The Beginnings

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Sport

This past week I’ve been writing a blog about the month of January and how I have had many mental ups and downs. I do intend to post that blog, but earlier today I came across an old writing that I never published. On Saturday I begin my 2014 season in Budapest, the same place where my 2013 season and Senior competition started.

The piece I came across earlier today was from my time at my first ever Pentathlon, Junior World Championships in September 2012. As I start my second season in the Senior Circuit, and to be honest, my second season in Pentathlon I think there is no better time to publish my first ever Pentathlon experience than now.

I hope you enjoy it, and my next blog will be up soon, hopefully just before Hungary with another to follow after.
P.S I’m back from the wilderness :)

My First Pentathlon Experience (September 2012)

One year ago I had never held a pistol or èpèe, now I was in Drzonkòw, Poland representing my country in Modern Pentathlon! We arrived in Poland on Monday settled in to our room and went for dinner. Unfortunately, dinner was more like lunch and lunch was more like dinner, so after a day of travel we were treated to some ham and cheese sandwiches! (At least I think it was ham).

After dinner we received some disappointing news, there were more entries than expected for the men’s relay and there were not enough horses to accommodate all teams. With 18 teams accepted we were first reserve, although two of the teams had yet to receive their luggage with 12 hours left until the competition began, so we still had some hope that we would compete! It was tough to maintain the belief that we would be competing whilst knowing that when we wake up in the morning we could be let down. We set off back to the room to get everything ready, for me that involved shaving down! Coming from a swimming background this shouldn’t be a problem, get it over with quickly, and be finished in 20 minutes. It didn’t turn out that way! Arthur, who was travelling out the following day, had the razors we bought in his bag. So, I borrowed a BIC disposable from Tom, one disposable razor for my whole body. The next half hour involved a lot of shouting and a few curses from the bathroom, with Tom replying, “Is everything alright?”, I replied yes but by the end of it I had more than a few cuts on my legs with tissue patched all over them to stop the bleeding. Good start so far, Conor!

The next morning we didn’t get in to the relay as all of the teams had received their luggage. We had a good day of training, a short swim, run and shoot, then relaxed and watched the men’s relay competition. Wednesday we had a light session ad relaxed.

Semi Finals

Thursday, the Men’s qualifying had finally arrived!! It was an early start as I was in group A with Conor Ledingham. We started with fencing and 7.30am warm up. I was excited! But also a little worried about whether I’d get a hit or not! Luckily I got a hit in my first bout and Conor followed me with a hit in his next bout, now we could relax and enjoy it! The fencing was a lot of fun, I went in to it with no expectations and thoroughly enjoyed every bout, win or lose. At the end of the fence I was a little disappointed not to have a got a few more hits but it was a good start and gave me plenty of motivation for the swim.

Although swimming is my background, I knew the 200 free was going to be tough! It had been about 5 years since my last 200 free so I was going to be a bit rusty! I started well I the first 100 but my second 100 was 10 seconds slower, which left me a long way off my PB! It was a really disappointing swim for me but I also had a few positives to take from it.

Next, the combined! I had so many thoughts going through my head, the main one was trying to be positive about the shoot, I was really hoping not to time out. My first shoot started poorly but I was determined not to time out and I finally got 5 lights, and was on my way! My second shoot was faster, my third and final shoot I completed in 29 seconds! If only my other two could have been a bit more like that. The support around the combined was incredible, fans along the side including my teammates were pushing me on and it made it a little bit easier, but it was still very hard!!

Finals & Arthur

That was it my first pentathlon, finished in a matter of hours. The following day was the women’s final, we got up early and watched the fencing and the rest of the events until it was time for Tom and I to get our lift to the airport. We wished we were able to stay until the following night to see Arthur compete in the final, we knew he could do really well. It would have been great to be there and see Arthur get his, and Ireland’s, first international medal in Modern Pentathlon as he placed third in the men’s event!

Unbelievable! I followed it all day on the internet and was delighted for him.
Overall I had a great experience at Junior Worlds. I learnt a lot from my first pentathlon and from all of the other competitors. I may have taken a bit of a beating but I have a lot of positives to take from the competition and I am happy with how it went. I can’t wait now to train hard and to keep improving.

Looking back

Looking back on this, it’s amazing for me to see how far I have come and how much I can continue to improve. I’m excited for how much I can build upon in 2014 and the levels I hope to reach in the future. My next blog will be on mentality and ups and downs as it has played a huge role in my January training.

