Category Archives: reading

Post Triathlon Blues

Post Triathlon Blues is something I’ve never really had. When I completed Ironman UK I was such a high for completing the event I never came down from that and almost enjoyed the pain I was in because I knew the process I’d been through.
2 weeks on from Challenge Almere and I wouldn’t say I have ‘The Blues’ per se, but I have been constantly thinking about my race and noticed more than ever that the training is absent.

I consciously talk myself out of doing any training, instead I started walking home from work (roughly 5 miles) just to keep some activity going. The weather was good and it was a few days until pay day and the tram is a fiver!
What are the ‘symptoms’ of post triathlon blues?
– Missing the challenge of training
– Everything seems like an effort
– Sadness
– More time on your hands so you’re bored
– mood swings

Nutrition can play a part in the mood swings as the body is now super sensitive to sugar and I’m probably eating more but minus the training. I’ve put on over half a stone in weight in 2 weeks and it was a bit of anti-climax being able to let loose on the Domino’s and curry and beer and wine. I thought I wanted it more than I needed it. Moodyness probably comes from thinking how my race could have gone better, but then balances out by thinking about how it could have gone worse! My stresses of water in goggles, getting beat up in the swim, mechanical failure on the bike or punctures or blowing up on the run never materialised. So that’s good. But I wasn’t in bits like I was after IMUK and feel I may have left something on the table during my run. But when I tried to pick up on the pace on race day, my hamstrings were tight, so perhaps that was my best performance for the day. It’s easy to forget the good things about a race when it went well and heighten the minor ‘could haves’.

Wine & a bath after IMUK 2013

Wine & a bath after IMUK 2013

Taking a two week break was important to rebuild my hunger for training and rushing back into anything may have delayed any enthusiasm I had for returning, focussing on what can be done in the future rather than what has happened in the past. My mind needs a rest as much as my body. I was having trouble sleeping when I returned to my usual routine of work in Manchester and couldn’t really concentrate on things for too long. I was unmotivated to do anything; housework, the big shop, everything was an effort. I had devoted so much time to training and sacrificed little things like drinking and late nights, my routine had been solely based around training rather than anything else, so taking this away overnight was massively noticeable . Without the adrenaline and endorphins released from training there was no real reason why I had to do anything at all.

Crossing the line at Challenge Almere 2014

Crossing the line at Challenge Almere 2014

It’s good practice to write down a race report and something I’ve always tried to get in the habit of doing. I have a record of went well and it’s documented for next time. I never saw training as a burden and was always up for it, and when both my body and mind are no longer active it’s been difficult to replace it. I believe I needed this tunnel vision to get up for training and my race and wouldn’t change anything in my build up for my ‘A’ race. Placing such emphasis on it makes it a big deal to me personally and therefore something I don’t want to risk fucking up! I train alone so have no social aspect that has been taken away, just my own sense of well being.

I’m not overcoming post race blues, but I have enjoyed getting out on the mountain bike again, something I put away for most of the summer while I hit the Ironman training hard. I didn’t want to risk injury or be using up energy on the MTB that could be spent on road miles. It’s nice to not have the clock running over my rides and just being out doing things I want to do rather than the things I have to do.

I’ve signed up for the Leeds Abbey Dash in November, a 10k flat road race. It’s a reason to get back into some good running and have a structure back in place. I’ll be back in the pool, social riding and on the turbo for just the one day a week.
My coach Paul Savage has again fired up the plans and will continue to be my main man for 2015. Now Paul and I have worked together for a couple of years I appreciate he knows my body, my injuries and what I am capable of more than anyone and I’d find it very difficult to go this alone. I do as I’m told and it’s worked every time so far.

My 2015 calendar is beginning to take shape with a few races pencilled in, which is great to have set so early on:
MarchWilmslow Half Marathon
AprilManchester Marathon
JuneBala Middle Distance Triathlon – British National Champs
SeptemberChallenge Weymouth – European Long Distance Triathlon Champs

Reference to more on Triathlon Blues is in Mark Kleanthous’ ‘Triathlon. The Mental Battle’

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Good Practice for Good Training

Sometimes following a training plan can feel like a process of just going through the motions. After IMUK, I ticked over with some open water swimming and some bike rides, strictly sticking to the aspects of training that I enjoy. No stopwatch or routine in place, it wasn’t really training per se. The fact it was exercise was a knock on affect of me enjoying myself.

