Oxman DNF – Ironmaori –– Surgery – Hopefully not starting from scratch
When I wrote the first blog on the Journey back to fitness, I never thought it would get to be at least 4 parts in a series. It’s now over four weeks since my rib surgery and while my brain was initially on the fuzzy side (mostly down to the drugs they give you) am am beginning to bounce back, so I thought I would just go over the last few weeks as it was quite a fun filled ride.
Oxman ½ Ironman DNF (did not finish)
I am not sure I have ever entered a race with a plan to not finish. This race was a week before Ironman so while it would have been lunacy to race the whole thing there was an opportunity to practice race conditions for the swim and test out my bike in full race trim to get a sense of where I was at.
Race Day and it was just miserable and pouring down with rain or easing to the kind of drizzle that just soaks you. I turned up at the race venue and looking at the conditions I just left the bike in the back of the car. The thought process was – I can still get a decent swim but going riding in those conditions would most likely end in either a crash in the wet conditions or getting cold and sick.
It was strange just doing the swim and pulling out of the race but two things. 1 - It was the smart thing to do, 2 – The swim gave me a good idea or how the rib would cope in a race the following week.
Yes, it was a little frustrating not getting out on the bike for a blast with my race wheels however, I am happy that I was making smart choices especially a week out from my big race.
I had no idea how this was going to go. I was hoping the rib would not be too much of a hinderance and while the last block of my training had been consistent, I was not sure where I really was at. My first objective was to get to the finish line and if I could go under 11 hours that would be decent all things considered with a rough plan of swimming sub 1-hour, biking 5hours 30 – 5 hours 45 (based on my build up anything under 6hours would be ok) and I had no idea about the run but I thought 4 hours would be a good target but the run was going to be ugly. So that was kind of where I thought I was at.
Before I go into the race, I just want to clarify that yes, I could feel the broken rib a little. Not massively and only a little in the swim and then about 30km into the run when my form had gone but honestly everything else was miserable at this stage so I could manage it. Honestly it was more of a hinderance while working and if I tried to do any speed or core strength work. Realistically it was like carrying an ongoing niggly injury hat you can manage but is not ideal.
The Race. I am not sure what to say other than – Wow
There was a bit of confusion at the start and most of us were still walking down to the start when - oh shit we are off. It meant a sprint down to the water and into it. Once I got into the water, I immediately managed to calm myself down and settle in after the excitement and the mad dash into the water.
300 meters in and I was leading the race. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
Halfway round the first lap of three I realized that I was leading the race. It was like ok – I was not expecting this but it’s a great way to protect the rib from contact. Lap 2 of the 3-lap swim and I must have a weird shaped head or something as I cannot seem to keep a swim cap on my head and they always seem to start to fall off. In the end I swam over to a surf live saver and discarded it. Then it was a case of being careful as I was now lapping the back of the field.
First out the water – that was a pretty cool moment as the swim had been controlled and I was feeling pretty good. The official timing had it at 59mins 20ish but I clocked it at 57:20. I honestly think that the official timing actually started late due to the confusion at the start. However, it is never about the time and more about that fact that I was not tanked from the swim, and I felt like I could have kept going. I always say a good swim is getting to the end feeling fresh – Job Done
First out the water - That was a pretty cool moment. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
Putting everything into context of the build-up I had, and the simple fact that I am a 54year old age group athlete, to come out the water in first place and to be leading a race was very special.
As I got onto the bike and began building up speed the lead vehicle pulled out to lead the way. I had a silly grin on my face as I rode through town behind the lead car – I was living the dream. The bike course was basically three 60km laps and each lap had a few out and backs which meant you could see where you were in the race.
