Ironman Training: Bula Bula & Evading Grizzlies
Sitting in economy on the last leg back to Thailand, I mull over the past two weeks spent in a truly natural paradise somewhere under the sun. Fiji had for a long time been top of my bucket list for places to visit before I die. Luckily enough & like a shot out of the blue, I was given an opportunity by a former triathlon student, that I could not refuse.
Sean Casey is a thrill seeking extreme endurance athlete training for Ironman Triathlon, who works in crisis & emergency response for the World Health Organisation (WHO). His career has led him to some of the most dangerous & poverty stricken countries in the world where he is a key piece in the solving of crises & health disasters. Although my job was to drive, motivate & coach him for his next extreme race, he no doubt inspired me by letting me see a glimpse of his world and how it collides with triathlon during my time in Fiji.
Fiji is an archipelago of more than 330 islands — of which 110 are permanently inhabited. A total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres. A country whose entire being is driven & united by their love & support for the Fiji Rugby 7s team. A team which is arguably the most winning-est team in the sport that has stolen the hearts of rugby fans worldwide. Not only are their physical abilities unquestionable and utterly unique, but their spirit is one which is a kind that I have never encountered in my life. I thought Thailand was the land of the smiles but Fiji is something else.
Everyday we were bombarded with smiles and "Bulas", in the streets and in the hills as Sean and I took training to a new level. One could say that if you understand their rugby, you understand Fijians. They have a universal love for God that I have never experienced & a compassion for others that stopped me in my tracks & made me rethink my own existence & my own connections to others and place in society.
From the never ending roadside encouragement & support through the words "bula bula", words i will never forget & will continue to use, to the warm open armed hospitality of several locals who offered us breakfast as we passed through their turf up in the highest hills, Fiji has left something in my heart and I hope I have left a party of mine in Fiji. I will return one day.
So Sean is in training for his next epic race - the Alaskaman extreme triathlon. This is an extreme terrain triathlon race. To put in even more plainly, this is like an Ironman race where carrying bear spray is compulsory. I'll let that sink in just for a moment. You're probably thinking who on Earth would wish for such a thing? Well, Sean would, and after hearing his list of races following Alaskaman, he has intrigued me & I could be joining him on one of his epic adventures in the near future.
The fortnight we had planned focused on boosting up Sean's endurance & intensity for his final 2-month drive to Alaskaman. I can safely say that we completed our mission with some bonus technique &. Power level ups. Sean is looking great for the race.
Total duration training for the two weeks was 35 hours which is awesome considering Sean works a solid 9-5 daily. We doubled up on the quality training with a disciplined approach to nutrition and a mindful effort to allow sufficient sleep, rest and recovery.
As seen in Sean's Training Peaks fitness report, he received a major boost - fitness up 18 points for the two weeks. We really pushed hard and as you can see by the fatigue and form levels, we were really at the limit.
Sean is now fitter & a more complete athlete than he was last year and is well on course to meet his fitness target of 125 come Alaskaman race day... IF he keeps his training honest & continues to complete his daily missions.
Looking back at the two weeks training, the most important thing for Sean, was to listen carefully to his body. We always made adjustments to workouts based on his daily ramp rates & bodily signals.
Understanding Sean's need to make the most of our time, so reminding Sean to check himself and not allowing my judgement as a coach to be clouded by the curse of knowledge was key. As a coach I'm always boots on the ground, leading my Students onward, carrot and stick.
Weekdays were two-a-days with long hilly ironman level ride & runs back to back. We executed the workouts surgically thanks to a combination of Sean's attention to detail and true grit as well as a little bit of sadistic and addictive behaviour on both of our parts. Not only did Sean's fitness level take a huge hike but so did mine. I'm now ready to take on the second half of 2018 fearlessly.