Sunday, 15 March 2009

The moment...


This week I seem to have gone on a bit so in case you don't make it to the end I'll mention a couple of things now...


Ever since starting this blog I've wanted to upload my training diary so that people who are interested can check out the gory details but having tried several different methods, all unsuccessful, the idea had been put firmly on the back burner. This week however I've been experimenting with Twitter and it seems to be working well so if you would like to see what I get up to check out my daily training updates here... http://twitter.com/tomstraining, once on the site you'll see there are various ways to obtain the feed. I'm somewhat of a Twitter novice but it seems pretty easy to pick up drop me a line via the comments if you have any questions. If you happen to possess an iphone I would definitely recommend downloading the 'twitterfon' application (something I picked up from reading Gordo Byrn's great blog at www.endurancecorner.com) as it gives you excellent mobile access to the service without having to surrender your mobile phone number. It also means that I don't need to be near a computer to 'tweet' so can update in pretty much real time :)


I'd also like to say what a truly amazing person Chrissie Wellington is... if you check out her gallery HERE you'll see that in picture 10 of 20 she's running round a track with a couple of girls, and there's a great story behind that photo. It was taken in January at Club La Santa when we were getting ready to go out on a long bike. She was doing an interval session round the track and Jessica and Charlotte (AKJ's daughter and niece respectively and CW's running companions in said photo) were watching in awe whilst cheering her on each time she passed. Without any prompting she invited the girls to join her for her cool down and they proudly ran alongside her for several laps of the track. The next day she came and found the girls and gave them each a key-ring which she'd had made specially for them with that same picture in!


Thirdly, I know we've got a little behind with the general blog 'housekeeping' re race results etc but it's on my todo list and everything should be back up to speed shortly...


Right, now for my weekly ramblings.... are you sitting comfortably?


Ten weeks from now I’ll be kicking back in Lanzarote… what happened the previous day will have been decided largely by my behavior over the 69 days between now and then. This last week it’s struck me just how close Ironman Lanzarote really is, this time next week the Ballbuster will be done, two weeks later the Circuit of the Dales and four weeks after that it’ll be taper time!

It’s been an amazing journey from the couch where I spent my overweight, binge drinking and junk food eating twenties (more of that in future blog entries no doubt). Over the last seven years I’ve run 11 marathons and around 15 half marathons, I’ve learnt to swim properly, bought my first road bike, earned three Ironman finishers medals and won my age group at the toughest half-Ironman in the world… I’ve also shed over three stone in lard and perhaps most impressively given up getting drunk (come June this year it’ll be five years since I’ve had any form of hangover).

For some reason though, and I’m not sure why, all those achievements have simply been steps to get me to where I am right now. In what I can only describe as a moment of clarity, I’ve suddenly become aware that it’s all about now, this very moment in my life journey. Although I’m without a doubt the most motivated that I’ve ever been, I’m also ready to ‘retire’.

Somewhere around late 2002 / early 2003 my life changed forever, I’m not sure quite what motivated me to ‘turn left instead of right’ but at that point I embarked on a journey that would transform not only my physical but my mental being. My earliest memory of this change is being entered in Leeds half marathon by my great friends from Oxford… working in a gym at the time and with nothing better to do I set about training like never before and in May of that year crossed the finish line in one hour and 26 minutes, a full 17 minutes faster than my previous pb. Perhaps one of my first true achievements in life and I wanted more… an addiction had been triggered. Since then that addiction has been fuelled by the desire to achieve what is perhaps the ultimate in life and something that very few people ever manage, to be the absolute best that I can be, even for just one moment. Think about it… how many times have you been able to stand back and admire what you’ve done in the knowledge that you absolutely could not have done it any better? Perhaps it’s a once in a lifetime thing… I’m 35 this year and certainly haven’t managed it yet, neither of my degrees received anything like 100% effort, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever maximised my potential in any of my jobs and looking at my athletic achievements… my 2.49 marathon although the result of a near perfect day was off the back of run training compromised by swimming and biking, winning my age group at UK70.3 came from a seriously below par swim and bike and a run where I held back to save my legs and my Ironman pb (9.56 in Switzerland 2007) was the result of a somewhat cautious approach with the aim of ‘banking’ a sub-10 as opposed to achieving my absolute best. It’s important to say at this point that I’m not being negative and I am proud of all those achievements but I know for a fact I could have done all of them better.

