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Training camp? Completed it.

On the way back to the UK after my 5th of 5 weeks on training camp. Yet again it’s been a success, with my third biggest training week of all time, backed up by a second, very solid week.

DSC02077All 4 camps had very specific purposes – and we planned them well to achieve that. Spain & Portugal were to build the base. Big miles, consistent training, heavy volume.

Gran Canaria was about adapting to the new bike. Chasing some amazing cyclists up the mountains and starting to find some run form on heavy legs. Those Ironman replica sessions that have become the bread & butter of my training.

And Lanzarote was for racing. Rolling roads, fast efforts & heat. Really hunting for that top end speed I only really see on race day.

452A40913 weeks to Africa and the race plays over and over in my mind. Each time more specific than the time before. 

I’ve rigorously checked the course, decided where the most crucial points of my race will be. Planned my nutrition, my gear. The pain and elation of Barcelona still echoing in my mind. Reminding me that it can all go wrong so quickly, but a pleasant nod to the fact that no matter what, I’ll race through. And as always the reality is – it’ll be nothing like any of the 964,732 scenarios I’ve already thought out. 

This winter I’ve worked harder than ever. I haven’t always hit my numbers and I haven’t always wanted to train. I’ve dragged my feet, moaned at those around me and been very very tired at times.

DSC_9687But one theme has been constant through – a relentless consistently. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with. Training has been first on the menu and when I start, I’ve carried out every session with complete focus. Left the baggage at the door, and got to work. 

I’ve been more disciplined in my recovery, I’ve worked hard day in day out – and finally, I think I’m starting to be ready to race.

So far in 2019 I have:

Swam – 31 hours. (109.9km)

Cycled – 129.5 hours. (3,737km, 54,319m elevation).

Run – 52.5 hours. (717km, 5,645m elevation).

20180520_11141And my average weekly TSS since starting the season in November has been 1,112. For those of you that don’t know – that’s some solid work! 

And my legs know about it. But hopefully, three weeks today, the results sheet will too. 

Exceptional performances are made up of hundreds and hundreds of average sessions. Trust me – 90% of my training has been very very average. 9% has been pretty poor.

But there’s the magic 1%. The region where I’ve shown signs of form that have never been there before. A PB swim on a heavy body in Lanzarote. A pb half up a climb in Gran Canaria. A time trial effort into the wind. 

DSC02054They peak out now and then, remind me that it could all be worth it. 

All that’s left is two light weeks, and one final big push to ensure that I really am in the best shape of my life. Both physically and mentally. Hopefully the British weather does its best to play along through the final push. 

It’s strange being ready for a race. I’ve always performed my best when I’m not quite expecting it. Wales, Canada, Maastricht, Almere. If you’ve followed my short triathlon career you’ll know I’ve always managed to race the best, when I feel the worst.

DSC01646Though I’m scared, really scared about it all going wrong. Finding myself looking up at the sky in another bike crash. Getting yet another flat. And I have to remain realistic – you don’t get a prize for turning up at an Ironman. 

If I stick to my race plan, it’ll be the most testing day of my life. But I’m ready for that. And if it doesn’t come off. If it does go wrong. Then I’ll learn the lessons, and be ready for the day I get it right. 

Discipline. Focus. Graft. 

2019, here we go!

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Another Week in My Easy Life?

It’s a strange one, this triathlon game.

DSC02077On the surface, it’s the dream. New week, new place, new people. But underneath, is it as easy as it looks?

452A40934 weeks out from my next race. Arguably the biggest of my career so far, and one I’m really hungry to perform in.

I’ve just completed my third biggest training week, ever, and had my bike not thrown a wobbler, it could have been bigger!

4 weeks out, and the pre race jitters are really beginning to set in.

We all have it… that awful feeling that begins to set in… whether it’s for a work deadline, a big occasion, a new venture. We get cold feet, is this really the right decision? Is it what we want?

DSC02171Not sure if the training has paid off, if all the sacrifice was worth it. I’ve worked harder than ever and put more into this winter than I ever have in the past. But so much will still come down to chance.

So far this year, I’ve been quite fortunate. I’ve been out of the country more than I’ve been in it, but that’s only making me more uncertain, more dis-satisfied.

The more we invest – the greater the hit if it doesn’t come off. And it is a gamble. All this added pressure, and I’m not even close to being a pro yet!

It’s easy to see how on the surface, I’ve got it quite easy. Floating around the globe, bit of training here, bit of training there. Never doing any work. But in fact, at the moment, at this stage in my life, everything is the most uncertain it’s ever been.

DSC02073I look around my closest friends, buying houses, getting engaged, buying dogs, getting promoted, pay rises. It all just oozes contentment. And don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really happy for them. And they often tell me how hard “real life” is, and how lucky I am, how easy I’ve got it… but both sides come with their struggles.

While I’m working a 45 hour week half way down Africa, away from everyone close to me, whilst trying to push my mind and body further than they’ve ever gone, beyond all limits I know. I often ask myself, is this really worth it? And is it any different to anyone elses scenario?

DSC02068I mean, I’m not stuck in an office 9-5. But I don’t work any less, in fact, work never shuts off. And if you count training as a job, which it hopefully one day will be, it’s even worse.

I don’t get time away, I don’t get weekends. Christmas, bank holidays, birthdays. You go out to celebrate, I go out to train again.

I can’t afford a house, I can’t afford rent. Some months, I can barely afford to put petrol in my car.

I don’t see my friends, I don’t get to socialise often, I can’t go out on the weekends.

There are times that I really, really struggle.

