Paul Arden | Sunday, 10 September 2023

One of the attractions for me about competition is how it focuses my training. We need to optimise our performance for competition day. For amateurs, “age groupers” (we don’t even have a professional level in fly casting sport), this is, think, one of the main reasons we compete.

Certainly for me, the primary reason I compete in fly casting is to make me a better fly caster, which in turn makes me a better fly fisherman. It really is that simple. And many of my best friends do the same, which makes it very enjoyable – although I sometimes feel that I should be training my liver as much as my casting stroke.

Flycasting is very much skills based. The winner is not the strongest/fastest/fittest; the winner is the most technically proficient (there are some other requirements – for example the mental game – but without technique you are certainly not going to win). I’m certainly no stranger to winning the odd flycasting competition and am usually a threat, at least in the 5WT and similar distance events.

In Ironman, however, I’m not a threat to anyone but myself!! Here I am way down the ladder for sure. Swimming – yes that is technical, but running and biking – these are fitness. And that’s my main reason for doing Ironman, to push myself harder in training, because it’s a bloody long day, and even longer if you haven’t trained yourself hard enough before hand.

I’m now four weeks out from the Malaysian Ironman. I’m feeling pretty good. It’s hot and humid over here in the tropics, of course, which I really think is a different level of fitness. 32-34C air temp. 27/28C water temp. The evening run will be a bit cooler, and under 30C almost certainly. The big problem however, is that sweat just doesn’t evaporate with the humidity, and if you are not careful you lose control over your heart rate and blow up!

So I’ve been training really hard for this. Last week for example two half marathons – I’ve been doing one of these per week for longer than I can remember. A four and a half hour indoor bike ride, which I’ve been doing every week since the end of January. Three other intense bike rides last week, swimming and weights. I’m putting out around 15hrs/week in training right now, mostly Zone 2, and have been hovering around this intensity for most of the year. The next two weeks will be slightly more training volume, in particular I need some long swims, and then I’ll start to taper off in preparation for race day. (I hate the tapers!!!)

Nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing else – gets my attention quite like an impending Ironman does! 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, 42.2km run. The bike course is hilly in Langkawi and everything is just hot and humid. I would like to finish in a halfway decent time, but most important is to pace myself and enjoy it (in some weird masochistic way) and actually finish! If I can pace myself and run a fast final 10km, then I’ll be very happy. I want to finish and I have certainly trained very hard to do so.

In fact I am more prepared than I have ever been for this. Long runs, long bike rides, I’ve had my metabolism tested, I’ve had my VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold tested. I’ve had a professional bike fit and swim coaching. I’ve been training my gut to handle carbs. It’s not about how well we perform on race day – that’s about properly pacing ourselves – what Ironman is actually about, is how much training volume the body can absorb leading up to the race and how well you have prepared it to fuel. In other words, how endurance fit you can get yourself in all three disciplines.

And right now… my legs are machines!! :))) Internally I’m so fit right now. My VO2 Max is 50 and my resting heart rate averages around 40. So I’m happy because I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do, when I saw myself turning 50 and not happy at all with my fitness… and now it’s time to focus on having fun on race day.

After finishing these events in the past (my last one was in 2012), I’ve always had a feeling of invincibility. Let’s see how invincible I feel in four weeks!

So anyway, back to flycasting. This is kind of similar. While everyone who competes, can always cast to a high level, I don’t feel that I can hold my highest performance level all the time. To do for me, means two hours training/day and four hours leading up to an important event. I don’t know about the others, but if I do this day in/ day out then I get stale and start to lose performance.

Distance flycasting sport is about two things. One is constantly trying to improve. We as casting sport participants are improving, no question. We are constantly trying to produce a better stroke. And the only way to do that is to have regular breaks and then rebuild the stroke. For example I’m working on some of John Water’s suggestions at the moment, as well as incorporating some fancy footwork that’s come out of Sweden.

And the other thing is about making it fully automatic, and then peak, so that we can compete at our highest level when it matters most in competition. That’s when we have decided what stroke we are going to use and have really dialled it in to the best of our ability. Usually I can do that from about 2 months out. However in this case, if I decide to go with a radically different stroke, as now seems likely, then I will have to build from much further out. Interestingly it’s a similar time commitment in training hours as Ironman  However with Ironman I really started to up my intensity hours this year at the beginning of February, so for the last eight months I’ve been hovering around 15hrs/week of training hours.

And that’s all in addition to fishing, guiding, casting coaching, running Sexyloops and filming On The Fly. There needs to be more hours in the week moving forward if I’m to do all the things I want in life!

Incidentally I’ve found lots of free-rising Snakehead recently. Which is great, because I was starting to think they had disappeared!

Coming this week: Nick and I talking about the 120ft cast!

Have a great weekend.

Cheers, Paul