The good and the bad

Part of the post race analysis is what went well and what could be improved for the next one – I have never done this before but here goes:

The Goods

The lead up to the race – the week before was calm, relaxed, easy on the legs, early night’s so lots of sleep, no crappy foods, no alcohol.

Very well prepared – clothes for all weathers, spare this, spare that, all details sorted well in advance, directions to the hotel, bike route etc.

Lack of stress – tried to be relaxed as much as possible. we were asked to rack bikes on Saturday but I knew I would be anxious leaving my bike there overnight so I racked it Sunday.

Visualisation – read about this a lot and took it on board. I knew every detail of the race strategy. Warm up on the swim was vital (I know I take time to get used to the water temp) start at the back, get a good rhythm and build, go easy until half way then start to push the pace, transitions – I knew what to wear if hot, warm and cold, what order to put it on etc, Bike was 2.5 laps with a strategy for each lap (pace and nutrition) I was not looking at it as one long 90 K ride, T2 again I knew what I was going to run in and what shots and nutrition to take, the run I was looking at a pace of 10kmph to do the run in 2 hours and slow if I needed to.

I even knew what clothes to wear after the event and what food I was going to eat and when for the next 2 – 3 hours. 

Nutrition on the day – breakfast was sorted, knew what the hotel would and would not provide, so I had taken porridge and a sandwich, croissants etc purchased the day before, food for the journey and while setting up – all was planned well in advance.

No huge expectation put on myself – so could relax and enjoy it more. This was probably the hardest one!

The bads

The run – I go into it with the such negativity – ‘hope I can finish the run’, ‘hope I can keep this pace’ etc need to turn it around and build confidence on the run section – and I am confident Mark will know how to help me with this.

Need to get more aero on the bike. Everyone who passed me was on the drops or on aero bars – I ride too upright.

Need to get used to running and riding without socks to save time in transitions. 

The sponsor of the event was Maxifuel so there were Maxifuel products at the feed stations. But I hadn’t tried any of these so I had to carry my own nutrtition which was extra weight and hassle. Try the sponsor’s products in advance of the event so you can make use of the freebies. 

To be honest I am having trouble thinking of more negatives.

The key words are PREPARATION – PREPARATION – PREPARATION!

Thanks for reading

Hero to Zero

In my previous blog on the Half I mentioned how muddy it was. I have since found a photo one of the marshalls took and this is what the muddy areas were like ….

Following the race on Sunday we got home about 4 – 5 pm Sunday afternoon. Whilst unloading the car, cleaning the bike etc my right knee started to hurt.

By late afternoon it was worse and it hurt to put any weight on it and bending my knee was out of the question.

By the time bedtime came around it was agony trying to get upstairs. I was so tired I went out like a light. But I was woken up at 4am by a stabbing pain in my knee if I moved it 1mm.

It was agony and it kept me awake most of the rest of the night. I had already booked Monday as a working from home day. The wife helped me to the settee before she left for work and with a pile of work, my laptop, phone etc all within reach I spent the day on the settee in a great deal of pain.

We agreed during the day that as soon as my wife got in from work we would go to A&E and get it checked out.

After a few hours of queuing I was seen by a nurse and doctor and the diagnosis was ‘inflamed tendons around the knee cap’ due to over use the remedy was Ibuprofen, keeping the leg elevated and applying ice and at least a weeks rest (from exercise).

I got back from the hospital, took some pills and put ice on the leg. A good nights sleep last night and today all day I have had ice on it and had more Ibuprofen (another day working from home) and it has improved a great deal already. I can put weight on it and bend my knee almost all the way now, yesterday I couldn’t move it at all. It isn’t sorted but hopefully it is a good start.

I got a positive reaction from Mark (my coach) on the Half and also on the injury. We need to wait and see how the leg is before we make a call on the Bournemouth Sprint distance tri on 8th July – as Mark rightly points out that is only 11 days away and I am on the settee with a pain in my leg and no exercise for a week – so it doesn’t look like I will be seeing the sea anytime soon.

Thanks for reading.

The Marlow Half Ironman

The big one – The first A race of the year and the first Half ironman event I have ever participated in.

The build up was brilliant – I have never been so prepared for a race as I was for this one – mainly thanks to my coach Mark (www.ironmate.co.uk).

