It’s been a long old road, one that started almost 14 months ago now but was conceptualised in my mind many months before I took action.
I was looking at myself in the mirror and feeling unsatisfied with what I saw, I was reflecting on the natural abilities I was given - tools to tackle life with, and feeling ungrateful for what I had utilised them for thus far and overall just pretty discontent with a seemingly perfect life online.
I was by no means out of shape compared to the regular person, but I was a long way off the mark from the human that I had always wanted to be.
It was all ideas in my brain and as those closest to me know, this was by no means a new thing - Elliott with a new idea, but I knew within myself that this was different, much like the feeling I had when I first conceptualised the NLB thoughts. But to be quite frank I was a little more scared this time around, I had already started to pave a path in the competitive realms of the lifestyle creative world and this was to be a gigantic detour in the direction that my brand reputation had primarily been based upon. I had doubts, I had fears of humiliation but most of all I had feelings of guilt. It wasn’t just a decision that affected my life, but my two best mates, my brothers, partners in crime in the NLB journey whose life would also take a tumble as a result of my new found vision. I can vividly remember a few down days when I was digesting the kerfuffle it would cause, driving aimlessly to nowhere up and down Caves Road in the beautiful south west of WA, just to wrestle with my thoughts. Was it the right decision? Time would tell, but first I needed to speak to someone to release the pressure that was gathering momentum with every second I pondered deeper down the avenues of indecision in my mind. Someone I could trust, who would understand and see the bigger picture better that my naivety could. There was only one person I could think of, my Dad.
A morning dip in the ocean and a detour past the coffee shop en route for the return trip back to home base had been my fondest routine of returning to my parents house for every Aussie Summer since I left the nest initially at 19. The car trips and moments before and after the plunge in the ocean normally consisted of light hearted banter, joking about nothing in particular, or debating the current climate of sports like footy, soccer and cricket. Other times we wouldn’t chat and instead we would be breathing deeply to the rhythm and routine of Wim Hoff “The Ice Man’ - whose philosophy around dealing with the ice cold we both agreed made us feel a little bit better about this somewhat crazy routine. But most of those days blend into one, all except one day when I decided to share my thoughts about where and what I was thinking with regards to the destination of my future and the journey to get there.
It turned out I couldn’t have picked a better person to confide my restlessness of the idea of unfulfilling my potential with my physical capabilities. My dad, himself an accomplished junior athlete, for a whole host of reasons never went on to capitalise from the promising results and signs he’d shown throughout his days as an up and comer in the national swimming scene. He gave me the perspective I needed, the words I’d hoped to hear from someone other than the ego inside my head and that was all I needed. “life” he said in his deep velvet Aussie voice, which we’d utilised in the VO of one of our NLB films, “will one day pass you by. One day you’ll wake up and wander where the hell time went. You don’t want to wake up on that day and look back on things and think about the what ifs.”
I started to train about then and every session those words echoed in my mind. About a week later I found myself 40 km from home and it popped. My tyre. It went. A normal person may have thought it was a minor hurdle in the session, I saw it as a metaphor from my subconscious to take action. I got home and booked my flight to the Gold Coast, a place I’d never been but had been drawn to for it’s ‘trainability,’ a breeding ground for endurance athletes and a location I wouldn’t have to jeopardise the lifestyle I loved to lead as an active outdoorsman.
Upon arrival I quickly found a coach with a squad and began to settle into the regimented life of an athlete. It was a shake up to the system, but I liked the ingredients it was putting in the blender. All of a sudden I was engaging with people who’d committed their life to ultimate health, the conversations were different and the daily investments into their physical bank account was one I observed and marvelled as I realised the great deal of debt I was in, in comparison. While I had been doing shots of who knows what, at who knows what time of the morning in who knows where these people, in this world had been waking up and taking another small step in the direction of ultimate health and unfathomable physical capabilities. I was hooked and I wanted a piece of the action.
Endurance, as it turns out - isn’t one of those sports you can just turn up and achieve success in. Unlike sports I’d played in the past like like cricket, or soccer, where I’d observed what I considered to be uncommitted team mates, turn up and play up regardless of their preparation; here was a sport where there was no easy way to a good performance. Honest, hasty and incredibly humiliating in the most exasperate form of the word. I was hooked.
Most of the time.
After about eight months with the initial squad I joined, dynamics of the squad started to unfold such that it became a lot more complex than what I’d signed up for. I was here to live and breathe the three disciplines, pretty simple - I didn’t have time or energy for complexity and drama, the creative world had too much of that for me and I wasn’t turning a new page in my story to bring with me the worst idiosyncrasy’s from previous chapters. So I left and decided the best way forward, was by myself.
