Kevin: Welcome to Maximise Potential the podcast to educate and motivate through a range of original interviews designed to help you maximise your potential. Brought to you in association with the award winning recruitment group Jenrick.
Welcome to episode 28 of Maximise your Potential. Traditionally the title of World’s Greatest Athlete has been given to the man who wins the decathlon. Dean Macey or the ‘Dean Machine’ as he was so frequently referred to is one of the unique individuals to have achieved this accolade doing so at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Dean would undoubtedly finished his career with a host of additional World, Olympic and Commonwealth medals if it had not been so heavily blighted by injury. Yet his ability to continually battle back to fitness consolidated his position not just as one of the best athletes on the globe but as someone with a unique level of determination and mental strength. Here is one of the biggest personalities in British sport to tell you his story. Enjoy.
So Dean let’s start off with the most well the interesting question for me which is its hard enough, actually it is ridiculously hard to become an international athlete of one sport and yet you decided you wanted to take on ten. It is pretty crazy.
Dean: Deciding is probably the wrong word at the moment. That is not a lie actually I decided I wanted to be an international you know an Olympic decathlete but the way I actually got into it was a bit of a mistake if you like. I was a single eventer when I was younger and I went into the County Championships and I think entered the shot, the disc, the jav, the high and the long and the triple jump and a running event. Can’t remember if it were 100 or 200 it certainly weren’t the 400 I can guarantee you that.
Kevin: Was there only one person in your school?
Dean: This was the County so I was competing for myself and for my club and stuff. Anyway long story short is that I won several of them, I medalled in most of them. I think the running event I came fourth in and someone came up to me at the end of the second day, and this was all over two days. And he said to me you know what you could be a half decent multi eventer. And I think my response was well what’s a multi eventer. At that time I had no clue, I obviously knew the Daley Thompson name but I didn’t realise the Decathlon multi events was all the same thing. And he said we have got a place next week at Basildon our top guy for Essex has dropped out ill if you want to step in we will see what you can do. You can just make up the places. There were four in the team the top three scored.
Kevin: And what were you 15 years old?
Dean: I was 15 years old yes I got into it pretty late. And they didn’t expect me to score and in fairness nor did I. So I turned up the week later, one pair of spikes, no Essex kit. I went up to the guy who asked me to do it and I said – so what is the deal? He said well you have got four events today and four events tomorrow. It’s called an Octathlon there is eight events. I said what is the first event. He said 100 hurdles. I said where does that start; he goes over there by the 100m line. So I went and run the 100 hurdles then I went and did the long jump and then I did the shot put and then I did the 400m. First ever 400 I had ever done. And I remember running 55:04.
Kevin: You had never run 400?
Kevin: Apart from maybe practising it on the track or something?
Dean: No never. In fact that’s a lie in school I ran a 400 in my first ever year at school and I run 60 seconds flat. And so that was the only 400 I had ever done. And the same story on the second day. I went and turned up on the second day didn’t have a clue what score or where I was laying in the competition and I said what’s next and he said, he basically run me through event by event through the actual second day as well. And after the javelin which is the second event I said what is the next mate actually this is quite cool and he said 1500m and I went cor Christ how many laps of the track is that and he said nearly four and I was like no way. Hand on heart back then I was a lazy bugger if he had told me that the week before I would have probably feigned an illness or something or a calf injury because you know let’s face it four laps of the track for someone who didn’t even comprehend. I mean I didn’t even like doing the 400m warm up.
Kevin: It sounds like you came for more of a field type.
Dean: I was a thrower jumper when I was a kid. Anyway I run this 1500m so slow I run 5:26 and after the first lap I was going so slow and I was dead last and the guy said to me go now. And even at that age I was thinking that is two and three quarter laps to go I can’t go now. Anyway the long and the short of it is I won that competition, I won that outright. Done Southern England competition a couple of weeks later and won that outright in the octathlon. Broke the English Schools Record in the English Schools finals later on that season. Then the year after that I did the decathlon which obviously was the ten events and my first pole vault session was appalling we won’t even go into that. Broke the English record then and then the year after that I had my first international in Russia. That is where I met my long term coach Greg Richards who was pretty much you know he was the rod that held me up all the way through my career.
Year after that I went to the World Juniors in Sydney in 1996 and I came second and I remember sitting in the rest room before the 1500m and this guy, this Australian guy, in fact its Steve Rippon who works over here. He is a pole vault coach and he said, he was coaching the Australian mob at the time, and he said what you trying to run in the 1500 and I said mate I am just trying to survive like I always do and I said why do you ask? And he said because you lay in second. And I had no clue I was enjoying myself so much I met one of my very best friends whilst I was out there who won the bronze medal in the end and Chevil Warner he is a Dutch guy, and so I run this 1500m and I won a silver medal in the World Juniors after like four years of ever doing multi events you know. This is obviously a very short story of it you know.
And I came, my parents, I was lucky enough my parents have been really good throughout my career. They have travelled everywhere except for Seville because we didn’t expect me to be going to Seville but we will come to that later I am sure. And they was over in Sydney and we went out for dinner the day after I finished an open medal and I showed them my medal and I was at college at the time and I wasn’t a great academic student if you like, I would skip classes whenever I could and I was a right toerag at school and at college. And I said to my parents look hand on heart if this is the best the world has got to offer I can beat them. The guy that won it Attila Zsivoczky I swore on my life to my parents over dinner that night I said – he will never beat me again and if he is the best on the planet I will beat him – and he never throughout the rest of my career none of the other guys that were in that competition beat me. And I knew I just had the better of them because I was so inexperienced in comparison to them.
Kevin: I was going to say what gave you that certainty then?
Dean: I just knew because I was over there mucking around and I had been training seriously for like eight months. And my coach said to me don’t be surprised if you win a medal and I went yeah whatever you know and I was just literally out there for fun and I didn’t really take it seriously. And this guy had already been to several European Championships as a jumper and a multi eventer so I knew they was much more experienced than me and I knew where my ability lied in comparison to them. And I thought if I had my coach out there I probably would have scored 100 points more because I didn’t perform that great in the high jump although I still jumped 2m. And I knew I probably would have won it if I was a bit more psychologically prepared and more switched on. But at the time I was well happy with silver medal because I never expected it.
