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Review Evaluate Accept Learn

Updated 26/6/2016

Historically I have enjoyed completing a broad range of endurance challenges. Highlights include two Ultraman races, running across the Alps in the Gore-Tex Trans Alpine Run, cycling across the USA in the Race Across America and multiple ironman finishes. ‎Within these events I sought to be competitive. Striving to improve my own performances whilst nurturing a friendly rivalry among my peers. 

More recently as other commitments have impacted on my training time I have had to accept a slowing in pace and a move toward the blunt end of the field.  Initially I struggled mentally to deal with this reality, but with time, I have ultimately accepted it and have been able to fully enjoy my participation and completion of events. These have included a number of ultra runs on the Canary islands and the Mozart 100 (Salzburg). 

Despite the trials and tribulations of this adjustment last year I decided to forget the trauma and make 2016 my 'comeback' year. ‎The intention was to train diligently for a mixed selection of challenging events and to morph into something resembling a true athlete. I wanted to be able to tackle these head on with the aim of being able to compete, rather than 'merely' complete. 
In reaching this decision I chose to ignore a series of realities, including significant competing demands on my time.  As a result my plan to progress from the physical reality of this fresh start to achieve my goals was probably always based on a degree of optimism. It relied on other areas of my life running smoothly including a naive faith in the reliability & smooth running of the British train system. There was little room for manoeuvre. 

The first few months of my 'comeback plan' went relatively well. I was able to complete the majority of sessions set, & I made real progress both in terms of fitness and strength.I also began to loose some weight.  Things were going to plan. 

However trouble lay ahead. A bump, or in this case, a pot hole, in my road to personal redemption.  Whilst out on a fixed gear training ride on a cold Sunday morning in March my front wheel was swallowed by said pot hole. I was unable to un- weight the wheel and I was off. The result some minor damage to the bike and some cracked ribs for me. This meant I couldn't run for many weeks and cycling was severely impaired.

I chose to deal with this set back by eating. The result my fitness ebbed away my weight built. Not a good mix.

The weeks passed and my first target event, the Pirinexus360 grew ever closer. I couldn't even use the time productively to complete the build of the bike I was preparing for the event due to delays in securing some parts and then a faulty hydraulic reservoir on one of the STI units. I finally completed the bike build the weekend before the Pirinexus360. I travelled to the event with my new steed having enjoyed just two short test rides on her. All my other rides had been single speed or fixed. I did however think I'd laid enough miles to secure a finish if the ride went well. It didn't...

The opening kms were beset by mechanicals to one of my friends bike and the weather turned increasingly cold and wet.  Ultimately I sercummed to these elements and was forced to climb off my bike with mild hypothermia. My new bike had however proved comfy, ideally specced. The only issues I had were the bottle cage bolts rattling loose and the handlebar nuts requiring some adjustment. Sadly that was the last I saw of my bike. It never made it back to Girona or the UK.

So with a few short weeks before my next cycling challenge, TransPyr backroads, I was without a bike (suitable for event). ‎I was assured this situation would be resolved in time and put faith that this would be the case, but before TransPyr there was a small question of an 85mile ultra run in Skye. My prospects for this didn't look good as I hadn't run since breaking my ribs. Initially this was simply because it was too uncomfortable and then it was a result of prioritising the bike build and training for Pirinexus. 

Successfully completing an 85mile ultra run on demanding terrain with so little running was clearly ‎never going to happen but the trip had been planned with a good friend so I decided to give it a go. Inevitably I didn't finish. I completed just over a marathon.  Another set back and disappointment but the location was stunning. 

Target event 3, TransPyr backroads now loomed large on the horizon. Still no  geared bike to train on and the time I had available to train was further reduced by a decline in my father's health. I was however confident that the work I had put in for Pirinexus would be enough to enable me to complete this challenge and was assured the bike situation would be resolved in good time. It wasn't.

In the week of the event I received some very unwelcome news concerning the resolution of the position with my 'lost' bike. This led to the intervention of a dear friend, Oriol, who assumed responsibility to source a bike for me for the ride. It was not until the day before I set off to Spain that details of the bike to be loaned to me were confirmed. The specification was far from ideal and I had to confirm the viability of the bike for the ride without full details of the stages (distance, profile etc). In the absence of this information the bike appeared to offer a short term solution.  The reality was somewhat different. The range of gears available was too limited for me to be able to spin my way up the climbs. Indeed, for me, the bike didn't even have enough gears to enable me to grind my way up many of the the climbs. By comparison to both my lost bike and every other participant's bike in the event the loan bike was short of gears. 

The inevitable consequence was painfully slow progress up the climbs, overloaded knees and all too often the forced abandonment of pedalling to clip clop up stretches of climb in my cycle shoes. This was not how I'd envisaged or wanted to experience crossing Spain via the Pyrennes.

It would have been easy to‎ allow my frustrations to manifest into anger but the people responsible for the situation weren't actually there, and the people who were there had tried to find a solution with very little notice. Despite this rationalisation it did hurt both emotionally and physically to be unable to enjoy the climbs in the manner I would have liked and had imagined. I wanted hard work and toil. I didn't want regular dismounts and extended periods of pushing/ walking.

