I do like to be beside the sea side

Training is going from strength to strength at the moment.

Off the back of a full week of training (over 7 hours in total) including an 85 minute run session on Saturday (which in itself included 30 minutes of hill reps), Sunday I took part in the ‘SRS Brighton to Brighton Cycle Sportive’.

172K of cycling including three big hills (the last one being Devils Dyke after 165K) as part of a training week, was a big ask of these old legs.

It could not have been a better day. Firstly the weather was gorgeous. I know as a hardened ‘all weather’ athlete this should not have been a consideration, but having got to registration early, registered and sitting on the beach drink my coffee – this was the view.

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The game plan was simple. Have fun. It wasn’t ‘an event’, it was a training ride. There was no time to beat (yeah there was, there always is – it was 7 hours) – just treat it as a nice group ride.

Kitted out and ready to go – 8.30 am and the start was there before I knew it.

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We left in groups of 20, every three minutes. I was in the second group of 20. We rode for about 5K together then about 5 dropped off the back, 5 shot off in front, but by then we had caught the 5 that dropped off the first group and the fast 5 from the third group were with us.

So in short for about 30K we all rode along like a massive peloton, around 30 – 40 of us as we rode out of Brighton. The route was very flat, very easy and therefore very fast. I positioned myself quite near the back, to get the maximum draft, so I decided to take my turn up the front so I went to the lead and headed the pack for about 15 – 20 minutes. After a good turn at the front I looked around and there were only 6 of us left!

Me and two others played the game and took turns at the front, the other three (soon becoming 2) hogged our back wheels and enjoyed a free draft.

The 6 became 2 and me and this other guy (no I didn’t ask his name!) rode together to the mandatory feed stop at 90K. The feed stop was just after the first hard hill. We caught a couple of others on this hill – it was a hard climb but after 85K of flat it was a nice change! The four of us then rolled into the feed station together.

A pee, top up of drink bottles and some food and after 10 mins we were off. The first 90K was done in 3 hours 15 mins ride time. A lot of other riders where coming into the feed stop as we left, so I knew it was a matter of time before the stronger riders caught us.

But we held our own and never saw them again. We rode for about 30K – 40K together, taking it in turns on the front, chatting away like a pair of old dears. He had done the London to Paris a few weeks earlier, I was chatting about IM Austria.

We then hit hill number 2. A short sharp hard one, the type I don’t like. I put my head down and climbed. I caught a rider half way up and pushed to catch a second rider before the summit (Froome vs Contidor in the Vuelta was in my head!)

I reached the summit, cycled out the fatigue and looked back but no one was there, the two riders were still climbing and my buddy was nowhere in sight. So I just cycled the rest on my own. I caught and passed a few other riders, a few caught and went past me.

All was good and then I hit Devils Dyke. I had never cycled Devils Dyke before. I didn’t know what to expect. My buddy had told me it was longer than Ditchlin Beacon and had a nasty kick at the end.

Personally I would say it’s shorter than Ditchlin – but that might be that it’s just more my type of hill, the long and graduals where you grind away rather than the shorter sharper ones where you don’t know whether to sit or stand.

So I ‘flew’ up the easy(er) part no problem and then turned to the right and hit the short sharp part which was bloody hard. But doable (where there’s a will, there’s a way).

Once on top of the hill it was a nice, fast, drop down into Brighton and into traffic, traffic lights, cars and irritated drivers.

I hit the finish in 6 hours 46 mins. Which was 15 mins under the time I was after and almost an hour inside the Gold standard.

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I was well happy with that. Nice weather, nice company, nice roads – but more importantly a very strong and well paced ride. Nutrition was almost perfect (I could have done with an extra gel) and could have done with another drinks stop as it was a hot day. But I took the gamble knowing it was a gamble, to do with out and plough on to the finish and it paid off.

The finish time put me 35th out of 141 finishers – so on that basis I am more than happy.

It is all starting to come together.

I have had a good chat with Ironmate Mark (my coach) earlier this evening as well and lined up training for this week and next week leading up to Boot camp Egypt 11th – 18th October as training for the Ball Buster – the next big event.

