Physical or Mental?

This week I have enjoyed a good weeks training, I have been regaining the feeling of making good progress and generally the numbers have been reflecting this.

Also this week, I got back in the pool after an absence of several weeks, and funnily enough I quite enjoyed it.

But, and it is still the same but as before, I am still struggling with the mental side of swimming, no matter how hard I try and tell myself it’s not so bad, when I get in the pool I seem to be staying safe rather than pushing myself on and actually fulfilling any potential I may have.

What I find the most ridiculous part of it, is that last year I swam 750m in open water, and yet in a pool with no swim toys I have never done more than 100m in one go.

Give me some fins or a pull buoy and I will happily swim up and down until I become too tired to do any more, take them away and suddenly all my confidence disappears and I want to stop pretty much every time I reach the end of the pool.

There must be a simple answer to this, but as yet I haven’t found it and if I am honest I don’t really know where to find it. it sounds a bit like a song, I still haven’t found what I am looking for!

If anyone out there knows the answer to my problem please tell me as I feel it is the last step to enabling me to crack swimming.

Shrug, and Move On

Well, sometimes you just have to give a shrug and move on, and for me, now is one of those times.

Today I was supposed to be racing an trail race in the Chiltern Hills, an event I was really looking forward to, however, due to my inability to get rid of my cold I simply wasn’t in a condition to race, well that is what my wife told me!

I thought I was taking a sensible approach this week to ensure I could race, I didn’t train on Monday or Tuesday, then did an easy run Wednesday night and all seemed ok. The numbers from the run were ok and I really thought I was winning.

But, on Thursday I woke up feeling shattered, and that feeling only got worse as the day went on, I picked up a sore throat to go with it and then starting coughing up all sorts of horrible coloured stuff! Despite this I was still optimistic of being able to race.

Friday, the situation didn’t really change and so I was forced to admit that I could not race, my wife chipped in with her opinion that if I did race I would probably not do myself any good and that would or could impact the rest of the year. So the decision was made, well not finally!

Saturday morning, I hoped when I woke up I would feel brilliant, no sore throat etc and then I could go race, however,that was not the case so I was forced to finally admit defeat.

I am now hopeful of returning to normal training next week as I have another race in a couple of weeks and as it stands I am thinking I might not be in much of a condition to do that but we will see.

I know this year is all about a single goal, and these early season events are just to break up the training but I do enjoy a race there is something about the atmosphere that I like, the chance to be with like minded people and to generally have fun.

So, no race for me today, hopefully normal service will resume shortly.

2014 – A Year in Review

2014, a year that was a bit of a make or break year for me if I am honest, it had the possibility of offering much and delivering nothing.

The year started with me still struggling with swimming, and with triathlons on the cards it was certainly becoming more difficult for me to visualise actually finishing. I was trying with the swimming but it just wasn’t happening, and I was becoming more frustrated.

As the year moved on, life in the pool wasn’t getting much better, however, running and cycling were coming along ok.

An early season 10k trail race, saw me put in a decent 52 minute effort and that was a result inside the 75 (I think).

Time moved on and as spring approached the swimming still wasn’t where it needed to be, I honestly thought about pulling out of the tri’s as I basically didn’t want to drown!

A few sessions in the open air pool in my wetsuit certainly helped, as I was able to just about swim the required distance for the first trip, 400m, not far I hear you say, far enough I say.

Before long, the year had progressed and the first tri was upon me. Yes I goy through it, not without a struggle but I did do it. If you want to read the full story of that first trip, then click here

The next trip was due to be at Blenheim, but due to really bad weather I decided not to do it, I was really concerned about crashing on the bike leg.

Instead, I entered another trip at Dorney Lake, this one had a 750m swim, and whilst I was slow in the water, I got through it ok and the rest of my race went really well. The full report can be read here

After this I felt the pressure was off me, and I really enjoyed racing at the Brompton World Championship, where I finished 109th. Ride 100 London was a bit of a disappointment, the weather was frankly terrible, I have never ridden in rain like it, the course was shortened and if I had not been riding with a friend of mine who had raised a lot of money of charity I would have deferred my entry. We got through the 87 miles, but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun!

The back half of the year was due to the set around doing the Ballbuster Duathlon, an event that is legendary in its toughness, but I managed to displace my knee cap and this meant that I couldn’t really train and had to go through a course of physio to mend the damage. In fact, the knee if only really recently back to feeling normal and is something I am monitoring carefully.

