Monday, January 26, 2009

A Spanner in The Works...

Anyone who's done an Ironman will know that training is only half the battle.

Sure, you need to put in the hard yakka, spending hours on the bike with your hands freezing and toes like those of an Everest climber. You need to pound the pool until what's left of your hair stinks almost permanently of chlorine and you need to strap on those Asics and run more miles per week than you previously drove.

But once you've done that for six months and you're ready to compete, that's when the real battle begins. You need to be equally agile of mind as you are in body. A day of Ironman throws up many challenges. A two and a half thousand mass start in the swim could mean your goggles are ripped from your face. How are you going to swim two and a half miles with no goggles? Your bike punctures. What do you do? It punctures again... what do you do? Your chain snaps... you collapse on the run... you forget to take a key piece of nutrition... well, you get the picture.

What I'm trying to say is that as Ironmen competitors we need to be unflappable and calm, seeing positives in any situation. We puncture... okay, we change our tyres but at the same time, we get our heart rate down, we take on food, we fill our water bottles... we turn the situation to our advantage.

A potential spanner in the works can become an oiling of the machine.

I've been thrown a potential spanner this week as I've been given a date for my operation on the varicose veins in my right leg. These haven't been causing me problems but I'm assured they will in later years so I've been waiting (on the NHS) for a surgery date to have them removed. Following numerous meetings, scans, ultrasounds and communication by NHS letter, a lovely lady named Sally called me at 8pm last thursday night (go figure) to tell me I could be sliced open on Wednesday February 18th.

A spanner flew into my otherwise clockwork-like training works.

However, I've had long enough to think about this and, after discussions with Gabriel - my Ironman mate who's also a vascular surgeon (Rule number one , never do business with friends, rule number two, never let them take out parts of your body) I'm seeing it as an opportunity rather than a problem.

I tend to do that in life... opportunities rather than problems. Always helps keep a smile on one's face.

Gabriel reckons if I do a - and I quote - "mega ten days before the operation, then treat the aftermath like a reverse taper" then I'll be back to full training in three weeks. So we'll go for it and I'll keep you posted on things.

Training is going well. In fact, I may well have been guilty of overdoing it slightly this week. I've done a couple of hard bikes in the cold and slow winter weather (the ice makes it almost impossible to descend at any speed leading to reduced average mph times) and continued to make my Saturday bike session with Team MK the hard session of my week. I managed to stay with the top group this week for 57 miles of climbing so was pleased with my improvement on the week before.

The week that was looked like this:

Monday 45 mins swim (1.9km endurance sets), 45 mins run (35 mins in Zone 3 HR)
Tuesday 50 mins swim drills, 1 hour solo bike at 20mph average
Wednesday Long bike with Graham, 50 miles in 3 hours, followed by Back2Back 2.5 mile run in 21 mins
Thursday (rest day) 1600m very easy swim (30 mins), 15 mins core gym work, 15 mins strength gym work
Friday 45 mins swim (1.9km endurance sets), 30 mins easy run
Saturday 3 hour 17 mins bike (57 miles) followed by 45 minute Back2Back 6 mile run at 7:35 min miles
Sunday Long, slow, solo run. 13.5 miles hilly cross country. 2 hrs 20 mins

Total Training time: 15 hours 20 mins

Swim 7.05 km
Bike 127 miles
Run 31.1 miles

So... today... I'm having a day off !

No takers on the film quote last week. It was, of course, from THE SIXTH SENSE, the link being Bruce Willis who starred in both TWELVE MONKEYS and THE SIXTH SENSE. See if you can get this... again, there's a link between it and THE SIXTH SENSE.

"I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen."

Had a fantastic week with movies. Our cinema movie this week was FROST/NIXON which I'd highly recommend. A complete tour de force of acting drama with Langella and Sheen both giving top notch performances. Shane Meadows' THIS IS ENGLAND and Wes Anderson's THE DARJEELING LIMITED were also superb. I also enjoyed WHAT IT TAKES, the story of four athletes' preparation for the 2005 Ironman World Champs at Kona, not least for Peter Reid's admission that to keep his weight down he simply buys what he needs for every meal and cooks it (then there's no extra food in the house to tempt him) and he goes to bed every night with a headache due to being so hungry!

But special pride of place goes to Sean Penn's magnificent INTO THE WILD which might just be one of the finest movies I've ever seen.  A wonderful, moving and truly accomplished film.  Search it out from your DVD supplier and watch it.

Now... if only I could crack this bloody film script I'm trying to write...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quality not Quantity...

I told you of my main new year's resolution - staying away from the internet (at which I'm proving particularly useless but I am still working at it... 'my name is Jevon and I'm an internet addict') - but another was one I make each year and fail to follow through on with monotonous regularity.