DSC02048I’m completely committed to being the best possible athlete I can be, and everything else is there to support that. But there are a lot of days, when I don’t move quickly. When I perform very, very average. When I’m not where I should be, not hitting the mark. And it is hard to take. Sport comes with some phenomenal highs, but the lows are intense. And in the set up I currently have, it’s easy to get isolated very quickly.

In Portugal I went a whole week and spoke face to face with three people. The week where the demands on my body were the highest they’ve ever been.

In Krakow, I had to spend my best friends stag do sober. Not because I wanted to, because it gave me the best chance of being fast on April 7th.

DSC02039And when I finally got some time off, to go to Sicily and spend a nice long weekend with my girlfriend, I had to spend 12 hours working, and 6 hours training.

I know what you’ll tell me. You’ll tell me that’s my choice, that’s what I’ve decided… and that’s partially true, but that doesn’t make it any easier. By the same thread, you choose to go to work 9-5, I bet you still moan on a Friday!

All I have is some marginally oversized legs, a nice camera and two expensive bikes. Though mixed with a support team that I wouldn’t trade for the world, some days I believe that this little set up, might actually work out.

DSC02067There’s no guarantee I’ll get good at this triathlon thing. Or the photography thing for that matter. And juggling setting up your own business, whilst staying committed to the “normal job”, mixed with trying to chase the best in the world at three different sports, is taxing.

Contentment has never been a trait I’ve had. Trust me, I wish it was. But in the pursuit of excellence, there is no room for error. No time to cut yourself some slack.

I’m my own biggest critic if I’m not on the mark. I’m never satisfied, I’m always hungry for more.

And don’t get me wrong, I know I don’t always have it hard.

452A4088I have a fantastic network of support to allow me to do what I do. And I’ll always be grateful for that. And I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to explore these amazing places, to do these amazing things. Even if I do spend 95% of the time staring at a little computer screen that tells me I’m not pushing hard enough.

But it’s not always as fun as it looks.

I’m just one of a new generation, amongst a phenomenal amount of people trying to pursue the things that make them feel alive. Brought up being told we can do whatever we want to, being reminded that we don’t have any limits. Being shown that we deserve nothing but the best.

We see it every day in social media, on TV, in the news. People doing new and exciting things, careers in the things we’ve always dreamed of. We often assume that because people “have it better than us”, that they’re sorted. That they’re content.

But the reality is, none of us have it any easier than the next, and we’re all fighting our own, individual struggles.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making excuses for ourselves, and not considering just how everyone else is actually feeling. Not engaging with their vulnerabilities. If you do nothing else today, call your friend/friends that you assume have it all sorted. And check in, check they’re alright, ask if they want to talk.

Because some days, they might!

Don’t worry, I’m fine… I’ve been prodded a few times to write this! Though if you this made you feel like you should have asked, then maybe next time, do!

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“What Keeps me Going” – A Chat to Sam Courty

After an interesting few weeks training and racing I found myself really wondering what motivates me, why I train/race and what the real motivators are. By just finding the answers these questions you find you can really push yourself to the next level, because you understand what makes you tick.

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me & mum shortly before ITU worlds – relaxing the nerves.

I’ve also always been driven by self improvement. I’ve always loved sport but there’s something extra about pushing my body and mind to the limits of what I think are possible, and then realising that they’re not actually the limits at all. It’s a never ending cycle of breaking through the ceiling, and falling through the floor – in an endless quest for excellence.

All these questions have been ticking over in my head since the ironman, and though many people see that as almost impossible to achieve – there are so many parallels to be drawn with real life.

Jobs, relationships, sport at any level – all require time, effort and motivation. If it’s not valuable to you, you’re probably not going to be prepared to work for it. But if it truly means something to you – you’ll stop at nothing to make it work. And it’s these kind of motivations that really interest me.

Feeling very under prepared to talk about a lot of these subjects – I decided to bring in a close friend of mine to talk the topic through. I spoke to Sam Courty – an Olympic hopeful who’s been rowing for the GB squad for a number of years.

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Me and Sam longer ago than I’d like to admit.

I was at uni with Sam and she’s been a solid inspiration for me throughout my athletic career – including when she was rowing.

I find the way she conducts herself in and out of sport exceptional – she makes a great role model. So I wanted to know just what makes her tick!

What makes you do sport in the first place?

I have always been a very sporty person and from a young age all my friends have come through different sport clubs and teams, so it has always been my social circle. It probably also helped that my Mum and Dad were still playing sport when I was young, so it was a big part of my life growing up. The main reason why I have continued though is because I absolutely love what I do. The daily challenge, the highs, the lows, life is never boring and that is something I have become addicted to.

It’s clear that sports a huge part of your life, but rowing is a vicious sport. From my short time in the sport I found it amazing just how hard you guys push yourself day in day out. And that clearly takes its toll on you physically and mentally. What motivates you when its hard and you’re really up against it?

11813353_10155828311185117_3928497400602636717_nThe simple answer is: the good days. Those days when finally, everything falls into place. But I strongly believe those days aren’t down to luck but hard work and perseverance. If you put the effort in you will be rewarded at some point.

 It might not be as soon as you hope but one day it will be your day. However, that is a very “big picture” way to look at things. To help with motivation day to day I find goal setting really helps me. This was invaluable while I was injured as you can lose a lot of motivation during this time. For the first week my goal was to be able to sit down for 10mins, so I could sit on the plane for take-off and landing. I learnt through this that you must be flexible with your goals as things change and adapt them. Being able to sit down was never a goal at the beginning of the season but it was a vital one, part way through!

