Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Update of 2015

In my last post – which was quite a while ago now – I wrote that I was reloading after a couple of years of not putting together a good result. It has taken some time to feel that I have made some progress, but things are looking up now.

I was rolling out a standard training week, essentially week-in, week-out in the lead in to Christmas. We had two and a half weeks off work over the Christmas break and I managed to get in two weeks of a little over 20 hrs of training for the week. It was enough to make me a little more tired than usual, but no so much that it caused my performance in each session to really suffer. My run training seemed to be a little off in terms of time vs perceived effort, but my bike was OK and swim felt better given the increased consistency. At the end of the two week break I was feeling renewed and ready to tackle my specific preparation for Port Mac.

Something that has made a big difference to how I am feeling in training has been the amount of rest that I was able to get over the Christmas break. Jo and I minimised the travel we did this year which meant there was some downtime. Instead of going in to training sessions on auto pilot wanting to just get through, I was able to think about what I was doing and be present in the session.

Having more energy to think about what I am doing has enabled me to concentrate more on what I am seeking from each session. I have re-introduced big gear strength work on the bike and have found a loop to run around at home that has a long climb on it. Hopefully I can combine these things to help rebuild my strength (which I think has been negatively impacted by my surgeries through my lower back and sciatic nerve). So far I have been able to juggle the soreness with the added training stress through intensity/load OK, but not great. My back has been giving some problems for a little while. Parenting can be a little tricky with a body that is no longer made for lifting or leaning over for extended periods of time.

I've been looking in to what warm-up races I could possibly do prior to Port and am fast running out of options. The cost of races is enough to make it a struggle to fit in to the family budget. Hopefully we’ll get something sorted. If not, the second Lake G International Triathlon will only be weeks away.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Reloading....Stay Tuned

After a couple of years of struggling to put together a decent race, I'm drawing a line in the sand. Time to get back to chasing life time best fitness.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Back to the Future

After a year of seriously looking at opportunities in places outside of Melbourne to relocate to, we decided that returning to Canberra would be the best move for us. A big part of that decision was the outdoors life that we felt we would be able to achieve in Canberra - particularly for my training. So far, so good.
I've only just completed the move up here, but as Jo and Olive came up a few weeks early, I've spent some time up here over the weekends. And so far, the training has been great. Well the location has been great, but my performance has been far from great. I have struggled with tiredness from trying to wrap things up at my previous job and live between two places that are situated seven hours of driving from each other. All that time in the car has not done much for my schwannomas either. I have had quite a bit of discomfort and some pain through my left leg, hips, and right hamstring. Which is not that surprising given that the tumour that is most likely to be removed next is sitting high up on the left sciatic nerve. In fact, during the crazy month that was July I had my annual check-up for my schwannomatosis. In general everything went well, but there was a little more growth in my left sciatic nerve tumour, but not much. My last appointment had been around Olive's arrival the close proximity of another surgery probably didn't stick with me as much as it should have. But I've got it now, and agreed with my Neurosurgeon that we could try going for another 12mths and see where that took us.
I might be able to get some example scans up on the blog soon. Things have come along way over the last 12 years! But maybe I should focus on regular updates before getting too fancy:)
So I am back in Canberra and hitting some of my old training haunts. I've been pretty slow on the bike and have got a fair way to go before I am race fit. I'm focusing on building up slowly and not getting too negative (or trying to) or rush in to 'hitting it until I blow', chasing speed at the cost of deep fitness. Deep fitness is the way I describe the type of fitness that you have when you are strong, resilient, fast, and have great endurance. It is built overtime and sets you up for years of performance. I have not had deep fitness for a little while now and so to set me up for my tilt at Hawaii in the next few years, I need to get down to business on going deep.
My approach to achieve this will be to mix hill running with flat running and not doing too many strength or fast sessions on the bike until I feel like I have the ability to ride well for a number of hours (which I don't at the moment, as demonstrated by lack of ability to maintain cadence and correct gearing over a four hour ride). I definitely won't forgo the strength sessions on the bike though. And I will have to be careful not to ignore the changes that will be needed in my program as I move from early thirties to mid thirties and beyond. If you listen to Dave Scott, Craig Alexander, Gordo Byrn, Greg Bennett and others who have continued on in the sport as they have approached 40 years old, there is a greater need to protect the strength that you have and not let too much of it go as you turn the pages of the calendar.  
My current volume is between 12-15hrs. By October this year, my aim is to be consistently hitting 15hrs a week. Between now and then I might sneak in a couple of running events or duathlons. But I'll be checking in before then...hopefully.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ironman Melbourne and My 33rd Birthday Present

