Mick England - My Life on 2 Wheels
From running and swimming to racing bikes on and off road or a combination of it all, Michael England has always been known as "Mr Active". In his first guest blog entry for FE Sports we learn about what makes Mick tick as he explains what motivates him and how he goes about achieving his goals time after time all the while juggling work commitments and being a passionate and devoted family man.
Why do we do what we do?
As an athlete I have often been asked questions about my training habits and motivations. For a long time, I struggled to answer the questions with any real sincerity - it was just something I do. But when I started to think about it more in depth, to truly question my deeper need to maintain an athlete’s lifestyle, I found two answers began to appear.
The first truly authentic answer is that I love what I do and therefore I strive to do it as often and as long as I can. Basically, this is what drives me to head out, push hard and search for that fast feeling as much as possible. Basically, it’s fun and it brings me joy.
Secondly, I’m a ‘tick-the-box’ type of person. I enjoy setting goals sometimes years in advance, breaking them down into achievable chunks and then pushing myself to succeed and hit those targets. Some goals have been more difficult and challenging than others but I always believe them to be realistic and achievable in time as long as I cover all the bases and have the correct plan of attack. This strategy has been successful throughout many aspects of my life - family, career, financial and of course sport.
You could say that when I was growing up in Gladstone, Queensland, I suffered from "Active Kid Syndrome". I was always either on my bike, swimming, training or running around the neighbourhood. I swam competitively for 18 years as well as 9 years of racing in triathlons. The majority of my training was done alone with just me and the clock for company. A lot of the time this was by choice but also because there was just not that many kids out there as driven and motivated as I was.
At the age of 23, I realised I also had a passion for Road Cycling and quickly progressed in this demanding and highly competitive sport to become a full-time athlete within two years. I rode professionally as a cyclist for a total of four years, racing in Australia, Asia and in Europe, the home of cycle racing but in 2011 I decided it was time to 'retire' and started a family.
My work life as an electrician also took me overseas, working in international Gold and Coal mines for a further two years before I settled back into my hometown of Gladstone when our second child was born in 2014. It was then I found a new sporting love, Mountain Biking! In the beginning, it was just to keep active and something to do until a good friend of mine asked me to come and race a local MTB event. From then on I was hooked. Turns out this was not just another casual recreational sport, it was the real deal! I had found my competitive spirit once again.
Mountain Bike Marathon Adventures
I’ve experienced a very steep learning curve with my mountain biking journey so far. From riding off road locally with my mates, casually smelling the roses and taking in the sights I was thrust into my first event in the central Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon. I loved the friendly atmosphere and light-hearted competitiveness among the riders of all levels. I wanted more and I wanted to race!
As usual, I set my first goal high. I wanted to see how I measured up against the big boys in the Elite category at the 2014 Australian Marathon Championships, held at Queensland’s Mt Joyce MTB Park. My one concern despite my strong history with endurance events was my lack of the essential skills required to ride fast on loose dirt and not end up upside down in the bushes! So you can imagine how surprised I was to realise I would finish inside the top 10 in my first Elite level National MTB event. I was very excited to see a new door open with new goals to achieve, new sporting opportunities to experience and of course a new set of skills to learn.
The 2015 season goal was to race as much of the National MTB Marathon series as possible. I hoped to achieve a good top 10 overall ranking for the year and by mid-year, I was well on track with regular podiums at National rounds and even a top 5 at the 2015 Australian Championships in Tasmania. It was off the back of these results that I was presented with an opportunity I couldn't refuse. Never in my wildest dreams was I expecting to be able to represent Australia at the World Marathon Championships in Italy that year, but things fell into place and that was exactly was happened! Although the 109th overall result wasn’t ideal, the experience to represent my country was second to none. Returning home, I finished off the National season in 2nd place overall and a win in the final round at Bayview Blast in Brisbane was the cherry on top of the cupcake! Very cool for my debut year as a Marathon Mountain Biker.
