Monday, 23 November 2009

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop

There are many phrases, all harking to the same sound; keep at it, one step at a time, day in day out, you can...

But it all comes down to the same principle...

Work hard, very hard in fact.

Do the very best you can each day and don't let things get to you. If you stick at it for long enough, through the crap and the rubbish and all the associated aches and will pay off.

It might be in a year or it might be in ten, no one can tell you when. But what you can know for sure is it will pay off, down the line, probably when you least expect it.

...And it will all be worth it, a million times over.

Quite a simple principle really, just keep your head down and don't give up.

How putting it into words can make it sound so easy!

Now of course I am relating this to sport but it goes for everything across the board, it's just I'm learning these lessons through my sport, I am very grateful for that. It takes a medium to learn lessons through and sport is a great are to learn about life. I feel as if I am only a few miles into the marathon, but my legs are feeling good and the sun is out. If I keep it up it might end up being a good run.

As they step at a time.

OK that is my weekly cliche fix over with, it's healthy for me to get it out.

I'm at the end of a few tough months well and truly into the winter. The sun set today before 4 and it's definitely chilly outside, I've ventured out on more than one training session in the past few weeks in my terrifying winter balaclava...

Definitely gives the members of the public a good scare when I storm past.

Anyway I was meant to be writing about my weekend.

I received an email a few months ago from a local runner, Robbie Simpson, of Banchory (10 miles away). Rob's 18 and is already a very well established mountain runner. Of a similar mentality to my own, there's no way to beat the big guys unless you get out there and race them. So he's been out racing the big boys over the past year and hasn't done too badly at all. Top 20 at Junior World Champs in the summer plus a hoard of other top 5 and top 10 results in Senior events all over during the past 12 months.

He also bagged himself a spot on the Saab Salomon Outdoor Team, pretty jealous as Salomon have some wicked cool shoes, you can check out the team page here

Annnyway, as most of you know my running is still in its development the crazy part of my brain thought it would be fun to head out with him on a training run, 1.5 hours, off road, up hills. Luckily he is a cool dude so I quickly forgot about the sore legs and we had a blast, bashing around the hills and sliding all over the trails. Damn those mountain runners can storm downhill.

Afterwards we headed out on the MTBs for a recovery spin, I even had another ninja mtb skills moment (for a quick refresher on my previous mtb exploits see reference link here ) where I managed to skid, drop the bike and launch myself off all in the same millisecond...landing miraculously on my feet a few yards down the path. Good times.

Anyway, the next day Rob entered and won a local trail race...while I was still nursing the sore ankle and quad from the day before. Damn Crazy Runners

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Great Scots

It's been a while since I last blogged, a week has gone past and another 7 or so tough days under my ever bulging belt!

One day at a time as they say.

Anyways, I am just about to head off to bed for good nights sleep before my last morning swim set of the week and my mind started wondering. I am from and have been brought up in a tiny little country, but size aside it has been one of the greatest in history.

There is a cracking show on channel 3 right now highlighting some of the greatest Scot's in history, over the past few weeks I've been watching intently and taking a few notes along the way. Here's a very summarised list of my favourites:

Sir Alexander Flemming
-Discovered Penicillin and single handedly forged the way of modern medicine. Nobel Prize winner

Joseph Lister
-The father of modern surgery, introduced the idea of sterile surgery

James Clerk Maxwell
- Formulated the electromagnetic theory and fundamentally changed the world of physics

Andrew Carnegie
- Led the US into its Steel Building glory days, in today's money would be the richest man on the planet ($100billion) and was one of the most significant philanthropists in history

John Logie Baird
-Demonstrated the first working television, invented colour television and in 1928 showed the first ever high definition pictures

Robert Burns
-One of the worlds greatest ever poets

Alexander Graham Bell
-Inventor of the telephone

Sir William Wallace
-Kicked the English's butts

Robert the Bruce
-Kick the English's butts


The list goes on and on so I just chose my few favourites, quite an inspiring bunch. I guess what I wanted to say was that even if you are from a little country, high in the north sea with the crappiest weather ever seen and more rain than the rain forest it doesn't take a lot to take one step away from the crowd and do something special. The guys I've mentioned tonight are some of the most influential people in history and all they did was work hard and never give up.

