Tuesday, 28 September 2010

LAX

a short sunrise run around the perimeter fence of LAX preceded an almighty (but healthy) buffet breakfast in the hotel where we are layed-over. we have an hour or so to digest that before embarking on another round of baggage hauling to check-in for teh onward flight to honunlulu. Packing 'light' for 5 month trip in to include 4 races in three different climates still weighs in at about 50kg exc. hand luggage. Still, its been a good journey so far and having a night's break 2/3 through really helps with adjusting to the time difference, and gives the opportunity for a proper sleep, a short run, some stretching, shower and decent meal so we'll arrive in Kona this evening late but in a much fitter state than having done the journey nonstop.

i'm feeling both excited and nervous about our arrival there. this year there will be so many of our triathlete friends there with us - many of them staying in the brilliantly located but lower budget Kona Seaside hotel that we've used each time we have been and recommended to all. but on the other hand its kind of scary to know how great shape everyone is in...when i feel kinda doubtful about myself. i guess everyone feels a little like this once they get to the point where they're on the plane and there really is little that can be actively done now to improve form - one starts recalling those bad training days. and since budapest, there have been a few. i did find it fairly hard to get myself going again after that trip, where i let my hair down a little and at the same time hurt my foot. for the days of that this break provided i think that the foot flare-up reminded my body that she's done a lot already this year and the poor carcass is feeling weary. this is most notable on the bike - all of my riding since Budapest has been on the QR, mostly flat ( as far as you can in somerset) and mostly race specific sessions. For the last year i've been basing my efforts on HR (all change post Kona now that I have a new PowerTap!!) which works fine for me - until i get a bit training weary. and find that i'm just having to operate at HR 5-10 beats off the bottom of my target range. Of course this can be very tough mentally - to keep trying to push the effort for 90 min when it hurts but the little voice is saying 'look, you cant even get close to race HR, you should go home and back to bed...' to which my usual reaction is ' look, little voice, i'll just do the 90 in then we'll have a coffee, see how we feel about the next rep?" it usually works, especially when accompanied by a gob-full of caffeine infused carbs ( chocolate PowerbarGel!) and although not really a tactic that i can use on race-day, it gets me through it. That, my techno sound tracks and the absolutely beautiful september weather that we had doen in teh Southwest.

Strangely, despite this flatness on the bike, my swimming is feeling strong and my running also. I've leaned down a bit and i can feel the difference whenever i run. Sunday i did a local 10k race - the end of a 30hr training week, 5hr bike/run session the day before, i had all my excuses made. But i don't think i have ever run 10k in under 38 min so 38:11 with a sprint finish (HR reached 195bpm, close to my max) was quiet a pleasing time. 25 M&S voucher prize too. hope that keeps till next march :o)

this week will be a bit of fun catching up with people and settling into a routine in Kona - i'll ride the course later in the week, and swim the 3.8km at some point ...I think i may have to be careful about going out training with otehr people too much, just try to stay relaxed and not get caught up in too much of that pre race speculation and anxiety that can spread so easily through a group of competitive people!

Friday, 17 September 2010

FPro - the first year

Feet up in an apartment, hiding from the torrential rain at another race venue ( there have been so many this year) – this time Budapest and this time I’m not out there racking my bike in an overflowing car park. I’m here to my sister as she represents team GB in the ITU world champs. We’ve just watched Alistar Brownlee take the elite men’s world title race by a very narrow margin from Gomez, but all the action for our EverydayTraining athletes, old Tri London club-mates and other friends on team GB is tomorrow. Not quite the sunny European, strudel and strong lager oriented weekend I’d planed for this end-of-2010-season/birthday break – the small matter of an unexpected Kona qualification slot, not to mention the reality of Hungarian weather, has somewhat changed things in that regard – but it is a chance to relax a enjoy a world beyond my own training for a couple of days. However, whilst ‘my ‘ athletes are out racking their bikes this evening, I find my mind returns quickly to my own training, state of fitness, body composition,, diet, level of fatigue….to expectation for Kona, winter travel/training plans, future race possibilities….and finally putting all of this into context with some reflection on the year so far.

This time last year, having had a disappointing race at The Vitrvian, we were settling into Club La Santa with Rachel for a fortnight pre Kona Camp. My expectations for that race were very high. The reality of my fitness/fatigue levels may not have warranted those expectations, and frankly it was a disappointing result, but that’s all experience gained. And to follow that, my first year of Pro-dom has really been focused around that theme (of experiences gained, that is – not disappointing results!) – a year on my feelings toward the impending Ironman World Championships is quite a different matter. To begin with, I genuinely had only dreamt that I’d get a start there ,let alone taken time to consider the scale of the terror that accompanied the realization of that dream! To say that I have ‘no expectations’ for this race may be misinterpreted as an expectation of an unremarkable or disappointing race and lack of confidence in myself. Not so; I simply mean that I come into the event without any real concept of how I’ll measure up on this stage. The structure of the race for me, with a clear 15 min start in amongst a group of the world’s very strongest triathletes, will be quite a different race experience for a start. I know that my strengths come later in the race – so it’s going to be all about racing fast but smart for the first 7 hours and will be a good deal more about my mentality than my racing instincts. This year Kona represents a valuable learning opportunity and I consider it a privilege to be on that same circuit as almost all of my triathlon role-models. I do have my own personal performance goals, of course – but most important to me though is to make the most of the day and use it as a chance to really validate the hard work, hopes and hardships of the year that has been, not to mention the faith and support that I have received from those around me along the way.

The period since Kona 2009 has seen a few ups and downs, and as a result different (unplanned) phases. First, a return to Christchiurch New Zealand where we quickly re-settled back into a familiar routine of consistent heavy training. Soon followed by my first major injury, a stress fracture, which prevented me from running from janurary to march. Of course at the time with my debut Professional Ironman race looming this was a major set-back. Now, I look back and see a fabulous period of cycling, including riding end to end of new Zealand on an amazing Epic Camp and a timely dose of reality concerning sensible training loads. Withdrawing from a big race and having to face up to a diet of restricted running for the first months of the year, it also provided me with a 6 month block of training uninterrupted by races. The latter part of the 2010 season was quite a contrast, with 3 Ironman races plus two halves in 4 different countries within a 10-week period, I did very little training at all through june and july.

Bewildering and exhausting at times, the racing was so much fun and it’s very nice to only beat yourself up once a week and chill in hotel rooms in between! To my surprise, I got stronger and stronger through this phase, gaining confidence from the very rapid learning I was doing on the pro race circuit and drawing on the solid winter preps I’d invested. This is certainly not how I’d envisaged the year, but in retrospect I couldn’t say WHAT I had envisioned for the year. Quite unlike the previous seasons, I genuinely had no clear goals or expectations. It worked out well for me and the experiences and adaptations that were required along the way were probably just as useful as the training hours that I put in. It wouldn't have happened like this had it not been for the very difficult period at the start of the year - and i'd be none the wiser.

Having no real set (race) goals or expectations for the year has really enabled me to be flexible and enjoy the processes and well as the out comes. Through that i have learned some more about long term motivation, both for my own use and as something that i can try to pass on to those who follow my coaching advice. I still hold that specific goal setting is important - and this does provide chief motivation for some people -however, my belief is that its once we learn to appreciate, even savour, the processes that we can really move forwards towards our long term goals.