Thursday, October 15, 2009

Defining Success

I was made to think a little about how we define success recently. Usually you'd think the process is pretty simple; set your goal, make sure its measurable, perform and see if you make the grade or not? Of course life isn't that simple. That was brought home when I was searching through the internet trying to find out what was happening on the Ironman World Champs in Kona over the weekend. I was particularly interested to see how Philip Graves, a 20 year old from York and the youngest male competitor was doing. He'd got a lot of publicity in the build up to race as he's a genuine talent on the bike and some were tipping him as an outside contender.

It turned out that he'd had a fantastic swim (4th out the water) and started the bike like a demon, taking the race lead. But around mile 50 the wheels began to come off metaphorically speaking of course. His eventual bike split was a long way behind the leaders and his finishing time for the whole race well over 9 hours, much slower than many had predicted. From afar it all looked a bit of a disaster and some web pages hinted that he'd been taught a lesson etc....

It was interesting to hear a little post race interview on imtalk with him that put a very different slant on Graves performance. He seemed genuinely up beat, as he said he got to feel what it was like to lead the world champs, he also picked up a prize by Timex for the fastest initial bike split and as he said perhaps in 4 or 5 years time he might be able to get the bike record. Graves of course could have paced better and perhaps come in 30th instead of 50-0dd and been anonymous during the race, instead he got out in front of the world's best and learned an awful lot for future Konas.

On a personal level I've got my first half marathon coming up in just over a week and I've no idea what time I'm going to manage and what should equate to success. I went to the track today on a rainy Sheffield day and again didn't know what to expect. I'd just returned from a weeks holiday in Cyprus staying at a fine hotel with amazing buffets of food every night. I'd managed quite a bit of running and swimming in the sea but my legs felt as heavy as my belly. It was a nice lift therefore to find that I'd made good running progress; repeating a session I did a month ago of 1600m reps and managing each "mile" at an average of 12 seconds faster than last time. Secretly this is what I'd wanted to do, but didn't really want to admit it to myself in case I was setting too high goals. Ive an equally ambitious time in mind for the half marathon and hoping I'm hoping I can surprise myself again. We'll see in just over a week.


Jack said...

Good luck in the half marathon Ian. I wish you success!

Defining success in climbing is equally as impossible of course, and when you said "congratulations, you finally got up a route", I smiled to myself and thought of all the fantastic days that came before the 'successful one'. And also of all the days that friends have put in to their recent redpointing. Those that climb at their best are those who never feel like they've had an unsuccessful day. Climbing somewhere like Parisella's or even at our board has taught me that the most successful days are often those without a 'tick'. I think Neil Dyer is the ultimate example of this and his recent no frills ascent of an 8c is proof of the pudding.

Concentrating on the "future perfect tense" whilst training for sport is the most self defeating yet subtle barrier to success.

In sport as in life...

Ian Parnell said...

Wise words Jack.

Interestingly as I wrote this post I thought of what Stevie might say. Perhaps that if you don't make the grade, it's all just excuses and that without concrete goals I'm just trying to put spin on my failures.

Hopefully everyone finds their own way of "finally getting up their route". One thing is for sure though I should blog less and climb more!

Anonymous said...

Alright baw sack here's a challenge for you - how many straight arm to chin touch axe pull ups in an hour? I was intrigued for myself after reading (again) about Haston's training programme. First go - and first tooling sess of the autumn - I got 267. totally amazed how hard it is - 2000 in a day seems a long way off! An interesting experiment though and nice to shock the system...

cheers, Guy

Ian Parnell said...

Just as well you're in training Mr Anon, as you'll be struggling this season to keep up ;-)

I'll give your challenge a go next week, I'll be amazed if I make it to a hundred. What Ive been doing instead is pyramids i.e. starting at 1, the 2 then 3 etc, I think they work well as on the downside of the pyramid you are pretty close to failure on every set, i.e. by the time you get back down to 5, the 4 then 3, the last one each of those sets is doing the business. Do 10 sets of 10 say and the first 5 or so sets are just spent getting you fatigued.

The other thing is I'm holding my axe shafts really high i.e. not using the handles or grips, so I'm also working my grip - I usually find my grip goes before my ability to do a lock off - hence the ammount of axes Ive dropped.

As for Stevies huge pull-up count it obviously works for him but it seems like he's exceptional. Take Patxi Usobiaga multiple world champ, 8c+ onsight etc a recent blog entry of his detailing a particularly tough training week was entitled 164 routes and 1200 pullups in a week. Thats 1200 in a week, not a day, let alone an hour!

I think the key thing with training particularly for a stamina "sport" like winter climbing is consistency of training. 200 axe pull ups 3 times a week would be better than an occasional 600 pull-up session and then the week off to recover. Anyway youve seen me climb and you'll know the physical side ain't my strong point.