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!
3/8/2016 03:57:34 pm
Fantastic article. Loved reading every word of it. I have the same feeling with my training at the moment. Thanks for the words of advice and inspiration.
Jose Luis Villadiego
13/10/2016 07:39:59 am
I admit Strava it's my guilty pleasure. I train from Monday to Friday (3 running sessions and 2 swimming sessions) so the weekend its off for the family but sometimes can't help seeing other sessions and going nuts cuz I'm at home chilling with my wife and kid and I want to go out and smash a course record and then I start to feel anxious an it brings me problems. Gotta learn how to manage this and not get in the trap of trying to do some of the session the pros do...
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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.