Talk soon,

Conor

So I’ve been back from Poland for a while now but I’ve been very busy and just never really got around to posting my blog. I had a great time in Poland, 10 days packed with hard training, fun and slightly different food! We were in Dzronkow, a place for athletes to train and people to visit to have fun by the pool. The centre has everything for a modern Pentathlete; training facilities for fencing; a large outdoor horse riding arena; 2 shooting ranges (indoor & outdoor); 50m swimming pool, as well as an outdoor family fun pool; lots of land and forest for running; and for most of the week sun (unfortunately not on our last 2 days when we had finished training!).

The training
There was something about this training camp, we would train 3-4 times a day, probably 5 if you include all of the prehab S&C exercises, this is my foam rolling and exercises to prevent injury. That’s a lot of training and sessions were tough, I had some tough swimming and running sessions as I wasn’t tapering like a few of the others, more on why that was later. The funny thing is though it felt a lot easier than training does at home, you have another energy level compared with back home, you recovery quicker and feel fresher but its also the fact that sessions can be done pretty much whenever you want. For example, we were able to fence at 10 in the morning til about 11.45 and be in the pool at 12.15, this is much easier than a rushed swim session back home from 7-8pm followed by fencing 8.15-10pm, it makes life and training a lot easier.

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Junior squad with Woman’s Olympic champion Laura Asadauskaite

Some of the fencing sessions were very intense but so much fun! We had 10 of the junior athletes on the camp, and it was a great experience for them fencing with some of the Polish youths, and even just fencing within their own group and with us, to be able to train regularly and make great improvements! We got to fence with the senior Lithuanian and Ukrainian athletes, it was another level and I absolutely loved it! My fencing improved tenfold fencing them for a week, I took myself by surprise a few times with some of the hits I would get, my overall technique went up a few levels and I made sure to fence everyone I could, including the women which included the Olympic champion. I have to apologise to my teammates though for my smelly fencing gear, definitely not the worst gear in the team, but it was fairly bad and I even used some shampoo to try and improve it with a hand wash midway through camp!

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The whole team minus Kate! Largest Irish squad on a camp. A big congratulations to Kate, Sive & Naomi for their 7th place in the team relay @ their first Senior Europeans.

The other disciplines went well during the week, of course I love my swimming and I felt good in the water. As I was saying the girls were tapering for their relay and Arthur for his individual event, I did a few taper sessions which was fun but another few sessions we may have differed. I may have felt great in the pool but I was nowhere near the fastest, with Swimming World SC champion in 200 back Radosław Kawęcki in the pool! It was amazing to watch his fly kick underwater and see him glide along the top of the water and it was even better for me as I was a backstroker when younger.

the 6th Sport
Modern Pentathlon, 5 sports/disciplines, surely that’s enough for a training camp, right? Well we added one to our schedule, beach volleyball! It has to get a mention as it was a lot of fun, it was a good way for us to bond with the youth athletes, although, we were not very good! We improved though with the help of the Lithuanians, we almost felt bad for them having to play with us but I was delighted with my volleyball improvements, I think it may have been my biggest improvement of the week haha! Oh and to coach Lindsey who may have beat myself and Tom, but with the help of her Lithuanian teammate.

What next?
I now have an official 4 weeks break, and I’m currently in Spain for a week with my family, time for some relaxing! Over the next few weeks I hope to do a few fencing sessions, get into the gym and build my strength and power back up as well as improve technique, dry fire (VERY IMPORTANT CONOR) and have fun! I’m going to teach one of my nieces how to swim while in Spain, play some golf with my family and just relax. I’m looking forward to also going home to Derry and seeing my friends from home as I don’t get to see them very often, it will be a fun few weeks!

Enjoy summer,

Conor

Ps. Holiday update! Chocolate pizza 😃

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Hi everyone,

On Wednesday myself and the other pentathletes head out to Poland for a 10 day training camp preceding Senior Europeans. The youth squad of 10 youth athletes headed out this morning, it will be nice to have a big squad at the camp with youth, development and senior combining for around 16 athletes.

I’m really excited for the camp, it will be great to be able to just focus on training and no other worries. I was once told after my first blog to give an insight into the athlete’s mind and hopefully I can do that over the next two weeks with a few blogs during my time in Poland. I won’t go in to too much depth but last week was a hard week for me, I did a lot of sessions well but everything felt very forced last week, with my running technique not feeling great and my fencing not feeling very natural but this is the perfect time to be heading away and to get everything on track.

As I said it will be nice to only have to focus on training because at home I try and focus on training but I also have to go and work part time. I enjoy work but it does take up time and can be tiring, so at home it’s easy to let everything build up and come together like having to go to work, maybe not feeling great about technique or performance and other worries. It’s hard as an athlete to separate everything but it is key and sometimes one provides an escape from the other or simply from the rest of the world.

