Despite turning 40 next year, Rich Allen reckons his best performance could still be to come.
I know this will bring you to tears, but this is my last column. I can no longer call this a ‘comeback’, having been battling away for over four years. So, how has it all panned out? Have I achieved my goals since coming back from retirement, and is this the end of ‘Rich Allen, the pro triathlete’ for good?
It was a rocky start in 2009 and 2010, when I had to learn how to train and race again. I’d literally done nothing for two years and from the outset every muscle, joint and bone in my body hurt. The bottom line, though, was that I felt refreshed and extremely content, as my love for the sport had been reborn.
Results during those first two years were OK but I always seemed to finish sixth. In fact, I managed it five times. While sixth place in some of the world’s biggest Ironman 70.3 events was something I was proud of, it did hurt that there was only prize money for the top five. It was a harsh realisation that during my two years of rest, everyone had been training hard and getting better while I got slower and fatter.
Before the 2011 season began I made a pledge to myself that sixth wasn’t going to fly and that I had to dig deeper than I’d ever done since I turned pro in 1994. This newfound commitment paid off and it was a great season, with several big Ironman 70.3 podiums and the remainder all top-five finishes. It was at that point that the comeback came to an end and I was well and truly back in business.
I’d say that I peaked about then, as 2012 wasn’t such a hot season. I simply overtrained and paid the price with under-par results. It was disappointing, having put so many hours in for very little return, and I was rather glum. But having worked so hard to get to where I was, I wasn’t going to throw in the towel just yet. And so into 2013, which has had a slow start due to my daughter Abby being born 10 months ago.
So, where do I go from here? I think if I’d achieved my goals then I could quite happily hang up my tri suit. But the comeback came about for two simple reasons – to enjoy the sport and to raise some money for the Ellis Harriet Clark Foundation (ellisharrietclark.org) – and really, neither of these goals has been achieved fully, so I’m still working hard in order to retire happy and content.
I’ve had a lot of fun over the past four years but I’ve been holding out for something special. In six months I’ll turn 40 and for me the icing on the cake will be if I can still be competitive with the young, speedy kids when I’m nearly twice their age. At that point, I’ll really appreciate what I have and I know I’ll enjoy every second of racing to the max.
I still feel that I have the ability to put together my best ever race, but every time I’ve come close to my best form recently, my body has fallen apart and I’ve had to hold myself together with tape. If I’m lucky enough to hit peak form and not get injured then I’m sure I can still pull off that magical performance that I’ve been chasing in recent years.
Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I feel that I’ve desperately let down the Ellis Harriet Clark Foundation. I pledged to do what I could to help, in memory of the girl who inspired my comeback. I hoped to raise some decent money. But although my results have been OK, there’s not much prize money left over when you take out flights, hotel and car hire. If I can just get a few big results with decent prize money, then I can do more. I have to do more.
So, for the remainder of 2013 I hope to find the form that I had in 2011. I’ve gone back to training the same way, which was a quality over quantity approach, as that clearly works for me. I’ll target races that suit me, which largely means cooler conditions, and if I can achieve the odd podium, I’ll be extremely happy. I’d dearly love to do well at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship next year, mainly because I’ve skipped it for the past four years as the oven that is Las Vegas just doesn’t suit me. In 2014 it moves to Mont Tremblant in Canada, with a course and conditions that suit me well.
Perhaps Mont Tremblant could be my perfect race, and if not, I’ll make damn sure I have fun. After that I could retire content… but retire I may not. I’ll simply take it month by month from 2015 onwards. That would be a pretty good run and one day I’m sure I’ll wake up and not want to go and beast myself on the road or in the pool. It’ll be quite nice to not stink of chlorine and sweat for once!
Richard Allen – Triathlete and Coach
For more information on professional triathlete Rich Allen visit his website, rnrtricamps.com, where you’ll find details of his tri camps and coaching services.
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