2016 will be a year to remember for many reasons, both, good and bad. As another year goes by I am always amazed by, not only how quick the time goes, but also by how much seems to have happened. This year has been no exception, not only in the public sphere, but also for me personally. Taking time to reflect on the year might not seem important and might even be overwhelming, but by doing so I have already been able to take courage from the things that have been tough, motivation and excitement from the successes and gratitude for the amazing people I have met and worked with along the way. At the start of this year I said I would be taking the leap and learning to fly on the way down. As the year is coming to an end I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about what has enabled me to strengthen the wings and help me to fly. Here is what has given me two podiums, a race win and some huge learning in 2016.
I am often asked, "can you make a living from professional triathlon". At the moment, no, but in the future I feel confident I can. Despite this, I know that those who have believed in and supported me this year have enabled me to work towards making a living and have also helped me to push towards achieving my potential. It is a real privilege to be able to train everyday and have the opportunity to achieve my goals and I am grateful for what my sponsors provide and do for me.
Orca have helped raise my profile and have the comfiest and fastest wetsuit I have swum in. I have loved my race kit and used the transition bag for travel and races all year. Anyone who knows me knows that the fact there is a specific pocket for everything from helmets, to race shoes and nutrition is perfect for me. I am excited to be working with Orca in 2017 and hope for continued success!
I-Ride UK have made cycling fun and fast on my Argon18 E118 and Fulcrum Wheels. The time trial set up has been reliable all year, with the fastest bike split at Weymouth 70.3 and a new course record at Castle Howard triathlon. The team offer a great service and also distribute a large amount of cycling accessories, apparel and training aids.
Skechers Performance trainers have been the best trainer I have ever run in. Since running in the gorun4 I have had no lower limb troubles and my previous calf tightness has markedly improved. I have also run faster off the bike this year and gained 10k pb of 36.25. Running fast and in comfort is a key part of triathlon success and I am pleased to have met some of the great Skechers team at Ironman Europe events during the year.
Etixx UK products are part of my day to day routine. From recovery and energy bars, to Iron and Cartinine tablets the range keeps me fuelled and supports my health throughout my training. It tastes good, they deliver quick and are a great team to work with.
Digme Fitness is an exciting new spin and hiit studio in Richmond, Oxford and soon to be Blackfriars. Headed up by two enthusiastic and successful triathletes, Geoff and Caoimhe, the team at Digme have been unbelievably supportive and helpful. The use of the KEISER bikes during my training has been excellent for specific power based sessions and has enabled me to push my bike strength week on week. Having only launched this year, Digme is already seeing great success and I am excited about continuing to work together next year. For anyone in London or Oxford who wants to get strong on a bike, in a fun and sociable way, get down to Digme.
Scicon Bags made travel with my bike easy and the simplicity of packing and unpacking the bike meant even I could do it on my own!
Consistency in Training
The simple things are sometimes the hardest to achieve, but normally the most important. Triathlon training is about showing up everyday and ticking off the sessions. Making each day count, going easy when you are meant to and committing to the hard work when it is needed. Long sessions have become less and less daunting and backing up big days of training day after day is becoming the norm. I am not taking this for granted, but am confident that a winter that starts with only three days a week working, rather than working full time until May like I did this year, will achieve even better results. The key to consistent training this year, from my point of view, has been:
1) having a plan and then having a plan for that plan. Knowing exactly how each session fits into the day and then making sure I am ready for that the day before means I can make best use of the time I have.
2) communicating with my coach... regularly. Be honest about how you are feeling in and around your training and make sure you are willing to adjust the plan accordingly. There will be days when you are tired, but if a day turns into a week, something isn't right. For me, Andy knows the line and we are constantly working together to push the line, whilst trying to stay the right side of it.
3) Do your Strength and Conditioning. I think you need to be robust to maintain a large volume training plan and robustness comes from the ability to move in a functional way with good strength and stability. I keep strength and conditioning work in my programme all year round and believe it is a big part of staying fit and healthy.
4) Keep the 'WHY' ! Always know why you are doing it and what the goal is. Day to day I feel more or less motivated about getting to the pool or pushing in a run session, but reminding myself how I will feel after a session, what the goal is and why I am doing it means there is less time to think about all the reasons I might not want to get out and train and helps me get it done. Day in, day out!
Learning to Race
At the start of 2016 I had done two 70.3 races.... I have now done eight. Every race I have learnt something new and each race in 2016 has been an improvement on the performance from the last. The podiums at Dublin and Weymouth were built from the learning and development from Mallorca and Staffordshire. The performance in Bahrain was the culmination of the whole year, and amongst a talented field, it was the one that leaves me feeling the most excited for next year. When racing I try to:
1) stick to the process
2) know that things can change
3) believe in my strengths
4) know the course
5) learn and make changes
2016 racing was about learning. 2017 is about competing.
Over the year my physical fitness and capabilities in swim, bike and run have continued to improve. This has had a big impact on my performance, but is only a small part of what it takes to compete as a pro. As a psychologist people always ask me if I use my knowledge in my sport. In short, I can't not. There is a growing awareness of performance and sport psychology and in triathlon, I see lots of opportunity to develop strategies for racing and training. For me, I feel like I have made a big shift in my approach to training and racing over 2016. In addition, I know my well-being is a key component of good performance. I have come to realise that lowering stress day to day is as important to success as knowing what works for me on race day.
So what has strengthened my belief in 2016 and how can you apply this is your training?
1) Focus on your own training and goals. Write goals down and remind yourself of them regularly. Make sure to look back over training that you have done and take confidence from this to the start line.
2) Accept that you will not break records everyday and that a bad session is just a bad session. It is not a reflection of you as an athlete.
3) Celebrate the improvements and good sessions. No matter how small, this is really important because racing is few and far between, but day to day improvements can give you a welcome lift and renewed motivation.
4) Train with others. This helps on many levels, with better athletes giving you something to chase and supportive and similar athletes providing an amazing sounding board for sharing training dilemmas.
5) Relax, rest and enjoy the time off training. Knowing when to think about training and when to switch off is not always easy, but is key to performing better and, for me, being happier.
6) Surround yourself with people who believe in you and people who are willing to push you to be better. I am lucky to have a coach who does this and Pete, family, and friends who support me everyday.
An eye on 2017
Half way through 2016 I suddenly realised that racing to learn was not enough for me. I needed a more motivating goal and something that would push me on to the next level. In 2017 I want to qualify for the World 70.3 Ironman championships and the end of this year has been a good start to this goal. In addition, I am working hard to build the right support I need to compete at the highest level and I am looking to develop new partnerships, whilst continuing build on the existing ones.
I am finishing 2016 filled with excitement, motivation and a little bit of fear about making some significant changes to be competitive at the highest level. As they say, 'fortune favours the brave' and I can't wait to build on the great platform I have built this year.
2017 races are still being planned and training starts again on Monday! It has been nice to have a rest, but I am excited to build up to the first race at the start of May. Thanks for following and supporting my progress and I hope 2017 will bring new adventures, more progress and as much fun as 2016 has!