Cycling is my weakest of the three disciplines so I knew the fast guys were going to catch me so I was just focused on enjoying it while I could and trying to be controlled despite the excitement of leading a race. At the fist out and back section I realized I still had a reasonable lead and when I saw my buddy Andrew, I was pointing at the lead vehicle and going “check this out”
Heading out on the bike in the lead of the race. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
At the end of the first of three laps, I was still in the lead which was hilarious coming back into town, blasting past my wife and kids as I followed the lead car. I finally got caught 75km into the race and it was a relief as who knew there was pressure when you are in the lead. From that point it was just a case of riding to plan and keeping on top of my nutrition.
I knew I was well on track, and I came off the bike with a new bike PB for an Ironman. 5hours 15minutes and some change with an average speed of 34.5km an hour.
I was not expecting that at all and came off the bike in 4th place overall
Blasting past my family in the lead of the race - a very special moment. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
This was always going to be a journey into the unknown. I stared out controlled and just settled in. 20km in and I had moved 3rd position but from there on my lack of run volume meant that I was in the hurt box and suffering. About 30km in I was caught by another athlete and dropped to 4th in the men’s race. The lead female also blasted past me and to be honest she was flying and i just gave her the "your doing awesome speech". From there to the finish, it was pretty ugly and a case of just hanging on.
Early in the run as I am still smiling. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
So 10 hours 22 minutes for 4th Male, 1st In my age group. That was beyond what I thought I could achieve and while the 4hr 1min marathon was not my greatest ever run, in context I was very happy and it was where I thought I was at.
At this race you are allowed to come down the finish chute with your family and that was a special moment.
Crossing the finish line with my family was cool as they are part of the journey.
Photo Courtesy of Ironmaori
So that was special. Honestly, for me while the result was awesome it was more about executing a good race and trying to be the best version of self on the day.
I have to say it was a cool race. For a first-time event the team at Ironmaori did a great job. I get that I am not the target demographic for this race as it is more targeted at first timers and helping people to change their lives through sport and exercise. I love what this race represents, and while yes, I was at the front end of the field it was great to see such a diverse group of athletes just out there living the dream.
Ironman is hard and while I am very casual about that aspect of it, I also know how hard it is. While yes, I was that guy lapping people in the swim and on the bike, I was also the guy going past people and trying to encourage them. From pausing in the swim to encourage a coached athlete as I passed him to the lady who had stopped and as I went past, and I called out “you’re doing awesome – just keep going”. On the bike the nice thing was when I could see people’s names on their race number, as I could use it to encourage them as I went past.
Hindsight is an interesting thing and while I will wonder on the what if I had not been dealing with a broken rib. Being objective yes, I would potentially have gone faster however I am not sure it would have been massively faster. Life is what it is and you just have to go with what you have. There is a really great line in a Cure song “A wish if only is a wish too late”. It’s about accepting life in the moment and enjoying that. And man did I enjoy that race.
Pretty happy to win my age group. Photo courtesy of Ironmaori
The Ironman was on the Saturday and then on the following Wednesday I was in having surgery to fix that broken rib that had not healed. I guess the frustrating thing is that I had only just got back to being fit and I knew I was going to be back to ground zero. However, while I was able to do an Ironman the reality is I was feeling the rib most days and while it might not seem like it based on the race result it was hindering me at work and doing the things I love. Last winter I had to stop Cyclocross racing as it was too much load on the rib. Hopefully I will be back into that this coming winter.
It does suck that you go in to surgery feeling great and wake up feeling like shit. That first hour or two post-surgery is always a hazy dream like experience and then later after a nap I was talking to my wife, and it was a case of did I hear it correctly, but did they fix two ribs?
Yep, it turns out that while they were fixing the rib (8th Rib) they discovered that the 9th rib had been broken and was not that great, so they fixed that as well.
It did justify that surgery was the right call and possibly explained some of the discomfort.
Surgery done - now it's time to think about the journey back to recovery part 5
Hopefully not starting from scratch.
One observation is that while yes, I was a little smacked around from the Ironman I think being fit has helped with the recovery.
