Sat here in the airport at Zurich with every other person wearing some sort of IM clothing and hobbling around, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my race from yesterday. Warning, this is a long one!
Well, first things first, I finished in 11.04.06 and 17th in my Age Group. It’s a bit frustrating not going under 11 hours, but given how my race progressed, and the fact that I knew that it would always be tight, I can’t complain. It has certainly improved my views of what I think I can achieve and I have learnt some good lessons from the race. With a bit more time to reflect on my result, I have to say I am extremely pleased with it, having nearly achieved my stretch target, which realistically I thought was another year away.
The first mistake I made was snacking on free energy bars that I got form the expo the night before the race. They were actually quite nice, but as I finished it, I read the package and then saw ‘Contains 45mg of caffeine’! Hence, 11 o’clock 2 hours after going to bed I was wide awake trying to get some sleep! I didn’t sleep well either, very broken, up a few times for a drink and woke up at 3.45 tired, hungry and stiff. So pretty much a standard IM start then! The hotel breakfast was alright, though I certainly made the right decision taking a box of coco pops, which I know can sit happy in my stomach before a race, and provide plenty of calories. I also had a few croissants, though in hindsight, given my stomach in the swim, it might have been a mistake.
We arrived at transition at half 5, giving us plenty of time to set everything up. I had a good chat with Mark, who was next to me in transition, who had done IM France 4 weeks ago, so was only aiming for sub 10:30, as you do! Wandering around in Man Tri kit also got a few people talking to me, which was nice. The transition in Switzerland is unlike all the other IMs around the world (so I’m told for most of the others) in that it is a ‘messy’ transition, unlike the others, where everything is bagged other than your bike. But it was a familiar set up, so I set up as I do for every other race, with the added exception of more gels for pockets, and a tub of chamois cream for the bike. I got the wetsuit on, and just missed the warm up, but wasn’t concerned, then lined up for the start.
We had a pre-start where we were supposed to make our way to the start line in the water, and while we were all lined up, I pushed my way forward to get to about the 4th row to get a good spot for the swim. However, many people seemed to confuse the 2 starts and as soon as people hit the start line they went. As there is nothing you can do to stop 500 people who false started, the start gun was fired and we were off.
The swim was the roughest I have ever been in. Sure most races you get bashed around a bit for the first few hundred metres, but this was ridiculous! Even at the half way point, where we got out to cross the bridge and get back in, fists and feet were everywhere! This is further emphasised by the fact that the only injuries I have from yesterday are very tired and sore legs, and bruising all over me, and nice hint of a black eye from the swim! Not even a single blister!
I had a really bad swim; I spent more energy trying to stay alive as people swam over me and into me, than I did trying to swim. I never managed to find a rhythm and settle into the decent swimming I have managed in the pool and lakes over the last few weeks. At around 1k, I got a good kick in the face which knocked one side of my goggles off, so was swimming with one eye shut until I could get to the bridge to empty it out. My stomach was also feeling far too full, and I felt a little sick from a combination of probably eating too much pre-race and being beaten up too much. Exiting a good bit down on my target was hardly surprising, but it was into transition, a good dollop of chamois cream, gels in the back pocket, arm warmers and helmet on, then time to finally let the legs do some work after a couple of weeks of not much.
Target Time: 1:05
Actual Time: 1:12
For the first hour on the bike or so, I felt like I was hardly working and had to keep checking my computer to make sure that I was actually going anywhere! It was good to see I was holding around 35kph on the flats and feeling really good. A dying heart rate monitor a couple of weeks earlier meant I was racing entirely on feel, but I felt like it was almost too easy, exactly where I wanted to be. One we hit the first climb, I allowed myself to push a bit harder, and was soon overtaking most people on the climbs with a compact on, which enabled me to spin up the hills. The bike course was a lot hillier than I was expecting in general, but I was feeling good initially. However, after about 45k and with not much training down on the aerobars I soon began to find a small problem with my saddle, in that I ended up going rather numb! Not only was it uncomfortable, it also made going to the toilet a bit of a problem! So I was left to waiting til the end of a climb where I could spend a bit of time out of the saddle until I got some feeling back, then finding a bush. The course itself was fantastic though, and heartbreak hill is one of those climbs you have to do. All the descriptions of it being lined with people 5 deep screaming at you were all true, and the only way to stop yourself from hammering it up to the top is to get stuck behind someone slower than you! Going up it for the first lap I felt good, and paced myself behind the person in front; quick water bottle grab, over the top, down the descent and then nearly crashing as I misjudged the 90 degree turn and the braking performance of my carbon rims!