And my parents said yeah but I said – I can’t train to be an Olympic athlete a multi eventer and do my college and all that at the same time. I said I have got to put all my eggs in one or tother basket. And they said yeah. And I was like well if I go full time that’s what I want to do. And my parents turned round and said to me if that’s what you want to do go for it. And they supported me for however long it took. In fact it took from 1996 all the way to 1999 for me to turn professional and start earning enough money out of it to actually subsidise myself and to actually live off of it. But for those three years well two and a half years really they had the belief in me and I had the belief that I was going in the right direction and it was that one moment really when unexpectedly I went into the best competition at that time that I could enter and I came second and I thought you know what this is it, I have found what I am supposed to be doing. Because up until then I had no clue I was lost, I was doing athletics because I liked it, I was good at it. I played a bit of football which I was good at but my heart really wasn’t into the football at that time. I certainly knew I didn’t want to be at college, I knew I didn’t want to sit behind a desk I just didn’t know where I was going. It was that one opportunity I grasped you know didn’t realise I was grasping it at the time, and I thought to myself you know what I am good at this and this is what I want to do.
Kevin: So let me ask you what is the buzz of the competition that got you hooked or was it just something just that you enjoyed about it. What was it?
Dean: I had very low self esteem, very low confidence when I was a kid because you know I couldn’t read, I was very bad at school. I didn’t have any interests at school all I wanted to do was go out and play and like I said be a bit of a toerag. Because it just didn’t interest me you know there are lots of schemes these days to get kids into education but via different means back then there wasn’t and so I was searching. I think as a kid unbeknown to me I was searching for something I enjoyed, I could get my teeth stuck into that I was good at and even though I had an International and things like that beforehand it was only when I picked up that first medal like on a global scene that I realised that this is it, I can get my teeth stuck into this. I genuinely believe that I could be as good as anyone else on the planet. And I just wanted to do it. It is the first thing in my life I mean I love sport, I always love doing sport. It is the first thing up until I was 18 at the time, in them 18 years that I just wanted to do. I knew that was what I wanted to be.
Kevin: And it sounds like that you almost found a bit of a place where you belonged as well.
Dean: That’s it I’ve always called the track my office you know. And I tell people when I do some training and stuff you know I might step into my office. This is where I feel the most comfortable; this is where I don’t feel self conscious. I walk into a bar I am 6’5″ I stand out. I walk into a TV studio there is millions of people watching you on telly. When I walk onto a track whether there is 100,000 people there or none that’s where I belong. And I suppose you hit the nail on the head that’s where I felt the most comfortable and that’s why I always love being over there. And I drive past the track every single day from my house to get off of Canvey Island and I look over there and I think I would rather be there than anywhere else. Well I would rather be on a river bank than there or anywhere else but you know what I mean.
Kevin: I know exactly what you mean. And so there was that big a gap, I am going to say that two and half, that three years because there you were you had fulfilled, suddenly you found that home by getting silver in the Juniors. But then all of a sudden you had to come back and start putting in all the work to then get to the Worlds. What was that two and a half years like?
Dean: Well the two and a half years were very difficult because I won a medal in 1999, I had my first major surgery, I mean this isn’t like because I was unhealthy I was having surgery I was going under the knife for my sport. And I broke my foot and it took an awful long time in fact I remember ringing up the hospital and I said look you know this is Dean Macey you’ve got the results of my scans I had a message on my answer phone can you tell me the results of my scans. They said yes Mr Macey your foot is absolutely perfect there is nothing wrong with it. My parents were sitting in the same room we was like on speakerphone and I was like great. And I literally left my mum and dad’s house, this is in 1997 and I went over the track and I done four 150s and I done them in a blistering time as well but I was limping back to the start time every single time. I was thinking no, no it can’t be right, it can’t be right. You know this is all in my head, the pain is all in my head because you know the doctors have literally just told me my foot is fine come on get through it, get through it, get through it, I am supposed to be doing this. It will go the pain will go.
Anyway I came back and my mum and dad were like almost white and I was like what’s the matter and they have rung back and they have told me they gave me the wrong results and I actually had a broken fifth metatarsal and the running session that I had done knackered my foot even more so I ended up going in and having surgery later on that year to put a plate and seven screws down the side of my foot. The worse part of it was that at that time that was my first ever surgery and I didn’t realise that I was allergic to morphine. So I flatlined which was a bit of a bitch as you can imagine.
Dean: Yeah, yeah so it was supposed to be an in and out operation I think I was in for seven or eight days or something like that. And so it was a bit of an issue obviously. So 1997 was a bit difficult because I went through the whole year I was in fantastic shape I went through the whole year with this foot problem and it was only at the end of the season when I really worked out what it was and I needed surgery. Touch wood I mean it was major surgery and my scans look phenomenally awesome you know like screws everywhere like weird adjacent angles and stuff but I have never had any problems with that since. And it’s good that they put it in my left foot because we run anticlockwise round a track and I am slightly heavy on the left side now so I can run an awesome bend. No seriously it was a really successful operation other than obviously the heart stopping and all that stuff.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah minor point.
Dean: And you know after that I had six other surgeries throughout my career.
Kevin: I was going to ask you how many surgeries you have had.
Dean: Yeah I have had seven all in all but I had six other surgeries after that and it was difficult enough knowing you were going under a knife just because of a sport you know to get something fixed. You know if you have got something physically wrong with you then you have got to have it fixed you have got no choice but this was a choice I was having to make. And knowing full well I was allergic to morphine they was giving me some really weak pain killers afterwards and so you know I had to go through several weeks of serious uncomfortableness, discomfort that was the word I was looking for.
Kevin: I like the other word it works pretty well.
Dean: You liked that. Was tough but was something I was prepared to do.
Kevin: Let me ask you about that because even at such a young age you have to experience your first surgery and how did that, that must have thrown those questions into you to say how badly do I want this?
