'Its a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to' - J.R.R. Tolkien.
Dull, a Scottish village is twinned with Boring in Oregon, America. True fact. picture evidence above. Good sense of humour by Dull and Boring.
We liked Dull, but the village of Brill, found somewhere in Southern England, we can't quite remember where exactly, makes one feel slightly more optimistic and jovial than Dull.
The 2018 triathlon season has kicked off. I have yet to do a triathlon but I have dusted off the racing cobwebs with two events. The British Elite Duathlon Championships (5km run-20 bike-5km run) and Circuit of the Dales 50 mile Time Trial. It's still a bit early to be thinking about combining all 3 triathlon disciplines, I am easing myself in gently.
My top take away's from these season openers:
"Argh my legs, this feels horrific"
Some of the less explicit thoughts running through my head during the 2nd 5km run at the British Elite Duathlon Champs at Bedford Aerodrome on Sunday March 25th.
I was pretty deflated with finishing 11th.
And then I opened a can of perspective;
- I ran a 17.43 first 5km. (10 seconds short of my all time 5km pb)
- I had a good smash on the bike with friend Hannah Drewett, entering T2 in 4th.
Yes, I then plummeted like a lead balloon, legs said no, and it was backwards from there, from 4th to 11th was pretty gutting.
Take another sip from the can of perspective.
- It was no surprise my legs died in the final 5km run, I have done no specific training for this, a short hard run-bike and another run was totally alien to my body.
It was actually a pretty good performance.
- I ran a 17.43 off a winter of consistent steady running, a handful of longer road reps, hills and tempo running but no fast work. I think my legs have hit sub 4min/km once or twice this year.
This was a deliberate decision. I am a big believer of the 80:20 ratio training philosophy. 80% of training being steady, aerobic effort, with 20% of training being above threshold. My 20% hard training was being done in the pool and on the bike. My running has been mainly aerobic this winter, building a big base, when the time is right I will sprinkle on a small amount of faster work. I am a big fan of Dr Phil Maffetone's training principals, using heart rate to guide training. I wanted to see how this would work this winter and it has given me a good confidence boast knowing I can run 17.43 for 5km using this method.
I read a piece of writing by Simon Whitfield (Olympic Triathlon Champion from Sydney, 2000) after he had visited Alistair Brownlee in Yorkshire. He asked Alistair what he thought was a key characteristic of a champion. Alistair thought it was 'Conviction'. I can't find the blog on Simon's website anymore, but he recalls it in this TriSpecific interview
I have thought a lot about conviction, as an athlete and a coach. I think conviction in your training philosophy and beliefs is paramount.
It has taken me a while, but I now feel I know what I believe and why and I will follow them in my every day training. Having recently read "Bowerman and the Men of Oregon" by Kenny Mooore, I was even more convinced that a long term, steady (smart) training perspective was the right way forward for myself and athletes I work with.
With the last slurp my can of perspective I realised i had achieved a lot to be back racing duathlon after some time in the wilderness, it was great to have a body in one piece (it was only 7 months since my foot surgery), my plan has always been to build my training and racing steadily though out 2018, to build fitness throughout the season, not to peak in May/June, which I have done previously, but to train smart and stay healthy and happy through the year. I was proud to have stepped out of 70.3 training to have a go at smash and grab sprint distance.
Mind over matter
"You need a strong mind, if you want to build a strong body"
The Circuit of the Dales TT, has been on my bucket list for a while. In the Yorkshire TT world, its a classic. A clockwise 50mile loop from Ingleton to Sedbergh onto Hawes and back to Ingleton.
Unfortunately I didn't take the sharp left turn at Sedbergh so did my own version of the route!
You can see where I went wrong on Strava here.
A few hours, by myself on the TT bike, in the dales taught me;
TT'ing is all about a strong positive mindset.
"I can hold this aero position"
"I can keep on top of this gear"
"I can keep pushing my legs even though they are screaming at me"
As soon as the head says
"I can't" .
You lose the battle of mind over matter.
I lost the positive mindset that day, going off course didn't help, but when my legs started hurting, my back and neck uncomfortable in the aero position, I didn't dig deep, but relaxed and took the comfortable route.
It taught me, mental strength is a skill that requires practice like everything else. It also taught me, that it's OK to ease off a little, to not dig yourself into a hole, to be kind on yourself. I didn't beat myself up about it, I was going to run off the bike afterwards, but I didn't. I had a cup of tea and a piece of cake in the race HQ instead. Because over the last few years I have learnt, you can only do your best and some days will go better than others, and sometimes you need to give yourself some wriggle room, a bit of self compassion and realise that some days, the mind and body isn't capable of what you want it to do. And that's fine.
Whats that coming over the hill.....
On wards and upwards to the next races.
Good luck and have fun with your own upcoming races.