My last night in Europe on this trip and some reflection.
Am sitting in a cafe in Copenhagen making this entry(it is my second visit here on this trip). It is pretty much my favourite city in Europe and is a good model to others. The people are friendly and they keep healthy. Read today that 36% of them bike to work and the city leaders want to increase this above 60%. The bikes are free to hire in Copenhagens centre. Like England I noticed alot of police activity around certain important places, but guess that is a sign of the times. Didn't use a bike in Copenhagen but managed a couple of runs along the canals. PHOTO TO COME.
The above city model of cycling reminded me of catching up with a friend in Paris a month back. Was waiting outside my accomadation and didn't even see him approach but for the screech of bike tyres. He pulled up and after the usual welcoming said, "I'll get a bike for you", so he sorted it for me and we were off. The bike thing is a new city initiative and is a great idea. Couldn't keep up with him on the bike but it was good. The bikes are heavy but the city is flat and it helped that I had someone to follow. He really treated me so well, showing me the sites and shouting me lunch. Later that evening his wife and him picked me up at my hotel and took me to a jazz club, his friends had paid for the Champagne when I went to get it.
My other french friends treated me equally well and one even put me up in his central Paris home/photo studio on my last night there. The other had me stay for 4 nights in Southern France and treated me great also. Unreal!!
My England based South African friend also went out of his way to accomadate me, and together with all the rest making this trip great for me.
Have managed do some training most days and even lost weight due to eating less. Been very busy travelling and photographing such that I didn't get time to eat. Also running out of the local currency in the different parts of Europe recently and not wanting to exchange more. Did have some luck finding 50 euros in a Spanish city last week. Would have given it to the police but it was just a single rolled up note. Walked past a homeless person soon after and felt sad so gave 10 euros away. It wasn't much but the hotel in this city was the most expensive of my trip. Have been sheltered from this in New Zealand. Well made me feel better so it wasn't too altruistic. Managed some runs along the beaches and rivers of the towns in North Spain and felt pretty good.
Ironman preparation and psychology.
Am going to be relying on all those previous years of training and knowledge, but below is some more on the present.
The three day weekend in Wanaka for the mini training camp in late November should be a good part of my build-up. A link to this training camp can be found somewhere on the canterburytriclub.co.nz website. Will try to find this link and post it here.
Am sitting in an airport in the North of Spain writing this and contemplating what lies ahead. It might look a bit funny, but I like to do a few stretches and static strength building exercises while waiting for the planes. Stretching is recommended during flying also to reduce the incidence of deep vein thrombosis(DVT), which can effect people who fly due to reduced blood flow etc.
Mentioned in the 'Mens World Champs' events page is the topic of sports pyschology. So what do I know about sports psychology? I do know how to spell it at least having done the first year course at university,(but who really is concerned if the s and y are back to front?). Some knowledge of psychology or the 'study of the brain and its behaviuoral effects'or at least a basic understanding has been useful. Occasionally I try to think like a bird on my shoulder looking in from the outside(but not often). Also occasionally I like to reassess my morals/ beliefs and if they need to change as the world moves on.
The above paragraph is probably a bit vague, but where I am trying to get to, is that ones own personal state of mind will impact on how they perform in sports or even work. Of course you must believe in yourself(self confidence), to achieve at your highest potential. Also it helps to surround yourself with people who share your belief and goals. Have heard many people say how they have people close to them that hold them back or don't believe in their goals, and read this was the case for Peter Reid. To gain power by trying to prove someone wrong such as parents can be done, but it is a hard way to success.
When people say they visualise an event before its completion and even the winning of the event, this is sports psychology. Must say I have only ever done this to a limited degree, but do believe it is useful. Maybe you do it in your dreams, as we only have an idea of them sometimes when we awaken during them. Thats how it is for me anyway.
Another commonly coined phrase is the feeling of 'being in the zone'. Some people experience this before or during an event/competition. My perception of this is a clarity of thoughts prior to an event. It is useful if this clarity of thought is directed to the sport goal that is most imminent. The other time for me(in the zone) is when time seems to slow down while you are performing at your maximum. This slowing of time could be contributed to a massive burst of adrenalin, which affects certain parts of the brain and it allows one to push boundaries of achievement. So adrenalin bursts could be brought on by your home crowd screaming or directing all there energies on there local favourites, I would say.