When I decided to get back into training and fire up a plan again with my coach Paul Savage, it gave me back some structure & purpose to my training. The plan is 6 days a week of training, amounting to around 10 or 12 hours per week. It’s not just the training that dictates the week, but the things I need to do around this to steer clear of the ‘going through the motions’ mindset. Eating well, keeping up my stretching and yoga and also recovery to make sure I can train again the next day. It’s all about the good practices around the training that culminate into an overall good week of training, not just getting a sweat on.

Good practice guide

IMTalk presenter Bevan James Eyles wrote a similar piece here in reference to ‘Action Triggers’, where he mentions the temptations that can affect this good practice. It’s not really about having a set of rules to live by or a regimented way of doings things as people eat, train & sleep at different times of the day and week. I have slowly found out what works for me and more importantly what doesn’t. When I have a storming training session that I feel great about, I’ll remember the good things that I did before that session and save them as a reminder for everything that I did around not only the physical training session.

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I remember reading a piece on Jonny Wilkinson where he won’t walk away from a training session until he has achieved his goals. The last set of kicks he does in training needs to be the best, so he can walk away with the last feeling he had being great. You can’t end your session on a bad one or that feeling will stick with you until the next session, starting on the back foot before practice has even begun.

For me, a training plan is essential as it keeps me disciplined and dedicated to the overall picture. I have something to work towards & it had a knock on affect to everything I do around the plan. The lifestyle goes hand in hand with the plan, it’s unavoidable, and when you get the best practices top and tailing the training, you’ll just know about it.

For a bit of further reading, closed skills such as kicking a ball from a tee very much falls under the umbrella of Kinaesthetic learning, or tactile learning. This recent blog at Project-Active explains a bit more about how we can learn more from feel rather than a textbook.

Book Review – ‘Chi Running’ by Danny Dreyer

Firstly I bought this book on a whim, as a last resort almost, clutching at straws. I had become more and more disillusioned with my absence from running I thought I may as well read about it while I’m taking an extended break. Chi Running is quite an old book, first published in 2004, so I’m not stumbling on something too ground-breaking here. It has genuinely helped I think. There are a lot of principles we can take from Chi and put into our running, perhaps the book goes into slightly too much detail for the majority of us, but I felt I gained a few lessons in just to reset myself back to running.

Returning from an 8 week absence was always going to be a slow job for me, slowly building back up the miles was something I was happy to do and now I would spend those early short miles working on a new technique. More lean, better posture and hopefully all as a means to run injury free.

Chu Run

I feel I am not yet back to 100% with my ITB, but it has become manageable. Cold mornings, prolonged sitting and walking in shoes always makes me aware there is a historical problem down there, just to the left a little.
220 Triathlon featured Chi Running in a recent edition when looking at other running forms.

Download and have a read here, or buy the book – it was only a fiver.

revitalise your running new

I’ve just completed a block of 4 x 6 mile runs and have come through relatively unscaved. This technique does need work though, and won’t be achieved in your first session. I also punctuated this technique change with a new pair of running shoes. I went back to Nike – they came with a free placebo affect!

Close Shave

I’ve been absent from the blog. I did a Duathlon on March 17th and picked up an injury which has been pretty hard to take. It’s a recurrence of my ITB injury and caught me by surprise to say the least. I had got up 8 miles in my return to running and was hitting some nice times with my negative splits and feeling strong as I built the distance back up. Then BANG – as I reached the final 2k of the second running leg of the Duathlon I felt it build and then come on strong. My leg was locked straight, just too painful to flex.
I have scratched around for some kind of reason as to why and how this occurred, 5 days after hitting a solid 8 mile run.

– It was a cold day
– The race organiser was running late and therefore rushed through the race briefing and left little time for a warm up or to organise kit
– I had a little flu bug a couple of days leading up to the race, leaving me on the couch rather than training.
– I ran harder than usual
– The course was undulating

Whatever the cause, it left me fairly depressed and feeling rather sorry for myself. The road to recovery has been long and precise, so to have been put back to square 1 was massively demoralising.

