2010 in Review

Right now every blog and news site around the world is putting together their year in review. It would be remiss of me not to join in, I’ve checked the archives and I certainly attempted it before. The emphasis is on attempt as they read like lists of training and racing without much to take forward. I want this year’s review to be a little more personal and point you to my season review on Endurance Corner if you’re after training specifics.

Yet training is where I start. The year began with Epic Camp, riding the length of New Zealand over sixteen days. The atmosphere and encouragement those camps foster is always a positive experience, navigating an entire country took it to a new level. I’d reached the fitness where a week of Epic was fine, so this year they’d thrown in two! Physically and mentally challenging beyond previous camps somehow I got through seeing amazing scenery on route.

I fully appreciated the real value of this and all the other camps I’ve done on a recent ride. The weather wasn’t much, but with a group of capable cyclists we could push each other. It’s not that I don’t work when training alone, but I work better in a group. Swim, bike or run I can see the value of having a team. They may have their own goals, but each member pushes the others a little bit further. Were I to take this as a lesson it’s not about exotic training camps, it’s about finding situations and people that make you work.

Throughout life I’ve sought stability, believing a certain level of income would bring happiness. I was an accumulator of things and an avoider of experiences. A couple of years travelling destroyed that viewpoint, I’ve returned to the UK as someone who relishes challenges and seeks out change. Despite knowing this the end of my hiatus from reality brought me to a low point of the year. There was the positive of being amongst family and friends, but a self-indulgent regret I was no longer entirely free to do as I liked.

Eventually I recognised that balancing earning a living with racing was a challenge even if it didn’t involve new countries, climates or training. I’d written about making a ‘sustainable‘ life in endurance sports, but apparently been unprepared when the task arrived. Denial is always a mistake the sooner you accept a situation the sooner you can deal with it. I embraced the challenge as I had before and got serious about coaching.

Seriously coaching required change. Establishing principles on which my services would be based and recognising the need to add value beyond one size fits all plans. There are fundamentals to training that return results, but a coach needs to offer something beyond what you read in books. Fundamental to this is the feedback loop and the ability to interpret and adapt to an athlete’s requirements. I needed to work on my communication and constantly expand my coaching knowledge to provide athletes with the best program possible.

In that respect this website changed, it became a platform to develop my viewpoints. If this blog had a purpose it was to track my life around the globe, whilst that hasn’t vanished there’s less to follow. The (hopefully) interesting aspect of my life isn’t what I’m doing, but what I’m reading, thinking and deciding. Readers have followed me solidifying viewpoints as I attempt to take experiences and apply them to a broader audience. I’ve enjoyed making this change and the challenge of becoming a more competent writer, definitely an area I want to visit more in the future.

I hadn’t abandoned seriously training, the summer months were a very focussed period in my athletic life. Ambitions were strong and motivation high I pushed hard, tried new approaches and managed one good result before I broke! Two years of pushing myself and I finally took things a little too far. I’ve written about the injury more than enough, but rarely about burn out.

More significant than the physical impact on training was the loss of drive. I felt confident about my fitness and ability to develop this, but had doubts about my desire. Start me training and I’m fine, but first you have to start me training. It wasn’t laziness I filled my time with work and activity, I simply wasn’t as drawn to putting in the hours. When you’ve chosen something as a lifestyle it’s scary to find yourself wavering.

It remains an issue. Motivation fluctuates when it’s there I work harder than ever, the problem comes when it’s absent. I don’t think I’m burnt out, I enjoy training, I still have challenging goals in racing, but it doesn’t feel as it did. Perhaps this is an ongoing adjustment to balancing training with work and I’m overreacting to a lighter schedule than the past.

I considered just focussing on coaching. I don’t need to be a highly active athlete to coach well, just coaching would do more to make me a better coach (specificity!) I pondered this on yesterday’s run, the idea of taking a year out from my training and putting the same energy into coaching. Having the time to read and research more, work with others and develop my skills. Whether I could really abandon my training is another question I suspect I’d find myself drawn back.