So then 2014, a year I did become a triathlete, I did swim 750m in open water, I did improve my pb for a 10k trail race, I did improve my placing at the Brompton World Championship (by over 100 places) and I did have an injury

There are as ever a few people who at this point need to be thanked for their contribution in all of this, it isn’t all me you know. Firstly, “Iron” Mike Shaw at without whose excellent training plans and advice a lot of this would not have been accomplished. The people I have trained with over the year, Roger, Dave and Gary to name a few. The biggest thanks goes to my wife, Suzanne, who has put up with me, come and supported me at races and generally been very encouraging when I felt like chucking it all in.

All in all 2014 was a good year for me on the sporting front, I am looking to forward to 2015.

Happy new year and I hope 2015 brings you everything you want.

30 Day Challenge – Stage 3

Today I finished the 3rd stage of the Kinetic Revolution 30 Day Challenge and I am glad it is over!

This stage is designed around Intermediate Mobility & Plyometric Training, and this meant it was tough going. I am not sure if it was just me, but this set of exercises were hard, and as the reps were the same throughout it meant not gradual build up, just straight in and not let up.

The thing I took from this, that this is obviously an area I am weak in, else I would have found the exercises much easier. Does this mean I am going to add any of these exercises to my now normal post session sets, well I honestly don’t know. Part of me is thinking that once or twice a week might be an idea but the jury is still out.

The big question is am I feeling any difference so far, well, as I said last time I am certainly feeling a difference in my hips and I think that I am running with a better posture, not sinking into my hips, although I can’t say for sure it just feels like that.

There are 2 stages left and at the end of those will I be a better runner, who knows, but at least I will have learnt some very good lessons that should ultimately help my running.

An Extra Challenge

This week I have been building on the improvement in my knee, and have seen some improvement, for example on my third 45 minute zone 1 run, I ran an extra 0.5km at a slightly lower average heart rate, so heading in the right direction.

One thing I have become more aware of since the knee injury is what I do post a training session. For a long time I have always done the same set of stretches, hamstring, calf and quads, sine seeing the physio I have added some foam roller work. I was reading the Kinetic Revolution website and decided to take a closer look at the 30 day challenge.

I have heard about the challenge before, but never looked at it as I alway assumed it would interfere with my normal training, however, it turns out I should have looked into this more as it is designed to compliment anything you currently do, not replace it.

Armed with the new knowledge I decided to sign up, now the challenge is split up into 5 stages, each focusing on a different area. I am in the first stage, Basic Mobility & Balance Training, this stage consists of a series of exercises to work on certain areas, hamstrings, hip flexor and adductor plus some balance drills.

I can’t say I have seen an improvement in my running already, but I think the hip flexor exercises are helping me, as when I was at the physio she did point out my lack of mobility in my right hand side and I do feel a bit more flexible there now.

I am going to try and write about my progress through the challenge as it will be interesting to see if I can find some tangible results.

To anyone who is reading this and wondering whether to have a go, I say try it, if nothing else, like me, you might learn something that will ultimately help your running.

A Novelty

This week I finally got through an entire weeks worth of training, and it felt like the first time for ages.

Following on from my knee injury, just to be training regularly again feels good and add to that training without pain or stiffness and then you have a real plus.

This weeks training was by no means a tough week, 3 runs, 2 of which were in zone 1 and the other at lowish pace, but they all felt good. The swim was enjoyable, especially as the water in the pool was warmer than it has been for ages. It is no real surprise that swimming seems easier when you aren’t feeling like you are freezing to death!

The one downside this week was the turbo session, it was a power test and the result was the same as the last one, in fact whilst the numbers were the same I felt worse doing it and actually struggled to hold a good pace, it felt as though I couldn’t find the right gear. I guess that having had the injury it should not come as a big surprise that the numbers were not brilliant, but even so I thought I had retained more power than I did.

So, all in all this week I hope marks a bit of a breakthrough as it should be the start of a return to normality and this means proper training and the start of the build towards next years races.

And Now For Something Different

Well, I guess not entirely different but a little different, weight training.

First things first, I am no fan of going to the gym, in fact it is somewhere I avoid because being stuck inside going no where on some machine is just not my idea of fun. Before I am shouted down, I know that they have their uses etc etc but for me not a venue of choice.

So, as I have been recovering from my knee injury, more of that later, I wondered whether doing some weights would help me. I contacted the font of all knowledge, Mike and asked what he thought. He said it wasn’t a bad idea and suggested following Mark Allen’s 12 strength training exercises for triathlon. He suggested using around 50% of the maximum weight I could use for each exercise, so as not to build big muscle but to help the muscles for endurance.

I have done one weights session so far, and I have to say I didn’t enjoy it too much, but it is something to stick with for a bit and hopefully it will become more enjoyable, we will see!