Dean: No never from the start of my career right until the day I retired I never questioned what I would do to get to the start line. And I have always had this, I mean I talk about when I do talks and stuff like that and I have always had this very simple routine that I go through regardless of whether its athletics or where I am going to box or anything. Any physical or mental thing I have got to go through I have got to put an awful lot of effort in I sit down, I lock myself away or I go and sit in a field or quite often I do it when I am fishing I just wind the rod in and I take ten minutes and I work out all the pros and cons. What can go right, what can go wrong, what I am going to get out of it if it goes bad, if it goes well. The risk and reward basically. I work it all out in my head and I ask myself the rather serious question, I know it sounds corny but you know just myself because no one else matters because at the end of the day I am the one who has either got to go under the knife or I am the one who has got to put in the effort on the track or I am the one who has got to nail the performance in front of 100,000 or 8 million people or whatever is watching it on the TV and ask myself whether I am prepared to go through whatever it takes to make it to that point. And throughout the whole of my career I went through all of that and it was always yes I don’t care, I don’t care you know I have got to do what I have got to do because this is what I do and this is what I want to be doing. And no matter how bad the bad times were the good times were always so much better. Does that make sense?
Kevin: It does. While we are talking about those bad times then because I was going to go on to actually ask you about the strategy that you employed within competitions but let’s actually talk about the strategy you employed within rehabilitation because I mean the crazy thing is that I have read up an awful lot about you and I think what has come through time and time again is from your peers and the people in UK Athletics, we are not talking media, they have openly said that you know what if it wasn’t for the injury you would probably have gone down as the all time great in terms of your talents. And you know you may not want to look at it because like that but that’s what other people are saying about you. Let’s talk about when you had managed to get it all together, hold it together for a bit and then bang something would go wrong how did that feel?
Dean: It destroyed me. It might come as some surprise because I got injured a lot and when I was doing media and stuff like that I could sort of took it on the chin and I done what I had to I put the smiley face on and stuff like that but it destroyed me inside. And it was my friends, not so much my friends and family because I kind of shut myself off leading up to a competition. It is surreal actually people always used to say we know when you are starting to get into the zone because you are very standoffish and I never, ever knew I was doing it. But a month, six weeks leading up to the competition I didn’t want people to help me over the track it made me feel weak, I wanted to do everything myself to make myself feel very self sufficient and strong and it was very similar I guess but more of a choice and more I was aware of it when I got hurt, I didn’t want people to be around me I wanted to deal with it myself but I did need them. I was almost too proud to ask. You know when you have an argument with your misses and you kind of want to apologise but you are not going to. I kind of wanted to say someone help me but I couldn’t because that would be me accepting that I was weak enough to need help. But when it came my way it was the people around me the coaches, the physios, my doctors. I was very lucky because I only ever worked with people who wanted to work with me. You know and I had doctors and physios driving down from Birmingham at 6 o’clock in the morning to turn up to a training session to make sure I didn’t go 90 – 100% when they told me 80% because they knew I was a bit bull in a china shop.
So I had people working with me because they wanted to and it was the fear of letting them down and the fact that when the you know what did hit the fan they stepped up to the plate and that’s what kept me going.
Kevin: How did that make you feel to know that once you had got over the fact that actually although this is Dean Macey responsible for making it happen on the track I am actually now realising that this is actually a team. How did that change?
Dean: Oh it was a massive team and there is two things, there is two things actually that I have always said that people sort of dismiss as an athlete because it is an individual sport yes and I am the one that has got to go out there and perform on the day. And zero people no matter whether they will need to coach me or treat me none of them can help me when I am standing out there on the line but the fact is there is a massive team behind me to make sure that I get to that line. One of the reasons why I have always prided myself on doing well and one of the reasons why I think I always did well was because of fear of letting them down. I didn’t want all of their efforts to go in vain. I mean I was the one who put myself through the pain, I was the one who was chucking my guts up in the side of the track yes but I did that because I didn’t want to let them down and I did that and I competed well I believe through fear of letting people down. It was only a very small sort of knit community. It was literally the people I saw day in day out that really put an awful lot of effort in that didn’t owe it to me. They did it by choice, not because I paid them, not because they were contracted to, they did it because they wanted to and those were the people I kept around me and that I still keep in contact with and I don’t introduce as this is my old physio, this is my old doctor, this is my old coach. I introduce them as this is my mate, this is my friend, this is someone who I trust and who I will always owe until the day I die. I will never be able to repay them for what they did but you know I hold them in great esteem.
Kevin: Why did they go that extra mile for you? It is obviously something inside of you that.
Dean: Maybe they just had time to kill.
Kevin: I am sure anybody else would prefer not to be on the M40 coming down at 6am from Birmingham down to London so. No but I mean that with sincerity you are a naturally warm giving person you know this could be a lesson to help other people understand what it is like to actually help people give to them without, do you see where I am going with this?
Dean: Yeah well the thing is throughout my career there was very little that I could give to them. Everything that they gave I took so it was very much a one way relationship. They gave me all their time and effort and knowledge and I took it and used it for myself. And maybe I just came across as someone who was not selfish and really appreciated it you know. My wife made them some awesome egg and bacon sandwiches every time they came down so maybe that was it I don’t know. I was very lucky throughout my career that the majority of the people that I worked with wanted to go the extra mile for me and they always did and I never, ever asked them to. And I suppose it is a case of I was very particular on who touched me. I was very particular about you know what doctors I saw, and I have had bad experiences you know and I suppose early on in my career those bad experiences taught me to be very particular with regards to who I actually accepted on to my team.
Dean: And you know my last doctor that I saw Dr Bruce Hamilton I mean I remember getting all of our close knit community, my coach, my physios and all that stuff and Charles Van Commenee who was the head of the UK Athletics at the time and I got them all down into a small room like this and I grilled him, I totally grilled him. I thought if you are going to be my doctor, if my career, my life, my money is going to be in your hands I want to totally punish you for this next hour and if you stand up to it then I will welcome you with open arms. And I played golf with him out in Katar a couple of weeks ago and we laugh and joke about it because he is like man that was like a job interview and I am like well you are going to be touching me and getting me ready for Olympics. I had to work quite hard to get into me. And when they did I suppose I don’t know.
Kevin: Well I am going to give you my take on it okay and I think that they gave the extra mile because they saw that every day you applied the extra mile. You gave it within your training. You never once have you coasted within your side of the bargain and if I throw it to you like that to say well there is nothing more pleasing than if you are putting your efforts into someone and you can see that they are actually busting their hump every day to get as much out of it and that they are listening then that makes people feel pretty wanted.
Dean: In fact you know you kind of hit the nail on the head there because, being naughty, I snuck in and read the notes from one of my physios once and one of their biggest criticisms was their biggest praise was the fact that they had to reign me back all the time and whenever they told me to do 10 reps I would always do 12 or something. I would always go above and beyond the call of duty and I suppose yeah they saw someone who they could commit to who they knew would absolutely not suffer fools gladly at the same token whenever they told me to do something would go and totally commit 100%.
