Knyp vas. Net drie weke tot die begin van IronMan South Africa. Min dae.
It was even further back, in the depths of a shivery and sore muscled mid-flu depression that I received a lovely ‘Keep Calm you’ve only got 30 days’ pic fro IronMan South Africa. It must have been sent to inspire.
Given my situation – it had the opposite effect. I felt some panic and fear. I needed to get over this.
I’m thankfully over the flu, but had a mild setback on a long session yesterday and this is what’s been going through my little pip over the last few weeks.
Finally settling on a goal – sub 12hours.
There – I’ve finally communicated it publicly. Many say a dream only becomes a goal when you write it down and communicate it to others. Once you’ve done that, there is a self-felt ‘pressure’ from friends / family etc for you to take said goal a more seriously than when you keep it to yourself as you don’t want to disappoint them or yourself.
It’s Sunday 16 March 14h03 as I pen this. This time in 3 weeks time, I will hopefully be no more than 27 minutes out of T2. Finishing within another 27 minutes will mean I finished the bike leg in just under 6 hours which I’ll be delighted with. That should give me 4 to 4.5 hours (at a push) for the run to come in under 12 hours.
It’s taken me a hellishly long time to decide that is what I have to aim at. Part of me wants desperately to submit to the ‘it’s the first time, don’t set too lofty a goal and just go out there an enjoy it’, whereas the slightly competitive part of me (and I’m definitely not super-competitive) has decided that I have to push myself and strive for what I think I should be able to do.
How does one come to a ‘realistic’ goal time? That is another matter altogether. Many many many hours of thought while swimming, cycling running. Many magazines read, podcasts digested, videos watched and many a discussion with friends, training buddies and fellow athletes. It’s comparisons to previous times and training times. It can change every day. Nay – does change every day. Can change every couple of hours in fact.
Each good training session brings a wealth of confidence and a better goal. The next session breaks you and you suddenly wonder how the hell you are going to finish the cycle in 6 hours, yet alone run a 4 hour marathon on battered legs.
And I’m not feeling particularly rosy today having bailed on a scheduled 30km training run. Why you ask? That pesky thing called flu. Not a cold, but full blown influenza – she of the sore head, stiff muscles, aching bones and shivers variety. The strain that reminds us how blessed we are when we’re strong and healthy and how fragile the human body can be.
Recovering from illness
And illness is definitely one of the endurance athletes worst fears. Particularly a few weeks out from raceday. Sunday 2nd March saw me finish the second of two big weeks of training, culminating in a very fast (for me) 100km cycle with 6km bric on the Saturday and a nice relaxed but reasonably quick 26km run on the Sunday.
I stupidly thought to myself – ‘I feel quite good and am now confident that should anything (injury / illness) happen to me now, I should be fit enough to carry through to race day’. And that is when the complete bastard that is Murphy’s law seizes upon that thought and deems fit to try your theory. I felt a bit ropey on Monday, went to bed early and woke to do an indoor bike session on Tuesday morning. I wasn’t feeling completely right, but not bad enough to abstain but after finishing the session, by lunchtime I’d taken a massive downward spiral that had me bailing on the afternoon swim.
And that is when training STOPPED completely – for 6 agonising days. Most of Thursday and Saturday were spent in bed feeling fairly close to death and each day you watch session after session pass you by wondering when you’ll feel better and how quickly you can get back into it. The thoughts that flit through ones mind during that time are debilitating to say the least as you contemplate all manner of possibilities from:
1.) A quick recovery and a very strong reintroduction to training based on the premise that an enforced one week layoff had an unexpected strengthening effect – I dub this the OPTIMISTIC or PHILOSOPHICAL standpoint – all the way through to
2.) An attempt to get back into it training that doesn’t work at all, rendering you unable to get back to established levels, picking up another infection or respiratory problem in the process and worse still, having you go backwards to the point that you completely doubt your ability to compete.
Being an optimistic guy, I went with option 1, and looked up a variety of articles on how to get back into training. I did a couple of light cycles of 30 minutes at 110bpm, a similarly light treadmill run and once light swim. All went okay.
What next – why not a 150km cycle with my Exercise Solutions training squad at a fairly brisk pace? That should sort the wheat from the chafe shouldn’t it? IDJUT.
