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Be Young – Be Foolish

A week before my first ironman world championship qualifier of 2017.

On the other side of the world New Zealand, with nothing but sun, scenery, laid back lifestyles and time to reflect.

If you’re one of my friends, this title will excite you. A sponsor, panic you. And if you’re neither. But not to worry, I hope whichever you are you can take something away from my usual mumblings.

Life’s hard. It’s no secret that day to day there are many struggles that most of us could just do without.

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You spend your adult life going from handshake to handshake, emailing back and forth saying ‘sorry for the delay’.. until one of you dies…

It’s really easy to fall out of the habit of doing the things you enjoy, to let work & ‘adult life’ take over.

Gone are the school days of dashing home so you could do absolutely nothing and not a soul would care. Copying your homework off whoevers turn it was to do a few questions, so at least it looked like you’d given it a go.

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Really you were all out riding tiny mountain bikes round town, playing heads and volleys in someone’s back garden or a huge game of manhunt.

Occasionally you’d have a sports fixture that would get in the way, but you all played in all 10 different sports teams so you knew there’d be nobody missing out.

SAT’s, GCSE’s, detention, break time, the 3 o’clock bell, the chuckle brothers, dick and dom on a Saturday morning.

PS1, PS2, word shark and the word paper clip that used to do fun things for you.

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The list is endless, a continual reel of things that defined & shaped your childhood, and every kid your generation knows. They’ll remember all the things as if it was yesterday.

And the funny thing is, that was just my generation, for the older folk among you, you’ll have things you relate to. All be it a completely different list, like the invention of the wheel and the dinosaurs getting wiped out.

Just messing.

But your parents will have it, and theirs before them, and it goes on.

It’s very easy to forget that everyone has been there, everyone was young once. In an ever changing world there’s far more uncertainty. The 21st century is a crazy place where nothing is set in stone. The average person can have up to 9 careers, 7 sexual partners and a brand new super virus that back in your day, you’d have just shaken off and got on with. Obviously.

Freddos are almost 30p, you can buy your way into the main seat in the White House, but you can’t buy an actual house, if you’re under the age of 30.

In the worlds most powerful country buying a gun is easier than buying a beer.

It’s hard in the new world. The struggle is real.

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But why do we go day to day, doing things we just don’t care about? Things that really, have absolutely no benefit to our lives.

We just slot in with the rest of society, doing things because we think we should. Because that’s the way it’s always been.

Well stop.

Just stop doing it, and make a change.

Be foolish, make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or you’re 50. You don’t know everything, and in 20 years time you may still look back and think: ‘I really wish I’d done that’.

Well now is the time.

Quit your job, go travelling, start a business, take a risk. If you’re young, move away, try new things. It gets a lot harder when you settle down, get engaged, have a wife and kids.

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And no, I’m not saying be reckless, I’m not saying throw your life away.

You have to be serious, and you have to understand that it’s tough. It’s scary, and it’s going to be hard. But than doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Nothing in life comes free, you have to be prepared to go through tough times, but make them work.

In the final few weeks of our architecture degree, we had a lecture about why not to be an architect. And it really caught my attention.

It’s very easy to go through your degree certain on what you’ll become, because you have to, because it seems obvious. A straight choice.

But that doesn’t necessarily point in the right direction.

Degrees now are fantastic at teaching you a diverse range of skills. You can leave university with a transferable skill set broad enough to point you in any direction, and the world really is your oyster.

All of you will know I turned my back on architecture to attempt to become a triathlete.

Why?

I hear the same things over and over. Architecture is a solid career, pays the bills, design cool stuff, have lots of fun.

Well not exactly.

Now I’ve changed career I’ve noticed something very clear.

Everyones perception of everyone else’s career is a glamorous high life that everybody should envy.

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And really that’s just not it.

Architecture isn’t designing amazing buildings day to day.

Triathlon isn’t flying around the world racing here there and every where.

And all the rich city folk you know that graduated on £45k+ are mostly earning the same rate per hour as an employee at McDonalds.

Of course, each has its perks. Architecture is designing the dream building, once or twice in a career.

The summer of triathlon is all racing, if you can make it through the vicious winter of cold, wet, boring miles.

And the city jobs do pay a fortune for when you get chance to spend it.

But you have to find something you enjoy, something you’re good at, and something you want to make work.

