Thoughts for age group ironman athletes.
I have entered Ironman Italy for September this year – While its looking very unlikely that it will go ahead I guess it’s a case of hoping for the best. Regardless of that I wanted to share my thoughts on what fast is. For me to be fast at this race I need to be looking at going about 9hours 30 minutes which is incredibly fast. While I am not sure its possible there is always the mindset of - how hard can it be?
As mentioned in my previous post I am calling this - Project 930
When I am looking at entering an ironman I always have a peak at the results for my age group. In this case my first reaction was gosh they are fast times. How the hell am I going to go that fast? That was my first response and the more I thought about it the more it led to this blog.
The key point here is I am talking about fast relative to age group athletes.
I am also putting the term fast into context of an Ironman. Being totally honest the times for each discipline if we were to compare them to each sport individually would be considered slow. A 3hr 30 marathon in running terms is not that fast however in an ironman that time is very respectable. In this article remember that we are talking about a race that is 9-16 hours long for recreational athletes.
It’s my blog so this will be all about me and what fast actually is for a 51 year old triathlete. It also means I do not need to share other peoples information. So let’s look at top 10 in my age group and focus on 3rd place (usually a World Championship qualifying slot) and 6th place where I have finished in my last two ironman branded races. These principals carry over so you can use them relative to you and your age group.
Hopefully this will give you an insight into what to think about and what to look at if you are trying to be a fast age grouper.
Ok so lets dive right in. Yes that's lame but I just wanted a nice picture . - Photo credit - Victoria Ellis
Fast is relative
Fast is relative to the course, the conditions, how old and what sex you are as well as things like your athletic background. If the times are fast or seem slow then often there is a reason and often it’s either the course or the conditions. The good athletes are fast relative to those.
I had a fascinating conversation with a golfer and what it came down to was that the number you write on the score card at the end of the day determined if you had a good day or not. When I asked about conditions he replied that they were just excuses for a poor number on the card. Wow that’s a pretty savage way to look at it. For our sport there are way too many variables to think like that.
Sometimes you need to allow for the conditions - open source pic from the world wide web.
I have picked three races to look at.
Two of them I have done and the other well it’s the reason for this blog and project 9:30. In context to this article there is over 1 hour difference in times between them and in what we would call a fast time. I think the key take home is that you need to be open minded to what fast might be at any given race. For example Ironman New Zealand 10 hours flat (normally a fast time for a 50 year would male) would have got you 4th in the age group. In Italy that same time would only be could for 28th in the age group and as for Malaysia you would have won your age group.
So as we go through this always remember that fast is relative and there are variables that will impact that. Year to year there can be a large swing in times based on the conditions on the day so always look at the old results to try and get a bigger picture of what fast is.
Let’s look at the three races in a little bit of detail. One thing is that regardless of historical times giving you an indicator they do not allow for a bunch of exceptional athletes or retired Pro's turning up and blitzing the field. Case in point when I did Ironman Australia the age group winner was a just retired Pro and an ex Ultraman world champion who finished 9th overall. Its kind of hard to even get close to those types of athletes but hey life is not fair so it comes down to hard luck. Harsh but true.
Ironman New Zealand 2019 a fast time for men 50 -54
Third place last year was 9hrs 58minutes and 6th place was 10 hours 7minutes. If you then go and look at historical results you can then find a trend. Some years will be slower some faster often with New Zealand that will be wind related. What it comes down to is that to be fast about 9hours 50 to 10 hours will put you near the front of your age group.
Just a little foot note - this year’s race 3rd place was 9hrs 53 and 10hrs was 5th place – it was good conditions and there were a few course records. The bike course was a tiny bit different and according to one of my athletes it was faster but that ball park of 9hrs 50 to 10 hours is still where you need to be
Ironman Malaysia 2019
On the other hand fast in this race is about 10 hours 30 to 11hours. 3rd place was 10 hours 37 and my 6th place with a meltdown on the marathon was 11 hours 6minutes. The key factors for that are the swim is a non-wetsuit swim which can add 5 – 10minutes to your time depending on how good a swimmer you are. The bike course is a little hillier than New Zealand 1600 meters of vertical compared to about 1000.
However the killer in Malaysia is the heat and humidity on the marathon. That is where the times in this race blow out – and yes it got me. I came off the bike in second place and with the best intentions of just going easy it every quickly became a case of just survival. It is a great example of the times are not indicative of how tough the conditions are and if you just looked at the times then you would go those run times are soft. The reality is it’s probably one of the hardest marathons in any ironman. Still kind of fun though – it’s a John Approved race – you should do it. lol
Ironman Italy 2019
Well this race is my focus and it scares me how fast the times are. So here’s the thing fast for a 50 year old in this race means 9hours 30. Last year third place was 9hrs 22 and 6th pace was 9hrs 39. While I can appreciate the course is relatively flat, the road surfaces are significantly better than in New Zealand and that there is probably lots of bunches on the bike creating fast packs and consequently faster times.
However that is significantly faster and while it’s very easy to talk it you still have to ultimately do that time.
Before we go into a breakdown of the different disciplines of a race I want to introduce the concept of “fast enough”
When looking at an ironman and breaking it down into its relative components for racing there comes a point where there is fast and then there is fast enough. What I mean by that is that in some cases you only need to be fast relative to a point. For example I am a 55 minute to 1 hour swimmer. I am pretty confident that if I really wanted to I could swim 50 – 54 minutes for the swim. The point is that for my age group anything under 1 hour is often fast enough.
So for me rather than devoting time in the pool for an extra few minutes I know I can swim fast enough comfortably and free up time to train on my weakness and my swim training is all about being fit enough to swim steady and controlled and that will be at pace that I know will be err - fast enough.
A strong biker might be able to ride a 4 hours 50 minutes for the 180km but often backing off and riding 5hours flat would be fast enough. It would mean that they would be fresher for the run. Trying to get that concept across to the fast bikers is a challenge and often you will see them walking the marathon talking about how fast their bike ride was. Key point of interest is the WALKING the marathon bit.