A couple of light 30 / 40 minute efforts at really low heartrate do not a prepare one for a 5 hour session. I took strain. BIG strain. The first 120 actually went okay, but the last 30 were a grind. I never cramp, but was cramping in places I didn’t know could cramp, I was very hot and I didn’t feel completely myself. But I did hang in till the end, and put in a 3km bric run just to make sure I was alive.
I felt pretty battered afterwards and it took me 2-3 hours to feel normal again.
If done again, I would definitely have tried a lighter 3 hour effort instead. The aborted plan for Sunday – a nice light 10km run to the start line of the inaugural Hyundai Rock the Run half-marathon in Sandton for a total 30km’s.
What actually happened? Awoke to a 63bpm resting heart rate – sizably higher than normal – and decided that a day of complete rest was probably a better idea. I need to keep feeling stronger – not weeker. I am certain I can put in a big 25-30km’s on Monday or Tuesday this week and it’s not worth battering myself today. I’ll leave that till April 6th.
The brain is on high activity
Trying to quiet one’s brain in the weeks before an event is one of my greatest challenges. Thoughts flit from:
Am I doing enough training? – after you see your mate’s coach has scheduled a 20 hour week to your 15
Am I doing to much? – after your right Achilles flares up north side of 20km’s in a run
Am I pushing hard enough during my sessions? – a constant debate if you faltered on exact times on a speed / track session
Do I need new cycling shoes? – after completely numb and farggin sore toes at 120km’s
How do I avoid getting sick? – when your 2 year old has thick green slugs under her nose, is coughing uncontrollably and you know you need to hold her, feed her, comfort her and generally help Mum with all the looking after activities.
These thoughts can drive you mad.
They are with you in the morning if / when you take your resting heart rate as you wake and then analyse what the increase / decrease might mean and whether it’s in acceptable range.
They are with you at night when you lay your head on your pillow after a day of 2 tough sessions and wonder if the 6.5 hours you can manage that night will be sufficient rest to enable you to complete your training the next day.
How do you take your mind off?
MUSIC – is a massive part of my life. In these last 2 weeks of gloom, my spirits were lifted by the discovery that the bands responsible for 2 of my favourite albums of 2011 and indeed the last few years – Foster the People and Bombay Bicycle Club – have both released new albums.
And so I downloaded them on a subscription model music service called Simfy and started trying to find some time to sneak a listen. I used to do this on long 3-4 hour training runs for Comrades – armed with nothing but my iPhone, a few new and favourite albums and a Camelbak. There was no better uninterrupted listening opportunity and I just used to get lost in the magic of listening to great music.
Unfortunately triathlon training doesn’t allow me as much uninterrupted running time and cycling with music is too dangerous to consider but I did manage to squirrel away a bit of time to listen. First listens have been good and I look forward to more.
To complete a period of great new music, I hit the proverbial jackpot late last week with the discovery of the latest track by the inimitable Coldplay entitled ‘Magic’. Coldplay are my favourite band by a country mile. I keep jokingly telling my wife I’m going to get a Coldplay tattoo to celebrate my love for the band. I think even once I’ve finished my first IronMan, a Coldplay tattoo might still edge the famous M-dot tattoo if I decided to ink my virgin skin.
The song is pure class. Magic in fact. It couldn’t be a more apt title. Even better was then discovering a day later that they were performing at the iTunes festival at the SXSW festival in the States. You can watch the performance here – http://bit.ly/PFNeWP . ‘Magic’ is so good.
I am definitely factoring it into my pain avoidance behaviour.
The Psychology of Suffering – How to Handle the Pain
The other thing I do to still my busy mind is to try and calm it by learning more about my IronMan pursuit. One such learning activity was watching a Training Peaks webinar last week.
The webinar – available here http://bit.ly/1gqGZvc was a good one and the topic intriguing. I’ve often wondered as to people’s ability to endure more pain than others and have read articles where the sports journo as alluded to an athlete being more capable of enduring pain than others.
Hopefully helps me fight pain.
The webinar was by a Mental Skills training coach named Carrie Cheadle. One of the methods of dealing with pain during events is Disassociation – the art of distracting yourself or trying to take your mind off the pain. One of the methods is to pick a song that motivates you OR I suppose distracts you (by being catchy but may not necessarily likeable) and sing it over and over again to yourself. If the good kind, focusing on the lyrics can help. Psyche songs like Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ or Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ – a song some like, but I can’t stomach. If the poor kind, I suppose going over and over the annoyingly catchy bit might do the trick.[/two_third]
I tested ‘Magic’ out during my tough ride yesterday, and will add it to my arsenal, but feel that I need a few more emotive gems to be able to ‘shuffle’ in my head.