After about 80k I had started to get a bit bloated from pushing a bit too hard, and switched to just water and gels, with a Nutrigrain at around 120k to try fill my stomach up. At the start of the second lap, I still felt reasonably good, but noticed a bit more of a headwind and the effect of the first lap in my legs. There did seem to be a fair bit of drafting on the course, as was confirmed when starting my 2nd lap, a big pack of about 30 riders who looked more at home in an ITU race than an IM went steaming past me. I heard reports of people in my hotel being overtaken by big packs only for someone to come back to them after a bit and tell them it was their turn to do their pull on the front! Thankfully quite a few people did seem to have penalty marks on their numbers, so the referees were doing their job, but a few more wouldn’t go amiss. It was also reassuring seeing lots of mechanics going past with spare wheels on the back, helping putting aside any worries of a flat ruining my race. Soon after beginning my 2nd lap, the lack of training to eat at high intensity began to show, and I soon began to drop off. An energy bar at 150k helped pick me up to the finish, but for future reference I know a bag of jelly babies is not the best food to have when pushing hard, and to take more gels! However, having an interval timer going on your watch every 15 minutes proved to be a great reminder to eat or drink something for when you forget, and this ensured that I at least kept something going into me. The saddle issue also affected my ability to stay in the aero position for any period of time, further affecting my speed. After a quick first lap, my 2nd lap proved to be over 10 minutes slower, but having had a sub 6 hour target for an IM bike for a year now, I threw caution to the running wind and pushed hard to come in just under my target, which I was pleased with.
Target Time: 6:00
Actual Time: 5:55
Having been given a good boost by beating my target for the bike, I entered T2 pleased, and quickly put my running shoes and visor on, and grabbed my fuel belt as I ran out. Given a string of good run performances at races recently, I was quite confident in putting in a good run, and with a sub 4 hour target, was hoping to beat this. However, given my legs were knakcered from the bike, I wanted to set out, put in a good lap or two and then see how I could do, probably running in between aid stations and walking through them. A quick loo stop straight after transition, and I set off on the first lap, and felt pretty bad for the first 20 minutes until I found my running legs, and just settled into a good rhythm. I finished the first lap in about 55 minutes, and felt good, pushing 5:15 pace. I slowed down for the 2nd lap, coming in at around the hour after another toilet stop at the start of the lap, but still feeling pretty good. At this point, I worked out if I could take a few minutes off each lap, I would just be on for sub-11, and decided to go all or bust and just went for it and started to try and push. However, by this point, my legs were pretty tired, and although I got quicker each lap, I just couldn’t find the final bit of speed I needed. The third lap is when I really began to hurt, and having now run further than my longest training run, my feet began to feel the effects and I attempted to take some painkillers until I dropped them trying to get them out of my pouch and decided to just push through. A final toilet stop later, and I was on the final lap. From the end of the 2nd lap, when I decided to try and get sub-11, any thoughts of walking any part of it were soon gone, and by this point I was running full pelt through aid stations, grabbing sponges, water and bit of banana as I went, but succeeding at getting very little in my mouth! Another lesson is that SiS gels work for me, Powerbar ones don’t. So only taking 4 with me on the run was a bad idea as having a couple more might have helped! From lap 2 to lap 4, I kept knocking a few seconds off my pace but in the end it proved to be just not enough to secure sub-11, especially with all the toilet stops. Peeing on the move is definitely a skill I need to learn! And having now done it, running sub-4 for an IM marathon is a lot harder than when you write it down on a piece of paper the day before!