In each section of the race you need to consider the whole event. It’s not just a 1 hour swim. The swim is part of a 9hour + race. We all only have a certain amount of energy to burn so it’s a case of choosing how you do it and where. The term is burning matches. You turn up to a race with so many matches in your tool box and you have to choose when you are going to burn them. And when they are gone it usually means you are too.
Realistically none of us are really supreme athletes across all three disciplines so you need to work out what sort of time is fast enough for any given section and also if you can achieve that sort of time.
So Ironman Italy, let’s look at the break down of what fast / fast enough is for this race.
For age group racing I am a great believer of any swim under 1 hour is fast enough. Case in point in Italy if we look at the top five in my age group overall their swim times range from 55minutes to 1hr 2. So the reality is if you can swim under 1 hour in this race then you are in contention.
The key to that is being mindful that there is still over 8hours of racing. So to be fast you need to swim sub 1 hour and it needs to be at a nice controlled effort so that you exit the water feeling fresh as opposed to staggering out and needing a nana nap before starting the ride.
For me my target will be a 55 minute swim. I know could go faster but it’s a case of I can be competitive and not burn too many matches. To put that into context it’s swimming at pace of about 1min 25 per 100meters. Try swimming 100m at your local pool and see how fast you go. Then think about swimming 38 of them at that pace. Bear in mind that a swimmer is looking at those times thinking they are slow as they would be swimming at 1min 10 or faster. Again fast is relative
It’s a longish transition at this race and the average looks like 4mins 30 to 5minutes.
Taking that into consideration my objective is to get onto the bike 1 hour into the race based on a 55 minute swim. And a 5 minute transition. That should be enough to put me at the front end of the field and in contention
Picture source - Quotesgram.
Golly batman it looks like they ride massively fast. Part of that is that it is only 700meters of elevation gain so a reasonably flat course and add to that the roads are smooth. I think this and the fact that it’s a massive race (over 3000 athletes) it creates big bunches on the ride that creates drafting and essentially fast times through cheating.
How avoidable that is I am not sure. I think what tends to happen is that the faster bikers come through the field and people latch on and suddenly there is this fast group barreling along creating a massive pack moving along the road so if you are sitting behind them then there is bit of a free ride. I think it boils down to this
Is it cheating? - Yes
Is it avoidable? – Probably not
How do you deal with it? – No idea other than trying to race fair. Maybe I race in an Italian logoed tri suit so that they think I am a local and that they pull the other guys over. As silly as that sound it may actually have merit.
The thing is a fast time on this course is 4hrs 45 to 5 hours. In context that’s over 36km/hr for 180km. I am not sure I am that good. I reckon on a great day maybe 5hours 10 would be great for me but it will be a case of trying to get in great bike shape and hoping that I can be in shape to ride as close to 5hours as possible and hopefully still be in contention.
I think fast enough maybe 5 hours to 5hours 5minutes based on the fact that my swim time is potentially going to be faster than the guys who are riding sub 5 hours. I am not being negative here but more I am being realistic when I say I am not sure I am capable of this sort of time. I believe I can be close but the question is will it be fast enough? I am not sure but part of the challenge and indeed fun for me will be to see if I can achieve that. That is also taking into consideration that there is a marathon coming up.
Again it’s a longish transition area so it’s about being mindful of not leeching time here. It looks to be about 5 minutes to be fast enough.
Ideally I need to be heading out onto the run about 6 hours to 6 hours 10minutes into the race. That’s about 20minutes faster than I have ever been before so how realistic it is I am not sure but I will be trying to be in that shape come race day.
So I thought the bike times were fast but these guys are running sub 3hours 30 off those bike rides.
That’s the impressive bit. Often you will see fast bike rides followed up by very slow run times – it comes back to only having so many matches and burning them all on the bike. I do think that part of those fast run times are also linked to the drafting on the bike. There is a massive amount of energy savings to he had if you are sitting at the back of a group of fast riders.
While I have run a 3hrs 33 before it was a few years ago. If I have a great day and run 3hours 30 then that puts me at about 9hrs 40 in total. That’s still fast and funnily enough It would put me in about dare I say it 6th place.
So that is an idea of what fast will need to be relative for this race. Fark!!
I think the key thing is being fast enough in all three disciplines and also being mindful of the transitions as they matter as well.
I am a great believer that if you want to race an Ironman then get to 32km into the marathon and race to your hearts content. The challenge is getting to that point still in contention and then being in a position to push as opposed to hanging for dear life.
And I think this leads on nicely to the next term.
Yep trying to go fast hurts - The term here is - the hurt box.
Yep – I have let the cat out of the bag. Who knew! I have always said that if you ever watch an Ironman it comes down to this – everyone finishing under 11 hours looks like they are miserable and everyone finishing over 12 hours look like they are having a great time. The funny thing is that while that’s a generalization it stacks up. Be under no illusion an Ironman is hard but if you go easy while it will be tough you will have a blast.
However if you want to go fast it’s going to hurt. How much will depend on your training and how you execute your race but regardless 30km into the marathon if you are racing hard there will be a significant amount of pain. I have had it described as – every single muscle in your legs screaming at you.
So how do you deal with it?
Well partly mind-set in that you need to be prepared for it and have the mental resilience to go Ok this is the price, its only pain and what can I do to manage everything. It maybe food, fluids or just going I can deal with this it’s not far to go. I cannot stress the importance of mindset enough when it comes to this sport. Its is possibly one of the most critical parts of the race.
Secondly – in training you need to get into difficulty. Those sessions that put you in the hurt box. Those long rides where you are completely blown to pieces and you are pedaling squares for an hour just to get home. Wanting to call for a pick up but instead just stopping at a gas station to buy coke just to get you the last few kilometers to home. Those are the days that really prepare you for an ironman. If you are not getting into difficulty in training then you will not be prepared for the brutal parts of the race.