Really just wanted to make a short list of the reasons local athletes can achieve what could be described as sub-maximal performance. This home advantage was obvious in the Worlds at Hamburg and my list is as follows:
- better sleeping prior to the event as the body is used to the entire environment, eg. your own bed, food, language.
- familiarity with the course and local climatic conditions,
- host countries of put more sponsor money into there athletes allowing them to reach there peaks without financial strain(saves alot of energy).
- local athletes rightly peak for big events in their own country as the rewards are often times greater.
- I believe the adrenalin surge from the local crowd can bolster performance.
So the opposite of gaining a hometown advantage is saying it is a disadvantage and words used to describe it are 'choking' or 'implosion'. This implosion cab be caused by too much expectations of ones self. There are plenty of other mindsets which could hinder achievement, but won't go into that list.
The strongest mindsets will no doubt win through. The next question to a strong mindset is the idea of winning at any costs. Sportsmanship and the use of banned substances come in here.
Thats it for me on psychology.
Have a strong mindset such as focus, determination, consistency and perserverance.....etc.....and don't let it be interupted by trivia.
Offer to serious athletes.
By the time this is posted, I will have sent out an e-mail to a few friends/associates that are involved in triathlon/ironman regarding a place to stay in New Zealand.
I own a house in Tauranga which has become free at the time of my arrival back in New Zealand(N.Z), so plan to live there for a month or so. During this month the plan is to do a solid block of training and catch up with some people and business.
After this I will be based in Southland(Southern most N.Z), and will have a place to myself here also. This location in a small town is just 20 minutes directly inland, and is my favourite training place. During the late Spring and Summer at least the climate is good for training and the roads are decent and quiet. The weather is usually good at this inland location, but if it isn't I head further inland to Central Otago where I have family and friends. Just 25 mins from my family is the Wanaka Ironman course, so plan to do a couple of 90km loops on the course in the months prior to the event.
There are good training groups for triathletes in both these areas with the fast lane swimmers training at elite pace. I only plan to do the odd bike ride with these groups because they also push pretty hard. This can and is good but its tough if you are having an off day.
My training will consist of easy 1-2 hour runs 4 days a weeks and 1.5-4.5 hour rides(averaging 30km/hr+) 4 days a week. They will all be at steady pace, but will try and fit some repeats into them occasionally. When i say repeats I mean(for example), picking up the pace for 5 mins then slowing down for say 2mins and doing this 5 times in total.
And swimming whenever possible in lakes and pools. For the 2003 age group world champs and qualifying race my swim was just over 22mins on the official 1500m course both times and 90% or so of my training was done in a lake. So I prefer swim training in a lake and intend to repeat this also. Would be cool to go under 60mins for the 3.8km swim!
I enjoy and most often prefer training by myself, but do admit training with others who are a bit better improves performance usually.
Well reckon I'll need some sort of game plan to complete the ironman, so the above is part of this plan.
Training while travelling in Europe.
Maintaining some fitness would be a better description as training(to me), implies making improvements and following some sort of plan.
Since the last posts(3 weeks ago), have managed the following :
- 5 swims on different days, including 3 decent swims in calm bays in the South of France of about 3km. If you find yourself with time to spare in Nice, Ville France is a very nice sandy beach to relax on and the water is very flat in this bay also for swimming.
- cycling on three days, including 2 good days of mountain biking in the English Lakes District. Shown below is some photos from the trip made to the Lakes District with a friend who does Ironman races.
- 5 or more runs. This included 2 long runs in Hamburg, the first of which I ran myself to a standstill. Carried on running with very heavy legs(exhausted quads), but no niggling injuries. Really think this was some of the best training as imagine it will simulate how the legs could feel in an Ironman. Ran to a standstill after the second lap of the large lake in Hamurg's centre. It is a very pleasant run and on the second day things went much better over the same distance of 16+ km's.
While travelling I enjoy going out for a run once settled into a new area. Running is a great way to see some more of an area, as is cycling.
Below is a series of shots from the Lakes district in England. Have fond memories of this area having worked there for a year back in 2001/2002.
My cycling companion on a stretch of open road.
Was following the cyclist with the camera, so the background of this image isn't so clear. So have shown the view from this road in the enlarged image below.
