Off to Oz: the starting point of the plan

I’ve done a very quick skim through my archive just to make sure this doesn’t make me seem entirely senile. In the absence of blog worthy activity in my life (the Oz prep goes well) and with only 3 days left I figured I’d post something about how this all started. Apologies now as it may cover familiar ground.

The first time the idea entered my mind goes back 2 years to Florida. I spent a couple of weeks in Clearwater for the first Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Incidentally, it’s not a race I’d recommend unless you like an over-crowded course. Despite a less than satisfactory race, a couple of weeks in warm weather with nothing on my mind but triathlon and the idea of more of that appealed. Florida itself didn’t really appeal, something about the ageing beach resort reminded me of J G Ballard Science Fiction. Apart from that where do so many triathletes go to train… Australia!

Version 1 of the plan was formed early last year and then executed at the end of the year. It took the form of a 6 week trip to Oz, enough time to dedicate to training and see what the place was like. At the same time not such a massive commitment as actually going full-time. It didn’t start out as a taster for the athlete lifestyle, but by the time the trip came it had pretty much become that. Circumstances had made it possible for me to consider leaving my job and giving up my income for a time. At that point though I wasn’t entirely sure that was a wise move, but with practical issues removed the possibility was in my mind.

To be honest it didn’t take long for version 2 of the plan to form. I came home from Oz largely decided I needed to go back there for much longer. As a training environment it was perfect for me, the facilities, the climate and the people made it so easy. Apart from wanting to go back, I was also sure if I really wanted to race to my best I needed to commit more time and push harder than I had before. Combine the ideas together and you end up with leaving work, training full-time and going to the other side of the world to do this.

Come January this year it was largely decided. The exact dates aren’t quite fixed, but the basic plan was. It was pretty simple – leave job, travel to Australia, stay on the Gold Coast, train a lot, race a lot and eventually come home. From that point onwards my training focussed on two things, my next Ironman and the idea of getting myself ready for full-time training. As I see this it’s the ability to sustain consistent high volume training. The exact level is individual, but to my mind I needed to be able to sustain 20 hours or more whilst working if I was going to be able to do enough full-time. So extra workouts started to sneak into my training plan.

The final significant step was handing in my notice, which I did excessively early by most standards. It made sense though, I couldn’t put the focus into training and work. Once my plans to leave were known the direction of my work changed and it was easier to sustain the training I wanted. From that point on I was committed and all that was left were the details and getting on with the training.

I’ve commented before how a lot of people are envious of what I’m doing. For anyone obsessed with training the opportunity to put aside all the routine parts of life and just do that is the dream. Whilst doing it is quite a committed step, I admit for me it is only possible because the financial barrier is removed. If that wasn’t the case, as much as I might want to be I’m not sure I’d be where I am now. I’ve a lot of respect for those who take the risk with far less security, that’s real commitment. I’m a risk averse person and it took a long time to become convinced that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

Ultimately this trip is the culmination of almost 2 years of decision making! I knew it was something I’d like to do right from the start, but convincing myself the returns would warrant the costs was another matter. I may have the means to be financially independent during my time away, but this was a choice to use an inheritance for quite nebulous returns over increasing stability in my life. I have gone from a fairly clear future to one where I can’t say what I’ll be doing in 18 months time (I’ll have more on that one tomorrow).

To finish on a positive note, I made the choice because I am convinced that the personal returns warrant the commitment. I’ve no idea what the returns will actually be, though I hope at least to reach a level of fitness I’ve never achieved before. I’ve read a lot over the last couple of years that leaves me with the view that you have to take these risks if you want the opportunity for significant gains. You can’t sit and wait for these things to happen and if the opportunity is there you should take it. Whenever I doubted the wisdom of my plan I would remind myself that a year as an athlete in Oz will likely make for better stories in my old age than another year in an office.