It’s the difference between doing a 5 hour training ride with a 30 minute run of the bike versus doing a 5 hour bike ride with a solid 1hr run of the bike. The key differences is in the thirty minute run you start out stiff from the ride then you loosen up and are all good and then to be honest you are done. Where as in the 1 hour run off the bike you start out stiff then loosen up and then at 45 minutes in you start feeling the hurt and realize that it’s going to be tough. It’s those sessions where it gets a bit ugly that start to get you ready both physically and mentally.
So too sum up.
Fast is relative, fast enough across the whole race is the key and finally going fast hurts.
Next blog will be about the plan and how I hope to get fast.
But remember regardless its all bout getting to the finish line and still being able to smile
Finish line Challenge Wanaka 2016 on what was a very tough day - Nuked but still smiling
I have to say that picture does not do justice to how destroyed my legs were. I think the only reason I did not end up in the medical tent with an IV line is that while i was being questioned by the medic i had a beer in my hand. :)
OK so if you have scrolled down my blogs and are wondering what happened to part two? Well to be honest it was a case of life getting a little busy and it never made it to print.
So as I have entered my next Ironman I think it may be best to start this with a quick review on Ironman Malaysia.
Ironman Malaysia - a brief recap.
No Ironman build up is ever perfect and I went into Malaysia carry a small hip /hamstring issue. Add into the fact that I was coming out of a kiwi winter and heading into a race legendary for heat and humidity it was always going to be a case of into the unknown. I think looking at it objectively I went into this race in decent if not great shape.
So the race. Gee I think it can only be described as one of the funniest and also one of the most brutal races I have ever done.
Yep - that is not my happy face. I think the correct term is "the hurt box." Man it was brutal.
The Race plan
The race plan was pretty simple, swim controlled and try and keep body temperature down, bike steady and super easy on the hills where there was a high risk of my body temperature climbing through the roof.
Then ideally come of the bike in good shape to just run controlled. It was all about trying to keep the body cool for as long as possible. Obviously my actual race plan had a lot more detail however that brief description sums it up nicely.
Here’s a quick summary of the Race.
This was always going to be a strength for me and it did give me the luxury of being able to swim easy and still be competitive.
The two lap swim involved a quick run along the beach at the halfway mark (pictured above) and at this point in the race when I saw the commentator with the microphone I got him to give a happy anniversary shout out over the PA to my wife (race day was our 23rd wedding anniversary). I heard him call it out as I headed back into the water.
My target time had been anything under 1 hour and 59 mins 10 seconds was perfect as to be honest I cruised and got out the water feeling like I had done nothing and was in second place in my age group so perfect. Could I have gone faster? Yes. Did I need to? No.
Note – This is me pulling the top half of my trisuit on after the swim. The reason I did not just swim with it and the swim skin over the top is that when I tested it – just tucking the top half of the trisuit underneath was 5 seconds per 100 meters faster. That equates to over 3 minutes so while this may look like a bit of a struggle it was worth it.
It was hot, hilly and there were monkeys. Add in the fact that the first lap involved trying to work my way through the back of the half Ironman athletes who had started in front of us meant it was an interesting ride.
I must say a pretty cool course and quite pretty in places. I rode pretty controlled and while my neck and shoulders were killing me from about 150 km it was manageable. That was I think the result of most of my training being indoors on a trainer as opposed to riding outdoors. I came off the bike still in second place in the age group so all on track.
.A bit of Love for Profile Design for the race wheels, Bike Barn for the Helmet and Trinc clothing for the trisuit
I headed out onto the run knowing I was in 2nd place so my mind-set was – nothing stupid. I just needed to run controlled and nothing special and I should be all good.
Yeah 10 km in and it was all about survival in 38-40 degree heat with over 85% humidity. It was brutal (see the first picture in this blog). There was a moment when I was like “ok next year for our wedding anniversary I think we might just go out to dinner like normal people.”
I ended up dropping to sixth place in my age group. That run was all about survival and I do not think I was fully prepared to cope with that heat and humidity. At one point I ran past my wife who called out “I’m so proud of you.” In my head all I could think of was – crap do I look that bad! When I heard “I am so proud of you”, in my mind it meant she is not sure I was going to finish but she still loves me regardless.
To sum up
Being objective about the run it was a case of leeching too much time at the aid stations trying to cool my body temperature. I guess it’s really hard to prepare for what you do not know and that I think was the big stumbling block.
So while on some level I was a little disappointed I was also pretty happy to have gutted it out and it was cool to be doing an Ironman again after the three year break.
The take home is that the race kind of suits me and if I can work out how to manage the heat then I think I could be very competitive. One positive is that on what was essentially not a great day I was still top ten in my age group.
So that was Ironman Malaysia and it must be said it did beat me up bit and the recovery took longer than normal but that could also be age related.
A special thank you to my wife Nicola - This is us having a small holiday in Langkawi post race. I must also give a special thanks to Scott Molina for all his help in the pool for what were some of the most boring session known to man. To everyone else that helped out thank you - you are all awesome. And to my kids - you are coming to the next one and its going to be awesome!
Project 930 - The next challenge
So I have entered Ironman Italy which is in September. A long story at how I arrived at that race but it does involve a family trip to Europe and well it’s an Ironman in Italy so why not? I think I learned from racing in Malaysia that rather than trying to chase qualifying for the world champs it might be more fun to just focus on some really cool races and see what happens.
The key thing is that Italy is a fast course and to be competitive in my age group you need to be completing the race in about 9 hrs 30 minutes or faster. Hence the tittle - project 930, which is more about planting a target that I want to try and work towards.
If I am honest I am not sure I am capable of that kind of time because it is seriously quick. Even if the course is fast you still have to go at a pace that for me will be next level.