Kevin: Exactly because you know you train people yourself and which ones do you enjoy training more the ones that you can genuinely see want to be there listening, learning, applying what you are saying and trying also better themselves.
Dean: You are right I get so much joy out of seeing people transform from people who question themselves to, and then six weeks down the line I am saying to them look I have got eight reps down on the sheet are you good for the next two. And they are like yeah I can do it and I am like wow and I remember back. So I suppose they probably did see someone who was 110% committed. As committed as anyone else could be and in fairness that was probably my downfall. Every time I stepped foot on the track regardless of whether I was injured or not I tried to train at 100% which now I know, I know now looking back the body cannot physically take but I always worked on the basis that if I trained at 100% then every time I walked off that track I would be a fraction better than when I walked on that day. And over nine months or eight months or however long I was preparing for that decathlon it would make a big difference.
I mean people throughout my career have always, lots of people, different people said to me Deano if you trained at 80% for six months leading up to a decathlon you would be dangerous. And my response was always no, no, no if I train at 80% leading up to a decathlon I would only be 80% of what you think I can be. The only reason I was dangerous every time I set foot on that track was because of my commitment in training. And if you expect yourself to commit and to compete at 100% you have got to burn yourself in training at some stage because it is different. You can’t run at 80% and then all of a sudden turn it on. And I suppose my philosophy was and I did do it my way a lot of the time. I would rather turn up slightly hurt but in good enough shape to challenge for medals than turn up complete healthy and think fourth place is probably the best I can probably do you know. And fourth place was the worst I did because of issues and injuries and things like that but I always felt that I was challenging for medals. I always felt like when I turned up that people were scared of me.
Kevin: Okay I just want to throw this outside athletics now this whole approach of you throw everything and leave it all on the table as you would probably say just leave it all there you know so when you walk away from the track or whatever there is that there is nothing left. Is that something you carried on outside since you have retired because you have then had to suddenly go into this whole new arena haven’t you.
Dean: Everyday life, civilian life as I call it doesn’t really respond that well to the bull in a china shop approach. And I have got to be honest with you after 10 years of being a professional athlete I don’t think I could do it for any longer. I don’t think I could do that 100% every single day, day in day out. I retired because you know I was tired.
Kevin: Mentally as well as physically?
Dean: Yeah physically I was knackered but mentally I was tired and every injury that I had and I had an injury, quite severe injuries and every injury that I had throughout my career I always believed and felt honestly that it was going to be the last one. And I retired, in fact I was actually competing the day I retired and I retired because literally I lost the belief that I could stay injury free and I was tired of having to pick myself up again all the time. And really putting that effort day in day out because it was exhausting psychologically and physically but you know outside of athletics now if I have to get my teeth stuck into something then I do but I have got be honest I have to enjoy it and there is nothing really that has ticked the same box that has filled the void of athletics. And I think you will find the same with most former athletes whether it is athletics, rowing whatever, whatever sport they do there is nothing really substitute what they did, that passion for sport. In business it is a totally different life and it is a totally different career and I think it is a totally different mindset. You can transfer things over, the commitment, the structure, the teamwork and all that stuff but the physical effort was where I got off on. I got off on being able to push myself physically further and harder than anyone else. Psychologically and I believe I was able to do that physically because I was psychologically stronger than most. In fact I honestly believe that throughout my career I wasn’t the most talented person on the track but mentally no one had anything over me.
Kevin: Well lets dwell on that for a little bit then because I think everybody that I have had the pleasure of speaking to on this podcast you know when I go back to a Pen Haddow or a Benita Norris or a David Wier, Greg Searle all of them actually say it is not physically, I am not different to anybody else I am just this average person. Greg Searle was saying that and he is a hulk of a bloke same as you but he said the difference was it was the mental side of it and let’s face it that really is a determinate of whether people face demons or whether they actually move forwards with their lives. That is the big chunk of stuff how do you deal with that?
Dean: Well I used to enjoy that side of things. I used to enjoy the pain; I used to enjoy the fatigue. People talk about lactic acid regardless of what event they are doing. If it is something physical where you are racing you are almost time trailing I suppose like rowing you are getting the best out of yourself on that day, you are pushing yourself to the absolute limit. I used to enjoy that physical challenge. I used to think to myself you know what today I am better than I was yesterday. I suppose it stems from childhood when I was a kid I never used to look at the guy who was getting As in class I used to look at the guy the year above me or whatever who was the best at football, the fastest the strongest, the best at javelin and I used to look at them physically and think I want people to look at me like that. I want to physically be that person who is bigger, stronger, better than anyone else. I just do it for myself I don’t do it because I want to walk around and puff my chest out. And so that led on to me wanting to be in sport and I just enjoyed, I enjoy the satisfaction you get out of yourself. When you question yourself on the track and you think I’ve got two reps to go and I don’t think it is physically possible to nail that 35 second 300 or something like that and then you do nail it and you do a 35:2 and you do a 35:3 and you are thinking Christ this is a half hour later once you have lost your breakfast several times and stuff like that. But you walk off that track or several times limped off that track and you know I didn’t have to have 100,000 people there, I didn’t have to have my coach or anyone there watching me it was there on the clock you know it was there written on paper and I was thinking to myself my god that was awesome you know. And you know I just had this, in fact I have got goosebumps talking about it now. I just had this overwhelming sense of pride that I was able to push myself beyond what I psychologically thought the barriers would possibly be. And I also believe that most people hit fatigue and they start giving in a little bit. You know fatigue is a sensation it is uncomfortable it is not that great but you have actually got in reserve probably 50% more performance to tap into. So I always used to certainly when the lactic acid hit, lactic acid used to annoy me it never used to slow me down. I used to think okay I’m getting to lactic, these were the money reps, if I was doing five 300s for instance I would nail the first three and it would be the last two that were my favourite because they were the most painful. That was where I was going to make the biggest difference because I knew 99.9% of the population within athletics let alone the globe would be starting to slow down. This is where I want to start accelerating.
Kevin: Not just slowing down they wouldn’t do them.
Dean: Well a lot of people pull out yeah.
