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.

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