Whilst in the pool this morning – swimming my normal 6km- I had an idea. I will write a week of how my life was as a young, ‘talented’ athlete, which got me to where I am now. This is not in any way a complaint against my childhood, my career or my life story. It is a factual account of a typical week in my summer at the age of 14. It is not an exceptional week – I will get round to the 120,000 m swim weeks in time. I have an unloaded question for you…..is this talent? Do you understand what it took then and takes now to be a pro? If you would give your life now to be a pro, why didn’t you give your Friday night disco then?
Harsh ? Maybe, but I grew up to be harsh…..this is why
4.47am Wake up
5.30am-7.15am 7km swim
7.30am Catch bus to school but get off 2 miles earlyevery day in case I get to walk past Daniel – i like it but run the risk of being late.
12pm Cross country club – 4 mile run at lunchtime (me, my sister and the teacher)
5pm Mum arrives to pick us up from school
6pm-7pm Circuits , ropes, weights, running
7pm -8pm Swimming relays and sprints
5.30am- 7 km swim
11 am PE – chose gym to do some weights
6.30pm Track at Basildon 12 x 400m in 72– warm up 3 miles /drills/warm down
9pm – Home
5.30 – 7.30 Swim 7km
12pm X Country 4 miles
6.30-8pm Swim 5km
5.30am – 5km Swim
School Leave Early
Travel straight up to Leeds for Senior Nationals 1996 (takes 3 hours+)
Mum drives home as she has work the next day. Sort myself out from here
Swim 4km in race pool
Nationals ASA Swimming Championships 1996
Warm up 3km
Sleep 3 hours
1st Senior Nationals 400IM 4.57 LC
Drive to Sheffield with Dad (An hour away)
English Schools Track Champs- under 17
3000m – 1st 9.43
Travel back to Leeds sleep in hotel
National ASA Swim Champs
2nd 200 IM
3rd 200 fly
Travel back home
5.30 am – Swim 7km
Notes :-need to get ready for European Juniors and International Schools 3000m Champs Mike pleased with 400 IM title not with 200 IM as not a PB. Must work harder. Feel tired this AM. Announced in assembly – heels so clicky walking up very embarrassing. Exams this week, coursework due Friday.
So there it is. I had a lot of fun, a lot of experiences, lots of travel, lots of work at a young age. I would not change my past for the earth but it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea- people that were just as capable as me gave it up pretty quickly. I’m just trying to say that the time I invested from the age of 11 is why I am who I am now. I get tired- so let me moan a little. I think I have investment enough energy and time to justify it.
I think addiction plays a part in my ‘non-holidaying’, I love training and I love routine. I was bought up busy and stressed and it is alien to me to be anything but. I also think that training, for me, is an ingrained habit, usually a very constructive one but one that has the ability to destruct an injured body.
To break our normal routine and frustrating days of being invalids James and I headed to Zululand, Jame’s motherland to try and make a date with a leopard, chase a rhino and have breakfast with a hyena. The leopard stood us up- but we did the other two.
It was incredible relaxation. We slept a lot- what I can only attribute to years of accumulated tiredness. We were silent a lot (well more than usual ). We read a lot. We had fun without sport.
When I did finally convince Ranger James (this is James’s alter ego as soon as he ventures into non- urban terrain) to take a walk with me- we got in trouble. Admittedly, we were a little far from camp but, being with Ranger James, I felt very safe . The real Ranger James, (the one with the course certificate), didn’t agree. He came in his safari truck came to tell us off for for being naughty. Like schoolkids we were escorted back giggling and shamed. I told James we should have walked barefoot like the monkeys and they would have had more difficulty tracking us.
The best thing about the bush was the silence, only broken by the birds and the howls of the hyena and baboons. The silence and the darkness- the kind of darkness where you can’t even sense the hand in front of you face. Also the bushfires – Outdoor TV at its best. The worst bit was waking up to rustling and sniffing outside our unlocked door at 4am. I was convinced it was a murderer or worse a hungry baboon that could open doors.