The plan post operation is that the first 6 weeks is a case of doing very little as the screws they used need to bond to the bone (you can actually see the screws in the Xray). The first 3 months the surgeon has suggested no heavy lifting or upper body work as that gives the bones a chance to heal and will give me the best chance of a successful outcome.
If you know me and are wondering how I am going to cope? The priority is getting back to work as I have a physical job that requires lots of upper body movement. Now that I am a few weeks post-surgery I am starting to put together a plan so that I can carefully build but also that when I can start what I would call proper exercising, I am not starting from ground zero.
I have already started light aqua jogging as well as some very light spinning my legs in the indoor bike trainer. It's a small start and while I am being super careful it is part of the journey and I just need to be patient.
I should be back at work my mid to late January. Honestly I am already looking forward to catching up with my clients and getting back to normal. I am that I may need to ease back into work so please be patient if I do not have many appointments available initially.
So that was the last few weeks and while it has meant a quiet Christmas, I still got to enjoy the day with my family which it’s all about.
I have also entered Ironmaori for December, so I now have a goal to motivate me to get back into it.
So onwards and upwards from here.
Surgery – Going for the finishers T shirt –– New business
Surgery -8th of December.
As I pointed out in my last journal one of my ribs is still broken (scroll down to see the X-ray image in my). Having also now been for a CT scan and an appointment with the surgeon I am in a position of where if I want to get on with my life then surgery is most likely the best option. Turns out that there is non-union of the two rib ends and having an active lifestyle means it is constantly aggravating the muscles and nerves around the rib.
The surgery is planned for the 8th of December and the reason for this is that having time off over the Christmas period makes sense as it is often the quietest time from a business point of view.
What that means is 6 weeks off work, and I have been advised that it will also be 3 months off exercise. Honestly, I could have had the surgery by now, but it does make sense to plan it over that quite time.
Part of the decision to commit to surgery is that I feel the rib every day when I am massaging. I have an active life and while I am not keen to under the knife it is apparent that the rib is impacting not only on work and sleep but also the things I love to do.
So turns out that the dynamic movement in cyclocross was a bit much for the rib
I had to give up cyclocross this last winter as I only managed 1 and a bit races before scumming to the rib pain. I have also discovered that any kind of sit ups or crunchies load it and I then hurt for two days. I guess the other key sport for me is Triathlons and part of testing what the rib will cope with is training for an Ironman that I had entered last year when I was home recovering. And that brings me nicely to the point
Going for the finishers T shirt
So having spoken to the surgeon and realizing I was going to have to have 6 months off exercise it was a case of Fark. I have two Ironman’s that I am entered for – Ironmaori in December and Ironman New Zealand in March. I was going to have to sacrifice one or both. It was a case of do the surgery and hopefully recover in time to do Ironman New Zealand with not certainty or try and do Ironmaori in December and then have the surgery with the potential that it might be a struggle.
Considering that December as I mentioned is the quite time for work it made sense to do the Ironmaori race. However, it has become apparent that while I might get through the day the rib is not super happy. It might seem strange, and you may ask well if you can do an Ironman, it cannot be too bad. Well, the truth is I think it is going to be a tough day. My last long run was a reminder that its going to be tough - The images below are from Ironman Australia and taken at the same spot over the 4 laps. Yep It is a reminder how tough it gets at the end.
Ironman Australia - with me slowly falling apart on the run
Last December when I entered this race, I had great plans despite not being able to exercise at the time. The potential of a flat course and a fast time beckoned. The key factor for that to happen is a trouble free build up. Honestly life is not like that, and it has been a long slow slog to get into any kind of shape especially because I was dealing with a rib that was basically still broken.
Throw in getting sick right when I was supposed to start hard training, a niggly Achilles tendon, my wife having a hip replacement and launching a new business means I am way behind where I need to be. It must be said it has been an interesting build up as I have not been able to intensity in the pool and there has been no speed work on the bike or run. It’s been all about trying to build fitness and avoid injury and essentially do a no-frills training plan.
