Great. So we’re near the end of the journey. Consistency is definitely a key constituent but not THE key. Knowing enough to improve your swim is important. Knowing enough to improve your bike is important. Being a good enough runner is important…but so far putting them together hasn’t resulted in what we’re looking for.
It’s okay, I can hear you :-
‘It’s all very well YOU telling us how to swim, bike and run better and hopefully to a standard that will get us the plane ticket to the Big Island but if that advice is so good then how come YOU haven’t managed it?’
Mmmm…won’t surprise you to hear that’s probably a question I’ve asked myself…consistently. Especially after helping someone else achieve that very goal just last year arguably from a similar starting point to me…in the ballpark but not really near enough to the goal line.
So what’s the answer? In a word – DESIRE. Desire to do the things that will make a difference. Predominantly training based, as previously discussed, but not exclusively. A few questions :-
Have I ever chosen a race based on my strengths or because I think it offers me the best chance to qualify? No.
Have I ever really rocked up at a race desperate to qualify? No.
Are they linked to my failure to qualify? Without a doubt.
After the initial excitement of my first IM and then training for the next have I ever been that keen (I’m avoiding using the word obsessive) about improving to the point anywhere approaching my full potential? No.
Is the IM race that you put most into in the past 5 years a non-branded IM? Yes – maybe even the top three.
I could go on but there’s little point…the big point has already been made. You’ve got to want it bad enough and when all is said and done I’ve failed miserably on that score. All the consistent training in the world won’t cut the mustard if you don’t have the drive to make that consistent training focussed on that crystal clear end goal.
One other question where the answer is telling is when you turned 40 and had a bash at a decent marathon did you show more desire? Yes siree….lots. To the point where you overtrained (unsurprisingly 140mile weeks aren’t for everyone) such that you didn’t realise your potential? Yes. But strangely it didn’t feel too bad as at least I tried too hard instead of too little. So I have the ability to focus on a goal, put in the hard yards in the right areas, consistently, working towards a clear objective. Maybe it might be a good idea to apply it to the one goal I’ve carried with me for over 5years now. Finally commit to it. Commit to being the best I can be on that one day that matters to the exclusion (within reason) of everything else. Well if qualification outcome in any race is somewhat Boolean in nature then the result can’t be any worse than thus far can it?
Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything – Napoleon Hill
When I look at how desperate team mates Gary and Nick have been to qualify and what lengths they’ve both gone to make it happen there’s a stark contrast with my more laissez-faire approach to race management. There’s also a stark contrast in the success rate of them versus me! Hours spent plotting the right race to target. Having spotters on the course relaying information about where you may sit in your AG during the race. Gary seemingly getting up every 5minutes the night before a race to consume something. Nutrition plans scoped out to about 15decimal places, supplements, beetroot juice, course recces, aero wedding rings (okay I made that bit up). Sometimes my somewhat phlegmatic approach could do with a sizeable rocket inserted in the rectum.
Qualification in Frankfurt in July. Claiming one of those 100 slots. That’s the name of the game…at last. Looking at previous years then the cut off is traditionally around 9:30 for 40-44. If we break that down a little further then I need to be looking at an hour for the swim, say 5:10 for the bike and 3:15 for the run with a tight 5mins allowed for transitions – so in reality one of those times needs a bit shaved off.
Can I swim an hour? Yes. I’ve done it before solo in a small race and I’m already swimming better than I was then. I also have another one to one session booked to iron out any stroke flaws so it’s reasonable to expect I can perform better than ever in the water.
Can I bike 5:10? A qualified (no pun intended) yes. I’ve biked under 5:20 on a windy day in Roth and I certainly expect to be more bike fit this year so all things being equal then it’s certainly not out of reach. If I’m going all in I should probably book a decent bike fit – for once every minute IS going to matter.
Can I run 3:15? Absolutely. Really? Given your somewhat chequered history on the IM run? Yes. That’s what I’m preparing for – specifically. That’s why I won’t be going anywhere near any club sessions before the London Marathon. There’s one goal this year – anything that compromises that will not be tolerated. Nailing this run is the key to qualification. Yes it is 15mins quicker than before but that’s due to not doing the right things to make it happen rather than any innate lack of ability. If I complete the other two and then run 3:30 it’s not going to happen. So I almost need to work back from the point of putting myself in a position to run 3:15 and make sure that I can get to that point in the race with less than 6:15 on the clock. My run fitness will be where it needs to be.
