Time to Plan

Coming to the end of a calendar year can be an ideal time to take stock, look back on what you have achieved, celebrate your successes and plan for next year.

The media is full of stories about more and more people taking up sport and leading a healthier lifestyle. This is particularly evident in the UK at the moment, where the success of the British Olympic team, especially in cycling and triathlon, has meant an increased interest in these sports with events selling out faster than ever before.

Don’t miss out

Last year, Ironman Melbourne sold out in record time, many of the legendary trail runs have decade long waiting lists, sportives have huge waiting lists.

From personal experience, I just missed out on registering for next year’s Vitruvian triathlon, by two days, which now means the earliest I can do this event is 2014..!

Create a wish list of events

Since 2008, I’ve had a list of events/races/courses that I would like to do and have fortunately been able to tick a number of these off every year. The list continues to grow and event priorities change due to my circumstances.

The main point being, start a list and capture every event you’ve ever wanted to do. Research the sports that you like and pick out events that appeal to you, your budget, family, travel, etc.

Chart your events

The next step is to write all the events down by month, day on a page of A4 or next year’s calendar if you have one. Depending on your sport and race season(s) you’ll soon notice popular months.

Categorize

When I’ve put everything down I then assign an A, B or C category to events based on my desire to do the race, travel, family commitments and a whole host of other personal circumstances. If you have a coach talk to them at this stage and together agree the objectives for these A races and what the training implications are.

Working backwards from my A events (I usually pick two or three per year), I can start eliminating events that will interfere with the necessary training plan. For example, if you want to be competitive at Ironman Wales then you won’t be doing Challenge Henley, which is on the same day, but The Dragon Ride could be an option if worked in to your training plan.

Talk to your partner

Before I start paying for events, travel and accommodation, I always ask those around me that might be impacted by my decision to do a race. This should be your partner but may also include your wider family and friends if you’re planning to stay with them because they are close to the start line.

Get help from your coach

When creating your plan get input from your coach who will be able to give you ideas about training implications and what other events might fit around your A races.

Register as soon as possible

Once I have all my races down on paper, decided which ones I really want to do and got agreements from my support crew then I set about registering.

This may not always work out, as you may find you’re too late, in which case go back and re-assess your priority races, Challenge Henley might now be possible.

Once you’ve registered your A races the next thing to do is book accommodation (or make sure there is availability at the same time as this may decide whether you do a race or not). Being close to the start line will ensure you get as much sleep as possible. Being close to the finish line will mean less faff and a quick getaway if this is important to you.

Find out when registration opens

It’s a good idea to research your desired events years in advance and find out when they open for registration. My calendar is populated with events I’ve registered for or the date registration opens with calendar alerts to make sure I don’t miss opening times, which can be midnight, 4am, 9am, etc. the day after the event finished that year.

In the UK, for cycling, triathlon and ultras my current thinking is to start trying to register for next years’ events on 1st October the year before.

I was a little late this year and paid the price but having now drawn up my plan for 2013 I’m looking forward to the exciting challenges ahead. I just hope it keeps me motivated through the British winter.

Deca: Body Management

I am hoping to go in to the deca relatively injury free, how I come out of it is another matter.

I’ve been very careful in my build up to never push my body too far. Progressive overloading is a valuable coaching practice but knowing when to back off is equally important if you’re going to make it to the start line.

Like most people, I get pains in various places but unlike most, I never train on an injury. I’ve learned over the years that ‘running it off’ doesn’t work and can cost you severely in the long term.

My experience helps me to decide how I should manage an injury e.g. I had an inside left knee issue, which was solved by getting a bike fit (Freespeed), calve pain meant having orthotics made (The Gait Lab), an ITB issue – foam roller and more stretching.

Swimming

I used to suffer with shoulder discomfort but I’ve since out that down to a bad catch. I’ve been doing a lot of technique work throughout the Winter an attempt to improve my catch and use my back muscles more than my shoulder muscles. My shoulders haven’t been as bad as previous years so either my technique is improving or I’m not swimming enough.

Cycling

During the big blocks of training a couple of months ago, I did a lot of back-to-back bike rides of varying distances and intensities. The main issue I discovered was saddle sores. Apart from being amusing, it’s a real concern. In recent rides I’ve tried all kinds of creams, clothing and saddles. The best saddle I’ve used is a Cobb V-Flow Max, which was fantastic at the TriGrandPrix. I’m also going to use two pairs of cycling shorts and Assos Cream, which is great.

As you may know, there are a number of considerations to take in to account when setting up your bike. For short races, like sprint and standard distance triathlons, I want the most power possible and I’ll suffer some discomfort to get it. In Ironman races and for the deca, comfort and the ability to run off the bike are my main concerns. I will have a road bike as backup (in case of mechanicals or a crash) but I will start the event on my TT bike, which I got Retul fitted by Richard at Freespeed. I raced the TriGrandPrix (92km) in the new position and had one of my best rides to date considering the the amount of wind. Running off the bike was also good. And, I was also happy to find that my shoulders, back and neck felt great the next day.

Running

An obvious concern due to the impact, I always get some issues in a year. What has been niggling me recently is my right hip. Current thinking is that it’s down to changing my running shoes between a long distance pair (Saucony Pro Grid Guide) I use for the majority of my training and my preferred racing pair (Newton Distancia S) that I use in events (Paris Marathon and the TriGrandPrix).

To tackle this, I’ve been doing more focused stretching and some yoga aimed specifically at athletes. I also use a foam roller (for my back, ITB, Quads, hamstrings and calves), tennis ball (for my glutes, ITB and back) and a massage stick (for my quads and calves). All of these will be coming with me to the New Forest.