I’m writing today while sitting on my flight to the Sunshine Coast I am heading for the 70.3 World Championships this weekend. While we were lining up to board our flight I started to talk with my wife Dez. I said how crazy it was to think I was on my way to the biggest race I have ever competed in. When I first became aware of a 70.3 World Championships it was held every year in Las Vegas. I remember that was one of the things that appealed to me so much about the race. Go for a race and party in Vegas afterwards. I remember how it felt like something I would never be able to achieve. I truly never thought I would be good enough to compete at a World Championship event.
It’s funny how things change though. Last weekend was almost a year to the day that I qualified for this race. Even some of my friends who I have made through the sport said they have noticed a change in me over the last 12 months. I mean I can understand why. I have achieved more in this sport in the last 12 months than I have ever expected. More than that though I really feel like I have earned the right to be racing this weekend. When I qualified last year in Bintan I made the strategic choice to race in Indonesia assuming the field would be weaker so I kind of felt like I had cheated my way into the World Championships. But since Bintan I qualified 2 more times. I earned a spot for the 70.3 World Championships at both Taupo 70.3 and Norway 70.3. Both of these races were against strong fields so I was able to set aside any feelings of guilt I had about taking my slot in Bintan.
One of the huge advantages of the Bintan slot was that it has given me over 12 months to prepare for this race. I have never worked so hard towards something before. I have literally put so much blood, sweat and tears into this race I am astounded I am still standing. I have done it all for a very selfish reason too. I want to prove to myself that I am good enough. I wrote about some of my motivations last time and that holds true. But when that gun goes off on Sunday morning I am racing to prove to myself and I suppose to other people that I am more than just a triathlete who used to be fat. I want to show people that I am a legitimate triathlete regardless of where I have come from. I want people to think of me as a solid triathlete, not just a number on the scales. This is a hard thing to come to terms with too. I mean people love a weight loss story. But I feel like I am more than that now. I feel like I am triathlete who is able to line up at a race and be in contention for the podium. I am not expecting that this weekend but I am aiming to make the podium at some of my other races this year.
I have been so thankful for all the messages of support that I have received from all over the world this week. To know there are so many people who are interested in what I am doing gives me a huge boost. It is that sort of support that has made all the countless hours worth it. I mean at the end of the day this is a hobby for me. I am not competing for money. I am not trying to make a living from this sport. But that is not to say that this sport is not important to me. I am guilty of sourcing a lot of my identity from my pursuit of triathlon. It has become a critical element to me as a person. When I think about the values that the sport encourages like hard work, discipline and sacrifice I am pretty happy to be so heavily influenced by it.
Now onto the biggest question I keep getting asked. What is going to happen this weekend? I was talking with my coach this week about how I am feeling and I told him I am surprised that I am not nervous. For those of you who have been with me in the lead up to a race, I am normally a bit of a mess. I am scared I haven’t done enough or that something is going to go wrong. But for this race I honestly feel like I have done everything I can to prepare. I am willing to admit that I am not at the level that I want to be at. But that is not because of a lack of preparation. It is because I have to work hard to make the progress that I want to. What I am saying is that while I know I am not going to hit my 4:05 dream time this weekend I am still confident I will eventually. But for me, at this point in my triathlon career I could not be in better shape. I think knowing this is causing me to be calm. I have done the work and there is no point trying to cram in extra sessions expecting to see progress.
The other big factor about this weekend is that I am actually just genuinely curious to see what level I am at. I know I had a solid result at Norway but I know I didn’t push. I also feel like I am a much stronger athlete at the moment. So I can’t give an answer to people when they ask what I am expecting for the race. I am just as curious as they are to see what happens. I am going out there on Sunday to race as hard as I can and see what I am capable of. So this is why I think I am not too nervous about the race. I am racing with confidence and curiosity, not fear and pressure.
