I think there are a couple of things that differentiate not only successful athletes but successful people in all walks of life. I’m a big fan of both business and sports personality interviews and with the growth in podcasting it’s possible to binge listen to and accelerate learning from very succesful athletes and business people. My favourite type of story is the one of the person who starts off in a very ordinary situation and figures a way to either master a sport and gradually rise up to become world class or they build a business from nothing to success. As inspirational and fascinating as the stories of the Steve Jobs or Usain Bolts of this world are it’s almost impossible for me to relate to them. They are just so far from my or for that matter most of our realities as to be fantasy. Listening to someone tell the story of how they have gone from nothing to starting a business to building it to a level of success that, while aspirational is within the scope of most peoples reality I think is a great way to learn. And to be honest it makes a pleasant change to learning from my own mistakes.
I started this blog I guess as a way to document our attempt to get me back into Kona qualifying shape. I had been following Alan Ryan’s blog tracking his attempt to not only qualify for Kona but to go on and try to win his age group there. I thought it was a great insight into how he trained and how his training differed from mine. I found it so interesting I decided to have a go myself and record how myself and Ais tackled it.
There’s a huge amount of nervousness stating a big goal publicly (crapping myself might be a better way to describe it) there’s always the possibility of failing and falling flat on my face and I’ve invited an audience along to watch. The first time I attempted to qualify for Kona in 2011 I wrote about it in the Outsider magazine and I found it provided me with a great sense of motivation, mostly from the fear of screwing up publicly.
As age group triathletes we have a lot to work on. Three sports to train for, usually a job and possibly a family too. Often the first thing to go while trying to fit everything in is strength and conditioning. I’m regularly asked if an athlete should do gym work, yoga or Pilates as part of Ironman training program and I usually advise to train the main sports first and only if there is time or more importantly a specific need for strength sessions should they do them. But there are a couple of important exceptions to this.
I incorporate strength and conditioning into my training for a couple of reasons.
It’s got to be one of the hardest things to do. To learn how to race an event that’s at least twice as long as any you have ever done before and even if you have done it before you often only get to do it once or maybe twice a year if you’re lucky. I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of excellent coaches since I started racing Ironman and what I’ve learned in that time is that the best of them not only gave me a program to do but they also taught me how to train and more importantly how to race Ironman. Sometimes they’d tell me something, sometimes they’d show me. My favourite lessons were the ones that taught me a skill that I could use on race day. Peter Kern my first Ironman coach regularly got into the open water with me and showed me how to draft both on his feet and on his hip, he taught me to swim in close proximity with another swimmer and not freak out. Another time he ran my long intervals with me telling me to speed up or slow down based on my breathing, telling me to be aware of it at the correct effort. He was big on training and racing on percieved effort. He was the first coach I worked with and through specific sessions and one on one coaching he taught me my first lessons in racing Ironman.
While talking to athletes and during my own training over the last few weeks one golden rule has come up again and again. In my mind it’s probably the most important rule to make all training decisions by. It’s certainly one Ais has driven home again and again.
Most of us over estimate what we can do in a year or even just a couple of months and under estimate what we can do in 2, 3,4 or even 10 years. When we set out with a target to do our first race be it a triathlon, running race, Ironman or whatever the challenge a lot of us give it a certain amount of time. It might be 4, 6 or maybe even 20 weeks to get fit and complete the event. Often our next target is to get faster so we go back and again we allow ourselves a certain amount of time to get in shape. Sometimes we add in extra training and maybe do some intervals or other specific sessions. This usually works for a while and we get faster, then along comes the big idea. I wonder could I podium in my age group, win a small race, break a certain time for a distance or whatever the target is. It’s often a stretch from where we currently are so when we decide to go for it we train like crazy. Harder, more, longer sessions and sometimes it works but often it doesn’t and as failure looms we stop and accept defeat. But what if the only thing we are getting wrong is the amount of time it takes? What if we allowed ourselves longer to reach the big goals. Instead of thinking about how fit you could get in 10 weeks of cramming in training for an event what if you managed to do a little less each week but trained consistently in a sustainable manner for 100 weeks? Can you even begin to imagine how much fitter, faster, stronger or healthier you would be if you were able to sustain a training block for 400 weeks? If training properly, consistently became a lifestyle and a normal part of your life.
There are a number of similarities I’ve noticed among really good or really successful athletes. Traits that most of us can learn from and copy to our own advantage. Unlike the monster engine the very top age groupers or pro’s have which most of us could never match, we can copy a lot of the things that add to their repertoire. Things that give an extra 1% here or 2% there but when added up they can make a massive difference to an age group athlete.
This was one of the best weeks training I’ve had in years, certainly the best since I’ve been back Ironman training this time around. I’ve been addressing specific issues like bike strength and I’ve also been adding quality runs to the mix so the volume and intensity combine to make it a hard but very satisfying week.
The last few days of the month saw the first half way decent return to training in over three weeks. I still don’t feel great, but to be honest I’m just very relieved to be back training again. The prospect of moving into a shed to get away from the dog was looming large for the last week but it looks like I’ll get away with it at this stage.
Training wise things really fall apart this week and I end up with the worst week since January. On the plus side though I make some excellent progress with sorting out the back and the nerve problems. I’m working with two of the best Physio’s I’ve found anywhere. If you’re looking for a really expert triathlon physiotherapist these guys are the business. Cillian is taking on clients and he hangs out over here. Tell him Rob sent you. Read on for the very short update on the weeks lack of training… Read More