Monday, May 25, 2009


My name is Jevon O'Neill and I am a Quitter...

Never thought I'd say those words but I'm glad I've had cause to.

Puzzled? Don't be. I'll explain.

I've always led my life by Churchill's famous phrase (seen in today's pic). I may not be the fastest or the most talented at whatever I choose to do but I'll always pursue it relentlessly until I achieve any goal that I might have set myself. The knowledge that, along the way, one can quit just doesn't stack up for me... I need to know that whatever is coming I have to go through with it otherwise I might end up well, quitting.

I'd had a decent week's training last week with a long wednesday ride and run with Graham. It was a really good session from Coach K - a 51 mile bike ride that included 15 miles high cadence work and another 3 x 5 miles at 10 mile TT (ie flat out) pace. Following the ride, we ran three miles off the bike.

And my back was knackered.

Frankly I was gutted. I'd hoped it was healing and there I was in pain, running three miles. Imagine what it would be like trying to do an Ironman in less than six weeks!!

I needed a plan. And fast.

So I got straight onto my Ironman mate and sports masseur and injury specialist Dave Harvey. He came round on Thursday and worked my glutes and back really hard. But it was pretty obvious that I couldn't fulfil my only pre Ironman race of the season - The Beaver Half Ironman distance race - that I was scheduled to do that Saturday. After consulting Coach K and Boothy I decided to complete the swim, bike and 15 minutes of the run. Boothy warned me that quitting would be difficult in the race and to make sure that no matter how good I felt I was to stop otherwise I risked injuring my back further.

From Thursday I worked religiously to free up the back using stretches, ice, heat and the ultimate in self inflicted pain - rolling around on a tennis ball which digs into your glute and back muscles as you move - try it, you'll see what I mean.

Come saturday I was feeling better and had half a mind to see how I went in the run, possibly doing the whole event. Especially when I swam strong, and biked hard becoming the first from my wave (over 40's and females) into T2. But I'd set out my stall and, sure enough, after 15 minutes of the run, much to the amazement of my fellow competitors at that point, I simply turned around and jogged back to Transition, picked up my bike and headed home.

I immediately knew it had been the right decision. There are no prizes (in my book) for a good Half Ironman race when my only focus is on July 5th. I'd had a terrific morning's training including a competition swim, T1, 52 mile bike, T2 followed by a couple of miles running and my back was feeling pretty good.

The last couple of days have seen further improvements with me getting back to running proper (a little ring rusty am I in that respect, not having run freely for a few weeks now) and I now intend to build the distancess up again.

So... I'm proud - in this instance - to say that I'm a quitter.

From now on I'm getting up half an hour earlier than normal and I'll be doing my stretching and ball work to improve my back. I'm also including core work as the back heals. Even on its own this will represent two and a half hours a week at least of extra flexibility and core work. I'm convinced it will have a beneficial effect.

Training last week was:

Monday 1 hour bike recovery, 45 mins pool swim drills
Tuesday 2km open water swim, 10 mins jog after swim
Weds 51 mile bike ride, Back2back 3 mile run
Thursday Rest day
Friday Easy 60 min bike
Saturday 34 min swim, 2 hrs 33 bike, 15 mins run
Sunday 50 min recovery bike, 25 min easy run

Total training time 12.11 hours


Stretching, treatments, muscle work - 2 hours

So... news this week - well, it's dominated by Ironman Lanzarote. Congratulations to Tom, Helen, Iain, Gabriel, Ben G, Sam and Paul who all had great races in this toughest of Ironman events.

Congratulations to Colin who put another solid performance in at the Big Cow sprint on Sunday (alongside a fantastic piece of bike marshaling from myself)

Congratulations also to my Dad who once again won the National Barbershop Singing Championships with his Cottontown Chorus from Bolton.

Congratulations also, to both my girls who continue to revise for upcoming exams and have learned from their Dad never ever to quit (don't tell them about this week).

Congratulations, finally, to Fiona who, as I was rolling around on my tennis ball telling her I'd discovered a type of pain that she couldn't possibly understand, produced the one-word put down of the week by looking me squarely in the eye and saying:


Have a great week. Train hard and smart.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Uncharted Territory...

Life is far too short to miss out on things of great beauty. That's why I took a trip up to our local forest in Ashridge the other day to sneak a peek at their incredible bluebell wood. It's a stunning carpet of bluebells, shafts of sunlight picking out the vivid colour and the tall trees giving the whole thing a feeling of grandeur. It took me five minutes to get there, five to look around and five to come back and I took the snap with my iphone so it's not of the highest quality. Just being there lifted my spirits and made me feel glad to be alive.

I think we should all search for moments like that in a day.