Target Time: 4:00
Actual Time: 3:50
Crossing the line in 11:04:06 was slightly disappointing as I had been trying for sub-11 for most of the run. But given that sub-11 was my absolute stretch target if everything had gone perfectly, and as I had faded on the bike and had a bad swim, I can’t complain. I gave it everything, and can walk away knowing that I couldn’t have pushed any harder.
Coming down the finishing shute is an experience that nothing can rival, and is an incredible feeling every time. Anyone even thinking of doing one, sign up, you won’t regret it!
My swim was a little disappointing given how I had been performing in the pool, but I still came out of the swim in a reasonable position in my age group, though some more work to solidify my swimming would help me get out with some quicker cyclists.
However, given my cycling performance, I don’t think this would have made much difference! I lost a lot of time of the bike, with almost everyone ahead of me in M18-24 coming in under 5:30 for the bike. This extra half an hour would have put me in the top 10, which shows that this is the main area I need to work on. What is slightly reassuring is that most people in my age group seem to be a couple of years older than me, so given the extra years I should be able to build up the speed. It wasn’t a case of endurance and not pushing hard enough on the bike, I don’t think I could have pushed harder. A bit of endurance might help me keep up the speed I had for the 2nd lap, but I have the proven endurance to run strong off the bike. Running a 3:50 marathon meant I ran down 9 people in my age group! My marathon time was right up there in my age group, and it isn’t until you get to around 7th or 8th place that times were comfortably ahead of mine. However, with the winner of my Age Group clocking an 8:38(!) I have a bit of a way to go if I want that Kona slot 😉
How To Proceed
Well the first thing to improve on from above is my swim. Although I spent a lot of the time boxed in in the pack, some more OW practice with other people would have certainly helped. Also not having swum for since Wednesday didn’t help, and a bit of planning to get a swim in on the course would be good, rather than turning up and finding the lake shut for all the other races that weekend! Moving back to Manchester which allows me to get back to squad swimming should really pick up my speed though, as it is a lot easier to push harder in a squad in a decent pool than it is in the local leisure centre at half 6 in the morning! Besides, if I get bumped up a lane, I end up having no choice but to improve as I hang on for dear life trying not to get dropped at the back of the lane! Some video analysis will help iron out the bad habits I have probably picked up from swimming unsupervised for a year.
However, looking at my Age Group comparisons, the main thing I need to improve is my bike. This race has finally altered my perception of where I am currently, reinforcing previous race results of an average swim, good run and poor bike relatively. Bike speed takes time to improve, but it will definitely be my area of concentration this off-season. My climbing doesn’t seem to be a problem, as I can comfortably out-climb most people from what I have seen, but it is general speed that I am lacking. The first thing to address this is to go saddle hunting, and find one that will cure the ‘numb nuts’ problem! Allowing me to spend more time in the aero position will allow me to gain some ‘free’ speed, which is much needed. Then lots of time trials and higher intensity work should help bring the speed up, which will be built on a solid base of volume. This is what I know works for my cycling from past experience, so I hope with building in big hours on the bike along with some long sportives, coupled with time trials and shorter races, my speed should be able to rise. A consistent 2nd lap would have put me around the 5:40 mark, so this is definitely something to aim for, though I think I should be capable of 5:30 with a good year of training (depending on the course obviously!). And as proved by Mark, the Scottish guy next to me in transition, I don’t need a flash TT bike to do this (although it would be nice!).