Thanks for reading.

It’s all in the mind

This weekend contained a mini ‘challenge’. Saturday morning Mark and I had scheduled in to the training plan an 8 mile run of the Box Hill loop ending in the run up Box Hill via zig zag lane. This is all preparation for the Ball Buster on the 8th November, where I have to complete the 8 mile loop 5 times, the first loop on foot, then three on the bike and finish on foot again.

I have started training again following the Vichy half, so with a ride to work and back (an hour each way) and a run off the bike (20 – 25 mins) on Wednesday and Friday and a good 1 hour swim set on Thursday I had 6 hours training from the previous three days in my legs, as I set off Saturday morning.

And rather than being the taxing run I thought it was going to be it was one of the best runs I have ever done. Partly due to it being a different area with different roads to run on, a great atmosphere as loads of cyclists on the roads I was running on and a brilliant end to the run with the ascent of Box Hill and the view. But mainly because it felt incredibly comfortable all the way around the run. The Garmin kept losing satellite reception which initially was annoying but in the end meant I just ran on feel, which was nice and made it all the more rewarding.

So a nice, easy and comfortable run to the foot of Box Hill and going up it equally as comfortable. Really nicely paced (if I do say so myself) and the hill was over far quicker than I realised. I did two zig zags up zig zag lane and was waiting for the third zig zag and then was going to push the pace a bit, but then I saw the cafe and realised I had finished the climb already.

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So all in all a nice, relatively easy and extremely enjoyable, run. So why did I, at a few points in the run, start to think ‘I couldn’t do it and would have to stop’? They say endurance is more in the mind then it is physical and I think this is starting to limit my performances. Whilst running I get negative thoughts of not being ready or strong enough or won’t be able to sustain the pace. When I am actually a lot fitter and stronger and dare I say faster then I realise.

I need to start to get a bit more faith in my own abilities and believe – and push – a bit more and see what happens. One for Mark.

The run in total took me 1 hour 20 mins with the ascent being 18 minutes of that 1 hour 20 mins time. If the loop is truly 8 miles then that is an average speed of 9.6kmph, which is my half IM marathon pace on a flat course.

Sunday was a rest day as I had offered to babysit my grandson for the day and apart from a walk to the Park I rested very well indeed, so I am ready for a full on week this week!

Tomorrow is my birthday and it’s the weirdest thing. I will be the ripe old age of 45 years young and yet I am slimmer, fitter and healthier than I was in my 30’s. Every year I get older and feel younger and younger. And what do you get the man who has everything . . . ? Somewhere to hang his finishers medals of course!

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Finally a big shout out to the legend that is my coach Mark ‘IronMate’ Kleanthous for completing and more accurately competing in his 37th Ironman event yesterday when he finished IM Wales. Finishing in a time of 12hr 07 minutes and coming 10th in his age group. A true inspiration. Well done Mark.

Thanks for reading.

 

Dans Le Vichy!

Pre race preparation

The lead up to the race was not ideal. Spending the day before the race on my feet, in the hot Sun, eating rubbish take away food and not drinking enough water, eating a pizza at 9pm the night before the race, getting to the venue the morning of the event and receiving a call from the wife to say I had left my cycling helmet at the campsite! (Big thanks to Lee for calming me down and driving me back to get it). Not ideal prep.

The swim

Brutal. Absolutely brutal. There were just bodies everywhere. I don’t think I did one complete swim stroke the first 400 metres without hitting someone or being hit by someone. I just couldn’t get going as there were too many swimmers in front of me, around me and trying to swim over me.

My positioning was the issue. I started too far back for my ability, I started on the inside so had nowhere to go when I hit ‘traffic’, I should have been on the outside and could have at least swum further, but crucially swim and not crash into others.

The first half of the swim to the turnaround buoy was slow, but after the swimmers spread out and we turned, I had clear water and swum back at a good pace and was surprised, when I checked my watch on the way to T1, that I had done the swim in 37 mins. I was thinking more like 40 minutes or worse. The split was probably 25 mins out and 12 mins back. That is how hard the out part was versus the nice, fast swim back.