Do you think that this can be applied to people at any level? Should people break down a bigger picture into much more manageable chunks and remember just why they’re doing it? I know this definitely works for me – there are always days when I look at my to do list and think “not a chance!” – but just get stuck in step by step.

I think this can apply at any level and also not just in sport. I remember at university when I was writing essays and I really did struggle with motivating myself to get them done. As soon as I stopped looking at the essay as a 2000 word limit and broke it into the intro, method etc suddenly it didn’t seem so daunting. If I wrote 500 words a day then in four days it would be done and that really didn’t seem so bad.

When it’s really tough, and you’re absolutely up against it why do you endure? Why don’t you just stop?

11731683_10155797536610405_5218525799290027215_oWhat would I achieve? From memory I can’t ever remember stopping. I’ve slowed down, I’ve had the thoughts about stopping, I’ve most certainly complained but I’ve never put the handle down on the rowing machine or stopped the boat and given in. Training doesn’t just make you physically fitter it also gives you the opportunity to train your mental fitness. At the elite level there is often little that separates athletes physically, there are only so many hours you can train, and most nations now are on similar programmes with similar sport science support. So, when you’re neck and neck with another boat, how is it decided who’s going to win? The crew that stopped once in training when it got hard or the crew that pushed through when everything inside of them was telling them to stop.

 

Do you think that people often stop too easily? When a few more minutes/days/weeks sticking with it could really help them? I’ve often found that social media adds a rose tinted view to life-  it’s easy to take the view that it comes easy to a lot of people – and they barely work for it. I know this is absolutely not the case.

13321747_1014809555269854_6389838155764939099_nI do think social media and the media in general has a way of portraying many things as ‘perfect’. People who post on social media don’t want to publicise the hard days because you don’t want to give anything away; especially if you think your competition is watching. You want them to believe that it comes so much easier to you than them. I love reading sporting autobiographies as I find this is the next best thing to being able to ask my sporting heroes all the questions I have.

You get a real insight into their lives and the struggles they have faced but more importantly how they overcame them. And I am yet to read one where it has been plain sailing and believe me I have read a few! So coming back to your question of ‘do I think people stop too easily’ then yes, I guess people do but if you’re willing to stop then I guess you have fallen out of love or just not enjoying what you are doing anymore and that is absolutely fine because I couldn’t do something I didn’t love and the most important thing in life is being happy.

What advice would you give to someone that feels like they might give up? Or maybe someone that can’t quite make it past a milestone they’ve been trying to break for a while?

Rowing-trials-Sam-Courty-and-Emily-Ford-Peter-Spurrier-Intersport-Images-e1432125038850If the feelings are during a hard session or race, then it’s your mind taking over and just finish. It doesn’t matter how or in what state, but the feeling of finishing will be better than the feeling of quitting. If it’s a decision that’s been playing on your mind for a while, then firstly I would write down the positives and negatives of carrying on and the same for giving up. If one clearly outweighs the other, then you know what to do and remember that quitting isn’t always the easy way out, it takes just as much confidence and bravery as carrying on.

When it comes to reaching milestones I’m afraid that is just the nature of sport. If everyone had a perfect linear rate of improvement everyone with a gold medal around their necks would be the same age. However, the youngest Olympic gold medallist is 13 years and 268 days and the oldest is 64 years 258 days so their paths to Olympic success clearly were very different. Your time will come, if you can’t question the effort you are putting in and you have done everything in your control then you have to wait your turn and be patient.

How do you find that extra gear when you’re hurting?

Your head will always tell you stop before your body gives in, its human nature. But have you ever wondered what it takes to make your body stop? I have and its yet to happen, so I guess there are probably more gears than we think, and if everyone is looking for the ‘extra gear’ we should aim to find an extra two…. just to make sure we cross the line first.

If you want to follow Sam you can get her on instagram at: @samcourty93 or twitter @samcourty

It’s definitely worth your time!

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Life Underneath an Instagram Filter

Today started not too dissimilar to any other day. The 5:20 alarm buzzed to wake me, and I was quick to snooze it, bleary eyed and groggy, knowing I still had a brief time left in bed.

I’ve been having a rough week, swimming was the last thing I really wanted to be doing, but I know I have to. In the quest for excellence there isn’t anywhere to hide. Every time you miss a session, you get slower. Everyone else is out there, getting it done, making no excuses, feeling a millon dollars.

3_m-100779636-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2141_001833-10660446The guys I have to race don’t make mistakes, they don’t miss sessions, they never let up.

I finally got out of bed, had a small breakfast and made my way over to the Macclesfield pool. My toe was incredibly sore, my head wasn’t in the moment, I just didn’t want to get in the pool.

The moment I broke the water I had perfect clarity. My mind was clear, all my worries were gone. It’s so easy to hide here, behind the numbers and the work. I don’t have to be myself, I can just become monotonous. I just follow what the numbers say on the board, and don’t think any more than that.

Slowly the clarity began to become hazy and clouded. My toe was letting me know it hurt, conversations from the week creep back into my head, my body is tired, I haven’t really slept this week. What am I doing here?

I pushed on, into the main set and I’m setting the pace. Like normal we start strong, a testing pace that we know we can hold. Except it doesn’t feel like normal – there’s a battle in my mind. I’m not myself. I’m not hungry to go fast, to push myself, to work hard.

In fact, all I really want to do is get out of the pool, and go back to bed. Shut myself off from the world, and sulk.

But that won’t make me faster. That won’t get me where I want to be. If I’m not training, I’m getting slower…. right?

1/4 hard blocks completed. Just.

img_5743Into the second and I’m not pulling away like I normally do, I don’t have the will to push, in fact, I’m holding everyone up.

