My job relies hugely on planning; without it, the young, impressionable humans in my care would just join me on long runs in between games of sleeping lions and snacking on cashew nuts. Then I would be sacked because children need to learn things and some of them are allergic to nuts. Planning outside work is something I seem to have lost my appetite for though.
I used to follow a plan meticulously in the run up to a marathon and panic when I missed a session; more recently, I’ve set out a looser idea of how
to build up the mileage sensibly and used it as a guide around which to enjoy the sessions that most take my fancy. Both approaches have their merits and both their pitfalls. Then, of course, sometimes I do neither.
Plans on race day have become similarly casual. The last marathon I did was mapped out something like this: 1) go for a poo before the start; 2) maintain forwards motion, no matter how difficult it gets; 3) finish.
My hunch is that the lack of training plan and lack of race plan might be linked.
Last year, Laura, someone I look up to for her ability to make things happen, told me about her latest mission: to take on the triathlon world, combating its expense one cheeky e-mail at a time. Her latest success had come in the form of two entries to the Marlow Olympic triathlon and she was kindly offering me one of them. With nothing else in the calendar at that stage, beyond term dates and birthdays, I gratefully accepted and vowed to plan other events around it.
Triathlon isn't something I have any particular aptitude for; I just happen to love the three sports. I am lucky enough to have been through a swimming club as a kid when I could have been causing mayhem instead, and I take unbridled enjoyment from riding my bike down hills at speed; anything beyond that comes down to guesswork, sheer bloody-mindedness and an acceptance that I won't be setting any records on the run. I completed an ironboy last weekend so it would have seemed quite natural to stick to my usual race anti-plan yesterday and trundle around chatting. Instead, for the first time in a long time, and inspired by Laura's determination, I scratched out a race plan on the beermat in my mind: 1) swim like hell; 2) cycle like hell; 3) the run will just have to happen somehow.
How did it pan out? Despite missing the front of the wave while I was having the longest tinkle known to humanity in my wetsuit, I had one of the best swims I've had for months, catching the men's wave in front and leaving the water 5th in a field of about 35 women. Lovely boyfriend loaned me his smokin' hot wheels for the cycle and taking the pressure off the run meant that I had the confidence to push on without worrying about maintaining reserves. And the run just had to happen somehow. It might seem strange to only 'race' part of the event but I beat my overall time from the 2011 event by 22 minutes. Maybe a ⅔ race plan isn't as silly as it sounds.
I do have another triathlon in the calendar this summer for which the plan remains simply to maintain forward motion, no matter how difficult it gets, and finish. I'll probably try to go for a poo before hand too.