The Off-Season: Bringing the Focus Back

qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm. Yep, all the keys still work. Been a couple of weeks since I’ve gotten on the blogging horse and for good reason too! After a year of flogging myself like a dead horse, entering races and squeezing in outdoor trips I gave myself an off-season. Hence, it’s been all quiet here and on the western front as an armistice was agreed to between body and mind. This doesn’t mean I have had nothing to write about, I’ve still been alive and doing stuff, it’s just that like any muppet in a real job, I’ve exercised my annual leave for the year in order to freshen up for another busy schedule. Before I drip feed a couple of ideas about the schedule of events I’ve planned for 2023 I’ll do a quick recap of the last few weeks for educational purposes.

Since the Heysen, my body has felt cooked. I didn’t run for a few days following the event and instead worked for a couple of days on a very wet climbing trip. This was a good start to get the body doing something while I felt like doing nothing. Into that first weekend I eeked out a few runs, went climbing a couple of times and enjoyed myself at the wedding of Friend of the Blog, Chad Freak! The highlight in that first week was the wedding (tick that nice friend box off) but then after that it was actually one of the runs I eeked out at Parkrun. No, the quest to sub 16 wasn’t miraculously broken. Instead, I jogged with my older sister Emma thinking I might pace her along to a new PB if she was feeling good.

I’m pretty sure a new PB wasn’t on her mind though because she dropped her airpods twice and stopped to say hello to a friend… mid-run. Can’t be doing that. I’m not here to hang around with someone who stops mid run. While the easy jogging had been going on though I’d been thinking about how far I could let the front people go before it became a fair race for me to try and catch them. After 7 minutes of jogging/stopping it was time to find out and I bolted away from Emma. It was nice to feel alive for the next 12 minutes as I chased down the frontrunners. It reminded me of why I like running, which is why it was the second highlight of the week, but it also gave me confidence that I can run fast again and my legs do work. I put myself into the red as I made my way up the pack, got a few cheers from a few regulars as they encouraged the chase and eventually snuck past the front runner to take 1st in 19 minutes. I was back. No, I wasn’t back actually. I was still pretty cooked. But again, nice to know that my ability to run and enjoy it hadn’t been crushed by the Heysen experience.

Into the second week of recovery and I was ticking off more regular running and climbing training. My shins weren’t sore but my left knee was still giving me some trouble so I was just jogging along. I was finally back home in Quorn for this week too and got a variety of odd jobs completed plus a day of rock climbing instruction with Port Augusta Secondary School. This all sounds pretty boring and simple and to be honest it fucking was. I enjoy the process of training and working towards something. So even though I was still doing exercise, but because I had no over arching focus to it, other than to recover, I felt a bit average. Listen to any professional sportsperson though and they’ll talk about the highs and lows of their career and ride the wave blah blah blah. So yeah, even though I felt kind of bored and the weather was giving me the shits, I knew I just had to keep my head down and get through a couple of weeks of recovery. Ride the low a bit before the opportunity of the high comes along and I’m back training.

To distract myself from doing nothing I worked on a couple more side-projects. One being my contribution to a new running focused newsletter The Blue Line that is being produced by a favourite podcast of mine. It’s fun to write and talk about running and maybe it will help open up some different opportunities. The other interesting event I had on during the second week/weekend was a quick visit down to Adelaide again to help out with my cousin’s ten year old’s climbing birthday party! A sunny Sunday morning when all the chumps come out to play was the scene and instead of dodging them all on my way down to Redcliff for a day of high quality sport climbing and grunting, I was in the middle of them with a pack of ten year olds! And it was bloody great! Instead of having high school students who were pretty ambivalent about climbing, these kids were absolute frothers and it gave me a reminder of what it’s like to work with people who are absolutely psyched out of their minds. Their climbing skills were pretty good too, they listened to instructions and no-one hurt themselves so it was a success!

Carrying that success with me into the third and final week of my off-season I had to tick off some bureaucratic non-sense of renewing my First Aid and Lifeguard qualifications. I say non-sense because the majority of people who attend these to refresh their qualifications do not gain anything and lose $100 in their entry fee for the day. But, these courses are essential to ensuring I can work at the Quorn and Hawker Pools this summer so I have to shelve these thoughts and carry on with the training. To which I did and successfully passed both. The final act of my Adelaide trip was an interview for a job at the Stock Journal. Yep, you read that right. While I was bored, I put in an application to write for the Stock Journal. I like writing (duh), I like regional SA and it’s a pipe dream of mine to one day being in sports media so I thought why not try and get a start somewhere now in my late 20’s and just see what I find out. So that’s how I found myself being interviewed at the Stock Journal almost asking more questions about journalism than the ones about the actual job. I didn’t get the job in the end but it has definitely opened up a few wormholes for me to think about in the short and long term-future.

And now, it’s the end of the third weekend slash start of the fourth week of my offseason. My running has been consistent for this last week, my knee isn’t giving me much grief (there’s still some weird knobbly bits I can feel but not any real discomfort) and my body feels a bit more like a runner and less like a geriatric. So the off-season is over. I think (I hope). If you include the couple of weeks before the Heysen race and these past three weeks following the race, I haven’t been in a consistent training pattern for five weeks! That’s fucking ages in my mind. And in that five weeks, the weather has gone from being sunny and hot, to cold and stormy and back and forth. A bit like my focus as I alluded to earlier. While it has been nice to get all out of rhythm, eat different foods, socialise etc. I have missed the discipline and focus of a training schedule and the rewarding feeling of self-improvement that comes with it. Is this a good thing? Or should I be better able to subtract my emotions and purpose in life away from my training. I’m not sure and don’t believe only after my first proper off-season I’ve completed that I have enough evidence to make that call. Maybe I felt I lost focus because of the unstable weather. Maybe it is the sporadic work I have. Maybe it’s something else. Next off-season I schedule for myself I will at least be aware of the perils of this one and what to expect. As a final comment, I expected that at the end of this period of three weeks I would be as psyched out of my mind as a ten year old about to go climbing for the first time and be niggle-free. I don’t think that was ever possible as I am now succumbing to feeling less like a kid and more like an old man (unless I ‘trained’ to have the energy of a kid, now that’s a thought for later…)

But yes, todays the big day I get back into thinking more like an outdoor athlete again. Having learned what worked well and what didn’t from last year’s schedule I’m excited to see what I can implement and improve on in this next year. I have plans for the short term but to save myself the acrimony of having to explain changes to the plan (which, from my experience this year, I know will happen) I’ll only mention that for now, the starting block of this season, I’m trying to improve my 5k/10k speed in between several sailing programs I have on Goose Island (where I’ll be enjoying my Island Life, with a bunch of teachers and students too). The quest for sub 16 could be over by year’s end if things go well!

There you have it folks, bit of a ramble, bit of an update of what’s been going on but there’s a few gems and lessons in there I reckon for others or even just myself when I read this back in a years time before I commence off season number two. Thanks for reading and your continued support. And if you didn’t enjoy this article well, stuff you, I didn’t write it for your enjoyment, I said at the start it was for educational purposes…

One response to “The Off-Season: Bringing the Focus Back”

  1. Was it for my educational purposes or yours? 🙂
    That horse isn’t going to wait around for too long so get back on it and rip into 2023!

    Liked by 1 person

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