Whilst volume works for my cycling, it appears to be frequency that works for my running. I didn’t run more than 2 hours for my long runs this year, but I was running almost every day by the end. I believe this gave me the muscle memory and feel for my recent running performances. Add this to a body weight lighter than when I left school has put me in good stead for my running. However, there is certainly room for improvement. A bit more volume will allow me to hold the higher pace longer for the race, and the odd run of 2 and a half hours should help me get comfortable running for this long. A bit of speed work will help bring my easy pace up to a higher level, allowing my race pace level to be higher for the same work. Speed work for running does need to be implemented carefully though, as it is an easy way for me to get injured. Avoiding placing it on days when I have tired legs should help minimise this, and not much is needed. From my training runs, I know I can run around 3:30 pace at a comfortable pace when fresh, a small amount of speed work and more endurance work should help see me carry this through to being able to do this for an Ironman.
The biggest thing I can do to improve though, is to keep my consistency up. As mentioned by countless coaches and athletes (including a good article by Russell) consistency is key to any improvements. The forced break in Russia thanks to a certain volcano won’t have helped matters, as well as a couple of small instances with illness or injury. Minimising these will minimise effects on performance, and will allow small incremental improvements.
So having reviewed my main race for the year (seem ridiculous doing this in July!) it is time to look ahead. As well as some small races that I have penciled in the rest of year, a 3 marathons in 3 days ultramarathon for some ‘fun’ in November, and probably Tough Guy for some fun too now, the main focus for the next few months will be some R&R, and time to recharge the batteries both mentally and physically. I am planning on doing another Ironman next year, and probably a WTC event whilst I still am chasing a slot in the unlikely event I put together a stellar performance and get VERY lucky with roll-down, however for next year, I hate to admit the main concentration will be on my final year for my degree. Whilst I will still devote most of my spare time to training, when push comes to shove, studying will have to take priority. However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t set some tough goals to aim for! So for my Ironman next year, the initial goal are:
Swim: 1:05 – try and solidify a good swim performance
Bike : 5:30 – build speed to come off the bike in closer contention with the quicker athletes and set myself up for a good run
Run: 3:30 – build on my good running of this year to up my speed and further push myself higher in the placings.
IM Time: 10:30 – allowing for some contingency time, and a realistic goal of cutting 35 minutes off my time with another year of maturity and speed in my legs (and arms) shouldn’t be unachievable. After all, if you don’t aim high, you will never get there.
Finally, after looking back on the year, it has to be said it was a good one! Some consistency, good race performances, finding a decent running ability and beating my two main goals of the year, of a sub-6 bike, and sub-4 run can leave me feeling happy about the year, and looking forward to what I can achieve next year, which will only be my 3rd year in the sport! In all honesty, I never thought 11 hours would be even on the cards this year, and to go so close has given me a good boost, and shown what I can achieve.
Sorry this post is such a long one!
So sat here in the hotel, I have to admit I am feeling completely unprepared! The best laid plans that I had before I flew out, as ever, haven’t happened. My flight was delayed so I missed the race briefing. Nothing major, other than I had no idea of the swim course!
Getting here on Friday, I built the bike, then wandered down to registration, had a look around the expo and ran back. The weather has been miserable in the last couple of days, and I might as well be back in England with this weather! So I forwent the bike in order to keep the bike clean. As Nirvana Europe messed up the timing for the Bike Reccee, I went to the pasta party instead of going on that, so I guess I’ll see the bike course tomorrow! The pasta party was good fun though, a chance to rewind and soak up the atmosphere.
Waking up this morning to worse rain, I needed to get out on the bike so had no choice. The plan was to cycle down to the swim, get a swim in, then cycle back. I’ve met some Swindon Tri guys who are in the same hotel, so we all went down together. Unfortunately there have been a load of triathlons today, so the lake has been out of bounds… no swim it is! It was good to get out on the bike and loosen the legs up, they’ve been feeling really lethargic from having done nothing. Annoyingly, due to the bad weather, my chain still hasn’t bedded it, so it will be jumping if I try to put a lot of power down tomorrow until it settles down. I have my biggest cog, which seems fine, so the major climbs should be ok. Once back, I had a nap and then went for a short run before getting in the Nirvana bus to rack the bikes.
