The Aftermath of IronmanUK – Challenge Henley
The past 6 weeks since IMUK have been a rather busy affair! The week after I spent recovering and beginning to pack up my life in a suitcase once more (having only moved a month earlier!) for the move down south. I then started my new job, being put up in a hotel for the week, before carting all my stuff off to my dads. I have since moved house again(!) and am hopefully settled in London and in the same house for more than a few weeks.
Work has been a bit of a shock to the system, although not a complete shock thankfully, with memories of my placement year still reasonably fresh. But having lived the life of a student and then full athlete having to work full time (imagine that!) was certainly a significant change! I soon settled in, and while I never fully got used to spending 2 and a half hours a day cramped on a train, which is now down to an hour after my most recent move, I began to feel my active self rear its head. I don’t like sitting still, I am a total fidget, and sitting behind a desk all day really does not sit well with me, so I started running at lunch. After a few seriously horrible sessions, thanks to doing nothing for a few weeks after cramming together 2 IMs, I decided I needed a carrot to motivate me. With the Maidenhead Half Marathon filling up the local paper for the last few weeks, and it being on my doorstep, I decided to enter, and had 2 weeks to recover some sort of shape.
This was Friday morning, and about an hour later I got a text of Chris Weeks asking if I was doing Challenge Henley. It had been in the back of my mind ever since IMUK, ever since Chris said he was doing it as we both had unfinished business after that race. Although I had a solid day, I didn’t have that top end speed, and know I can run quicker than that. And frankly, finishing my season in July is tough, as I did it after Switzerland and it was another 10 months until I raced again. So anyway, I text back saying ‘Nah probably not, gonna see how I feel after the weekend, but not looking likely’. I then see a tweet saying entries are about to close (even though that later got extended) and next thing I know, I’m stood in a sandwich shop in central London entering the race on my phone! So Chris, I blame you for the pain I will be in at the weekend, and also for making me double up at IMUK… ha!
So Challenge Henley will be my 3rd Iron-distance race in 10 weeks – and I am scared! Even at IMUK, I could feel the fatigue wasn’t too bad, and with a 3 week gap, I wasn’t going to lose much fitness. With a 7 week gap, especially after such after 2 IMs, I have finally had a chance to let the fatigue and exhaustion, and I am tired. And not the ‘I need a lie-in’ tired. I feel physically spent, and am carrying around constantly knackered legs. The main reason for this is my recovery post-IMUK – or lack of. If I had planned Henley a bit further out I could have planned a bit better, but I have let things slip. Mentally I am out of the game in terms of discipline and have lost focus on my training, which has been impacted by work, commuting, moving house and burst water pipes. My diet has also fallen completely by the way side. Having Ben & Jerrys on special offer the week after IMUK really did me no good, and adjusting to the long hours with free access to unlimited bad foods, and a week on hotel buffets has seen my gut ever-expanding, and I am certainly carrying around more than a few extra kilos than I would like. I am certainly looking forward to having some proper time off, recovery properly and enjoying a bit of a social life and a chance to recharge the batteries, especially the mental ones.
Having said all of that, I am fired up for Henley, even though it has yet to sink in that I will be toeing the start line once more in a few days time. I am not expecting to break any records, or post a decent time, but I am looking for a good end-of-season blow out, and I want to leave absolutely everything on the line.
There have been flashes of good form in training though. My cycling doesn’t seem to have slowed down, and I certainly feel the best I have in the pool for a long time, well before Roth. I am just hopeful that the body will come through, and the endurance is still there.
Despite a niggling calf issue, I know my running form is good, as evidenced by Maidenhead Half Marathon. I entered the race with low expectations, and not having run with my Garmin since IMUK, had no idea of the speeds I was running. The race plan was set off hard and then settle into an easy rhythm, and try to come home under 1:40 and as close to 1:30 as possible. I slightly exceeded that, by hammering it and crossing the line with a massive PB of 1:25, placing myself 45th out of some 2000 runners. I put myself close to the front, and set off hard. Despite a slight organisational error, where you run a short loop back to the start and half the runners were still waiting to start by the time we came back round, forcing us off course for a bit, we reeled off the first km in about 3:35, and then the next kilometre passed by in 3:50. At this point I was still in contact with the front group, but knew if I kept this up I wouldn’t last 10k so slowed down. However, I only settled down to around 4:10 pace, which felt REALLY comfortable, and just held this until I ramped it up again with 5k, with a final k flat out. Doing 2 IMs close together, gives you one hell of a base! I just hope it is there come Sunday! This has at least given me a target of breaking 1:20 next season for a half, which I should be able to do, fresh, trained and at race weight!
These final few days before Henley will be spent trying to get the body moving again and making sure all those neuro-muscular pathways are still active, as well as trying to sort out my calf issue, before coming up with some sort of race plan. At least Sunday will be ‘fun’, I appear to know about half the field racing! So make sure you give me a shout when you see me struggling!