Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cape Town Out- Florida In

Well, it has been an eventful week in my life and not so much in ways that i'd wish for. Learning of the cancellation of Challenge cape town was a real gut-blow for me on Tuesday evening. After a hectic day training, packing and making sure work was all tied up before left, I was checking my emails before relaxing over an early supper with Steven, ready to depart early the next morning. A contact in Cape town had heard a 'rumour' that the race was cancelled. I thought it was a joke at first, but steven encouraged me to check it out. Less than an hour later I hung up the phone to the race director, who had confirmed that, yes, they were pulling the event.

An upset like this had a pretty big impact on me, but it was whilst on the phone to my travel insurers that I made me realize that on the whole, I have very little stress in my life. Sure, there are things that I worry about, commitments that may put pressure on my time, and things do not always work out as I'd like them to - but on the whole I 'choose' most of my problems myself. So, my insurance was not going to cover the costs of the cancellation of this trip. What the hell reasons would it cover then? I asked, infuriated. Well, serious illness, death of a family member, fire or burglary of your home, being called to go and serve at war...she began to explain. Oh. OK, Thanks. I hung up feeling less hard done by with my situation after all.

Ok, I'd invested a lot of money, focused the last month of my life and had my heart set on this race. That was one thing that was bugging me, sure. I was also feeling was bummed out that I'd not raced at Ironman Wales in order to preserve my health and be able to train effectively for this one, passing up a good earning opportunity there I'd also let myself and my sponsors down with that DNS. I knew it was the right call at the time, despite criticism from some quarters, but it suddenly felt like a poor 'career' choice.

However, you can only base your decisions on the information that you have at the time, and everything was going to plan with a nice 5-week block of good health very solid training in the bag since then. I was feeling sharp and ready to get our an finish my season with a couple of weeks in the sun, training in cape town with some very helpful contacts that I'd set up there prior to a tough and exciting destination race. So, news of the cancellation really knocked the wind out of me ...but immediately Steven and I started thinking - where can I go race?

I scoured the events calendars online and with not a lot happening within Europe at this time of year, my choices were Ironman Florida, Arizona, Cozomel. All were coming up soon, so a rapid decision needed to be made, and none would be cheap. The other option was "Or not". Cut my losses and call it a year.

The night was spent sleeplessly running through options in my mind. Wednesday I got up, having slept little, and headed out for a ride. It was sunny, since I was "supposed" to be on a plane over Africa all day, I had nothing at all to do. I also had no idea what I was going to be doing with myself for the next 3 weeks, so iI'd take the opportunity to ride with no 'plan', no targets, no time limits and a few quid in my pocket incase a coffee stop seemed appropriate. Getting out on my bike often enables me to get things in a better perspective; sometimes I'll use the time to think things over, other times it simply enables me to clear my mind and enjoy the feeling of being physically tired and more relaxed at the end of the ride. Steven and I went for a meal, a few drinks and chatted about things we had to catch up on, and a bit about plans for next year. No decisions made, feeling even more exhausted and with a big meal and much wine in side me (far less in the kick-ass racing shape than I had 48 hours previous)...and leaning even further towards the economically obvious option: winter down.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling 80% convinced that I'd made my decision. Frankly I could do without all the hassle and cost of arranging another race, let alone deciding where,and that would be it for 2011. I had lots to look forward to in 2012....but somehow, even though there was a lot of 'sense' in this choice, I felt very disspointed. Afterall - I am a professional triathlete and racing triathlons is what I "do" - what sort of go am i making of this career if I don't race? Not a good one.

There was an e-mail from Ironman Pro Registration telling me that, given the circumstances, my late entry to Ironman Florida had been accepted. A rush of excitement. Florida had been my last choice of the three races - low kona points, low prize purse, dead flat course that really did not appeal....but the dates matched my planned race weekend and other commitments and ...this felt right.