Being young, I have a low number so was supposed to be in the first group to rack. Unfortunately everyone seemed to be trying to get down early, regardless of their number, and there were some typical European queuing! Over an hour later I finally racked my bike! A short wander around the expo, a very large bowl of pasta bolognaise and then another long wait for the bus back. So having not swam since Wednesday, and having been ages since I spent a long time on the bike and being tired, I am feeling a bit apprehensive about tomorrow! It is also yet to sink in, that tomorrow is the thing I have been working towards since January! However the goals remain the same:
I have 3 levels of goals for tomorrow; My main goal, which should be easily achievable is to PB in everything! Given the run up last year, this really shouldn’t be difficult. My secondary goal, which I think should be achievable given nothing major, is to go sub 12. If I have a fantastic race, my stretch goal is sub-11. If I am in good shape, and everything goes right then it is possible. Though I know it is possibly, I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t get it. As long as I finish knowing that I have given everything, I will be happy.
I’m going to position myself fairly aggressively for this, with the aim of getting into a good pack. Knowing I can do 1hr09 in the pool, I should be able to do 1hr05 in a wetsuit. With a good draft, closer to the hour shouldn’t be too out of reach.
Goal: 1 hour 05.
This is a bit of an unknown. Not knowing the course, and with good roads, I don’t know quite what I am capable of at the moment. Talking to some people at Llandudno, they reckon I should be going well under 5, though I’m unsure of my shape at the moment. I will set my watch to go off every 15 mins to remind me to drink and eat, and will aim for a handful of jelly babies, or a gel every half hour, with a bar as well every hour if I still feel hungry. Given the forecast I will aim for a bottle of electrolyte every hour, and refill at the stations. If it is hotter I will take more, but go more off how I feel.
I want to be able to push the hills, giving all the climbing I have done recently, and will aim to keep it steady but not in the red. Having some good descents and flats, as long as it is dry it should be a good bike. Given my heart rate monitor dying, everything will be done on feel, though I do know where my lactate threshold is for feel, and will aim to keep it feeling slightly too easy for the first couple of hours, steady for the middle, then keep pushing in the final 2. Hopefully once I have warmed up, the legs should come through.
Target time: 6 hours
The run is another slight unknown. I know I run well off the bike, and have got the endurance to run well even if the bike speed isn’t there yet. As long as I don’t blow up on the bike, I should be able to put in a solid run. Despite thinking I am not up to scratch in my running, the last couple have races have shown I am running well. All my training runs have put me running at 3hr30 pace, but I have not run over 2 hours in training, due to one reason or the other, so am unsure of my run endurance. I am aiming for a gel and fuel belt bottle every half and hour, and have enough for 2 hours, at which point I will switch to aid station stuff. If I feel up to it, I will stick with this target, but will adapt as necessary, and switch to bananas if my stomach shuts down. Obviously taking water when I need it. Given my lack of long runs, I have added half an hour for that.
Target time: 4 hours
So hopefully with not faffing about too much in transition, I should be on for 11 and a half hours or so. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow!
On a final note, I am number 85, so anyone interesting in tracking can go to Ironman Live to check how badly I’m doing!
The last couple of weeks
So since Llandudno, training has been pretty light to be honest. The totals for the week including Llandudno were:
Time: 17 hours
After Llandudno I had an easy day to loosen up, with my foot niggle coming back a bit, and being absolutely exhausted! It’s been a while since I’ve pushed myself that hard and I’m not used to it! However, on Tuesday I managed a 2 hour run, and felt pretty good for it considering. Wednesday was supposed to be a long bike, but a torrential thunderstorm had other ideas, and an hour in, not being able to see where I was going as the rain was so hard and cycling through half foot deep puddles towards lightening, I decided to head home. Was still a good solid couple of hours, and then the taper began. Essentially this has meant just ticking over, and a bit more swimming. On Saturday I headed down to the Tri20 Swim Lake as I was visiting my Dad and did an IM distance swim, half with wetsuit, half without. Reassuringly I felt really good, even without the wetsuit, though I was noticeably slower. As I had done a reasonably hard 3k swim the day before, I’m pleased I managed to do the distance fine.
