Friday, 29 March 2013

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Ironman Melbourne Swim Debacle

Ironman Melbourne was last weekend and being one of the biggest races with the best athletes outside the world championships in Hawaii, I'm always excited (as a spectator) to wander down and watch this.  Last year's event was held in the most pristine conditions I've ever seen in melbs- dead still day, 26 degrees and bright blue sky.  If you didn't go fast that day you weren't ready.

This year was a bit different.  The 10 or so consecutive days of perfection had long passed and it was maybe 23 degrees and windy.  I seem to enjoy the whinging environment that is Twitter and read many of the comments from interstate athletes about how typical it was to have cold weather in melbs.  "Shoulda been here last week, mate..."  I don't mind people whinging about the weather but if you're an athlete who is prepared to swim 3.8kms, ride 180kms and then run 42kms I'm at a loss to understand how 23 degrees is an issue for you.  Discomfort should be in your job title.

In the days leading up to the race there was debate over the swim course; which format would be used to make it safer for athletes, etc.  I'm fine with that, in fact, I appreciate that kind of thought from organisers.  Cutting the swim in half... I'm confused.  If it's too dangerous to go in the water, the whole swim should have been cancelled, not just half.  This issue has gone through my head all week (I'm obviously not very busy) and the conclusion I keep coming back to is this: Ironman Triathlon is an extreme sport which has become a bucket list item for the mainstream.

I would have been so angry if I were racing and the swim was reduced.  I would have placed better as my swim is my weakness, but if I didn't want to swim I would have entered a duathlon.  I do understand, however, why the swim was shortened and given the circumstances I think the organisers made the right decision.  They don't want the PR associated with having a dead athlete in their race and I understand that but I think there is a solution to stop swims being cancelled. 

2 weeks ago I thought differently.  In fact I posted a comment on an article on expressing my views.  I previously argued that Ironman doesn't need any qualification system and as prices are already too high and races too few I wouldn't support that.  But given that the very nature of an ironman is being changed to accommodate unprepared bucket listers, maybe a qualification system is the only way to ensure that all entrants are prepared for the race, no matter what the conditions.

The changed course, coupled with the chop created an opportunity for people to cut corners.  The short swim (only 1500m in the end) meant that the majority of athletes got on the bike at the same time, rendering it nearly impossible to have a clear run and not be sitting on someone's wheel ('drafting', an illegal practice which gives you a 4 minute penalty if caught).  There were many problems caused by the swim, or the very concept that organisers need to protect the unprepared, and this probably changed the outcome of the race for many.

I'll leave you with some footage of the carnage to help you make up your own mind.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


I saw a photo of Ross Clarke-Jones earlier today and it reminded me of Visualisation.  Several years ago I heard RCJ say he used visualisation before winning The Eddie and I was intrigued because a) I had used similar techniques; and b) I didn't know it had a name!

When I was about 14 or 15 I started practicing my transitions for triathlon.  I'd lay out my riding and running stuff and pretend to come in from the swim, change into my bike stuff, then pretend to come in from the bike and change into my running stuff.  That chain of short, simple tasks is something that is easy to get faster at with physical practice.  If I was bored and not near my equipment I would play out the transition in my head and imagine each of the steps in great detail.  Often with such detail that I would imagine the temperature, noise and atmosphere around me.

Given my complete lack of any psychological evidence I can't tell you why this works but it made me so much faster in transition.  I still go through the process of transition in my head after I've set up my bike before a race.  In fact on race morning I play out the whole day in my head.  I've become better at it over the years, including visualising the run out of the water, into transition and then out onto the bike and run legs.  I don't think this could ever replace doing the task physically but it certainly seems to compliment the physical work.'ve also used this in trading, to a lesser extent.  While there's no physical task required, there is a lot of emotion and running through different scenarios in your head can help keep fear and greed in check.  It certainly helps having a vivid imagination but it's a fine line between visualising and dreaming.  Thinking about an end result wont change anything.  Thinking through entire processes and putting yourself in that position is what seems to strengthen neural pathways. I guess it's just a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy...

Give it a try.  Think about something you're learning to do or trying to get faster/ better at.  Zone out and imagine yourself in that position.  Try to imagine everything around you in as much detail as you can and then act out the process in your head.  Go through all 5 physical senses and then imagine what you're feeling and thinking at this point.  If you want to change what you are feeling or thinking during the task then just change it.

This is a chose your own adventure book and the more you visualise the way you want to handle this situation, the less foreign it will be when the time comes to actually perform it.