Saturday, October 21, 2017

Vacation is over: Back to work

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Last Sunday saw the last race of the Wessex Cyclocross league and, despite a near-fatal bout of man-flu (is there any other kind?!), I wasn’t going to miss the season finale; partly because it was the last race, partly because it was on my doorstep and partly because I needed the points in order to be ‘gridded’ for the start of next season.

Cyclocross funI won’t bore you with a race report (makes a nice change), save to say I had my worst start of the season and went backwards from there, just about finishing in the top half of the field (did I mention I have man-flu?!).  I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it; I s*ck at cyclocross!

But I’ve kinda had fun.  Kinda.  It remains to be seen whether slipping and sliding in the mud has any positive effect on my ability to Time Trial, but in a way it has been the break I needed from triathlon and now I feel energised to get back into things.  Better late than never, eh?!

It’s not like I’ve altogether turned my back on triathlon since last autumn.  I’ve been running, swimming and – obviously – cycling, if only to try to keep some kind of base level fitness. But I’m the first to admit there hasn’t exactly been much structure to my training.  Likewise, my 2016 planning is a long way behind schedule (I have at least booked one race!).

But I’m not going to stress it.  I am where I am and I now accept that triathlon is at best 30% of my life, the other 70% being split between family and work.  The lesson from a winter of cyclocross is that I need to find a way to do as well as I can without creating unrealistic expectations that cause me to forget that I’m supposed to be doing this for fun.

That means back to proper training – but training that acknowledges that I don’t have the luxury of the same consistency or volume that other Age Groupers enjoy (I totalled it up before Christmas, I took 70 international flights and spent something like 120 days away from home in 2015).  I’m not complaining. It’s a choice I’ve made and I have to live with the consequences.

But it also means that I need to really focus both on making the most of every opportunity I have to train (ensuring that while I not might have much chance of a high quantity of training, I do the best quality sessions I can), but also taking care of the other elements that can high a dramatic effect on performance, such as eating habits (especially important when you’re away from home as much as I am).

To that end, I’ve started working with Alan Murchison and his Performance Chef scheme.  It’s still early days, but since Christmas I’ve been trying out some of his recipes and eating pretty much gluten-free.  I guess that’s not actually 100% true.  After reading a book recommended by Alan, I’ve made a huge effort to specifically be wheat-free.  One of the things I’ve read recently is that not all glutens are equal.

I don’t claim to be a coeliac or even especially gluten-intolerant (any more than you, anyway), but reading about how intensive farming methods have changed the wheat crop in the last 50-60 years, I was sufficiently convinced to make a concerted effort to cut wheat out of my diet completely (I’m currently less strict about other grains, avoiding them when possible but not stressing if something contains barley, for example).

And while I can’t yet claim that I have oodles more energy or that I’m setting new run or bike PBs (hopefully they will come!), I can say that I’ve dropped from 68kgs to 67.3kgs and am noticeably more toned around my midrift.  Hopefully that’s a good sign of performances improvements to come.

Through Alan, I’ve also been put in contact with Gareth Pymm on Matt Bottrill’s coaching team and well-known British international runner, Louise Damen.  What I like about the discussions I’ve had with these guys so far is that they seem to understand my complicated, unstructured world and still believe they can help me find some meaningful gains on the bike and run.  Of course, the proof is in the pudding, but if believing that a coach is going to help you find the gains is half the battle, then we’re halfway towards a better 2016 season.

And I’m up for the challenge.  I don’t honestly know if I can repeat the successes of the 2014 season (clearly I didn’t manage it in 2015), but I’m going to try to be as intelligent about my training as I can, making the most of what reduced training time I have.

Funnily enough, it helps working in a company that has a high percentage of active people.  We have a lot of cyclists, runner and swimmers in our company and it’s great catching up with them and taking an interest in how everyone is doing.  We even have a running group in the Stockholm office, which has some pretty evil lunchtime intervals sessions (and I’m by no means the best runner there, which is an extra incentive, trying to keep up with a beanpole that runs three-minute KMs!).   We even set up a Strava club for the employees and it’s great having a little internal competition in terms of swim, bike and run training.

My TT bike has sat languishing in the shed (with a dead battery – finally recharged this weekend!) since my last race in November (Chilly, don’t ask, it was awful) and I finally feel like I want to get back out on it (although having a shiny new Giant Propel Advanced Pro 0 vying for attention isn’t helping!) and get back into some Time Trial / Triathlon training.  No doubt Matt and Gareth will have plenty of sessions for me to kill myself with soon enough.

In fact, I suspect the next month or so isn’t going to be much fun. No doubt there will be FTP tests and 5km time trials to be done.  There will likely be tears and no shortage of moaning (from me, at least), but despite the whining, I get how important these are to achieving those 2016 goals (okay, the GOAL for 2016 is to qualify for the 2017 70.3 World Championships. There I’ve said it). So, in the words of someone far wiser than me, it’s time to MTFU.

Triathlon season will be here before you know it…  I guess I’d better clean my cross bike.

 

 

 

 

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Matt Fisher runs TriathletesDiary.com - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a 2014 qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs

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