Monday, 21 July 2008

Baby I got the Blues

Came back to earth with a crash. Got off the airplane at 6.00 p.m. on thursday week ago and was called in to work at 7.00pm. Life goes on and the willing suspension of all things non-ironman has to come to an end at some point. Looks like next year is lining up to be a cracker though. Have confirmed 2 ironmans (?sp) or should it be ironmen, 2 marathons and a weeks training holiday. Who says it is obsessive.

Feeling a lot more worn than after IM Lanza earlier this year and feel in need of some proper rest. Allowing the sessions to be done how and when I feel which mostly means short and low intensity. That said did my hardest bike session this year which was 3 mins flat out 3 mins recovery repeat x 10. This was a hard core high intensity session done with 5 others which wrecked my legs for a few days. I am focused on the London then the Vit but only in as much as I reckon I should use my fitness to put in a few races. Deep down I am already brooding over how to get the 3 mins on the swim, the 10 mins on the bike and the 10 mins on the run. To the swim I will devote an extra hour a week, to the bike I will put on more power using the turbo and go back to more hardcore Sunday rides and the run I will let take care of itself (with a winter focus on marathon running).

I figure that with me going up to 40-44 and a good day I could track down that elusive Hawaii slot. Although maybe the hills at IMCH will not be ideal going for me. Back to the day job.......

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Yeah Baby!

So do I feel a better person now? 2 days ago I raced my first sub 10 ironman. Against a backdrop of clouds and mountains and amidst some thunder storms I had a pretty good day all round. I have really enjoyed coming back to austria for the second time and there is definitely something quite soothing about returning to an IM course. I arrived 3 days before race day with plenty of time to settle in and avoid too much pre race stress. Shared a room with Declan for 2 days which was good company in the hotel porker (porcia) which I cannot recommend unless you like early 80s marble and chintz. Did the usual expo stuff and got the bike checked over on thursday. Friday had a good morning swim with a nice bunch of tritalkers thanks to Jevon and reminded myself why this is the best swimming venue I have been to so far. Friday I chilled out completely after a drive around the course to reacuaint the brain with the route. By saturday I was feeling good and had a nice calm to myself. I swapped hotels and then picked up the family from the airport. A quiet family supper then early to bed.

Raceday arrives and no traumas although rain looks likely, what do I care at least half my winter rides are done in the rain and I love it. Soon we are standing at the edge of the water and I decide on the right side this time with Jevon and Declan behind me for company:-). I know the drill this year as well, when they say enter the water that essentially means we are off and so it goes. I had a fairly steady swim, always keeping myself in control. Probably could have gone faster as when we got to the canal section (the last 800m) I was able to speed up and start picking of those ahead of me like pacman racing along a maze. Straight through T1 but had a major calf cramp as I pulled on my shoe then out onto the bike. The start was the usual high speed stuff and I was one of them! I had thought I would have a go at doing a sub 5 bike split to see if could at least recover my cycling mojo after Lanzarote. We had rain on the first lap. On the flat and some of the downhills I was a match for anyone, only on the hills was my form somewhat lacklustre, on the first pass of the Rupi climb I found myself going backwards but settled for a steady spin up the hill without going into the red at all. Over the hill and I was flying and soon went past the trunaround in 2.28 and some seconds, a sub 5 could be on I thought. Soon after I was passed by the first of 3 significant peletons of riders. I fully understand the concept of pacing of another rider but some of my continental friends especially the more italian names like alfonso seemed to think that the 10m rule means you all have to be within 10m of the lead bike (all of you!) any way they seemed pretty skilled in group riding so I dont think they were unsafe.

I felt pretty tired around 130-140 km but managed to keep my focus. Second time up the Rupi was much the same as the first but as I came of the top I decided I would hammer it home. I wound up my legs and went hard, there are a few rises where I would spin for a bit but soon as we were back on the rolling stuff (most of the last 30 km is downhill) I was back on the gas and it felt good as I cruised past some of the "bunches " of riders giving them a bit of abuse and daring them to chase me, some did but most did not.

Hit T2 at 5.04 something so dropped around 7-8 mins on my second bike leg. I definitely had a bit of lactate (or whatever) in my legs and was soon out on the run feeling a bit heavy and regretting my 40 minutes of lunacy in the last hour of the bike. For the first 30 mins I was not a happy man. First km that I timed myself on (from 2-3 I think) had me at 6min/km. I thought this was going to be lanza all over again, my legs were dead and I was making a deal with myself that if I took over 4 hrs on the run then my IM days were over (hey I was tired and emotional). I decided to HTFU and get a rhythm going. Next splits I did was for 3km and showed 15:20, suddenly my whole race changed, I discarded the previous split did some maths and realised if I could hold this I would do a 3.35-3.40 mara (my personal gold medal run time).