So the last thing that I want to do is give out some thanks to a whole heap of people who have helped to get me to the race this weekend. Obviously the first person I want to thank is my wife Dez. You know how much your support means to me. I promise to give you a smile as I run past on Sunday. To my family who are all coming to watch me race this weekend. Knowing you have all come this far to watch me race will ensure I give it all I have. To my coach, Ben, mate thanks for the amazing program and kicking my ass when I got distracted. It will be amazing to have you spectating on Sunday as well. To the Wolfpack (you know who you are) you boys reminded me how much fun this sport is. I found another reason to be involved in this sport and am excited to see most of you on the weekend. To my training (and eating) crew in Sydney, thanks for all of your encouragement and many food dates which helped to keep me carbo loaded before some of my harder sessions. You have helped to make my training a social activity. My teammates from MaccaX as well as Macca and Azza, the support and motivation you all give me really blows my mind. Fellas you should be so proud of what you have created. It is bigger than the sport of triathlon and I am honoured to be part of it. To my sponsors in no particular order, Mizuno, Giant Sydney, True Amino, Pioneer, Suplest and Thanyapura. Thank you all for your confidence in me. I am proud to represent you when I race and train. Finally to all of my readers and followers, even though I do not know many of you or haven’t met you in person I feel like I do know many of you. Knowing there are so many people who genuinely want me to succeed is an incredible feeling and not something I take for granted.
That will do for this week. It is crazy to think that the race is upon me. I am going to make the most of my time up here this week and above all else. I am going to enjoy the race. So until you all get my edge of the seat race report I will leave you with this.
Chase your dreams, back yourself, thank you and remember to TRI!
A Help or a Hinderance?
My writing has been a little bit sporadic the last few weeks and for this I am sorry. As I am sure you can imagine things have been a little intense here with the World Championships getting closer and closer. My training last week was brutal. But this isn’t some local race. This is the World Championships. The training obviously needs to lift to another level if I expect to line up against the best athletes in the world on September 4. I am really trying to not spend too much time thinking about the race. It is what it is. As long as I do what I can to prepare nothing should go wrong. I also learned last year when I was in Thailand that I do not like pressure in the lead up to an event. As I said, I do not spend a lot of time focusing on what will unfold on the day. The problem I am having though is that other people are.
I know that my approach to racing is probably different to a lot of other people. I also have to admit that after getting on the podium at some big races last year I have gotten a taste for it. Missing out on 3rd place in Norway by a handful of seconds did have an impact on me. However, I am not motivated by where I place. Ok that isn’t necessarily true. I am not motivated by where I place at the World Championships this year. When I set myself the target of qualifying 18 months ago that was the goal, to qualify. I like the quote from the Joker in the Dark Knight (love that I have worked a Batman reference in here) “You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.” So that is what happened. I qualified and was a bit like, oh so now I have to do the race too.
I am only too aware of my own limitations and maybe it is because I was never very good at sport when I was overweight but it is all too easy for me to say that I am just going to give it my best. To be honest, that is what I intend to do. But I do not think that is the end of it. I am not expecting a podium at Sunny Coast at all. As far as I am concerned it is not even a possibility. But that doesn’t mean that I am not going out there with other motivations. This is what I mean when I say that my approach to racing might be different to others. The thing that is motivating me to give my absolute best performance on September 4 is to show that it can be done. I know I am not some weight loss messiah or anything like that. But I do feel like I can try and give others a demonstration about what is possible. If I race hard and fast I am showing other people who may feel like they can’t do it that in fact they can. The fact is that quite a lot of people read what I have to write. I also get lots of emails from people who say they are going through something similar. So if you are one of those people I want you to know that you are motivating me to race hard on the Sunshine Coast.
I know I will go faster. I am getting faster. I see it in my training and I see it in my results. I have no doubt that if I keep working hard there is a chance that one day I may be able to challenge the podium at a World Championship race. This is definitely something that motivates me as well. Racing against myself or trying to motivate others is good to a point. There needs to be a big carrot somewhere down the line. It is funny but while I am writing this I am incredibly uncomfortable admitting that I do have the desire to win. Maybe it is being Australian and the fear of the tall poppy syndrome but I will admit that I have that desire. I just don’t think I am ready yet. I am a realist and I am also a bit sceptical (I blame it on my law degree) so instead of saying it isn’t going to happen I would rather admit that it isn’t going to happen right now.
