Friday, 17 June 2011

Fork Up or Do The Work?

I read the headline a few weeks ago but couldn't have cared any less about it; "Lady Gaga's web builder to attempt an Ironman". Yaaawn. The only thing that could be more misplaced among A-type, aggressive triathlon personalities than that headline is the cringe-worthy glitter-fingers stage show at the Mallorca 70.3 briefing earlier this year. So I didn't read the article, and, incidentally, I got up and walked out of the briefing. In my opinion there is too much cash and special priviledge in Ironman as it is and I've got no time for someone getting a mention because they're connected to someone well known. The thing that really inspires me is family people who work a heavy, full-time job, still find time and energy to train and qualify for a Kona slot so this guy wasn't cutting it.

Reading today that 50 Cent's 'final' album is delayed due to record company disputes, I scrolled down to notice that there was an informal $1 million bet between 50 Cent and Gaga's web guy. Now I'm interested. So I did some reading on this computer nerd. Matt Michelsen, as I will now call him, has had success in finance, retail and media and it sounds like he's not short of cash. I like big money bets going down on stupid sporting pursuits so I'll read on.

Here is where I'm torn: He has been given a media slot for Hawaii which means all the best equipment will be sent to him for free. Which also means NBC will take up valuable programming time on how he worked hard to lose 30kgs before he could run without his knees hurting. There will be no mention of the fact that he's forking out big cash for Roch Frey to write his programs nor the work he's been doing with the Sports Science Institute at Hermann Memorial Hospital in Houston to get him to the level most people work their tits off to get to. So basically, it's good for the sport that there's a 'high profile' name involved but it takes away from the people who genuinely sacrifice so much time, effort, and money.

I wish him the best of luck, and I hope he finishes it for the personal satisfaction, let alone the million bucks from 50 Cent. But nobody goes from never having done a triathlon to Hawaii in 5 months. There's a kind of respect for the race that he couldn't possibly have so while I would say ANYONE can finish an Ironman, 50's money is not necessarily lost just yet.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I Got My Flow

A few weeks ago I went mountain biking in Swinley/ Bracknell Forrest, near Ascot, west of London. It's not too far and seeing as I want to get a ride done early and Angus doesn't wake up before 10am I decided to ride there and meet them when their train arrived. 45kms on a road bike is hardly worth going out for but with nobbly tyres and a heavy frame you really notice 45kms on a mountain bike! Nevertheless I got to Martins Heron train station with about 4 minutes to spare, spoke to mum and dad very briefly on skype and then started riding with 5 fresh but lazy others.

This was always just gonna be a fun roll along some trails but some of these guys are fast. The fitness wasn't a problem for me but I seemed to have left my bike handling skills back in 1984.

It was a fun 25kms or so that we did on some quite technical trails, including some deep gravel for the first 100m of a single track which caught both Angus and Shaun out:

After many steep hills wore us out we decided to have a play in the gully, nicely fashioned by locals and the Swinley MTB club. Last time I was here it was not nearly as deep and there were fewer kickers and tabletops. I must say they have done a fabulous job. When Shaun landed and blew out his front wheel, however, he may not have been thinking the same thing:

Or from another angle:

Shaun head-butting tree from Snowy Fenton on Vimeo.

The helmet was smashed but the camera survived just fine. Ahhhhh. Good times...

With only one last setback- the Tesco next to the train station doesn't sell cold beer- we headed back to London happy we'd been out. I'm looking forward to getting my Ironman done so I can go out and play a little more like this.

Saturday, 4 June 2011


Despite the empty beer to my right, I'm in an interesting place, fitness wise. By many measurements I'm the fittest I've ever been. I remember trying to get my resting heart rate consistently below 55 when I was 17. At the moment it's around 48. I used to struggle with maintaining running speed for more than 10kms. Now I keep a consistent and relatively fast pace over a half marathon. I am enjoying the results of training consistently over winter. I'd like to say I trained hard- and I did for some of it- but it's the consistency rather than the intensity that has brought me to this position.

I've always loved getting on a bike and being able to hammer out a ride reeeaaallllyyy fast. But only now, for the first time since I was 16, do I remember that running is also so much more fun when it's done fast! Running through some trees this week, on a little dirt track, reminded me that running for fun is one thing but being able to run fast is a whole different enjoyment. The downside, however, is that I'm at the more painful end of the fast running enjoyment and I want more! I can't remember which triathlete a few years ago made the point, but when discussing Ironman he said "it doesn't get easier, you just go faster". Now that I've crossed back into that fun side I think that- while the pain is still there- the fun diminishes some of the hurt. Not all of it though...

So with this in mind it was quite easy to plan out the rest of my season and the whole of next year's. Aside from one long ride (~140kms) and one long run (~25kms) each week I will be focussing solely on speed work. In real life one of the long sessions will be sacrificed for social activities and it will probably be the bike. I only have one race booked in for the rest of this year and that's the Outlaw Ironman on July 24th in Nottingham. I do, however, foresee a dilemma on July 25th; my new-found speed will be left to fade away and next summer I'll have to go through the painful process of re-building fitness but I am going to enjoy my last 4 months in London.

I have a plan. Last winter was the first time I've ever done leg weights and this summer I've got up to fitness quicker, been recovering faster, had fewer injuries and been able to hold my speed for a lot longer. I can't believe I'd never done that before. Best thing I've done. So after a few weeks off after the Outlaw I am going to start a long 'winter' phase to strengthen my whole body. I want to be all-round strong before I begin to get all-round fit. And after getting all-round fit I will get sport-specific fit and try to qualify for the Hawaiian Ironman; probably the only thing that has consistently been on my 'must-do-before-I-die list since I was 15. Except maybe learn to play 'Know Your Enemy' by Rage Against the Machine.

So here's where it all ties in perfectly. As much as I love going fast, I'm bored of going in a straight line. I need flow. Despite not having a creative bone in my body (come to think of it, I can play the recorder through my nose) I enjoy the mix of speed and artistry, whether it be on a bike or a board. So I'm looking forward to being all-round strong so I can put that into surfing, paddleboarding, mountain biking, skating, etc. when I'm back in Aus and feel the fun of just 'going'. Getting out to do something regardless of whether it's fast or not. That's what it's all about. Anything that's fun can be dissected and tuned into a pursuit for some form of excellence but if the fun is taken out then there's no point. So I'm looking forward to building functional strength and going out to play. That's what puts a smile on my face. My competitive/ over-active mind wants to go fast and both put a smile on my face but I'm really looking forward to riding the Dandenongs/ skating the city/ paddling Port Philip Bay and surfing anywhere on the southern Victorian coast just for the fun of it.

Here's a video that puts a bigger smile on my face than reducing my times. You've got to have flow in your life.

Gee Atherton - Steve Smith from Gustavo Catalan on Vimeo.

Step outside and just go. Any way you like, just move.