Apologies for the slow turn around with the following update. As the old saying goes if you dont have anything good to say… then dont say it.
Beijing…. Without question I worked harder than I did before Athens. I am not going to be Politically Correct and say it was a great life experience and it was just neat being part of it all. It is all far to fresh and raw to have that kind of worldly perspective just yet. Hopefully in the future I will look back on the whole experience as a pivotal moment in my life and personal development but at this stage it feels closer to a kick in the nuts than the former. But as the saying in the first paragraph goes.. I will leave it there.
Over the Christmas season it was a time for family, rest and reflection. For me this time round I was grateful to have some quality time with my family without being concerned with training or how things were shaping up for my next competitive season.
Up until only a couple of weeks ago I had been paddling a lot and feel I was paddling at a very good level when I just stopped and it occurred to me that like Forrest Gump I had had enough for now and that a year out of the sport to decompress would be a good thing. So with a ton of fitness and a lack of desire to race kayaks the only logical thing to do was enter the New Zealand Ironman. For the uninitiated an Ironman involves a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42.2km run. I completed my first and only Ironman to this date back in March 2000 which happened to be on my 21st Birthday. My time was 10hrs and 27min. Basically around a 58min swim.5hr40ish Bike and 3hr45 run.
I still feel to this day that the Ironman is one of the most rewarding challenges that I have undertaken in my life. Without doubt in my mind had I not watched my best mate who I grew up with from the age of four complete the race in 1999 then I wouldn’t have gone on to have a go myself at this completely unreasonable challenge. Completing this completely unreasonable quest for self discovery opened my mind to the possibility that maybe I could achieve more in sport than I ever dreamed of. To be honest when I paid my 600 bucks at the time and mentioned to a few people that I was going to do the Ironman I really was unsure if it was possible for me to get close to finishing it. All I did know was that my parents had done the right thing and taught me to swim to save myself when I was a kid, I knew that anytime I had ridden over 100km I blew to pieces and that a marathon was a very worthy life time athletic achievement for anybody just on its own, not to mention after cycling 180km. Having to break this elephant down into bite size chunks taught me not only that a wetsuit for a hubbard swimmer can take 15minutes off your predicted swim time, and that a couple of chocolate coated muesli bars on a plus 3 hour ride doesn’t constitute nutrition but it also taught me that things that appeared unachievable might not be if I really applied myself and broke it down to bite sizes pieces that joined the gaping hole that was between my current place and where I could only dream of getting to. Unfortunately this was something that I wasnt taught at the very reputable school I went to that has a very proud academic, cultural and sporting history. At school it seemed where you were was where you were. There were many exceptional athletes and academics. I wasnt aware that with the right mindset I could have a piece of that pie too. The term working hard doesn’t give too many clues to a young person about how to goal set and work hard in pursuit of the goals. This is what the Ironman taught me in the year 2000 at the age of 21. By the end of 2003 I was a World Champion in an Olympic discipline having never entertained the idea of being an Olympian until after the Sydney Olympics. So the Ironman was and still is special to me. I had always told myself that I wouldn’t go back until I could really apply myself and try and crack the sub 9hr30m mark. Clearly this is not going to be realistic with just 5 weeks training…there could be an impressive detonation somewhere in the vicinity of the Taupo Airport on March the 7th this year.
As for not achieving my goals over the last four years I unfortunately dont have the answers for that. I do know that I was stronger in the gym, stronger aerobically in the longer sessions. But never felt in my racing that I could take that crucial step up when it counted that the best athletes can make. The final in Beijing was my best race all year but not enough. It has been suggested and I tend to agree that in pure desperation I spent too much time pushing above AT – Anaerobic threshold and therefore was left feeling flat.. who knows. Once you get to the top small things have an impact and it is not difficult to burn the cake. Intuitively I feel that I raced at a comparitive level to when I won Worlds in 2003 given my time 3.29 ( Gainesville 3.28.90), very similar water conditions – regarding no wind and water temperature. However this may just be just a case of cognitive dissonance afterall four years of ball busting regression is not an easy pill to swallow. After Athens my pbs went from 3.25.7 for the 1000 to 3.24.4 in 2006, also in 2006 I set a pb for 500m of 1.38 and this year a pb of 7.11 for 2km. So I prefer to think I developed as a paddler. As always the level has continued to climb, out of the 9 guys in the final 6 of them have Olympic medals, five of those people have gold ones too. Max Hoff is a World Wild Water Champion, Zoltan Benko is a European title holder and Stjepan Janic is a world medalist in K4. So all the paddlers in the final have proven they are champions at the highest level. I wonder if there were many other events at Beijing that could boast that sort of depth. A bad day and you would take a severe pounding.
So I will try and keep you posted as I progress closer to the big Ironman day.
All for now.