Listen to your Body
I hope everyone is getting ready for the start of the racing season down under or is excited as I am to see the last remnants of Winter. I have had a few weeks to reflect on my terrible Sunny Coast performance as well as some much needed recovery and I think the main reason for my less than optimal result was that I did not listen to my body.
After Bintan, my body had to work bloody hard to recover from the multiple injuries I suffered as a result of my bike crash. Unlike my bike, I couldn't just take it to a shop to get fixed. Instead there were a number of things I should have done in order to fully recover. I still don't think I am at 100% after the crash. There is a pain in my hand from where I took off a lot of skin on my palm that is slowly getting better. But all-in-all I think that the whole ordeal thrown in with the extreme heat and travel took its toll. Attempting to then give 100% 3 weeks later led to me getting sick right after Sunny Coast. Usually if I get a cold I shake it off in a couple of days. Last weekend I had a group of beginner triathletes join me in Parramatta for a 'brick' session. A brick session is where you ride then run off the bike to replicate racing. You can also do a swim, bike brick as well. Well, I decided I was well enough to join them. I did the session and despite struggling to breathe the only precaution I took was to put on a jacket to stay warm. Then on Tuesday, despite not making any significant improvements I decided to get back into my training and did a swim and hard bike session. HUGE MISTAKE. That night I was a shambles. My wife ordered me to the doctor so off I went on Wednesday. Guess what? My simple cold had turned into a full blown sinus and chest infection. There goes my training week and a course of antibiotics for good measure.
So its Saturday and I have basically taken two whole weeks off training. For those of you who know me, you will know that is huge. I literally cannot think of the last time I took off one whole week of training. Two is unheard of for me. So today I decided I wanted to do a little something. I went out for a park run and decided to take it easy. I ran a full minute slower than normal but I stayed in control the whole time. I could talk to my wife as I ran past her and after I didn't feel like I had done any damage to my recovery. It has been incredibly hard to be sitting at home and seeing all the sessions my friends have been doing. However, my body has obviously sent me a very obvious message. I was not ready to go out and race on the Sunshine Coast and I was definitely not ready to go back to my 20+ hour weeks of training. When I speak to some of my friends or beginner athletes I am always telling them to listen to their bodies and not pushing too hard when they are tired or feeling a niggle. What do they say? "Do as I say, not what I do!" So that is the take away from this experience. I push my body very hard when I train and race, I need to start focusing more on the recovery.
I firmly believe that my forced time off training will mean I will come back as a stronger athlete. I also hope that by trying to incorporate more recovery into my regular training will lead to a more sustainable level of performance and mean I am able to stay in the sport for longer. I am planning on adding some yoga and stretching into my week. I have also mentioned that I will add resistance training too. This is not recovery, but by working on improving my muscular strength I am hoping to reduce the chances of injury. Of course I will be careful and am going to work on my technique etc before I start smashing PB's or anything like that. The other change I have made since Sunny Coast is that I have really cleaned up my diet. Now I never ate terribly but now I am eating really well, I repeat I am EATING well. I am not starving myself. I am definitely eating less than before. Since Sunny Coast and without training I have lost 6 kilos after getting home. This tells me a few things. The most important being that my diet really was not optimal for success. I am actually curious to know what my weight would have been like if I wasn't smashing myself training everyday. I believe that my diet now is supporting my performance. I am eating to train, not training to eat. My body has been screaming for a more nutritious diet and I am striving to deliver it.
So all of these changes are meant to equal improvements in performance. Whether they do will be seen over the next 12 months in my performances. I am hoping that by starting to focus on the details that I have neglected in the past I will be a much more effective athlete. I am attempting to equip myself with all the necessary skills to be successful. I am trying to get the total equation right. Not one half of it. I think this is something important for everyone. It is easy to be skinny and unhealthy. It is also possible to be fit and overweight. I think training and diet are two halves that when both mastered can lead to success. So if you are not seeing the results you want maybe it is time to look at either side of the equation. Talk to a professional if you need to or are unsure. I am going to see a sports dietitian in the next few weeks to make sure that what I do is correct. These people have expertise that many of us do not so try to utilise it.
That's it for this week. I am going to race the Western Sydney Half Marathon next weekend and am curious to see how the body is for the race. I am looking forward to seeing a number of my friends at this race as well as running a faster half marathon on the site of my infamous explosion last year.
Have fun, listen to your body and remember to TRI!
Life is Locomotion
"Life is locomotion... if you're not moving, you're not living. But there comes a time when you've got to stop running away from things... and you've got to start running towards something, you've got to forge ahead. Keep moving. Even if your path isn't lit... trust that you'll find your way."
I wanted to start this week with what is possibly one of my favourite quotes. It comes from a comic book character called The Flash. I feel it is important for me to reflect on this quote as I am sitting down to write my race report because to be honest I am pretty disappointed and maybe even a little depressed about it. I try to keep this blog as honest and real as possible so I apologise if this week is a little sombre.
