First Race of the Season – and a Return to Sprints!

5 05 2011

“How can an event be called a sprint if it takes an hour?”
A very valid question.

How My Day Started
At 0400 my alarm went off, and I hit snooze.Snooze! (Image from Preparedness Pro)

At 0405 my alarm went off, and I hit snooze.
Do you see a pattern yet?
I did, eventually, get out of bed at 0415 and realise that I was now running behind schedule.

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Pain is just weakness leaving the body…

15 03 2011

I’d heard this many times, read it in various places and thought “oh, that’s a bit silly” having never really tried the “no pain, no gain” mentality. But I’ve been thinking about it again, and confused myself, which bodes well for the below! 

Having just had a bit of a search around on line I can’t find an original author, but most things seem to point to the US Marines for saying it first. 

I was thinking about it during a particularly unpleasant set of 800m run repeats when training last week. The fifth of five repeats was “all out”, and it definitely smarted! 3 minutes and 3 seconds later it was done, and left me bent double at the side of the road resisting the urge to vomit; my main concern being that vomit would come out of my nose and that would sting even more. 

But it got me thinking as I jogged (limped) home, and then again when I sat in a bath full of cold water for 15 minutes (fun times!) “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. 

It didn’t even make much sense; strength and exercise gains are made during the recovery period after exercise, during training it’s actually making the participant weaker. This is the concept of Supercompensation, as described rather neatly by Wikipedia here. 

Soon I was sat on the sofa eating, and I concluded; I don’t like pain, it’s the opposite of sitting on the sofa in PJ’s and a dressing gown, which I like a lot. Instead I started to consider “weakness leaving the body”. I don’t mean weakness as the ability to pick up heavy things, I have the upper body of a T-Rex! No, I was thinking about my weaknesses in my chosen persuits.


Take my performance at UK IronMan 70.3 2010; in my mind probably my best triathlon performance to date. I finished 228th of 1,081 finishers, and 33rd in my Age Group. My splits were as follows
    Swim:   0:36:53 Rank:  441
    T1:     0:04:43 Rank:  163
    Bike:   3:15:06 Rank:  251
    T2:     0:02:34 Rank:  605
    Run:    1:48:50 Rank:  234
    Total:  5:48:04 

What does this mean? Well, that was a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike and 13 mile run. I really messed up in T2 (bike to run transition) so we can discount that from this ramble. My bike and run were up to 207 places better than my swim. If I had swum the same time as the person who came out of the water 243rd (hello Matthew Dogson, sorry to see you DNF’ed) I’d have had to swim 0:33:47. 

Now I was surprised! When I’d been just pondering this, while sitting in cold water, I’d thought the difference would be huge. I’m a weak swimmer; I must be losing lots of places… 28! 

3 minutes and change would have got me under the 5:45 barrier, which had been my goal for this race, and placed me 200th; but it’s not earth shattering 

Swimming definitely is a weakness, it’s the sport that’s newest to me of the three, and if there’s a session that’s likely to be missed, it’s swimming. I’ve maintained for a long time that it’s not a sport; it’s just a way not to drown. Simply I think of swimming as a bit of a pain. But there are other things that are a pain too, but they also improve my performance; those 800m repeats really hurt, but they’re getting faster. The 16 mile Long Run I did on Sunday was uncomfortable to say the least, but as my muscular endurance builds up that will seem like less of an issue, and combined with the 800’s will become faster AND easier. The key long bike sessions leave me with a sore neck and *ahem* ache from the saddle, but those too will pass as I remember how to hold the position for an extended time. 

I guess what I’m saying is that maybe I was wrong, and the Marines were right; maybe pain is weakness leaving the body? As the pain decreases the weakness decreases… but I don’t see the 0550 alarm for a pre-work swim not being painful any time soon! 

Often the sessions I want to do least, the sessions that are a pain, are the ones that will make them better, will make for a better performance come race day. 

Really dealing with physical pain? “Getting in the hurtbox” and just pushing through it I believe it’s an element of practice and an element of wanting to win. Check out this YouTube clip of Bevan Docherty coming into the end of an ITU race (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run). That’s really pushing hard, and winning! His coach was quoted as saying “More talented athletes can’t focus and hurt themselves as much as Bevan Docherty can.” 

Between the sessions I don’t relish doing, and the times that I learn about suffering more effectively, the next few months might just sting a bit… but it will make sitting on the sofa all the more enjoyable, knowing it’s been “earned”.


I need to maintain focus on these sessions and hopefully they’ll pay off; supposedly we become what we do!