It took the wind out of my sails in a big way. I didn’t do any training for nearly a week afterwards and even then it was just steady swimming. I’d lost a lot of pool fitness just by taking this time out, I was struggling to walk and putting any weight on the knee was painful. It disturbed my sleep and it made me a general displeasure to be around.

I needed to snap out of it. Positive thinking will hopeful bare a quicker return, so I’ve heard. I had acupuncture treatment on the knee and also upgraded my foam roller to a rumble roller. This thing is agony, in a good way! Voltorol gel, a strict routine of stretching and yoga are all helping me train my mind into not wasting a day feeling sorry for myself but realise a comeback to full fitness is against the clock. I grew a beard too.

beard

Much like The Playoff Beard for my American friends. But I said I wouldn’t shave until I can run a pain free 2 miles! Not a lot granted, but the look, feel and taste of this beard reminds me that I need to foam roller and do all of my rehab stretching and exercises to get myself fit again. They help my knee and now also help get closer to that close shave.

Call it clutching at straws, but I’m also reading this book ‘Chi Running’. I’ll let you know how it works out, but the basic principles and mechanics behind the running style does ring true for my symptoms and possible fixes.

Book Review – ‘Bad Blood’ by Jeremy Whittle

I read ‘Bad Blood’ off the back of of reading Tyler Hamilton’s ‘The Secret Race‘. It was in the references and I thought it would fill some gaps on my knowledge of the sport.

bad_blood

It’s written by journalist Jeremy Whittle and it is a great piece of journalism by a fan. All journalists are fans of the sports they work in and reading books like this has helped me enjoy the recent Tour of Oman and Paris-Nice coverage because I now know a lot more about the sport. It’s good. It’s interesting and did exactly what I wanted it to do, just fill my down time from training with some training related literature. It’s not going to give me inspiration to go training or teach me anything technical about the sport I do, but its short and digestible – a good piece of journalism. Worth having on your shelf.
I had a brief spell as a radio sports journalist, covering football, rugby and cricket across Yorkshire. It was a good stepping stone for my career but it took away a lot of the love I had for sport. I am a fan through and through and having to turn watching into a job rather than doing into a hobby actually made a dent in my passion for sport rather than the dream job I anticipated it to be.

forest

When I got to cover a Nottingham Forest match it was made for me. My boyhood club, access to the players, my questions direct to my heroes and I could even sneak my Dad in as my ‘assistant’. Alas, I’d officially mixed work with pleasure and it wasn’t cool. Whittle talks about his fork in the road where he knew what was going on in the doping world, but almost didn’t want to accept it and was forced to choose. The heartbreak of being so deep inside the sport, he knew the darker side which, when you dedicate your life to that sport, must be tough to accept even as a seasoned journalist.

Book Review – ‘Iron War’ by Matt Fitzgerald

I’d never heard of Dave Scott or Mark Allen until I started my own project of becoming an Ironman. It’s not that I didn’t hear because of ignorance or lack of publicity, I just hadn’t been exposed to them. At the end of the day, this stupid idea of Ironman is still a minority sport. People are in the general ‘know’ of what it is – a massive event of swimming, cycling and running. People still ask what order it is in. I did up until 2 years ago. As part of my own training, I have also had to become somewhat of a student of Ironman. I began listening to podcasts and at every waking moment I am not training I am reading. ‘Iron War’ by Matt Fitzgerald has been an incredible read, and actually very inspirational and educating for my own goals.

Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald

Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald

I’m sure you are all aware of the what’s, why’s, when’s of the book and the epic battle between Dave Scott and Mark Allen back in Kona in 1989 – ‘The Greatest Race of All Time’.

I raced through this book myself, it was gripping. I deliberately skipped the photos as I didn’t want to see what Dave or Mark looked like. I had my own minds eye and vision of who I was reading about. This is what makes a great book – you’re own imagination. When I finished the book, I youtube’d the race footage to put it in some kind of real life terms – it became a movie in itself after reading about it. Like when people say about Lord of The Rings, or The Davinci Code – ‘ah the book is better’. The book in this case is a backed up and definitive piece of information about why this race happened. It had been building for years and this was the end game.