Kevin: And that’s the thing when we were chatting before I said the problem with, and Pen Haddow I felt summed it up perfectly he said, going back to your 99%, he said the scary thing is 99% of people quit when they are just about to make a breakthrough in their lives whatever it is. And I think you are saying exactly the same aren’t you.
Dean: Yeah well the toughest repetitions, the toughest part of your life is where you make the difference. Because let’s face it when things are going easy everyone can do it. You know if it’s a walk in the park you know the old saying make hay when the sun shines fantastic everyone can do that. Everyone can be great when they are on top but it’s when it is tough that you make the bigger difference you know. Whether you are in trouble or whether you have tried to get yourself into that kind of ditch if you like with regards to training that is where the big breakthroughs come from.
Kevin: And is that, that’s where it really comes back to you internally from the way you approach it from what I can understand.
Dean: Yeah I just enjoyed that physical challenge. I enjoy the psychological challenge. I don’t know hand on heart when I go into a running session whether I am good enough to do the times that I set myself or you know the times my coach sets myself. We know we are pushing the barriers beyond you know above and beyond overload I like to call it. Above and beyond every single day. I don’t know whether today is the limit, I don’t know whether yesterday was the best I was but I was prepared to try every single day to push myself and to see if I am better than I was yesterday. And I have got to be honest out of ten years, 12 years, 13 years or really pushing myself I walked off that track disappointed very, very few times. Very few times.
Kevin: And that is testament to how hard you obviously or how much you gave on the track.
Dean: Yeah I mean there is always something to look to I mean the conditions are varied and stuff like that but I always took positives out of even the worse sessions. And technical sessions generally my running sessions was all about effort and all about whether you can physically do it and 90% of the time I walked off that track feeling really you know self confident, really awesome about myself but the technical sessions sometimes you have to really work hard to see the positive side because you can throw shot for an hour and a half and not have a one inch throw that is anywhere near the mark. If you take any sort of bad psychological barriers into the next session it just rolls on and I’ve done that before and I’ve learnt from it. And so quite often I actually found that you know if after half a dozen throws it just wasn’t going to be one of those days I would just walk away because quite often if you spend an hour trying to correct it and it doesn’t work you can actually make yourself start throwing badly for an awful long time.
Kevin: Right that is a really, really valid point actually because that is something that we have often said within the business world on days where it is just not clicking in go do something else.
Dean: Oh definitely, definitely. You don’t become a bad businessman; you don’t become a bad athlete over night. You are much better putting your efforts into something that is going to go well or you are going to make a difference rather than sit there banging your head against a brick wall in my opinion for no outcome. You know it is just a waste of time, it does your head in, you do start questioning yourself no matter who you are everyone has questions whether you know, if you have a bad technical session like man where did that go. Because you know you haven’t got the answers you only find the answers when you start coming out the other side. You think right that’s why I was going wrong. So you can find the answers elsewhere you don’t have to keep sitting at the same desk looking at the same computer or for me standing in the same shot put circle. You change the drills I’ll go and throw discus because I always feel if you are in a good psychological place things tend to snowball. Things tend to go well whether you really tend them to or not so quite often with technical sessions for me like I said if they went wrong for a significant amount of time I want to walk away. And that’s a great thing about being a multi eventer there was always something I could turn my hand to.
Kevin: Yes if you were just 100m sprinter well you are screwed.
Dean: Yeah if your 100 is going bad then you have got to go up in distance haven’t you really or take up hurdles which is a bit of a nightmare but not for me I would always be able to go and do something else and that is something that I certainly employed throughout most of my career.
Kevin: Do you do something consciously to get yourself in a good psychological place or is it just there for you? Or is it something that happens naturally because you have done something so often? I mean is there anything specific?
Dean: One of the reasons why I said you know my coach Greg Richards was very much the rod that held me upright or kept me on a plateau I was very much a hot or cold man and I still am. You know I am either singing or dancing or you know I am one or tother there is no sort of grey area I am black or white. And Greg was very much level right the way across the plain and I might turn up to training one day and I would be singing the blues and I would be, singing the blues is the wrong phrase but I would singing and dancing, I would be running laps and you know you just couldn’t shut me up or slow me down. And he could rein me back. Other days I would turn up, in fairness over the 10 – 15 years we worked to together something like that he never had to tell me to get off my backside to go and do another rep or Dean your time is up you have got to go. I was ready on the line when it came to the physical attributes but on the psychological you know the technical events he was the one who was able to pick me up or say look you aren’t doing it right it’s just timing is out a little bit or things like that. So but I have got to be honest you can make yourself feel good and you can, I mean one thing that someone said to me early on in my career, it was a psychologist actually and he was talking about me going to see him about doing some visualisation techniques and at the time he was baffling me with words that I didn’t really understand and I was like what do you mean like shutting my eyes and being able to see myself do stuff and all that. And he was like yeah. And I said I can do that, I said I can shut my eyes right now and I am talking about right now I can shut my eyes and see myself jump 5m in the pole vault. I can shut my eyes and see myself throw 16m in the shot put. It is something that I have always been able to tap into that apparently you have to coach people and it is coachable you can actually develop this trait.
Kevin: It’s a big chunk of what sports psychologist spend their whole career doing to people.
Dean: Exactly and you can develop this. I for some reason naturally had it. I have always been able to do it; I have always been able to see it. I suppose it is because I am a total daydreamer I can literally just tap into that part of my brain. But that is something I naturally had and used an awful lot.
Kevin: I was going to say right so how important was that to you, was that a secret weapon?
Dean: Yeah massive, I will tell you why because my coach was very, very good with regards to telling me my technical information but also showing me. And it wasn’t so much what he said it was what he showed me. So we would get in the shot circle or we would get in the high jump and he would physically show me and he would be able to put that into the back of my brain and picture myself doing it. And it is so much easier being able to see it rather than actually listen to it. Because quite often I don’t process words as well as do process images and so something it was lucky enough I didn’t have to be taught I was able to do and I tapped into pretty much every day of my training while I was warming up, while I was stretching you would spend 45 minutes maybe an hour getting ready for a training session and during that while I was stretching I would literally tap into what I was aiming to do that particular day, where my levels where, what sort of performance would be satisfactory. Top end performance where I want to be, my targets, my goals like I said whether I was prepared to put myself through all that stuff. Then if I was doing any technical work then I would see myself, I would just see myself doing it. It’s surreal and I was able to transfer it onto when I done bobsleigh afterwards. You know flying down the track at 80mph, 10ft in the air pulling 5gs in a bobsleigh steering it with strings and I was able to see myself driving 19 perfect corners and only once did it not work when we crashed. But I still got straight back on the horse I went back up to the track someone told me what I had done wrong at turn 15, I steered too early which bought me down, I left the corner too high so we toppled over and I went straight back up the top of the track pushed it off and corrected that straight away. You don’t become a bad driver; you don’t become a bad athlete or a bad businessman over night you just make mistakes. We are human everyone does it. It is being able to analyses those mistakes and put them right that is something that I was very, very good at certainly within sport anyway.