With a couple of medical issues in early 2016, I decided it was best to not set any high expectations for the season and concentrate on recovery first and then ease back into training. My first race started slowly in July and instead of going for every round I targeted specific events including the 3 plus 3 event, Bayview Blast, Mackay Marathon, XCO QLD Champs, Flight Centre Epic, Kowalski Classic and a 5-day stage race, The Redback in the Northern Territory. With a lot of success throughout all those events, I was more motivated than ever for a big assault on the 2017 season.
2017 again centred on the National Series in the hope to achieve selection for the World Championships which were scheduled to be held mid-year in Germany. Unfortunately, things didn't go quite to plan when I crashed out in round 1, fracturing both my knees and dislocating my shoulder. It was the worst start to the year I could have imagined as I was forced to miss out on the following round leaving just 2 races plus the Australian Champs to gain selection before July. Despite the setback, I worked hard and my recovery went well getting me fit enough for a 3rd place podium in my return to competition for round 3. A win in round 4 and another top 5 with 4th at the Australian Championships gave me just enough to make the Australian team and book my trip to Germany!
A huge amount of fun was had, I was the fittest I had been in a long time and all I wished for was some great hassle free racing. The result of 105th was a true reflection of where I sat in the World at that time and I was stoked to have been given the opportunity to take part and test myself again at such a high level. For the remainder of the season I took a quite and relaxed approach, but as always the personal expectations of a high finish still remained. I managed two 2nd places for rounds 5 and 6 as well as a 6th place for the Kowalski Classic and with these results I was able to secure 2nd place overall for the 2017 season. It was another amazing year with some incredible personal achievements and goals reached.
Athlete Support - The X-Factor.
It's awesome to achieve results and reach goals in the way I have done over the years but as any high achieving athlete will tell you, it is the support from others and what happens behind the scenes that really allows them to reach new heights and go after their dreams above and beyond what they could do on their own. This support can come in many forms and it could be as simple as a good luck message leading up to an event, friends and family being trackside to cheer me on or a willingness to help out back home while I am away to keep the household running smoothly and look after the children. It may be local community support and help to supply equipment or company sponsorship or even the time, effort and knowledge of a good committed coach who is just as excited about helping you achieve your goals as you are. All this help, big or small is priceless and allows an athlete the luxury to focus on one thing - quality performance in training and racing.
I have been fortunate enough to have had the support of FE Sports from very early on in my career starting with their generous commitment and involvement in the Australian based cycling teams I have been a part of. More recently through the FE Sports Store Ambassador Program and help from Matt at M1 Cycles in Gladstone, I have been able to access the incredible world of Power Meter training with Stages Power.
The benefits of specific and targeted training using power data is well documented but one of the best ways I have been able to use the valuable information provided by my Stages Power meter is to predict and prevent the onset of fatigue. My coach and I were finding it difficult to capture my fatigue effects from work and family life while training on the bike and by using my power data combined with heart rate stats during training, we have been able to adjust my training and understand where my fatigue was coming from with much more accuracy.
Not only are the Stages Power cranks easy to install, setup and operate, they are also light and don't look out of place on both my mountain and road bikes. Set up is a breeze and compatibility with multiple frame designs and clearance has never been better with the recent release of the left/right dual sided option and the ability to run a single right meter or the original single left side only crank. I feel extremely fortunate to have access to a product like Stages Power that I genuinely believe in and trust.
2018 and Beyond.
For me, the 2018 season is already off to a flying start and I am looking forward to mixing it up a little bit in both my training and racing. The main aim is still to continue to enjoy and race by mountain bike but after spending a bit more time training and preparing myself on the road bike there could be an interesting competition twist on the way in the coming few months.
It may have taken me a while to answer the question of why I do what I do but quite simply I now truly believe that as long as you are enjoying what you do, you should always strive to do it as often as your lifestyle will allow and always search for that next box to tick. After all, does a true athlete or cyclist ever really 'retire'....... ;-)