Funny really as I've lived close to the forest for many years now and never knew about the bluebells. In a similar way I've been into uncharted territory on the bike this week too. On Sunday last, you'll recall I did a solo 103 mile ride. On wednesday I hooked up with the Team MK fast group (always my plan following the return from Italy) and did another (coincidentally) 103 miles. On Saturday we once again nailed another century, this time a round 100 exactly. For me, this is unprecedented and demonstrates the stamina and strength I've developed this year on the bike. When I took up cycling over two years ago, there is no way I could have contemplated ever doing three century rides in the space of seven days. Following them (apart from my back which I'll touch on in a moment), I feel just fine. I'm delighted with that and also delighted with the times for the rides.

Sunday's ride was 19.7mph average, Wednesday's 19.5mph average and Saturday's was a whopping great 20.5mph average. So my strength stayed good over the week. All in all I feel good and strong on the bike.

Good too in swimming. I swam 9.6km last week, including a 4km pool session and my first dip in the lake with Graham from Team MK. My lake swimming felt smooth and slick and it was a blessed relief not to be turning every 25 metres and losing speed.

Running is more of an issue. There have been obvious consequences for my back in being hunched over a set of aerobars for 306 miles. It's improved considerably but the bike work and a 25 minute run I did after my last bike ride has ensured that it's not yet healed.

I know what you'll say. And I think you know what I'll say right back at you . So let's leave it at that, eh.

So, from last Saturday, my training looked like this:

Saturday - 20 mile bike ride - 80 mins
Sunday - 103 mile solo bike ride, 19.7mph avg - 5 hrs 4 mins
Monday - 2 km swim (easy, testing back)
Tuesday - 4km pool swim (10 x 400 easy off 8' including rest)
Weds - 103 mile bike, (19.6mph) - 5 hrs 15 mins
Thurs - 1.6km open water swim, 2 km Team MK evening swim
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 100 mile bike ride (20.5mph) - 4 hrs 53 mins, followed by 25 min run off the bike at 7:30 minute miles
Sunday - Rest day

Total time training (9 days) - 21.85 hours

Swim - 9.6km
Bike - 306 miles
Run - 3.5 miles

But, all training and no work makes Jevon a dull boy. I'm getting through my writing, and am relishing writing 'long form' as I experiment with telling a story in novel rather than screenplay form.

I've also caught up on a couple of movies. We screened THE GODFATHER PART II here in the cinema at home and had several of the boys round to watch it. A fantastic movie, better than I remember. Pacino was superb and De Niro explodes onto the screen with such a presence. Fiona and I also watched MILK on Saturday night. We're both big Sean Penn fans and, whilst I loved his performance, my nod for the Best Acting Oscar would have gone to Frank Langella for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

I've been twittering too. In fact I'm finding the whole twitter thing quite compelling. You should try it.

So. Ironman Lanzarote week. My friends (see last week's post) are all out there and I wish them luck in their endeavours. I'll report back on their progress next week. I forgot to wish another ironman buddy, Iain Parsons, the best of luck in Lanza. 'Ave it, mate.

Thanks to Lauren at Berkhamsted chiropractic clinic for her continuing good work in freeing up my back. The improvements have been dramatic. Thanks also to Dave for his work on my back and legs too... you've kept me on the road between the two of you.

So... have a good week. Do this for me.

Try and do something that makes you really, really glad to be alive. You won't be disappointed.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Back to the Future...

I seem to remember barbling on in last week's blog about not training to exhaustion on my Italian training camp.

Strike that.

When I got back from Italy I was exhausted. So, too it seems, were many of my team mates. So many demands had been made on my body that I spent much of last week in a state of almost perpetual tiredness, needing a lunch time sleep and having no energy left in me at all. Coach K said it would be so and, not for the first time, Coach K was right.

Coach K also told me to take it very easy training this week and to come back in if I was doing anything and felt tired. Now I know why. Having travelled sunday and had monday off, I went for a run on tuesday night, initially scheduling a brisk 20km. I decided to jog back in after 10km though as my legs were heavy and I was really tired. Only a couple of hundred metres from home my lower pack 'popped'. I have a history with this particular piece of my anatomy but, since my triathlon days began, it's behaved itself pretty well. I put this down mainly to my weight loss and my lower spine not needing to support a top heavy torso. Sure, it's 'gone' once or twice in the last couple of years but, more often than not, after a visit to the chiropractor I'm back training after a couple of days.

I immediately felt this would be different however. The movement in my back seemed somehow more... permanent. A definite 'clunk'. I could feel the pain setting in as I returned home and immediately called my chiro. Of course, no bookings for a week were available due to holidays. So I found another one. Lauren at the Berkamsted Chiropractic Clinic has been my angel of mercy this week, making room and squeezing me in to a couple of appointments (one only an hour from my ringing) where she could easily have said 'no'. A huge thank you to her.