I fought on, it’s just a bad day. We all have those, you can do this.

2/4 done. Every turn was a battle, why don’t I just get out? I shouldn’t be here and I know it. But I just can’t quit.

I was using more mental strength to keep going, than I’d used to get round some races. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.

3/4 and at the half way point, I threw in the towel. I was done. Cooked.

And before I knew what was happening, I found myself on the side of the pool in pieces, genuinely sobbing.

Had you asked them before the session, I’d have been one of the last people pinned to get out early. Resilient, tough, robotic. Training & emotions separate – park it before the session, pick it up afterwards.

But does that mean I’m always ok?unnamed

As I’m moving forward through sport I’m realising more and more, it’s so easy to hide our emotions, so easy to lock ourselves away and so hard to just open up.

And it isn’t just restricted to athletes. It goes right across the board.

img_3080We can assume that because people are in a better situation than us, they have it easy. They don’t have any battles.

We live in a society where we’re made to feel guilty for having a bad day, a tough time.

Crying is seen as weak. Mental health is dismissed as “nothing” – and before you know it, you can be completely isolated at a time when the planet is the most populated it’s ever been.

On Earth it’s estimated that we can speak over 7,000 different languages. From the moment we’re born, we begin to communicate. You don’t even need eyes or ears to convey your intentions. We can talk to different species, and we’re sending communications to space.

But we can’t even ask the person next to us if they’re ok?

Is it that we don’t want to hear it? Or is it that we’re all so involved in our personal battles, that we forget to pay attention to the people around us?

As athletes we can forget about it all in sport. Numbers, data, training.

But other people can hide in work, deadlines, hobbies. Just hide behind a facade.

We act confident, we’ll tell you we’re fine. You’ll barely know anything is up, just a moderate silence. A quick change of conversation to move on.

20180520_11141And before we know it, it all gets a bit too much. We can’t hide it. And we need to release it.

If an olympic champion had a bad race, but still won – nobody wants to talk to them about the race. Nobody apart from their coach. If they had a tough day between the ears, you wouldn’t believe them & you wouldn’t wanna talk about it.

Everyone else wants to hear how hard it was, how tough they had to fight. After all, they bloody won, how can they possibly feel bad?

If a big city boss is wealthy – but the numbers are down with the business so they’re making £500,000 less… you don’t care cause they’re still rich. They still have money. Even though their life evolves around the business… how could they be sad?

And with social media, the whole situation is elevated. These “perfect” people that live the dream life – do they not have problems? They look pretty, travel the world and have fun. They don’t have issues at all…. right?

Who do all these people turn to when times are tough? Are they any different to me or you?

20160724_968Why are your problems any different to theirs? And why is this even relevant?! 99.9% of the population, me included, will never be in that situation, but that doesn’t make us any more or less isolated.

Yes, your problems may be different. But that doesn’t make them any worse, or any better. And that doesn’t make it acceptable to just isolate these people. Or tell them to “stop moaning”.

It’s not ok that they feel scared to speak out, feel like they’re being silly or ridiculous, because they know they have it good. And that in turn trickles down the tree.

Cause we’re all lucky, the fact you’ve read this means you’re in a better situation than over half of the planet.

We have a habit of glossing it all over, making it look ok. Telling everyone “we’re fine”. We don’t open up for fear of being judged, fear that they’ll tell you “you’re just a drama queen”. Fear that they just won’t want to listen.

So look after the person next to you, ask your friends if they’re ok. Genuinely ask them – listen to the answer. Find it out. Before it all gets a bit too much. If I can change one thing today, or get one person to check that someone is alright, then this post will be a success.

Even if you think they have it all under control. That doesn’t mean they do.

Because one day you’ll be in their situation – and you’ll want someone to reach out to.

But don’t worry. They’ll be there.

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Winning Races for Smiley Faces – The Summer Menu

It’s about time I did an update of the last few months and what my adjusted goals are looking forward to the summer. If you follow my other social media channels you’ll know it’s been a hectic few months of a bit of this and that. If you don’t follow them, well why not?!

But don’t worry, I’ll let you off if you don’t, you can get the important bits here!

First things first, where can we catch up?!
I’ve probably missed you in a world of rubbish excuses like bedtime, training tomorrow, “dieting”… so I’m going to be racing some local events to touch base with everyone!

img_3508-1I’ll be racing a sprint distance triathlon in Wilmslow (starting at the leisure centre) on the 20th May – start times are yet to be released, but stay tuned if you’re around to watch that one. It’ll be a super short race & I’m hoping to complete it in under 1 hour 10!

The summer season has come around very quickly and the real racing starts 4 weeks on Sunday.

This will kick off with Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 (10th June). That will be the first real indicator of summer form and what I can begin to expect moving forward into the season. This is a half ironman – so the distances are – 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run! Plenty of racing to watch and get stuck into!

Following that I’ll be doing one of the Castle Series in Cholmondeley Castle. This will be another 70.3 event on 24th June, and another little taster of my form to take into World Champs. Nice and local over near Nantwich so that I don’t have to travel too far to get into the swing of the big races.

World Champs will be in Denmark this year on the 14th July and will be my first A race of the season. This is one of two races that will be my main focus for the year, and after that we’ll regroup and re-assess to see where we’re up to.

So what’s been happening?!

It’s been a crazy one!

30125761_437555703335079_1698798986_o 1865912 1957076Two weeks in Mallorca on training camp racked up a crazy amount of miles and the legs began to show some real form. Something I haven’t really found in the last couple of years since a strong 2016 season. The hard work is really paying off and this led nicely to Manchester marathon.

