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TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper
TriHardAlan - Tales of an Age Grouper

More questions then answers

TriHardAlanby TriHardAlanDec 6th 2012
I said in my last blog I would review 2012 but I will maybe do that at the end of the year. Instead I would like to look ahead to this weekend when I take part in the Twickenham 10k. Is this a significant event worthy of a pre-race report? No. It is my first standalone 10k since 2009 so I¬'m interested to see what I can do in current form but then again I¬'m not actually sure what that current form is. But its not knowing my current physical form that got me thinking instead about my mental approach, which as per my last blog is a pet subject of mine.

In a previous sporting life I used to play competitive table tennis and we often used to talk about having ¬"focus¬" which was the balance between being relaxed in your body to perform the strokes correctly but aggressive enough in your approach to make sure you got the first attacking shot in. Can the term ¬"focus¬" be used for running/triathlon? Well, you need to be aggressive in your target setting and aiming for a pb, to really want it, to dig deep when it starts to hurt, don¬'t you?

On some days I have found the opposite. I have turned up at races, confident I was not at my best, concentrated on nothing more then trying to run with good form and relaxing my breathing in the hope of racing well as a good training day and building to a future event. But instead did get a pb. Did my low expectations make me more physically relaxed and allowed my body to perform more efficiently? I have subsequently tried to do that on purpose. ie racing when in good shape, expecting a pb, but instead trying to lie to myself to say I didn¬'t and recreate that relaxed state. Needless to say that has never worked. And on the other hand I have set aggressive targets when in good shape, and met them.

Two examples of this came at Emberton Park this year. The first event was the Cowman. It had been raining heavily, transition was a mud bath and I wasn¬'t up for racing at all. But my swim was slightly better then the previous year which was enough to set me of and then after a reasonable bike I hit T2 ready to run hard and get a sub 1.30 run. And then I lost my right shoe in the mud, twice. The annoyance of this raised my aggression and blasted out of T2 on the first of 3 laps. By the end of the second I knew a strong last lap would sneak me in under 5 hours. This I managed but the real surprise was the run time, 1.20. It was a little short so maybe a 1.24 in reality. Probably my best run of a bike ever. When I went back 3 weeks later for the Tristar 111 I had very ambitious targets and chased them aggressively from the start. The main one was to break my 10k, of the bike, pb of 38.57, of a bike of 100k. In the end I did 39.24 but the course was 200m long so I was there or there abouts.

So with all those different attitudes and outcomes what is my approach this weekend? Physical form is injury free, training regularly, feeling strong but not overly fast for short course stuff. Around June I was running 18.21 for 5k, I¬'m not in that shape. However, I am going to try and combine the relaxed attitude with the aggressive target setting. I have taken a second of my pb, divided it my ten, and set myself a target pace, 3.45 per km. How will I stay relaxed? I don¬'t expect to get a pb!

As always this is a subject that raises more questions then answers.
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Dec 7th 2012 13:00
Another really good blog Alan! I'm particularly interested in your thoughts on Focus "the balance between being relaxed in your body to perform the strokes correctly but aggressive enough in your approach".

This is something that I've been thinking a lot about recently because (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) sometimes for me focus and 'concentrating' can mean the opposite of relaxed. For me it can actually mean 'tense' and this is is something that I've realised recently and I'm starting to embrace and enjoy.

But how do you strike that balance between effort which is clearly needed and staying relaxed?
TriHardAlanby blog author: TriHardAlan, Dec 7th 2012 23:33
Oh, I have been there a few times. Normally caused by wanting it just too much. And as a consequence tightening up. Normally when I'm in good shape and confident.

On the good days I have found concentrating on my breathing and in the last year or so, a period where I have switched to fore foot striking, form as well has helped. Of course, this doesn't always work :-)

Have you read Ironwar? In it some research on the effect of mental fatigue while exercising was discussed. Maybe more relevant to long distance racing but interesting none the less:
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