Saturday, August 27, 2011

A classic "What am I doing here?" moment

To set the scene. It is 9am (late for a triathlon, I know) and for the last hour's drive out to Wivenhoe Dam I have been scanning the sky from left - blue sunshine, to right - an intimidatingly black wall of cloud and doom. Like a classic Hollywood movie I'm wondering, will good conquer evil today? Or will the weather gods rain down upon us. 

As the minutes passed, so did my optimism. The Sprint Distance was away first which meant more time to get soaked to the bone from the now constant rain. My wife had made the trip out to watch the race, and even though I was feeling guilty after prodding her to come out all I could offer was a feeble half-smile that looked like an old twistie. This was meant to be a pre-Beijing World Championships hit out, and all it was turning into was a cold and miserable day that left me thinking "What am I doing here again?". 

Before I knew it, I had procrastinated the last possible precious second that I could and found myself stretching my wetsuit over my goose-bumped flesh. It was time to walk down to the dam, reported temperature of 19.5 degrees (surface level - apparently quite cooler further under). Nervous laughter filled the air. You couldn't help but laugh. Who in their right mind would be in this spot right now? We must be crazy. You know what?  I think it's a bit of good ol' fashioned crazy. But also a certain drive. Commitment. And passion that puts a person on the starting line of a triathlon. Unless you've lost a bet, that doesn't just happen. In that moment, standing in the water and quickly loosing feeling in my feet, I felt ALIVE. Really alive. Cold. But living my life with a great awareness of it all.

Into the water we went, the start of a 2 lap 750m swim. The shock of the water lead to a brief bit of anxiety in my chest - which meant for the first 100m or so I swam with my head constantly out of the water. Relax. Relax. Breath out in the water. Breath in above the water. Relax. What the first lap lacked in style, the second lap made up for in rhythm. I settled into a good stroke technique and was able to focus on the task at hand. Out of the water in a not-so-flash time, but happy to be out of the water (and 4 seconds in front of Adz!). 

Glory was short lived, as Adz made it out of transition before me. My hands were so numb I had trouble getting my wetsuit off! I remember thinking "come on hands - move! Wake up! Do it!". Out onto the 4 lap bike course and it was evident from the start that this was going to be a tough day out. Always climbing. Or descending. Not flat. As much as it hurt, I enjoyed the suffering. This is my kind of suffering. Legs about to explode. Grimaces on the faces of everyone around you. I have learned my lesson from past races that I can push through a tough bike ride and still run ok. Sadly for my family, they had traveled a long way to watch but missed the cut off for the course - so their view of the race was on one turn (4 times). At least it was at the top of a climb so we weren't moving too quickly!

After narrowly missing a kangaroo on the bike (it was so close I could hear it's nail scrap across the road as it skidding to a stop and changed direction) I was back into transition and onto the run. Again, an honest course and it was about 2k UP out of transition. No time to recover the ol' legs! I fell into a good pace and tried to keep my tempo on the uphills, and strong core and fast legs on the downhills. While it was nice to be out in the bush, running around and being away from the traffic of the city, I was quite happy to be heading back down the hill and across the finish line. 

After such a miserable start to the day, I must admit by the time I was into the second lap of the swim I had forgotten all about the cold weather and rain. And while I didn't think of it at the time, when I crossed that finish line in first place I reflected on the race and remembered why I am here. I love it! I love the mental challenge. The competitiveness. The constant self talk. The goals. The mental negotiations. Seeing other people giving it a go. The rush. The sense of pride and accomplishment. Triathlons are consuming. And I love it. Generally. I also love a sleep in so sometimes they clash.

Finish times: 2:10:16 (swim - 27:52 / bike - 1:09:34 / run - 32:48)

No PB but solid times given the difficulty of each leg!

Congrats on second Adz! Pushing yourself faster and faster.With the effort you put in, you are paying (some) of your dues :)

Thanks gorgeous for taking the time to come out and watch ox

Nice work boys!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Dog's Life - a pearl of wisdom from AP

I was reading an article recently by Allan Pitman, who is the very successful triathlete and coach of a triathlon club that shares our water hole (pool), the East Coast Cycos. I find AP to be quite an entertaining wordsmith, who captures simple ways to explain the great mysteries of the world. He is also a top bloke who has motivated and guided a number of Ironman athletes to the big dance in Kona, as well as competing there many times himself. If you are ever crazy enough to decide to take on an Ironman distance triathlon, it is well worth your time having a chat to AP first. 

I found the latest article too good not to share (hope you don't mind AP). 

Rest like a dog - 18 August 2011

I’ve been coaching Ironman athletes for around twenty years now. One of the crazy things about them. Many are not as smart as a dog.

I’ve always had good dogs. They’ve always been females, and either Australian Cattle dogs or cattle crosses. Many years ago I bought a book on dog training. It’s simple stuff. To have a good dog, one who’ll defend the family, stay up all night watching your property, and do what you tell them. All you have to do is treat them like a dog. A big mistake people make is to think they need to be treated like people. They’re not people, they don’t think like people, they’re dogs. They think like dogs, that’s if they think at all.

My dogs respect me as though I’m their leader, the Alpha male in their pack. They read my body language, and I read theirs. They never get to eat before I’ve eaten, that’s the way it is in our pack. They know their place in the pack. I could be going soft on them, this winter my wife bought them dog jackets. I have been putting them on each night before I feed them. In forty years I’ve never had a dog with a jacket till now. My wife feels that if her horse has a choice of four different rugs, the dogs should have a jacket for the cold nights.