The treatment initially left me concerned about the scale of the injury, however, as I felt no particular improvement through the week. In fact, I was in agony for three days, unable to function in any way normally, so training was completely out the window.

Now this isn't meant to sound in any way heroic and, if anything, probably sounds stupid. But all I can say in my defence is that I just had to do something. I looked at my diary and realised that eight weeks from last Sunday I would be stood by a lake in Frankfurt and that I HAD to keep training. How the hell was I going to do that? I'm serious when I say I was in great pain sat at my desk writing.

I had a call from Ben on the Thursday. Ben is doing Ironman Lanzarote this year and is good mates with my buddies Tom and Helen. His father isn't well (get well soon, Ben's dad) and he told me he was coming down from Leeds to see him (Ben's folks live locally) and would I like to ride with him on the Saturday. Frankly, there's nothing I would have liked more but there was no way I could contemplate 3 hour hill session. But I did say for him to pop in, say hello, I'd make a coffee and, if I was feeling up to it, I'd ride out with him for a few minutes and ride back just to see if there was any reaction.

Ben came. Coffee was made. I rode out and did 20 miles. There was no reaction other than the constant pain I was getting in my everyday life. So, I figured, why not be sat on the bike as sat on a couch. Getting back from that ride made me feel a whole lot better. I planned a ride Sunday morning, aiming to go further this time, aiming to probe at my back's longevity.

Not only that, but it would mark the 'coming out' of my beloved Cervelo P2C (my TT bike with its low aero position) for the first time this season. Those of you who know me know me to be someone who is not so much talented as relentless in his pursuit of a goal. Sometime that's a curse and sometime it's of benefit. We all have a different make up. That's mine is all. And so, as I got off the bike 103 miles later, having rode 100 solo miles in 5 hours and 4 minutes at an average of 19.7mph, I allowed myself a little smile.

And, as I write this with no reaction from my back other than the (now lessening) pain that would normally be there at this stage of the injury, I allow myself a little smile.

It could all go balls up, of course. But, so far so good.

The lesson from this for me? One I knew already really. Nobody knows their bodies like the folks that own them. And sometimes you just have to get on with things, no matter what obstacles are in your way. Injury and pain are part of Ironman Training... I've been lucky for a while and hadn't had much go wrong. I'd forgotten how it's easy to tell yourself you're injured and you need rest when, actually, you could be showing that injury who's boss... or at least trying to. Don't get me wrong... for the first few days, the injury WAS boss. No way could I move, let alone train. But I'm convinced that the exercise I've done on the bike over the weekend has helped my injury recovery. Whether that's psychological, physiological or a mixture of both I don't know. But sometimes... we just have to do things and see if they work.

Sorry if that's gone on a bit but it's just something I wanted to get off my chest. I'll keep you posted with the back situation but am going to try swimming today and, maybe later in the week I'll try and run. But there's always the bike!

Congratulations this week to Colin, who took part in his first GB qualifiying sprint triathlon on Sunday at Grendon. He scored well and timed in at 1 hour 15 which will put him in the frame for selection. He's confident he can shave the minutes required off his time to automatically qualify in one of his two further races. A training camp in Cyprus this week should help. Good luck, mate and great racing.

Well done also to my buddy Graham M., who timed at 1:14 for the same race. Graham's in great form this year and this was just what he needed to launch him into the last 8 weeks of training prior to IM Germany.

I'm twittering more and more and enjoying it immensely. For those of you who are 'tweeters', follow the link on this site to hook up with me.

My mind is also turning to which Ironman to do next year. Decisions decisions. I guess it will be a European one again and I have no desire at all to do a sea swim which would rule out Lanza and Nice. UK doesn't appeal except in a novelty way. Maybe Switzerland? Or Austria again? Trouble is, you have to decide and book now as they all sell out within 24 hours of opening for registration a year prior to their start date.

Tom and Helen are tapering well. Follow them on their blog here. They, and Ben, should be in great shape for Lanza. Take it easy guys and rest up. All the hard work is done. Good luck tapering too to Gabriel, who's also doing Lanza. I'm doing The Beaver half Ironman that day (May 23rd) but will be checking in when I can for your splits.

In the meantime, I'll be writing, training, being a dad and catching up on all my episodes of The Wire - true televisual crack cocaine.

Catch you all next week...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Due Volte Cippo

Forgive my absence. It's been quite emotional. I have, as you know, been away in Italy on a Big-Cow Training Camp. And what a terrific experience it was. Big-Cow is the events company run by Mark Booth, our team coach at Team MK and a good mate of mine since I joined. Their duathlon and triathlon events are extremely highly rated and Boothy runs a very professional team. I had no reason to doubt that the training camp would be anything but the same. I wasn't disappointed.