Kevin: That is really what I am going to come on to now because I think the visualisation side of it is an awesome piece of advice that you have just shared. Now what I want to do is apply that and let’s apply it at that lovely time of 2006, let’s talk about that Gold Medal time at the Commonwealth which you had been striving for all your life. I mean you had had Silvers, you had had Bronzes, the Olympics had painfully given you fourth place which must have been a real pain in the ass.
Dean: One was, one was a pain. The Sydney fourth was a nightmare really because I had some major elbow surgery earlier on that year which you know killed three months of my preparation and so my throws were nowhere near as strong as they should have been for various reasons. But four years later in Athens I reopened the hamstring tear four of five times that year and I was actually my coach had to split me, in fact the guy who won the Bronze medal in the World Juniors in 1996 Cheil Warner, said he was one of my best friends, we used to train together all of the time he used to stay at my house, he had to split us up because Cheil was absolutely punishing me on the track in all the events because this hamstring hindered me so much I just didn’t have the performance in training to run with him, to keep up with him. Anyway come the competition I am sitting there thinking anywhere in the top eight maybe ten would be sufficient you know somewhere around the 8200 points mark. I really worked hard psychologically on that Olympics purely because I knew I didn’t physically have the attributes I needed. I wasn’t in that shape. And it is all well and good saying well I can do this, I can do that but if your training actually doesn’t indicate that you are in 10:6 shape you are not going to go and run 10:6. If you are in 10:8 shape the best you can do is get a 10:8 out of yourself. And so I thought the top eight would be pretty good performance and I ended up coming fourth. And I scored 8400, 200 points more than I figured I probably should have done and.
Kevin: When you say you worked hard psychologically was that just doing more visualisation or?
Dean: Yeah visualisation I’ll give you an example for six weeks leading up to the competition I didn’t top 15m in the training yet technically I was found, I was sound I just didn’t have that explosive power. I couldn’t really dig into the well in training it just wasn’t happening even though technically I was sound; I was looking at it all on the camcorders and things like that slowing it down frame by frame perfect. Yet Cheil was going and throwing 15:20, 15:30s every competition. Now we was both in different pools and we was both throwing third or fourth, we was early on in these pools. So he was in pool A and I was in pool B lets say and we was talking leading up to our first throws about how we was doing this, how we was doing that. They called my name out and they called Cheil’s name out and Cheil walked straight off to do his throw and I took 30 seconds and I stood there and I just visualised. I had done a couple of warm up throws which felt pretty good, and I visualised the most perfect throw I could nail. First round throw Cheil who had been repping 15:20s and 15:30s like it was going out of fashion threw 14:70 which was his best result. I threw a personal best of 15:86 or something, 15:83 I think it was and I just walked into that circle and I don’t know how but all of that psychological work that I had done I saw myself doing it, I just knew I was going to throw a mile I just knew it, I felt great, I felt awesome, I knew where I was, it wasn’t a surreal experience I didn’t sort of see myself from afar, I just went in there and it was almost like déjà vu I knew what was going to happen, I knew where I had to be, I knew where my feet had to land, I knew I had to lift my hips up and it all just went so right.
Kevin: It’s because you have probably rehearsed it so many times in your mind and you took that extra moment instead of just going straight on and doing your throw like Cheil did you took that extra time. You just paused, you had that rehearsal time.
Dean: Exactly and I mean I didn’t rush it, whether that was the reason or not or whether I was just but I walked out of that circle and thought to myself lucky sod because that just came out of the blue. I have got to say that happened most times when I competed in the shot, the disc whatever event wherever you like to, whatever competition whatever event you want to throw at me generally I over performed. At the time I am thinking wow that was lucky, that was lucky but it isn’t lucky when you do it all the time over a period of 10 years.
Kevin: Yeah and that luckiness always comes up in the big events.
Dean: Yeah exactly and you mentioned briefly in fact we went out of the way but you mentioned about two, three, four minutes ago actually 2006 Melbourne now three weeks to the day before the start of Melbourne Commonwealth Games I had a Grade 2 tear in my hamstring. I was down doing my very last pole vault session at Melbourne Park in Chelmsford and I tore my hamstring three strides out from the takeoff. Now a Grade 2 hamstring tear normally is four weeks back to training and I had three weeks to the day.
Kevin: I was going to say you didn’t.
Dean: It weren’t even for training this was to compete in the toughest, physically and psychologically most demanding event on track and field in a major championships.
Kevin: And more importantly you had been out for three years, this was the big one you had been building up three years of rehab to get back to as well.
Dean: Well in fairness all the years that I had out I was training a lot I was training hard. I didn’t compete so you know generally public didn’t really see what I was but I was always improving, I was always working hard whether it be physically or psychologically I was always in great shape. I am addicted to training even two years down the line now you know I am addicted to it. I love being in shape and so even when I was out injured I was in great shape I just wasn’t able to compete at that intensity. But throughout those three weeks, in fact saying that throughout that first week of that three week period I believed it was all over. And again it was people like my wife, my coach and certainly my physio and my doctor two people I was working with at the time Neil Black and Bruce Hamilton those two guys got me through it big time. It was their belief in the fact that they could do something about the injury in my leg that kept me going.
Kevin: So literally did they keep planting positive messages to you saying we can solve this, we can fix this.