One thing I have learned watching my dogs. When they’re tired, they sleep. When they have a sore foot, they just lie around and lick it. They don’t try to keep running on it. They will if duty calls and they have to defend the house when the postman comes. But they’ll soon go back to resting. Triathletes on the other hand have great difficulty in resting when they’re tired. Or stopping whatever activity hurt them, long enough to give it a chance to heal.

Another thing dogs are better than triathletes at, is racing for the sheer fun of it. They don’t take races too seriously, they just love to run. They love to chase balls, frisbies, anything. They have to be seriously sick to not be able to fire themselves up and be ready to perform in a really short time. No excuses, just give everything they have.

Dogs are not that hard to manage around each other. They soon sort out who’s going to be the boss, and then they just get on with it. There might be a bit of a snarl here and there, but it’s forgotten quickly. They don’t get offended and have to leave the pack. I’ve seen that happen with adult triathletes.

Our training is our play time. If we were always ready to go hard when the stop watch came out, and ready to switch off and rest like a dog, we’d probably gain more from our training and racing. If we could race for the sheer joy of racing, we’d go faster with less muscular tension. Have you ever watched a dog chase a ball, all they think of is the ball. If only humans could race like that, just focussed totally on the finish line, no distractions, just keep the “eyes on the ball”.

Dogs don’t know what their power output is, what their heart rate is, how many calories they need to do a days work in the hot sun. Working dogs often do a ten to twelve hour day with little more than a drink of water. They pace themselves, they make the job as easy as possible, but they get the job done.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good things in small packages

After 2-and-a-bit years of studying and assignments I recently put my psych registration in the mail. I finished my honors in psychology a little while ago and have spent the last few years completing my supervised practice. As long as the psych board approves it this means I will be fully registered and can put a shingle out the front of my house. You know, "Scott Waters - Psychologist. As therapeutic as a puppy licking your face, just more expensive".

So I was thinking, pages and pages of assignments, supervision sessions, conferences, workshops, presentations, research, analysis - hours and hours of effort poured into the journey towards registration. Time away from friends and family as I tap away studiously on the keyboard (maybe a few emails were checked along the way - a healthy distraction). Yet here I was, standing in front of a big red Australia Post mail box, with ALL of this work and time represented by... A few sheets of paper that fit easily into an A4 envelope. Wow. Talk about a weird feeling! A harmless little envelope that is deceiving in its appearance. A lot more than meets the eye.

I thought, this is just like I feel standing on the waters edge on race day. I am one body, 73-odd kilos of man. That's it. Same as the person next to me. And the one next to him. But, under the surface lies hours and hours of training, repetition, pain, stretching, massages, physiotherapy, motivational reading, aerobic sessions, anaerobic sessions, time away from family and friends, ice-packs, time trials, early mornings, getting up before the sun, constantly feeling tire, in bed by 8... I think it is important to remember this on the day. To stop, reflect, and thank yourself for all of the hard work and dedication put into making this hunk of meat as efficient, powerful and effective as it can be in getting around the course quickly. That's your edge, it's what makes you different than the person next to you. Both of you are wearing a tri suit. Both have goggles. But guaranteed, come race day I have put in the time, done the 'one percenters', the stretching in front of the TV, to be able to give you a run for your money.

According to Freud, this is what is on a man's mind. Very perceptive man that Freud.

Monday, August 1, 2011

World Championship worthy? Maybe if I could ride like Cadel Evans.

Under 6 weeks. That's all that is left between today and a 2 hour race in Beijing. Funny when you look at it like that - in a 10-week training block I'll go through about 150 hours of preparation for a 2 hour race against the clock. What else would you put that much effort into for such a small window of time! Glory lasts forever though, right?

With a few years of racing under my belt I have taken the time to think about what I am doing differently to be 'worthy' of the World Championships. You know the saying, if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. Time to shake it up a bit. 

It's been a great build up so far. A solid ride with fellow Beijing'ers Adz and Jimmy (that's me on the right - shame about this photo - off to the right was a glowing sunrise over the ocean!). Not sure who's job it was to keep us 'aerobic' but whoever it was should be fired because it didn't happen! Too much 'length-measuring' I think! I have also added 2-3 sessions a week on the windtrainer using 'Spinervals' sessions. This gives me specific, targeted training that provides a great quality-to-time ratio. I can simulate time trials (long high intensity efforts) and threshold sessions. While some might find it boring bashing away alone in front of a laptop (ha! that sounds suspect! What I mean is I play the Spinerval sessions on the laptop) I am feeling a lot stronger on the bike. With a new bike from Chain Gang Performance Cycles arriving sometime soon I am keen to put together a competitive bike - run combination. 

I had a thrashing at the hands of Troy O'Shea (25-29 year old National Champ from last year) on the weekend - a brutal swim / bike / run session that involved 4 reps of 500m in the pool, 15 minutes on the bike and 10 minutes of hard running. Man that guy is an animal! For someone who has been working through a calf injury he ran like there was no tomorrow. Here's hoping some of it rubbed off on me!

That's the kind of thing I am looking for - something to shake the body into growing and pushing through to that next level. I have entered the Wivenhoe triathlon that is on in a few weeks. It will be a good hit-out before Beijing and a chance to iron-out any areas that need some attention. I'm looking forward to giving everyone a good run for there money - if they are going to beat me they'd better be prepared to enjoy some suffering!

If only I could ride like this guy I could continue being the slowest swimmer in the world and still rip out a sub-2 hour race...

What a machine!