 

The legs didn’t feel good the morning of the marathon, we’d got the build up wrong, I felt sluggish not sharp. But it’s a good learning curve. None the less I toed the start line and had a clear set of goals in my head. The outcome I wanted saw my time aorund 2:39:59 – although I knew early on that this wasn’t going to be the case. I battled from start to finish, and did the first 28km perfectly on pace. Passing the half marathon at 1:19:55 it was going to be touch & go but around mile 20 (km 32) it blew up in my face. Drawing on some really tough times in training I kept the focus. Thanks to the hero that is Pete Butler, we fought through it and I made it out the otherside, glued to his heels. I managed to make the finish line in 2:42:29 – a great time that I was happy with. This will qualify me for a guaranteed championship spot at London Marathon next year, something I’m excited to take up.

DSC_7731 DSC_7811 DSC_7788Following the marathon I had 2 weeks to let my legs attempt to recover before launching an attack on Storm the Castle duathlon, an event where I had unfinished business after just missing out next year. I still didn’t feel my best but again knew exactly what I needed to do. On the day my legs were good and I managed to hold on for the win. Breaking the tape was a fantastic feeling & something I’ll be working extremely hard to do again in the future. It was a great event and I learned a lot about my body through the day – despite not quite finding the bike legs, my running legs carried me through. Didn’t think I’d ever say that!

A report of the day can be read here.

DSCF7491 DSCF7489A very heavy 2 weeks training following STC meant that my legs were far from fresh when I arrived at the Cheshire Points Series 50 mile time trial on Saturday’s summer afternoon. None the less I managed a lifetime best in power output at 325W for the 1:52:10. Although I finished 6th Overall and 20 seconds behind my PB. Despite losing to some of my close competitiors it was great to line up with some of the top guys and perform amongst them again – though some changes need to be made to my time trial set up.

Since then I’ve had to rest a broken toe that I’ve been carrying since before Manchester, not ideal but better to take a break from running now rather than forced rest in the future.

All in all a very productive couple of months with lots of positives to be taken. Plenty of personal bests both in and out of training making me hungry to see what I can achieve this summer. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but the consistency is slowly coming together to get me there. Working closely with Joel Jameson at Jameson coaching is really paying off and I’m hoping I can stay in one piece to enjoy a hard season of summer racing!

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Why your PB time doesn’t actually matter.

I’ve had a few very interesting conversations with various people recently, and I’ve decided that actually, PB’s don’t mean anything.

img_5743I know, I know, crazy talk. But hear me out.

It’s that time of year where you’ve entered a load of races, you’re absolutely hammering yourself in & out of training to get yourself in the best possible shape to set a new pb. But why? What exactly are you doing it for?

So pb’s are great for a number of reasons. You’re only really ever in contention with yourself, and pushing yourself further and further each day to be better, is something I’m absolutely behind. Every day I push myself to new limits, just trying to be a better person than the day before. However… are you ever just in contention with yourself? Or are you really constantly comparing yourself to everyone else in a society full of external pressures.

The first question anyone asks me is ‘ooo, what’s your pb’. Or, ‘oo how fast could run x-km. How quick can you do this on a bike. What’s your best park run… What’s your best ironman time?

 

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Well first of all, who actually cares? I can move pretty fast, there are plenty of people that can move a lot faster. But second of all, surely every single time/race/course/person is going to be different. If you think you’re quicker than me, turn up at world champs, and we’ll race. Fine. A proper fair test, same day, same course, then you win the bragging rights…. if you win… until the time we race again.

EventPhotoHandler (17)But what if we race again on a different course, I win this time round, we’re both twice a fit, but we go an hour slower, same distance?

Are you quicker because your pb is quicker than mine… or am I quicker cause I just beat you, fair and square? And even though we both know we’re a lot fitter, we went slower. It was windy, raining, icy, hilly… but we’d have run rings around the athletes we were the year before.

Are we slower because our time is slower? Is that what you’re telling me by asking me what my pb is?

Now when people ask me what my best ever race was, I’ll tell them the World Championship in Canada. Not because I made the podium, not because I managed a good time, neither of those things matter.

But because I had a torn tendon in my knee, I’d only been back training 4 weeks after a 4 month break, and I’d spent 6 months coming to terms with the fact that physically I wasn’t where I wanted to be mentally. But I went out, and from start to finish I battled, and there was no way I was going to let up before I crossed that finish line. And that’s something I’ll hang on to for a long time, I really earned my stripes.

One of my most liked instagram posts recently was one where I made the statement “nobody cares how fast you were in 2017, or even 2016. While that will gain you respect on the start line, it’;ll mean nothing when you cross the finish, and only you can influence that… Get your miles in, cause 2018 is gonna write itself, with or without you”.

And there is so much truth to that. My friends love the saying “we’ve all done stuff”, and there’s a lot of truth in that.

Week in, week out people complete training, race events, test themselves. And that’s great, but I could turn up at a park run this week and smash myself to bits… maybe set a pb, maybe not. I could do the same course next week, in driving rain, ice & wind… on much better legs, but go slower. There’s so much more to this sport than a stop watch.

Be proud of what you’ve achieved, you worked hard for it! But don’t cling on to the times, the numbers, there’s so much more to a good performance than that. Remember your best races as the ones where you performed well beyond how you expected. Where you were mentally tough, you fought against the odds. The races where you influence other people, maybe you paced a friend to a pb and you hold success in that. Together, as a team you can enjoy the victory.

Don’t hang on to the time, hang on to the moment!

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What is Recovery & How much you need?

