Sunday, 6 December 2009

Two steps forward and one step back...

It's easy when writing a blog about training to only talk about the good times, paper over the not so good times and make out like you're never injured or ill and pb for fun on a daily basis. The bloggers I most admire however are those who are honest and not only praise themselves when they do well but also let everyone know when things are slightly off course. If there's one thing that I've learnt during my journey from couch potato to Ironman athlete it's that no matter how fit or fast you get there will still be plenty of time where you're not on the proverbial ball and for whatever reason (sometimes 'just because') you feel like you're going backwards. I vividly remember watching an Ironman for the first time (Lanza 2005) having never even seen a triathlon and thinking that these 1,500 super athletes must surely feel like Buzz Lightyear 24/7, never have an off day and float around permanently in some kind of zen like state of uber fitness. Four and a half years later and with five Ironman finishes in the bank I'm sorry to say that that couldn't be farther from the truth... in fact with an opportunity to test your physical form pretty much every week and an easily accessible diary of lifetime best performances it's easy to feel less fit than ever before.

Before I outline what has felt like a somewhat below par week on my iron journey I'd like to point out that I'm doing this not because I'm particularly worried nor because I could do with a little tinternet based support... I just think it might help anyone who's not quite hitting their targets at the moment and ease the 'I don't feel like my training's working and I'm never going to get any better' wobbles... if there was ever a time when outcomes mean nothing and the process means everything then December is that time.

As H has said in her blog we've both been unusually busy recently, and I'm not sure we coped that well with the transition from low training volume and work loads in late summer / autumn through to a return to full training and increased work demands from the beginning of November. Arriving at our mate Jevon's place last Friday my mind was full of to-do's that hadn't been to-do'd and my body was creaking under the strain of four good training weeks on the bounce. A Saturday and Sunday respectively comprising of five hours in the saddle (most of which were spent hanging on to Jevon's back wheel) and a very hilly ten mile running race at max effort, either side of a double helping of curry, beer and chocolate took me into this week with not only broken legs and lungs but also will power. I am pretty good at backing it off though so both Monday's sessions were canned and it quickly became a rest day, Tuesday morning's swim suffered the same fate as did everything on Wednesday. By the time I got to Thursday morning's swim, which was due to include a max effort 400, I was feeling rather flat and with completely the wrong mental attitude only managed a 400 warm-up, 4 x 50m and half of the aforementioned 400 before pulling the pin mid length (number 9 if you're interested), walking (yes walking) back to the side and storming off in a sulk! Thursday evening's run never happened and then Friday became a rest day... well, I had done at least 60 minutes of training up to that point and I'd hate to over do it! So, that made five days where eight sessions were scheduled and only one and a bit were completed, I hadn't even got on my bike and with a 400m swim pb of 5:32 to beat I'd thrown my toys well and truly out of my #winterswim pram when five seconds down at half-way.

Suddenly my dreams of one final season of Ironman glory felt about as likely as Yorkshire not producing the next triathlon world Champion!

It's funny really, no matter how experienced you are it only takes a couple of off days to create feelings of doubt and consign recent feelings of returning fitness to the depths of your most distant memory banks. My point being that it's important to realise that to improve consistently week on week for more than a month or so is impossible for all but the most chemically enhanced amongst us and in order to take a giant leap forward it's necessary to take plenty of small steps backwards along the way. I'd also be willing to bet that pre-Christmas fitness (in relation to lifetime best) is inversely related to race season fitness (in relation to lifetime best). I know for a fact that this week I've been less motivated, slower, felt less fit and generally been more grumpy than this time last month.. but I also know for a fact that come the start of race season proper I'll be firing on all cylinders.

So, if you're worried that things aren't quite on track at the moment and you're experiencing the odd yuletide swim, bike and/or run arse kicking (even it's it's from your own training diary) then fear not... the proverbial boot will be on the proverbial other foot when it comes to the proverbial showtime ;)

Have confidence in your process and I'll see you in the summer,

T ;)

P.S. I think I may have set a lifetime PB for most analogies and proverbialisms (is that a word?) in a single blog entry?

P.P.S. Thanks to my running club friends for dragging me out of my somewhat slack week by way of five very hilly and very very muddy miles of 'doing it for the team' max effort ;)


Ben G said...

Van Gogh chopped off part of his ear, bet that hurt and set him back a bit. Yet he still produced some alright paintings...Nice post mate, looking forward to a ride real soon :)

Rogier, Natalie & Rhys said...

Tom, just to add a little bit to your thoughts. I think the December month is typically the most difficult for training, the whole society is talking about the END of the year and winding down for Christmas. All New Year's resolutions aren't called that for nothing (eventhough I don't believe in them - why wait until 01/01 to start a good thing do it immediately - anyway different story). I used to think it also had something to do with the fact that it generally gets darker and colder and wetter, however being In melbourne means we have just gone into summer yet I still struggle with motivation and general fatigue so it must be the whole mental 'end of year thing' is what throwing me, by the sounds of it you and I am sure many others of balance. Than again maybe we need this to help built up motivation to work even harder when we come out of it at the other end.

Jevon said...

Tom is Human... shock news just in :)

RobQ said...

Great, great post Tom. Lots of very good advice in there and I think many people would be surprised at the up and down training of the 'pointy end guys' like yourself. I've always thought one of the keys of a good IM build is making good decisions every day in regard to your sessions etc. Too much HTFU is not a good thing! The idea is to ride that knife edge as best as possible over a 10-16week build to a massive PB on race day.
There are no prizes for being race fit in Winter!!

Tom said...

BG... not sure I'd stoop that low, even if it meant I'd win the LBT club 10 ;)

Rog... great thoughts as always, there's just something special about January the 1st!

J... always have been, although this last six months has reminded me well ;)

RQ... I know what you mean re HTFU, but you'll need plenty of that where you're off to... doesn't get much more 'pointy' than the length of NZ Epic, can't wait to hear all about it, I feel a guest blog coming on ;)

Rach said...


You're a hero! Been struggling last few weeks with some illness and thus some inconsistent training weeks. Was feeling low and de-motivated and panicky that all fitness would be lost. Now feel MUCH better! Thank you. Love to H! xx