A couple of fellow mountain bikers showing how it is done.
By the way have put my name down to do the Ironman training in November with John Hellemans and the swim coach guy from Christchurch(Rolly Chrighton). Have experienced both these guys training styles before and have no doubts about their committment. New Zealand triathletes are doing well on the world stage because the country is contusive to outdoor activity and there is a good knowledge base for certain sports. Smaller countries have the benefit of this knowledge being diseminated to all those with the right mindset to do well.
This blog is my personal thoughts and passions, as is often the case for other peoples blogs, so the next paragraph may seem unrelated to some on what ironman/triathlon coaching is all about.
In my view New Zealand(my nationality), is the home of the best machine Sheep shearers in the world and I was fortunate enough to experience the best coaches at this also. New Zealand has turned shearing into a sport. Before going on, I should state that this is due to focusing on it, and because inexpensive training is available to all through a larger organisation. So why bring this up? Because it has been described to me that the world record attempts(and successes) for the 9 hour days is like doing two marathons back to back. It is an endurance sport involving the whole body like ironman, and like ironman it has its own techniques to success. Also I discuss it because the New Zealand instructors were hands on and their knowledge had me going incredibly well. Didn't stick with it(for reasons I won't go into), but basically the teaching was all technique. They would tap the learner on the hand when the technique was out by a fraction. Have heard this technique being used similiarly by swim coaches using a stick to get the timing right for teaching young swimmers in particular. This sort of coaching, plus a bit of verbal advice would be useful and invaluable to perfect the swimming technique. Men are much more powerfully built in the upper body, but even so the womans times aren't that far off the mens for specialised triathlon /ironmanany athletes indicating that technique and dynamics involving slicing through the water are involved.
Getting the edge legally versus banned methods.
My understanding is that many of the professional triathletes/ironman are doing altitude training to reach their peaks. It is very true that the red blood cells of the body generate more of a certain chemical at altitude. More of this chemical increases the red blood cells oxygen carrying capacity. No doubt it is also useful for practising hill climbing on the bike as well.
Have heard that running up hills strenghthens the muscle groups that help the knee lift part of the running action, so another reason to spend some time in the mountains.
Running down a slight hill can make you run faster also, but this amuses me as see only the joke side of this.
Must say cafeine is pretty much legal and it has been proven to boost performance. However caffeine has diuretic effects which in plain english means, 'more stops at the bathroom'. Drinking more fluids will be required as a result.
The above is a totally legitimate way to improve performance.
So that really brings me to discuss banned methods in sports. I use the term banned methods to encompass banned substances/drugs and banned techniques such as blood doping.
Blood doping entails the athlete drawing off ones own blood weeks or months prior to an event, then reinfusing it at the time of an important event. The body quickly replaces the blood that was drawn off all those weeks/months prior so when the collected blood is reinfused the body has more red blood cells(RBCs) in circulation. More RBC's equates to more oxygen carrying ability to the cells of the body. Oxygen is a key component in generating energy in the cells so it gives a big boost to performance. Hopefully this technique is laid to rest by drug testing agencies.
Couldn't avoid discussing illegal drug use or other related banned techniques to boost performance. This is because it is so disapointing to hear how common it is in certain sports.
The scandals that have surrounded this and last years 'Tour de France', involving blood doping and anabolic steroids are hard to believe, but it now seems as though drugs have been embedded in cycling for some time.
My previous work involved the day to day administration of anabolic steroids for certain kidney conditions for example, so my background is a formal training to understand all of this and many other drugs actions fully.
About a year ago I attended a conference that changed my views on the charges laid against cyclists in the 'Tour de France'. A guest speaker who worked in one of the worlds foremost universities(and privately), in the field of detecting minute amounts of foreign chemicals spoke for an hour or more. He explained several examples of detecting minute chemicals and how they could be traced. It was incredible how advanced they are and there is no mistaking a synthetic versus the bodies(natural) anabolic steroids, going by what he explained.
So a reason for this post is to make people aware that the detection agencies are getting incredibly advanced. Hopefully if more people are aware of this, it will reduce the incidence.
I don't think the drug agencies give advance notice when their detection methods improve, but most of there work is published in specialised journals which are available in many university libraries.
Going by the amount of illegal drug use and banned techniques(eg. blood doping), that are being detected I have had to rethink the belief that the elite sportspeople in certain sports are following the rules and are drug free.