Two weeks ago I crossed the line for my 12th ironman finish and my first Ironman Melbourne. What makes this finish more significant is that WTC announced the Ironman Legacy program at the end of 2011. The Legacy program gives those triathletes that have participated in 12 or more Ironman branded ironman races the opportunity to participate in Kona. Ironman Melbourne was held on my birthday. My gift to myself was to cross the line and take a massive step closer to living out a life- long dream of competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona by qualifying for the Legacy lottery. I would still love to qualify one day by racing fast, but I’ll take qualifying through persistence if that is what is required to get my first start on the line.
So how did the race go? It went well on a day that threw up several challenges thanks to some strong wind. The swim was shortened due to the wind stirring up the waters in Port Phillip Bay. There has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding the decision which was announced while we were in transition about an hour prior to the scheduled start time (which was delayed twice after the announcement of the shortened swim). While I really enjoyed the water conditions I understand why the decision was made. I would have been more than happy to complete the distance, but having finished a number of Ironman races prior to this and having spent the last decade in the sport, races can change. You have to race the course that is thrown at you on the day. I think having the full bike and run and still having a swim made it much easier to just go with it.
The only down side to the shortened swim was the blatant cheating in the water. Knowingly cutting the course is unacceptable. It is hard to know how many of those in the transition tent when I got in there did cut the course – again, I just went with it. I knew that the Kona slots were going to be well up the road as soon as we got on the bike. I learned a long time ago through Ironman that if you give your best effort on the day you will stand tall for months…I doubt those that cut the course were standing tall within hours of finishing the race.
Out on to the bike and I worked hard in to the wind. We had 45km straight in to it. I rode slightly above my targeted power and still got passed by what felt like half the field. It was incredible. At one point, I sat up and watched a pack that was spreading across two lanes go past. As they went past I said a few things in amazement including ‘Holy Sh*t, F*ck Me, and finally WOW’. A couple of the guys looked across at me as if I was crossing the line by saying those things. As with cutting the course on the swim, drafting is not going to leave you standing tall with a sense of immense achievement.
I was sitting up to let a smaller pack past around a minute after the Tour de France peloton came through, and a draft marshal pulled up on a motorbike. After speaking to the pack, I looked across at them, smiled and suggested that they were in for a tough day. They smiled and shrugged and agreed. I suggested that they would be amazed by what they saw just up the road. They rode off after the peloton.
The ride did actually open up after the first lap. I think that I was well behind the massive pack and by not hanging with them I had some space. I managed to ride with a pretty good VI of 1.04 (basically my power was pretty consistent without too many surges or drops). But as I mentioned earlier, I went a little hard…and I confirmed that on the run.
While I had a slowish run, I was happy with it (the pic above was around 1km in - I've still got my electrolyte tabs and two gels in my hand). I did too much on the bike but managed to slowly chip away on the run and not fade too much until late. I had a lot of support out there with Brooke and Steve, Matt (boss from work), my mum at the start of the run, my aunty happened to be in Melbourne and spending the day on the course so she popped out to cheer me on, and an old training buddy Nige. Tris, Kim, and Alex were in Frankston and then again made an appearance at the finish line (sorry I missed you guys – I was spent!).

As I struggled my way through Brighton and in to Elwood, I was thankful that I had hit my home turf. I could just zone out to the race and tick off my usual markers on my runs. Although I missed seeing Luciano and his wife Flavia, and the Whites by doing this, I did manage to see Jo, her mum, and Olive. I stopped for a quick high five and kiss, and then kept on going – back in to La La Land.
I love triathlons and love racing ironman races. Melbourne gave me a chance to race on my home turf and do what I love. In saying that, I will look to race elsewhere in the future. I enjoy getting away and immersing myself in the sport for several days. I love being in a community that, for the weekend of the race, is all about the race. I didn’t get that vibe at Ironman Melbourne.
On to Port Macquarie for the double in 2013!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Preparing for an Ironman

Ironman Melbourne is less than three weeks away so I have been thinking about Ironman preparation quite a bit. For those relatively new to the Ironman game, this is a natural part of the sport for many Ironman athletes. You go searching for what you can do to make your race perfect. You can spend hours reading about all the different big day sessions and theories on 'quantity vs quality' and then finally, what sort of taper to do.
Over the years I've read lots of great articles on Ironman preparation and just as many that didn't really grab me (it is not that they were not good - I just didn't buy in to the program). At the end of the day, the Ironman is a full day of swimming, riding, and running. If you are coming from a few months, years or decades of not really doing a lot of swimming, riding and running, you'll have to spend some time re-introducing (or introducing) these activities in to your life. Essentially, training for an Ironman is a little like teaching yourself to fight...

