Monday, 28 March 2016

Live Action, Easter Training & a few Thanks.

2 posts in quick succession it seems, but all with good reason. After the winter lull Easter seems to have brought slug of news worth reporting.

First and Foremost I wanted to publicly thank Beetenson & Gibbon Solicitors, local to Louth, Grimsby and Scunthorpe. They have been proactive sponsors of a number of local sporting events in the wider area over the past few years, getting involved and supporting local community. They have now extended this even further and offered me personal sponsorship for 2016 - which has already gone a huge way to helping me focus my efforts on The 70.3 European Championships in Austria in September, and is very motivating to know that someone sees value in my efforts.

What might sound weird, but is especially appreciated is that as a 38 year old man racing at International Age Group level on an amateur basis is that you know you have to have perspective, be objective, and ultimately know that you are not the most attractive proposition - I'm not young, I'm certainly not pretty, and all in all pretty run of the mill. On that basis it particularly means a lot that that they have offered to back the Working Class Triathlete. Please check them out and consider them for any more formal or legal matters that you need help with:

Training this weekend has been pretty full on, not what some might call a relaxing bank holiday, but sat here now I feel like its pushed me forward in my season prep and has certainly been worth it.

Friday morning 5:30am and I was up and heading out on a 61 mile bike ride with 3 friends. The weather was reasonable and  we got a good look round the north of the county thanks to Jons random route planning system.

It felt quite weird knowing that with no 140.6 this year to contend with this was further than I would have to bike in anger all year. The legs felt fine and fresh with the distance at the end of the ride, and the gooch seems to have hardened off already. I rode within myself through out. So with distance not an issue, its all about adding speed in now, and as much as that hurts it's really the icing on the cake so the easy bit if were honest.

A 1/4 of the group ride was manned by Ross Mcgregor, currently 10th in the World in his AG at Sprint distance following his outing at Chicago last summer. It was fascinating to compare notes on the ride, knowing how much faster he is over me on the short course, having put all his training and racing efforts into tuning the body to completely empty the tank inside 1hr (about as much time as it takes me to warm up on the bike!) - with explosive speed being the order of the day in his World. He happily confessed however that it was the furthest he had ever cycled, and his calves felt good and tight for a day after. We both have a love & passion for the same sport, but how we have to tackle our training is poles apart. It's good to get out like this and compare notes on the different strategies required for the different distances when we can. Conversely, Jon, who planned the route has taken  year off Age Group racing having had a baby at the end of last year. Taking that pressure off, and having less time for structured training has done wonders for his form and I would argue he is currently the fittest and fastest he has ever been for this time of year. Some times you just gotta shake things up a bit to move yourself to the next level. Maybe we need a new baby to help me get to the next level. I'll have a chat with Sarah later.....

Sunday saw another decent swim set straight into a nasty hill set cobbled together by another friend who not 20 mins ago has confessed to me he is toying with his first 140.6 next year. 25 miles of high winds and 3 big hills, going down one, up one, down another, up the next... you get the idea. They each got a hammering on the down, and a solid grind back up the other side. As ever there was pride and mini races broke out. Its always everyman for himself to the top of a hill. I think we could call it a draw at the end.
Red Hill, the biggest of the 3 climbs I usually have fonder memories of, and is a place we have driven out to on a few occasions to star gaze at night, and enjoy the view. It's a small local nature reserve with an unusual topography and soil structure, and worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

Red Hill. The big one of the 3 tackled yesterday. They all line
up in quick succession, climbing the bank you see in the distance.
A nasty swim set this morning forced on me by Sarah thinking she was clever last night and telling another international class athlete mate/swimmer I would join him for what he billed as a 'killer set' and my shoulders ache as I sit here typing this now.

As a coach as well as a racing triathlete the most frequent question I am asked by all kinds of people, and particularly female athletes if I am honest is 'What should I eat?' 6 separate people alone have asked me this in the last few weeks.
I have always found this a difficult question to answer. Without camping out in someone's kitchen and seeing what they get up to it's hard to know what they are already doing well, or not. What I find works, and most importantly what I enjoy is not gonna be everyone else's cup of tea either. So I was left chewing it over for a fair while how best to help with this.
The answer has finally been rolled out this weekend in the form of a Live Feed via Facebook of meals prepared pre and post training, racing and so forth. It is a bit random, gives people the opportunity to give me some lip while I cook, and most importantly from my perspective gets the family involved.
All the Balls love cooking. Sarah has definitely always been chief nutritionist, and has delivered the goods on numerous occasions (especially last years for Iron distance nutritional challenges) with inventive and more importantly natural, varied and healthy options. Molly bakes all the time, and isn't shy of the camera. She has been happy to get stuck in with me for the viewing publics amusement, so it's a great way for us to combine our hobby's, stick some music on, and spend time together and using the wonder of modern technology share the day to day diet I employ to keep me fit and strong through training and racing.