Rather bizarrely my younger brother Rob – who is taking on the incredibly tough ABSA Cape Epic next week – told me in a moment of weakness that he liked to listen to Drake’s ‘Hold on we’re going home’ when training hard. Now anyone who knows that track is highly unlikely to associate it with a song that motivates someone through pain. We laughed hard together as we imagined him crying on a savage climb on the Epic as his partner asked him why he kept mumbling ‘Cause you’re a good girl and you know it’ through tears and gritted teeth. Seeking clarification today on what the lyrics meant to him, I established that the ‘good girl’ of the lyrics actually referred to his bike. Bit more understandable? – maybe. Anyway, different strokes.
I’ve bought Carrie Cheadle’s new book ‘On top of your game’ (http://amzn.to/1e86m8x ) and will be devouring it before IronMan in an effort to have many more arrows in my IM quiver.
It’s all relative – paradigms and how we view things
Another way of trying to alleviate pain or to a lesser extent helping you feel better about your training and prospects, is to stop feeling sorry for yourself and look at the trials and achievements of those in far more difficult situations than yourself and seek inspiration from them. I works wonders for me and am pretty confident it works for most.
In my recent endurance event journey, there are numerous people that have inspired me in this manner. Most recently and notably for me, because IronMan is my current focus, there is the brilliant Supapiet Du Preez, who became the first quadriplegic – yes quadriplegic – to complete an IronMan event when he completed the IronMan Busselton back in December 2013 in an incredible 13hrs24. His story is truly inspirational.
He even dealt with the added challenge of a broken arm suffered a mere 5 weeks before raceday in an accident while training but didn’t let that stop him. A true IronMan if there ever was one.
There are countless others that have inspired me along the way, but I’ll build an Inspiration gallery on the site in future to honour some of them and their achievements.
A fellow squad member inspired me on the tough 150 ride yesterday. On our way back, a bottle ejected from the cage behind my seat had the unfortunate outcome of taking down poor Carl behind me. Rushing to his side to check if he was okay, the rather amusing first question he asked was “is my bike okay?”. After a slight giggle at that, my smile turned to concern as lay pretty motionless with a big grimace on his face, clutching his wrist. Thoughts of ‘will he be able to partake in IM in 3 weeks time’ flashed through my mind. After a long protracted examination of his body, he thought he felt okay enough to finish the 60km’s, and did so with aplomb. The crash seemed to have no effect on his legs and he finished strongly.
While I was battling through the last 30k’s, I kept thinking about how sore his arm and wrist must have been and that helped me to focus on my situation and that it wasn’t too bad.
Not only that, but on our arrival back at the cars, Carl managed to persuade me to go for a short 3km bric.
He followed that up with a 30km run this morning and after I enquired as to how his arm was, he texted me to say ‘I’ve been watching Ironman and I’ve never seen his suit get broken – only dented’.
Take a bow Carl Booij. Another true IronMan.
I thankfully am blessed to have no known issues with my body and am currently carrying no injuries. I may be a little week from the Manflu, but it’s time to suck it up and get back into it.
And now for something completely different
Although it’s not completely different as it somewhat related to taking one’s mind off the future task at hand. Last night it completely took my mind off feeling shit after yesterdays ride.
[one_half last=”no”]What is that you may ask? It’s the movie ‘American Hustle’. It’s brilliant in all facets. Great story. Superb cast and fantastic acting from all 5 well-known actors. It’s no surprise it got Academy nominations for Best Actor / Actress and for supporting roles in each gender.
Stellar cast, great acting, awesome costumes and brilliant story. A future classic.
I’m fairly sure he feels like an IronMan.
Next movie to inspire is the second installation of Thor. I fancy a shirtless Chris Hemsworth to inspire me to be more of a man. Fighting off evil brother Loki looks a lot harder than covering 226km’s and I definitely don’t think I could hold onto that hammer through a 3.8km swim.
And now I’m going to go and chill and try to get an early night so I can train hard tomorrow.
Kindle version of Carrie Cheadle’s book – http://amzn.to/1e86m8x
Training Peaks webinar “The Psychology of suffering” – http://bit.ly/1gqGZvc
Coldplay’s new track ‘Magic’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PvBc2TOpE4
Chris Hemsworth shirtless photo gallery – http://bit.ly/PLh8Jv