28313224_416059642151352_1755634292_nI spend a lot of the time in my posts & blogs talking about recovery, but somebody asked me recently – what exactly is recovery? What do you mean by that?

Training sessions don’t actually make you any fitter – you get fitter recovering from the training sessions. Your body makes different changes & adaptions to the training that means you can go harder next time.

So in essence, I suppose I’m saying that sitting at home watching junk TV is actually good for you.. don’t tell the kids!

But there are a variety of different things that affect recovery and many different ways to recover! So here’s a few things to think about.

How much recovery do you need?

28312438_416059628818020_177032829_oRecovery comes in many different forms and different coaches/athletes have very different outlooks on recovery. I know some high end athletes that will take two days a week completely off, whereas last month I did a 5 week block without a single day off. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have any recovery, which I’ll explain later in the blog.

Well unfortunately I don’t have a very specific answer for you there. This is going to vary from person to person – but recovery is going to help you not get injured or ill. Keeping you consistent and ready to go for longer. You’re going to have to listen to your body, and if you’re tired – REST. It’s very easy to get swept up in a busy life style and not have time for training, this is ok! Some days you can’t make it to the gym, or get out for a run or make the class. If you force yourself to do it, the likelihood is you’ll be under recovered & cause more harm than good.

I could go through my calendar and tell you the days I’m going to be most susceptible to illness/injury. When the mileage is high, we’re in the middle of a big block & there’s no room for error. I have to make sure I’m sleeping well, eating well & not spending excess time on my feet. Why? Because I’m made of glass and love to train. If you’ve had a very heavy few days at work, that’s going to impact your exercise routine, so make sure you’re giving yourself some down time!

What Affects Recovery?

There are many things that affect the way in which your body recovers, three of the most important ones are:
Sleep
Diet
Stress

I listed sleep for as that is the obvious one. It’s not a secret that life becomes a bit of a drag if you’re not sleeping very well. When you’re asleep all the little workers inside your body spring to life and get to work. Fixing any issues you have and making sure you’re in tip top shape for the next morning. It’s one of the most basic lessons you’ll have learned (all the way back) in primary school. The optimum amount of sleep for an adult is 8-10 hours. If you’re putting your body through hard training, you’re going to need to make sure you’re getting sufficient sleep for your body to repair itself, otherwise you have a high risk of making yourself ill.

Pork pie - proper recovery...

Pork pie – proper recovery…

28308498_416059608818022_669028390_n I hate the word diet, there are so many things wrong with what we associate with the term. By definition a ‘diet’ is in some form of radical nutrition plan in which you neglect a certain element of food. Your body begins to crave it because we’re built to run on a balance of all these things & then you’ll fight it off for 4-10 weeks before caving, either because it’s made you ill, injured or mentally unhealthy. You’ll then proceed to binge on the substance you were neglecting whether it was fat, sugar, carbohydrate, and feel very guilty, coming full circle back to the start. I’ve been there, you’ve probably been there, I see it all the time, but maybe we’ll tackle that in another blog.

Monitoring what you put into your body is essential for recovery, but if you’re dieting, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Your body needs sugars & fast acting carbs to exercise & recover. Fact. One of the best energy sources available to our bodies is fat, so you also need that. And protein a long with a healthy mix of micro-nutrients from fresh fruit & veg has a huge impact on the way in which you recover. If you’re taking a form of medication this can impact your recovery, as can alcohol or things you’re drinking. Supplements can be a great quick fix, but they can’t replace meals! Beginning to think about what you intake is important. Give your body the best chance!

 

My favourite meal after a heavy session is actually spinach & broccoli soup, with some chicken, a wholewheat bread roll and a little bit of sugar in some form. Why? Because it’s all fresh and I’m replenishing all the stores I’ve used in training. If you want proof that diet has a huge impact on recovery all you have to do is go for a big night out followed by some greasy chips/kebab. You’ll feel less than ideal in the morning!

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Me "recovering"

Me “recovering”

I listed stress last because this is the most complex and often the first one to be overlooked. There are a whole variety of forms of stress. Training puts a lot of stress on your body and mind, if you add stress from work, an argument with your partner, needing to do the shopping, the list goes on, this isn’t going to do you any good. Life is a busy place! But that’s ok. If you let all these stressed pile up on you, they’re going to have a big impact on the way you recover. If you’re building up the training quite quickly, that will add a lot of stress to your body, so make sure you’re ready for that! When I was working as a full time architect in Bristol, I knew if we were coming up to a big deadline, working flat out, my training was going to suffer. But realizing that, doing what you can to keep yourself happy and not overloading the stress helps a lot. It keeps you in a good place. By trying to keep physical stress + mental stress constant (and low), you’ll be able to recovery much better.

 

 

 

How do I recover?

My cat stretching & rolling...

My cat stretching & rolling…

Air relax recovery compression boots.

Air relax recovery compression boots.

Well you could do absolutely nothing. Watch some tv, put your feet up, eat well & replenish the good calories that you lost training. But you can also recovery actively. So for me I know I can do a gentle jog or bike of up to an hour, and this will allow my body to recover enough to feel fresh the next day. You could go for a gentle walk to move your legs, fill the muscles with blood but not do any work. You could acquire some compression boots, these help to flush any toxins out of the legs while you relax. Stretching and rolling is a great way to loosen off the muscles and keep them supple and ready for the next session. An ice bath can be added to the list. Anything that doesn’t involve working hard, and does involve letting your body rest.

You have to balance the amount of training you’re doing, with what life is throwing at you. This will determine the amount of recovery you need from day to day.

Hopefully my ramblings will help to keep you on good form as you continue to build up your training, and if you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

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Couch to Athlete – why you can do it.