I was scared at first, worried that I’d lose my way - to my own mental games or to my lack of knowledge in what it takes to put together the pieces of an elite endurance athlete. I was right in thinking so, I quickly ran out of session plans and their purpose within the layers to the micro and macro economics of my training plan. I thought I was gone, for all money - this was it, the end. I’d thrown in the towel on a promising career in the creative world for an eight month boot camp. I was lost and almost defeated. My days started and ended with my morning dip in the sea and coffee, it was and always will be my favourite part of life. For the purpose of those few weeks where all I wanted to do was disappear off the map it was my escape, I could get lost with my thoughts and feel okay, I could make peace with where I was at and not feel like anything was a mistake but instead a mere bend in the road which for some reason I had perceived to be dead straight.
Luckily for me I had really taken the time to surround myself with people that really cared about me the person and not me the brand, which I’d experienced the harsher end of on my decision to pivot into the health and wellness space on social media, and I gotta tell you it made all the difference.
I turned the corner and realised that this was in fact a transition and not the end of a race. I’d finished one leg of the journey, perhaps the most important - the start, and it was time to take the next step and keep moving forward. I’d been listening to a podcast aptly titled “The Real Coaching Podcast” hosted by arguably the world’s best coaches in the triathlon world where they tussled and turned with thoughts and theories of endurance performance, it made me realise there was more than one way to a skin a cat and I began a search for a coach that aligned with what I valued and had learnt what suited me as an athlete.
Throughout that tough few weeks I had still turned up for the odd swim for the joy of being in the water, ran for the feeling of being on your own two feet and ridden into the hinterland to check out the scenery - it wasn’t exactly elite preparation by any stretch of the word but it was proof that I genuinely loved the sport. It was a part of me, who I was and what I stood for. I was lost, almost defeated but I hadn’t given up and that’s what I’ve realised counts most in the pursuit of excellence in any part of life. It sounds silly but the fact is that, anyone who has achieved anything in any aspect of life never gave up. It sounds so simple, but it’s easy to forget when you’re feeling a little down and out.
I had been chatting to my good friend Tommy (who’d come from similar kind of past to myself before finding solace in the endurance world) about where I was at and he encouraged me to keep the dream alive - the world championships, which we’d both used as our goal as the next stepping stone in our respective tri journeys, he reminded me was just around the corner and I’d come so far to get to where I was, quitting would be too easy. I’d been on the hunt for a new coach and after quite a bit of research had decided that I’d like to align my efforts with a coach overseas by the name of Drew Box - if he’d have me that was. I loved his passion for the sport and philosophy around training. After an initial conversation I knew it was the right move.
That was almost five months ago now.
Throughout that time we’ve strung together some of my best blocks of training to date. We’ve battled technical difficulties with gamins and mine muscle break downs but it’s been an epic collaboration. I’m the fittest I’ve ever been and I wouldn’t be here without Drew’s guidance.
The first few months were all about strength for me. Strength based running and cycling mainly, hill reps and big gear work was all new to me and it certainly activated muscles I’d never used before. Where previously I had swam twice a week we built to five swims with engaging swim sets and a purpose for each session, two hard, quality sessions and the others more about recovery, strength and volume. My body’s adapted nicely, it was just on the weekend that I noticed I go to bed feeling tired and fatigued and rise feeling fresh, ready and raring to go again. Of course there have been days, more commonly moments where I was searching everywhere for motivation or a reason to get started but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that silence and perhaps more particularly silencing the mind is an extremely powerful skill and place to find yourself - so I’ve tried to find that place in the weaker moments and that genuinely comes best when I just start.
Now only a month out it feels like everything is starting to take shape. The base endurance and strength work from the early days of the program have really held me in good stead with regards to finishing off efforts, sessions, days and weeks and more importantly perhaps with the event on the horizon, motivation levels are almost at fever pitch.
I’m trying not to look too far ahead as I’ve learned in any sport but particularly tri’s its a day by day kinda journey.
Last week was a reminder of that.
I hit the beach Monday for an open water recovery swim and noticed my right lat was a bit tight. Throughout the last few months of increasing the volume I’d grown accustom to the feeling of my shoulders adapting to the increase in work load so I assumed it would soon pass. It returned again Tuesday on the efforts, particularly in the catch phase of the stroke when I was really trying to haul myself over my stroke and through the water. Again Wednesday it was there, but I pulled through knowing that I would have Thursday off to rest it. Friday arrived and 700 metres into the session I decided it as best to play the long game and let it pass. I’d been feeling really good in the water, for the swimmers out there that can relate I had that feeling in the water where you feel like you are almost grabbing it and pulling yourself along. It’s a tough little challenge, especially as it’s the first niggle I’ve had since I had feet pain in the early days of training about a year ago. But with injury initiating the end of my cricket days, I know that the smart thing to do now is to not think too much about it aside from recovery and rest - a bit easier to do when there is two other disciplines to focus on.
Day by day, we build.
Overall with four weeks to go until the IM 70.3 World Champs feeling fit and optimistic with where I’m at here reporting from the Gold Coast, I’ll see you next week.