I did have a personal experience while in my first year of university of illegal drugs for sports. Was in the universities gym with my teams clothing on when an older guy approached me and said, ' to play your sport at the top level you will have to be bigger' and the offer of anabolic steroids was then made. I just said 'no' and that was the end of it.
The above took place closer to 20 years ago than 10 years ago and I mention it for several reasons:
-Firstly it is clear that cycling is not the only sport that has concerns with its participants taking banned substances.
-I avoided this gym from then on and recommend anyone to avoid being around such offers as well.
The next step which I hope is taken to detect drug cheats is that samples are kept for many years after and retested for drugs developed that the detection agencies aren't aware of at the present time.
That should be about all on this topic.
Training in Europe.
It is about time to make an addition to the training blog, so it is what I have managed in the past month.
Managed a couple of easy 1-2 hour rides in the Austrian towns of Salzburg and Kitzbuhel. It was very easy/reasonably priced to hire the bikes and they had the best cycling tracks I have come across.
Also managed a swim over the course in the little lake in Kitzbuhel and it was just the right temperature without a wetsuit.
In England the best training was a 1 hour session at a fitness centre running on a tread mill and a very easy swim. The fitness centres single visit rate was o.k considering it was a good facility and was less than the 10 pounds I recall for a similiar one in North-West England 5 years ago.
I always believe it is better to keep some light training ticking over than doing nothing. Would like to have done a swim on the Salford course but it was a bit too cold for no wetsuit. There is usually a training time scheduled for the age group triathletes to swim the course prior to the event as otherwise it would look strange to see someone swimming in a Manchester canal.
Am sitting in a YHA hostel in Nice/France and the day has finally cooled down so I had better get out and do a run. Am trying to reflect on what other training has been done in the past month; did manage a couple of decent runs along the beach in Tarifa, but that was 3 weeks ago.
Have some more specific training planned in the upcoming weeks but will go into this when it is closer. Will make sure to get some images of the mountain bike training planned in 2 weeks time.
Am very close to booking into doing an ironman training camp in New Zealand at the end of November also, for a bit of fine tuning. Will go into this later also.
This was the beach I used for training in Spain in the evenings when it was cooler and the crowds had gone away.
'Train in Spain'.
Had a few spare days in Valencia due to the America's cup finishing several days earlier than my expectations/wishes, so managed a couple of long runs.
The title of this 'Train in Spain', come into my mind for several reasons but mainly as it fits comfortably for me.
Most of us have role models and one of my favourites in endurance sport is Paula Radcliffe from England. Anyone who can break a world record in a sport that has been around some time is impressive. Granted, the depth in the womans marathon fields doesn't match the mens but hey, it was still a good time. A recollection from a few years back was that she did a block of solid training in Spain, before breaking the world record. Another event in a much shorter race of the olympic games was also inspiring.
It is no surprise to me to see that the 'numero uno' male and female in olympic distance triathlon come from Spain and Portugal at the time of writing.
'Train in Spain' could be more broadly put as 'train in a warm/hot climatic area'.
The reasons below are my own generalisations of why training in such a climate is useful :
- the bodies muscles are warmed up from the beginning,
- it is a bit easier to keep weight of the body due to less energy requirements for maintaining body temperature,
- it's good for speed training as running clothes used are lighter and the muscles stay warm. The blood circulation is detrimentally affected if the muscles are cold,
- it's good race simulation, as running in heat is similiar to pushing yourself to the maximum. That is your body is going to be generating alot of heat during races and it helps if you are used to this,
- for most endurance sports maintaining a lower body mass index helps to acheive the desired/winning VO2 max(oxygen/glycagen energy output). Put in more everyday words it is attaining the best weight to power generating ratio.
By the way the writer of this blog is not an expert in 'training/coaching', however my background knowledge does definitely entail the basis of physiology and 'sports injury basics'.
My background knowledge is a 'BSc' majoring in Physiology, a 'post graduate bachelors degree' in a medically related field and a 'diploma of teaching and learning'.
This blog is the writers generalisations/interpretations. This is particularly stated because, what is useful information for one person may not be right for someone else(eg. different body physiologies and changes with age).
Sports injuries basics.
Have been thinking to write on this subject for some time, as it is quite common in triathlon/ironman from what I see.
