Monday, 23 June 2008

Define "crazy"

Last week was another solid block of training but hampered somewhat by work and reality. The reality being that sometimes we get tired and need a bit of a rest. The highlight of the week had to be the midnight 100 miler.

A key session in my weekly training is an early morning ride on thursdays spent circling a traffic free Regents Park. By starting (relatively) early I can get a 3 hr bike ride followed by a full english breakfast and be in for work by 9.30. The motivating factor is that there is usually company with Steve often there from 4 or earlier and Kevin who does odd shiftwork often there even earlier. It works a bit like a drop in cycling social club with others joining as the morning progresses so that by 6.30 there can be as many as 8-10 cyclists flying round the park. Various sessions are undertaken though it sometimes descends into an ever faster group ride.

Last year at this time I arrived to find Steve and Jo there good and early and decidedly tired looking. Then they dissappeared which is unusual as they normally do breakfast. It transpired they had decided to skip sleep the night before and had gone pretty much straight from an evening swimming session to go round and round the park with the aim of doing 100 miles to celebrate the summer solstice or to build for IM Switzerland, hence they were very tired looking.

Wind forward six months and we thought a winter solstice bike ride would be a good idea. 100 miles done on the coldest night of last winter in London (Temp as low as -7 C) was a true challenge. Water bottles were frozen after 45 minutes and the cold just made any speed impossible. It was done though in around 7.5hrs and chalked as a mental toughening exercise.

Now back to last week, I wanted a crack at 100 miles in 5 hrs and Steve was a willing partner in spite of a massive week of training at epic camp the week before. We started at 1 and were going well after a gentle start and at 65 miles were on target for the 5 hrs. Then the wheels came off with steve imploding as his previous weeks training took its not to suprising toll. I pushed on but by this stage with the speed around 19.8 and not able to find any more diesel I was happy to just complete aided by Kevin who's rear wheel I sucked for a good 45 minutes.
So is this crazy behaviour or is it just different behaviour. Personally I really enjoy the challenge of doing these sessions which stand out of their own right and enable me to challenge myself. To most the idea of getting up to cycle round a closed park 38 times in the name of fun is a fairly straightforward definition of crazy. So this week I wont get up til 04:00 hrs and will only do 70 miles cause that is normal!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Putting in the hours

This year I have been coaching myself which is fun and a big learning experience. Part of the trouble with having a coach is that I can have unpredictable work hours whereby I may be called in to work in the middle of the night or at a weekend and this then plays havoc with any fixed training plan. I also find the stress from some days in the office can magnify feelings of fatigue and I might skip the odd session at the end of a long day.. sad really because once I get out there I feel so much better!

Following on form IM lanzarote with another race in 7 weeks has been interesting. I allowed 1 week of almost complete rest but was at club lesanta so did some pilates, stretching and a bit of swimming. By day 5 post race I was ready for a very gentle 1 hr ride.

On return to the UK (so 1 week after IM lanza) I managed a steady 4.5 hr ride and felt surprised by how little fatigue I had.

The last week or so of training looks like this.

Saturday 1hr turbo bike warm up (230 watts) 2hr run (8 min mile or so)

Sunday 5 hr bike session

Monday 1 hr swim (400m, 10 x 200, 6 x100m)

Tuesday 1hr bike to work (series of 1 mile hard efforts with breaks at traffic lights), 1 hr bike home steady then 1hr 30 mins (8min mile) run

Wednesday 1 hr swim (400m, 4 x 800m)

Thursday 2.5 hr bike including 2 x30 mins hard (and 2 punctures) then 50 min run (8 min mile) later did 1hr swim (40 mins steady then 4 x 100, 8 x 50)

Friday 2 hr 15 min run (8 min miles)
Saturday 1hr 30 min turbo (incl 6 x5 mins LT) and 50 min run straight off

Sunday 5hr bike and 45 min run
Reading what some friends of my have done at Epic training camp reminds me that the limits may be a lot further away than I think. With a solid 2 year training history of maybe 14 hrs a week I should be able to manage a 2 week spike in hours so long a I am careful on the intensity and get enough rest and eat well. So next week will be a repeat of this one with an extra 100 mile ride on Thursday when I will ride through the night (for a laugh) then sleep through work and pushing out one of the long run to 2.5 hrs.

Will all this work- I have no idea but it is fun learning what stick I can cope with. Setting goals for IMA they are one of three a) 5hr bike split or b) sub 10 or c) sub 3.45 marathon.
I am sure I can do one of these!!!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Selfish or focused?

One of the appeals to many in undertaking an IM is that the events are largely under your own control. As all those who make the journey realise it will put you into conflict with those around you if you allow it too- and as you start to change it is sometimes difficult for those around you to adapt to this change.

How do we offset this focus on our own goals, should we worry about this and where does it end?

Personally I find that the advantages of training include the obvious like being fitter, the collateral benefits such as significant reduction in alcohol intake and the organisational benefits I have touched on before. It is still though a big step to deny my family my presence, or perhaps not (;-), as I set out early on a Sunday for a long ride. Even if I am back by 11 the morning is gone and after 5 hrs riding I am not the most energetic! I would argue though that on my return I am ready to focus on my family and I feel all the better for having been out and done the work.

The question still remains though as to what value we can attribute to our obsession and whether there are ways in which we can give back on the time invested in training, beyond the personal hoped for longevity and sense of well being.

One aspect which I would like to try and focus upon is how we can use our obsession to support others. The fringe benefits of encouraging others to pursue physical fitness both within our families and our workplace are well recognised but sadly these effects are small.

Living as I do in a mixed ethnicity multicultural inner city area with the associated socioeconomically deprived I have started to wonder if there is a way of harnessing the immense energy, skills and wealth of you average ironman to help the local community. Do we have a responsibility through our advantage and ability to help those around us to achieve some of their potential too? And if so how do we do it?

Does this mean I am going to start a hackney youth tri club?? Well I do not think I am the individual to do this. But could I support an aspiring youth athlete and help them to achieve some of their goals? Probably.

On a personal level I am now able to run, which is a blessed relief. I also recognise the pattern of injury that goes back to 2005 and is essentially down to tight hamstrings (I think). So I am back on a programme of post exercise stretching which I am sure will be a force for good as I head towards IM Austria.