Dean: In fairness it was very difficult for them to be positive but the fact that they said give us a week let us have a go, let us see what we can do. And that filled me with a little bit of hope but at the same token I knew that after the amount of effort that they had put into me to get to that point I owed them that week and so I completely committed to that week and then once that week had gone I walked into a room and Neil Black actually turned round and said to me, he said look if you can make sure your brain is ready, if you can make sure your head is right I will make sure your leg isn’t an issue. Now this wasn’t a fact that you know you could go on and compete and be bull in a china shop or anything like that I still had to have a very, very controlled precise not go anymore than 85% here or there because there was still an injury there but between us we would manage it enough that I could compete. And so for pretty much that last two week I already had performances written down on paper where we figured was the best we could get out of my leg. So 11.2 in the 100 couldn’t do any quicker than that although I did 11.18 but it is very difficult to do exactly 11.2. I think jump 7.20 in the long jump, I jumped 7.28. I needed to throw 15 in the shot put I threw a PB but the shot put obviously wasn’t a place where my hamstring was going to be under too much stress so I could really compete in that one. And so you know I competed there. In the high jump I had to pull out at 2.05 but I did look up at the crowd and my coach and after I had jumped 2.05 my coach was sort of giving it a finger across the throat and I pretended I didn’t see him so I took the next high jump 2.08 and so it was a very, very controlled precise competition but for the two weeks leading up to that I worked every single day all on my own in the middle of a field, there was no point me going down to a track because I couldn’t do anything intense. It was literally me just about getting that hamstring through as much motion as possible. Getting as much elasticity in that scar tissue that was forming and trying to get some intensity in the leg obviously because I was going to compete and even though I wasn’t competing at 100% 80% would still win major championships is a bloody high level. So every single day I would spend at least an hour and a half, couple of hours maybe just sitting there in that field running through exactly what I had to do. And almost fooling myself into believing that it was possible because even though the guys had told me that they would make sure the hamstring wasn’t going to go there was still a massive, we was probably talking 60/40, 60% chance it wasn’t going to happen because text books just say that aint possible especially in the decathlon when you have got to jump, throw and run all of those events. And so I would sit there and almost psychologically fool myself into believing that there was nothing anyone could do to take that Gold medal away from me and once it got down to the competition I totally forgot about it. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I had absolutely every performance that I needed to do nailed and burnt into my brain. It was just me against the scoring tables and the maximum I figured I could score was 8/1 and if someone was going to go and score 8/4 I genuinely couldn’t compete you know I had to finish to obviously stand a chance of getting a medal. And I tell you what I really believe that my name was on that medal because there was a couple of guys in there that could have done more than 8/1 and stuff like that. But I competed and I nailed every event that I should have done. On the events where I had to let people go I still performed to the ability that I needed to. Like I said in the 100 I just took a couple of, a couple of hundreds of a second off which gave me an extra 2 points or something. It was really, psychologically it was a really, really tough competition to do.
Kevin: That’s what I was just going to ask you. How much discipline did that take to stick to that strategy because that goes against everything that you are in you personality?
Dean: It’s so hard, it’s so hard. I remember in the 100m the first event I had a flyer of a start and about 20m out from the line I was leading and I started to lift my head up out of the drive phase and I knew the drive phase was okay because it is more of a power phase it is when you get up into the pickup and the fly phase I was going to engage the glut and the hamstrings that’s where the actually sort of issues could come. And I remember coming up and I couldn’t see anyone and then instantly I thought Greg my coach who we had sat down with obviously with the medical team and stuff and worked out right 11.2 based on the training and the rehab we could do which shaved a few tenths off here and there that is as fast as we are ready to go. And I remember coming out in the lead and thinking foot off the gas come on. And it was the fact that I didn’t want to let those guys down, I didn’t want to go out and wreck it all. They had put an awful lot of effort into them three weeks they had got me into a position where physically I didn’t even think I was going to be able to start I was there, I was on the start line I had an opportunity regardless of how slim or what the odds were they got me in that position and it was solely because I didn’t want to let those guys down that I was able to put my pride aside and let people come past me. And I went from first at 20 to second from last at the line but that’s what I needed to do. And it was at that stage I am sure that everyone in the field that I was competing against realised that I had an issue but that didn’t bother me at that time because I knew that it was all down to me. It was me against the clock; it was me against the tape measure.
Kevin: That’s a lovely thing about decathlons at the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you come first, second, third in any individual event it’s about that consistency of scoring the points over those two days, over those ten events.
Dean: They are all time trials. You know even though you are running a 400m race it is not a case of in your lead take it easy. If you are in the lead you push, you push, you push. It is all about a points table, it is a time trial. You make up as many points wherever you can and if you have a bad event quite often people say if you have a bad event forget about it I don’t I use it to give me inspiration to go and make up those 50 points that I have just lost. Don’t get me wrong I don’t beat myself up about it but I think to myself if I have just lost 50 points in the long jump where I figure I should be then I have got seven events to make up those 50 points somewhere. I don’t accept the fact that I have lost 50 I think right I need to gain.
Kevin: I was going to ask you about that I was going to say when you have a bad event particularly as I would call it a bank event and you suddenly walk away from that you know I won’t use the words that you probably use after that but you have got probably less than an hour to get yourself psyched up and prepared for the next one and you have just said you don’t let those points slide. You don’t say oh well sod it that was then can’t do anything about that.
Dean: No because every single point counts you don’t leave any points out there on the track. I busted every bone, sinew, muscle you name it in my body to try and gain those 50 points somewhere else. And I’d take you back to Sydney in 2000 when I said I had some elbow issues with the surgery and stuff. I didn’t throw shot and disc very well I actually lost sensation in half of my right hand so my little finger and the finger next to it I couldn’t feel at all I had slight clawing and I couldn’t feel any of the hand or anything so I couldn’t really feel the implements fully in my fingers and even though I knew that shot and disc wasn’t going well I never accepted it so I ran a personal best in the 400. I ran great in the 100, I ran a personal best by six seconds in the 1500 even though it’s a hard way to do it by running because running is actually physically the most painful way to actually get some points out of yourself I knew that’s where I had to do it. And so going into that competition I put the extra effort into the events where I knew I was going to really have to suffer but I was prepared to do it. And those points that I lost in those events, I probably lost 150 points in the shot and the disc all in all so 75 points in each let’s say. I made up those points I lost in the running events and still even though I came fourth scored a personal best over the entire decathlon. So I mean you know roughly where you are going to be good and where you are going to be strong and where you are going to be solid going into a decathlon based on your training. You always try and stick an extra 10% on for the event, for the Worlds for the Olympics and because of the adrenalin you know you are a competitor. But by no means do you ever accept loosing points whether it be in a good or bad event. I was quite lucky though whenever my strong events came round I nailed them I absolutely nailed them.