It is purposely written without using medical terminology.
Will discuss here some basics related to chronic(long term cause/resolution) and acute(short term cause) injuries.
Was advised by a very prominant pro triathlete/ironman from days gone by that injuries go hand in hand with the job.
In my own case like many others it is not my job, but still managed a few injuries along the way.
Personally I like to listen to my body closely and hold back when something is up. Some years back I developed and acute tear of a tendon behind the knee, and even though I was very fit and could have kept going hard, I took a month or so out.
-With acute injuries, the R.I.C.E method is often followed, that is Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
All four of these methods are useful to reduce the initial swelling and pain, but there is one important element missing and that is anti-inflammatories(the likes of aspirin and ibroprofen).
So yes, have treated myself with little outside assistance (but knowledge from my background), for a very serious partial rupturing of multiple tendons and ligaments of the foot and knee at the same time. I believe you don't want to over do any of the above (R.I.C.E and anti-inflammatories) and to keep up easy movement.
So what is all this about? We all want to remove pain so that is important, but a bigger take on it is to reduce the bodies 'over reaction' to the trauma. Basically the body is too good at healing itself and works a bit fast. Working to fast is painful due to all the 'repair cells' rushing to the injury, and it can also result in 'excess' scar tissue. An example of excess scarring is a ligament healing too fast and ending up 'shortened'.
Once the initial swelling subsides it can be useful to increase the blood supply and techniques used are ultrasound and light massage/easy movements
Complete ruptures require surgical repair, but for the rest the body is amazing at healing itself. Managed well, the injury will very often return to its initial state/strength.
-With chronic injuries the treatments are different and quite broad. An injury that last several years or more is a reasonable definition of long term(or chronic). Chronic injuries can very in severity from very minor to very severe. With long term injuries it is not uncommon to carry on as normal as possible and try and train through it.
Long term injuries can be completely resolved, but are likely to require more time to do so(compared with acute injuries).
Won't go into detailed treatments of chronic injuries as there are alot of people out there proposing all sorts of things! Cutting back on very strenuous activities and keeping weight off the body are good starting points though. Keeping weight off(or at least maintaining a healthy body mass index) can be hard, but is important. Strengthening and some stretching exercises of the area associated with the chronic injury to provide support are also useful(commonly recommended by physiotherapists).
Well thats my take on the basics.
Am sure you can gain more knowledge on the subject by searching the internet or talking with informed people. It should help your understanding if the inevitable occurs.
Oh yeah, prevention is better than cure so:
- try dirt trails for a run rather than the hard pavement,
- use good technique when exercising,
- maintain muscle balance in all areas of the body,
- take time out from training during illness such as flu viruses, or at least cut back to easy sessions.
- use common sense, etc..............................
A healthy dinner in San Deigo.
The food in San Deigo is a triathlon dieticians dream. At least that was the case for this meal and all the others I had over the week spent here. Can testify that the guy on the right(not looking at the camera) hasn't eaten this much healthy food for some time, and it was beginning to show on the waistline.
Was really well looked after for this stay and even managed a bit of swimming and running. There are plenty of canyons to run in all over San Deigo, however it may take a bit of acclimatising to as there is little breeze and the air temp was like 30 degrees plus. Was warned in advance that the canyons are home to Mountain Lions(rarely) and Rattle Snakes among other life threatening creatures. Watched my step closely, however only come across a nice little Falcon on my last day.
Was wishing this stay was longer, as San Deigo is nice in so many ways. Will hopefully visit again someday and find time to take the camera for a walk in the canyons as well as some training.
Thankyou to the waiter at the 'Naked Cafe', who took this photo so that we could all be in it.
The picture was taken to show not only the healthy food(rice and salad based meals), but also a group of 'tri geeks' catching up. That is with the exception of the guy on the left who put up with the rest of the table for the sake of his partner. I say 'tri geeks' as one of the group put it this way and it is not far wrong with most of the table committing many years to the sport in various ways.
The knowledge and support of friends and associates is invaluable for making the ride smoother in the multi faceted triathlon/ironman competitions. An add onto this is to keep a balance family, friends, work and hobbies. This is all really stating the obvious but like to remind myself occassionally of this, and think it is useful advice..
Motivations and training for the goal of completing an Ironman.