My wife asked the big question Saturday evening while we were at the hotel we were staying at for the event. We were going to rack up etc together and she was going to watch me swim , T1 and watch me start the bike and then she was going to go back to the hotel, sort the room, book out and come back for the end of the bike and watch me run. So how long would the bike and the event take me?

Swim was the easiest to estimate – 40 – 45 mins, bike could be as fast as 3 hrs 15 mins but could take 4 hours – it was a bit hilly, it rained heavy the night before so some of the roads there was water laying, so caution on the fast descents, the run 2 hrs 15 mins would be good but again could be as slow as 2 hrs 30 mins plus. The run is still my weakness. Plus transitions my best time in a absolute dream event would be just over 6 hours – but it could be a 7 hour job!

Sunday Morning

Alarm went off at 4.15am, breakfast, shower, fluids, pooh, more food, more fluid, put racing kit in, off again for another pooh!

We arrived at racking in plenty of time. The racking and the park in total was very water logged. It had rained heavy all night and the place was very boggy.

I was ready to start at least 15 mins before the race briefing and was so focussed it was unreal. I went for a little walk, near some bushes (again!)

   

The race briefing was short and sweet. Two key points, due to the strong current and heavy water fall over night 1) the swim had been reduced from 1,900 metres down to 1,500 metres, 2) it was very wet everywhere, be very careful on the bike, some sections of the roads were almost flooded, don’t go too fast on the down hills etc.

The Elites and up to 39 year olds would start at 7am, the rest (Ladies and over 40’s) start at 7.15. I asked if the second race could get in for a warm up – yes. Excellent.

First wave were off, we waited five minutes then were allowed in the Thames. Water wasn’t too bad, strong current against us on the lap up to the turn bouy and then with us on the way back. I decided to start at the back. Although swimming is my strongest discipline I wanted to start easy and smooth and build and you cannot do that at the front being swum over.

Off went the klaxon and off I went – actually nowhere fast – I was so far back no one was moving, it seemed like ages before I did a few decent strokes. I very quickly got into a good rhythm and started progressing. To overtake I had to go far to the right by the boats moored on the rivers edge. But this was OK as it helped sighting and meant I was out of the main flow of the current. I went past a few swimmers early on, then some more and then more, I was flying. I saw the turn bouy and had to double check it was the turn bouy as it was so quick. I swum to the middle, turned around the bouys and swum back in the centre of the river taking full advantage of the strong current. I hit the last bouy in no time and was pulled out of the River and noticed other people being pulled out with yellow swim caps meaning they were in the first wave!

Turns out my swim was 21 mins and 4 secs. Even though it was reduced to 1,500 metres that was still fast for me. That swim placed me 80th in total and 19th in my age category.

In to T1 – It was still raining slightly so I put on my cycling top with my gillet in the back pocket, glasses on, helmet on and as suggested I held my shoes while we run across the water logged field and put my shoes on at the bike mount line. T1 2m 14s.

The bike was good. Strong, well paced, nutrition was spot on – energy bar very hour, one bite every 15 mins, and energy drink every 10 mins or so at the correct swig rate. Was hilly out of the park on to the A4155 to the first roundabout, straight over and the roads were wet, all the way to the next roundabout, turn right and along the flat – was a good pace, I was overtaking more people than there were people overtaking me (which is always a positive). Then big hill number 1 to the turn point which would be the furthest part of lap one. The hill was not as bad as I thought, it was long and hard but again a good gear and a good rhythm and it was done before you know it, around the roundabout and down that hill. And it was a fast descent. The momentum kept me going down the hill and along the straight. Back to the next roundabout, take a left and again a fast ride back to the last roundabout. Lap 1 done – one of the two long laps. Part of my breakdown of the race was breaking the 86K bike was actually 2 big laps and a little lap and one of the biggies was done. Lap two seemed harder, made me realise the pace I had put in on lap 1, so I backed off a bit and had a more subtle lap 2. Then just the little half lap. I decided to push it again. The thought of the run was hanging over me but I thought if the run is slow I need a fast bike leg!

A few more k’s and the bike was done 3 hours 12 mins – the bike was the 172nd fastest ride in total and 50th for my age – not bad but not as fast as I thought. T2 2 mins 14 secs.