Some of you will know that recently I’ve started to dabble in the world of “coaching”.

I’m by no means an expert coach – and I wouldn’t even consider taking on any high end athletes. And not just because I’d be scared they’d beat me. But because the carefully managed, fine tuned programmes are something that can take coaches years to perfect.

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But that being said – by applying some basic training principles along with my knowledge in the three sports I’ve enjoyed over the last 9 years, I think I’m beginning to see a few patterns.

Maybe you’re reading this as an ironman, or an elite athlete thinking “I’ve been through this”, so now it doesn’t apply. But your family, friends, colleagues – the people that say “I couldn’t do it”, tell them they can!

First of all – I really believe that anyone can do it. You can be riddled with all the excuses in the world – but you’re not fooling me.

“My knees are shot” – find a cycle or swim event.

“I’m just not built for it” – that can be changed.

“I like food too much” – not as much as I do, trust me.

And what defines an athlete? someone that completes athletic events. I don’t care if you want to run a sub 25 park run, or get round your first ever marathon. I think you can do it. Even if they sound crazy to your right now.

img_5676Already the excuses will be creeping in, why you can’t, why you wouldn’t be able to.

I’m currently working with three women running their first marathon, all of whom separately believed they’d really struggle at a park run. And all of whom I’m fairly convinced, have the potential to run a a sub 4:30 marathon.

Why?

Because they want to.

And because who’s to say they can’t?

It comes from three basic ideas:

Number one – get your body used to training.

You have to want to do it. You have to want to be helped & you have to break down the barriers of “I can’t”. People aren’t born good at sport, it comes through hard work.

3But not the hard work you associate it with. I’m not talking 3 hours of running or 10 hours cycling. I’m talking 4 sessions a week, of an hour each.

Ask a trainer, find a coach, join a club, there’s loads of people that can help.

Get out of the door, and join the gym. Do 20 minutes on the bike. Go home, watch tv, do whatever you want. But you’ve started. You’ve made the first step, it’s much easier from here!

Start with 30-40 minutes of exercise, up to 4 times a week. Do park runs, classes, whatever you fancy. Find a routine, stick to it, make yourself accountable. And after 21 days, a habit sticks. You’re in, we’re go, you’ve got this.

One of the training programmes I’ve written started in October with the goal of London marathon, (6 months), and one started this week, with the goal of manchester marathon (3 months).

Sounds like a tight turnaround – but I’m very confident it can be done.

Block two is the worst of the three.

Teach yourself how to work hard:

combo3By the time you start this, you’ve done the hard work. You don’t sit around as much any more & you enjoy exercising. So you need to start exercising hard.

It sounds so daunting – but there’s a very easy way to start. Go to a gym, or run, and set yourself a time goal. Roughly 30-45 minutes. Maybe a park run. And go as hard as you can.

You don’t have to tell anyone how far you went, & even if you don’t think you worked as hard as you could, it honestly doesn’t matter. The hardest part is done!!

Now it’s a game. It’s a challenge, it’s a race.

img_1888You’ve set your bench mark, so next time, you have to beat it! Either go for longer at the same speed, or go faster/further for the same time. You have a target, go get it!!

And slowly it becomes a game, you race yourself, break records, set new limits. You can push this as far as you want. But you don’t ever have to do more than an hour, just make sure you’re absolutely flat out! Once you’re within touching distance of that personal best, you won’t let yourself stop.

By the end of the block, you’ll have nailed it. You’ll really know how to work hard, – how to test & push yourself. So when you’re up against it, you’ve been there before. You know how to cope.

 

Step 3 is the easiest of them all.

Practice – and go get it.

24_m-100793362-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2000_177477-12947444Whatever your end goal is, you’ll be able to reach it by now. So practice running, practice cycling, swimming, rowing… whatever it is. The event isn’t far away, so make sure you’re confident in yourself, how far you’ve come & where you’re going.

It might be that this is now just a stepping stone, you’ve decided you can do more, go better, further.

If you’re running a marathon, you really don’t need to run that much until this block, when your legs have to start getting more used to miles. You don’t have to do any silly 20-30 mile practice runs. If it makes you feel good, fine, but otherwise, just stay injury free & work on your fitness.

And when you’re nailing your event, enjoy yourself. You’ll have worked hard for it, the tough stuff is done!

Just go out, with a smile on your face and soak it up. You can’t change the outcome, whatever it is. But you can certainly surprise yourself. You’ll have come a long way – be proud of yourself.

 

 

Get used to training.

Learn to work hard.

Go and prove yourself wrong.

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Recovery, Results & Running… Another Marathon?

2_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_015979-12559849It was just over 2 weeks ago that the Ironman World Championships ended and since then my feet have barely hit the ground. It’s always a strange feeling getting home from races. Not helped by getting back to the wonderful British winter. But this year it’s been especially strange.

It’s been three years since I first started in triathlon, being talked into it by my two friends Lightfoot & Livo (the two really tall boys from the Kona photos). And it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Ever since I finished that race at Ironman Wales, I knew all I wanted to do was make it to the start line of Kona. It didn’t seem like too tall an order having only missed it by a little over a minute, that was literally putting my shoes on faster in transition.

I still had to make it through my final year of uni & keep my legs in one piece, but in March this year, I managed to get my entry. And sure enough, I made it to the start line of Kona.

10_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_045392-12559857 64_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_178008-12559911It’s very strange when you set such long term targets, because once you hit them, you feel a bit lost. It took me two and a half years from starting triathlon to treading the warm waters of the bay, waiting for the canon. And it’s all over in a flash.