I would like to get something out of the way at the beginning. I do not draft. I never have and I never will. I am not out there racing for money or for anything other than beating the clock. Drafting is cheating and by doing it I would simply be cheating myself. With that said lets get into it.
Sunshine Coast 70.3 is my favourite race. I love the location, I love the course and I love the support. I have done this race the last three years and I plan to do it again as many years as it runs. In fact the sole reason why I chose to attempt a World Championship qualifier is because it is on the Sunshine Coast. This year saw a huge field of 2200 athletes and instead of the traditional age group wave starts they opted for a self seeded rolling start. This means that you select how fast you will swim and then they let groups of 4-5 athletes go every 10-15 seconds. I will get into how this impacted on the race later.
I found the lead up to this race very unusual. I have never backed up from a race so quickly before and while three weeks is enough time I discovered that my body just wasn't dealing with the quick recovery, attempt at some decent work and then taper. In retrospect I believe that the crash at Bintan may have taken more out of me than I realised or was willing to admit. I have also found my mind very busy over the last few weeks. Ask my mate Matho and he will tell you I have changed and re-changed my mind several times about my races for the rest of the year. I have earned my slot for next year's big race. The rest of this years races are non-consequential. In the days leading up to the race I was very relaxed. I think maybe too calm. I definitely noticed on race morning that I had no intensity at the swim start like I normally do. I was relaxed with what I ate and drank in the lead up to the event. I am not a saint but I do at least try and attempt some sort of reasonable diet. Well not last weekend. I lined up on race morning feeling almost nothing. No nerves, no excitement.
The Swim - 29:19
I had recently swam a 29 at Bintan without a wetsuit and was expecting to deliver at least a 27 minute swim here. With the rolling start it was difficult to warm up properly as there was a good 15 minute wait to get into the water and there was no room to roll the arms over. When I was let into the water I went hard to start with. It wasn't flat out there but it wasn't too bad either. I will say that the buoys were very hard to spot making sighting hard. The biggest thing I noticed was how quickly I was overtaking a lot of swimmers. These people obviously did not belong in the sub 30 minute wave start. With a normal wave start you find the stronger swimmers surge ahead and the weaker swimmers fall behind. It generally gets a bit rough at the turning buoys but is pretty easy for the majority of the swim. Well not this time. I think my HR would have been elevated for the majority of the swim as there were constantly people around me. I found it quite difficult to get into a rhythm and I noticed when I came out of the water I was really tired. I had to walk a bit to try and get my wetsuit off. While still a sub 30 minute swim I know I am significantly faster than this.
T1 - 2:46
It is a decent little run down to transition at Sunny Coast. As I mentioned I had to walk a little to get out of my wetsuit as well as attempt to slow my heart rate down. Once in transition I think it was actually one of my better performances. My Rudy Project Helmet with a visor is super easy to get on.
The Ride - 2:30:35
Last year I came into the race without a solid cycling base behind me and managed to ride a 2:22. This year with the huge bike volume I put in for Bintan I expected to crush that split. I was feeling very good on the bike and it didn't feel like there was much wind. I was able to maintain a pace in the vicinity of 40km/h. I thought I would make up for the less than stellar performance in the water. As usual I overtook a few cyclists early who would then pass me again. This usually only lasts about 15kms. At the turn around point I noticed that there were some BIG packs coming up from behind. I had settled in with a group of maybe 5 other riders where we would stay close enough to each other to maintain a decent pace WITHOUT drafting. As the first of the big packs overtook me I could not believe how close they were to each other. Honestly it was like the Tour de France. You know what, if you want to do that good luck to you. But what frustrated me was that the riders at the back of the pack would pass and then slow down. This meant that I was constantly having to slow down to exit their draft zone. To avoid a drafting penalty I passed the group maybe 2 or 3 more times only for them to pass me again 5kms later. The effort to get ahead of them meant I would struggle when I would pass them. This continued for a couple of minutes until they passed me again. I could hear a motorbike was near us meaning that the drafting officials were there. I started to pull back as I had done several times to here them say "177 report to the penalty box" I looked at them in shock and asked "what does that mean?". All I got back was "drafting penalty, penalty box just off the freeway". Then off they went. I was gutted. I instantly slowed down and wasn't sure whether I should even bother. The mind games started here. After a couple of minutes of feeling sorry for myself I decided I was going to have a break so lets smash it to the penalty box. I put the hammer down hard and went as hard as I could all the way to the penalty box. The ladies in the box were lovely and very helpful. I was surprised to see that the same group I had been around were also coming into the penalty box with me. None of the group however where there.