Now the run. I set off and felt good, very comfortable. The run started along the footpath by the river. It was very muddy and puddles everywhere. Then we hit what I have trouble describing, to say muddy would be an understatement. There was mud on mud on mud. I slowed right down to avoid slipping over. A lady run past me and within a few yards she was over. It was ridiculous, you had to slow down so much it was almost walking pace. This section lasted for about 1K. Then we went on to gravel and all the stones clung to the mud on your trainers. So your feet were double the weight.

This was so draining so I was very happy to complete the first lap in just over 30 mins (30 m 34 s). Wave to the wife who was cheering me on like I was at the Olympics.

Lap 2 was even worse, muddier due to the other runners who were now on the loop. Runners were holding the fence to try and save themselves from falling so all the fence was hanging over the mud. It was hard going and I nearly fell, in fact I am not sure how I saved the fall as my legs went from under me.

Lap 2 was 33min 51s. Wave to the wife. Lap 3 was the hardest. I walked through the mud part, I figured running wasn’t that much faster than a brisk walk and it was a lot safer. I am racing in two weeks at Bournemouth so no point in running in mud and risking a fall and injury (plus I was absolutely knackered). My feet weighed a ton yet others were managing it better than me and were overtaking me and I was going backwards (which is always the case for me on the run). Lap 3 was 37 mins 23 s. I barely had the energy to raise an eyebrow to the wife.

Lap 4, weirdly was better, still hard in the mud and more walking but less than I did in lap 3 – in fact I was overtaking those who over took me in lap 3. I had my Garmin on and so I knew the pace, lap times and overall time and I could see a total run time of 2hrs 20 mins was doable so I think that is why I found something to push myself on lap 4. Lap 4 was 38 mins 17 s – the slowest lap out of the four but not as slow as i thought it might be when on lap 3! This included stopping to pick up my timing chip which had fallen off due to the mud. So the run was 2 hrs 20 min, 211th for the run or 56th for my category.

And there was the finish line and an end of race hug from the wife. The photographer took my photo and asked me to hold my race number up as it was folded over, the lady took my timing chip. I stopped the Garmin watch and I noticed the time on the board at the finish was 6 hrs 10 mins. That was good.

The trainers were a bit worse for wear …

  

Then it was back to the River for a dip to clean myself off and try to salvage my trainers

So 6 hours 10 mins – very impressed and happy with this. The only disappointment was the fact the run was so hard due to the mud, if no mud could I have done a sub 6 hour?

Then the results were on the web later that day. I was down as a DNF as the timing chip hadn’t registered my finish as I was holding the timing chip. I have emailed the company doing the timings and they will look at the photos of me finishing.

All my times of the official timer are here plus my unofficial last lap puts me on 5 hrs 57 mins. I think this is accurate as their laptimes for my other  laps of the run are the same as mine as I was hitting the lap button when I crossed the timer chip matt.

The 6 hours 10 mins on the clock at the finish was the start of the first wave and I started 15 mins later. So a sub 6 hours for my first Half Ironman and including a mud bath!

I am well happy.

Now the bad news.

Once home I started to feel a pain in my right knee. More a niggle then anything else, but as the day and evening went on it got worse and worse. By bed time (9.30pm) I could barely put any weight on my right leg, I woke up at 4am with a stabbing pain everytime I moved my leg and I mean even if the movement was 1mm.

Now I am on the settee, leg raised with an ice pack, praying it won’t last long.

So a total of 5 hours 57 mins, putting me 175th out of 249 finishers and 56th out of 84 finishers for my age group.

A great achievement – big thanks to my wife for her support, input and patience with me and my training. And thanks to Mark my coach for getting me ready.

Thanks for reading

TDW Stats

The results were published in the week for the Tour de Weald cycling sportive, the 104K ride was completed in a time of 4 hrs and 14 mins.

This placed me 18th out of 75 finishers – a massive improvement on the 4 hrs 34 mins last year and finishing 56th.

I was really impressed with this and it is a massive confidence builder for the Half looming (two days away).

The wife, however, stole my thunder by finishing her ride a full 44 mins faster then she did last year, placing her 5th overall and being the first lady to finish!

Maybe she should be the athlete in the family and not me.

Thanks for reading.

Two days to go

Two days to go – I cannot believe it, it has crept up on me so fast. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was filling in the online registration form!

This week has been a very different one to the norm. Very little training – just a few bits here and there. Trying to make sure sleep has been plentiful so loads of early nights. Sensible food all week (no takeaways or cheats) and no alcohol. I have been behaving (almost) like a proper athlete.