What does that mean – well honestly it means a change from let’s go and race to if I can just get to the finish line and get the finishers T shirt it will be a good day.
The take home from that is that life happens, this is my hobby and just going and doing the race will be a cool adventure. It’s not the end of the world if I am not in A game shape especially considering the year I have had.
My normal Ironman build is something like this:
4 weeks hard, 1 week easy, 4 weeks hard, 1 week easy, 4 weeks hard, 1 week easy, 2 weeks hard and then 1 week taper.
It has become apparent that missing that first 4-week block of training has meant I am chasing my tail a little and that while I should be in okay shape to struggle through the day. I am missing that 4 weeks of training as I think it would have made a difference especially to my cycling. And speaking of cycling it leads nicely to my new business.
Most of you will know I have been working on a new business called Trinc Clothing. It has been a project in the making for the last few years and in the last few months I have manged to get the website up, have a launch evening and start the process of getting the product online and begin selling.
I am proud of what I have achieved and while there is still a massive amount of work to get done it is a cool adventure and hopefully the brand will be able to help in its vision of raising awareness of mental health and depression. So go have a look and please feel free to purchase some of the product.
So that’s the update
Critical thing is I would urge you to book in your massages as my last day with be 29th November and I am almost booked out
So its going to be a crazy couple of weeks and on some many levels it's going to be madness trying to do this Ironman with a niggly broken rib but honestly I think if I am controlled, avoid a kick in the ribs in the swim then is should be kind of ok.
So turns out there will be a road to recovery part 4 the post Surgery edition. Not sure how I feel about that but I guess it's just part of the journey .
The Journey back to fitness - part 2
Still broken - Death to the Al Bundy dad body - Peer pressure and maybe I should stop doing dumb stuff – What’s next?
Still broken but apparently, I’m starting to heal.
As you can see from my X-ray taken on May 4th there is still a clear break in the rib which I boke over 7months ago. There are small signs of healing but basically it is still broken. Not sure what that means but I am being referred to the cardio thoracic specialist. It may mean they need to stick the rib back together which if I am honest does not seem like a fun time.
Basically, it’s a bit shit but until I know more I just need to manage the best I can. I guess at least I know where I am at right now. It does explain why it is still uncomfortable sometimes. It also means I may be a little more cautious at the next cyclocross race as a crash might not be ideal.
Death to the Al Bundy dad bod.
One of the key objectives while building back my fitness is also to begin so shed some of the extra conditioning I have gained. In our world the term is – being a bit soft or as my mate Scott described it – my Al Bundy dad bod. At the start of this process, I was 79kg the heaviest I have ever been. I do weigh myself every morning and take a weekly average and the good news is that I am now into the mid 76kg zone, so I have managed to lose just over 2kg. Target race weight is 72kg and as the training volume increases then the progress should hopefully speed up. That is all about being patient and making smart decisions but compared to the rib progress is being made.
Peer pressure and doing dumb stuff.
In the last few years, I have done a few swim run races and while it was definitely not an option for me this summer when the key swim run race was cancelled my buddy Andrew wanted to do a swim run training day on one of our training courses – which was going to involve swimming out to quail Island running around the Island then swimming across to the other side of the harbour before running back to Diamond Harbour. This was early February, and I was only just starting to run again. My biggest swim had been about 2.5km and my longest run had been 30minutes easy using a run walk protocol.
After much pleading I finally relented to the peer pressure knowing I was not ready for what would be at least 3.5-4km of swimming (open water) and about 12km of running. I was nervous especially about the run aspect, however I figured if I was super careful, I might just fake it.
It soon became apparent why I was required and what all the pressure was for. We have a safety rule on the long swims that the stronger swimmers tow the weaker swimmers with a bungy so we all can swim in a group and hopefully stay safer. So not only was I going to be swimming but for at least 3km of the swimming component I was going to be towing someone (my buddy’s partner as it turns out).