After I exited the penalty box I noticed that my gears were not working. I had done something while standing next to my bike. I had to pull over again to fix it before taking off again. On the second lap I found myself passing many athletes I had already passed. On the way back from my second lap the wind had picked up and then low and behold what happened? Another bloody pack passed me. Now you know there is drafting when there are 50+ year old women passing you while freewheeling... I had no choice though, I could not afford another penalty or I would be disqualified. So I decided to just slow down and drop off the back. You can see that my last splits almost 6km/h slower than the others (excluding the penalty). I was really disappointed to see all of these packs and the serious impact they had on my race. Some age group athletes, especially those who are sponsored by well known companies need to be aware that they are super easy to identify out there. I saw certain athletes who I will not name in the pack that passed me. I was hoping to see the drafting officials come and ping ALL of the members of the pack that passed me. But I did not see them for 15kms. When we passed the penalty box there they were having a laugh with the girls in the penalty box. I yelled at them "This isn't the Tour de France" pointing at the pack that was 30 metres up the road from me. All they yelled back was "watch yourself".
There were a lot of crashes out on the course as well. Now when you consider this is basically a straight course on beautiful roads you need to wonder why there were so many crashes? Maybe people riding too close together. I am really happy that the course will be changed next year to include some climbs which will spread it out.
T2 - 1:06
I came into T2 thinking to myself, you have had a shocker on the bike lets just get something out of today with a decent run split. I was quick through transition and I opted for my Mizuno shoes that I normally train in instead of my race fits because I think the Mizuno is the best shoe I have ever run in. Overall it was a nice and fast transition.
The Run - 1:36:28
While my run split is an improvement on last years run split I am running much faster now. I was determined to not overdo it at the start so I focused on form and attacked the first hill. I was amazed by how many spectators were cheering for me. It was an amazing atmosphere I felt good and when I checked my Garmin I was holding 4:05 pace and it felt easy. Right, this was going to be a good run. The first 5kms I felt really in control. After 5km I noticed my pace start to slip a little and this is where I was exposed. As soon as it started to hurt the voices in my head started, "you have your slot for next year", "you got a drafting penalty", "you wont go under 4:30". This stuff is normal, your mind doesn't always like what you try to do to your body. I pride myself on my ability to conquer the mental games during a triathlon. On Sunday, I lost. No sooner did it get hard did I give up. I contemplated walking, I would not push the pace. I just kept running. I have run fast and know how much you suffer for it On Sunday I was not willing to. It wasn't entirely mental. I was surprised how quickly my legs ran out of juice. But it was definitely a mental decision to stop pushing.
I continued on the run and at the far turn around point I yelled at some police on bikes "Officer help, there's been a robbery! Someone stole my running legs!" I mean what the fuck?!?!? Clearly this shows just how my mind was not where it needed to be. I came home with a disappointing 4:40:14. Even without the penalty I was slower than last year. One of the highlights of the day was having another competitor named Leigh running next to me and say "this is only a warm up for next year? You're Tim Ford I follow you on Instagram". I crossed the finish line and I was gutted. I was disappointed because I didn't fight. As soon as it got tough I backed off. Last year at Western Sydney I exploded and had the worst day of my life. That was different. That day I could not force my body to cooperate. Today came down to me being mentally weak and I will tell you that this hurts much more than last year's race did.
But, I am not about excuses. I always try to look for some positives and I think this race showed me some. I know that I had not recovered properly from Bintan so racing too close together might not work for me as an athlete. I also know that I am not strong enough off the bike. It is good to gain insight from these failures so I am able to address them and make sure they don't happen again in the future. I will work with my coach over the next 12 months to make sure it doesn't happen again. A man I have great respect for suggested that I am not going to make those beginner gains anymore and I think he is 100% correct. All gains from here are going to be hard fought. I am going to really start looking at how I fuel my body as I think that some of my habits are not going to help me get to the next level. I also want to start to build some strength. I am shocked at how weak I have become. I am looking forward to reading the book by the very same man, Andrew Read, "Run Strong." I think that by starting to focus on the smaller details like diet and recovery I will not only continue to improve, I will also ensure I have longevity in the sport.
At the end of the day, I had a shit race. I have now completed 13 70.3's and to have only had 2 bad ones is still pretty good. I am learning so much about myself both as a person and as an athlete. So there really isn't too much negative stuff to say. I refuse to let this keep me down. Whenever I do I remind myself that 5 years ago I could not run 500m. So even a bad triathlon is a win in my books. As always I want to thank those people who I couldn't do this without. Firstly, my wife, Dez who allows me to travel to the glorious Sunshine Coast without her for a weekend of Swim, Bike and Run. My coach who is an absolute champion and is graduating University today, Ben Hammond. I have complete faith he is the man to help me reach my goals. Finally I want to thank all of the people who read my blog and support my journey. This really is the greatest sport in the world. Bad days happen. But I am happy to say that the god days outnumber them.