Because if you’re realistic with yourself and you’re prepared to put the work in. It can, and will, happen.

So go travel the world, but think how you’re going to fund it, where you can work, how you can save.

Start up your own business, but be careful with the money, and make sure you’re ready to go through to the tough times with it too.

Go out and make mistakes, get stuff wrong. Cause that’s how we learn, and no matter how old you are, you can still give it a shot.

Follow your dreams and all that. The clichés are true. You have to be prepared to work, but it can work! Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Because the last thing you want, is your future self to start a story with ‘I wish I’d’…

Be the one saying ‘remember when’.

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P.s. Life isn’t here forever. If it isn’t getting in the way of your career, have the beer, eat the cake.

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Magic Numbers & Man Flu

Are you ready for it?

How fast you gonna go?

Are you going to win?

The favourite three questions regarding Ironman New Zealand, and if you want my honest answer, it’s that I have absolutely no idea.

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Until this week training had been going amazingly, but I have had to take a week off with flu, I’m quite heavy and I haven’t done a single race since worlds…

Either way I’ll throw you a few magic numbers to help you make a judgement.

Triathlon isn’t much different to many sports in that training scores indicate form and can be used as race predictors. The only difference is there’s three disciplines, and a LOT of exterior variables that can go wrong. 140.6 miles is a long way to nail the ‘perfect race’.

Almost all of my training is published on strava, I’m not one of the hidden athletes trying to hide scores and come out of the blue. Keeping finely tuned coaches training programmes sealed away from the outside world. So the data geeks among you will already know everything I’m about to tell you.

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A heavy few weeks

Predicting form is usually easy enough. Anyone that trains around you, sees your scores, knows your form, will be able to judge fairly accurately how you’re going to do. Race times are usually the best indicator.

GB just had their rowing trials this weekend, and the more curious coaches & athletes will have been able to predict the leaderboard correctly for 90% of the field. Sure, there’s always going to be athletes that have a bad day, make mistakes, and athletes that excel, step up to the plate and deliver the unexpected.

And as Chris Berry himself said ‘Jack is a master at under promising, yet over delivering.’

Forever an underdog.

So what is an ironman? For the less clued up among you, it’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon, 26.2 miles of running. Back to back, no breaks. We hope.

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If you want that in new money, it’s 3.8km, 180km, 42.2km.

So what am I going to do it in?

Well.

Isn’t that the million dollar question.

Now we’re into the last 3 weeks, there’s isn’t a lot I can do to improve my race. A few tweaks here and there, a bit of zip into the legs. But otherwise I’m already set.

However there’s a LOT, that could hinder it.

In the next 3 weeks alone, before I even get to race day I have to avoid injury, illness (again), excess weight, adjust to the 13 hour time zone and make it through China!

Just to get to the start line.

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Then I have to execute all three disciplines to the right intensity, manage my efforts, nutrition, not get a mechanical fault on the bike and not get any time penalties or disqualifications.

Wouldn’t be the first time!

And all without a single race to test myself since world champs back in October. So really your guess is a good as mine.

But.

If I was to pull all of that off.

And string a solid race together.

My legs could deliver.

If I didn’t train a single day in the next 2 weeks, I’d still be fitter than when I did my sub 10 at Europeans, a day on which I had flu.

So the perfect race sees a 9:15 finish time.

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Bad races do happen!!

Sounds fast.

Really fast…. but does it?

Yeah ok I’ve had flu, and yeah ok I’m heavy. So maybe I’ll lose 30 minutes tops to the race  I’ve had in my head this winter.

But I’m looking for a steady 1:10 swim. Having worked on my swim through the winter, I know I’m capable of more but I’d just like to stay reserved and get to my bike in one piece.

A 4:45 bike split, a new New Zealand 20-24 record is the target. This is approximately 24mph (38kph). Just over 1mph faster than my 12 hour time trial speed, and the same speed I did a year ago in Poznan. Still being slightly heavy mixed with the fact I haven’t raced recently, this will be testing.

But not impossible.

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Then onto the run. A 3:15 is the target, a speed I’ve been comfortably running for the past few weeks. 4:40/km, 7:30/mi, ice been churning out 3/4 of a marathon at a comfortable 4:30/km, around 7:15.

Poznans 4:02 after 3 weeks back to running was slightly embarrassing and leaves much to be desired this year.

