Monday, 5 December 2011

Looking back on, and learning from 2011

My time since returning from Florida has been pretty relaxed, taking some time off training and spending more time at home and with steven now that both of our racing seasons are over, and we're anticipating our first bit of British wintertime in a few years. It's nice to be in the same home for an extended period and settle into routines that do not entirely revolve around training schedules. For me that has entailed a combination of baking, lie-ins, organising and coaching a Triathlon Skills course at the local leisure centre, but also much time reviewing and discussing the previous year(s), current position and future of my triathlon racing career. I've heard this past-time described as "naval-gazing" hahhaha..but it's an important process which must have a place in the overall process. When things aren't working out as planned, it's essential to acknowledge this, try figure out why and what can be done to get things back onto the correct tradjetory.

So, what's prompted this? Well, I guess I'm wired that way anyway - the engineer geek in me is still pretty active and having diligently tracked my training data all season, at the end of the year I'll do a bit of numerical analysis anyway: basic stuff like swim bike run volume, average weekly training hours, how many days off etc - it gives me something to do between episodes of Masterchef and Live Flesh and batches of experiment baked goods.
This year's numbers actually reveal a lower overall training volume than the last few years have AND less racing than 2010…but I reached the end of the season feeling exceptionally tired and frankly, considering the DNS at Wales and DNF in Florida, not in a fit enough state to race. Considering that the 'classic' symptoms list of an overtrained athlete reads remarkably like my dating site bio would, the apparaent correlation between this lower training vol and my fitness to race should be disregarded. In fact both factors probably stem from the same cause: i was not fit to race for the same reason that I have not been able to maintain the training loads that I would expect to. Overtraining.

Anyone who knows me, my training history and philosophy will not be in the least surprised at this. I have lived by the attitude of more is better - initially, when i was first getting into the sport this was more races - an olympic distance or sprint most weekend through the summer and running races in the winter. I think it was 2005 I raced over 65 times in the year. I did not do a lot to training - I did't really need to! When I decided to move up to long distance my focus had to switch to more (low intensity) training to build up my aerobic endurance. And I did a lot: as far as I was concerned ,more was better and some very good race results proved it, and encouraged this philosophy in me. Most of the people that i raced against and trained with were doing more intensity and a lot less volume. Of course with Scott on board since I became full-time in 2009, and turned Pro in 2010 things have changed - I have some very clear pace and power targets and most of my training is now geared around that …but that underlying high-volume mindset is still there. Founder of Epic Camp, Scott is not known for his minimal approach when it comes to training. When I consider the sort of triathlete that I am and the qualities that will make me successful given that i have no prior background, no 'proper' technical training, or outstanding natural talent in either swimming, cycling or running then it's this mind-set that is my strength: if applied intelligently.

>Having been an endurance athlete for many years and prolific racer, with a higher than average training volume over the last few years I am resilient and have a great track record of being injury-free.
>Whilst I have a tendency to do too much vs. too little, I have a good work ethic & believe its essential to work very hard to succeed
>My perspective on what's possible to do in training is different than most people's due to my own experiences (with Epic Camp, Steven's training, and my own history)

Its not hard to see that with these characteristics, left unchecked I would have a tendency to get into an over-trained state fairly easily.
And I also believe that all of the above characteristics are absolutely essential for finding my potential in this sport.

Doing things different from what's 'conventional' (although, I'm not are that such a thing exists in the context of training to be a professional Ironman athlete) leaves you open to criticism and the barrage of people happily saying "i told you so" when you experience set-backs. But I feel that set-backs of one kind or another are inevitable for everyone ,no matter what your approach, and although they give us short-term frustrations they do provide us with the stimulus and information to re-evaluate and tweak our methods for the better.

Of course the first thing I needed to do was take a break. 3 weeks of less than 10hrs training and with a lot of time on my hands and some damn good reasons to get this figured, I pulled together my complete training history since 2006 and between us, Scott and I have looked for some answers. Things that have worked, lead to good race results and also looking for patterns where race results have been negatively effected. With some patterns identified and an out-line plan, or at least a set of principles, in place: to work within some new constraints whilst aiming to maintain resonance with the positive aspects of characteristics and qualities mentioned earlier, the things that make me tick I'm feeling ready and enthused again to get to work and prepare for my next event - the somewhat daunting challenge of Enduroman Double Ironman ,Lanzarote. It's not ideal timing, but I know that it's possible and I will give myself the very best chance of success there by looking after my training, nutrition and life balance in the meantime.

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