Having said that – How hard can it be? Off course I said that about Malaysia so let’s be honest here as my enthusiasm is not always connected up to the real world but that is OK because I will still be having a blast and that’s the point really – having fun doing something I love.
So next blog will be all about going fast and what is fast.
So it’s Sunday afternoon on the 21st of July 2019 and I have just completed my first 4 week block of training for Ironman Malaysia.
Tomorrow is 14 weeks to race day and a bonus is that it’s the start of a recovery week. For me a recovery week is also where I do a little testing so over the next seven days I have a 10 km run time trail, a 1 hour bike time trial on the trainer and also a 2 km time trial in the pool (which my swim group are stoked about J ) so the week still has a little sting in it.
So I thought I would make an attempt to share the journey but also give an insight into the processes of my training but also the planning for race day.
I must say it’s been a couple of years since my last Iron distance race (pictured below) which was Challenge Wanaka where while I was a little underdone I managed to execute a great race and not only got on the podium in the 40-49 age group I also won a national title for Men 45-49. Since that race I have been racing swim run events with my training buddy Andrew but it’s now time to revisit Ironman.
The idea has been in the back of my mind for a while mainly because I want to have a crack at qualifying for the world championships. I have had one serious attempt in 2013 and was within a whisker of getting the job done. A puncture on the bike was probably the biggest factor and I think I got my run nutrition slightly wrong but it gave me hope that on a good day I have a chance.
To be honest the last 12 months have been about rebuilding after 2018 essentially being a year from hell where I lost both my parents, Mum in January and then my dad in July. Going through that process was also the catalyst for deciding to chase a dream of trying to Qualify for the Ironman World Champs. So having put sport on hold and being the heaviest I had been in 20 years it’s been about getting back to fitness before I could even contemplate a race. So the long slog started late last year and while it was a case of knowing I was carrying a bit of extra weight there is nothing like seeing myself in a skinsuit to give me the kick in the bum I needed to focus on sorting my act out. Pictured below are pictures from the Christmas Cracker Triathlon – yep not really happy about the belly but it was good to go racing again.
So while I was getting back to fitness the concept of which Ironman to do was I guess the big question. Why in the name of all that’s holy did I pick Ironman Malaysia with its 35 degree heat and 85% plus humidity along with the fact that it would mean training through a kiwi winter? Well how hard can it be!
Well to be honest it has been on my radar for a while mainly because it is one of the few non wetsuit races and as a strong swimmer that is an advantage for me. December last year when I was I on the Ironman website looking at events I saw that Malaysia was on my wedding anniversary. My thought process was 23 years married – Nicola gets to sunbathe on the beach and I get to go do an Ironman - perfect.
About a week later we were talking about our family holiday to the bay of islands that was coming up in April (yes there was a race involved – Brecca) and I casually suggested “Honey on the topic of holidays – next year for our wedding anniversary should we go away for a romantic holiday somewhere warm – maybe Asia where we can have a resort holiday”. Her instant reply was “WHAT RACE?” I replied to her response “well funny you should mention a race”. So that was the start of the process of winning over my wife and thinking seriously about another Ironman.
Skip forward to the end of April and it was time to seriously look at it.
So my plan began to take shape and this is how my thought process worked and things have shaped up to this point.
I started by mapping out a program through to race day and plan how I was going to build towards the race. Part of that was I wanted to do it a little differently in what is essentially what we call reverse periodization. What that means is that you get fast and strong first and then bring in the endurance later on.
This essentially started at the end of April when I began to transition back into training for triathlon. I had a four week transition of easy post season training before in May beginning preseason training.
Part of that process was an understanding that I would be training all winter and that I did not really need to be out in the wind and rain so it was a case of biting the bullet and buying a smart indoor trainer for my bike and joining the world of Zwift (a virtual world where its part game part training tool). So along with the gym in my garage I now added the indoor bike set up.
Entering the race. There is nothing like paying your money to commit you to an event. So having got through my pre-season block of training I paid up my money and now the hard yards have begun.
While all this has been happening I have also begun the process of thinking about what I need for the race and also what I need to plan for. Obviously the first thing is what I am going to wear but more on that in a later post. For now let’s break it down into categories.
The biggest challenge is the heat and humidity and how am I going to cope with that aspect of the race. Yes when I get closer to the race I will be doing heat adaptation work but right now the priority is to get fit and stay injury free. I guess to a lesser extent on the day is the fact that you need to be mindful of Monkey’s on the bike course which I find kind of funny but I also realize that hitting one at speed would not be ideal.
At this stage my swimming is on track and that’s mainly due to keeping some of my swim fitness from the Breca races and now it’s a case of specific training for an Ironman. This race is a non-wetsuit swim and it looks like it will be similar to swimming in a bath for want of a better term. Normally in a wet suit race the wetsuit helps a lot of people by allowing them to sit higher and go faster by reducing drag. For some athletes who are poor swimmers this can be a 10 minute saving. As a strong swimmer I get less of a gain with a wetsuit but in a non-wetsuit swim I suddenly have a bigger advantage.. To maximize that I have tweaked my normal swim program and I am focusing on my body position in the water. If I can improve that over the next few months it means I will go faster or alternatively swim about the same speed for less effort as its just as much energy conservation as it is speed.
So I am ramping up my bike mileage and the key is getting into shape so that I can ride the time I need to be competitive but also manage the heat and keep my nutrition on track. Part of thinking about the heat is the topic of helmets. So before even thinking about this race I replaced my old TT helmet (that as it turns out had a crack in it) with a super cool aero helmet with integrated visor. The moment I entered Ironman Malaysia I realised it would not be the smartest choice for the race. The thing about a lot of aero helmets is that while super-fast there is often very little airflow and your head gets hot. Looking at the temperatures I will be racing in I was thinking of my brain ending up like a poached egg. Crap I did not really want the expense of a new helmet and wanted something a bit aero but with venting as one of the keys to this race will be heat management. Bike Barn came to the rescue and have given me a helmet for the race. Pictured below are the two helmets and while yes the new one is very green it will match my race kit as lets be fair you still need to look good. Yes the helmet is a compromise but being realistic it’s the smart choice and a big thanks to Bike Barn for the hook up.