Therefore, it’s a case of applying what I know in pursuit of that best I can be performance. For a lot of people that probably requires MORE training to qualify as CONSISTENT – less missed sessions, less days off, being more ruthless in prioritising those workouts that historically would have ‘justifiably’ fallen into the ‘well I couldn’t do it because…’ camp. We’ve established that that isn’t the limiter for me. For me, therefore, that’s BETTER training and keeping it CONSISTENT. Less training for training’s sake and more training for getting stronger, fitter, faster’s sake. No more measuring hours. I used to know at any stage during a month what hours (and distances) I’d done and then start to formulate a volume (or distance) target as the month progressed…every month…consistently. Since I made this commitment back in October (and started working with a coach) I have no idea what my training hours or distances are weekly or monthly…but I can feel I’m getting stronger, fitter, faster. Mmmm…let’s see which is the more significant in terms of being a better athlete? Not exactly aerospace engineering is it?
The stakes are high. Gary finally punched his ticket at Tahoe in September and I’d love to go as a newbie with my best mate in triathlon experiencing the same. That makes it a once in a lifetime opportunity. I age up next year so arguably it’s the hardest year in five for me – although to be fair the Q times at Frankfurt aren’t hugely dissimilar. I got roped in to joining this Race Team which as a relatively private individual isn’t exactly true to type. That’s led to me putting myself and opinions out there and hence my goal. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been before. Fear of failure can hopefully be a strong motivator.
Although this series was primarily aimed at looking at what it takes to get to a Kona qualification standard by retrospectively looking at what hasn’t worked it’s also applicable at any level if you’re looking to step it up. Consistent training alone does not equal peak performance. Consistent training targeted specifically for IM (see previous articles for ideas) will get you closer. Let’s see where consistent training targeted specifically for IM plus a laser like focus and the all-important DESIRE can get you.
To conclude I’ve plagiarized and amalgamated some things that Gary and I wrote elsewhere as a kind of take home to wrap it up – it’s really not that complicated once you add desire to the mix.
1) Belief – I’ve no doubt that like a sub 3 marathon, anyone can go sub 10 (10:30 Female) (course dependant) so first thing you need to go sub 10 is the belief that you can do it.
2) Now that you believe you can do it – understand what’s required to do it and decide do you want it enough? I’d love to play the drums and go skydiving but I’ve tried neither nor done anything about it – so I obviously don’t want it that much. Be realistic and don’t set silly expectations unless you’re willing to commit to these, this could involve many years.
3) Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable – You need to be well versed with being uncomfortable in training, this isn’t balls out, this is being able to sustain a level of discomfort such as a hard 1/2M that is basically the feeling you’ll have for a good part of the IM run.
4) Building strength – Swim, Bike and Run – you need to get strong in all 3 disciplines to make it feel easier and be able to race at a high level but not at an effort that will cause you to walk the run. If you find you’re prone to injuries, you’re probably not strong enough to do the level of work required JUST NOW but if you build and maintain you’ll get there.
5) Know your efforts – Pacing is key, you can use tools or you can use RPE but you’ve got to know the correct effort to pump out to make sure that you can maintain the right level right to the finish.
6) Consistency – this is key – you know you’re capable; you’re prepared to commit to the plan, you’re happy to get into those uncomfortable sessions, now you’ve just got to do it and do it at least 6 days a week for as long as it takes.
7) Staying out of the grey zone – Train easy, train hard but try to limit that in between zone 2 stuff, it’s fun but pretty pointless.
8) Prepare to be shit – If you want to advance your career, be a good partner, father, friend etc then this isn’t for you – you won’t manage it and those around you need to support you in this or you’ll start resenting those who are quite rightly looking for your attention.
There are no magic sessions.
There’s sessions that work you hard and ones that don’t.
The ones that work you hard are hard work and they work.
Hard work isn’t necessarily vomit inducing but it is uncomfortable.
Gary is a good example. When he works hard he’s fast when he didn’t he wasn’t (relatively). Funnily enough when I’ve worked hardest I’ve been my fastest.
Working hard in the pool isn’t 10×100 balls out where you’re desperate to get to the wall and then reluctant to go again. It’s more 20×200 at a reasonable, sustainable pace that’s increasingly, annoying to maintain. (I never said it was sexy.)
Working hard on the run isn’t 10×400 balls out at a running club. It’s more 10-20 longer 3+min intervals again at a pace that’s just about sustainable…for EVERY rep.
Working hard on the bike isn’t sitting in the saddle for 4+hours freezing your NADS off. I haven’t yet seen a study showing a link between being uncomfortably cold and fitness gains. Uncomfortably hard trumps uncomfortably cold whatever the weather. Have a purpose, do a session that will address your probable limiter that is leg strength. Hill repeats, over gearing etc. Nothing that hasn’t been mentioned many times before here – it’s just being motivated enough to actually do it that will make the difference.
To know and not to do is not to know.
Be a knower and a doer – consistently.