My journey to 2012 – it’s all about numbers!

My journey to 2012 – it’s all about numbers!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011
It has been two years since I declared my intention to try to qualify for the 2012 UK Olympic Trials, when I will be 50.I don’t know what odds the local bookie would have given, but it is safe to say they would have been pretty long.Well, on May 19, on a warm spring evening in Tuscon, Arizona, I broke my own UK Veterans javelin record three more times and set three more world age records for a 49-year-old. But my most important accomplishment that evening was that I threw far enough to qualify for the 2012 UK Olympic Trials – my eighth consecutive Olympic Trials.

My furthest throw that evening of 74.73 metres was my best performance in 11 years – since 2000, when I was only 38.After the competition, I decided to finish my 2011 season. I had achieved my goal for this year. My focus was now on next year.I rested 48 hours and then began a 400-day training programme that will take me right up to the 2012 Olympic Trials – 667 workouts – averaging three-plus hours per session, five workouts every three days. By the time I step out on the track next summer for the Trials, I will have racked up approximately 2,012 training hours in this 400-day cycle.The focus in my workouts is volume – insane, mind-numbing, hour-after-hour repetition – 10,000-plus abs and almost 10,000 throws per week for starters – it may seem excessive, but that’s the kind of work that needs to be done.

It is all about numbers. I count everything: the number of exercises I do, the reps, the sets. I time, measure and weigh everything, constantly pushing myself to do more, do it faster and go further.

But the numbers I look at are not limited to just my training. There are many others I must know and monitor with regard to my health and fitness.

I have had stress tests, heart scans and blood tests to check my cholesterol, blood sugar, PSA etc. Knowing these numbers allows me to know how my body is functioning and address any issues before they become serious.

To my amazement, I discovered my cardiac function is at 65 per cent, resting heart-rate is 42 beats per minutes and my blood pressure is 108/68 – all very good numbers, especially for a man just six months shy of his 50th birthday.

The number crunching does not stop there. I also looked at my diet and, as a result, dramatically changed it. I cut out alcohol, caffeine, reduced my overall calorie intake and changed the percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates and other nutrients.

The result: my bodyweight has dropped 50 pounds in the past three years and the last 10 pounds have fallen off since May this year. My current body weight of 84 kilograms is the lightest I have been in 30 years and my body fat is now less than 10 per cent.

So, as I rack up the training hours and try to stay healthy, and as I move ever closer to next year’s trials, I keep asking myself, “Will all this work and attention to numbers pay off in the end?”

The answer is, I don’t know. Obviously I hope so, but I realize I am going into uncharted territory – after all, I have never been 50 before.

Next year will be my 40th competitive season – approximately 700 competitions under my belt and more than two million throws over my life time.

Will I benefit from the years of experience or I will pay the price for getting all that experience? It’s a catch 22.

So I march on undeterred. I am inspired. I am in the Trials. Now, how much further can I go? Could I make the finals – make the top eight? Could I get to the podium – be a medalist? Is that possible? Could I make the GB Olympic team? No way! That would be impossible…or would it?

What I do know is that I am going to do my best. That is all anyone can do, right? I may not win the trials, but I don’t plan on coming last either. How many scalps can I take –  and young scalps at that?

The average age of the top 12 UK javelin throwers competing at next year’s trials, excluding myself, will be 22. The competitors’ ages will range from 19 to 27 years – that’s 31 to 24 years younger then me. Yikes!. When I was in my first Olympics, way back in 1984, not one of my rivals next year was even born. The next oldest competitor was in his second trimester in his mother’s womb.

I admit I have become obsessed with time and have one eye constantly on the clock, watching the seconds, minutes and hours tick by. On the one hand, the Olympic trials are getting closer; on the other, I am getting older, closing in on 50 and beyond.

I am a thrower, but I am also in a race now – a race against time. All I have to do is look in the mirror to see my wrinkles, which seem to multiply on a daily basis. I am bald and what hair I do have is turning grey, and now I find I am shrinking. I used to be just over 5ft 11in. Now I am less than 5ft 10!

So whether you say 20-12 or 2,000-12, next year is coming. There is no stopping it. And whether you say I will be 50 or half a century next year, there is no stopping me either – you can count on it.

My life as an athlete and as an artist has always been about numbers and repetition – from the number of times I lift a weight to the number of lines or shapes I put in my paintings.

And now even my journey through to next year has become about numbers: from my preparation to my postings to my 4,806 friends on Facebook and the 1.82 million hits on my YouTube video – it’s all about numbers.

Roald Bradstock represented Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and in 1996 was an alternate for United States Olympic team. Bradstock competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 United States Olympic Trials. He has now switched his allegiance back to Britain and hopes to compete in the trials for London 2012. In addition to being an Olympic athlete, Bradstock is also an Olympic artist dubbed “The Olympic Picasso”