My tt helmet (left) is going to be way too hot so love to Bike Barn for the vented but aero helmet
Having essentially been broken earlier in the year to this point has been a slow build and there are now signs that the running is coming back. It does help dropping from 78kg to 73kg as weight has a massive impact on run speed. Looking at the race objectively I guess it’s a case of preparing for a death-march marathon. I think going into the race understanding that it’s going to be a brutal and a case of survival means that it will not be a surprise.
Again I have looked at it from a gear point of view and already have my nice shiny race shoes which are light weight and will be sweet in the heat (pictured below). Objectively I am also looking at getting a cooling towel for race day that I can soak in cold water at the aid stations then drape across my shoulders to keep me as cool as possible while I am running.
Big thanks to Hoka one one for looking after me with a great deal on these bad boys.
So that’s some of my thoughts and the things that I have been sorting through. I am hopeful that Profile Design will be able to hook me up with some fast wheels as the ones I had in Wanaka were fast and helped me win that age group national title. Helps that it made the bike look cool as hell.
Just some love for Profile Design for their help in my last two Ironman races - how cool is that set up!
So Monday the 29th of July is the start of my next 4 week block of training and it’s pretty pivotal in laying a platform for the push to race day. Key focus for me is bike miles and getting that part of my training back up to speed.
This is a snippet of what a typical week looks like in the next block of training
Swim – 3km + about 1 hour alternating one week is hard 100’s and the other smooth efficient swimming.
Gym: Upper body and core – about 30 - 45minutes
Long run – This is two laps of bottle lake forest and the second lap faster than the first. It’s called a negative split run and while I have already banked a few of these it’s now a case of working on running at pace and building. Total distance is about 21km Will ramp that up in the next block of training but right now it’s all about running well and strong
Bike to and from bike barn – active recovery and easy spinning. It is still 1 hour 30 of riding as its 20km each way. This helps flush out the legs from the hard run the day before
Gym – Full body and smashing my legs to try and get them stronger
Bike Indoor trainer – 1hour either hill reps or intervals
Run – straight off the bike and a 30 minute run just building to a steady pace
Swim – This is my light load day but the swim is about 1 hour and a mixture of strength and speed while also working on my body position.
Run to pool 10minutes, swim long 4-5km, run home followed by 2 hours on the indoor trainer
Long ride 4hours+ followed by 30 -45 minute run off the bike. This long bike ride will build each week
So that’s how the program sort of looks over the next 4 weeks and then on my rest weeks I have the weekend with no training as its family time.
Oh and there is the small matter of Cyclocross National Championships in there as well, but that’s just details.
Cyclocross Nationals are in August - a case of race hard but Ironman is the focus so no dumb stuff
Alongside the training the key thing in the next few weeks are booking the travel, updating my passport, sorting a new tri-suit along with starting to get things for race day like a new chain and tires etc. I am sure there will be lots of other things to think about and I am already trying to source the sports drink they are using on the course to see if my stomach will tolerate it.
Having said all of that to be honest my key focus through all of this is to keep my wife and family happy so busy times ahead.
On a light hearted note and based on the fact that Kona qualification slots are influenced by the numbers in an age group – if you happen to know and I emphasize the word SLOW 50 -54 year old dudes who want to do an Ironman in October then get them to sign up for Ironman Malaysia – thanks in advance.
An open message to athletes, coaches, parents and children.
It is in fact ok to have fun while training for and competing in sport
For most of us, sport is our hobby and as such it should be fun. I tend to think people go wrong by confusing having fun with not taking sport seriously, not training hard and competing at the highest level. It is in fact possible to train very hard, compete at a high level and still have fun.
Breca Bay of Islands - Outside the Duke of Marlborough - first pub in NZ - it would have been rude not to stop for a quick pint
My training / racing partner Andrew and I tend to train very hard however we still manage to take time to have fun even in the middle of a race. The above picture was taken in the middle of a race in the Bay of Islands. While I would not normally condone stopping for a beer in the middle of a race the simple fact is that the race when past the Duke of Marlborough hotel (the first pub in New Zealand) and our mindset was that it would have been rude not to stop. If you think we were clowning around then yes we were but on the flip side there are a lot of calories in a pint and we were in the process of fighting our way back through the field. We ended up with a top ten finish on the day despite being in a group of athletes that went the wrong way due to a missing marshal. We lost over 20 minutes, ran an extra 4km+ and dropped from fifth place to about 40th place before clawing our way back through the field. Yes we had fun but we still raced very hard.
The All Blacks for example are incredibly successful but despite all that they still lose the occasional game. And that’s the thing, you will always win some and lose some. However if you are so focused on the outcome you may be missing out on the fantastic journey and potentially destroying any enjoyment. While winning should always be the key objective often for most of us it should be about being the best versions of ourselves.
In context of the All Blacks I love when they try the razzle dazzle and it goes wrong but the players have that rueful smile of “man that nearly worked.” That is a perfect example of having fun at the highest level. Personally I also love the fact that there are a few of them that could not even make the school’s first 15.
Ultimately the question should be – how do you have fun. Or maybe that should be how you enjoy your sport. Maybe that fun or enjoyment comes from your passion to be the best you can be or your love of the battle for want of a better description. If you have passion, a love for what you are doing then that essentially is a type of fun.
From a few years ago - Cyclocross with my son Daniel - great fun - hard - and still loving it
I have some thoughts on how you achieve that based on 30 years of being an endurance athlete and hanging out and working with fantastically driven athletes from formula 1 racing drivers to Ironman champions. And while these tips often come from endurance sport they carry over to any kind of sport.