The problem I have though is also part of my motivation. Other people are starting to place their own expectations on me. As many messages I receive from people asking about losing weight or sharing their story with me I also get messages of support about the World Championships. Here lies my problem. I don’t like the pressure. In Thailand last year after I was surprised to win my age group at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, all talk started about how I had to win my age group at Challenge Phuket the next weekend. Yes, I wanted to. But having other people expect it from me started to stress me out. This is very much the same. No in fact this is a situation that is worse. I said it before; I do not think I am good enough at the moment to really compete with the top athletes at this race (yet.) So I am truly worried about disappointing people. It isn’t a feeling I am comfortable with. It feels like I have let people down sometimes before I even get in the water.
So maybe now you are starting to see the reason why I chose the name I did for this blog. The biggest source of motivation for my biggest race of the year is also one of my biggest sources of stress and fear. Much like with my training at the moment I am on a knife’s edge trying to stay motivated but not be scared. What I keep telling myself is to work on the things I can control. I remind myself that these people are not placing expectations on me to cause me stress. Instead they are trying to motivate me. They do more than I think they know. I just need to manage how much anxiety it also causes me.
When that gun goes off at 6:45 on September 4 you can bet I will go as hard as I can. With the way that I have been training I am personally expecting to put in one hell of a performance, a performance that not only makes my family, friends and coach proud. But one that shows people out there that anything really is possible. I always said when I started this blog that if one person after reading what I had to say signed up for a triathlon that would be enough for me. I am so proud of the fact that I have had multiple people tell me that now. So consider this race my attempt to take it to the next level. I don’t know what will happen on race day but when it is hurting I will be thinking of the people following my performance and doing my best not to let them down.
Have a great week, thanks for reading and remember to TRI!
Follow the Coach's Orders
Since Norway I have been enjoying a strange relationship with running. For whatever reason, I have become significantly quicker over all distances in the last few months. If I had to put it down to something I would probably say it was to do with the incredible amount of bike work I have done this year which is strengthening my legs. As a result of this fascination with my running prowess I have been a little bit naughty. At the start of this year my coach told me that there was minimal benefit for me in running park run. A fast 5km run will do little to contribute to my performance in a 70.3 triathlon. So I agreed to only do them occasionally. Well since getting back from Norway I have done a park run every weekend. Not because I am in love with them or anything. But park run has become one of my major social outings for my week. My wife and I meet our friends there, do a run and then go for breakfast. Yes the fact that I have been getting quicker and quicker every week has been nice but I do not believe that is my motivation for it. Well, on Saturday I had a particularly difficult bike session scheduled at the end of a very hard week of training. Despite this, I was in the city and wanted to do St Peters park run with my brother. So we did it. I ran a much faster time than I ever had at that course then we all went for breakfast and that was that. I knew I had a big bike session coming up and I knew I was racing a half marathon the next day. I was so aware of it that with about 500m to go I caught up to the guy in second and made a concise decision not to try and beat him. To be honest, the way he kicked I doubt I would have anyway. Anyway I thought that while I was being sneaky and doing something that wasn't on my program there was no real harm done. I mean more is better right?
So lets fast forward to Saturday afternoon when I jump on my bike for my hard bike session. I have been doing all of my bike work on the trainer because it is too freaking cold to ride outdoors. I also find that when there are power specific targets in a session the use of erg mode on my tax neo ensures that I hit them. I mean in erg mode you literally cannot take any short cuts. The advantage of erg mode is also one of the biggest problems I have with it. It feels much harder to hold a certain wattage on the bike than it does on the road. What this results in is the use of about 10,000 towels all over and around my bike because I sweat like an absolute pig. So, going into this session I knew it was going to be hard. I set aside a change of clothes knowing how sweaty I was going to get. The ride started out fine and the first half was tough but I was getting through it. After 2 hours on the trainer I stopped to get changed, refill all my drinks and refocus. I completed the second interval and was starting to struggle. By the 3rd interval (all of which were 40 minutes) I was struggling. If I didn't maintain a decent cadence the erg mode would make the resistance on the trainer next to impossible. I wanted to stop after 5 min. Feeling I could almost not pedal anymore. Instead I decided it was more important to get through the interval. So I decided to take the ride in 5 min blocks. If I needed to take a breather then I would. I battled through the last and hardest 40 min interval and was done. I could not even contemplate a 1 hour cool down. So I lasted about 10 minutes to flush the legs before the race the next day. I was smashed. I knew I hadn't done the workout perfectly but it was the best that I was capable of. I mean, I had a big week of training. It is normal to be a bit fatigued.
