So, England are out of the World Cup, Peter Sagan has won a stage of the Tour de France and almost everyone I know is doing Ironman Wales this year! No extraordinary statements in that little lot – I mean, England got further than we all thought they would, nobody really expected Cav to beat Sagan these days and Wales is only the hardest Ironman event in the world (maybe!). What else could you need to know?
Well, what you need to know, based entirely on my own experience over the last week, is that training with others is really great. Of course, we all know that anyway don’t we? Who doesn’t swim with other people? Who doesn’t like a nice, long, sociable ride with a great coffee and cake stop? Running…..Mute point I suppose. I’m not sure that I would ever like to go ‘long-run’ training with anyone else as it’s such a personal thing (speed, distance, stopping for a wee, chatting crap to make the miles go quicker vs the silence and solitude of the long run). Park-Run and track sessions are different and really good with others.
In my quest to be the best that I can and, more importantly to me, enjoy the day as much as possible, I have driven to Tenby twice now to train on the hills of Pembrokeshire and swim in the water off Tenby North Beach. Last time I went with Steve (someone had to take the obligatory ‘getting in the sea’ photo’s) and RP (name withheld to protect the innocent!!). RP had never swum in the sea and in reality had never found that swimming came particularly naturally to him. After a run round the course and a dip in the sea (which RP enjoyed), we all sat down to watch the England match and eat our body-weight in pizza – Fuel for the long ride in the morning.
After the match, RP asked me about my swimming and why it was that I can do it! I don’t see myself as a swimmer. 2 lengths of Ken Martin on a Monday morning next to Jimmy, Morgan and Matt would put any thoughts like that to bed, but I do “get it”! I understand the mechanics of swimming and my brain can compute the technical aspects of what is required to do it to the best of my ability. Probably because Steve taught me to swim right from the start, I trust what he tells me to do and I’m never afraid to go at the back of the lane to try really hard to get the drills absolutely right before trying to swim (my version of) quickly. I very rarely just “turn-up” for swimming, I always want to learn a new thing, get a bit more efficient, stretch a bit more, breath a bit better, catch a little earlier……… you get the idea.
But cycling! I mean, why would any of that apply? Your legs go round, your heart-rate goes up, your smile gets bigger – whats not to like? Sure, you can get fitter, and therefore faster. Or less knackered for the run afterwards, but what else. Not much in my view. Until Wales last week. The 3 of us rode the course, stopped for coffee and a cake and it was sunny. Perfect. In fact, I had just started riding with a new power meter and oval q rings so I was loving the ride. It really couldn’t have been better. After the ride we all went for fish and chips – it just gets better, right!
During the food, RP delivered the killer blow. “I enjoyed the ride and it’s good to see the course, but I won’t ride it like that on the day”!!! What! What did you actually just say? I really enjoyed that ride – how could you do it any differently? It really bothered me and I needed to get my head round the statement. We talked about Normalised Power (NP) vs Average Power. I know that the closer those 2 numbers are, the more efficient your ride, but really, these people who can get the difference down to only a few percent are magicians aren’t they? The Cav’s and Sagans. Not me. I have never got those 2 numbers to within 25% of each other. It’s just how it is!
Having returned from Wales, still thinking about this, Steve put a video up of RP in the swimming pool on Monday. It was some of the smoothest, most focused swimming I’ve seen from an adult in the pool on a Monday morning. He really hadn’t just turned up to that session, he had gone to get better and wow, what a difference. There’s a swimmer who will soon be hurtling up the lanes and down the 400m pb times. Fantastic, and great to see.
Yesterday, I went out on my bike. RP’s not getting all the benefit of group training, I can tell you! I rode a course that I have ridden 40 times or more. I know every inch of it and every incline and descent. 680m of assent in 54km. NP never within 25% of my Average. Just how it is. But yesterday I rode it like RP might have. I tried really hard not to ride a single watt over 180, on either the ups or downs. It was hot – I don’t perform well in the heat – so what would happen? Well, my Average power yesterday was 179 watts. My Normalised power was 185. 6 Watts! Thats it. 6 Watts! I felt epic. like I could have ridden that all day. and, it was one of the fastest times I’ve ever been round the course. Unbelievable! Old Dog – New trick. I told Steve – He’s making me do it twice, back-to-back next week. Thanks mate. And thanks RP – you might just have proved my group-training theory and helped me get even more out of my day in Wales in September! Cheers.