1 - For most of us sport is our hobby not our job so in all moments of crisis and indecision and taking oneself too seriously ask yourself “am I being paid to do this” if the answer is no then calm down
2 – Enjoy the journey. There have been a few times in races and in training when I am in the hurt box. I have learned to take a moment to look up and appreciate where I am and what I am doing. Not everybody gets to do the sport you are doing so sometimes it’s ok to remind yourself that.
3 – Enjoy the special moments in time. I am a huge fan of looking for those moments that make you smile. It could be as simple as that sunrise on an early run, or the views from a bike ride in the hills. I personally love that dive into the water at the start of a swim session. There is a moment when you are under the water and the world goes quiet, you have all the momentum from the dive and its a little magic moment when you get to enjoy the speed and take a pause before getting into the session- It’s ok to look for those moments and enjoy them.
4 – Dishing out the hurt can be awesome fun. Some of our hardest and most valuable sessions are when someone is putting the group under the pump. It’s often a case of who breaks first. Or when you are nailing that session you never thought you could do. While often that is very hard it can also be a rewarding type of fun or enjoyment.
6– Its ok to have a laugh. Case in point is Peter Sagan a three time cycling world Champion in what is essentially a lottery of a race. Yet in the middle of a world tour race there is footage of him in the Tour of California pulling a wheelie and grabbing a biscuit. Or the last Olympics when discovering the road course would not suit him he went and did the mountain bike race because it looked fun. This is one of the best athletes in the sport and the message is simple - fun
Peter Sagan - Those Rainbow bands on his shorts - meant he was the world champ - Green jersey means he was leading the sprinters category - and yet he can still do this mid race.
Funny thing about this is that earlier in the day I had been riding with my son Daniel who was 12 at the time. We were riding through the forest and I was watching him go over every little jump and bump and I was about to point out that the smoother line was faster. Before saying anything I realized that he was 12 and that was exactly the line he should be taking. It was not till later that evening and I was watching the Tour of California and saw the footage of this moment and thought – gee that says it all - fun.
As I said I think the confusion lies in the simple fact that there are different types of fun and that people associate the word with goofing off or not taking things seriously. So much emphasis on performance out comes and data driven training that for a lot of people they lose sight of the fact that it should be fun
Winning is still vitally important, however I think the priority should be about being the best version of self and the results will take care of themselves. . I believe that if you can have fun while doing that then you will ultimately perform better. Remember you can still train very hard and do your sport at a very high level, have fun and a love of what you are doing.
In the context of kids sport, I get that some kids are super driven, however it’s a case of ensuring that they are focusing of the process not the outcome. By all means let them strive to greatness but also taking a step back and focusing on the skills they need as well has having some fun may actually keep them in the sport long term. Instilling a great attitude and work ethic along with the fact that they can have fun will more likely lead to children succeeding long term
Too many kids are lost to sport from well-meaning but misguided parents who think that being good at 12 is a sign of greatness. Nope- being a world champion or an Olympian as an adult that’s what important. How we mange that is obviously different for everyone but there is a greater likely hood of getting there if you are having fun and enjoying your sport along the way
Finish line of what was one of the hardest Ironman's I have ever done - Still had fun, still smiling, oh and I also won a national title for my agegroup
The picture above is from Challenge Wanaka and it was some of the toughest conditions I have ever raced in. I walked away with a great result and had a great time despite how hard it was. I even stopped to check on a fellow competitor who was having a bad day, managed to have a laugh with the helpers at the aid stations, stopped for a kiss from my wife at the start of the marathon and even got to look at some spectacular scenery. I guess its a case of practicing what I preach - Train hard, race hard and have fun. What's not to love
So to sum up:
CALM THE HELL DOWN AND HAVE SOME FUN.
Yes there will be lots of hard graft but that can be a type of fun as well.
Peace out - John
When discussing what is essentially an overuse issue I often use the term dysfunction threshold.
While injuries can often be a result of crashing, falling or often doing dumb stuff, an injury through overuse can often be avoided. So rather than having to resort to pills, creams, K tape or health professionals after the fact this months blog is more about you being proactive - oh and booking in for a massage.
I sum it up as the following.
Dysfunction Threshold: The point at which our body can no longer balance training / life load versus imbalances and dysfunction.
What I mean is that most of us are not perfect and we all have some form of dysfunction whether it be from life, work, poor technique or genetics. In our normal everyday lives our bodies can generally cope with a certain amount of dysfunction. Often it is when you are training for an event without addressing any potential issues that you generally encounter problems. It’s the point that our bodies shout enough as it can no longer deal with the stresses we are loading on it.
There is a reason that you will often hear people talking about training for a big event and the comment is “it was going really well then six weeks out from the race I got injured”.
Interestingly six weeks out from a big event is generally the point of maximum load.
My perspective as an athlete, a massage therapist and a coach is how to avoid breakdown at critical training load. In accordance with the fact that everybody leads a different life there is no simple answer other than taking a moment to honestly assess you the individual and look at ways to reduce the risk of injury for you.
My top tips, in no particular order are:
Practice good form and technique.
Strength and conditioning relative to your sport is a good investment in reducing injury risk.
Change takes time so you need to allow the body to adapt to any change in training load or change in technique.
Never underestimate the power of recovery·
Often it is the things we do in our everyday lives that can have the biggest impact.
Just a little foot note to all this. I just want to remind you that we have all had life happen and that none of us are perfect and that when I talk of good form it is relative to you and where you are at. Most of us are not capable of swimming like Phelps or running like Mo Farah and trying to do any of those would
It is about what works for you the individual – case in point is Paula Radcliffe (pictured above - photo credit Ramon Smits). If you look at her run you would shake your head in dismay, yet she set a world record for the marathon and it is a case of her technique works for her and her body. And yes there is an argument that if she had better form she would go faster. I find that fascinating because would that hypothetical concept of good form just create more issues for her the individual or would she in fact have gone faster. That’s a conversation over beers in a pub if ever there was.