Let me explain that a little. True achievement cannot be found in finish times, bank balances, honours or awards for those measures are unrelated to your potential… true achievement exists purely in your mind and can only be secured when you, and only you, know for sure that you could not possibly have prepared for or executed whatever it is that you did any better. Last year Hels and I were fortunate enough to attend a talk by Paralympic gold medallist and University of Leeds alumni Giles Long. To cut an extremely motivational long story short he won gold, gold and bronze in consecutive games and the medal he was most proud of and the one which he had brought to show us was the bronze. Why? Because despite finishing two places lower on the podium it was the one time where he could honestly say that from the start of training to the end of the race he could not have given anything more… true achievement.

So how does this relate to me at the moment? To get from where I was seven years ago to the level of athletic performance where I am now has taken and is still taking the most phenomenal level of effort and although my drive and determination is stronger than ever I’m not sure I’ve got what it takes (or the desire) to carry that through to 2010. As my goal has always been to reach that pinnacle where I could relate to Giles Long’s third place finish and I’m yet to achieve that and also this may well be my final year… it truly is now or never… and that ‘now’ really absolutely is NOW!

Here I am ten weeks before the race, in the best shape of my life, with the most amazing support group anyone could wish for and with the time and knowledge to train harder and smarter than ever before. If Lanzarote doesn’t go well there’s no guarantee that I’ll recover in time to achieve my goal in Switzerland and in that case wouldn’t even get to the start line in Kona and perhaps my chance to be the best I could be at something will have slipped away forever. It’s not really about qualifying either, I could absolutely achieve my best in Lanza and not qualify for Hawaii… a result which I would consider a 100% success!

Of course, there may be other opportunities in my life to be the best I can be but the problem is that to do that requires almost complete and total dedication to a single cause and with Hels and I thinking about starting a family in the next year or so I can’t see me ever wanting to dedicate so much time and effort to a single cause ever again. It’s likely that this time next year all I’ll be thinking about will be being a great husband, friend and son to everyone who means so much to me and perhaps even a great father… non of which involve 25 hours a week of swim, bike or run training.


So here I am... as I type away on my laptop the countdown on our blog says 68 days and 9 hours until the flag drops so this really is it. I've worked so hard to put myself in the position where with less than ten weeks to go I have the opportunity to be, for just one moment, the best I can be...


See you soon,


T

5 comments:

Ben G said...

Great writing Tom. The IM door may well close, but I will make a bet with you that another athletic one will open up just as quickly. Have a strong week...

Mama Simmons said...

I like the thought about giving it your all and knowing that it was the best you could do... very elusive thouhg. I think I've felt quite happy with races in the past, although there's *always* SOMETHING, isn't there? Something you feel you could have done better? I think that's why we're all addicted to the sport.
And for what its worth, I'm a new mom with a perfect 4 month old daughter and am certain that I am a better athlete now than I've ever been... You might not train 25 hours/week after you start a family, but you might surprise yourself about how well you can do on 10-15 hours. The training I do makes me a better mom! :)

Jevon said...

I feel good about you this year mate... very, very good. All is in place. You're gonna be happy come what may and that's what counts...
J.

runtilyoudrop said...

Tom You will always be able to think you could have done more or better but there is much to be found in the journey. You are somoeone who has found the determination to keep going and to chase you goals, something that many are afraid to do. The real challenge is to tkae what you have learnt through IM and apply it to those areas you feel you could have been more successfully dealt with. But leave that for at least another 69 days.

Tom said...

everyone,

thanks for the great comments, I'm feeling really positive about this year at the moment.

I honestly believe that if I can execute a great day at any one of my Ironman races this year I'll be able to hang up my mdot shoes feeling like I truly could not have given it any more in the time available and therefore acheived the best performance that I could.

I've not yet had a 'perfect' Ironman race although I'm sure it's possible. I've done it in marathon (in my pb of 2.49 with a one minute negative split of 1.25 / 1.24 I really don't think I could have raced any better and absolutely gave it everything) and have come close over half Ironman. The thing is I've not trained specifically for those events so have always been left knowing that I could have prepared better for them (if I'd wanted to) and therefore performed to a higher level.

With Ironman though I'm yet to nail it on the day, having blown up on the bike in two (Austria and Germany) and raced somewhat conservatively in one (Switzerland). I also knew going in to all three of those events that I had more training to give and more fitness to gain. This time though I feel like I'm just about there, I've been right on the limit for a few years and doubt I could have trained any harder and lived to tell the tale. If I can hold on for another couple of months then execute the race day that I know I can then I doubt I'll have much more to give.

If it does all come together there's two things that might keep me going for 'just' one more year. Not qualifying for Kona and/or a performance which pursuades me a sub nine is possible...

watch this space ;)

t