Sushi Time Live with Molly who beat me hands down at the roll.
What I do truly believe is that nutrition is the 4th discipline in Triathlon. Without eating properly, enjoying it, and importantly - eating enough of what your body needs, you can't race well.
I don't believe in 'diets' as such because 1. I've never been on one, and 2. From watching other people on them, they never seem to work. We were chatting about this earlier and decided the best way to describe the way we eat is that its an 'Un-diet'. Unprocessed, Undercooked, Uncomplicated. If it grows under the ground or if it can be picked off a tree or bush then shove it on your plate.
Anyhow, I'll hashtag all the videos with #4thdiscipline so feel free to take a look if it's of interest. There's quite a few people out there doing similar things and the world of hashtags is an ever growing easy resource for useful information from the masses.
Outside of the logic of keeping things simple and natural the other maxim we roughly work to on a rolling weekly basis is 2 days meat (only 1 red at most), 2 days fish, 2 days vegetarian and 1 day vegan.
Finally today, I have roped in a Special Guest Blogger. As I begin the hard work proper towards Austria the faith I have been extended by BG Solicitors and as ever my family and friends, I took the time to reflect on last years build up towards The Iron Distance Euro Championships. A big part of helping to get me there was the generous support given to my raffle to help generate funds to support the race costs. This was won by local athlete Gail, who, as I have mentioned previously has worked diligently and hard over the last 6 months to improve her performance in all the disciplines ready to race in 2016. Her winning prize last year, a winter training program with me... 
I have learnt a lot from Gail, and as we enter the last month of my 'guidance' before we move to a month of Gail turning her hand to writing her own plan with me chipping in as required, I thought I would risk it and ask her for a candid few paragraphs to share on here of how she felt about the time working with me. So here it is, unedited, unaltered. Enjoy.
"A piece for his Blog he said, be honest he said, people will be interested he said..................
Setting the scene:-
2014 – volunteered to marshal the Louth Tri (goody bag included a voucher for a future
event – crafty) guess I had better learn to front crawl then
2015 – entered early so I wouldn’t change my mind
Hence our training gang formed Ros, Chris, Karen, Michelle, Emma, to be joined later by
Mark and Jenny
July 2015 – a RAFFLE by Martin Ball for a great cause his GB Age Group 140.6 European Event
in September
1st Prize a bespoke winter training plan with the man himself
Always one to help others 2 tickets purchased thinking it`ll be fine I`ve never won a raffle in
my life!!!!!!
I barely knew Martin and practically nothing about Triathlon really a nice swim, followed by a few
miles on a bike and then a little run, how hard could it be – WRONG!!!!! Club members coming up
and patting me on the back saying Rest In Peace didn’t help, I mean how bad could HE be.......???
After an initial meeting with Martin a tad reluctantly I bared my soul, well current exercise regime,
age, weight, eating habits, lifestyle, time available etc he went away and devised A PLAN.
Not only did the sight of this plan scare me to death, in an excited perverse way I was now sort of
looking forward to it although I hadn’t banked on having to learn to use an interactive spreadsheet
AND a sports watch the latter of which I still haven’t mastered!!!!
I was going from a couple of runs, a swim and a social bike ride a week to this in WEEK 1 :-
Mon:  Yoga then swim
Tues:  Run
Wed:  Turbo then swim (turbo???? Please explain this concept, now fondly known as Torture)
Thurs: Run then swim
Fri:  Brick Set (brick set what the hell is a brick set am I also learning to build)
Sat:  REST DAY – a battle I won!!!!!
Sun  Swim and club bike ride
Other acronyms/terms I had to learn CSS, Heart Rate Zones, Active Recovery, Extensive Endurance, Intensive Endurance, Threshold Training, VO2 Max Intervals, Anaerobic Repetitions.
I still have no  idea what VO2 is.................negative splits, positive splits
Ok so let the training begin and begin it did with lots of encouragement from Martin, club members
and friends, actually it was great I loved it especially
colouring  in the spreadsheet [green for a fully completed session, amber for a part session and red for no session] week 1 was nearly all green with the exception of 2 amber I was pretty pleased with myself and I think Martin was pleased to see no  RED lol.
It’s a simple but brilliant monitoring tool for both coach and coached it let Martin pick out where my
weaknesses were and where I needed to improve and areas to concentrate on, unfortunately it also
showed (in later weeks) a few REDS and my MANY hairdressers appointments, I still don’t think
Martin understands that I have to spend nearly 3 hours sat in a chair covered in dye every 3 weeks all  in the name of vanity.
WE also did CSS (critical swim speed), run and turbo tests frequently to note improvement and oh
boy do you get a real buzz when you actually see the times written down and showing an
improvement, it is always in the back of your mind that he will spring a timed session on you at any
time, that kept me on my toes.
So we progressed quite amicably (most of the time) week after week with me showing improvement
and Martin giving advice and tips, when I whined for the sake of whining I was told “Welcome to the
Grind” if I lost motivation he came up with ideas to turn it round including “always have a friendly
club rival in mind that you would like to beat” “frustration is good it drives you to improve”, BASE
(borrow and share everything)
If I was poorly or had niggles he understood and instilled that getting better quickly by resting
properly is the best way forward, he introduced me to the “Bow Wave”............ and to be honest I've
not really wanted to kill him at all
I even think he has got used to my “Death Stare”
It didn’t take me long to get used to his sometimes quirky ways and sometimes quite frankly
odd thought process this being a fine example I found in one of our many email
“I was thinking the other day, once driverless cars are on the streets I can rip all the seats out
and put a turbo in the thing instead. We will all be able to turbo our way down the
motorways etc. That will be a much more efficient use of time! Except we will be all sweaty
on arrival at a meeting, but I'm sure they could build a small portable shower into a car to
solve that”
On that note I will summarise that I can quite honestly say that this experience (that I didn’t
really want) has been amazing and as you can see I have learnt much and made a new
“useful” friend lol I am looking forward to embracing the season and seeing improved times.
If anyone out there is thinking about doing this or something similar my advice:-
Just Do It
She will never convince me that the Hairdressers is an essential part of the training cycle, or that walking counts as exercise, but we're not finished yet, and I will be on the sideline's cheering Gail on in all her races this year, and making sure she doesn't let the side down, but for now publicly I just want to say thank you for putting up with me, supporting me and embracing the love of Triathlon. Keep up the good work!.
(Oh, and don't forget we still need to have a chat about the Ironman you are thinking of doing next year)