Totals for last week were:
Time: 12.5 hours
Can you tell I’m in a taper!!
As part of my taper for an IM, I always strip my bike down, and give it a thorough clean, regrease everything and replace cables, tape and chain. Looking back, the catalogue of errors I made were quite amusing, though at the time I was having a bad day! My rear brake cable housing end has completely seized in the brake barrel adjuster, and I snapped one of the bottle cage bolt holes in the frame, so the bolt is now lose but stuck in the frame! I took it down to the local (commuter/casual) bike shop, who declared they couldn’t really do anything. So some pliers, insulation tape and a hammer later, and I have managed to fix it enough to race. I’ll probably never either out, but they work!
Taking my aerobars off, I noticed a big crack in the handlebars. Not good. Looks like I hit a pothole at speed and the clamp and cracked them. I think the structural integrity of the handlebars seem ok, and I am going to have to risk it. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to replace them, and they have probably been like that for a while!
Then to top it all off, when putting everything back together, I couldn’t get the front derailleur cable into my shifter! I must have spent an hour on the rear cable, finally succeeding with barely enough cable left, but the front refused. Then when doing up my chain, I hadn’t put it through the pulley cage properly, so had to take the derailleur apart to get it on! One lesson from this was preparation. I would much rather have all the stress over a week before my race, than the day before! Now I have a bike that should race well, and am ready; the advantages of getting stuff done early.
The Final Taper
So coming into the final week and things are hotting up! I am finally starting to feel less tired and exhausted, which is a first! The aim for this week is just to keep the frequency up to keep all the muscle memory there, and to stay fresh. So I have lots of short sessions planned, with a complete rest day (my first in 2 months!) on Thursday before I fly out on Friday. I have brought all my spares and supplies apart from food, and so Thursday will consist of packing, eating, napping and packing again to triple check I haven’t forgotten anything! Finally there is a massage thrown in in the evening before an early night. This week I have been shifting my body clock forward half an hour a day so it’s not too much of a shock with the early start!
Finally, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to lose all my fitness these last couple of weeks, as the usual worries start to creep in. Thoughts like I haven’t done a long ride for a while only make me worry, but a look at the training log and I can see that I have put more hours in than I ever have, I am as light as I was before I left school, and I am in the best shape on my life. Goals will be saved for another blog post though!
Just a quick look at Llandudno with the results out before I go though (sorry it’s a long one!) As expected I had a slow swim, though I was only a couple of minutes off the people who placed in the top 10, which I was pleasantly surprised with. My bike, however, was slower than I expected, a good few minutes behind the top pack. Looking back, this isn’t too surprising given my non-aeroness, and caution on the descents. I lost a lot of time on the descents and a bit on the flats, (though better than crashing!), but I can be pleased with the fact I wasn’t overtaken on any of the climbs, proving I still have my climbing ability from all my rides around the Lakes and the Trough.
What was most surprising was my run! Given that I had had a foot injury for the 2 weeks preceding, and have done basically no speed work this season, I put in the 10th quickest run of the day! The run was what dragged my overall position up to 19th, which I am really pleased with. Another 5 minutes off and I would have comfortably placed in the top 10! Not bad for a long distance athlete coming off the end of a big block of training.
Hopefully a sign of things to come!
Given my current mood, anyone would think I had a bad race. Far from it, I went under my target time, PBed it every discipline and placed well. However I still feel like something went wrong, and a series of kit mishaps, including my watch dying on me (again), bike computer stop working and breaking my sunglasses haven’t helped, but hopefully I’m just tired!