It is this.

Every week I will go to the cinema to see a movie.

That's it... nothing special. But Jeez, is it hard to do. I didn't even manage the first week. However, I intend to make up for that soon by seeing two films in the same week and thereafter getting as close to one a week as I can so that, by the end of the year, I've seen 52 movies at the cinema.

Of course, this isn't to be confused with movies I watch in my own cinema or on TV. As you might have noticed I'm logging all the movies I see this year (if you're surprised to see certain movies logged, movies you thought I might have seen aleady, it will often be because I'm watching them for the umpteenth time) and, by means of distinguishing cinema movies from home movies, a small (c) will appear by the former.

All of which brings us to Slumdog Millionaire which Fiona and I went to see on Friday last. I was feeling particularly glum about seeing only one movie in the week ('The Kingdom' which I enjoyed far more than I'd imagined I would) but this despondency was put to bed after watching Danny Boyle's movie. It's the best British movie I've seen in years, from a truly world class British director; a high octane, emotion churning ride through another world.

I urge you to go see it at the movies rather than wait for it on dvd. (And, for those of you who have seen it and are going to accuse it of romanticising poverty - get a life... it's a fairy story.)

So, I'd only seen two movies last week but one of them is already (I know) going to be a contender for my film of the year. So it's quality not quantity that really counts, eh?

It's much like that with my training - I'm becoming ever more focussed in delivering quality in what I'm doing (although, looking at the hours in my first week back, I seem to have delivered on 'quantity' too). Coach K has me working hard on swim technique at the expense of distance and I'm already feeling more relaxed in my stroke (am managing to tumble turn too, Tom). Running is focussed on good form, especially in the light of my recent shin problem which, I'm delighted to say, seems to have abated. And what of the bike? Well, I'm doing a couple of middle distance rides per week - one with Graham when he and I can both make it and one Back2Back (with run attached directly after cycling) with the boys from Team MK. The highlight of this week was undoubtedly Saturday's back to back session. I've decided this year that I'm going to venture out of my comfort zone on the bike and am using the top cyclists at Team MK to drag me up.

Saturday saw us set of on a planned 42 mile ride to be followed by a 7 mile run. I held back for the third, fast, group to start and off we went. These guys are seriously fast and I managed 20 miles with them before dropping off and waiting for the second group to come through. I joined up with them, managed to recover and finished strong. It taught me a few things. That first twenty miles put me well into the red zone and gave me a fantastic goal to aim for (I'll never be as good as the top guys at Team MK, don't get me wrong, but if I'm going to improve I've got to factor some real pain into my training once in a while). Also, I was ludicrously over dressed with four layers and two hats for what turned out to be quite a mild morning. I was overheating from mile one and I'll be paying careful attention to what I wear on the bike from now on. Finally, my recovery took place during miles 20 to 30 which I found quite hard, but I felt fantastic from miles 30 -48 (for some reason we added on another six miles - go figure) so was pleased with that.

All in all, the week's training looked like this:

MONDAY 50 mins swim drills, 50m reps and 100m reps, 45 mins run at zone 2 of MHR
TUESDAY 50 mins swim drills, 1 hour bike in zone 2
WEDNESDAY 3 hour easy bike - 47 miles, 15 minute run off the bike
THURSDAY (day off) 30 mins very easy 1500m swim, 30 mins core and strength work in gym
FRIDAY 1 hour 1.8km endurance session swim, 45 mins zone 2 run
SATURDAY 2 hours 43 mins 48 mile bike ride, followed by back to back 5.12 mile run in 42 mins
SUNDAY 1 hour 15 mins slow run at sub 75% of MHR - 8.55 miles

overall total: 14.08 hours

Swim 6.65 km
Bike 112 miles
Run 23.75 miles

So, not a bad start to the season.

What of last week's film quote? Mark Robson correctly identified it as BRAD PITT in Terry Gilliam's fabulous but underrated TWELVE MONKEYS. From now on, each quote will have a link to the previous quote... can you get the quote and the link?

"Wanna play a game? It's a mind-reading game. Here's how it works. I read your mind. If what I say is right, you take one step towards the chair. If what I say is wrong, you take one step back... towards the doorway. If you reach the chair, you sit down. If you reach the door, you can go. Wanna play? "

Congratulations this week to a few fine folk:

To Truck in New Zealand for dipping her toe in the Ironman water by doing the run section of the relay at Challenge Wanaka. Thanks for the comment on the last post. Well done on your 3:37 mara and YOU KNOW you just wanna do the full IM, don't you :-) (And, yes... 45 mins is very fast for the swim... but I guess if he was a relay swimmer he just went for it as a 2.5 mile sprint !)