First of all the legend Dave Scott argues that his own hard work will fend off any natural talent that his competitors bring ‘(Dave Scott) held the belief that his hard work could trump any others talent. He believed he could be the best by being the man who never quit’.

This is more a desire not to quit that beats natural talent and who can argue with Dave Scott, he’s a winner. It does ring bells of Mathew Syed’s book ‘The Myth of Talent’ (no link because I don’t want to encourage buying it!) a book by a former Table Tennis international who argues that practice, practice, practice will beat anyone – talent doesn’t exist. Syed never won Olympic Gold. Did he not want it enough,? Could he have practiced more? No – the other guy had more talent. Natural talent does exist, it has to. For Dave Scott, his natural talent was in his mind and this meant he turn that in fitness, endurance and speed. I’ll leave it there on Mathew Syed, his argument falls down at every hurdle.

Like I mentioned, ‘Iron War’ doesn’t just list a sequence of events that took place in 1989. The rich content of why and how it all happened was an insight in to how we work as endurance athletes in our own right.

Fitzgerald references the work of Samuel Marcora, who conducted an interesting study in fatigue and why we let it happen fatigue is voluntary and occurs as a response to an intolerable level of suffering.’

He talks about the ‘Psychobiological model of exercise tolerance – which understands challenging tasks are determined by a weighing up of cost and reward’. In Mark Allen’s case in 1989, the cost of winning Kona was greater than the cost of any suffering.

Also Marcora does a test on the affects of mental fatigue on physical performance. (I also heard a recent topic being discussed on IMTalk with Nortin Hadler – Episode 348).

Marcora tested the effort of athletes before and after some intellectual stress and found that physical performance can be reduced by up to 15% if we are having cogs turning in our heads before we train. This is directly related to us – the age grouper!

Work Hard, Train Hard

Work Hard, Train Hard

We work, we have jobs! Personally I have had to make changes to my work and training time management because I do get mentally exhausted from work. I get home from work at 1pm maybe even 2pm after a 4:30am start and I can’t then hop straight on the turbo and get a beneficial session. If I put a one hour nap or menial task like washing or a food shop between my working life and my training life I get so much more from my training sessions. I want to do them more, now my mind is clear form the work related pain that has just had the last 10 hours dedicated to it.

This book is so much more than a book about a race. The science, the research and the connections we can all make to ourselves is massive. There is a little bit of Dave Scott and Mark Allen in all of us. Matt Fitzgerald gives a great account of why ‘The Greatest Race of All Time’ even existed. How it happened and traces back to the when the seed was dropped for fate to bring these two incredible athletes together in Kona when they did.

Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Hamilton & Ayrton Senna walk into a bar…

Shall I go on about Lance? I think we all have an opinion on it, good or bad but personally I don’t think we learned anything we didn’t already know in Lance’s chat with Oprah. Only that a quick check of Oprah’s wiki page that she was actually meant to be called Orpah, yet for a spelling mistake on the birth certificate. Unfortunately the single mother, poverty stricken family she was brought up in weren’t able to back date any important and official documents, maybe Lance could’ve checked his address book for her? Anyway, out of all I read the day after the broadcast, this article was one of the best written ‘How To Play The Confessor Without Actually Confessing’

ham

I read Tyler Hamilton’s book ‘The Secret Race’ in a week. It was a fascinating read, very well written and very honest. If Lance wasn’t such an aggressive and nasty person, perhaps he may have emerged from this whole affair with an iota of respect that his accomplices have done. There are two pieces from the book that really stood out to me. First of all:

“You can talk all you want about BB’s (Blood Bags) and the Edgar (EPO); you can call me a cheater and a doper until the cows come home. But the fact remains that in a race where everybody had equal opportunity, I played the game and I played it well. I took a chance and I pushed myself as hard as I could, and when the day was over, I finished first.”

Really honest and strong words from Tyler Hamilton talking about himself. Did everybody have equal opportunity? Or did they (Lance, Tyler et al) immerse themselves in a culture that created a circle, or an exclusive club, where doping wasn’t available to everyone. Or not at least on this scale. Lance’s private jet to Valencia wasn’t chartered for the entire peloton was it? Either way, this one extract really emphasizes the need and desire to win at all costs. There is no beating around the bush – they needed this to win, a spiraling out of control environment that ripped through peoples lives and left the nice guy finishing last.