A restful evening this evening. Leaving work on time, chillaxing in front of the TV this evening and an early night. Up early tomorrow for some last minute exercise before packing, loading the car and the drive to Marlow – aiming to leave by 11am.    

Then it’s all about registration, the right food and drink during the day tomorrow, relaxing and chilling as much as I can and a good night’s sleep, ready for the 3.30am alarm call on Sunday ………..

Then the fun starts.

Thanks for reading.

The Tour de Weald Cycling Sportive

A weird week this one and if I am honest a lazing one!

After a good week last week (see previous blog) I woke up Monday feeling very ‘washed out’. It might have been the early start for the open swim (5 am) on the Sunday or the sessions over the weekend, I don’t know. But after a quick email to Mark (my coach, www.ironmate.co.uk) we decided to have a rest day Monday even though Tuesday was a rest day too.

Monday was nice, left work on time (ish), had a nice pasta and chicken meal and an early night and woke up Tuesday feeling better. I had to attend a work event Tuesday night which resulted in a few beers, no food and a late night (11.30pm) all Monday’s good work reversed.

Wednesday I did a good run session including some effort intervals and it felt good. Thursday was due to be a short swim and short cycle as a brick session. I was looking forward to this, and was working out the logistics of swimming at the gym and getting to the stationary bikes upstairs as quick as possible, including a change of clothes etc. But I had a crappy day at work, got in late and my wife had cooked her dinner when I got in so there was a lovely smell of cooked food. I decided to sack it off and have another rest day. First time in ages I have missed a training session ‘for no reason’.

Friday was another rest day!

Saturday (yesterday) I had a lie in, chillaxed all day and bought myself a new cycling helmet as my previous one was damaged whilst in my bag on the flight back from Albuquerque. Late afternoon/early evening I did an easy 40 minute run and it felt good to actually get out there and do something.

And all the above led up to the Tour de Weald Cycling Sportive which I did today.

Alarm at 6 am, rushing around – Neovite, breakfast, dressed, sort bike out, load up the car, fluids, sort drinks, sort energy bars the list is endless. We drove to Burgess Hill, register etc and the wife and I were ready to go and we set off at circa 8.50. Me doing the tour at 65 miles (102K) and the wife doing the Kermese at 35 miles (62K).

We don’t ride together so I shot off, the quicker I go the less time she has to wait for me at the end. I had all my fluids on me and all my energy bars etc so although there are two feed stations I wasn’t planning on stopping. The second one you have to stop at to get swiped on your timing chip but that is all I was going to do there.

The start of the ride felt horrible, it was a lot hillier than I remember from last year and some of them were big monsters. Another rider was on my wheel for a bit of the first part and we rode together for a few K’s and chatted. He was going for a time of 4 hrs 30 mins which is what I rode it in last year (4hrs 34mins to be exact). So he asked if I wanted to ride together and share some drafting etc. I said yes!

But after about 5K I realised his pace was faster than I wanted to ride at and he soon disappeared into the distance. Strange I thought, if he is going for a 4.30 time and is riding so hard, I am going to be doing a 5 hour jobby at this rate!

There were more hills and the ride so far (60K or so) had been very up hill. There were down hills (of course) but on the narrow twisty and wet  roads I didn’t push it on the down hills, so there was no benefit having climbed for so long. These hills also effected my food and drink plan. The plan was a sports drink and energy bar every hour, as a bite and swig every 15 mins. I had four bottles and four energy bars, so I was going to grab something at the food stop if I was going for be over 4 hours. At the end of each hour I was on target, but I wasn’t eating and drinking every 15 mins as I had planned. I couldn’t eat whilst sucking in air climbing up a mountain and with wet, twisty, narrow, down hills I wanted both hands on the bars at all times. So the every 15 mins had to take a back seat.  

At 60K it started to flatten out and I got into a good rhythm and then at 66K I hit the mandatory food station. I got swiped, swapped my bottles around, grabbed a couple of cliff shot blocks (had a pee) and left (total stop time of 4 mins 13 secs).

I left just behind a couple of lady riders and could see them in the distance and aimed to catch them by the end of the ride. Another couple (guy and girl) left straight after me so there was a ‘group’ of five of us, but spread out.