‘What the F@*&(flippin hell) is that ?’ I whispered to James
Ranger James was not phased and accordingly made friends with the huge hyena that was devouring our floor mat.
He called me to come and look but I was peeing. James later pointed out ‘Who goes to the toilet when there’s a flipping hungry hyena outside your door?’ ……..me J When nature calls hey?
We are back in Franschhoek now. I can honestly say I feel refreshed and excited about the training coming up. It is as if the reset button has been pushed. Without breaks training can stagnate and merge into a mass. This wind down has enabled me the time to conduct an annual review and learn the lessons of the year, the mistakes and the better decisions. I’m not really glad we had to rest but I am glad we have. I’d bet on us for 2012.
There was a reason for this. Three weeks later I’m in South Africa, resting and recovering from a nasty season of injury frustration.
One of the difficult dynamics of having an injury is the mind games that incur. The best part of my day is run training, the best part of my race is running, these two factors combined with the fact that racing is my livelihood, my income and my sanity – it becomes pretty important in the big scheme of things.
When you are injured you can train at triathlon- when you have a race dynamic like me -you can even still race triathlon. That is what we were concentrating on……swimming and biking away and hanging on to finish the run. No doubt, once my foot was strong enough, I could have won a few races, got a few pay cheques and made my day a little better.
That is the difference though. It wouldn’t have made my week, or my year. Anyone who saw my reaction at South Africa 70.3, in January, can confirm that I wasn’t happy on the finish line. I was in pain. A year later I realise that I wasn’t happy because that pain hurt more than my boost from winning. For someone as competitive as me – someone who races warm ups and warm downs – who relies on race results as measurements of self worth- there is a major problem here.
The months of questioning have taken their toll. Many questions and scenarios play on my mind. I have even considered that I only want to race on my own terms- that I don’t want to win tough or fight through pain. Then I stop….are you f**ing kidding me? I have run on stress fractures, got up after crashes. I raced in the Olympics in 2004 with a bruised rib and a hole in my Achilles, I’ve trained through a broken rib, foot and mind. Racing through adversity is something I could almost specialise in- what I should have realised- is that there is a difference between perserverance and stubbornness.
What I have learnt about injury (and injury categorisation is an impossible concept) is- that when thought, diagnosis and time pressure is taken away- then intuition is usually right. My legs understand what is tightness and what is damage. Damage needs recovery, tightness needs strength.
So foot has officially ‘taken over’ ,and while it recuperates, my mind and body is getting ready for next year. I have been through much worse and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Thanks J x]]>
Jenson and James
Stephen and Freddie
hihihihihihihi love it…..keep them coming
If you want to learn about triathlon then this blog is definately for you. Our team is the best in the world and now when you see my teammates you will recognise them as mega triathlon stars and not the megastars they so identically look like. Thus, instead of asking them for an autograph -you can approach them and ask them questions about triathlon……they will be honest, forthright and lovely….unlike many educational forums about triathlon.
Also please post any other ones you can think of on the www.teamtbb.com forums
The beautiful Bek Keat!
Caroline Steffen fortunately she is a peace keeper
Our Georg (He is the tall one )
Jewel – could be confused as a prettier version of….
Me (apparently-although this lookalike dates back to my days at school- which is an awful long time ago. The botox and surgery we have both had may have sent our faces in contrasting directions).
So there we have it…..celebrities have nothing on the equally able faces of our team. Yes, they have bigger bank balances but do they get to train 6 hours a day? Who wants the life of a star anyway? Now, I will speak to you soon ,I must go and find my agents number……..
After living with James for so long- a love for his taste in music has silently crept upon me. I find myself mumbling Springsteen, Clapton, (even Air Supply ), far too often and thus last night I did the dirty deed. I stole his music files.
I was so much looking forward to my new playlist and it was the honey in the bitterness of waving goodbye to my boy in Aigle. I get to run home accompanied by the old rock classics.
