What doesn’t kill you, makes you faster!
As is always the case, when a new year begins, we’ve been bombarded with the usual motivational posts from fellow athletes, friends and families who are trying their best to convince the world how motivated they are for 2019, and starting their “journeys” to achieve their goals.
Now perhaps I may be a cynic or getting slightly older and grumpier but I reckon, for most of us, if we are honest, we read them…smile and nod for maybe few seconds and then mutter something like “oh do one…you’ll be back on the cake and wine, and whinging before January is out”.
So with that in mind, I thought rather than write another post about how to train smarter, how to get more aero or how to spend so much money on this sport your always borderline bankrupt, I’d write a light hearted look at what’s its like to be close mates and training partner (I used both terms in the loosest sense) to one of the UK’s best and now Professional triathletes, Chris Standidge (Stando) – a summary of how I therefore spend my entire existence in the triathlon world being pretty tired, miserable and thinking of creative ways I can kill him whilst making it look like a freak training accident!
My first encounter with Stando having absolutely no regard for my welfare started in France in 2014. Despite having known each other for a few years, this was the first time we would race together on foreign soil. The venue was France 70.3 in Pays D’Aix, and Chris managed a solid 4th in AG finishing in 4hrs 20 and qualification to the World Champs. My race was very different, with me struggling around the run in the midday heat and stumbling across the finish line in or around 5hrs 30.
As I staggered through the finishing area and grabbed a cup of Coke, I sat down against a barrier to take some well earned time off my feet and reflect on the days events. But in less than 30s, the sun was eclipsed by this 6ft fella with pipe cleaners for arms and legs and a voice from above shouting…”Hammo….we are going….I want to go…come on…get up as you need to get your bike and kit from Transition”.
And there it was….no “well done mate”, “how are you feeling” or even “you ok, you look a little peaky”!! Just a spoken demand with no opportunity for response. In less than 10mins after finishing a half ironman, I was riding from side to side down a road in southern France towards our apartment, with sweat still stinging my eyes, legs so stiff it looked like I had wooden legs and all whilst badly trying to balancing my transition bikes on my handlebars. All so Stando sit on his bed in his pants and socks, eat his MacDonald’s and get some sleep before the awards ceremony. I think it was this day when he decided to spend his time, getting enjoyment out of making my life a living hell.
In the 5yrs since, nothing has improved if I’m honest….in fact some would say its probably got worse. The torture is now spread out evenly across my year, with each day getting a little dose of the Stando treatment. So here it is, the ramblings of someone doing his best to not drown, crash, or die whilst watching someone else just get faster and further away.
I’ve stood poolside many times, rubbing sleep from my eyes and wondering as its so early if actually I would have been better to have moved my bed to the poolside. As I procrastinate getting my goggles and hat on, I am normally fully awoken by the sound of the long legs of his lordship beginning his tumble turn from half a length away, then hitting the wall and splashing me (and anyone within about 10m) with freezing cold chlorinated water. What a start to a day!!
As normal, he’s swum about 500m in the time it took me to get into the water. If I’m lucky, I may get a quick 50m warm up in before he stands at the end of the lane, shouts numbers and distances at me like Rain Man, gives me times that basically will give me no rest between intervals and then says I have to do all with my legs tied together with a piece of rubber. Brilliant! Not to mention the fact, that he makes me swim anti-clockwise in a lane that clearly states clockwise swimming, and I have to move out of his way every time he catches me up which in essence means I spend most of time turning my head around, swallowing water and being swam over. And I kid you not, if you don’t move….you are getting swam over, punched or kicked! All good practice for mass race starts thought hey?
Well, where do I start…..so many to mention, lets just look at the highlights…
I’ve had days on the bike with him where I’ve genuinely had a little cry behind my Oakleys!
I’ve been dropped and left to ride alone in pretty much every country in Europe.
(Even worse now, he can drop me “Virtually” when we ride online with Zwift….so there is no protection even on the turbo….my poor legs ☹)
I’ve done intervals with him that were so hard, I’ve puked down myself, over my handlebars and on many a grass verge…the highlight being when drivers stop to see if I’m ok!
