After taking two weeks off at the end of September, I have already jumped back into training for 2014 and the first week is now behind me. During my time off I took some time to reflect on the last season. Whether I make this public or not, this is something I do every year. Some things are more clear in hindsight than they were at the time and everyone must learn from these moments in order to continue to improve in the future.
I had just two goals to start out the season. Unlike many athletes, I do not define my goals in terms of how far I want to throw or what place I want to finish. I simply identify what I need to do to get better and then focus on that. After the 2012 season I was physically in the best shape of my life but I couldn’t translate that into the throw. Therefore my first goal was clear: my technique needed to get better. My only other goal related to my priorities for competitions. Rather than trying to hit a peak for the Swiss Championships, I wanted to shift my peak to the Jeux de la Francophonie this year. Having a later peak allowed me more time to prepare and hopefully reach better performances. With those two goals I started out towards the 2013 season.
A Look Back at the Season
In order to reach my first goal, I started seeking some outside technical input here in Switzerland. I immediately saw technical improvement in the Fall and continued to hit some great training marks into the early winter. An unusually harsh winter slowed progress after New Year’s, but I got back on track with a good spring training camp in Italy and started the summer season well ahead of schedule with a throw of 65.27 meters.
I would love to say that I continued on the same path and I ended up with a huge personal best by the end of the year. But that wasn’t the case. One week later I injured my left index finger playing basketball and that left me with pain that lasted two months. While the injury should not have been an excuse, I let it become one. I could train through the pain without causing any further damage, but I also let the pain become my focus rather than keeping my focus on technique. I was also training alone once again as the summer arrived. As my finger improved, my technique and results started to drop off.
Even after my finger was back to normal my focus was still lost. First we had family visit us and travel around Switzerland for 10 days. Then we spent two weeks in the US visiting friends and other relatives. Both times I could continue to train, but my training was not as focused as it should have been. In hindsight I was going through the motions at some points of the summer. I finally returned to Switzerland in mid-August with four final weeks to prepare for my big meet. My focus was back by then, but now I was unable to train since our facility was closed. I tried to do as much training as possible, but wasn’t able to keep up with my plan for the season. By the end of the season I reached neither goal: my technique regressed and I missed my peak for the Jeux de la Francophonie.
I stuck around Nice after the competition to take advantage of the good weather and training facilities. This confirmed that the problem was mostly a matter of timing. I slowly rounded into shape and then hit a season’s best five training sessions in a row in mid-September. I also added a personal best with the light 5-kilogram hammer. After returning to Zurich I was able to find one small meet, but there were so many competitors and delays that we literally threw in the dark and I wasn’t able to extend my personal best. The only other meet was another two and a half weeks off. With our training facility still closed I knew I could not hold my form that long. I decided to call it a season and start getting ready for next year.
Analysis: What Went Wrong
This isn’t the first time that my season has derailed. It also happened in 2012 under different circumstances. Then a big project at work sucked up all my time and replaced it with stress. I thought the issue then was simply my job, so I made sure my hours were better this year. But that didn’t help since the main problem was with focus: both years I was able to do all my training but in both cases my focus was consumed by something else. No matter what the circumstances that come up in the future I need to make sure my focus on the details remains clear at each single training session.
Analysis: Looking Forward
I will need something big in 2014. The European Championships will be hosted here in Zurich. Not only will it be my best chance to qualify for an international championship, but it is also a chance to throw in front of a home crowd in Letzigrund stadium for the first time. But it will not be easy. Not only is life getting more complex as I get older, but history tells us that chances for a big breakthrough after the age of 30 are less and less likely.
But on the other hand as I get older I gain more experience. Looking back at a season is useless unless you learn from your mistakes and improve them in the future. This season did not go well, but I have learned two main things from it: (1) as long as I have a place to train (which will not be a problem next year) I know my training plan will peak me for the right time; and (2) I just need to sharpen my focus so that I can get the most out of it and not lose sight of my technical goals. To accomplish this I have a few changes in mind for both my technique and training. But I’ll save those for my next training update.