So I set off up the mountain (yes-don’t ask ). Press play…….Fine, OK…….Hang on is it on repeat? ….shit, it’s the only bloody song on there. The ipod has been restored to owning a title of one song.
http://youtu.be/TbfYAYNFOos When Love takes Over………..x 16
It actually could have been worse….it could have been Air Supply, surely I would have been crying by round 5.
As I ran on, I made up new lyrics for my coach. ‘When foot takes over, oh yeh, you know u can’t deny’……-you can replace foot with knee or toe or head or bum etc depending on your injury.
He has been saying it all along. I’m such a lucky athlete. I have lots of great tools, I live in the mountains, I have all I need, the kindest, most genuine friends, an amazing boyfriend, a great family and yet I let a sore foot cause mayhem wherever it is planted. Swimming pool, cleat, treadmill, and pavement have all suffered the plague of my foot injury. I’m really sorry. Foot took over.
Anyway end of chapter, lesson learnt. Everyone knows it’s coming right because the smile and the attack are back. And everything is rosy again. Next time I promise I will do my best to make sure that an injury will never determine my mood. In the end it’s an injury and it will come right. Work and talent will shine as always and titles shall be reclaimed.
If you are injured-remember that, it’s so easy to forget. And don’t steal music
Thus, James and I found ourselves smashed and tired but on an adventure- driving my little Ford Focus to Geneva…. en route to Newark…..en route to Denver…. en route to Vail, Colorado.
We were to attend our sponsor Cervelo’s annual ‘Brain Bike’ conference as the representatives of Team TBB. I was chosen for being the most gorgeous, attentive and bike brained of the squad….James -because he’s allowed to share my room and Brandon because he says he once was an engineer….hmmm-who believes that?! ;)
Just one note about the travel……Continental was appalling. Airlines no longer sit people on the same ticket together because theyare so flipping overbooked. Not even parents and kids…the world has gone crazy.
Arriving in Vail was magical, the drive up from Denver- breath-taking, in more ways than one. The hotel was bliss, open fireplace, an outdoor lap pool all surrounded by mountains (real ones not like these ickle Swiss ones ) . There was a stunning rapid river- visible from the hot tub with overflowing sides –like you see in brochures…..bliss. It was bliss even though we were training, working, jetlagged and at 2600m.
The Brain Bike conference was a well-oiled machine of riding, entertainment, presentation and networking. All distributors of Cervelo in the US and Canada were invited along with Garmin Cervelo riders, mechanics, management and of course – us.
We woke early (very early due to jetlag and my obsession with Serena William’s ass at Wimbledon), primarily though to ride with the staff and guests. Just an easy, jet lagged spin with a few Garmin Cervelo pro riders, at 2600m on a brand new if a little oversized S5…..piece of piss…
Yes, the S5. The focus of the conference was the launch of this incredible machine and as such distributors and we-the athletes, got to sample its delight for two days in Vail before anyone- bar the Garmin team. Even, they received their bikes just two weeks before the ‘Tour De France’ to maintain its anonymity… (Not sure I’d be too happy with that to be honest!!) Still, Thor seems to be ok with it.
It was cool, I’m not going to pretend I’m a slave to statistics, but they are all there. The S5 has been proven in wind tunnels to be stiffer, more aerodynamic and lighter than the S3 which in turn out classes any other road bike. Cervelo continues to lead the way in product design and development, the 2012 product line is very exciting and this can only mean good things for TBB. They can come up with the products and we will continue to work our arses off in training. Between meetings we continued to train hard in Vail -despite the travel and altitude. I’ll admit it to you guys (not to Bryan or James), that swimming that high is nasty.
Thank you to Cervelo for such a smooth, well organised and informative event. It was a privilege to meet and be part of such a professional, friendly and productive team.