A lot can be said for our small little country and a lot can be said for giving whatever you choose to do a darn good shot.


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Important questions


This is the end of a tough day, in the middle of a tough week, during a tough month etc etc ... you get the picture.

No day is easy but today was pretty rough, a very early morning, hard 2 hours in the pool...ride in the afternoon then a hard run set tonight. Doesn't sound too insane but along with the rest of the week, the racing of last weekend and the new strength & conditioning programme my legs are wrecked, eyes are tired and I still have quite a few more days to go before a day off and a sleep in.

May sound like a grumble but its the exact opposite, you have to do your best to feed of all the tough stuff just as much as you can easily feed off the good days. So after a tough morning I manned up and got on with it. By the time my run set finished tonight (in the pouring rain) I was buzzing :)

Days of highs and lows are not uncommon and if you can get through them there's no big celebration...its just the alarm going off at 5am again for another day. Quite a playboy life!

Annnnyway, I've had quite a few very good and important questions asked of me over this past week and during the last few days I've had a good chance to think them over.

This past weekend a very well respected swimming coach and old friend of mine sat me down and asked me some good questions relating to the past 10 years I've been racing. He's known me since I was 12 so has seen me grow up, it meant a lot to sit back down with him as an adult and chat about growing up as an athlete.

Q: Mike if there was one thing you were allowed to go back to your 14 year old self and share, in the knowledge you have now as a senior athlete, what would it be?

A: Ahh, I mean there would be a thousand things I'd want to say. I'd want to warn myself of the ups and downs, remind myself of the goals and the commitment...but really all of those things are there to be discovered, dealt with along the way and in turn make you a stronger person and athlete at the end of the tunnel. So much of what I know now could have helped in training and racing as a teenager, maybe I would have been more positive, more confident in myself but again what you are now is a direct result of what has happened in the past. You wouldn't want to go messing with things that could have a negative effect in later years.

(Once I had thought about it for a while I came up with a good answer though)

I guess if I had to tell myself one thing it would be this: Give 100% everyday, every training session is just as important as the last, be it a steady or max effort set. In races give 100%, you WILL not die, it may feel like you are about to but trust me (my younger self) you wont.

I know full well I could have been told that every day as a 14 year old and I still would never have done it. Life is too busy, things are happening very quickly and the little big things in sport get pushed to the side. I was given so much awesome advice and constant daily reminders about what I should be doing and most of the time I didn't listen.

Without all those reminders though, without the nagging and being yelled at. Without NOT listening and learning the hard way I would never have made it this far...and I would never be as determined as I currently am now, sitting in my bed, writing past my bedtime...and feeling guilty for it.

The question I was asked allowed me to rethink some of the things I've gone through in the past and what has shaped the path I'm currently on.

The moral of the story?

Think about the past, rethink, analyse. But don't wish it had turned out differently, it's what made you what you are today and trust me, that's not a bad thing at all.


Sunday, 8 November 2009

Mitchel Trophy 2009


I would be lying if I said I wasn't tired, but I would also be lying if I said I didn't have a complete blast this weekend.

I left swimming almost 3 years ago and it was great to be back in the pool once again, something I said I would do. This years Mitchel Trophy had a great turn out with the best of Scottish swimming showing up, great to see old friends, both swimmers and coaches. Times have changed since I was 15 but this weekends event was one of the funnest I've ever been at.

I was racing 200, 400 and 1500 across the 2 days, all of them in direct competition with the younger guys from the City of Aberdeen Swim Team. I've been training with them since the summer and have seen some of the great work they've been doing in the pool, we had been giving each other some serious banter running up to this weekend and it looked like there would be some good races.

