How do I know if my commitment to training for the Laser Masters Worlds next year is strong enough for me to achieve my goal of finishing in the top half of my age-group fleet?
I started asking myself this because I was struck by the difference between training to run a marathon next year and training for a sailing event. In both sports I have a clear goal but I am much more confident in my running program than in my sailing preparation. My running program comes from a book by Jeff Galloway. The marathon program is a pretty simple formula. Do these runs for 26 weeks and you are prepared to finish a marathon in such and such a time. There are even tables that tell you how to predict your marathon time based on your time to run 5k or a mile.
How much harder it is to plan a training program for a sailing event. Of course one problem is that the nature of my targets in the two sports are very different. In running I am really only competing against myself: can I run a faster time than my previous marathon? But in sailboat racing we are always testing ourselves against other competitors and they are an unknown factor. Who will turn up for the regatta? How hard will they have trained? Will they have improved since the last time we raced together and, if so, by how much?
The running program has workouts designed to develop different skills. Intervals to work on speed. Long slow runs to work on stamina. Races over shorter distances to predict marathon time and also determine the pace to run in other training. And the book tells me exactly which workouts to do when and how fast and how often. How do I know how hard to work on different sailing skills? How much time should I spend on practicing starts vs tacks vs straight line speed? How do I know when I've done enough in this session? How do I even know if I'm practicing a certain skill properly? It's tough to know whether the quality and quantity of training will achieve the desired objective.
Every day when I wake up I know exactly what I need to do in my running program. Today is the distance run. Tomorrow is cross-training. The next day I need to run 45 to 50 minutes. I would like to think that I could do something every day to improve my sailing performance. But how many days a week should I sail? If there is no wind today should I lift some weights or study a sailing DVD or both? There is no set program. No formula for success.
The running program allows time for rest and recovery. One rest day every week to allow the muscles to recover. And as the distance runs become longer in the later weeks of the program there is a mix of weeks with longer and shorter total running times in each week. How do I determine the right pacing in sailing training? How many days a week should I be sailing? Can you do too much sailing? What's the right balance of time spent at regattas vs clinics vs solo practice vs group practice? No book has all the answers.
It has to be fun though, doesn't it? If there were no joy in sailing why would we do it? But is "go out and have as much fun sailing as you can" any kind of formula for success in racing? And if not, what is?
So much uncertainty. So many different ways I could try and improve my sailing performance. Does this sound negative? Have I given you the impression that I enjoy running more than sailing? That the certainty of a formula for training is something I prefer? Nah. None of this is true.
All of this complexity, and variety of ways to train, and options to consider, and uncertainty about the competition... that's what makes sailboat racing the most fascinating, challenging, intriguing, interesting, rewarding game on the plant. At least for me. How about you?