A Look Back On 2009
I know, I know it’s only October, but I thought I’d ‘do a supermarket’ and bring out stuff that shouldn’t make an appearance until December (last month I saw advent calendars in the shops, Christmas is 4 months away for christ’s sake!) Anyway, the season has come to an end for me, and having had a couple of weeks of indulgence and no training (excluding the sprint tri and Tour of the Pennines during this!) to relax, it is time to look back on the year, the highs and the lows, and see what I can take into next year.
This year was all about Ironman UK. Splitting up with my long term girlfriend and getting a secured job for 2009/10 last December, meant that from January I embarked on the journey to becoming an Ironman, and ploughed everything I had into it, and with little to distract me, it meant I could pretty much concentrate on this 100% and fit my degree in around my training. (In hindsight, I do NOT recommend this, it can turn out badly without enough luck to pull off your exams!)
I was using Don Fink’s Be Ironfit 30 week training plan. Although this started off rather easy, it soon ramped up. All I wanted was a structured plan, because although I originally had the idea of putting my own one together, I didn’t know enough about the sport, and about myself, to be able to do this. The good thing about the plan is that there is room for manoeuvre, so with my knee problems (the first of many!) hitting me in Week 2 from an old rowing injury that had come back to haunt me, the plan gave me room to catch up on the hours and ramp up the running by more than the recommended 10% once my physio had fixed that first bout of problems. It took me til Week 12 to fully catch up and then I managed to settle down into good solid training. Another good benefit of this plan is the regular structure, with all the sessions happening on the same day each week. With lectures, this made planning easy and got me into a regular routine.
Unfortunately, this is also one of the downfalls of the program. 30 weeks is a long time to concentrate on one training plan, doing the same training each for day of the week, every week. It can become a bit monotonous. Also it has 2 races planned in for the entire plan, an OD and a Half, which for someone who lives to race, was certainly difficult to adjust to, coming from rowing, where we tended to race every other weekend. The final downside I saw to the program was the amount of swimming in it. Admittedly the training plan is designed for the time constrained athlete in a full time job, who can only do 1 main session a day, so the weekend is usually taken up by your long ride/brick, then your long run. But for 10 weeks I was doing 5k a week, and really noticed the difference in the swim session on a Thursday, fresh enough to train, but I could remember how to swim, compared to the Tuesday, which after a 5 day week took me a good k to get into the set.
However, overall, I felt that the plan was a good one, and I really benfited from a consistant, structured approach to training, with my fitness improving massively as I continued. This is something that I will take into next year, as you really notice the difference compared to training as you feel.
However, having made massive gains in my fitness, life got put into perspective after my Crash where among other injuries I fractured my collarbone and nearly killed myself. The weeks following my crash, leading up to my Ironman was where I learnt the most about myself, and after recovering from the shock of it after a couple of weeks, reality set in and I went through some really difficult times. Having finished my year at uni, training was my life and having that taken away was tough. Coupled with the fact that I came to the realisation that I probably should have been six feet under certainly makes you look at things. As well as the whole host of personal issues it makes you confront, it really made me take a good long look at myself and my approach to my training.
Firstly I had become obsessed by the numbers and logging my hours. I would make sure that every session was at least as long as it told me it should be in the book, even if it meant coming home from a run loop, only to turn around and run for another couple of minutes as I had finished that one early. I would really beat myself up if I missed a session and I was getting dangersouly closed to overtrained, and was dragging myself out of bed in the mornings, even though looking back it would have been more beneficial to sleep, and I became too engrossed in my training. The crash was the best thing that happened to me as it allowed me to wrestle myself out of the hole I had dug for myself and made me a whole lot more mentally stronger.
Obviously it set me back in terms of fitness. Physiologically, a few days after my crash, having had a few days off for the first time in months meant I was in the best shape of my life. The same was true physically, with me being at an almost ideal race weight and with very little fat on me, which I consequently piled on post-crash (and post-Ironman!). It was now a race to get fit again for my Ironman, and despite all the doctors telling me it wasnt going to happen, I got to the start line.
Looking back, I could have managed my recovery better. The first week was ideal, where all I did was sleep, eat properly and drink lots of milk! 14 hours sleep a day really helps recovery and I was back on the turbo in 6 days, though could have probably dragged myself on it a day before or so. But due to moving house, I didnt have access to a turbo for a while. I could start running again after about 4 weeks or so, and did one run which was fine. However, I didnt do nearly enough running after that, and this would have greatly helped my marathon. Also as a consequence of starting work, once I could start swimming again (after less the 5 weeks! Much to the shock of my doctors!) I didn’t get round to finding the local pool for a while, just out of sheer laziness, another bad move. I did an OD tri 6 weeks after my fracture to test my shoulder and fitness, and this was 3 weeks before my IM. This was a very good idea and I did surprisingly well, all things considering! This did however, put the problem of my big weekend (a half marathon on the fri, followed by a 180k bike on the sun) only 2 weeks before. This was not a good idea as I don’t think I truly recovered from this in time for my IM, but mentally the benefits were huge, and I think I would do it again if I could go back.
The one last thing I did completely wrong, was keeping up my knee exercises after my crash. I am convinced that my tear in my knee was due to this, and something I have certainly learnt from!
Anyway, I reached the start line on 2nd August 2009, and I became an Ironman!
This really was the highlight of the year, and everything anyone has told you about the emotion of crossing that finish line is true. For me it was a mixture of joy, excitement, amazement, and sheer relief. Thankfully the damage I did to my knee during the event was only muscular (I tore a muscle in the back of my knee 90k into the bike…) and some swelling.
Since then I have had some down time, some unstructured training, a ridiculously windy Tour of the Pennines (and I mean just plain, stupid, try 5kph flat out on the flats, the most scared I’ve ever been, I can’t remember my crash…) and Fleetwood Tri where I came 15th overall and if there had been a M20-24 category I would have won! That was a surprise!
So what have I learnt this year? Well, to start with I am one stubborn bastard! I love to prove doctors wrong and always refuse to accept anything other than what I believe. Also I have no pain barrier, which I discovered during my IM with my knee! Finally I have built up a very good endurance base, with even 9 weeks out of proper training I still managed to complete my IM. This was the main aim of the season and I am so happy to have finished this.
Sorry this is such a long post! Only finished Part 1! Part 2, a look ahead to next season and the plan for the coming year.