Thursday, 19 December 2013

2014 Goals

First things first – my beautiful sister has had an amazing little girl born on the 13/12/13. My little niece Natalie is perfect and we cant wait to see her in a couple of weeks on Holiday!

Second most important news is Ben is back running. With him moving back to NZ it left a hole in me, and I miss him terribly. Unfortunately with Mel having health issues, he hasn't been running - glad to hear he has his running mojo back and is thinking of some races in 2014. Can't wait to go skiing and running next year!
Third most important news, we have finally retained the Ashes. Yes I am a cricket tragic and my life revolves around the trials and tribulations that are our Cricket team. Yes I did name my first born son after Australia’s greatest opening batsman Matt Hayden. #returntheUrn has been huge this summer, let’s make it 5-0.

Following on from my year in review blog, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my goals for 2014 and where it will lead me. What do I want to have a crack at, what is achievable and what might me a stretch goal? The stretch goal will keep me getting out of bed in winter.

To get it off my chest and out of my head, yes I have been thinking about a marathon for 2014. In doing a lot of reflection about my mental state, I think I suffered from a bit of endurance running burn out. Possibly too many races and too many goals. The back tightness I picked up at the K2D race last year which inhibited my race and derailed my race plans – was most probably a physical manifestation of my mental state at the time. I was simply burnt out.

I have thought a lot about the mental preparation regarding races and how 90% of my events are often derailed by unrealistic expectations (aiming for a crazy race PB).

That’s the problem with being goal driven. I had a boss once ask me “was I disappointed?” when I didn’t receive a pay increase I believed I had earned, I said yes, his response “lower your expectations”.

Whilst his comment was tongue in cheek is does provide an interesting observation of one of the stronger personality traits which I have. Being “Goal Driven” can sometimes be seen as greedy or pushy, or restless, never satisfied. I am very goal driven, and when I have clarity of that goal it can be often at the expense of other activities and relationships in particular. Backing off on my own personal running goals in 2013 helped me invest energy into other areas. It wasn’t the actual time invested, as I was still training 10-12 hours a week (which is plenty) just the emotional energy required to work to a solid plan and build up to the event and attempt to execute the plan then the inevitable come down after the race. There is NOTHING like the week before a marathon!!!!

This year I have learnt to run for me, run for the pure fun and enjoyment of it. Run to feel fast and powerful, just enjoy it with no real fixed goals. The track training really has helped me work through what I want from running and what I am searching for as an athlete.

My athletic goals have at times been very specific and measurable. Like a sub 4 marathon. Or sub 20min 5km. In doing this I often neglected the general fitness and health part of my body, too often just focused on the running sessions, not enough on recovery, strength and nutrition. Losing the ability to do basic stuff.

I am a middle of the pack endurance athlete, my “strength” is my power and speed I have over a very short distance. I am an average endurance athlete.  Too often people get hung up on being a marathoner or ultra-marathoner, sometimes being a bit snobbish making comments about people who aren’t a real athlete unless you are doing mega distances or mega fast times. I can tell you from personal experience that all distances are as hard as the other, only the suffering is longer.

But why a marathon. Why even bother doing another one, since I am back in the gym and getting stronger why bother trying to tear myself back down to do another marathon? Sensible question really, the only real reason is that the actual finish of a marathon and sense of accomplishment is very satisfying. I have never done an Ironman but I am assuming that the feeling of coming down the finishers chute is addictive. What I will be doing this time around is not investing a huge proportion of the year to the marathon. So not a typical Lydiard style marathon program, and definitely not a 40 week 4000km training plan like TNF.

Since I have been back in the gym, I have been doing some CrossFit workouts and really enjoy them. A lot of the gymnastics and conditioning movements I am already OK at, and add in my normal strength levels for the squat, deadlift and bench press I actually am OK at picking up some of the Olympic Movements for the more complex WODs. Oh if there are any CrossFitters on here – yes my “Fran” time is a slow 7.14, my “Cindy” is 16 rounds and my “Jackie” time is 8.55.

Side note – rant. If you haven’t done something, don’t talk shit about it. You cant criticise something from sitting at home watching it on YouTube or you met someone and they are dickhead so everyone that does their sport is a dickhead. There are too many assumptions made about people and what they are doing. If you are being active and healthy, and it doesn’t impact on me doing what I want to do, go for it. I couldn’t care less if you want to do an Ironman, Tough Mudder, CrossFit, Ultra Marathon, Road Cycle, Marathon, Ocean Swim, play touch footy, AFL, League or whatever. It’s your life, live it. Don’t talk shit about someone elses sport, it’s their life and hobby to enjoy. Also don’t have a stick up your ass about what you are doing. There is always someone better than you. Your race times are your own, and I hate the fact I have fallen into this trap of comparing myself or comparing others. Who gives a shit really, it makes no difference. We are all just age group wannabe athletes with full time jobs, careers and families. Unless you are Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan or Shane Warne you are not the greatest of all time. Be happy for others as you are happy for yourself, don’t be so critical of others, don’t be critical of yourself. Sean take note. Rant over.    