And while I have used sport as an example of the dysfunction threshold it also applies to other aspects of life. Work stress, relationship issues pretty much anything that tips us over the edge to either physical or mental melt down. Often those things are intertwined in a complex mix.
In some of those cases it is not always an easy solution of identifying what is the dysfunction in our life.
It might mean we need help, it might mean we need to listen to those who care or it might be a case of making change within ourselves.
So to sum up – none of us are perfect, be mindful of your weakness and just look after yourself by being proactive rather than reactive. Never lose sight of the fact that you are an individual and that no one lives your life but you.
So go have fun, live the dream and do not forget to book a massage as step 1 to being proactive.
Peace out - John
It is interesting times we live in. This month my planned blog was about the word acceptance. However trends in social media have been intriguing and it seems that so many comments provoke outrage.
Most of the nonsense out there I personally ignore on the basis that I can only make change in me and trying to illicit that in others is often a lost cause.
It seems fascinating that so many people feel the need to show how outraged they are on a particular topic. TV for example – if you do not like a show, do not watch it. You have the power not to watch and even stretch out for the remote and change the channel as opposed to leaping onto social media to show your outrage at a show you disagree with.
I made a post about tyre companies and the lack of pricing and how do we know actual prices and if we are paying a fair price. Someone had to comment on the fact that I spelt tyres as tires. I replied “gee missing the issue by being a dick - gee thanks mate that’s helpful” And that’s the point I am trying to make I guess. Are we too busy being outraged about things that are not important that we are actually missing the message? And before you get outraged yes grammar is important however if that’s all you focus on you may miss the message and yes grammar can change the meaning but let’s be honest most of us are smart enough to see the message. God knows I have enough typos in the things I do but mainly because I am too sentences ahead (and yes it should be two – I am making a point), I am seeing the message not the details.
Are we becoming so focused on what offends us, and essentially turning into an angry mindless mob?
Do we need to maybe focus on what is real and needs our attention and look within ourselves to see the good? My favorite band is OMD and there is a song called “New holy ground.” Here a few lines:
“We must now abandon, the people that we’ve been,
So take a look at yourself, and walk to the edge,
And take a deep breath, and be someone else,
Take a look at yourself, and see what is found
Step into the light.”
This song always makes me reflect on me and my behaviors and that sometimes taking a breath and being some else - as in being a better person may be a better option than venting in outrage.
Racism, sexism, cruelty to animals and the environment to name but a few, they are things we need to stand up for. However there seems personally so much outrage over inconsequential nonsense that it almost beggars belief.
Having said that environmentalists for example are all up in arms and would have us all driving electric cars. Again I think they are too outraged about one aspect to see the big picture. Personally I am not sure the technology is there yet and when it is I will embrace electric cars with open arms but right now I have a couple of thoughts on why I think it’s not yet time to go fully electric:
Do not get me wrong as I am definitely not perfect in any of this and it is a case of just reminding myself of what is important and maybe just taking a breath and being a better person is a good thing.
Sorry if that was a bit long winded as it took on a life of its own.
On the up side I have justified buying a classic car as it is saving the planet – go me. And an Alfa like this one would be just the ticket
Cheers - John
I am sure like most of you we are all pretty new to this swim run training. We (my friend Andrew and I – Team Shag racing) completed Breca Wanaka this year and have just signed up for Breca Bay of islands. I thought it might be nice to share some tips from our training that might helpful. We are both triathlon coaches so I thought I would share part of our training plan. The thought of swimming 8km+ with hand paddles and a pull boy may seem daunting and realistically while it is a challenge it is also a case of being prepared
So this is essentially how I evolved our Friday swim program to help prepare us for the load and reduce our injury risk. A couple of points of caution:
Hand paddles clipped to our race belts
Warm up –This was pretty much a standard 400 meter swim with drills focusing on body position and hand entry but essentially it’s about just getting ready for the main set. In a Breca build up its more about managing the shoulders with the load so we kept it at about the 400-500 mark.
Main set – this was built around 2.4km as the key component and then loaded up around that based on the fact that the longest swim in the Wanaka race is about that distance (more as it turned out on the day the way most of us swum) and I could break it down into manageable chunks.
So to start with 12 x 200 as 4 times through as 1 swim 2 pull (hand paddles and pull buoy)
Then we transitioned to 3 times through 3 x pull 1 x swim and added 500 swim at the start and 500 at the end so it now looked
500 swim, 12 x 200 as 3 times pull 1 swim then 500 swim
As we adapted to the load the next progression was changing the 500 at the start to 500 pull then also building the end of the session with an additional 500 so it became 1km broken down. So the main set now looked like this.
500 pull, 12 x 200 as 3 times through 1swim and 3 pull, 500 swim 500 pull.
The next evolution was to increase the pull and back load it more towards the end of the session. I also started to add in some 100’s at pace with pull gear on at the end of the session. The key here is not to overload the shoulders but focus the loading through the last part of the swim stroke where the shoulder stress is less. We added in some 50 easy sections to loosen the shoulders and often this was double arm backstroke (both arms at the same time) or breast stroke. We also changed the 12 x 200 into essentially 4 x 600 broken into 400 pull and 200 swim
So now the main set was, 500 pull, 50 easy, 4 times through (400 pull, 200 swim) 50m easy loosen then 600m pull 50 easy and then 4 x 100 pull going on 1minute 30 = 1minute 45 depending on how smashed we were – you may need to modify that time to suit but the focus was more about efficiency than raw speed.
Then the main set evolved to became, 500 pull, 50m, easy, 4 x (500m pull 100, swim,) 50 easy. 200 swim, 8 x 100 pull going on 1:30 – 1:45 then an easy warm down.
So that was last Friday session before the race. The next phase would have been the 2.4km as 2 times through 1km pull 200 swim followed by 10 x 100 pull going on 1:30 but we essentially ran out of time in this build up and it is always a tradeoff regarding load versus being broken.