Just a note about the journey back…..Lufthansa sucks…utterly and truly….no televisions, tiny seats, packed plane, big fat man next to me, same ‘don’t sit people together policy’…..1990 TOTP on the four TV screens for 150 people and possibly the most expensive tickets I have seen for a transatlantic flight. Just calling them out – they deserve it for 24 hours of painful, uncomfortable travel.
Now I’m back in Leysin, happy, training hard and getting ready to race. The season has been delayed because of a foot injury but it’s far from over and I’ll be beginning to race in the very near future beginning with a little spin up an Alpe called Huez
Seriously though, James is a golden person and I love him to death, he is also a very wise person and whilst these answers will be enlightening, the questions are constructed to make his life difficult
Hi James, you look handsome today.
Thanks. But you’re just saying that…
Haha! Never. But sometimes I feel like a house of cards, one blow from caving in…
What?! That’s absurd!
To establish the mode of this interview I need to ask one question. Your answer will decide if I’m gonna kick some interview arse or give you a cuddle and stroke your ego so…….
Firstly, if I have only 5mins on you halfway through the bike, neither my swim nor my first 90km were phenomenal! (just sayin’). And I doubt I would even see you, racing hard as I always do. But assuming the hypothetical situation: I would probably throw you a CO2, but only if I could get it out with minimal time loss to myself. If I didn’t throw you one, I would be distracted the rest of the race worrying about how I would reason my failure to help you out, and it may cost me the race anyway. And of course, it would be fantastically cool if we both won Kona on the same day…
And no, I certainly wouldn’t help your competitors… unless they were a team-mate… Too many factors to consider in that scenario… (At this point I would have handed James option 2 but he decided to answer the most awkward questions anyway. Superstar.)
Option One…….I’ll give you five of the worst questions a pro triathlete has to answer…
Awesome question! So glad you asked. Grrr… Can’t give away the secrets, of course. I train many hours, like a full-time job, which it is. But rest is part of training too, so vegging in front of TV is also on my program regularly. Tough job. Someone’s gotta do it…
Yes, of course. Which year remains more uncertain. And the major competitors will change over the years. Doesn’t matter who shows up – when I am ready and put together a perfect day, it won’t make a difference! Haha. Drugs are a worry, and just the thought of them is enough to cause me despair. However, the testing is improving (although it still could be drastically improved, particularly the number of athletes in Out of Comp testing pools) and I like to think triathlon is, for the most part anyway, fairly clean.
No. Go soak it in hot water 3 times per day. And don’t stretch it!
That has been changing every year, and it is a lot more now than it was 3 years ago… Of course that says more about what I wasn’t earning as a wannabe pro 3 years ago than what I am earning now! Still, the vast majority of what I earn goes back into travelling around to races anyway. If you want to make money, triathlon isn’t where it’s at! Play golf. Or tennis.
Ah, a loaded question. Nice. Having discussed this recently I am somewhat torn. On one hand, the women do the same distance, and put in the same effort to win a race, so should get the same winner’s cheque. On the other hand, in any race (take IMSA recently for example, 34 men vs 14 ladies) there are less than half the women competing. So while first place (Chrissie in this case) certainly earned their equal prize, 8th place certainly did not. But at the same time, deeper prize purses are, I believe, the answer to growth in the Pro ranks – the more Pro’s squeezing out a living at the base of the pyramid, the higher the pyramid will reach. So I would hesitate to cut the women’s 8th place prize (meagre as it is already!). My answer – prize money the same at the top, and pays to a depth relative to the depth of the field. Twice as many men as women, twice as many men get paid.
Option Two…..I’ll give you the brilliant questions posed by TeamTBB followers on the forum as I am supposed to As you know I have a problem being told what to do
Questions About Training
There was only one breakthrough, and you just said ‘apart from that’ so not sure how to answer… Joining the team, meeting Doc and beginning to train full-time. They all were the breakthrough and all are linked.
I love training in PE, but honestly haven’t spent much time training elsewhere. Franschhoek looks like it would be great too. Outside of SA, I love Leysin. I could (and might) live there! Although I am not sure my SA blood could handle a Swiss winter…
The 80km loop from Leysin, over two passes. I could ride that every day and not get tired of it, I think.