Despite occasional lapses where I did allow the situation to overwhelm me I tried to focus on the positives, the company, the scenery, the camaraderie. Also as the stages were completed I genuinely believed the crossing would be completed despite these additional barriers. Then the Pyrennean weather gods decided to step in. On stage 6 I got so cold coming down a mountain in torrential rain I was forced to spend the 'best' part of an hour in the back of an ambulance warming up. I did manage to get back on the bike and grind out a finish (possibly unwisely) but finished the day mentally and physically wiped out.

I needed the weather on day 7 to be kinder. It wasn't, well it wasn't for the opening 3 hours and despite having my best cycling kit with me and on me I was soon cold to the core at the foot of a long and unforgiving descent. The following 12km climb did generate some warmth but in fairness the damage was done. At the feed station I was told of the difficulty of the following descent. I was reminded of the cut off at the next aid station. Reminded that this was for safety reasons and was not negotiable. Told it was unsafe to continue. Told I would not make it. This advice was probably. Normally I would have the resolve and fight to kick back against this though and pedal on. Alas, on this occasion, at this time, the case against proceeding seemed overwhelming, convincing. Correct. I ceded to the advice and stepped off and out of the event, just 120k shy of completing the crossing to the Atlantic. 

The following hours were pretty miserable as I reflected on what I might have done, could have done, should have done. These questions may never receive a full and satisfactory answer. 

Almost immediately after returning from my TransPyr misadventure I was off to Chamonix to take part in the Mont Blanc Marathon. This was always going to be interesting so close to TransPyr even if I had been in great shape. I wasn't. Optimistically I hoped that my week of cycling (& walking) in the Pyrenees would help. Either way I was intent to enjoy all that is the French Alps, the air, trails, views. 

In the week leading into the marathon I was tired. I enjoyed some lovely hikes on mountain trails & was reminded of why I love the area so much. I was not however filled with hope for an easy marathon.

Marathon day arrived & despite some grim weather forecasts the weather was lovely. My legs felt empty though & I soon realised the day would be about managing my way to a finish & not about setting the trails alight with my pace or guile on the descents. I knew (Or thought I knew) what I needed to do to achieve a finish & armed with my garmin & a route profile in the form of a temporary tattoo set out to achieve.

I was not quick. In truth I was slow. I wasn't even able to make good progress on the descents, an area I am usually fairly strong. Everything felt laboured & on the descents I chose safety over speed. I was however confident I was making sufficient progress to grind out a finish. It was therefore with a huge amount of shock & disbelief that I was pulled out at 30k when my garmin, watch & every other bit of info available to me indicated I was 8 minutes within the cut off. My number was cut off. I was unceremoniously out. At the time of writing I can't get my head around this. I genuinely thought I was managing what I had on the day effectively in order to achieve my goal of a finish.  The manner of this particular DNF will not sit well with me for a long time. If at all. 

That said when toeing the start line at events I should not be looking to just do enough to evade cut offs. For all of my opening goals for 2016 that was however the position I found myself in. I can cite some reasons, I could seek to hide behind a series of excuses but bottom line is that I failed to prepare adequately for these challenges. As a result I had no wriggle room when things began to unravel.

I am however intent to draw out positives from all of the above experiences. To accept the setbacks and disappointments and to learn from them. This can only be a personal process but perhaps through sharing my own set of experiences some of you may be able to identify positives from your own knocks & setbacks. These are always a real possibility when you choose to pursue goals and dreams which take you out of your comfort zone.

Below is a summary of my reflection on the last few months (I reserve the right to amend this as thoughts clear, or I think of other things).

Review:

When I set my goals for this year they probably on the outer edge of realism. Ambitious but achievable.

I was realistic about my start point and what I needed to do to get from that position to successful completions.

I laid out a sensible progressive plan to help me achieve.


Evaluate:

As time passed I did review training and progress achieved against that set. When these began to diverge I did review and adjust my training. This is necessary, appropriate and correct. Ignoring the consequences or implications of setbacks is neither helpful or productive. 

However I probably did reach a point where the  divergence between the training required to achieve my goals and that  logged became so great that a deferment of events became appropriate. I chose not to ignore this marker, the almost inevitable consequence of this is was a series of unwelcome DNFs. 


Accept:

Whilst I did make adjustments to my training in response to events and make contingencies to provide protection from variables outside of my control these were probably too weak and inconsistent. It would be remiss to simply blame the weather on two of my disappointments. better research should have altered me to this possibility and ensured I possessed suitable kit to protect myself from these conditions. 

Learn:

Every success and every set back presents an opportunity to learn. 

Despite some really deep disappointments and hurt associated with failing to reach the finish line in my first four events of this year I have benefited from some ‎wonderful shared experiences. I've seen some wonderful places, enjoyed good company, good food, laughs and sometimes even good weather. I have also been served a hard reminder that there is no substitute for consistent, progressive & focussed training. It is also important to research, research and research all aspects of target events to allow for the formulation of effective plans and contingencies. 

'Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.' Auguste Rodin







1 Comment(s)

Might sound strange to hear someone say that they really enjoyed reading that. But I did!
Recently I've been drawing on ups & downs to focus myself on my goals. And I've read some really good posts and blogs which reinforce this. The theory rests around 'I don't feel good. Is there anything wrong with me? Keep going'.
I have a realistic nervousness about my goal in September but I have pushed myself through bad patches keeping this in my head.
Sorry your year hasn't been ideal. R.E.A.L. Onwards.

Anna / 24-Jul-2016 03:52 AM

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