Staying motivated can be half the battle in the pro Athlete world. Vicky Holland describes the end of her unforgettable 2012 season
Sometimes you have to make a tough call, listen to your head and do the right thing for your long-term well-being
After a little time off after the Olympic Games I raced in Stockholm – not in great shape or great health, but feeling incredibly fortunate to be part of the GB team for the mixed relay world championships. With the help of Will Clarke, Non Stanford and a lad from Yorkshire named Jonny, I became a ‘World Champion’! It was incredible and slightly surreal to stand on the top step of the podium for the first time on the world stage, to receive my medal, and hear the national anthem being played for me and my three compatriots. It gave me the extra boost I needed to feel ready to tackle another eight weeks of training and racing. I felt really motivated heading to Arizona to rejoin my training group, and to get both my health and fitness back to the level they had been earlier in the year.
Training in our group changed a fair amount during my month in Arizona. The squad was definitely in a transition phase with some athletes preparing to leave and take a new direction in their careers; some ‘fresh meat’ coming onto the scene; and the inclusion of many long-course athletes – Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack being one as he cracked on with his Kona preparation. The squad had a much more relaxed feel to it and it was certainly a new experience for me to be surrounded by the long-course guys. Some days I would feel tired after having done three hard sessions and still feel lazy because I’d have done half the training those guys had done!
Still, it was a interesting contrast, discussing the differences between the specifics of our events and how we have to prepare differently for the demands of our respective distances. What it didn’t do, though, was make me want to step up any time soon. I love the shorter, sharper, quality sessions – seven-hour bike rides don’t appeal to me just yet!
After a month of intense work I left Arizona for Yokohama to race the WTS event. If I’m honest, the process had been a massive struggle. I’d been absolutely buzzing to get stuck in after our success in Stockholm, but after continued issues with my health (two sets of antibiotics and a cold that hovered over me for the entire month) my confidence, and therefore desire, to continue my season were beginning to dwindle.
We’d planned to go to Hawaii after the Yokohama WTS for two weeks for our final training phase before the Grand Final in Auckland. This, along with a planned holiday in New Zealand and then Dubai after Auckland, was certainly helping me to keep going. In my head, it had been a case of simply making it to Yokohama in half-decent shape, and then the rest of the season would fall into place.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans though, right?! So I arrived in Yokohama to learn that my grandfather had passed away. Then, two days before the race, I picked up a stomach upset. I probably shouldn’t have started but I can be pretty stubborn, and sometimes making the sensible decision feels like quitting, so I raced. Bad move. I had nothing in the tank and had to retire at 7km into the run when I ran out of steam.
Back in my hotel room I allowed myself to openly contemplate the thoughts that had been running through my subconscious for a little while. Should I just go home and leave my season there? Everything was booked and planned, but it seemed like someone was giving me a whole load of reasons to stop. My reasons to carry on weren’t enough to convince me that I could get on top of my health, and to want to tackle the incredibly tough course in Auckland. After talking it over with my coach and some of my closest friends and family, I made the decision. I cancelled everything and booked a flight home. The moment I did it, I knew it was right.
So I ended my season three weeks early, and possibly a month too late, but it was an important lesson for me. Sometimes you have to listen to your head and not your heart and do the right thing for your long-term health and well-being. Honestly, I know I should have made the call weeks earlier but it felt like I was quitting, like I was failing and being ‘soft’. But sometimes, it takes a stronger and more mature athlete to make these decisions and see the bigger picture. I’ll be back in 2013 and I’ll be ready to do battle again.