You cannot see it - there is a bungy cord between us - Mainly for safety but it does mean extra load.
To be honest I got through the swimming ok however the last run just nuked me, and it was more of a walk, run, hobble the whole time questioning why I was doing this. Honestly while I managed to get through, I was train wrecked for the next week and needed a week off from running to let my trashed legs recover.
Funny moment the following Friday at the pool when the athlete I had towed was making a comment about sore shoulders from the day – Really? Mine too, as I towed your sorry arse across the harbour! It did make me smile. I think that comes under the category – let’s not do any more dumb stuff that is going to put me backwards.
First up obviously it is a case of finding out about the rib but until I know more it’s a case of pressing on with the plan as best I can.
There is lots on as the cyclocross season has just started and that is a fun way to get some bike intensity in and have a bit of fun while trying to be careful that I do not crash and reinjure the rib.
May 24th signals the start of my preseason build for Ironman and that will be two 4-week blocks of training where the key focus will be building the run volume and preparing for my Ironman build that starts the first week of August. That will also involve some time trail testing which is never fun although I have already completed a 1km time trial in the pool for a base line and while 14mins 25 was ok it should really be in the 13minute bracket so work to be done.
Cyclocross season has started - surprisingly the rib not sore during this nonsense but it has been a little niggly post race - no way they could be connected.
So that’s the update –
Overall, I am getting there however there is quite a bit of uncertainty about the rib and what the way forward will be. I am not sure that if surgery is going to be the solution how I manage that and trying to get fit for the races I have entered next summer. It may be a case of getting it fixed asap and take the hit or waiting till March and get it sorted post season. I have no idea at this stage, so I guess it’s a case of wait and see.
The positive is that I almost back to a normal fitness level and the next blog will be about the concept of two Ironman’s in one season (which is something I have never done before so that should be interesting) or it will be about the rib and post op recovery. Life on a knife edge I can tell you.
The journey back to fitness – Part 1
Sometimes life throws curve balls, often when you least expect it. I guess a case in point is Covid 19, lockdowns and this weird, strange world that we are living in.
For me it was an easy ride on Sunday the 26th of September 2021. Following a training buddy onto a shared pathway I ploughed into a bollard that was unsighted due the rider in front blocking the view and giving no warning of the obstacle.
The result was boom. I had no idea what I had hit but I landed very heavily and knew straight away it was not good. There was a kind of funny moment where I was lying in the fetial position gasping for breath, I knew the ribs were broken but it also felt like my pelvis or hip was not flash (fortunately it was just sore) and Andrew’s comment was “Are we riding?” then when he saw the look on my face it was “Am I calling Nic (my wife) or an ambulance”
CT scan showing broken ribs (5&8) The 8th Rib break was the one that punctured the lung
So, it was a trip to hospital to discover two broken ribs and a punctured lung – a small puncture but still not ideal. At least this time I arrived at A&E with my gear on as in 2003 when I had my last big off, they cut my top off me and I was taken into hospital in a pair of speedo’s!
I will not bore you with the misery of the ambulance ride or almost passing out when they tried to get me in to the CT scanner, but it meant a night in hospital – it possibly should have been two nights, but I pushed to get home as due to abysmal timing on my part my wife was going into Hospital on the Tuesday for ankle surgery. We did make a sad pair as between the two of us we did not make a functioning human. Thank God the kids stepped up.
While I have cracked ribs before as you can tell from the picture this was a little more next level. The first 3 weeks were not a fun time and the punctured lung resulted in some fluid build up on the lung and quite a bit of breathlessness.
It also meant that the key races I had planned for the summer were now no longer an option:
The Oxman ½ Ironman - where I wanted to defend my age group title from the previous year
Ironman New Zealand – where it would be within a couple of days of being 30years since my first Ironman which was Auckland 1992.