I’ll finish on a good note with a quote from Michael Jordan,

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. –Michael Jordan

Conor
twitter.com/chillick1

Back On The Horse!

Posted: June 23, 2013 in Sport

Back On The Horse

My blog has taken an accidental back seat in the past month but no better way for me to get back on the horse than with an update on my past week of training. If you have read my blog before you will know that of the Modern Pentathlon disciplines, horse riding is my weakest. Over the past month I went on a training camp to Germany and then competed but my competition finished early after I injured my foot in training. I had been working hard to improve my horse riding with lessons weekly but in Germany I realised this just was not enough. It was time to step it up once my foot improved, and dedicate at least one week to horse riding.

Nerves & First Lessons

Over the past week I put that plan into action, volunteering at Brennanstown Riding School working at the stables and riding twice daily. I started on Monday and worked through to Friday, with early starts and late finishes. As Monday crept closer I got a little more nervous, wondering what to expect! Monday was a tough day, maybe because it was the first day or because it was the day with the worst weather but by 3pm I was wondering how if I would make it to Friday! Working in at a stables/riding school is hard work, there is always something to do whether it is cleaning, tacking up, catching horses etc. and I was fast realising that I was going to be wrecked by Friday (if I made it).  I had my first few lessons on Monday and Tuesday, and I was pretty rusty. My canter wasn’t great and my balance was a little all over the place. I had a lot of help from a new instructor there called Fiona, she really helped me throughout the week improving my technique and my confidence! On Tuesday, she took me for a lunge lesson later in the afternoon and it really helped me with my balance and my canter technique and rhythm. The lunge lesson was very helpful as it allowed me to focus purely on my technique and to “feel the horse”, to go with rhythm of the horse. My balance improved immensely, allowing my legs to relax and move with the horse.

My stables for mucking out in the mornings

My stables for mucking out in the mornings

Almost there!

Wednesday was a short day at the Riding school for me, working only a half day as I taught swimming for the next half of the day. With only a half  day on Wednesday I decided to go swimming, for a short and a fencing lesson that night. Oh god I was in PAIN! At the end of my fencing lesson I lay there spread out on the floor almost falling asleep. Only 2 days left, almost there! My lessons on Thursday and Friday went great, my balance felt very good and I was working on my jumping, the technique, my approach and my balance. Check out the video link to YouTube for one of my lessons with Fiona. The jumps may not be very big but for me that wasn’t important, it was great to work on my balance, rhythm and technique and keep it when going around a course. I wish I had a video of me at the start of the week to compare with the end of the week but in my last lesson on Friday I had Brendan as my instructor, and he had coached me in the month before Germany. This would be his first time seeing my ride since then and for him to say that there was a massive improvement showed that my hard work had paid off.

Ranger, such a nice horse that I was riding in the video.

Ranger, such a nice horse that I was riding in the video.

A Big Thank You

The week did not only improve my riding technique but my confidence shot up and I became so much more comfortable around horses. It’s amazing how grooming and catching the horses improved my riding and made me much more confident without even being on the horse. A simple thing such as picking/cleaning the horse’s hooves can help you to ride better. The week was a success, the horse riding has been hard for me as I came from a background that did not involve being around them never mind on them and it’s not very easy to suddenly meet this big powerful animal that you have to somehow control but obviously never have full control over. The past week has taught me to understand horses a little better and to be much more comfortable around them! I thoroughly enjoyed my week but I won’t miss mucking out the stables and would much prefer four training sessions a day to working all day. I’d like to say a big thank you to Brennanstown Riding School and Jane Kennedy for providing me with the opportunity to improve my horse riding this week and to work at their fantastic facilities. To Fiona who helped me improve my technique and confidence so much this week, she was a great help! To Brendan for his lesson and for working me hard to improve, and to the rest of the staff that put up with me teaching me all week whether it was grooming, mucking out, catching horses, they were always there to help when I needed it!

Conor

https://twitter.com/chillick1

Nationals
I think it’s best to start where I left off last week, Irish Fencing Nationals. I finished in the top 16 at Nationals last week, as did my teammate Tom, and Arthur finished in the top 8. If you had offered me top 16 at the beginning of the day I would have taken it, but on the day I wasn’t happy. I felt that I had a great chance to reach the last 8 with my last 16 match, and if I had done that I think I had a good chance of reaching the semi-final, but unfortunately this wasn’t the way and it seemed like a missed chance to me! This has been my first full season of fencing so I really should be happy with my progress, but at the same time it’s always good to want more and to want to do better.

