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Matt Molloy: different perspective
Posted by: mattmolloy
Posted on: Monday 10th August 2015


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Matt Molloy on his new #normal - Completing vs. Competing

Over the fast five or six years, London-based Irish athlete Matt Molloy has been one of the most consistent and successful Age Group athletes around. His palmarès includes two ITU World Championship titles at Aquathlon, ETU European Championship wins at Standard and Long distance plus Bronze and Silver medals in ITU World Long Distance Championship events. Matt's results were noticed by Team Freespeed, and he was a key part of that top amateur squad from 2012 to 2014 - while the triathlon population voted him Age Group Triathlete of the Year in the 2012 220 Awards.

As well as featuring plenty of Matt's results on the site over the years, in 2011 we followed Matt on his journey to his first Ironman in Austria in our 'iron virgins' series - where he produced a 9:02 finish and qualified for Kona.

2015 represents a change of direction for Matt however, who after several years of dedicated effort, progression and focus on performance has "decided to slow down" and take a much more relaxed approach to the sport - he even passed up the Kona spot for 2015 he won at Ironman Barcelona last year. With a busy job, four sporty kids and a wife... he's earned the right to have a new #normal. (Suggestions that his no longer the fastest swimmer in his family are probably more than rumours too!)

How do you go from striving to to be the best you can be, to consciously lowering your objectives? Can you successfully go from competing to completing and still be happy with your 'racing'? Matt has made a pretty good start and provides his insights here.


A different perspective – the new #normal

Mickey:

Well, Rock, let's put it this way. Three years ago, you were supernatural. You was hard and nasty. You had this cast iron jaw. But then, the worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized. Don't worry, kid. You know, presidents retire, generals retire, horses retire, Man o War retired. They put him out to stud. That's what you should've done, retire…
[Rocky III]

If I had a dollar for each time I've been asked “I thought you'd retired?” from friends who heard I was doing some triathlons this year, I'd be a wealthier man.

When I decided to slow down and come off a sponsored triathlon team, I'd always intended to do some form of exercise. The rationale was that I wanted to keep relatively fit, without feeling compelled to train or race at a level that was deserving of the fantastic support I was getting from Team Freespeed Skechers Performance. The formula I came up with was to enter a race or races that were of sufficient expense and challenging enough to get me out of the door and actually do some exercise. My take was that if an entry fee was modest or a race not too challenging it would be all too easy to either DNS or not get out the door.

Matt Molloy - Ironman Barcelona 2015

The races of choice that fulfilled the criteria this year were Wimbleball, The Outlaw and Challenge Weymouth, none of which would have been compatible with either my previous or my team's objectives on the basis (a) Wimbleball isn't designed for the larger gentleman, and (b) Outlaw and Weymouth are of a different religion to the one that hosts a certain World Championship in October, on an isolated Big island in middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I informed those who asked that my objectives for the races were to (a) complete and (b) not have a coronary. My perception was that this was treated with a certain degree of skepticism by the inquisitors. The reality is that my current regime – what I like to refer to as the new #normal – involves a much more limited amount of swim, bike and run. In fact, some weeks, there is no swim. Other weeks, there is no run or no bike and from time to time (that might be an underestimate), no swim, bike or run. To some extent, this is because of work, family or my resurrected swim coaching commitments. To another extent, it is because if it's blowing a hooley, snowing or there's torrential rain I opt for the “cooked breakfast and don't ride” method of training. The bottom line, I'm less well prepared than I was when I had to justify my position on a team.

During the drive down to Exmoor on the Friday before Wimbleball and my first race since Ironman Barcelona in October 2014 (I'd almost forgotten that I'd qualified for Kona 2015!), I was relaxed and was enjoying the relative ease of packing for a race that didn't involve a flight. Thinking about Barcelona reminded me that I needed to unpack my Race (TT) bike before the Outlaw which was taking place four weeks later. I'd decided to ride my road bike at Wimbleball on the basis that, well, it didn't involve unpacking the TT bike...

Pre-race day, I headed down to the practice swim. It was at that point that I felt a bit intimidated by what I perceived to be fitter and better prepared athletes. Even though my expectations for the race were low, I still found it difficult not to be a bit concerned regarding my lack of preparedness. Having read around the subject of the effect of stress on athletic performance, I was comforted by the fact that my anxiety regarding my ability to get through the race was probably a good thing. Indeed it was easier to relax than had the outcome of the race been of more significance.

Matt Molloy - Wimbleball 2015

The actual race itself saw typically miserable UK weather. I could bore you with the stats, but I won't. It was a tough old slog, I got around in 5:31 ish and I ended up 10th in the M40-44 category. Running off the bike was especially painful for the first 8km, but seeing as the day before was my first brick of 2015 that was to be expected. The satisfaction with the return of my efforts was good and I returned from Exmoor happy in the knowledge that I'd found a training and race formula that appeared to work. I was also committed to unpacking the TT bike and getting some long rides in on it before the Outlaw four weeks hence.

Matt Molloy - Outlaw 2015

With the experience of my first race under the new #normal regime under my belt, combined with some good TT bike miles in my legs during July, I went into the Outlaw more relaxed. Admittedly, the run was a concern based on my longest run in 2015 being 21k, but I was hopeful that I'd get through ok. In my head I'd set myself a “happy” target of a finish time of something beginning with a 10…, made up of roughly 60 minutes for the swim + T1 and T2, 5:30 for the bike and 3:45ish for the run. When I found myself starting the run with a cumulative time of 6hrs 15 mins on the clock I was pretty chuffed with myself and, as much as you can, I enjoyed the run. As anticipated things got difficult at the 22k mark and my walks through aid stations became somewhat extended. The run saw typically miserable UK weather, following a deceptively bright start. I crossed the line very happy with a 10:07 and 4th in my AG, 25th overall excluding relays.

Matt Molloy - Outlaw 2015

Looking back now, the most pleasing part of my current approach to “racing” is that the level of training that I am prepared to do is sufficient for me to be able to do races that I've wanted to do, but for a number of reasons I haven't been able to. Another big plus is that racing closer to home means that absences from the family and work are shorter. Although I questioned my sanity in entering Weymouth a few times during the Outlaw, I'm now actually really looking forward to it, safer in the knowledge the current formula works.

In good old long distance race tradition, I've also already entered some races for 2016 – the first is the Gladiator taking in the Swashbuckler course in the New Forest in June 2016. There's also a rumour that I can neither affirm nor deny that a dream team is being dreamt up for a little aquathon for September 2016 called Ö TILL Ö :-)

Matt Molloy


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