I remember thinking this last year too, but halfway through the swim I thought there is no way in hell am I doing this again. I had a horrible swim, and just got completely battered by the waves. The conditions were horrible and I suffered big time. But so did everyone, and nothing could be done so I just plodded on (although they got better as the day improved, especially the wind, giving the 2nd wave a slight advantage). Overall, I actually felt good, and whenever there was a break in the waves, I was swimming well. That was until I got clobbered by another wave and it broke any rhythm I might have had. The waves made it impossible to sight, and my course was questionable. So coming out of the swim and seeing 26 mins, I was rather surprised, and once I had spat out the gallons of sea water I had swallowed I ran into transition.
As ever, I had fun getting my wetsuit off (I really need to trim the limbs) but I didn’t tear it this year. Helmet on, grabbed my bike and I was gone.
Coming onto the bike, you get off the prom, and then straight into the wind and up a big climb. The wind certainly made it a tough course, and the roads were questionable. I’m sure some of the potholes that were marked out were there last year! But I was quickly overtaking lots of people and climbing well. Once my legs warmed up and they woke up, I felt great. Having the last few days as easy meant for once I had some energy in my legs. Having the compact on also allowed me to spin past some of the people on their bling tt bikes who were forced to grind up in big gears. With each lap I felt better and better, helped by the wind dying down, and on all of the climbs I didn’t get overtaken by anyone. I lost time to people on the small amount of flats, which is fair enough as I wasn’t in full aero gear, and on the descents where the dodgy roads made for some interesting descending! However, as my IM tune up, there was no way I was going to take risks flying over potholes and round corners so I’m not going to loose any sleep over it. Coming onto the fourth lap it started to get really busy as all 3 waves were out on the course, but I powered past the big group on the climb, giving me a free descent and run into transition in a time of 1 hour 15.
Once I had found my space, which was difficult given the number of clear plastic boxes there, I racked my bike and then messed about putting my socks on. But as before, the main aim of the race was to make sure everything for my IM is ok. Once the shoes were on, I ran out and was told that I had 11 people in front of me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single one of these 11 people until I got close to the turn around! I was left to run my own race, which was fine by me. I quickly fell into a good rhythm and felt good. Running down the prom I felt comfortable, and then all of a sudden you are faced with a huge hill! This was just a case of slog it up to the top, and over again. Once over the hill we had a fairly flat run to the turn around and I felt good again. I had a small section going up the climb where I had a bit of tightness but it soon loosened up. Getting up to the turnaround, I saw the main pack of people in front of me, but they were just too far in front to catch, apart from one so I pushed on regardless, and then we hit the hill again, and it was TOUGH! Going up however, I caught the girl in front of me (Didn’t get chicked ;D) and then had a good run on the descent and push to the finish, with a run time of 42 mins. Pretty good considering the course. I’m glad my foot held up over the run, though it is hurting now!
Finish time of 2:26:22, which given it is about 15 mins slower than a normal olympic I’m told, I can be pretty happy with. I was 4th in my age group, and 1st and 2nd overall were in my age group too! Overall I was 21st, so not bad, though I would have liked top 20. Will have to wait for the results to come out before I can do some analysis on my times and placings. Yet again, it was a fantastic event, and the town really embrace it, with mainly closed roads and lots of people supporting, especially through the town centre. I may be back next year, that’s if I’ve forgotten the taste of the sea and the sea sickness by then!
The basic principles of training are that you put your body under stress, and in doing so, when you recover, it repairs itself, but in a better state than before. This is know as supercompensation, and is the underlying principle in every bit of training that we do, as I’m sure most of you know. Many, including Joe Friel, also talk about extreme compensation, or extreme overloading, which basically follows a pattern of a short pattern of time, followed by a period of recovery, in which you put your body under extreme amounts of stress, well above what you normal undertake. During this, it never recovers properly whilst in this period, but when the recovery period starts, you get a massive spike in fitness, well above what you would get from normal training.
