Sunday, 30 August 2009

An early bath...

Those of you who check out my Twitter feed from time to time will already know that my feet are officially 'up'. This time last year I had a great race at The Vitruvian (national middle distance champs) finishing in 4:12:31 for 13th overall and 5th 30-34. Ever since crossing that finish line I'd set my 2009 goal for the same event as sub-4:10 and a top ten finish, unfortunately however, common sense has prevailed and I'll be standing on the touchline this coming Saturday. I love supporting at events, especially when H is racing, so I'm still really really looking forward to being a part of one of the best races in the UK... but... if I'm honest I am pretty gutted that I've not lasted till the end of the season.

Following Lanzarote in May I felt like I did a really good job of holding on to my Ironman fitness without over-cooking things and seven weeks later followed up my best ever Ironman performance with my best ever Ironman performance (despite a wobbly race week), going 9:28 in Switzerland. Looking back I was pretty much at the end of my mental strength a week or so before race number two and if I'm being really honest my season ended in Zurich.

When talking about religion the other day someone said to me that you either believe or you don't and that's not something you can choose (I don't). The same can be said of our motivation to train and race... you either want it or don't, but it's not something you can control (at the moment... I don't). I think it was Eddy Merckx who commented that it was the person who wanted it the most and was willing to take the most pain who would win the Tour (apologies if I just made that up).

At the moment I really want to want to train... but I don't. I really want to want to race... but I don't. How do I know this? Well the only way to really find the answer to questions like these is to ask them... set your alarm for 5am and see what happens? Push the first five miles of a ten mile time trial as hard as you can and see what happens for the second five? Over the last few weeks I've repeatedly put myself in these situations and almost every time I just haven't wanted it badly enough... I've ignored my alarm and disappeared under the covers or backed it off just when I needed to turn it up.

By the time I got to last weekend's Team Relay event I was mentally pretty much empty, H was really worried about me when she heard I'd missed my second transition of the day as it was so out of character. Unfortunately it seems my sub-conscious had exposed my lack of 'want' by keeping my mind focused on veggie burgers and gossip over swim, bike and run. Moving into the afternoon I ended up running a second 5k to help out a good friend who's team mate was injured. Normally I'd pretend I didn't want to do it but deep down would have been glad for the opportunity to once again test myself... this time I really didn't want to do it and at that point I knew it was time to stop. The second I'd made my decision it was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders as the pressure to train and race no longer fought against my desire not to... I'd go as far as describe the feeling as 'liberating' in fact.

Note: one of the best pieces of advice there is - if you're in a hole, stop digging.

I am hoping that four weeks of pretty much zero training (one week down and only one very easy 60 minute run in the bank) will get me back in a position where I can start building toward a good winter of training and a solid effort into Ironman Lanzarote 2010. I think that by stopping now I've probably avoided climbing into a hole deep enough to keep me submerged for a good while. The Ironman world is littered with examples of athletes pushing themselves so far over the edge that it takes years to recover, and of particular importance is the fact that you can still be performing to a high level even after you've done serious damage. Elite athlete Clas Bjorling wrote an excellent piece on this (part one and part two) and with his words along with the recent case of multiple Vitruvian champ John Hotchkiss at the front of my thoughts there is clearly only one sensible way forward... rest, sleep, eat.

I've not picked up illness or injury recently, nor in the last few years in fact, and have been performing reasonably well in swim and bike, but I have experienced several days (over the last couple of weeks) of the most severe lethargy that I've ever felt and can't remember wanting to exercise less than I do right now. Hopefully I've not done too much damage and by the time we're sat in front of the tinterweb cheering our mates round the Hawaii Ironman (second weekend in October) I'll once again feel like the athlete I desire to be.

Good luck to all those racing in Rutland on Saturday, I'll be there cheering you on with as much passion as I would have like to have raced with.

See you next week for a season review,


p.s. Today's photo is me sitting on the grass doing nothing much, which is where you are most likely to find me over the next three weeks ;)


Rogier, Natalie & Rhys said...

Congratulations Tom...

Knowing you (as little as that may be)this cannot have been an easy decision. I am sure that if you were still uncertain whether it has been the right one, that when you find yourself at the startline of Lanza 2010 you will know it was probably one of your best. Good luck mate. I am looking forward to seeing you in our virtual pool for a storming session after your break.


RobQ said...

Hey mate - great decision and one that will stand you in good stead for Lanza. I have taken the past 8 weeks pretty much off after two years non-stop from the build-up to IMA '08 (although not at the 20hrs/week level like you!). Even though I have lost fitness and put on weight I needed a 'full stop' on the first phase of my IM 'career'. Now the build starts again but this time as a different athlete with different mindsets. Hope to see you at the Vit, best of luck to H

Khara Mills said...

A hard decision for 2009 but most likely THE decision of your 2010 season. Well done, a very positive start, simply enjoy the rest together after next Saturday...
Khara :-)

Anonymous said...

Rest smart, there are plenty of cold mornings and wet evenings to test your will power between now and May 22nd. Congrats on a great season this year, and another blogged year I have really enjoyed following. I look forward to cheering you on at Lanza.


Al said...

As always a great post, thought provoking and honest.

For me there has usually been conflict between what I think I should be doing, what I want to do, and what I feel I can do, in these situations it is always good to trust my subconscious as it seems to know best.

Enjoy your recharge, looking forward to the comeback posts already!!


Russ said...

Sounds like you're making the smart decision mate. I certainly don't regret the three week break I took after Ironman UK.

Mentally it can be tough watching others train, but you're doing yourself long term good. Fitness will return in no time at all


Jevon said...

well done mate. Great season once again and thank goodness I asked you to run that extra 5k eh... otherwise you'd still be racing ! :)
Enjoy the relax

Mr H said...

I'm there already..... just not in the bath with you. Now why did I enter Ilkley?????
My season's been a lot shorter than yours though so I've no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Tom. I was feeling exactly the same as you. Reading your post as helped me make the decision not to race and to go into recovery mode. I was banging my head against a brick wall after IMUK. If it helps, I've reset the alarm every morning this week, and not been swimming before work once!

Tom said...


Thanks for the great comments and positive words. Also I'm really pleased to maybe be helping others to come to similar decisions, although we may feel superhuman sometimes we do need to step backwards to move forwards.

As I seem to have grabbed myself an infected mozzy bite on my right ankle it's just as well that I wasn't planning to race... although had I known in advance it could have been the perfect excuse as to why sacrificed the win for coffee and cake on the touchline ;)

Can't wait to cheer everyone on tomorrow, especially my amazing wife in possibly her final half Ironman of all time (lucky it didn't bite her!).

Thanks again for all you support throughout this roller coaster season,