Back to the drawing board…
Professional sport is ruthless and unforgiving. I worked hard, put in the effort and did everything I could to prepare for Ironman South Africa on 2 April. But on the day the race simply crushed me. I could write it off as just a bad day - I had stomach cramps on the run and without those a podium might even have been possible. …But I did have stomach cramps. And even so, I don’t want to be racing for podiums. I want to be racing for wins. And the honest truth is that on race day I wasn’t at a level to win that race, even without any issues.
I came away from the race very frustrated and disappointed with my performance. It led to a lot of analysis and introspection. Sometimes you have to let yourself off the hook and forgive your failures. And sometimes you have to take them personally so that they spurn the change that is required to be your best. As is so often the case with life, it wasn’t what I wanted, but it may very well have been what I needed.
So after much deliberation and discussion, mostly with Jodie - she doesn’t sugar-coat much! - a decision was reached. And a change was going to be made. That change has immediately been put in place and already the first steps along the new path have begun…
Back to future
I had my best results under Brett Sutton. He coached me from my first season as a Pro in 2009 to my first Ironman victory, to a Challenge Roth sub-8hour win and to 4th at Ironman World Champs in 2013. We went our separate ways after that 2013 season for a variety of (pretty good) reasons. But much water has flowed under the bridge since then and after Ironman South Africa this year we decided to work together again, starting immediately. Neither of us believe that 4th at Kona in 2013 was the best our partnership could produce and so it’s time to apply ourselves to the unfinished business we have with the sport of Ironman.
After most of April spent assessing where the problems are and what needs to be remedied, the training has now begun in earnest. I am adjusting to the new (old) training regime - it will be much the same as we used to do, ‘back to the future' as Brett says - but after over 3 years away from the ‘school of Brett’ it’s going to take some time to adjust! On the positive side, the changes are minor (but important) and it should not take long to see the results. A few tweaks here and there should see some major improvements if Brett knows what he is talking about. And he has proved many times that he does.
The race schedule will be somewhat fluid for a while as its hard to predict how quickly I’ll adjust to the changes and be ready to attack the big ones. I will be doing some events as test events and training before we decide which Ironman to pursue in the summer - the previous race schedule is mostly no longer relevant, but under Brett I will no doubt be racing more rather than less this year. And the main goal is of course still the same - Ironman World Champs in Kona in October.
7 May - Sun City Ultra-Tri, Sun City, South Africa
28 May - Challenge Salou, Spain
11 June - Ironman 70.3 Switzerland, (Rapperswil)
July - Ironman TBD (Austria, Frankfurt, UK?)
Meanwhile at home everything is good. Jodie is still busy despite the pregnancy and although she has had some rough days, everything is going well and it is an exciting time. Between sessions I have managed to sort out the nursery already, in an effort to not feel totally irrelevant while she incubates the baby!
Jodie will do some traveling this summer, mostly to the UK to visit family and sort out her visa while I go race, but we will spend more time at home this (South African) winter, which we are looking forward to after many years without a winter between us. (Not that it really counts as winter in South Africa when the sun shines most days and the temperature is often 20ºC…)
All the best, and thanks for the continued support!
James and Jodie