A Reflection Piece…

After a very successful season comes the time to reflect. Reflection on everything that has happened; things we have achieved; what we could have done differently or better; and what the future holds and the goals will be for next year. Reflection is an important tool in life in general and something many people do not do often enough. It’s something I bark on about in my professional duties, but also one that I like to think I do myself. Hence this blog. This is one huge reflection documenting a journey into a sport I love and that gives me so much.

I know triathlon, training and racing is not the be-all and end-all. I get that. It can be a selfish sport at times – and hard to manage with everything else that goes on in life. If I had to give it up tomorrow – for whatever reason that may be, it would sadden me and I would miss it. Could I give it up? Well if my family depended on it then hell yes. I love my family dearly and how they support me in what I do, even though sometimes it means an early start for them at some race in the country! They can be as dedicated me! So to reflect just on the training and racing would be wrong. I’m looking at everything that surrounds that. My family are a big part of me being able to carry out this crazy adventure! I’m grateful to them for that.

I look back on this year as a great achievement. By concentrating purely on triathlon this season and being more focused around the goals, it has made for a successful season.

I’ve been really pleased with how my body has held up. I hate to say it, or to tempt fate, but there were no major injuries throughout the season. Why? Well you may remember me speaking about adapting some of my training methods (training slower more often), which I think has had a major impact into me staying healthy. Yes I’ve had a few niggles, mainly older injuries just playing up, but these are managed and we move on. It meant a tweak to training or easing up a little. Nothing that couldn’t be dealt with, meaning I have had the healthiest season so far. Training slower has worked for me…and do you know what? It has made me a faster athlete. My times and performance prove that this year.

Proof I hear you say? Well check the previous blog posts! I often compare my race performances against my previous efforts. My A race this year was the Outlaw half. The middle distance is my preferred event and the one I believe I hold most potential at. I’ve hit personal records/bests at all my events this year. For those I didn’t, it was because of a change of distance or a new event making it difficult to compare. The one result that stands out for me is the Outlaw Half. Previously 6hr 10mins to 5hr 34mins this year. I’m certainly hitting consistent numbers in the olympic distance as well, although I haven’t had a race where the conditions helped this year. The longer the distance though, the stronger I am. I’m no longer scared of the distance, the pain you endure or mental side of it. I’ve also made real strides in managing my nutrition during these longer events. I still think I probably need to tweak a little more on this but everything is moving in the right direction.

So even though I have made leaps and bounds in my performance, the question that always hangs over my head…’How much more can I do?’ I’m not getting any younger.

So I’m going to make a statement now…a big statement. One that takes me out of my comfort zone and one that will challenge me. So here goes:

I AM GOING TO TRY AND QUALIFY FOR THE GB AGE GROUP TEAM FOR THE MIDDLE DISTANCE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS.

There we are…off the chest! That is the goal for next year. Life is too short to not take risks. I’ve made my commitment and shared it. If I don’t succeed, it’s not the end of the world. It will give me a good indication of how close I can get and whether it is a goal I can achieve. Maybe it is out of reach, but if I don’t try, I will never know. I’ve been completing in triathlon a fair few years now and it’s time to lay down my most challenging goal to date.

What will I need to do?

Well apart from going faster, there are a few things I need to consider. Making sure I train effectively and staying injury free will be a challenge in itself, I mean it always is. There are going to be a few tweaks to my training again and I will make an effort to up my run volume this year considerably. I’ll also have the help of this:

The treadmill (or dreadmill for some) is the new weapon in my training arsenal and one to take a little bit of the impact out of my running. I’ve already had a few sessions on Zwift run, which I must say I have enjoyed. It’s going to be great for the winter runs and my brick workouts.

The training plan is already being devised. It’s not knowing what to do in my training, that bit I believe I have covered. Extensive reading, use of Training Peaks and trialling approaches have meant me being my own guinea pig and learning lots over the last few years. I have a few milestones set that I will need to hit throughout. The length of training time will be increased and I have already started after my three week break. I’m taking a much longer preparation and base period this time out and getting my body ready to train will be key. There will be an element of being a little stricter with my diet also.

What are the qualifying rules?