AlterG
Remember the shin splints from last week? I kept on top of them with icing and foam rolling, and got some physio on them this week. One of the sorest massages ever around the calves and soleus! It really reduces the pain though and feels so much better after it. I was able to do a couple of “easy” runs and a drills session this week, but the most fun was my session on the AlterG. Ok, it wasn’t exactly fun, running on a treadmill, looking at a glass window, but getting to run on anti-gravity treadmill is kind of fun! For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, it’s basically a treadmill, with a sort of plastic bubble attached to it. You pull this up around your waist and it then measures you weight. Next you choose what bodyweight percentage you wish to run at and I guess it creates a type of vacuum so you can reach this desired weight, then just as with any other treadmill choose your speed and off you go! I ran at 75% bodyweight, meaning there would be less weight and pressure on my shins. I did my track session on the treadmill, it was a good run and when you finish and step off, it feels quite funny for the first few seconds! I had hoped to get a photo of it for my blog but I didn’t get the chance, if I run on it this week I will try and get a photo.

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Credit for this weeks photo goes to Luke McMullan! He’s a serious runner and great to talk to about sport and numbers!

Swimming
As for the rest of last week and up to today, I had a good swim session although was feeling very tired by the end of the week! As my coach Sue said, those are the sessions that count when you push it out no matter how tired you are. Thursday’s sessions was more of a speed session and here’s the main set

25 max on 45
50 max on 1.30
75 max on 2.15
100 max on 3.00
150 easy
4 times through! There was a lot of rest but it was tough!

Manflu
Unfortunately for me though I picked up a cold towards the end of the week, which I only really felt after travelling home on Friday. I’ve had the usual sore ears, sore throat, blocked nose and feeling crappy. Well, actually now that I think about it I think I might have the dreaded man flu!!! This quite serious and for those who do not know what it is check out the video below! I rested up over the weekend, ate loads of chocolate and I’m hoping to at least do some easy training tomorrow. I’m itching to get back training and hopefully sort my immune system out for the future.

Manflu Information Video

To end on an inspirational note, rather than the serious note of manflu check out the video below! It’s quite well known and went viral, so you have probably seen it before but it’s fun and worth a few watches!

This weeks inspirational video

Enjoy your week and train hard!

Conor

Last week finished well, it was actually my birthday last week so I got some nice cake at fencing training and was treated very well! Training finished on a good note for the week, the last fencing session was at a high intensity and was great, but at the same time I was still feeling something wasn’t right, but more on that later. I also did a 5km parkrun as part of last week’s training, for anybody that enjoys running or wants to start running, the parkrun is a great even and is run every Saturday and best of all, it’s free!! Just check out parkrun.com for more information and to find the nearest parkrun to you.

Tough Week

As I was saying this week has been a tough week, more so mentally than physically. I’m feeling great in the pool so no problems there, and I’ve been starting to feel like my running is really coming together, unfortunately though I’ve a problem there! My shins had started to get a little sore and on Tuesday night I went a few steps too far and had to stop running as they were so sore. Basically, I have shin splints on both legs and over Tuesday night and Wednesday they would hurt just walking at times. I have been looking after them since Tuesday night though and have been icing them a lot as well as stretching my calves and using the foam roller and they’re starting to feel better. Instead of running today I did some aqua jogging to keep up some fitness, it’s not the same but there’s no impact and it keeps the body going.

20130324-231903.jpg The ever reliable frozen peas used for icing my shins 😊

Set Of The Week

My swim set for this week is

Warm Up
6 x 100s free, 3 & 6 IM
6 x 100s kick, 25slow 25fast

Main Set
4 x 50 on 50
4 x 100 on 1.25
4 x 150 2.30 (50 swim, 50 drill, 50 swim)
4 x 200m (50 min / 50 max) on 4
4 x 150m pull on 2
4 x 100 on 1.20
4 x 50 on 50

Swim Down

Injury & Disappointment

The shin splints were a big disappointment for me on Wednesday morning as I was really looking forward to the track session and had to miss it. It is very annoying to have these small setbacks especially because I’ve worked hard the past few months after missing a lot of winter with a knee injury. It’s ok to be annoyed but there’s no point in sulking and I’m sure I will be back running next week (fingers crossed). My next competition is a month away and will be the GB Army Invitational, so I’m really looking forward to that and it has given me a short term aim to work towards.