The camp takes place in Riccione, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, just below Rimini. Some 45 athletes took part, most of them there for seven days - with some taking a longer, ten day option. Nearly all were Team MK, with others being from FVS Tri Club or independents. It was a friendly, inclusive group who were able to train and play hard.

Assistant coaches Adam Bowden and Joel Jamieson looked after the swimming and running groups, whilst the bike groups were in five levels of ability, with group 1 being the highest level. Whilst my cycling has come on this year, I had to be honest with myself and placed myself in group 2 with my regular cycling buddy Graham Mackie, which - it transpired - was the right place for me. Trying to hang on for a week in group 1 with the testosterone flying would have been a step too far too early in my cycling career I think and I now have a goal for next year's camp.

We arrived on Ryanair's flying bus on Sunday April 26th and immediately set off on a bike ride to acclimatise ourselves. The weather was poor at first, but became warmer and sunnier as the week progressed, ending in a couple of perfect days. The training was superb and - most importantly - sensible. This is no 'epic camp' with athletes training to exhaustion, rather an opportunity to put in four or five quality hours per day and include massages and stretching too. I went with the goal of completing every session and returning feeling strong, not exhausted. I achieved my goal and worked hard throughout the week, feeling particularly strong on the bike as the week progressed (while many were feeling weaker) and, all importantly, running off the bike - regularly putting in short 4 mile runs of sub seven minutes per mile after grueling hilly bike rides.

The week prior to Italy was a warm up week, with me completing around 12 hours of training. Then, on Sunday... off to camp... (it should be noted that distances don't equate to UK times due to the amount of climbing on the bike)

Sunday - Travel to Italy, 2.5 hours 4o mile bike, 30 minutes run off the bike at sub 7 min mile pace, 10 mins ice bath recovery

Monday - 1 hour 3km hard pool swim. 3 hours 45 mins hilly 60 mile bike, 20 minutes run off the bike, 20 minutes massage and 10 mins ice bath recovery.

Tuesday - 30 minutes core and stretching, 2 hour track session featuring timed mile (5'38"), 800m, 2 x 400m plus 8 x 400 m. Total distance run 6.75 miles. 10 mins ice bath recovery, 45 minute bike ride (spin to cafe), 20 minutes recovery.

Wednesday - 1 hour hard 3km pool swim. 3 hour hilly San Marino 50 mile bike ride. 45 minute 10km run, 45 minutes massage/recover/ice bath

Thursday - 1 hour sea swim in wetsuits (first of the year), 1 hour 15 min 9 mile run, 30 mins recovery, steam, ice. 2 hour 35 mile bike with 15 minute run off the bike. 15 mins recovery, stretching and ice.

Friday - 6 hour bike (Cippo - see details below), 20 minute run off the bike, 10 mins ice and recovery

Saturday - Easy 2 hour bike ride.

Sunday - Home and rest.

The ride referred to above took in the toughest climb in the region, the Cippo mountain. A regular feature on the Giro D'Italia road race, it features an 'easier' incline at 10% (still a nightmare when it goes on for seven km) and the tougher climb of 18%. Which side you go up is up to you. Groups 1 and 2 took a longer, tougher approach to the Cippo and went up the 'easier' side - which, in itself, was by far the hardest climb I've ever undertaken (we were climbing relentlessly for nearly two hours). Then, at the foot of the mountain, having a coffee, we noted that Group 3 had taken the tougher ride up having cycled directly there. There was nothing for it - some of us decided we had to go up again... the hard way. And so it was that Group 2 (with a couple of Group 1 boys as honorary members for the assault and our guide Renzo muttering 'mad English') mounted their second challenge on the Cippo in the space of an hour. It wasn't easy, it wasn't pretty and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth but, with knees popping and muscles straining we managed to do it. The pic at the top of the post is of those Group 2 members who became part of the 'Due Volte Cippo' legend. Well done fellas.

To put it in perspective, Graham mapped the ride out against our local 'hilly' rides here in the UK. The red line is our ride through The Chilterns taking in our most difficult local hills. The blue line is a similar ride towards Aylesbury with Brill Hill registering at around 30 miles.

In green line is our ride in Italy.

Now I know what hill riding is really about. Man and machine against mountain. No stopping allowed. Only one can win. Bloody hell it's fantastic.

Frankly I could ramble on forever but I won't. It's great to be back for a couple of days rest before ramping up and mounting a final few weeks training prior to tapering down for Ironman. Wherever you are... I hope your training's going well, your family are healthy and, like me, your life is still full of possibilities.