Haha. Depends on the session. Scott has been a dependable side-kick for 2 years now, so couldn’t just ditch him cos some newbie who thinks they’re hot stuff rolls into camp… …. (Um-THINKS they are hot stuff????!! ….;))
Haha. No telling anecdote or anything attached to that. But yes, when I went to first camp in Phillippines in late 2008, I was not the same person I am now. I was a more immature person, but more importantly a far less mature athlete! Much growing up has been done in 2 years. Ironman requires a mature, level head for success.
I do count calories. I will regularly compare two products to see which has more calories… and then take the one with more! Training keeps my weight in check, and it doesn’t fluctuate, even if I take time off and eat like a pig. But I do tend to eat pretty healthily, simply because I crave healthy options often… but KFC and McD’s fit in a healthy balanced diet too, contrary to popular belief.
Yeah, belongs in Q1… You may not believe it, but I have absolutely no idea. I don’t even know what my bike HR is (I use HR on the run sessions occasionally only)! Never used a power meter. Would be interesting to test though I guess… Maybe SRM is reading this and they’ll send me a power-meter… hint hint…
There are many products I would pay retail for if I didn’t get them for free – I use products I need and trust, not because they are free. I often buy nutrition products at expos before races.
Not fussy. I’ll sell my soul to the highest bidder. But be warned, the reserve price isn’t cheap…
Questions About Racing
Ironman SA. Home town. Hundreds of familiar faces, and my parents on the finish line. And one of the best atmospheres of any race I have been to.
Definitely. Until recently, racing was a case of doing the best I could over the distance and seeing where I end up – there were no other gears to change, or surges to throw! Now, tactics plays a more and more important role. There were definitely advantages to being ‘under the radar’.
I doubt I would be able to discuss it actually. But if I did, there is no friggin’ way! I might tell him I’ll take third so he relaxes, then fly past him in the final meters for 2nd (although, the way I am beginning to feel about 2nd, I might just give it to him for nothing!!! …No, not really). I am not in it for the money, and my Avias are faster than their K-Swiss anyway… we all know that!
I have had plenty of nutrition issues in the past. And it is still not perfect. Every race I try something new and tweak the plan a little here and there. It is an evolution. And it is very unique. I did what everyone loves to do when I started – found other people’s plans and copied them. None worked. So I figured out my own. Everyone’s body works differently under pressure. Some need more fluid, some less, some more carb, some more protein, some solid, some liquid only. The best thing is to race with options, and then eat and drink what you feel like. Soon you will know what you always feel like, and that becomes your plan.
My motivation comes from many places. Necessarily. No one motivational point is gonna get you through the tough times. I generally go back to the hard training sessions – the ones that hurt but felt good (if that makes sense). Ironically, in training when it’s hard, I go to the race course in my head!
Questions about your personal life…I have nothing to do with these..Your public wanna know
Is the AG’er also gorgeous, intelligent and sexy–? …(No, James they are not). Would be good to have a groupie or two… I didn’t see this question posted on the forum… Who’s writing these Q’s?!… (Ur homeboy wrote this one! But as someone with a few groupies myself, James- I’d say it’s overrated .)
Noisy bikes (after the answer to the last question-I will continue to fail to fix my rattle). Bad drivers. Stupidity. I don’t know what ‘geeks you out’ means? I’m pretty neat, and even when I am not I know where everything is – A place for everything and everything in its place.
Yeah – me too….;)
I don’t know… I am baffled by that question. Maybe I’ll know when I am old… like 28…
“What’s the worst interview question you have ever been asked?”
