I really shouldn’t start every month’s news with the “hasn’t this month gone quickly” statement, but, in all honesty, hasn’t this month gone quickly? Whilst on reflection I seem to have packed as much into these most recent weeks as I usually do, June represents the culmination of a season’s training for several of my athletes as they head off to IronMan Austria and yet it feels like only yesterday that I sat down with them to help outline their objectives for this year. If you only do one IronMan in your life, IMA is the one to do. One of the oldest European events on the calendar, the organisation is slick, the course is fabulous on both the eye and as a challenge and the atmosphere is electric! Training for any long distance event requires a level of personal sacrifice and continual commitment. It also requires much soul searching, particularly during those dark, wet, winter (summer 🙂 ) months when the volume and intensity is increasing and the willpower and enthusiasm is in decline. To compound the problem, by its very nature, long distance training regularly exposes the athlete to extremes of fatigue and this usually coincides with the time of year when illness is more prevalent and recovery is compromised by the weather. The challenge for the coach is to produce training that is both sufficiently challenging and interesting for the athlete, that allows for the necessary athlete progression but also encourages the athlete to be patient, to recover, and to learn to listen to their body. For the athlete, the challenge is to recognise the difference between the stress and fatigue of accumulated training and the extreme fatigue of falling ill or the onset of injury. Whilst the body is designed to thrive from aerobic exercise, the neural system is designed to protect the body and the over ruling function is that protection. This is one reason why aerobic exercise to many people is such a challenge. Recognising the fine line between extreme fatigue and the beneficial fatigue of exercise takes time to learn and very rarely does any athlete come through a training programme without some down time. Reaching the start line of am IronMan event is, in itself, therefore quite an achievement and I wish all those toeing the line on Sunday the very best of luck. I will be cheering you on from here…and at the airport on Sunday and, if you are quick, I will be able to follow you across the line!
Taking the subject of fatigue to the next level, I was a very willing participant and contributor at the inaugural Ultra Festival in Wiltshire a couple of weekends ago. One of those present, again as both a presenter and a participant, was a chap called Javed Bhatti. Not only is Javed an outstanding runner having run the Spine double (536 miles ( http://www.ukhillwalking.com/news/item.php?id=70223), he is developing a model of resilience that is really rather interesting. Now, whilst I am not a fan of distraction techniques whilst training to ensure that at all times you are training yourself to be in control of your running to both take full advantage of the activity and to reduce the risk of injury. During the latter stages of an Ironman marathon, having distraction techniques can be useful method of making progress. Javed’s resilience model is based upon finding alternative ways of looking at things. Rather than accepting a coffee in his case or a cup of flat coke for our IM athlete, and simply accepting it for the value of its content, Javed luxuriates in the taste, texture and aroma and ponders, one assumes at length, on its origins and value. Whilst my usual technique through aid stations is to sink a cup of coke and throw a cup of water over my head as quickly as possible (or the reverse as I regrettable did during one rather deranged moment in the latter stages of a rather hot race (worlds, 2007, Richmond, Virginia)) I have noticed similar sensations during my longer runs. Most recently in Rwanda, I had similar experiences at the extremes of fatigue where I could taste the differences in the water provided, however I believe that I was always focussing on the negatives of this. Javed’s focus is always on the positives, in his drinks, his nutrition and even if his current focus is on the distance still to be covered or the harshness of terrain and weather. He spoke really well about this and I have remained in touch, providing him with a referral to Loughborough. Hopefully I will be able to bring more to you as he develops this model. In the meantime, I hope to try out his methods in future long runs and will report back my own progress.
The Ultra Festival was a huge success and not just because I was presenting 🙂 There were talks from some of the giants of ultra running, great ad hoc chats and socialising, plenty to drink and a chance to run with Bruce Fordyce amongst others. I recommend that all of you attend next year, not least because one of my heroines, ann Treason, will be there. Tickets are on sale now. ( https://www.ultraevolution.com/blog-post-71-ultra-festival-2017 ).
Well, once again we nearly go to the end of a newsletter without mentioning drugs in sport! I am afraid however that I can go on no further without mentioning both the debacle over the Russian team that now may or may not be present in Rio and Seb Coe’s knowledge or otherwise about the cover ups made over drug taking. Either professional international sport is intent on resolving this issue or it is not. This current half way house would, in most other worlds, not be acceptable and yet I fear that both Seb will still be in office this time next year and that Russia, or at least elements of it, will be present at the Olympics. The Tour de France starts in a few days time (yippee!) and wouldn’t it be ironic if cycling showed athletics the way to go…although I am not holding my breath, of course :).
Finally this month, an update on the coaching business which has continued to grow at a pace over the last few weeks. I don’t usually make any efforts to with follow or even design a marketing programme and am, it is fair to say, very poor at tweeting and blogging my activities to help raise my profile. This suggests that most of my business comes from word of mouth recommendations and therefore I am in debt to you all. Thank you. At present, I am at a tipping point where the combined coaching, testing and tutoring activities is consuming two thirds of my time for half a modest income and I must now be pro active to both increase my income and be more efficient and effective with my time. Without really crunching the numbers, I believe that I can find the necessary shortfall of income by increasing both my productivity and the number of coached athletes, but without having to start clock watching my time with you or the discounts on testing which I reserve for my coached athletes. I am also trying hard to keep away from having set times for feedback and calls which many other coaches use, so that you have the flexibility to contact me at your convenience. That said, I really must become more efficient with my time and you can assist me with this please by getting that feedback to me as early as you can s that I can confirm subsequent training pans and also paying as promptly as you can so that I cam complete my monthly accounts. As you know, Sarah and I moved to Warwickshire nearly 12 months ago and now, sadly, the owner has sold up and therefore we are moving to a new location in Farthingstone, Northamptonshire from 8th July. This is a lovely location on a golf course for those visiting us for coaching and testing with some fantastic opportunities for training. The new location may even allow us to start operating training camps again – please watch this space!
Sarah and I are off to Italy for a few days on Sunday for a quick break and a bit of training. I will get any training plans out before I go (if I haven’t already done so) but will still make myself available as best I can if anyone needs to contact me. If it is urgent, please text me and I will call you back or answer you email as soon as I can get logged on. that’s all for for this month. Good luck to all those racing and with the training. Invoices are out tomorrow!