“Proper pros don’t do things just for fun”. So said another pro to me a few years ago. I was still working but had my pro license. At the time I was out in Lanzarote on a training holiday. That day the wind was crazy and after being nearly blown off our bikes my friend and I abandoned our long ride plans and did a crazy hill rep session up the steepest hill in Lanzarote. Bonkers, epic and awesome. We got back absolutely buzzing from an impromptu utter smashfest and I remember being a bit disheartened to hear that ‘proper’ pros didn’t do stuff just for the hell of it. Really?
A few years down the line and I think I’m old enough and wise enough to prove that point wrong. Specificity in training is all well and good and there’s definitely a time and place for that. But I would argue that mixing this up with some slightly less structured but definitely more fun ‘adventure’ sessions is equally beneficial. I would hate to train by myself day in day out. Training would feel like work much of the time and I don’t think I’d still be a triathlete if that were the case. While to outsiders my training schedule may seem a bit hit and miss there is method to my madness and much of it is being inventive to ensure that I don’t stop enjoying my passion. I train much better if I keep it fun.
At this time of year it’s pretty easy to do this. Firstly because the long evenings and slightly more clement weather means I have more playmates. And secondly because there is an endless supply of races that I can do ‘just for the hell of it’. Some people don’t like turning up to races without their A game. I guess having a number on your back and a time in a result list can be off-putting if you worry about other people judging your performance. But for me, it means that it removes the need to self motivate and a session that would have taken infinite amounts of will power, both mental and physical, suddenly becomes easy. Racing when I don’t care about the result is refreshing. It takes me back to the days before I took triathlon seriously when my only goal was completion; I enjoy being a participant as much as being a contender.
Last weekend I took part in the Outlaw half at Holkham. Lots of my friends were racing and I wanted to go down and watch anyway. So when someone offered me a place in a relay team I jumped at the chance. I knew I’d be tired from some big training sessions in the run up to Ironman UK. So I figured I could use the motivation from being in a race situation, without the pressure of actually racing. Ignore the time on the clock. Just do the work that you need to do and embrace the fact that you’re getting cheered on during a training session. When you’re tired would you rather do a 90 km hard bike on your own or with hundreds of other athletes, on new roads, with people cheering you on at every corner? When you put it like that it’s a bit of a no brainer. It’s much easier for me to work hard if I’m surrounded by other people who are working hard too. And it’s infinitely more enjoyable!
As I write this I’m on the train back from the Long Course Weekend in Tenby. This is an event that capitulates fun in every sense. In a nutshell an Ironman over 3 days, but you can pick and choose your distances. Tenby embraces multisport like nowhere else and the support and atmosphere is unrivalled. In fact if I were to pick one event that sums up why I do triathlon this is probably it. If you’re racing an Ironman it’s the perfect training weekend. If you’re thinking about racing an Ironman it’s the perfect appetizer. And if you’re neither of the above you should do it, just because it’s so fun. For me this year it was a lesson in self-restraint; I’m racing Ironman UK next weekend. In contrast to the Outlaw motivation this weekend wasn’t an issue. Instead I had to make sure I didn’t get carried away and save myself for 7 days time. Easier said than done with the atmosphere in Tenby! But I managed. Just. Though it did take some hard words and persuasion from my friends to ensure I capped my effort on the bike and run…. Thank guys!
I feel a little bit as though I’m going into Ironman UK without doing that much training. Yet, thinking rationally, I know I’ve just been clever. I’ve done a ton of hard work but have hidden much of it behind some awesome weekends. There haven’t been many days when training has felt like work. Fingers crossed this strategy will pay off this time next week. That’s the time I need to get my race head well and truly on. I’m heading back to Bolton with an agenda and it’s not to make up the numbers!
Update after Ironman UK.
So I’ve been asked to update this article after Ironman UK last weekend… Well I guess my strategy of keeping training fun worked! I had a very solid race and am over the moon to have retained my title. I love this race. It’s a tough, hilly course that suits me. But the unbelievable support and camaraderie I receive during the race, both from spectators and athletes, is what makes it special to me. I’ve never experienced anything like it and am not sure I ever will again. Honestly absolutely humbling and something I want to savour and remember forever.