In reading Brian Mackenzie’s book – Speed Power Endurance, a lot of the themes and elements speak to me. In looking back over 4 years of running, the greatest gains I made for my endurance running (10km to marathon) were based on shorter harder running sessions, rather than the Lydiard style low intensity high volume. There is a point where MORE volume didn’t make me faster. What I am most interested in looking at is applying Mackenzie’s principals and plan to a marathon to see what the outcome would be for me, as like I said previously being a power/speed athlete rather than an endurance one, I believe I would respond better to this approach. Being a middle of the pack runner having more power and strength will help with the fatigue and fade during the last 10. I am certain if I was stronger in 2012 I would not of faded so badly in the last 10km, losing 10 minutes of time. This approach is not traditional, and may not work. But who cares, it will be interesting to write about!

These are a lot of words to say that I am currently thinking of having a crack at the Sunshine Coast Marathon using CrossFit Endurance program. I am not concrete on this yet, more 70/30.

The loose goals I have are track and field in March 200m, 400m (58seconds) and 800m (if travel/cash permits) then build to a sub 20 min 5km around May and then build to a 10km PB by July at Gold Coast and then towards the Sunny Coast Marathon in the last week of August. There are 8 weeks between Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast Marathons.

I will think more about this and the plan going forward, I will continue to work on those shorter distances in the next month or so and see how the gym work is translating to the track, particularly my 200m and 300m times.

Stay safe and enjoy your Christmas.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

2013 Year in Review (sort of)

It’s certainly has been a weird year – something’s have progressed and improved and others certainly have either plateaued or regressed.

As a dad and husband I certainly feel like this has been my best year yet – I have invested more positive energy into the boys and they are really showing some signs of maturing into well rounded and responsible kids. In hindsight I raced too much last year, which included too many weekends away. I also travel for work sometimes, so being away from the family certainly takes its toll on the family unit and messes up everyone’s routine.  I have certainly felt a strong feeling of guilt, about spending quality family time pursuing my own selfish pursuits. This feeling shouldn’t be confused with investment to be a better athlete, which I strongly believe can occur on a reasonable daily activity level (like running in the morning and gym at lunch). What I am referring to is the long distance travel to all points of Australia to race.

This year I feel like I haven’t raced enough, but I have progressed with my strength and speed – I just don’t have a heap of participation medals to go with the training effort.

In thinking about 2014 one big difference is that Joel starts prep and will be at school with Hayden. Which means Bel will probably work a bit more. At the end of the year I traditionally plan out what events I’m most likely going to target for the year. Only 1 event is certain and that is the Gold Coast Marathon which I will run with Donald. I probably will run the 10k the day before and aim for a sub 45 min run (my PB is 43.55). That way I can push the faster training still and get a few long runs up, I don’t want to be the one complaining at 35km with 7km to go!

Apart from that – there are 2 other trips which I am desperate to do. The first is a family trip to Sydney to watch a Manly Sea Eagles home game. Manly play arch rivals Melbourne at Brookvale on the Saturday night and hopefully the stars align and I can get there for my birthday weekend which is Round 1. The other trip is a family trip to New Zealand to go skiing with Ben, Mel and the kids. In reflecting about the cash I spent racing last year, money would be better spent on a couple of decent family holidays. This is different to investing in my health, such as running gear, gym fees etc.

Which is the hard part of planning trips. When I look back at 2012 I feel very guilty about the money I spent on myself, which could have been spent on the family. It’s not like I was spending our food money on racing, but with events it certainly chews into the family travel budget. As the boys have matured (Hayden is nearly 8 and Joel is 5) – there are more adventures we can all have together on the weekends - memories for life. It was often a lonely feeling calling home after I raced to talk to the kids.

The big thing floating around with my running is should I have an all-out crack at a marathon PB after Gold Coast. Maybe aim for Sydney marathon in September or Sunshine Coast in August I have never done Sydney and it would be nice to have another “state” completed. With regards to track racing, hopefully work gets me to Brisbane for the QLD State Masters Champs in March. I’ll start to ramp up the track work soon, and hopefully with the extra gym work I have been putting in I will see an immediate improvement. I ran close to a grass 200m PB yesterday, after 4 weeks off so I know the gym work is paying dividends.  

With blogging it has been difficult to write. Less events have meant less to write about.  I have really enjoyed this year spending more time with the family and less time measuring my self-worth on race results, which I have a habit of doing. A pattern I fall into is wanting to push and test myself, then once that improvement curve ends, I lose interest and move on. Maybe I could just be happy at being a multiple marathon completer just running 4 days a week.
I think some of this is also that I am missing planning road trips, racing and travel with Ben, as he has been back in NZ for 2 months now it is starting to sink in that he isnt coming back. I miss having him here to chat with and it probably is one of the reasons that I am failing to plan anything for 2014.

As you can hear, a lot of stuff is up in the air. I know the effort it takes to pull on a marathon PB and a part of me wants that, but I also am aware of the bitter taste of a marathon struggle, where you don’t perform as expected. It can be a soul searching exercise.  The other issue is I have invested 12 months to get faster – and I have seen some real progress, but as I mentioned before the lure of a marathon finish line is like nothing else. Of my 7 marathons, only 1 (Canberra) did I not feel like a rock star when I finished. That’s a lot of good memories and positive emotions bottled up in running 42.2km!

In talking about racing, Gav Bendall is about to run Australia’s longest and arguably toughest Ultra the Coast to Kozi a 240km race from the Pacific Ocean to the top of Mt Kosciusko! Another friend Mat Grills is also doing the race, and I wish them all the best and safe journeys whilst taking on this epic adventure.

If you are wondering what the event date is for the Spring Classic next year, it is the 5th of October, so book it in! It is a week before Melbourne Marathon and a month before Noosa Triathlon.