I’ve been so tired after a ride; I once fell off going up a small car park ramp at the end of the ride cause my legs literally couldn’t pedal any further.
I’ve swallowed several tonnes of mud, grass, cow muck, sand, diesel and most other substances not fit for human ingestion as he refuses to ride with mudguards in the rain, as he doesn’t need them of course.
I’ve drank more cold cups of coffee and dry food which were bought for me at the same time he arrived at the coffee shop 20mins before me, than I care to remember and before I’ve had a chance to even finish them he’s made me leave.
And finally, and my favourite…I’ve sat on his wheel and stared at the three little bumps at the top of his arse so much that I’ve given them names (Frodo, Lionel and Freddie) and convinced they are now constantly laughing at me as I try desperately to cling to his wheel!
Luckily, this is one area where I do get some respite from the onslaught of his abuse…. as due to our differing run speeds, its not often we run together! However when we do, oh boy does he make them count!
I now never ever believe him when he says “Easy Run Hammo?” . It’s a lie and just an excuse to make me drive the 8miles to his house, to set off onto a route I don’t know and stare at my Garmin as the min miles start to drop to start with numbers I didn’t even know existed, before yet again, being left to fend for myself in the Cheshire Wilderness as he canters off into the distance.
He will never wait for you if you go for a wee or use the woodland toilets…he will simple carry on assuming you will catch up despite not a)knowing the route, and b) needing to run so fast that by the time you catch up you are totally goosed and he then spits you out anyway!
Also, never believe the distance stated. Many a time I’ve been on a “easy few miles” that have turned into 10+ mile slogs into the wind and rain that made me want to chew my own toes off they were so cold and wet!
Or we save the best for last…..
His pre race routine demands we get up so early, that breakfast could still be classed as an evening snack. We have to get to transition so early before a race even the race organisers think they are late, and I then have to work out how to make pumping my tyres up and putting 2 bottles on my bike take 2hrs.
During the race, depending on the course, if I’m really lucky we get to pass each other on the bike and/or run. This means he either gets to completely ignore me (this normally means I’m not trying hard enough) or he laps me, and I get to know just how bloody far I’ve got left in the race as he then turns for the finish and I have to continue to follow the “2nd /3rd /4th lap” arrows.
Then despite finishing hours ahead he’s never once cheered me over the line or said Well Done. I’ll just get a nod as he does his post race mingling with the fast boys and then possibly a suggestion as to how I could have done better if I’d have not missed that one session 3months ago!
Finally, my favourite bit…..getting to go to the all the awards ceremonies to watch him get all his awards and world champ slots! I now know what it feels like when you see the face of the actors and actresses at the Oscars who didn’t get anything…. Combination of anger, frustration and pure hatred for the winner…makes me sick!
To end is an apology….if you’ve ever wondered how all the pictures of those ceremonies are slightly blurry or out of focus…well its me…. because I’m trying to take them one handed, whilst I balance all his the other trophies in one arm, whilst trying to Tweet, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook the shit out of it to keep everyone else happy at home! God give me strength….
So that’s its pretty much…the lowlights of the being in the company of greatness and struggling to know whether to laugh or cry on a daily basis.
However despite wanting to finish with another witty one liner about how I’ve genuinely thought about poisoning his pasta, or how seeing him fall down a rabbit hole recently on a run and nearly loosing his leg was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, I can’t!
Because whilst I like it or not, by demanding the very best of himself and those around him, it makes us better than we were yesterday and hungry to be faster again tomorrow!
I’ve often used the saying “Faster by Force” and this is no truer than for our training group. Because him dragging my arse out to train, when I really would rather sit at home and put pins in my scrotum, its those sessions that have made me go from back of pack AG, to a podium contender. Its inspired me to want to be better, and a belief that nothing in this sport comes for free. Talent can only get you so far, but hard work and determination are the keys to success!
So here is my Coach Hammer advice to leave you with….find your own Stando…someone who will push you everyday, never let up and always give you something to chase! You may hate them, but you will one day thank them!
Have a great 2019, and see you soon….. unless I’m in court for Murder…and if so, can you give me an alibi ☺