Hopefully I can explain this a bit clearer than British Triathlon. The idea is that you need to be within a qualifying time of the winner of your age group. This is 115% or in other words within 15% of the winners time. On calculations from the Outlaw this year, the winners time for the 40-44 age group was 4hr 22mins. To get within that qualifying time I would need to be somewhere close to 5hrs. That’s 34mins quicker than I raced this year. You see, it’s tough. 34mins is a lot, although I do believe I can get at least 20mins off just by training consistently as I have done this year. I certainly held back on the bike during the event this year.

You can probably see now why my training has started earlier than previous seasons. It will need to if I am going to reap that extra performance gain. I could do with a slice of luck on the day also. By this I mean it does depend on who turns up. If I get someone racing who is quicker than the winning time this year, then it obviously makes the qualifying time harder as I would need to go even quicker.

You see some of this is out of my hands. The only thing I can do is train hard and consistently and race the best I can on the day. If that happens and I hit my target, I can’t ask for anything more. I can be sure that a 5hr half Ironman is more than respectable and a qualification spot will be a bonus.

The funny thing is, if I do get it then I’m not even sure I will go. The cost of everything age group related isn’t cheap and I think logistically it might be a challenge. I have decided to not worry about this part though and just concentrate on getting in. If I do get in, then we worry about that. So there you have it. My reflection and my main goal next year laid out in full. I could have kept all of this under wraps, although I feel that by sharing it, it gives me added impetus and healthy added pressure.

Only time will tell if I’m aiming for something well out of my reach! There’s only one way to find out so let’s see what this rollercoaster holds in the coming year!

The real cost of triathlon…

Triathlon is great. I love taking part and training for it. When speaking to friends or other people about what I do in my spare time, they often say you must need a lot of equipment and it must cost a fortune. This got me thinking. Is this a question that can simply be answered yes or no? Can triathlon be completed on a budget? What is the minimum equipment you would need? How much does it really cost?

My view is that is not a cheap sport, although it can be done on a budget. Yes we can all pick up a cheap bike, or possibly possess one. We probably own a pair of trainers and swim kit, which in theory means we have the means to take part. So you want to enter a triathlon?

First up – Pick a race. If it is close to home, great! No need to travel too far or possibly add the cost of a hotel to stay somewhere the night before. Entry fees from around £40-£100 and that is anything up to standard distance. You want Ironman? Well stump up a couple of hundred quid! Not that cheap is it?

Training – The fun bit for me! Training is great but you need to make sure you have the necessary equipment to do it. If not…go purchase it. This is where counting the pennies comes in. Really, we all want to save money! If your race is in open water, you may need to purchase a wet suit. You can pick one up for around £90. Don’t forget the cost to use the pool each week or the upkeep of training gear.

Race day approaches – Do I have everything I need is often the question that I ask myself? Well after some time in the sport, I have managed to build up my resources which if I were to buy in one fell swoop, may leave me light in my pocket. Essentials are the things to think about here. What are you going to race in? Have you got simple things like a helmet, water bidon or bag to carry things in? Oh and don’t forget the the lube!

Triathlon is as expensive as YOU make it. Yes there is an initial cost and if you really want to improve, take part in a number of races each season, get better gear, then the amount of money you spend on it will start to rack up. When compared to a single discipline sport like running or football, triathlon is hugely more expensive. Entry fees to races are ridiculous and as for the price of gear…well.

The thing is I am lucky enough to be able to afford what I do. I like to make a weekend of it and make my family part of it. This usually means two nights in a hotel somewhere close. Add on the cost of meals and other bits and bobs plus what it has cost to enter, then you are looking at a very expensive weekend. Some people do not have this luxury and do not wish to do it like this. We are all different. So when people now say it must cost a fortune…what do I say?  The short answer is ‘yes’. But I’m sure there are people out there who would answer differently, but I also believe that they are a very small minority.

The sport is definitely growing. How come? Media and the Olympics have opened us up to triathlon. The market is ultra competitive and the range of gear and savvy buyers out there are taking advantage of great deals. It is slowly becoming more accessible but still has a long way to go.

Until next time…happy tri-ing!