There we go meet Mr Cunnama (Coon-ar-mar)-sorry, but that’s for a few loaded answers golden boy I learnt a lot, I hope you enjoyed the interview and thank you for James for managing to stay awake and answer these straight after an Ironman. You’re a better champ than I could ever be
It was whilst staying with James that I began to learn the smidgiest bit about African politics and the issues that Africa faces in trying to become a developed nation. I don’t profess to know much, but I now understand, that beneath BBC News 24 and free speech there is also a priority spectrum where our own media emphasises preferred issues and skirts around events that seem far removed from our old colonies and economic ties. As I travel, I have decided to become less blinkered by my preference of the fluffy, and inane news I like to read in ‘OK’ and ‘Heat’ and educate myself about the hard facts about the world that are easier to ignore.
When I was younger I remember my mum telling me about a book ‘The Monkey House’ by John Fullerton. She said I should read it when I am a little older. I have just read it. I wish I had read it then. I wish I could have understood how desperation, chaos and panic can influence a people into bloodshed, murder and atrocities. It is a shocking story, occurring in our lifetimes. I was too busy crying over being 0.1 secs outside my PB at a swim meet to follow the war back then.
The reason I talk about the Bosnian Genocide now – as disturbing as it is- is because still I find myself obsessing over poor weather, or a sore foot, or a closed pool when the people around me in Krabi have just had the bottom floor of their homes flooded out. There is so much in my life to be grateful for and so much to learn from these Thai people who smile whilst their homes are ravished. It’s about perspective and we lose it sometimes.
So I pledge to get a little more aware, and a little less selfish. We should know about the Rwandan genocide, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, The Ivory Coast War, the uprisings in the Middle East – not only to understand and sympathise- but to allow us to grow as people. I’m not going to live blinkered to the world -where once I thought my life was tough trying to win an Ironman- I kind of see I got an easy ride here.
In 1995, I was 14. I won ASA National Age Group Best Girl, National Schools’ Cross Country Champs, All England Cross Country Champs and National Schools Track Champs……meanwhile in Bosnia…..
A 15-year-old girl said she and other women were raped by 19 Bosnian Serb soldiers. She escaped through a window and ran more than four miles through the woods to Bosnian government lines. Her brother’s nose and ears were cut off when he refused to rape their mother, the girl told aid workers. (from article)
I feel somewhat ashamed.
Other facts about the Bosnian Genocide :
The cold, hard facts – despite the troubles of today, a bad race, a bad session, an injury at least hopefully we can sleep safe tonight. This blog is dedicated to ‘George’, a Serbian tennis player I met at a in Latvia at the World Schools’ Cross Country Champs in 1998. He was just a guy playing tennis, like I was running – same dreams, slightly different circumstances. No wonder he liked being on tour.
I loved the smell of photos, I loved the layout of the album and I loved the wait to collect the films and see if any of the 24 pictures I had taken rendered useful at all. Remember those times when the film got exposed and it cost £4 to process 24 black films hihi
Nowadays digital cameras allow for a multitude of sins….if its shite-delete it, if you don’t like it delete it, if it evokes bad memories -delete it. The digital camera is to photography is what email is to letters. There’s no romance anymore.
I loved calligraphy as a kid too. I am a total geek, I know. Now I only hold a pen to sign a cheque. I’d ask for a Parker fountain pen on every Christmas list I ever wrote. These were the days when losing a pen was a big trauma. The days when you had to carry ink cartridges that splattered all over your bag. Days that have been lost with the shitty Biro.
The reason I sparked off reminiscing as I just gave Brett a playlist CD as he is driving all the way to Phuket – this time without ‘Team Hop Along’ (Nicola and I). It reminded me of the days when boys used to give you mix tapes when they fancied you. A love letter in music J I guess we can make playlists and CD’s now but there’s no room for those sweet moments when the tape runs out mid song or there is slightly too long a pause between songs where the boy lost concentration. There’s no room for perfecting that emergency stop -just before the DJ begins to chatter on the Top 40 rundown.
We should remember these lost art forms because it was art. Memories, love and effort –pure emotions that just can’t exist in the same form anymore. And we should be careful to replace them with a matching amount of time, thought and effort.
In an effort to live a happier life I make these promises to myself;
I feel happier already