Sunday morning I woke up to head to the M7 Half Marathon. I wanted to try and run under 1:20 for this race. I ran 1:23 last year and remember that the race was tough with a lot of hills on the course. From the gun I could feel the weeks training in my legs but I knew I was running faster than I had before. I thought I was a real shot at the sub 80 min result. My offical result (which also exactly matched my Garmin for once) was 1:20:08... 9. Bloody. Seconds.... It was odd because I had beaten my previous PB by over 90 seconds so I was happy. But I was annoyed because I had come so close to that sub 80. Where had I wasted 9 seconds? Was there somewhere I could have gone a little harder? I decided to look at the positives. I was still running faster and faster and the timing is looking good for Sunny Coast in a month. Overall I had completed a difficult but incredibly successful week of training and also managed to run my fastest ever half marathon. Cue pat on the back. You're a bloody legend Fordy. WRONG!
Monday morning I got a strong worded message from my coach. In summary, half marathon result - good, Saturday bike session - bad, Saturday park run - dumb. Ben pointed out that I had achieved nothing from running the park run except impacting on the key bike session that Saturday. He also pointed out that it I may have even run 9 seconds faster if I had not run park run. I always think of myself as a pretty easy athlete to coach. I get told what to do and I do it. I rarely have questions and aim to complete my program 100% so to say this is the first time I got a 'stern' message would be the truth. The thing about it though, Ben was completely right. I wasn't offended by the message or angry. I was embarrassed. My own arrogance had led me to make what was a stupid risk. As Ben said to me, how would I feel if I got a stupid over training injury this close to the years biggest race? The answer is I would be devastated. I think a lot of people do not understand the full nature of a relationship between a coach and an athlete. Yes, they help to get you into top shape. But they also sometimes need to protect their athletes. Often from themselves. We all have a tendency to think that more is better. This is not the case and is something I need to remember myself.
The fact of the matter is that I am a month out from the World Championships. I have trained harder this year than ever before and fingers crossed, I have managed to stay relatively injury and sickness free. All I will achieve by taking stupid risks is sickness or injury. So yes I could have been offended or angered by the frankness in which my coach called me on my own bullshit. But I wasn't. I am happy to admit when I am wrong and the last few weeks I have been. The first thing I did was contact park run and sign up to volunteer this weekend. I mean I don't need to run park run to be involved. I also understand that in this day and age of social media where everyone posts their workouts all across the inter web it can be intimidating to think that you aren't doing enough. I know I am guilty of this. I mean how often do I post an Instagram picture of one of my slow swims? (Never). The secret is, I believe, to understand that the only thing you can control is yourself. I have no control over anything else. Instead I am able to control the fitness and condition I am in when I line up at the World Championships. If I focus on my own preparation and listen to the person who I have entrusted to get me to the start line in top shape I will be able to complete the race knowing I gave it everything I had.
So instead of letting my own arrogance, self doubt and fear take control of me over the next month I have decided to be a training saint. I will follow my program and not obsess over how much or how little I have done. Because in reality, time is running out to make any significant impact to my fitness. As with most things there comes a point where you need to take a leap of faith. Anyone who knows me would know that I said at the start of the year I have 100% faith in my coach to get me to the start line. Nothing has changed and based on my results so far this year it looks like it is working. So in summary, Im not going to be an idiot and neither should you. Listen to your coach and follow their orders. Because they know what they are talking about. If you don't think they do then maybe you need to reconsider who you choose to coach you.
Have a great week! Winter is nearly over so remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.