In other news, I have been suffering from a very snotty cold, and that certainly cut down my ability to train recently, luckily it seems to be going now so normal service should be resumed.

The other good news is that my knee is now really starting to feel good, I did a steady 45 run on Sunday and it felt good, and I included a hill to test it going both up and down and it seemed to come through with no ill effects.

I am aiming to try and write these entries more often as I have been very lapse of late, I have a couple of reviews to write and so hopefully as I embark on the next season I will have plenty to write about. I am not yet prepared to say what the next challenge is, but it is something I hope will prove as exciting as I hope.

Running Again.. Well Sort of

The rehabilitation of my knee is continuing and it seems to be going in the right direction, although I am still getting some degree of pain and stiffness.

Since the run on Thursday I have had a swim and another short turbo session. The swim was ok, although pushing off from the end of the pool hurt and the turbo was fine.

This morning I went for another 20 minute run, this time I decided I was going to try and ensure I ran properly, not run on the outside of my foot like the other night, and I would lift the pace a bit for a km to see how it felt.

Well, the first km was ok pretty steady and all felt ok, a little tight in the knee but nothing to worry about. The second km I lifted the pace and did a 5 min 25, whilst by no means flat out it meant I had to work harder than before, again I felt no real reaction to this. For the rest of the time I just backed the pace down and trotted home.

If I am honest I am not sure exactly how long this whole process will take, whilst at times the knee feels fine, others it is stiff and a little sore.

I am still using the foam roller to stretch the ITB and I have also added foam roller exercises for hamstrings, quads and calves as well into the post exercise routine, hopefully I will benefit form this going forward.

I am due to visit the physio again this week and hopefully that will be my last visit and from there on I am hoping just to build back up again.

As for the Ballbuster in November, I really don’t know if I can run 16 miles at a good pace, I have basically lost a months worth of what would have been good hard training and currently I am not doing more than 20 minutes, I will have to see.

One Year On

About 12 months ago I too the decision that in order to get some proper help with triathlon and set a plan to work to, and this meant getting some coaching.

I was lucky enough to be put in contact with Mike Shaw from TriPerformance who said he could certainly help me out. Mike it turns out is known as “Iron Mike”, on account of the amount of IronMan triathlons he has completed, initially I wondered if it was a reflection on his tough training schedules!

During the last year the biggest change for me is giving over all my training to the methods of someone else, I, like many, have spent years doing my training my way and suddenly I had to trust someone else.

I will admit to struggling with some of the ideas behind some of the sessions early on, but once I understood them better it became much easier to encompass the ideas and really start to buy into them.

For me one of the big pluses has been having someone to discuss issues with, especially my struggles with swimming, the level of encouragement I received was brilliant. I know I have certainly bent Mike’s ear with my moaning about swimming, but ultimately he was proved correct in that I could do it.

Would I recommend getting some coaching to everyone, well it depends what you want. There are many training plans online to follow and I am sure work well, but if you want something tailored for you and are prepared to both invest the time and money then, yes, a coach could be for you.

I have certainly benefited over the last year from the help and guidance provided by Mike, and I am looking forward to continuing the relationship and hopefully with my results continuing to improve.

Book Review – Bounce by Matthew Syed

This book has been around for a few years now and I think it is fair to say has certainly become a conversation piece amongst both athletes (ahem) and coaches.

The premise of the book is to explore whether elite athletes are more naturally talented or if they have done more purposeful practice, the book is centred around the belief that to become world class you need to have about 10000 hours of purposeful practice.

In my house just the purchasing of the book prompted intense discussion between me and my boy, who said it is rubbish and was sick of having it’s principals told to him constantly during his school life. He has never read the book.

I will be honest, when I am not good at a sport I am guilty of saying I am not a natural whatever, but having read the book and now understanding it more, what I should be saying is I am less practised at the sport and need to invest more time and purposeful practice to improve.

The book quotes various studies throughout it’s course and uses these to back up the principal theory and the examples obviously are designed to suit the arguments, he does offer up the counter arguments but these are not explored in as much detail.

I have to say I am not a complete convert to the theory, but the idea that purposeful practice designed to work on your weaknesses is better than practicing the things you are already good at is something I do agree with, and is something I am going to be incorporating into my swim training.

Should you read the book, yes and then make your own mind up about whether you agree with his ideas or not.

I know some coaches and school teachers who are complete converts and also I know people who are completely against the idea as they maintain the elite sportsman simply are more talented. For those of us who operate well below the elite level there is plenty in the book we can take and so I would say go read it, if nothing else it is certainly a conversation piece.