*** many thanks to Matt Warnock for this blog post ***

Yoda couldn't find a bike

If I may be so bold, I’d like to follow on from Paul Miles’ excellent recent blog on setting targets. In that blog, Paul – wise tri Yoda that he is (“targets, you must set”… “brick session, I have just completed”… “crush you on the bike, I will”… etc) – highlighted the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to goals. After all, pace and power only tell part of the story.

Just as important as setting targets, is being able to evaluate performances, training sessions and your general progression afterwards. And this should be an ongoing process –so many athletes push on blindly with training plans without ever stopping to evaluate the previous week’s training. Were you too tired to do all the sessions? Could you make all the times? Do you feel any strains or niggles?

And there should be longer-term reflection too. One of the drawbacks of being a triathlete in Dubai is, I’ve often lamented, there’s no real off-season. We train for local races through the pleasant winters, then most of us grin and bear the summers as we’re signed up for some of the big European races too. Not only can this relentless schedule lead to burnout, it means we don’t have the typical end of season to look back at the previous eight months or so and ask what we did right and what we got wrong, in order to improve next season.

I’m not sure whether it’s the lull between my last race in July and next one in, well, who knows when… or the fact that I’m freestyling it without a programme for the first time in a long time, but these past few weeks I’ve been reflecting quite a bit.

I’ve followed Paul’s advice – next season’s goals are less time or podium related, and centred more around making triathlon a part of my life rather than defining my life. And I’ve looked back on the past two and a half years to see what I’ve achieved. Have I achieved anything? Have I been a success? What I realised is that it all depends on how you judge success. If it’s in kilos lost, kilometres of training, minutes (or hours in the case of my second Ironman) knocked off, then I’ve definitely exceeded what I expected to achieve. But these are not even close to being what I’m proudest of.

Australia's Olympians

I don’t want to get all London Olympics hippy on you but it’s true that the… hang on, back up a second… I can’t allow a mention of the awesome recent Olympics to go by without saying IN YOUR FACE, AUSTRALIA, WE BEAT YOU LIKE CATHOLIC CHOIR BOYS… LOOOOOOOOSERS! LOOOOOOOOSERS!

OK, sorry, where we’re we? Ahh yeah, it’s true that, as the theme of the Olympics (seriously, Australia, we’re still laughing…) stated, the greatest thing about sport is its power to inspire. This year, at the age of 50-ahem-odd, my mum who has never run in her life took part in her first 5k race. And followed it up a few weeks later with a 10k! One of my best friends in the UK trains hard so that, when I go back, we can go for some great trail runs together. Another of my closest friends has taken up cycling in a big way. And, without being totally self-obsessed (then again, I’m a triathlete… what do you expect?), they’ve all said that they were inspired to set their own targets by what I’ve achieved. It took 30kg of weightloss to get to this point, and that in itself has encouraged quite a lot of my friends and family to follow suit. I even get emails from blog readers telling me that they’re doing their first race after reading my posts… it truly is enough to bring a tear to the eye.

And it’s these stories, not a 2-hr Oly or sub-1.30 half marathon, that I’ll remember and be proudest of when my triathlon days are over. We can become obsessed by triathlon and it’s important to remember that, on the one hand, it’s only sport. But, on the other hand, sport can change lives. And, for those of us with a bit of experience in our lockers, it’s our responsibility, and good fortune, to pass that on to the next bunch of newbies coming to the sport. Triathlon can be a little scary when you’re starting; all veins, shaved legs, carbon bikes, disc wheels and aerohelmets. We need to remind newer athletes that, no matter how criminally small the trisuit or expensive the bike, at the end of the day, it’s still just about going out and swimming, cycling and running with your mates.   

So, if you’ve not already done so, drop the guys at TriDubai an email and sign up for the fantastic mentoring scheme – you too can become Yoda to a new tri Skywalker and help them gear up for their first race. Give it a year or so, and you can look on proudly as they fly past you on the bike too. ‘Much to learn, we all still have’.