Preparation & Weaknesses

Two parts I will definitely want to improve for the GB Army competition will be my horse riding and shooting. The horse riding is sometimes hard to fit in but with just over 5 weeks to go I think if I keep on top of it I’ll be ready, and as for shooting I’ve been making sure I am shooting every day and sometimes twice a day. On Thursday I changed my stance, I had previously been standing quite square on to the target so I’ve been trying to be at more of a 45 degree angle which you can see in the photo below.

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I just fenced in the Irish nationals today so I plan to have a blog in he next few days with an update on that and a few other things.

Have a good week everyone, train hard, work hard and have fun!

Conor

I’ve tried to write this blog 3 times and I’ve lost it every single time! Well I have unfortunately neglected my blog the past two weeks! I have been extremely busy though and in my spare time I was just trying to eat and sleep. Although, I did half type up a blog one day, but never got it finished, and eventually scrapped it! So, where to start for my past two weeks? I have been training a lot and have had a few competitions in fencing and swimming. I think the best thing for this blog is just to write a few short paragraphs to get back up to date, I’ve had a fun two weeks so keep reading!!

Fencing
I’ve had a fun couple of weeks fencing. The Dublin épée took place on the first weekend of March and its one I will remember. I was in a very tough group in the poule stage and did not seed very well. My teammate Tom had a great round in the poule and was seeded nicely, but unfortunately this resulted in us meeting each other in the first round and this would be the first time we would fence in competition.
It was an outstanding match and locked at 13-13 after the 9 minutes of the match, meaning we would go to priority. This is a bit like golden goal in football, it’s one minute and one point, only single hits count, just like in pentathlon really. The only difference is that if no hit is scored after the one minute, the person with priority wins. Tom had priority, so I had to attack. The only thing about that is that Tom likes to defend and I know he can have a good fleche! He fleched…DOUBLE! No point. Then I made my move and got my point! I was very relieved as he’s a tough opponent, which I found out again this weekend past when he knocked me out of the student individuals in another tight match, 15-13! I lost my next round in the last 16, the only consolation was that it was to the eventual winner.
Congrats to Tom who went on to come second. Congrats to Naomi who reached the semis. A final congratulations to Kate & Sive who faced off in the final of the Dublin épée with Kate coming out victorious.

20130314-002216.jpg Kate and Sive with their medals.

I’ve found that something makes me tick and play better when fencing teammates, I have so much respect for them and because of that respect I know it’s going to be a tough match so I focus more and find there is extra pressure not to lose. To be honest, I love it!

Swimming
Swimming has been going well recently and I’ve had some good sessions. One of the main sets was as follows
5 x 100s on 1.20
400
4 x 100s on 1.20
300
3 x 100s on 1.20
200
2 x 100s on 1.20
100 MAX
100 easy

This weekend past was the Irish Universities Intervarsities, where all the universities swim against each other. I swam in the 100back, 200 free, medley team relay and the freestyle team relay. I love intervarsities, because even though you swim your events individually, you compete for your team. I love being able to compete for my team, it’s something that rarely happens in individual sport and I really thrive from the extra pressure of not wanting to let my team down. This was my fourth varsities with UCD, and it was my third straight win! We won all three titles of men’s, women’s and overall this year! I must admit I did take a night off to celebrate with my teammates after it, which was tough as the fencing individuals were the following day!! But its nice to have a break once in a while

20130314-000616.jpg The UCD 50m pool, split to SC competition and warm up pools. Great pool!

Combined
My combined training has been going well, I’m still shooting pellets but finding it hard to get to a range so mostly I’m “dry firing”. Last week I was back doing a track session which was,
4 x (400 race pace / 45 sec rest – 400 race pace +) then rest 3 minutes between each set. I actually enjoyed this session and pushed it through, going faster than my target times.

20130314-000802.jpg A wet track at Santry for my session. A miserable day made pleasant by hitting my target times!

Mentality
I’m not going to lie, after Hungary I was very determined to improve but there are days when you question yourself and mentally you don’t feel great. The big relief this weekend was my swimming I’m finally getting back to the times that I should be doing and I still think I have another few seconds quicker in the next month. I felt rest running wise after last weeks track session. As for fencing I think I’ve found the mental state I need to be in, it’s just getting in that frame of mind for each and every bout and not just against teammates.

Sorry for the wait and for the long blog, I hope to be more consistent in the future! I didn’t even write half the stuff in my head this week!

I would just like to also announce that I have teamed up with Sports Health & Nutrition, a nutrition supplement shop in Derry. They have kindly offered to support me with the best Optimum Nutrition supplements to help me perform to my best and recover between sessions. A big thank you to them for helping me out early in my career, great guys! Check out their Facebook.

Conor

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