Oxman 1/2 Ironman 2020. I so wanted to try and defend my age group win from this race - hey ho
With no planned races till Ironman NZ March 2023, it was a case of what do I focus on and when will I be in shape to race again. If I am totally honest with self, I know I need an event to be working towards otherwise I am a basket case and lack motivation.
I did start to look at races in Australia and I also seriously considered a return to Ironman Malaysia in October as I have unfinished business on that course. However, the uncertainty of travel in this covid ravaged world it was a case of I am not sure it is a realistic option as who knows what will happen especially with the appearance of Omnicom.
I think we are all struggling with the am I going to be training for an event that is actually going to happen? But for me it was a case of needing to find something and having a little hope
Then that hope came in the form of a text from a friend on a Saturday afternoon in about a new race.
December 2022 Iron Māori for the first time are putting on a full distance (same distances as an Ironman) race. By the Sunday evening I had entered.
So that means next summer I am potentially doing two Ironman races One in December and then in the March Ironman New Zealand. I have never done that before so it might be an interesting challenge both mental and physically
Long term goal sorted - short term goal Cyclcross season and trying to stay close to my son (pictured with me in the background) as he basically smashed me all last year - I fear the same for this year but it will still be fun
Game on. But first up - What is ground Zero :
This crash has meant the longest break from exercise in well over 20 years
While I was laid up in all honesty, I made poor food and alcohol choices with the end result being that I am starting this plan being the heaviest I have ever been. Christmas and New Year did not help but it was still poor decisions on my part.
I cannot remember the last time I had three months off running and I think building that back is going to be the biggest challenge.
However going back to mid-December I was given an all clear to exercise by the cardio thoracic doctor. I had an Xray in the morning that clearly showed fluid on the lung, so I was a little concerned when I rocked up for the appointment. I must say I was not impressed with his casual manner and the way he dismissed it as “it will clear up”. When I pressed about the rib which was still reasonably sore his comment was its too early to tell but because of the nature of the break it may need surgery. Ok so now I am a little concerned and when he said I could exercise, and I asked if I could go for it, he said yep. Again, I was concerned that he did not ask the question as to what I thought going for it meant as I am pretty sure most people are not thinking Ironman training here we come.
I came away with the feeling that he was just not that interested in my care or health and that remains. I had an Xray on Dembe 28th and I have still had no response on the outcome. The only way I know there has been an improvement in the lung is that I bullied the radiographer into letting me see the Xray and to my unskilled eye it looked way better than the previous one
The tail end of December was easing into training on the bike (on the indoor trainer) and easing back into the pool which pretty much hurt with every swim stroke but on the upside, I think it was good for the lungs and also while painful I think it was opening up the ribcage
Skip forward to Monday 3rd of January and the start point for this journey
Monday 3rd January 2022
Line in the sand day and time to address the following:
My weight – This is all about making better choices and monitoring it so I can hopefully see the downward trend. The reality is that when the run volume increases, I should be able to get some good progress. Right now the sore rib is still a limiter on the exercise so I need to be patient and make good choices. The key is to take a weekly average.
To put all this into context
Day 1 Monday January 3rd – Weight 80kg Farrk, The weekly average was a little less horrific at 79.0kg but holy shit I have some work to do
Get back riding
Playing safe and keeping the cycling to the indoor trainer - the Cowboy hat is an optional extra
Rebuild the run training
I think running is going to look this ugly for a while - This is what 35km into the marathon of an Ironman looks like
It has been a tough time especially when you add in all the Covid anxiety and uncertainty, rebuilding into what is a physical job and dealing with the ongoing discomfort of the rib which may or may not need surgery.
On a positive I now have a goal to be working towards so let the journey begin.
It’s a case of doing what I can and being patient.
Part 2 - coming soon
I will give and update on the first phase of easing back into it and how it is going and what I am doing.
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