I tried hard to catch the two ladies. They were chainganging, drafting each other and me riding alone meant it was a huge effort to catch them. I tried and tried but the gap wasn’t closing. Then luck was on my side. A short confusion on the route and all five of us stopped together to compare the maps. The guy who was ‘fifth’ knew the way so he flew past us and said follow me. That was easier said then done – I never saw him again.

But I was with the lady’s. I set off in front and they tucked in behind me. Couple of K’s and one of them can lead and give me a breather. But they never did. I led the two of them for 24K as they drafted behind me. I pulled away at some points and they chainganged back up to me. It was relatively flat and I was flying. Really putting some efforts in, getting on the drops and kicking the legs over. We passed a couple of others on the run in to HQ and at the end, with 5K to go they passed me as I slowed for a right turn due to traffic and they didn’t have to. Having sat there behind for so long I thought they had played me. Letting me lead for almost 30K and then passing me at the end. But I was having none of it. I put me head down and pushed again, I took them both and kept the pace as hard as I had been riding to catch them. I kept the pace hoping to break them and what do you know, when I looked back they were dropping off.

It was a good ride but it had been a huge effort so I thought I might opt for the 15 min run later in the day option, rather than the 15 min run off the bike I had been planning. But as I reached HQ and got my timing chip swiped, the wife grabbed my bike and handed me my trainers. She wasn’t aware of the effort I had just put in, but I followed her lead and put my trainers on, emptied my pockets and jogged off out of HQ. It was an excellent expression on the face of the lady’s as they were finishing and collapsing off their bikes as I nodded to them as I run past them in the opposite direction.

The run was surprisingly OK, well as OK as a run can be after a 102K ride that was half hilly and half hard! But it was OK. I ran for 10 mins, just because I didn’t know the area and ended up back at HQ earlier than I wanted to be but I thought that is enough.

Back at HQ I changed into some dry and less sweaty clothes. Had a tuna roll, another energy bar, a banana, the rest of my energy drink and 750ml of orange juice and water mixed together.

The timing chip data says 4 hrs 14 mins, which is 20 mins faster than last year and a run of the bike.

Not bad if I say so myself – it IS all coming together.

Thanks for reading.

Another good week

There is real momentum in my training now and my confidence is growing and growing. ‘Whether I will complete The Half or not’ has now become ‘what time will I take to complete it’.

 An example would be Saturday’s session. Before I signed up with my coach Mark Kleanthous ( www.ironmate.co.uk ) every Saturday used to be my ‘long bike ride day’ so every Saturday I would get up early ride 80K – 100K and ride home. Always enjoyable, but not very structured. This Saturday’s session was a shorter ride with efforts and then a short run again with efforts.

 I did the ride and thoroughly enjoyed it and the session went so quick – it didn’t really feel like a session. Then I went straight into the 6K run as half at pace and half easy.

 I went out on the run fast, too fast (circa 12.5kmph), so very quickly I dialled it back to 11.5kmph. I hit a slight hill and just put my head down and went for it, reached the top and just kept going – maintaining the 11.5kmph. Did the first lap of 2.8K in 15 mins, reduced the speed down to 10kmph and did the next lap in 16 mins 30 secs. I was very impressed:

1) a good strong run after a good hard bike effort.

2) realising I had gone off too fast and dialled it back quickly.

3)  being able to control my speed so I could show a different pace for lap 1 to lap 2 as opposed to doing two laps in a similar time and only thinking I had gone fast(er) initially and then slower.

This Saturday session was also off the back of a run set Friday evening again with efforts.

Sunday I went to Heron Lake and did an open water swim. Again this is nothing new. I have swum there several times, a regular patron.

However this time rather than just get in and swim I had a structured warm up to do, I then had a structured main set which involved focussing on my stroke, pacing myself differently during the main set and trying different sighting techniques. Again the session flew past.

I then went from Heron Lake over to Marlow where The Half is being held and drove the bike course: 1) to familiarise myself with the directions etc and 2) to gauge how hilly the course is.

Ideally I would like to have ridden the course but just no time to fit this in so driving it was better than nothing.

So that was the weekend, two shorter, harder, more structured sessions to improve my fitness and build confidence. I also threw in a power nap Sunday afternoon (Heron Lakes involves a 5am alarm call) which made up for Saturday afternoon being an afternoon of chores including cutting the long long grass, putting up a shelf and building more IKEA cupboards.

The weekend rounded off a good week notching up more than 10 hours training.

Thanks for reading.