Sam was there shouting encouragement as I run towards T1. Leigh and Ollie were there too but I didn’t see them.

T1

Went OK. No panicking, no flapping, calm and controlled. Apart from putting my helmet on back to front, which was bad enough, but the wife also saw this – D’OH.

T1 time of almost 5 mins. A minute faster than IM Austria but I still need to reduce these. The transition areas are just so big though. It takes ages to get through them. The winner took 3 mins in T1.

Bike

A nice bike split. Fast flowing course, mainly flat or downhill, very few hills of any kind. So no rest for the legs. No real incidents. I was watching the time and K’s and doing my own bike interval splits, more to see what time I was on target for. I was trying to hit 3 hrs for the bike and at 80K I was behind but only by 5 minutes. But the last 10K and especially the last 5K were quite technical, bumpy and . . . well . . . slow. I ended up clocking a time of 3 hrs 10 mins. 6 minutes faster than Bedford which was my previous fastest 90K bike split. Legs felt OK so I hadn’t overdone it.

Nutrition was on target. A 750ml energy drink, 750ml of water, three gels and three Torq bars and a Banana (as two halves of banana from the 2 feed stations).

Coming in from the bike leg I saw the Ironmate flag and behind it were Sam, Leigh and Ollie going mental. Ollie had the most confused look on his face, wondering what on earth was going on.

T2

Just over 4 minutes. Again calm, no panicking, not lightening fast but not bad. Faster than IM Austria.

The run

I went off fine, run legs were there, I felt really comfortable. I ran the first 2K in 11 mins 57 secs. A bit too fast for the pace I was planning to run at, but I hadn’t gone off like a bullet as I tend to do. I was going for a run split of 2 hours 10 mins (so 12 mins 30 secs per 2K was the pace).

I dropped the pace to 13 mins per 2K for the next 8K, than at the end of lap one I was running down the finishing shute to the finishers square. I was panicking here thinking I had gone wrong, but then realised there were runners coming towards me so each lap included a run around the finishing square before heading out again – now that’s evil! It did mean I got to see the support crew again and had another cheer of encouragement from Sam and Leigh (and a confused look from Ollie).

Lap two was harder, the Sun came out (I think the Sun had been out for the first lap too, but I just noticed it more on the second lap). The walk through the feed stations started earlier and went on for longer, the pace dropped to 14 mins per 2K for the next 6K and then I came across Lee from Tri Topia, who had finished and was walking the course looking out for runners he knew.

He told me to ‘not wait for the end and to go hard now’ with 3K to go, so I did. I picked up the pace and did the last 3K in 18 minutes, the pace I started the first 2K of the run.

The support crew went wild as I run down the finish shute for the last time and when in the finishing square I gave the signal to Leigh that I was OK to take Ollie and finish carrying him. Which is something Challenge Family encourage whereas IM frown on – it was a nice moment.

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Run time of 2 hours 16 mins – 8 minutes faster than my previous best half IM run time of 2hr 24. Three gels (one every 45 minutes), a cup of water per feed station (every 2K) on lap one and then energy drink and water combined for lap two.

So all in all a good race. Whilst not a nice swim and not a fast swim, I learnt a lot, I did PB’s on the bike and run splits and improved transition times (slightly!). I didn’t hit my target time of sub 6 hours and I missed it by quite a way. But I think that is more an issue of an unrealistic target due to me thinking I can get faster quicker than realistically possible.

The event was good, the venue was good and the support was fantastic. I would certainly be happy to do that event again and even the full Challenge distance next time, but if I do Vichy next year I cannot do IM Barcelona as well so I will have to choose.

I have had a couple of days off training and will start some gentle training with a swim tomorrow and maybe a ride to work on Friday.

The next event is a 172K cycling sportive, as a training ride, on 28th September and I want to run the 8 mile Box Hill loop before committing to the Ball Buster on 8th November. A small matter of an Egypt boot camp in October to fit in too.

It’s all go ennit!

Thanks for reading.