Ironman training starts with some pretty light swimming, riding, and running. These punches don't really make contact but you haven't punched in a while so it feels pretty good. Slowly you start entering your own Fight Club and the light touches start to carry a bit of sting. Eventually, you are 'walking off the pain'. By the time your race comes around, you've probably got a few bruises. This part of the game of Ironman. If you are learning how to fight, you are going to get hurt. Getting to race day ready to go is not about avoiding these bruises. It is about getting bruised enough to feel ready and then resting up to find out how ready you are.
Over the next two and a half weeks I'll be doing my best to get my body ready to go and hope that the little niggles disappear from thought at 7.35am on Sunday March 24.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Six Weeks and Night Moves

Six weeks to go until Ironman Melbourne. I keep finding myself thinking about Port Macquarie rather than Melbourne even though Melbourne is getting pretty close now. I think it is a mixture of the familiarity in preparing for Port Mac and having a good friend racing there again this year. But first things first, I need to tackle the roads of Melbourne.
Although I live very close to the course, I haven't spent much time running on the course. I've done two long runs over parts of the course and struggled to find the water taps for a drink, so I've stuck with my runs around the Tan. I think that I am probably a little behind in my running form at the moment and my cycling may be down a little as well - we'll get to the cause of that soon. Overall, I think I am looking at being in similar shape to what I was last year for Port Mac, but I still have some solid work to do to finish the preparation off. I would love to get my running mileage back up to the 2008/09/10 levels of 72 - 80 km/wk, but it is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Over the next six weeks I will spend a bit of time working on stability through my hips and strengthening my back to try and help me hold it together on the back half of the marathon.
I raced the Canberra 70.3 in December and blew-up a little on the run. I was enjoying the fast bike course and pushed things a little too hard. I did the same thing last year at Wagga in my first race of the season. I haven't minded blowing up trying something new on the bike in these races. It generally provides the motivation to put my head down for the second half of the season, which this year consists of two Ironman races.
Like any athlete with life stuff going on, my sales pitch is that experience and race execution will get me through...
Night Moves
Our nocturnal cat is still keeping me up and making sure that no two nights are the same. Sometimes I will have three different sleeping places over a six hour period as I try and keep him from waking Jo and Olive up. It has definitely impacted on how my body is responding to training and I am aware of my schwannomas from time to time. Well actually, I am aware of pain sensations. A recent webinar that I attended (do you say attended when talking about a webinar??) discussed the pain symptoms of schwannomatosis and how the pain is not necessarily directly associated with a specific tumour. Although my experience has been that there is a fairly close connection between the tumour and the pain. So I have used higher intensity workouts sparingly, but have made sure that there is some level of change in pace and effort in each discipline in each week. 
Time to get ready for bed and spin the wheel to work out how much sleep I'll get tonight and where I will end up.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Right Intensity

In my quest for life time best fitness over the coming summer, I know that I will be more time constrained than I have been in the past. Being time constrained in itself is not a problem. You need to have a demand on your time before it becomes an issue. So what is the demand on my time? Training - although it isn't really a demand as I love swimming, riding and running.
So with that established, the next step is to determine what you are training for. When I use the phrase life time best fitness, I am referring specifically to the fitness that it will take to swim 3.8km, ride, 180km, and run 42.2km. Taking the demands of the Ironman, I then match up where I think I will need to apply stress to achieve a positive response (i.e. get fitter, stronger, faster). These steps can be as hard or as easy as you like. Some years I have tried to find the 'silver bullet' that will make me be fast by retro-fitting complicated reasons for why a certain approach works. In other years I have stripped everything back and just got to work. Neither of these approaches have yielded the results that I believe I am capable of, because I have not done the work required to deliver those results.
This year I have read more about training stress and armed with new knowledge I have a better understanding of the work that will be required to hit my life time best fitness, even with the diminished time available for training. But, knowing is a completely different thing from doing. And it is with the doing that my schwannomas come in to the story.
I have found over the last 10 years that an increase in intensity can increase the awareness and soreness associated with my schwannomas. I can add volume without too many worries, but intensity is a different beast. So my challenge is to apply sufficient training stress through volume and intensity in a manner that doesn't aggravate my schwannomas too much. And as strange as this sounds, I enjoy the puzzle. Adding intensity (that is an intensity that applies an increased training stress but remains specific to the demands of Ironman triathlons) to supplement volume, knowing that volume needs to remain as high as possible given the time that I have available.
And above all else, I just love running. This morning, it was wet and cold. Instead of being lucky to run 14 metres without passing four people on the Esplanade in St Kilda - I was one of only five other people out exercising in the rain. Running along, with the rain weighing my spray jacket down more and more with each step, I was reminded why I love running.
So next time it is raining, throw on your running shoes. I guarantee you'll find some mojo out there.