Sunday, September 15, 2013

The focused-relaxed athlete (and other oxymorons for athletes)

After enjoying the process of putting myself out to pasture for a month after Ironman Cairns, my focused shifted onto the next highlight of 2013's racing calender: Mooloolaba 70.3. When this event was first announced last year I had that rush of Christmas-morning excitement that flows through your body as a 7 year old (who am I kidding - still as a 33 year old). The race definitely ticked a lot of boxes: 
  • Fast course
  • Local (easy for my family to come and watch, as well as just being a short drive up the road from home) 
  • New and novel (which is great for motivation) 
  • Half the distance of Cairns!
My preparation was two fold. 1) Get a killer training program. TICK. 2) Reset the mind. TICK. 

After such an intense build up to my last race I decided that this time around it would be more relaxed. No pressure. Fun comes first. If I felt like riding with friends rather than hit some tempo efforts, I would. If I wanted to cruise through some running trails instead of knocking out 400m track efforts, then "so long suckers" I'm off to the forest. If the coffee at the cafe seemed more appealing then the drive there was my new training session.

This worked well for a while. With a shift in priorities and a relaxed attitude to training I was happy to miss sessions or shorten some longer rides. The small projects were getting done around the house and my dog was getting walked more. 

Plus, the quality of my training had improved. I was again loving the enjoyable-agony of hard sessions and would often have a crazed-grin on my face afterwards. I was starting to think that there was a method-to-this-madness as my pace in sessions was above what I had achieved in ages. 

BOOM. 

That was the sound of my calf during one insignificantly-meaningful run. Out for 3 weeks which put me out of Mooloolaba 70.3.

Disappointing to say the least and a sometimes forgettable-lesson that we have as athletes. In my afternoon of brooding and kicking at rocks on the ground, I took the time to reflect on why. What went wrong? I thought that I had embraced the focused-relaxed mindset like Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze embraced the clay in 'Ghost' - with vigor and enthusiasm!

Then it dawned on me. I had forgotten about the incidental-necessities.  

Four Ironman race-preparations. Zero injuries. 

Two half-Ironman race-preparations this year. Two injuries. 

The difference?

The incidental-necessities. Regular massage. Stretching after sessions. Good warm-up. Post-exercise nutrition. 

I am fanatical about these aspects during an Iroman training period because of the workload and the importance of keeping this rig of mine healthy. But with a carefree outlook this time around (and less volume of training each week) these things got put on the back-burner more often. They still happened, but not as often as they should. For some reason I thought they were less important because I was training less and being ├╝ber-relaxed.

So for the focused-relaxed athlete, remember that there are still some cornerstone pieces of the puzzle that are important. I will try to let go of my moment of conscientious-stupidity. 

Through all of this, there is a saying that has stuck in my mind which has given me a smile and the energy for my next racing adventure:


"Chase your dreams passionately while holding them lightly"


Mooloolaba 70.3 was just a race. Some fun with friends. No sheep-stations on the line. With Noosa less than 8 weeks away, there is always something else in your life to pursue with enthusiastic vigor! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Focus Izalco Team SL bike - my two cents

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to ride a Focus Izalco Team SL road bike in the first race of the Triathlon QLD series. Chris from Chaingang Performance Bikes was kind enough to lend me his to take on the hilly and adventurous 5 lap - 40k course as I decided the TT bike might be like dragging the Titanic around a speed boat racing circuit. Very happy with that decision as the Focus rode like a rocket the whole way! With Campagnolo electronic shifting and a whizzing pair of Enve 6.7 tubular wheels it was a thoroughbred of a machine to ride. 


The impact of this bike was quite exceptional from the start - visually it has clean lines with smart green-accents that draw your eye from front to back along the frame. This alone makes the bike appear fast even when it is sitting still. With the Enve wheels as well I couldn't help but wonder if the engine (i.e. me) would be enough to do it justice. 

The small details continued to remind me that this is no ordinary bike. From the near flawless shifting of gears (I had to visually look at the rear cassette a few times to check that it had actually moved), the feather-light frame and the incredible stiffness that sent power from foot-to-pedal-to-road to "far out I am flying up this hill!" in an instant. With that in mind it is still a comfortable ride despite being a stiffer frame - the day before the race it took me on a 100k spin with no complaints. 


While you may think that a 40k ride slotted in between a 10k and 5k run (with over 5 laps of riding and 491m of climbing) does not sound like fun, you'd be wrong. I was like a kid in a candy store drilling this bike up the climbs, zipping down the descents and around corners trying to embrace my inner Jens Voigt (as safely as I could with a course full of other riders), and pushing it along the flats. Make no mistake - this bike is fast. 


Pros

* fast and smooth shifting, very lightweight, great handling

Cons

* ruined my current road bike - it's just not the same

The guys at Chaingang Performance Bikes have been a great support for me over the years. While they have been stocking the Focus bikes range for a few months now, I will admit that I had not really given them much thought. However, this experience has changed my mind. After trying Chris' bike I started to do some research on Focus and have been impressed with what I have read. So much so that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new Izalco Chrono Max Time Trial bike which recently won the Eurobike Award in the Time Trial bike category!


Disclaimer: I understand that some may wish to take this review with a grain of salt given that Chaingang Performance Bikes have been a loyal supporter of mine for the past few years. I completely support that view (and really believe any review of products should be read with a healthy degree of skepticism) and can only suggest that there is no harm in trying out a Focus bike (especially the ones mentioned above) to see for yourself.