This year has gone well so far. I’ve enjoyed training, done well in some races and discovered some new parts of Ireland. Plus the summer is shaping up nicely, with a mix of races, holidays and of course the Euros in Poland and the Olympics in London. I thought I’d give an insight into the year so far, including highlights from my training and racing.
I’ve been happy with my training and I’ve enjoyed the variety and better structure I’ve put in place. I’ve been consistent, averaging 9 hours per week (3hrs running, 3hrs cycling, 1hr swimming). My running has improved, largely through mixing intensity with recovery runs, as well as interval sessions with Rathfarnham WSAF. I’ve learnt to balance recovery days/runs while making the speed sessions more structured, with Fartlek, hill running or intervals. However I haven’t progressed my cycling or swimming that much (my monthly swim 20min TT hasn’t broken 1000m). Someone recently said “Race your strengths, train your weaknesses” and I haven’t really adopted that approach. I should do more cycling with the club and mid-week, as well as swim lessons to improve my technique. Otherwise I’ll never improve.
Belpark Training Camp
The biggest boost to my training was the Belpark Training Camp held over 4 days in Limerick recently. It was really motivational to get some good coaching and learn from the more experienced guys. Plus it was a real insight into how more professional athletes prepare: eat, train, eat, train, sleep, train, eat, etc….we had 3 sessions a day, including over 3km in the 50m UL pool on 3 days. I got the most from the pool sessions: the key is technique but this needs good flexibility and conditioning as a base (“function follows form”). The bike sessions were good; although I found them tougher (Killaloe looks a nice place to visit, so I’ll be back). We did have a bike crash, with a pile up over train tracks, but luckily the train wasn’t hurtling down the line at us! We also got a motivational speak from Mike Jones, an amazing story of how 5 novice rowers crossed the Atlantic.
(I also completed a first – sprinting on a track. I wanted to sense check my speed versus Usain Bolt’s 100m speed – he can easily do 9.6 seconds, so I figured I could surely do 15 seconds. In the end, I barely broke 18 seconds, so I’m amazed at the speed of those guys!)
Running up Claragh Mountain, IMRA race in Millstreet, Co. Cork
By the numbers it’s been a good spring 2012: 10 races, 9 top 10s, 5 top 5s, 2 PBs. However the internal critic/pessimist always puts context on this: most were running races which are my strength and most were smaller races with less competitive fields. But what I can control is my times and I did beat my 10km best twice (Tramore and Enniscrone) as well as breaking the hour for 10 miles in the John Treacy race in Dungarvan.
The important thing is I’m progressing, even in the duathlons I did well, flying on the run with the top guys, only dropping back on the bike and recovering again on the 2nd run. If I could shave 2-3 mins off my 20km bike time, it would push me up top 5. It’s disappointing that I’m not more concerned about improving my bike times. Some say I need a better bike, but I think it’s more down to me and my desire to put the hours in on the bike. The analogy I use is golf – the guy who goes out and buys the latest Titliest driver isn’t necessarily going to blast it 300 yards down the fairway like Tiger Woods.
I won’t deny that competing to win or get a prize really motivates me. That’s why I like the IMRA (Irish Mountain Running Association) races so much. When you’re an also ran (as 99% of us are, and as I am in triathlons, swims and bigger races), it’s about (a) a personal goal such as fitness or proving it to yourself; or (b) possibly beating your club mates, friends or even adversaries. But when you’re in the shake up, you have to think about so many other things (psychology).
In Enniscrone 10km, I was battling for 3rd early on, got passed and thought “ah, that’s my race over.” But then I talked myself into staying with the guy in front and believing that I was stronger than him over the 10km. In the end, he faded (or I gained strength, depending on how you look at it) and I passed him after 5-6km and held onto 3rd. Tactics also come into it – in the IMRA races, I fly up the hill, so have to push harder, as I know I’m going to lose places on the descent to the mad nutters who bound past me without falling. My latest IMRA race in Tonelagee panned out just like that – I led over both hills but dropped back on the descents, finishing 3rd overall. Anybody know any secrets for fast descents??
Having a big goal really helps motivation, so I’ve decided to enter the World Duathlon Championships in Nancy, France in September. I’m also going to focus my triathlon races on National Series events (Dunmore East, Baltimore, Kinsale, Mullingar, TBC), so I can see how I rate against the better athletes. I also want to have a crack at the IMRA Summer League and there’s definitely a marathon to squeeze in this autumn.