Thursday, 3 February 2011

reasons to race - and finding perspective

After Wanaka Steven and I took a proper holiday touring around some of the classic tourist spots in the south island. We made a pact to leave our laptops switched off for 5 days - and survived! We visited Milford sound, did a little kayaking there and then returned to Wanaka (which I preferred on account of it being a lot warmer and drier!) for a couple of days and did a cruisy ride over the Crown Range. I had a bit of time to explore the walking tracks around the lake, leaving Steven in the 3D maze at puzzling world! bless 'im. I've also had plenty of time to reflect on the race, and my performance there.

There are many reasons for me to race - but the most important and motivating is the belief that it's an opportunity to achieve one of my goals. At the start of the day in Wanaka, I was deep down seeing many reasons why the day would not turn out that way for me. Getting paid is also a goal of course, and i was fairly confident off that outcome in this case, but it's just not enough to really get me fired up into race-mode. Later on in the day, I began to realize that although the conditions were horrible, I have previously excelled in races where the conditions have been extremely tough - but the point is that I was not believing that on the start line, and that effected my whole experience. Might have even effected the outcome of my race.

Part of this is an underlying feeling that I'm close to raced out. I had a very fun and exciting period of racing from May to August last year, where every race just seemed to get better for me. I'd put in a long consistent winter block of training prior to the start of the season, and then continued to build specific fitness as I raced through the summer. The highlight for me was qualifying for Kona at IM UK - though that did mean one more race 6 weeks later, rather than the planned break from sept - oct before preparing for Ironman WA in December. Of course there was no question of tuning this opportunity down and i gave it no thought at all as I signed the cheque for my Kona entry!

The World Champs was amazing experience but frankly, a disappointing performance - certainly after the high of IMUK. Looking back I feel that this was the start of the next period in my year - one of regular racing through the fatigue that I'd accumulated during the summer without a chance to fully alleviate it in the short turn-around between races. Kona, IMWA and Wanaka were all great experiences for various reasons, and this period has been beneficial for me as an athlete but non of them did I feel I'd raced any better than 'OK". There are many reasons to race, as i've said, and gaining experience, developing and refining race strategies, course and race venue/organisation familiarity, and sponsor exposure are all very useful at this stage in my career, as well as the physical strength that this regime will have built in me. However, this must be balanced against the overriding drive towards those personal goals - and at the end of the day: enjoyment and long-term health.

It's been a long time since there hasn't been an imminent race on the horizon, and no matter how many you do - racing an Ironman IS a big deal and I still get nervous thinking about the next one, become preoccupied with what's best for that race rather than the longer term training plan. So, my feeling is that it's time to move into a new phase - and therefor Taupo is in the balance. I do have an entry and I admit, I think that it sounds terrible not to be fully commited to the event, but that's the reality of racing as a professional and trying to make a living out of the sport, especially in the early phase of a career. There are so many opportunities to race now, and we do have the luxury of being able to get a relatively late entry - but I had to make my decision just days after Wanaka and before I could really assess how well I'd recover from that and set about preparing for the next one 6 weeks later. Having made the decision that i do have the option NOT to race IM NZ, i'm freshly motivated by some focus on skills and specifics, with more recovery and freshening up for each session for the next month or so. Already I'm feeling the benefits of this and if this continues then chances are good that by march I'll be feeling great and ready to race - and be on the line at Taupo, but for now I'm not thinking that far ahead.

What else? well, since returning to ChCh, getting back online and having a bit more time with less training to do, I've been keeping myself busy arranging he logistics for our EverydayTraining Camp which is coming up in April. It's our first experience of organizing something on this scale and it's a pretty rapid learning curve, but most of the details are now in place. We have some great nutritional support thanks to Powerbar, athlete's recovery will be taken care of by For Goodness Shakes and they'll have their aching bodies cared for by The TriTouch. The accommodation is a friendly hotel that we've been using as our training base in Peurto del Carmen for years, and we have some great crew coming along to give Steven and I some back-up during the week. The next phase is the fun part - detailing the camp schedule!

I've been spending a little more time with my coach Scott, taking about future plans and training ideas, and this week has seen me back in the gym, back with the swim squad and backing off the ride/run volume a bit. I'm doing well with my diet, thanks in part to Ali's veggie patch, and this combined with my return to gym work is seeing me trim up a little already. I have a sort of love/hate thing with the gym - in that i've never really liked training indoors and never really look forward to my workouts - but find them strangely addictive and usually enjoy it once I'm there. I do find that for me, gym-work really seems to kick-start my metabolism and i seem easily trim up and gain definition on my return to regular gym routine. I can be a bit of a meat-head too, and when I read about Gordo's Big Steel Challenge or January, although I'm starting it late I've started tracking the weight of steel I'm shifting in a session. I reckon i'll easily move 350 tonnes this month.

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