If it’s a warm day the extra weight will really work against me on the run. Currently weighing in around 3/4kg over my summer race weight, a figure I’m not too concerned about as it’s dropping weekly and there are plenty more races to come this year.

So add on the 5 minutes of transition and there’s your 9:15.

But with Ironman UK being my main targeted race for the season, possibly two world championships and the challenge Championship, New Zealand could end up being my 5th biggest race of the year.

So recovering from flu, on the other side of the world, in the middle of british winter. It’s unlikely that I will have an amazing race, and it is rather unlikely that I’ll win my age group.

But does that mean I’m slow? Or off the pace this year?

Of course not, I still have 4 months to piece myself together ahead of the various world championships and Ironman UK.

So if it does all fall to pieces. So what? 125 hours a month training are going to come round and catch up with me at some point I’m sure.

And when they do, it’ll be something quite special!

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Winter – The Extra Mile

Winter.

Unless you’re a snowsports fanatic, toy shop owner or polar bear. It’s unlikely winter is your favourite time of year.

Yeah I can obviously see how you’d enjoy it, christmas, big hoodies, hot chocolate, mince pies. Especially mince pies, they should be available 365 days a year. Tesco, get on it.

The perks are all there.

But really though…. Does anyone actually like winter?

I mean, come on now.

Really?

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Short days, bad weather, training’s tough, if you’re studying you’ve got exams or deadlines, if you’re working your inbox is forever full and your commutes just seem to drag, and lets not forget the bank account takes the biggest hit of the whole year.

But you enjoy that?!

Fat from christmas, sluggish and slow, no imminent holidays in the pipeline, no sign of the ‘beach bod’. Just getting by hoping the summer holidays come round faster.

Summer racing, holiday tans and short shorts. Surely that’s more appealing?!

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So what really happens in the winter? Where does everybody go?

Unfortunately we can’t all live the professional athlete high life, South Africa for the winter, Girona for the spring. Constant sun and nice weather. Miles on miles of training, never a dull day. Or the CEO of some global corporate firm, playing golf or skiing the days away.

It’s often said that a good winter makes a good summer. Fact.

For the athletes, miles make champions. Fact.
For the students, revision gets the grades. Fact.

There is no gods gift, no magic potion. Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard.

But when you’ve got 5 tops, 3 pairs of leggings, 2 sets of socks, the worlds thickest gloves and your face covered up to the brink of your vision. You do have to ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?

Is it really worth it?

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Well yes, yes it is.

For any endurance sport building a base is one of the most important aspects of the training programme. I’m aware that you need the high tempo, top quality sessions to get that peak fitness, and you also need ample recovery, hindered by a high volume programme. But the science is there, you’ve gotta build your base.

There are athletes that will go a season training 10 hours a week, and pump out a 9 hour Ironman. I’m not denying that that’s possible, I’ve seen it happen. But what you haven’t seen is the athletes 25 hour weeks, for 10 years previous to this. An endurance base so big, that it just needs topping up and maintaining through the hectic day to day life.

I know some of you will shun it as junk miles, but when the athlete that put in 10 hours a week more training than you cruises past you in the last 10% of a race. You’ll be the first to cry.

There are many similarities between sport and the business world, a blog that will follow in the coming weeks, but I think building a ‘base’ is one of them. And no, I don’t mean you have to start riding a bike, or run more. I mean going the extra mile. Putting in a bit extra here and there, helping others out when they need it, makes a big change.

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Everybody is looking for shortcuts. The easy way out. The quick way round. Well unfortunately ladies and gentlemen, if you want to succeed at a high level. There isn’t one.

And that’s where you need our good friend, The Winter.

Make your short days longer, your time to be out with friends enjoying the sun is coming, trust me. But you have to earn it.

Nights in the library, in the gym, on the treadmill, in the office… it doesn’t matter where your hard work takes place, it just needs to get done.

And unfortunately, there is no audience for hard work.

Some days are really, really long. Trust me, I know this one. I’ve been in the office past midnight. The studio for 3 straight days. Done 10 hours of training when your body just can’t take any more.

I know how it feels.

Work is just too much, your stressed, tired, hungry.. you’re not sure if you need 3 weeks sleep, 8 shots of tequila, 3 espressos, a hug or a combination of the lot.

But it will pay off.

This off season is the time where all the little changes you make, the little extra you put in, it’ll all swing back round.

And trust me.

Your future self will really thank you for it.

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