You know I hear a lot of interviews with sports people and they say oh I’m not scared of anyone I’m not scared of this I’m not scared of that. Well I was, I came through in 1999 from nowhere to win a World Championships Silver Medal and because I did that I was aware that every single competition I did someone could be there ready to bounce through from nowhere and so the fear that that could happen because you have no influence. It is not like boxing where you can influence someone you can take them out of their comfort zone you can smother their work. In track and field if they compete awesome you have only got your throw, your jump, your run to actually respond.
Kevin: It’s a bit like golf you can only play your own game of golf.
Dean: Exactly you play the golf course you know to the best of your ability. So it was that fear that someone was going to do that to me that really strived me to perfect everything that I done when I was out on the track.
Kevin: So that stopped any complacency ever coming in.
Dean: That is a great way of putting it I never had any complacency. And it wasn’t the fear of my competitors it was the fear that someone was going to be so awesome on the day that if I didn’t put all the effort in training every single day that I was healthy then I wouldn’t have it in my heart or head or my physical body to respond. You know I did respond most times.
Kevin: I am going to start wrapping this up because believe it or not we have been talking for nearly an hour.
Dean: Have we really?
Kevin: Yeah I had no idea and I am looking at the time and I know you have got other appointments to go to but you hit on one line when we were talking about when you had to manage yourself particularly when you were doing that 100 you said you put your ego to one side.
Dean: Yeah very difficult to do.
Kevin: Now if I was to finish on anything I am going to finish on that because I think ego is probably, people love to think that it is their biggest strength but in my experience and of you know talking to people of looking at business situations it is the people who can actually shelve the ego actually end up with the most successful results. I am not going to say the most successful person but the most successful results. Let’s talk a bit about that.
Dean: Well I put my ego to one side because I was competing for my team. And quite often in business, in a work environment you are not working for yourself even if you are self employed you have got people that you are working with. So I put my ego to one side which in fairness was probably my greatest strength throughout my entire career. I put that to one side for that one occasion simply because I didn’t want to let my team down and to get the best out of my team, to give them the opportunity to get me through that competition that’s what I had to do. And like I said right from the start I did what I had to do regardless of whether it was difficult psychologically, it was difficult for my pride whatever but at that time competing hard is never going to be, was never going to be hard for me.
Kevin: I was going to say that’s the easy bit for you isn’t it.
Dean: 100% is easy you just do what you have got to do as hard as you possibly can. But taking a few tenths of a percent off, you know being able to let people go past you, and you know Commonwealth Games isn’t a World or a Olympics but when you are in the Commonwealth Games it is the biggest competition of your life at that moment. And to be able to do that is something that I didn’t think I was able to do ever and so I think I grew into that ability. I grew into that maturity to be able to say you know what 100m is 100m this is the bigger picture, this is to repay all of those people who have put all of that effort in day in day out driving down from Birmingham spending eight hours in a car just to witness a training session to make sure I was healthy. You know if this was what I had to do to give them the result then I was prepared to do it regardless of what it hurt.
Kevin: All that is flashing through your mind in like a you know million of a second type of thing really isn’t it.
Dean: Oh it is still a battle. It wasn’t something that I was boom turned on to do. It wasn’t something that came easy to me you know it was still the picture of my coaches face in my head, in the back of my brain that made me, that enabled me to switch off in the 100m. It was still the fact that my coach and my physio and my doctor were sitting up there after I knackered my elbow, I mean I had to have surgery, I had to have my elbow rebuilt three times throughout my career. Once, the last time after Melbourne and I ruptured my elbow in the first throw of the javelin because it was only a 56m throw and I wanted a 58. I walked up to them, all of them and I said to them I am going to take the next throw and they are like Dean your elbow has gone. I mean my doctor and my physio were wobbling my arm around it was totally mashed. And they were like you can’t pick up a javelin and I was like look I am going to do it. And we were standing on the side of the track having an argument whether I was going to. You know in my heart I needed to do it you know for my performances I didn’t and so it wasn’t an easy thing all the way through the competition but that’s what teamwork is you know. They knew what the best thing for me was I knew I had to give them the opportunity to get the best out of myself and even though it wasn’t easy we did what we had to do.
Kevin: Yeah you are as strong as your team.
Dean: Yeah that’s a great way of putting it.
Kevin: I am going to finish off by asking you the big question in my opinion which is how did it feel when you got that Gold in the end?
Dean: Worth it, it felt worth it. No matter how much pain I go through between now and the day I die, no matter how much pain I had to go through psychologically and physically for that competition, no matter how much pride I had to put to the side to let people go past me it was all worth it. And those three weeks were the hardest toughest three weeks of my life because I just didn’t know whether it was possible to get through the competition. I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to stand on the start line. It was only the teamwork, the people who put all that effort in that got me through that first week and they willed me to start believing and it was tough I mean it was hard, it was heartbreaking I am not too proud to say that I say in the middle of that field after rehabilitation sessions and sobbed to myself because I wanted it so much and didn’t know whether it was going to be possible. And at the end of the day to sit here now talking to you and think you know what that medal is in my draw indoors, it was possible makes me think no matter what it is as long as you are capable of achieving it you know. I am not talking about walking on the moon and things like that but as long as something is physically possible and you are prepared to work for it then most things are achievable.
Kevin: Dean Macey a most perfect end to this interview. Thank you very much.
Dean: My pleasure.
Kevin: I hope you enjoyed that interview and I would like to thank Dean once again for being so generous with his time. Without a doubt he is the most energetic and motivational individual I have ever spoken with and I thoroughly recommend that you click through to Dean’s website via the show notes to learn more about his corporate fitness and guest speaking services. Dean has very kindly also joined the Maximise Potential Group on LinkedIn to give everybody the opportunity to respond to the interview and pose questions so please come and join the discussion.
As you are aware one of our aims within the Podcast is to help everyone maximise their career hence also why the podcast is sponsored by the Jenrick Recruitment Group. On that note Jenrick IT has just launched the first of a series of podcasts all designed to provide extremely tailored and practical advice to help people advance within their careers. I have put a link to the first which is from one of Jenrick’s most experienced recruitment consultants Miriam Lee on the show notes and this one provides Miriam’s top five tips to maximise your career. It is only fifteen minutes and it is well worth a listen.
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