To Tom for going under 80 mins for a Half Mara. Awesome, mate. Stay in good form.

To H for completing. Sometimes that's harder than PB'ing.

To Colin and Alex for continuing to stay booze free with me over January... Well done, fellas and I look forward to a session (non training) in early February.

Catch you all later...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let Battle Commence...

The beginning of an Ironman swim is no place for the faint hearted. Two and a half thousand testosterone fueled athletes going at it hammer and tongs. No quarter is asked or given and it's no place for the faint of heart.

It signals the beginning of a relentless day of effort, swimming 3.8km, cycling 180 km and finishing up with a full 42.2km marathon.

Needless to say, it's not something you can just turn up and do. And my training officially starts today. Coach K has sent his plan, my 'warm up' week has ended, the ice has thawed and the rains have arrived signalling the beginning of six months of intense training. Bring it on is what I say... Bring it on.

I'll keep you posted through the months that follow and you're going to have to bear with me as, and those of you who have traveled with me in previous years will know this, Ironman training is as much a drain mentally as it is physically, requiring lots of lonely hours spent pondering the meaning of ones life and how, frankly, it would be much more sensible to be sat in front of a fire drinking coffee and reading the papers.

Coach K has tweaked my plan which is, of course, trademarked and TOP SECRET. What I can tell you is that he (after two years) has put me on a 'three weeks on, one week off' regimen that involves three weeks of increasing effort with a drop off to rest and recover in week four. Then another three weeks of more intense effort than previously and a week recovering... and so it continues. And, before you ask... Coach K's idea of a week recovering may not align directly with yours. I'll still be training, it's simply that the intensity will have dropped a little.

Anyway, you'll get the hang of it as, I guess, will I.

Let me introduce you to the cast of characters in this unfolding drama...

Myself - aiming for a 10 hr 15 minute split at Ironman Germany, July 5th 2009.

Fiona, Erin and Alice - my Ironwife and the two Iron Filings. A constant source of encouragement and inspiration.

Ironmate - Coach K, Markymark, Mark Kleanthous... my coach and sometime training partner - also a member at Team MK.

Team MK - my Tri Club and full of top class athletes. Twenty six of us are taking part in Ironman Germany (IMDE) this year.

Graham Mackie - the man with no nickname but all the gear. Good mate and training partner at Team MK.

Colin Bradley - the man who introduced me to all this. Three time Ironman and now sprint triathlete and drinking partner. Aiming to qualify for GB this year at sprint distance.

Tom and Helen - great mates, sometime training partners and top athletes both aiming to qualify for Hawaii at either Ironman Lanzarote this year or Ironman Switzerland.

Gabriel Sayer - Runtilyoudrop. When not saving lives this vascular surgeon hangs up his scalpels, holsters his dry wit and produces Ironman displays of ever increasing brilliance. Again, we sometimes train together. He'll be aiming for Hawaii too at Ironman Lanzarote this year.

Rob Quantrel - This year will show us what he's got. Came in just ahead of me at IM Austria this year after we ran the marathon stage together. Rob's just moved or is moving to St Albans so we'll be training together this year.

So, now you know the main characters, sit back and enjoy the show as the drama unfolds.

My warm up week looked like this:

Mon - 60 mins swim drills
Tues - 60 mins swim, 54 mins bike turbo
Weds - 60 mins swim, 53 mins bike turbo
Thurs - 45 mins swim (looking after the kids lane at Team MK session)
Fri - 60 mins swim
Sat - 90 mins mountain bike with Team MK
Sun - 130 mins solo mountain bike, 15 mins run off the bike

Total time training 10 hrs 12 mins
Swim distance 10km

You may recall Dave was treating me last week for a shin injury. We're pretty sure it's medial tibial stress syndrome (or shin splints as was). It's reacting well to ice and massage and I've been taking some sneaky anti inflammatories that I have put by for such an occasion. Running will be light over the next week but hopefully the injury will clear. I think it's a result of the increased mileage I did training for the aborted Luton Marathon late last year.

And what of last week's film quote? Mark Robson (not Goodson) got it, correctly identifying the words as being from Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET. They were spoken by R. LEE ERMEY as GUNNERY SERGEANT HARTMAN, in an unforgettable tirade of abuse directed at the new recruits (and the audience) over the entire first half hour of the movie.

Tell me from which movie this is from:

"There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion."

Couple of new bits on the blog this year. I'm going to be listing all of the movies I watch at the end of each week - I'm hoping these will appear on blog roll at the right of the page. I'm also going to be listing my Tri gear which will (hopefully) appear in the same area. Wish me luck as I battle with technology.

So... onwards and upwards.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Self-fulfilling prophecy...

