The Honeymoon is over – Month 2 in Australia

I’d better use some of this extra free time in my taper to get on with that second month review. I had a quick look back at what I wrote a month ago and the second month has been a very different experience to the first. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, but the first few weeks here were definitely a honeymoon period. Don’t get me wrong the last month has still been good, but a little more reality has crept in.

So firstly I occasionally alluded to some personal issues that were interfering with my training. It should be said the impact was purely a mental one, my motivation was sapped to an extent by some unrelated circumstances. I am however moving past those and the issues are dealt with. When I return to the Gold Coast in December I move into a new homestay set-up which should provide all my needs and let me get on with training as I want.

Importantly lessons are learnt from this. I came into things with my typical passivity, going with the flow. This works only so far and then if you’re lucky. To make my plans happen I have to be proactive, not reactive and I can’t rely on others. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting the help I receive from a lot of people, but rather recognising that I can’t afford not to put in the work to make things happen. Both inside and outside training. I describe training as my job, but clearly haven’t always treated it this way. I’ve dealt with the issues now and am moving on from them. They will not be an excuse over the next training period.

Motivation did prove to be an issue in my second block of training. Partly from the external stresses and partly from fatigue. Errors were made here again. Firstly one of my best workouts in the last 4 weeks was on the last day of my easy week. I was starting to feel fresh and because I went out with others I used this to go harder than I should. Secondly I cannot race as much as I did and train as much as I did, with or without the travel. Races bring out great performances and I don’t discount the value of the data I collected or the fitness benefits. They also make it hard to keep the consistency of a heavy training load. Next year I will not be racing quite so much, I will have some big races, but not so much in between.

Recovery is my weakness. I can apparently go out and ride solo for 7 hours, but can’t spend 40 minutes stretching with the benefits of a TV or iPod to distract me? The 7 hour ride is important, but so is the stretching. Right now if I have any key concern prior to Ironman Western Australia it’s a tightness in my left ITB, glute and hamstring. Better recovery management would have helped prevent this. I should also note that I cannot afford to skip a weekly massage whilst in training, least of all when I raced at the weekend. I will be addressing these in the next month, including regular yoga classes to help that stretching.

I have learnt what cumulative fatigue is. Not that it’s necessarily new to me, but I finally start to see the effects of training blocks and poor recovery. Whilst I managed to perform my basic week structure and get racing in too week on week my capacity to train well was reducing. When I came to do one final big week prior to the taper I was spent. At that point my body couldn’t deliver the kind of performance needed to make the week worthwhile. My big week eroded down to another basic week. Let’s not be entirely negative here, I got a bit more quality out of a few sessions in exchange for the lower volume. Being that fatigued though had a negative impact on motivation as well. I need to avoid that kind of feedback into my training as it creates a poor environment for training.

There is only so much you can train alone and recently I’ve been doing too much of that. Most of the training partners I know on the Coast work as well limiting their availability to train. Fortunately I’ll have a bit more opportunity to train with one or two of them over January and I have some potential contacts for more training partners. Whilst I have no general issue with training alone, it can be a bit isolating when 90% of your time is spent that way. Also the motivational benefit within a given workout can be massive, you push each other to better results. All being well for the next few blocks of training I’ll get a bit more time with others.

Swimming is still a mystery! I’ve taken a higher volume approach to my swim training and to be fair there’s some benefit. I can swim further and for longer quite comfortably. I feel my stroke is tidier and more controlled, possibly a bit more efficient. What isn’t happening is an increase in speed. It’s almost like I just use a bit less energy to go the same as I did before. Once I’m recovered from IMWA I am tackling swimming head on. I’ve some stroke analysis booked and will hopefully come away with pointers on technique and training regime.

Making up placesAll this said I am fitter than I’ve ever been. Honestly. This is probably the best prepared I’ve been for any race. I feel I’m getting beyond a lot of the mental issues that have plagued and stressed my previous key races. Physically I’m in great shape too. My running feels solid, good form throughout and comfortable at around the marathon pace I want. I can go well on the bike when I’m rested so with my taper I should go into the race ready to ride. My swim may not have got faster, but that efficiency gain should benefit me and I need to use it. It’s all there to go around 9:20.

A rougher month than the first, but one that has shown me a lot of things to change and deal with. For the sake of those who read my posts in full I’ll save details of the plans for my Ironman Australia build up for another time. After Busselton I’ll have a couple of weeks of recovery before I start building up for the next race. Once I’m back though, it’s time to live up to the pro-Ironman lifestyle I aspire to.