidance even while forging my own path athletically, but recently I've come to realize that I've had my feet in two different worlds that have been drifting apart.  I therefore made the difficult decision this week to separate from Team Z, and to chart a new direction.

I don't know what's next for me.  Regardless, though, much as one always remembers one's first love, I'll always think back on my time with Team Z with great fondness.  I'm a strong believer in the coaches, the mission, and, most important, the amazing athletes who drive each other to make the most of their talents.  I hope to keep in touch with the friends I've made, and to continue helping people in whatever way I can.  I'll always cheer for the green jerseys.