There’s more uncertainty in my life than I experienced at any point abroad. At times it’s a cause for concern when it possesses the potential to hamper some of my goals, but it’s far from a negative. My problem is deciding what’s most important to me, I don’t lack for opportunity. How far do I want to take coaching in the coming year? How much do I want sub-9 at Austria? How important is going to Kona? What about the chance to perform well at Challenge Henley? I’ll be honest there’s a lot of motivation in peaking for a home event.

I don’t need to make any resolutions for a couple of days, there’s still time to decide! This year has been filled with change and reminded me of the importance of adaptability. It’s not taken me where I might have expected, but it’s been fun along the way and set the bar high for 2011.

Ironman Training Library

From nutrition to pacing - a collection of CoachCox blog posts focused specifically on Ironman training and racing.


  • Mark

    Good choice of words Russ, a lot of that rings true with me too, particularly the question of motivation. Like you, when I’m motivated, it’s on! When the motivations wanes, that’s when it’s hard to get out on those cold, dark mornings! Good luck for 2011.

  • Colin Wilson

    A lot of what you say resonates with how my wife and I felt in 2002 when we returned to the UK from an 18 month career break backpacking around the world. It definitely took us a few months to adjust from the lack of freedom (especially as we were living in my wife’s parent’s house) and the reality of needing to find gainful employment again.

    Taking a year out is akin to opening Pandora’s box, and our immediate desire was to hit the road again, but we gradually came to terms with the fact that unless we won the lottery or had some other life changing windfall this wasn’t going to be possible.

    That said, by setting new challenges each year, and feeding the travel bug in small intense doses, we’ve pretty much settled back into the swing of things.

    Keep at it Russ, I think you’re on the right path by blending training and racing into a career in coaching. The one thing that I have learnt is that what you do for work should be something that you have a passion and talent for; otherwise it can just turn into a daily grind, and that’s when motivation really nose dives.

  • Roger

    I guess i have experienced something similar after Kona this year. I think it is less the physical toll than the mental toll. Being focussed on performance and pushing through sessions week after week for two years takes an enormous amount of mental toughness. This mental fatigue eventually causes a burn out and the need to take the pressure off yourself and regroup so you can GENUINELY commit to a new goal. It is important to jump off the merry-go-round and take stock – for me this means a whole hearted focus on technique for 12 months and a goal of attempting something special in Kona in 2012.
    You seem to be having a great deal of success in coaching and writing so give this appropriate time to develop and take your foot off the performance pedal for 12 months – there is no rush if you have a lifetime of competing ahead of you, Dave Scott seemed to do OK in Kona at the age of 42!

  • Sorry for the slow reply, been a busy few days. A lot of thinking on my part to, whilst I’d originally planned a typical New Year’s resolution post, I’ve a more involved one to write about my own goals. I’m sure I’ll put something up about goals and resolutions in general in the meantime.

    Mark – motivation is definitely the big factor in training for me. When it’s there I can push myself hard, but have suffered in its absence. A lot has changed this year and some of my plans need to change with it.

    Colin – thanks. Glad I’m not the only one who found the shift back to a ‘normal’ life from a nomadic one difficult. Short of winning the lottery as you say it’s about the occasional adventure and trip. I’m not short of choices, I just need to make the ones that matter most to me.

    Roger – as you’ve said before there’s a lot in common with our sporting development. What you’re saying makes a lot of sense to me. It’s not that I don’t want to train or don’t enjoy it, but rather I’m not feeling the drive for quite the pressure I’ve been under. What really excites me on a sporting level next year isn’t performance, but racing back home.

    Some good food for thought and a reminder about the long term goals vs short term goals. I wonder if I forget performance and just aim to train well for a year, work on specific areas without concern for peaking for races, what could be achieved. Perhaps think in terms of starting 2012 a better swimmer, cyclist and runner than I finished 2010. Then as you say come back to Kona stronger.

    I’ll muse about it for a day or two more and then make some more public plans.