What the hell is wrong with me? I’m gearing up to the last race of the season and I’m already mentally laying out my winter training. Shouldn’t I be welcoming the R&R of October?

I always look forward to the changing seasons. This morning was very autumnal out on the bike, in full leg warmers, Belgian booties & a windproof gilet. Thin gloves would have helped cold hands but I hadn’t packed any (I’m away from home again). The air was cool, grey, and smelt smokey. Nicer than the recent stench of post-harvest muck spreading. I would have been happier if it wasn’t supposed to be August.

Summer has always been a time for peak fitness and planned endeavours. This takes time, tight scheduling, strict organisation & much effort, so the autumn and it’s chilly mornings and dusky rides home from work, unplanned weekends and free time, junk food, tv and gaming is bleeding marvellous. Halloween and bonfire night. Great! It doesn’t take long before I get itchy though. If I don’t take this break my body and mind break down. I get sick of training. If I take the break I can’t wait to get back into it all, even the 4 hour rides in the rain.

Right now I’m thinking about racing at the European triathlon age group champs in Israel, as much for experience, fun and racing internationally somewhere new as anything else. The Bala triathlon in September is the final qualifier (I could have qualified last year) but the euro champs are in April 2012. Racing in April means starting aerobic training again in November, earlier than I’m used to. Maybe that’s the prompt. The plans for something new are getting me thinking. What I might do to develop my skills and abilities, and how I might fit training into a new part of the year are interesting challenges. Or maybe I’m afraid. When will the snow and ice hit? Winter training camps suddenly seem like the best idea ever.

As usual my brain is getting ahead of itself. Maybe it’s confident. Maybe it knows more than I do. I need to bring it back to the present, but I don’t think it likes it here.




Last big block of 2011?



I’ve pretty much finished my last big block of training for the year & I’m in a recovery week before a few peaking and taper weeks. I’m quite chuffed that I managed to hit almost every workout in a disrupted schedule, although the running has been limited to aerobic stuff of gradually increasing duration. I’ve lost a shocking amount of run fitness this year, even with all the biking, and truly have been running very poorly. But if I can keep going without hurting myself again…

Swimming has been good, picking up a better movement in my left arm, biking seems to be good (but what the hell can I know without a power meter?) and I’ve got a lovely level of fatigue to shake off this week. A mix of travelling, running exams, and training, family and work stress have all contributed to this. More on that another day. A holiday would be nice right now, but new students will be starting soon enough. I wish I could afford some winter sun.

I scrubbed summer races from my schedule because of family illness so I’ve been away from the triathlon scene for 6 weeks or so, but I entered the Bala standard distance triathlon early in the year as an end of season test against, hopefully, some top athletes. I should be able to make it to the start line, and I’m hoping that the weather will be good for a change so that camping will be pleasant. I’ve got some goals but the way my head is right now it’ll probably just be a personal test of fitness and of my ability to find form as much as anything else.

I’ve got a monster appetite this week & can’t stop drinking coffee. Time for another cup.





Running hasn’t been going very well for me this year. I made a decision to make some changes to my biomechanics over the winter that seem to have worked very well. Unfortunately I thought I could pick up the volume of running that I’d done in previous years and ripped my calves to bits. A little lack of knowledge and a bit too much enthusiasm can cause great harm.
This isn’t a terrible injury, and it hasn’t screwed up my season, and as a triathlon novice spending less time running has meant I’ve spent more time on the bike and in the water which has helped me blend the three disciplines to some success, and has given me a significant overall improvement in performance over last season. But I do like to run. And I get grumpy when I don’t run. The kids even tell me how cheery I am when I come back through the front door in the morning, grimy and sweaty with a big grin on my face.
Running is a great time to think. When I was studying for my anatomy degree I did it because of an unadulterated fascination. That’s still in me today, as I keep learning and teaching. Towards the end of that degree much of that was probably lost in the same way as I see it getting lost in medical students today. With exams looming that determine your future you forget about learning and loving the subject, and you work harder and harder to get facts inside your head that you can recite or redraw. The subject doesn’t matter any more, only the exam performance matters. Anybody who has crammed probably also realised later that wasn’t the greatest way to “learn”. This was a big reason for me to study for a PhD. I could continue to learn without continual assessment.
The Dublin Marathon a couple of years ago almost had a similar affect on me. It’s not that I stopped loving the running, but as an endurance athlete that had experienced different sports I found it very difficult to imagine doing the same thing again: running and only running to hit the targets and expectations of a single, major assessment (the race) at the end of each season. I wanted to ride my bike. I wanted to swim. So I moved to triathlon (and had already been planning to).
Running somewhat sporadically this year, with little mileage and infrequent speedwork, I miss running every day. (I know, there’s no pleasing some people)! I asked myself, if I had the choice between running without injury every day but never racing, or running only occasionally and never finding my limits, which would I choose? Easy – I’d choosing the first option. Running. Running for the sake of running. It’s not racing or results that drive me then, although they’re nice to get, it’s the drive to see how far and how fast I can go. To set high targets and to see if I can reach them. Physiology over trophies.
I guess that’s probably the healthy option too.