Thats it for this week. Sorry I am feeling a little sorry for myself.
Stay safe, KEEP MOVING FORWARD and remember to TRI!!!
I would like to once again thank everyone who has offered me support and congratulations over the last few weeks. As I said in my last post, I have been blown away by the number of people who have reached out to me. You think you are doing something in isolation for yourself until you have people reach out to you and tell you that they are inspired by what you do. It blows me away and helps to motivate me. Thanyapura, the sports hotel that I choose to stay and train at in Thailand shared a post about me a couple of weeks ago. It was that famous fat photo of me from my first ever triathlon next to the picture of me holding my third place trophy from Bintan the other day. It has been popping up on my newsfeed a bit as people like or comment on it. It is funny that that photo of me from the Byron Bay Triathlon has become the most significant photo of me out there. I was looking at it the other day and was wondering if you went back to that guy who was hating life during that first triathlon and told him "Mate in a few years you will be going to the World Championships" how he would react? Probably not well. But back then, even without any plans of doing anything other than having a crack at a triathlon I was setting myself on a path that would change my life forever.
So where to from here? What does the qualification mean for me over the next 12 months? I am not deluded enough to think that I will go the World Championships and have a chance of winning. I always intended to go there and enjoy the experience. But that does not mean I am not going to prepare properly for the race. I want to line up against the best in the world next September and I want to give the best possible performance I am capable of. When I planed out the 2015/2016 season I signed up for a number of races which I thought would maximise my chances of getting a slot. Where there was a Challenge or Iron Man option I would go for the IM option to earn points and try to get the slot. Now I don't need to worry about that. I can be more selective about the races that I want to do. I can go there and race completely pressure free. I plan to enjoy them all. I have Sunny Coast this weekend which is my favourite race around. I have said that as long as it is possible I will do this race every year. I am also going to re-introduce some of the Challenge races I was planning on missing. Challenge Forster for example was a race I did last year and has the most amazing run course I have experienced. Despite a PB there I did not have a great day so I am keen to go there this year and have a solid crack. Early next year I was planning on racing Geelong 70.3 but now am unsure whether to do that event or race Challenge Melbourne instead. The beautiful thing is that I have choices.
I am also signed up for the Norway 70.3 in July next year. In 2012 this was my first 70.3 and to this day it is the most beautiful race I have ever done. I am very critical of Norway after spending two years there which I didn't enjoy very much. But let me tell you, this race is as good as it gets. I am excited to use this as a preparation race before Sunny Coast 2016 and see where I am at in my training.
I am excited to lift my training to the next level too. Above all else, the thing I love about triathlon is the training. I love the structure it gives to my life. I love the time I get to spend with myself. I love how I feel after a really hard session. I love pushing myself to the limit, then pushing a little further. So I plan to train hard for the next 12 months. This may mean that I make other sacrifices. I play soccer in the Winter and while I am currently planning on playing again next year, I may give it a miss to focus more on triathlon. 2 years ago I played and in the lead up to Cairns 70.3 I broke 2 ribs in a game. It has made me much more nervous when I do play and I may not want to run the risk of an injury next year.
As far as my goals are concerned, the World Championships is one of many. I am still working towards my other goals of ultimately completing a 70.3 in 4:05 (the same time it took me to complete that Olympic Distance race) and this weekend I am hoping to finally break the 4:30 barrier that has proved to be so elusive for the last 12 months. But there are other goals which I have already achieved. Once I decided I liked this triathlon rubbish I decided I wanted to introduce others to the sport the same way I was introduced to it. I have had friends compete their first triathlon with me. I have friends signed up to do their first triathlon. I have had people I have never met before reach out to me and tell me that I inspired them to complete their first triathlon. Next year I want to meet as many new triathletes as I can. I want to get to know the people who are starting on their triathlon journey. Talking to these people fills me with motivation. I find it funny hearing the fears and anxieties they are facing. I remember them well and sometimes I still experience them. I am finding that I am increasingly surrounding myself with more like-minded people and I love it. It is one of the reasons why I am so happy to be part of Team MaccaX. The people I have met through the team are inspiring and amazing. I am also looking forward to meeting a lot of people this weekend at Sunny Coast. I will be at the beach for a swim about 7am Saturday morning so head on down!
Last week Chris McCormack, the founder of my triathlon team and 4 time World Champion triathlete called me out on his podcast to be the first age-grouper that they interview. While they were talking about me, Macca said "If there's any individual that can show you what triathlon can do to your life it's Tim". Who would have thought that the fat bloke in that picture would be talked about one of the greatest triathletes to ever live? I think it proves that no matter how big or small your fitness goals are they can lead you to some incredible places. So why not chase them. It all starts with a single step...
Train hard, chase your goals and 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.