Suddenly I was on again. Knowing my usual run form I also expected it to get easier at least for a bit, and as I set out on the second quarter it did. This time I had a plan, when the running feels easy, eat a la Fink. So I was doing a gel every other feed station and "ezo" energy drink plus the odd bit of banana. Sure the food made me feel a bit sick but by pushing on I was banking my nutrition for the seond half (that was my plan anyhow) and keeping my splits on goal. At 21km ther was a race clock running and I think it showed me with about 1.55 to spare for a sub 10 but I cannot be sure. The third section was tough, as ever, but I was now catching and passing more than being caught and even able to track a few faster runners for a km to try and keep my pace up. I also elected to walk alternate feed stations to get a proper drink. When I got to the last 6 km I did some bad maths on the clock and thought I had only 35 mins to do the last 6 which was gonna be tough. I asked myself how much I wanted it and how much pain could I take. The answers came back as 1. Lots and 2. More.

I had been running with a group for about 3 km and decided it was time to push, and they dropped away, I also decided I would push fast through the feed stations. Counting down the kms there was again a rogue 6 min km but this was then followed by a 4.52 so I felt better but carried on pushing. When I got to the race clock about 1.4 km from the finish I was amazed to see it on 9.4something, my maths was wrong I had the sub 10 in the bag. I eased off but the realisation that the pain was the same whatever speed meant I picked it up for the last km. I was trying to find my family but could not see them. Finally approaching the chute I did not want a repeat of last year, I looked overtook the guy in front and stretched a bit to make sure there was a gap and into the chute, my name got called and I had done it 9.53 and some.

My next thought was where could I have found those 3 minutes.......

Todays thought is where can I find those 23 minutes .. see you out there.

p.s. Melly I love you.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

So here we go again. Another ironman looms up and I feel different about this one. Strangely confident in my ability to complete but also perhaps a touch indifferent to the time it will take me. Having followed Tom and Helen through their year of training towards a tough goal I recongnise that sometimes completing is enough and times dont need to matter. Having read one of my thursday morning training partner's race report on the other hand I vicariously live the thrill of a successful racer. So what is this race to me I ask and why do I leave my house in total chaos with polish builders who do not entirely inspire confidence even if I could speak their language! (if I am lucky on my return i may have a wood floor like the one opposite).

This race will be one to enjoy, to celebrate and to find out what another year of this life has done to me. It should confirm my decisions to put my health and mental wellbeing as a priority. It also marks the end of an era as I move into the world of veterans of the fortysomethings. Does this mean I can sit back a bit- somehow I doubt that. Does this mean I can race faster slower or differently again probably not. As I look ahead I like to see someone who becomes more accepting of their own failings as well as more tolerant of those in others but also someone who is that bit more enlightened and who can learn how to go faster... because I am not sure my knees will hold out long enough to get a 75-79AG qualifier slot for Kona

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Doing things right

This is a picture of Aneurin Bevin, Founder of the NHS (60 years this week). I thought I would look at how my work practices and training for an ironman are similar and how they inform each other.

These last 10 days have been dominated by work with a a sequence of days on call (I lead a team of doctors delivering acute care for patients in a hospital) and a subsequent large patient workload which increases the demands on my weekly schedule (but luckily coincides with a reduction in hours of training- not bad on the planning front that). In addition I have been filling out paperwork to justify my pay and hopefully get me more; the key to this is a process called clinical governance which is essentially a philosphy of healthcare geared at doing things right.

Most people are clear what they want from a doctor; they want him to be polite and caring, knowledgeable, empathic, highly skilled dutiful and so on but above all have good results so they get better, especially when it comes to surgery. It is quite easy to appear to be all these things whilst actually not delivering the care patients need and likewise it is possible to exhibit none of these characteristics, at least to the incidental observer whilst actually delivering the highest quality care. The problem is how you determine whether a doctor has the desirable qualities. The process of CG if done correctly requires honest self appraisal, monitoring of you delivery of care across the year from many different perspectives (e.g. patients, colleagues, community etc) and participation in all the aspects that govern this such as audit of outcomes, attendance of meetings, further education all culminating in an annual status report where you go through the years work with a colleague summarise what was achieved and then set the goals for the coming year.

And it struck me that the parallels with training for ironman are all there. Successful racing starts with an honest appraisal of where you are starting from. It then requires the development of regular habits that if done correctly over a period of time will gradually reward you with improving performances. You need to perform regular assessments along the way (such as the odd time trial or race), and when you make mistakes look at what went wrong and learn lessons from it- and hopefully avoid making the same mistake next time. Overall you need to be honest with yourself about what you are doing and whether you are meeting your targets. It is this honesty that comes from racing at ironman: when you step out there it is easy for everyone to see how well you have performed. In my work this process is a lot less transparent but the ideals remain with me.

As I face my annual ironman appraisal by returning to IMA I wonder how honest have I been with my training this year: I felt my biking was going to be much better this year than last but IM Lanzarote was not terribly encouraging. If I dont meet my goals will I be discouraged- no I will respond by using the knowledge from this year to drive me forwards next year to try and get better both as an ironman and as a doctor.