We just went super easy and lots of double arm backstroke to ease the shoulders
Hopefully this has given you an insight on how to evolve your training (this was over 11 weeks of training) specifically for a Breca race and hopefully help get you to the finish
I am not sure where to start with this topic other than as a coach and a parent I sometimes just want to hang my head in despair as I think that we have lost the simple truth that kids play sport in general to have fun with their mates.
I am a huge fan of the need to teach kids the skills they need and a passion for their sport. While wining is important the fact is that in life you win some, you lose some and you need to learn to deal with that. However if we can teach our kids a love of sport, competing and maybe instill a life long journey towards being fit health adults then it’s a win.
If you think that makes me an all about participating hippy then you are wrong. I understand that all kids develop at different stages and they actually need to be nurtured and given the best opportunity to grow into their sport. Some kids might be super stars at 12 and some at 16 and it’s a case making sure both those kids have the opportunity to be superstars as adults. Sometimes with kids sport their birthdate has more of impact rather than actual talent. The kid who has just turned 10 competing against a kid who is just about to turn 11 is at significant disadvantage. All that evens out by the time they are adults and that's when we want then to be in a position to shine on the world stage.
What’s the solution?
Personally I do not know. As a parent and a coach I am just letting my kids have fun, find their own passion and I am trying my best to encourage them to enjoy what they do. For me I am trying to expose them to as many sports as possible and if they want to try something new then that’s ok. And yes while swimming is mandatory in our house its more about it being a great skill set to have especial considering the time we spend in and around water.
I think as parents we just need to be mindful of just letting our kids be kids and have fun playing sport. And if you need inspiration on what having fun in sport is all about watch a certain Peter Sagan. I am not perfect and sometimes I get it wrong when my natural competitiveness gets the better of me and I forget that they are just kids.
My son Daniel and I are doing Cyclocross together and it is fascinating. He is 11 years old and having a great time. We are having fun and he is challenging himself in an environment that is testing him but is not about the result rather than its just having a blast. The coach in me knows if I push him he will lose interest and I also know that by focusing on the fun aspect he is slowly developing the skills he needs and there are glimpses of him developing the competitive aspects he will need later on if he pursues this as a sport. On a side note as a parent it is cool as F**k actually doing sport with him as opposed to watching.
On the flip side my 14 year old daughter is on the brink of having to decide about swimming and if she wants to succeed it’s now time. She has potential and while she is way behind the kids that are currently swimming 8 times a week she knows that she has time to make that up and get to a point where she is not burnt out when it really matters. That’s going to be fascinating to watch as she is about to find out how hard the sport is. As long as she is chasing her dream and having fun despite the hard work then life is good.
To sum up – My personal thoughts are let kids be kids, let them have fun, support and encourage them in finding their own passion and the worst case is that they turn out as fit healthy adults who have a positive attitude to exercise, sport, health and in the scheme of things that’s not a bad result.
Driving kids too hard too soon and putting too much pressure and expectation on essentially young children to me seems fraught with failure so kick back and just enjoy watching your kids play sport.
Peace put John
It’s a funny old thing the ageing process. While we can fight it as much as possible we still sometimes need to accept it for what it is. As a continuation of my last blog and in the context of training for and racing Breca it was an interesting experience getting ready for that race.
As coaches we talk of consistency being one of the keys to success. I think as an ageing athlete having a consistent level of fitness means that if you decide to enter an event it is significantly easier to build from a solid base as opposed to starting from ground zero. That and also the health benefits of being a fit and healthy individual.
My normal base line fitness is that if you asked me to do a ½ Ironman with a couple of days’ notice then I would be able to get through the 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run in ok shape. The reason I mention this because in January I was nowhere near my normal level when I entered Breca and that highlighted how hard it was to rebuild fitness from ground zero.
At the end of the first 4 weeks of hard training I was pretty train wrecked and my wife asked if I was ok. I replied that as a coach the training load I had completed in the last four weeks would normally have been after 8-12 weeks building, not straight into it from very little training. Oh and add the fact that I am not twenty anymore. And that is one of the other aspects – you do need a bit more recovery as you age and sometimes experiencing it under pressure of training for an event is a brutal but gentle reminder that yes in fact we are not twenty anymore.
And the key is accepting that you are not quite as young as you were and recovery becomes a vital part of the process. For me the rest of that training block was more about managing my body and knowing when to push and when to ease up and let my body regroup. That may sound simple but I guess with age comes experience and it’s a case of actually applying that.
While I may never be as fast as I was when I was younger and the above photo was taken the challenges change and it is often more about other factors in a performance than times alone. Do not get me wrong as being competitive is still very important to me but often its secondary to having fun and enjoying the journey.
So accept that life is what it is, have fun, enjoy your sport and if you watched the world masters games have hope that we can still be going to events when we are 100 years young.
Yes I am the first to admit that this updated website has been along time coming. The only excuses are that I have been the problem and that life in the last 12 months has been interesting to say the least.
So this is really stage one of the new site and to be honest a lot of the content is only accessed by my coached athletes. While you may wonder why it has taken so long it has been a case of this old dog learning new tricks and working out the direction for the business.
The new booking system will roll out shortly as I am still upskilling and learning the systems. However the text reminders are part of that new system becoming a reality and you should be getting those before your massage.
On the subject of old dog new tricks:
This is a picture of Andrew and I finishing the inaugural Breca Wanaka in 6th place overall. The journey to the start line was an adventure of discovery not only in the adventure of exploring our own backyard but also in working in the team aspect as well as preparing for the physicality of 8km of swimming and 42km of running all mixed up in a day of fun racing (there are pictures on the face book page). The race itself was stunning and a massive challenge that I would recommend to anyone provided they are prepared for it. Details on Breca are here:
So I hope you like the new website. I will be striving to expand and implement the new strategies in the next few months so stay tuned.