At that point I realized that I had been far too much influenced by the costs.....and that i'd lost sight of what really motivates me. I guess that this had been the case for most of the year. Perhaps it's even why I've not raced as well as I should. The reality is that that the chance of me winning enough by racing to even cover my costs is low in most situations. Fortunately, although I am a professional athlete and racing triathlons is my 'job', the racing is not my only source of income. In fact the sponsorship and prize money I get is a very small part of my income, so although it is tempting to think I could earn a few extra bucks to upgrade my computer or get a bit of kit it's never a question of paying rent or putting food on the table and therefore the money is not my main motivation. Racing well, and representing myself well, is. And if that means packing and unpacking my bike 3 times in 2 weeks.....(my most hated task ever!) then so be it!

Monday, 10 October 2011

home life

this is the longest spell that i have been located in one place in the last 3 years! apart from a 10 day trip to Morzine in july, and a week in Tenby this spell in taunton has really given me a chance to establish a some great training routines and set up a few 'projects' both at home and in the local community.

at home my small scale agricultural projects have delivered disappointing harvest but useful learning experience and real enjoyment. Actually i am quite proud of my slow-starting chilli crop, though desperately jealous of my neighbours far superior tomatoes. they really DO need to be watered everyday, apparently. Needy things!
since it'll be a winter ( mostly) here, my next project is likely to be the construction of a 'cold' frame and of course the home-brewing!!

outside of domestic life i have been enjoying the chance to get more involved in the local triathlon community. with steven having been away quite a lot through the summer, it has been nice to have some company in my week and although the great proportion of my training is still solitary and specific, and during working hours there are a few club sessions that i have tailored into my own schedule. this is partly about access to facilities, part about suitable training company and motivation during tough weeks and part as a way into the local scene, which will be of real benefit through the winter and also, ultimate to my coaching business.

i do not make any attempt to push my services whilst out training with the clubs, but i am now coaching four local athletes as a result of getting to know people, sharing the experiences of my triathlon life and sometimes a little advice. whilst the work is still mostly done via email and online, it's nice to see these guys and girls out and have first hand experience of their training routes and environment.

i'm not quite sure how it happened, but i must have had a quiet week or afternoon and seem to have taken on the tasks of setting up and delivering a couple of beginners courses in conjucntion with Tone Leisure and the Somerset RC Tri club.

you may have seen my Facebook page for The Taunton Ladies Cycling Club (do me a favour and "like" it, please!!) - this started off as an idea in response to a lack of a slower club ride more suitable for some of the girls in the club, and has developed into a combined bike skills and fitness development course with one of the personal trainers at my gym. She offers a special fitness spin class during the week, whilst i run a 45 min session covering basic bike handling, group riding and a few mechanical tips before leading out a very gentle (for now) short ride. our hope is that after the initail 8 week course, we have established a network of local ladies of similar ability who will continue to meet on a sunday morning to ride together.

meanwhile, more triathlon specific and aimed at a slightly more advanced level, myself and another of the Tri Club's enthusiastic members , Sarah are in the process of finalizing details of a 12 week " triathlon for beginners and improvers course" which will commence in November, after my return from Challenge Cape town. This is not intended to be an advert (although I WILL write up some details on this too in due course!) but i suppose it's a demonstration that if left unsupervised, this is where my attentions will tend to wander.

it's not very PRO-like, I know, and i have been criticized for taking too much on (true at times) and "giving too much of my energy away". whilst it's possibly true that i'm creating more distraction in my life than is good for my training and racing performance, it's clear to me that i have a need for this type of project and involvement. This was true back when i was in Tri London, too - i quickly became not only the race captain, but one of the club and committee's key active members. It could be i'm just a busy body and want to see things done my way, but i think that there's a lot more to it than that. whilst being the best that i can personally be in this sport, is important to me and i am motivated by this in itself, there are other reasons for my commitment to this career, and one of them is being able to motivate, advise and even inspire others. Satisfying this provides the balance that is required in my life to enable me to train hard and race well.

It has to be said that since giving up the day job, traveling the world and chasing the dream of being a Pro Triathlete, It;s a whole different scenario from being the star of the club and being rewarded with accolades and trophies after each race. I'm not only finding renewed value in what i can offer and how i can influence others by sharing my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for the sport, but also gaining a sense of having found a place in this new community. it seems that, despite generally being regarded by those close to me as fairly anti-social, there is a level where i need to have connections with people.