Secondly, what brings it back to a slight twinkle of humanity is towards the end of the book:

“James (a special needs pupil) did great. He was strong and determined. When we got to the top, James was as stoked as if he’d just climbed Alpe d’Huez. I was too.
“Now that I’d told the truth, I was tuning into life again. I could talk to someone without having to worry or backtrack or figure out their motives, and it felt fantastic. I felt as if I were back in 1995, before all this bullshit started.”

This full circle of enjoying the basic and most fundamental part of why you took up a sport is apparent in this section. It also rings bells of the tear jerking truth in the film ‘Senna’. This incredible biopic from 2011 tells the story of Ayrton Senna with the most incredible footage and real life story. This film starts and ends with Senna’s early karting days.

“’78 I came to Europe to compete for the first time. It was pure driving, it was real racing. That makes me happy”

When asked at the end of the film about his most precious racing memories – baring in mind the guy had won countless Formula 1 races, drivers titles , driven the best cars in the world beyond their limits, developed the sport beyond the realms of sport itself – he recalled his memories of karting being the best and that he held most precious. There were no politics, no cheating, no egos. It was pure racing. It’s great to read that Tyler Hamilton had the same wave of emotion when he rediscovered the grass roots of why we take up sport. We all have a bit of the great Ayrton Senna in us. That’s why we bust a ball everyday, every week, every year to compete at whatever level.

My 1st Big Ride (& a bit of book review)

I’m currently enjoying a week of annual leave. God it’s good to be away from the city & the slog of work. I decided to take a few days break down at my folks place. Wouldn’t say it’s a ‘country retreat’ but it’s surrounded by greenland and therefore a great change in scenery for a week of training. I accidentally started the training a bit early, with a big ride from Manchester to Nottingham, 72 miles and 5hr 40mins. I usually get the train home, but having had a look at the weather and planned my route I thought I’d pedal it. It was annoying having a bag with me but I needed to be able to spend time at home in other than lycra.

I got to Stockport and thought ‘this is a silly idea’. I got to Buxton and wondered what the hell I was doing. I reached Ashbourne and was pig sick of it! But then at 2/3rds distance i got an extra boost that I was actually going to do this. I thought about what the guys at home would think of it. There was no way I was going to bail and I just needed to push on through Derby. I even took a slight bit of pride thinking I was probably the only person in the world to be cycling this route on this day. That’s not that impressive in hindsight but at the time I was pretty chuffed with my effort and found something to cling to mentally. It was also a good chance to do a bit of a nutrition test and also see how my new Kinetic 1 wheels rolled on a long distance ride. Both cases worked well. I used 3 SiS sports bars, 2 peanut butter sandwhiches and 1 banana. I had scrambled eggs on brown bread for breakfast and a high 5 sports drink at the end.

New wheels looks sick! Just heading up into Buxton from Whaley Bridge

The hills across from Buxton to Ashbourne were a killer but I was lucky to get such a dry and clear day. It really is a scenic ride and I’ll be doing this again. Below is the data from Speed vs Elevation. As you can see, I stopped for a couple of pee breaks and some snaps when I was double checking my route. My phone battery ran out at 60 miles, just 12 miles short of the folks house.

Speed over Elevation – Manchester to Derby

My missus’ Dad bought me a book for my birthday – The Man Who Cycled The World. Having read about his moans (and there are plenty of those) I put myself in a postion of what he must have felt like and why he was moaning so much. Mark Beaumont was aiming for this kind of mileage every day for 6 months. Fair play to him. I stop for a coffee and read a few pages of this book after a swim, and I’ve really had to stick with this as I keep getting increasingly annoyed with his negativity. I was expecting a lot more about the places he’d seen and the people he’d met rather than just a list of dodgy roads and ignorant policemen. What a let down. I appreciate his challenge is a race, but just enjoy it for gods sake man! Not a lot of people get to do that! Still, rather than skimming over his list of distances covered, I could actually now appreciate his effort since I’d had a go at riding one of his daily distances. Check your local bargain bucket for a stocking filler if you’re struggling this Christmas.