Sure, I’ve set myself new targets, and as always they already sound ridiculous, and pretty far fetched. But not completely out of reach. But my biggest one so far is done – over.

It’s no secret that Kona didn’t quite go how I wanted it to. In fact, it couldn’t really have gone much worse to be honest. And if you haven’t read my race report, that’s because it doesn’t exist yet. And I’m still debating whether it ever will exist – although it may appear on the Asics Front Runner blog feed.

And while I’ll beat myself up about it every single day until I’m next on that start line – it’ll be what gets me through every session this winter. When I don’t want to get out of bed, when I don’t want to do another set, when my legs are too beaten up to do any more. I’ll keep going. And until I’m next on an Ironman finish line – the race will be a demon that I have to face. But I’ve proved enough times that I can string a solid race together to not let it get to me.

In the 3 years I’ve been in the sport I’ve had:

Multiple time trial wins.
A 10k win.
Endless PB’s.
UK Triathlon/Duathlon Podiums.
Two Ironman Podiums.
A European Silver Medal.
A World Championship Bronze Medal.
& A World Championship Silver Medal.

It looks great on paper, but I’m still not satisfied. I’ve only ever had one race I’ve been pleased with, & I was only pleased because I had a ruptured tendon in my knee, hadn’t trained for half a season and somehow still managed to battle round in a semi-respectable time.

You can catch that race report here.

And even then I beat myself up that I didn’t get a gold medal.

But really, I know that going into 2018, absolutely none of it matters! I’m moving up an age group, playing with the big boys. They don’t take prisoners. I can’t afford to bumble through races any more, making an endless list of silly mistakes. Although I know you never make the same mistake twice.
I have to go into the winter with no expectations, no limits and no pressures. Just let my legs do their thing – not get injured – and see really how far we can push it.

After two weeks of eating doughnuts, boozing and sitting on the sofa. Mincing around San Francisco, eating everything I see and seeing just how fat I can make myself. I was ready to get stuck in. We had an absolute blast and it’s been great catching up with everyone I’ve possibly had chance to see – and there are still plenty more of you on the list don’t worry. But I’m ready to get back to training.

I don’t have a bike – american security made sure of that. My legs are still tired. & I’m much later starting than last year. But I’ll find every possible way I can to start moving forward – the cycling can wait anyway…

23114920_373350736422243_539080177_nOn Sunday, my 2018 started with a jog round the Dublin marathon. I was literally in the country 24 hours – including the extra hour from the clocks falling back, so wasn’t expecting anything special.

I just had to prove to myself that I hadn’t completely lost it all. Plus I’ve started “coaching” a couple of friends in their run-up (excuse the pun) to the London Marathon. So I had to prove I know (slightly) what I’m talking about.

Asics had sorted us free entries to the event, as they’re the main run sponsor, so it was a bit hard to say no! In true – Jack Schofield fashion, the day before was spent wandering around Chester, eating pancakes and not drinking water. Doing everything on the list of things NOT to do the day before a marathon. I then caught a late night flight to Dublin to meet fellow Frontrunner Jon Baguely.

We had a twin room out near the airport so wandered out to find some dinner around 11pm. Managing to find a cute little Italian in swords, (restaurant that is, behave), we sat down and had a nice candlelit dinner. Waltzing home around midnight before chatting until 1am.

 

It was clear performance wasn’t on the menu for the run. We clearly hadn’t had a huge amount of sleep, drank a porridge sachet from a mug a couple of hours before, and had a little banana. Just the big feed I needed before a marathon… or not. We started fairly far back after getting stuck in the queue for the portaloo – but managed to get across the line in the front 3,000.

We had one plan – have fun. Cross the line smiling & not injured. Everyones happy.

23146161_373352209755429_2144529068_n 22885762_10159469945700153_6177195149603569934_nWith a quick toilet break after the 10km mark – we knew it would keep people tracking us happy knowing we’d made it to at least one check point first.

We jogged round with a smile on our face until the 36km marker where we had a very easy decision to make.
Push the legs for a 3:10 – or cruise for a 3:15.

Well that was a no brainer – 5 minutes in a marathon we aren’t targetting was an easy decision. We sat in with the runners around us and worked the crowds all the way down the final straight. Having an absolute blast – running step for step as we had all day.
We crossed the line in 3:14 – a respectable marathon time by any standards. And a 12th place for me.

After two weeks off it was clear there’s still something in my legs. After a days rest I’ve since done my first track session with my coach at City of Stoke AC & jumped in the pool for the Satellites to rip my arms apart. Again with the new head coach. Lots of change but nice to settle into the routine.

I’m in a great place heading into the off season & I’m excited to see what I can get out for 2018.
Lets hope the injuries stay off, the smile stays on & I’ll be writing to you all again soon!
Thanks for the ongoing support – you guys are the best.

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10 days out – Get Involved.

As we move closer to the race the anticipation is definitely building.

Kona is filling up & people from all over the world are starting to strut their stuff up & down the course.

With my race starting 18:05 on Saturday 14th that means we’re almost exactly 10 days out.

And I know a lot of you have been messaging me various questions over my social media, so I thought I’d try to get you all involved by doing my next blog as a Q&A format.

You ask the questions, I’ll give the answers!

These can be anything from Ironman or Kona related, race or training related, to nutrition & lifestyle related. I don’t mind! & (if there’s more than 3 questions) I’ll do my best to answer them all in a blog early next week!

You can ask me on social media, comments or messages, or drop me an email at schofield.tri@gmail.com

Well?

What’re you waiting for!!

Here’s my training video for anyone that missed it at the back end of last week 🙂