The 1500m on Saturday morning was the big one, both Euan Inglis and Stuart Mcintosh (COAST Performance squad swimmers) were in the same race and both were more than happy to show me how the full time swimmers would deal with the triathlete. Euan has put down some pretty serious training recently and backed it up with a 16.20 long course at the end of the summer, I have no trouble saying he kicked my butt yesterday and threw down a very impressive first 400m (4.06) taking him to a 15.47. Swift.

Stuart didn't hang around either and even though I kept him honest through the first 800m he put a good 17 seconds into my over the last 600! Not shabby at all. 16.30.

Both those guys have some good swimming in front of them over the next few years and I hope we can train well together over the winter. I see a lot of my old self in them so it was great to see them both do well this weekend.

Mike's 1500. 16.47 (59, 2.04, 4.17)

The 200 later on yesterday was a lot more competitive. I may not have the high end speed of a swimmer I can still rip out a fast 200 for sure...especially when the heat is on! Euan and Stuart were both in the race before me so I got a chance to check out the competition. Euan smashed home in 1.58.04 and Stuart in 2.00.60. Off I went. Good first 100, decent to 150 but then I turned on the turbo legs and brought it home hard, was really happy with a 1.58.4

400 today was more of the same, except this time I took it out a little hard. I had just watched Stuart bring it home in a 4.10 so I pulled out all the stops to try and beat him. Managed to lead the race over the first 50 and stayed in near enough the lead until the 200 mark. Then Euan put on the turbo's and took off, leaving me pushing hard over the final 8 lengths. 4.11, not bad for an old triathlete :)

In all Euan took me down in all 3 races and Stuart in 2 of the 3. They did a good job but it's not over, they're gonna have to keep training hard if they want to beat me again in the spring!

Time for a good sleep and a recov day tomorrow. Then back to heavy training...for triathlon.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Pre Mitchell Trophy

OK guys, we're two days out from comeback central.

I've officially been out of the water for over 1000 days, missed just over 900 training sessions (compared to that if I had still be swimming full time) but in the time since I've ridden thousands of km's on my bike, raced at World Champs, raced in NY, London, Vancouver, been on the odd run and matured as an athlete too.

I left my goggles and cap at the Scottish Short Course Nationals just under 3 years ago swearing it wouldn't be the last time I raced, even though I have raced a lot since for some reason this weekend feels more significant than maybe it should. The Mitchell Trophy is a classic competition in Scottish Swimming and it was one of my first ever meets over 10 years ago. Unfortunately it was shelved in 2007 ... that is, until now!

It will be the first time the competition has been held further north in Inverness, 3 hours away in one of the fastest short course pools around, the Aquadome. I set a few records there back in the day and in fact the last time I swam a 1500m in the pool there I managed to set a record that I think is still standing. That coupled with the fact that the last time I raced at the Mitchell Trophy in 2005, I won the 1500m which is definitely making this weekend a little more exciting for me than maybe it should be.

For the record I have no chance, there are some great guys racing this weekend, a few who I'm training with at COAST. I hope they have a good weekend as they are training like maniacs...with me usually followed a few meters behind, and will no doubt do well.

I'm also swimming the 200m and 400m freestyle so I have many chances to redeem myself over the two days in case the COAST guys kick my butt.

That said with only 6 weeks of winter training in me at 4 swim sets a week I am no doubt way off the form I once had in the water a few years back. I'm a little bit older, a little bit slower but a lot less afraid of that 1500m than I used to be let's see how it goes.


ps. some historical Mitchell Trophy race results.

2005 (16 yrs old)
1st 1500m free: 16.16.29 (1.00.05, 2.04, 4.13, 8.37)
4th 200m free: 1.56.92 (55.63)
5th 400m free: 4.09.83 (last 100m in a 1.01 =])

2004 (15)
3rd 1500m free: 16.30
3rd 400m free: 4.10
4th 200m free: 2.00.57

2003 (14)
2nd 200m free
2nd 100m fly
2nd 200m fly
2nd 200m back
3rd 100m free
3rd 100m back

Think my results from this weekend will look a little different!