This type of training can only be sustained for short periods of time, otherwise you risk overtraining, burning out, or more likely injury or illness first. So aside from the little sports science lesson, I have been playing a little experiment on myself in the last few weeks, to see how much of this I can take. Before I started my main build, I was probably averaging around 15 hours a week, but had had a couple of weeks of reduced training due to my stomach bug. Given my age, and knowing I recover quickly (a broken collar bone in 3 weeks!), it has been an interesting experience, and confirms what I have suspected on past training camps (such as Lanzarote going from 7 hours a week to a 30 hour week): I can take a lot of training before I start seeing negative results. Ignoring the foot injury, which was a stupid mistake on my part, it took 2 and a half weeks for cracks to begin to appear. If I had the chance to do it full time, rather than fitting it around work, I suspect it may have been less as I could have done more. But it was good fun none the less. Lessons learnt include:
- Don’t do speed work with tired legs when you haven’t done any in months
- Sleep is paramount – when I was on less than 6 hours, I really felt it. When I got 8 I really noticed the difference the next day.
- Diet is just as important, eat well, ensure you get enough protein to repair everything, and eat soon after big sessions and you will recover much quicker.
Week 3 saw a return to some sort of running form as I ramped up the frequency, running 8 days in a row. The foot injury now seems to have subsided, and I haven’t had any problems from it for a couple of days so fingers crossed it will be ok! My long run of 2 hours went well, though I certainly need to do another one next week to get used to running long again. It is a bit annoying I never managed to fit a 3 hour run in, but I will just have to cope.
Swimming included a 3.8k tt to make sure I was comfortable with the distance, and resulted in a 1 hour 09 swim! Very pleased with that, and the training has really started to show and puts me in good stead for my 1 hour 5 target.
Cycling saw an ‘easy’ office ride, which ended up me doing 3 hard laps of Beacon Fell, turning the next day’s ride into a recovery ride. On Sunday we had the Manchester to Blackpool bike ride, in which I rode to the start (I live near Blackpool), did the bike at a good effort, then rode home, finishing up with an hours brick run! Very pleased with that session, and my running after.
So Week 3 Totals:
Swim – 9.3k
Bike – 322.17k
Run – 43.37
Total Time – 21 and a half hours
Including what I have done so far this week, I have managed over 80 hours of training in under 4 weeks, so very pleased with that. I know my aerobic fitness is very good, and my run and swim speed is where I want it to be. I know the bike speed is there, but it remains to be seen if I will be able to hold the speed I want at IM effort once the fatigue has lifted. The focus for the next 2 weeks is my taper. I have one longish bike, and a long run at the start of next week to finalise nutrition and getting used to it then I need to ensure than I recover fully. I am hoping to put in a big swim week, as this will only take a week to taper down from, and hopefully this will include a trip to a lake for some OW swimming! I just have to remind myself of the principles of training when I start getting restless to train! I have a basic plan to follow, but most of it will be played by ear, at the end of the day, I know how I am feeling.
So on Sunday I am off to Llandudno to for my final race before Switzerland. Aims of the race re simple – PB and check everything for my IM. As such, I am racing in IM kit, with IM bike set up to check everything. The only change will be bike shoes, as I have decided to wear road shoes and socks for the IM, but it is not worth the hassle for an Olympic – given the mileage over the last few weeks, I am comfortable with that setup! A PB shouldn’t be too difficult given that this time last year I had done one swim in 6 weeks, having broken my collarbone and barely any running or road cycling. The only equal part could be the bike, but I am hoping the volume will ensure a good time. If the weather is bad (and rain is forecast) I won’t be taking any chances on the bike. It is a technical course with some nasty descents, and certainly nothing to gain a couple of minutes over crashing and putting myself out of IM Switzerland! The swim should be a guaranteed PB, and will be looking for sub 25 mins. The run depends on the wind and my foot, any twinges and I’ll back off, otherwise hopefully I will have a solid run.
After that it is only 2 weeks to go until the big day! I have got all my travel information through, and The Fear is beginning to creep up. But I love it, cannot wait, and am looking forward to it so much!