JUNE 2019: Tim Woodman not only has a full-time career, running his own business, Management Learning & Coaching, he somehow finds the time to train for triathlons up to Ironman distance, for which he represents Team GB. He’s one of our RunBrighton ambassadors, regularly supporting our Sunday group training runs, and he’s also agreed to captain our RunBrighton team in this September’s Ragnar White Cliffs Relay.
Tim, what came first… swimming, cycling or running?
Rugby actually. I represented England Students and England U23s and my county, Cheshire, and played for one of England’s top clubs in the day, Liverpool. I started triathlon in 1999 and had to learn to swim properly and efficiently. Training hard was the bedrock of my development though.
Of all the races you’ve done so far, what would you say has been the highlight?
For pure emotion and euphoric state, completing my first Ironman, in Florida, after spending a while being sick during the marathon, and getting over the line, is probably my biggest highlight. Just below this was finishing my first ultra marathon (100km), last year, despite tearing my calf after just 6 km.
You’ve represented Team GB, over the years, in various age categories. To what do you attribute your ability to continually compete at international level?
Very simply, I’ve become smarter at training. As I’ve aged, I’ve just got more out of myself, by planning for and then preparing for my A race each year – typically, a World or European championships. I remember Paula Radcliffe being interviewed after setting the world marathon record and, when asked how much harder it would be to now go faster, she said “I think I still can improve by 20%!
The name of your business sounds as though there might be aspects of it that you can apply to your running and triathlons. What exactly does the business do and to what extent does achieving race goals correlate with being successful in business?
I set up the company to be experts in management training, using micromastery. Anyone’s role can be broken down into its constituent parts. Each part will have a trick or technique that, once you know what it is, enables you to become very proficient very quickly. After that, perfect practice makes perfect. To become a better athlete and setting myself really stretch goals (100km ultra and Ironman, as examples), I realised that I needed to do several things that I could take from my business experience. For example, set the stretch goal and publicise it. (You’re then committed when others get to know about it). Develop test points along the way to monitor progress, and the key to all this… know what skills and processes you need to improve, find out how to improve them and then practise the hell out of them. You can achieve stretch targets only if you improve your skills.
Race preparation and execution is arguably as much mental as physical. What has been your own strategy and experience, as regards focus, commitment, self-belief, and so forth?
Mental toughness is a core skill to master in any activity where you want to achieve a goal. I read a book of the same name and realised that, every time I went out training, I was training not just my body but my mind too. Pulling on the shorts after a hard day at work and then going out to do interval training is mental toughness training. I also plan for different situations in my races and break them down into small parts… first 100 metres in the swim, then the next 200, and so on. What could go wrong and how might I need to react, etc? In my Ironman races, I carried a slip of paper, which my partner had written a message on. I didn’t know what it said and, in my first race, I ended up being sick at the side of the road. Sitting on the kerb and thinking my race was done, 10 miles from the end, I read the message. It said “If you are reading this, then you will be contemplating pulling out. Get up, walk a bit, then shuffle a bit, then get running, otherwise I will dump you when you get back!”
I know it’s not all been a smooth ride for you, in that you’ve had several injures along the way. What kind of setbacks have you had and what has been your approach when things haven’t gone to plan?
Three years ago, on my stag weekend, I fell off my mountain bike on the Devon moors. I knocked myself out for 24 hours and had a brain bleed. I shattered my collarbone into 6 pieces, broke my shoulder blade in half and broke two ribs. I had the world sprint-distance championships five months later in Cozumel, Mexico. I realised that I couldn’t change what had happened and, on the face of it, would be in no shape to compete. It would take all the time for my shoulder to heal and, during that time, I would not be able to swim or use the shoulder much at all. However, no plan stands up to the first contact with the enemy! So, change the plan! I realised I could still pedal, albeit on a turbo trainer. That would keep the cardio up and, if I could still do intervals on the turbo, I would the do the best I could on the bike. Unfortunately, the medics wouldn’t let me run, for the fear of me tripping or falling off the treadmill.
In Mexico, a Brazilian, breast stroking, overtook me in the swim, but I had one of the fastest bike times and was second Briton home in a creditable 18th place!
In short, active recovery and find a way to overcome the setback. It ain’t over till it’s over!
What do you enjoy about the RunBrighton ambassador role?
I just love being with like-minded people… the ambassadors, because they are all putting something back in, and the runners, for their questions and enthusiasm and the effect that my help has in helping them to meet their challenges.
What made you put yourself forward as team captain for the Ragnar Relay and what are you looking forward to about the event?
Because of my work, I know what could make the event, for the whole team, something special. I will get pleasure from this and the closer contact with like-minded souls on an adventure.
As you know, we have lots of RunBrighton members relatively new to running, thinking about taking on their first half or full marathon, either this coming autumn or in the spring. And others will be aiming to beat their previous times. What advice would you give, in terms of goal setting?
It’s not the plan, but planning, that is invaluable. You have a goal, sometime in the future. Work back from the end and put in place, at intervals, tests to see that you are progressing, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Then work out what skills you could improve and work on them daily/weekly. For example, core strength, diet, flexibility, mental toughness, hydration, running technique, planning, time management, etc, are all things that you could focus on and get better at.
What’s the next key race for you, Tim?
That’ll be Switzerland, at the end of August… the World Sprint Triathlon Championships for old buggers!
Tim, thanks very much for taking the time to chat. It’s great to have you on the ambassador team and taking on the captain role for Ragnar. Good luck with your own training towards Switzerland and see you on Sunday for another training run!
By Mike Bannister