Okay. I'm currently sat on the horns of a dilemma. Which isn't a particularly comfortable place to be. Said dilemma, my friends, is this:

My primary New Year's Resolution (NYR) is to spend less time on the internet, thus managing my work time more efficiently.

Simple, eh? The internet to me is communication crack cocaine. I'm hooked. And going cold turkey isn't going to be easy, not least because I've already had my fill of one type of this foodstuff. But - as you who know me can testify - I never do things by halves and, if I say I'm going to reduce my time on the internet... that's what's going to happen.

Cue dilemma. Enter, stage left, from the wings, Senor Dilemma.

So determined have I been to focus on my work time at the expense of internet time that I have neglected my blog. Which has left me with blogdrawal symptoms too awful to begin describing. So, here I am... chastened, late, but very much with you in this... the year of Our Lord (if you dig that kind of thing) two thousand and nine.

Say it slowly... two thousand and nine.

Bloody hell, it seems only a moment ago that I was doing the math as a ten year old, looking ahead to an impossibly distant millennium and reassuring myself that it would never, could never, arrive.

But let's look forward, not back.

I have other resolutions too. Athletic resolutions, Ironman resolutions, Family resolutions. But the internet one will be the most difficult for me to achieve. Sometimes the weirdest things are the most difficult to crack. I've given up alcohol every January for the past 20 years and it's not a problem (some of you may find that hard to believe, but truly... it isn't). Once, for Lent, I tried to give up swearing and ... couldn't do it. Unbelievable. Maybe I should have another go at that this year.

Let me know any resolutions you might have made. It's good to share.

Speaking of sharing, our great friends Keith and Yvonne invited us once again to their home to celebrate the new year. The photo above shows the eight of us as the clock struck midnight. A notable absentee was their latest addition, two year old Polly - upstairs getting enough sleep to charge her formidable argument batteries for the next day. Thanks for a great time, Keith and Yo... always a pleasure and never a chore.

Keith and I ran a strong but controlled eight mile cross country on new year's eve which kept my training ticking over. Last Sunday we had an Ironman Seminar day at Team MK, which included a 46 mile bike ride in the coldest weather I've ever saddled up in. We rode in minus 5 degrees centigrade which, when you factor in the wind chill generated from being on a twenty mile an hour bike heading into a ten mile an hour wind is pretty eskimo friendly, I can tell you. At one point I lost the feeling in my hands completely (despite wearing three sets of gloves) but things were eventually restored to normal.

My buddy Graham though had no such worries, being esconsced in his new Asos glove system and enjoying the thermonuclear heat generated by his heated Sidi insoles. I'm sure you'll join me in a chorus of "Graham... won't you HTFU".

The course was very informative, going over many of the key issues we'll need to be aware of in our quest for Ironman glory this year. It was taken by Richard Jones, a past member of Team MK, previous winner of UK Ironman and other titles and now full time elite athlete and coach.

This will be my first full year with the strong athletes at Team MK and already I can feel how training and sharing experiences with them is going to be extremely beneficial.

So, on to more important things. Last week's film quote was a toughie... I don't mind admitting that. It was spoken by JASON MILLER as FATHER DAMIAN KARRAS in THE EXORCIST. Get a hold of William Friedkin's director's version of the movie, turn out the lights and watch it on your own.

By the way... what ever happened to Jason Miller after such a great turn as Father Karras. We should have seen more of him.

First movie quote of the year and it's reasonably easy and offered in the hope that it has you aiming for the 'comments' button...

"Texas? Only steers and queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy. And you don't look much like a steer to me so that kinda narrows it down."

A couple of you have been asking about the health of my father in law since his heart attack. Thanks for your concern and apologies for not clearing this up. The situation is this. Maurice (for that is his name) was taken to Harefield Hospital for an angiogram once his condition had stabilised. However, once there, they discovered an irreversible kidney defect which made it impossible to operate. The judgement was that it would be more dangerous to his kidneys to operate than it would be beneficial to his heart. Thus I have a father in law with not only a dodgy ticker but a wonky kidneys. That said, he is in good spirits and his health is as it was pre-heart attack. He spent Christmas Day with us and was on good form.

Congratulations to Truck in New Zealand, who's dipping her toe into Ironman after a long and accomplished distance running career. She's running the run leg of Challenge Wanaka on Jan 17th. Good luck, Truck and keep us posted. I have to say, Ironman NZ is very much on my radar as a future international race...

I'm sure there's more but it's been a long post and I've been on the internet far, far too long. I must go back to my script - a progress report next week. From next week too I'll be back in the swing of training so will be updating with you on progress as we march resolutely towards July 5th.

I'll also keep you posted on my 'possible shin splints/compartment syndrome' injury which I'm having looked at by Dave this morning.

Farewell, my lovelies...