Updated: Apr 2
nstead of the usual race report and because 2017 was very much a build year I thought I'd just share some learnings. These are in no particular order.
Muscle Memory is a real thing
Thank god for that!
After 7 months off and a few failed starts due to lack of interest and health, I finally committed to putting a 12 week block together for Dublin 70.3. Lucie and I had planned to give serious racing a miss in 2017 but at the same time make sure we qualified for the 2 championships so that we could focus 2018 solely on Kona. The first 3 weeks were hard but it wasn’t long before the body started to remember the routine. Consistency up to Dublin and then for another 5 weeks up to Italy was great. Averaging just under 15 hours and just over 10 sessions per week. Shortest week 8 hours after 70.3 Dublin, longest week 20 hours the week after that.
As normal quality over quantity and just to add quality does not mean hard, fast sessions. Quality is focusing on the session, focusing on the form and making sure the benefits of the shorter sessions were optimal. I was amazed how the body responded to the training, yes it wasn’t easy at first but after about 5 weeks I believe I was starting to build again on a base. At the end of the day I wasn’t in the same form at the end of the season as I was at the end of 2016 but I certainly wasn’t far off. The biggest factor is that I wasn’t mentally wrecked. So much so that I’m actually enjoying the start of the off season by playing around with a few things.
What can I say, I’m stubborn. It takes a long time for me to try something new. I’ve had relatively few issues with skin vs cloth in my 7 years of the sport. I don’t get blisters, I don’t lose toenails and I don’t chafe. Therefore whatever happened during a local 70.3 at the end of May was not common or expected. It took a further 2 weeks of complaining before Andrea went out and just bought me a tube of Chamois Cream. Bin-Fecking-Go!!! Why did nobody tell me? Why didn’t I listen.?
The most important discipline for Age Group triathletes. According to me. I’m not making this statement lightly and it’s taken me 6 years to get to this point. A quick definition of what I define as an age grouper. If you work for 40 or more hours a week, you’re an Age Grouper. Quick update on this definition, if you’re a Pro and working around 40 hours a week you’re a legend! Everything in the last few months has been around recovery. After Kona last year I was mentally and physically drained. There had to be something I could change. I started working with sessions, moving them around, changing the start times, especially before long sessions. Weekends changed from starting at 7 to starting at around 10. It’s amazing what 3 hours more sleep can do for the body after a long week. I tried to remove stresses, not always possible but adjusted sessions accordingly. I see so many people doing sessions back to back. How does the body recover, how do you have enough time to replace glycogen for the second session. My question is why stress the body unnecessarily. I ate, more than I usually would have during sessions and I believe this gave me a head start on the recovery process. I’m not planning to run across a desert with little or no access to food for a day. I’m not trying to lose weight. I don’t need to “Fat Adapt”**, there will always be enough food on course or in my race bag. Just another stress I’m eliminating.
Learn to pedal in a circle.
Thank you Alistair Brownlee. With social media, the web, coaches and competitors we are inundated with advice on a daily basis. I’ve never been one to chop and change, I think you need to give anything you decide to try at least 6 months before you know that it will benefit you. James Cunnama said it correctly, Triathlon is a relatively new sport and we are ALL still learning what actually works. 6 months with something new means slow progress but incremental gains nonetheless. One of the pieces of advice that resonated with me this year was that of learning to pedal in a circle. Having not come from a cycling background and not delving too deep into the science for my first few years I certainly skipped a few fundamentals. Last year I purposely increased my cadence and although I’ve worked on a push / pull I never really understood it. So back to drawing board. In the end, it’s not pedaling in circles or squares but more pedaling in better circles or squares. Its total focus during a period or a session to maximise the smoothness of each. It’s to identify which works best on the surface and gradient. Up or down. Working with power on a trainer gives you an ideal environment to gauge power, heart rate and efficiency. One more piece of advice here is the feeling of the run off the bike. If you’ve distributed the workload evenly you should feel a lot fresher in the initial first few kilometers. Just be mindful of the feelings and note the session.
Italians make the best food in the world
Get in my belly! Not sure how it’s taken me so long to discover this little fact. For me, pasta will no longer be Italian unless it’s prepared, cooked and consumed in Italy. For a country that has such simple culinary delights, some of which have to be experienced to be fully enjoyed, it’s remarkable how healthy the majority of Italians look.
Second is still the first loser
Guess I grew up with this belief and it still sticks. My plan is to win, not finish, not see how I feel at halfway, to win. If I’m going to race it’s going to be set out from the start and worked towards. I absolutely love to race and if that ends up being a podium or close then that’s great but it’s not and never was the plan. I’m not unrealistic, I know my limits, I know where I am within a season and sometimes you come up against some great competitors that are pushing for the same result. This season has been awesome, I’ve had some great races and great racing but it’s made me more focused on the next goal. When you fear losing more than you enjoy winning motivation takes care of itself.
There's always someone to keep you humble
I was sitting down for a few drinks after Italy with Freddy Lampret. I first met Freddy after my second 70.3 and first Ironman branded event in East London in 2010. I was on a high, delighted with my result and probably grinning from ear to ear. I asked Freddy, who I was sitting next to at the airport, how he’d done. He replied he’d come 9th. Well, that sent me right back to earth. At the awards lunch in Italy, I sat opposite a finisher and we exchanged the fact that we’d both had good days. His next question was if it was my first race, I very proudly said it was my 11th. I reversed the question, as you do, he smiled and said it was his 76th. Right back to earth again. There are so many amazing stories, so many awesome achievements by everyone that I’ve met along the way and all these just keep me pushing harder to see what else is possible.
You have to turn the bars in order to go around corners in the real world
After 7 months off and 95% of my bike training done indoors, the one thing I lost was the small bit of bike handling I did have. I missed 3 turns completely in my first race back, even had a car chase me down to tell me I’d missed the turn on the last one. During the Dublin 70.3 I apologised twice to fellow competitors for just running out of road. Fortunately no incidents in Italy but I did have to give myself a little talking to coming up to any turn that looked like it could be more than 60 degrees.
The more you practice doesn't apply to shaving your legs
Don't think I need to add anything more on this point!
Don't think I will ever get tired of a finish line.
No matter how much pain I’ve been in during the race I don’t believe I’ve ever suffered on the red carpet, in fact, I don’t think I even sweat on the red carpet. You can’t explain it to anyone and I doubt you ever experience what others do but it’s a magical feeling. At the end of a really hard day, it’s those last few hundred meters that stay with you and keep you coming back for more. **As a side note to my comment on fat adaptation. Andrea made a comment around this to troubleshoot the myth of low carb diets and fat adaption. “A well trained (experienced) endurance athlete eating a well balanced diet is already highly fat adapted as a function of their training (and experience). In that they will already be fuelling a high proportion of their endurance training from endogenous fats. Don’t feel a need to force that further as there is no need to be more fat adapted than this to function and perform optimally as an athlete. If healthy, if performing optimally and if you do not have metabolic issues nor gastrointestinal issues to necessitate trying to fat adapt further when it will probably cost high end intensity performances and worse still stress the body and possibly harm recovery.”