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!
The week in the lead up to Roth went from feeling rubbish to feeling good. A longer-than-wanted break meant that the legs really weren’t feeling that fresh, and the first run on the evening we arrived had me wondering how on earth I was going to run a marathon in a few days time! However, as the week progressed, and the morning runs through the village and forest (it was an amazing place to train!) continued, I began to get my legs back and start to feel strong. Swimming involved a short trip to go and find a lake to swim in and there were plenty to choose from. The first one we chose had a nice scum line sitting atop the water, and the shower after never really seemed to clean it off! The next one we chose, was much nicer, and we had a decent amount of time swimming across and back a few times, despite the odd looks we got amongst the kids and sunbathers and the others put their wetsuits on (mine had glue drying after I patched up yet another hole). On the Friday, we headed down early in the morning to swim on the course and were greeted with something that was more akin to a British summer – torrential rain. It took much persuading to get us all out of the car and then once out in the water I felt terrible. My wetsuit felt completely alien to me, it was tiring my shoulders and I really didn’t feel comfortable. Not a good start.
Cycling however, was incredible. The stories about the roads are no understatements, they are completely baby smooth, and they are FAST! I got a good few rides in, and both me and the bike were feeling good. I had originally planned to get a few hours in earlier on in the week to stress the systems, but through rain and logistics, a longer ride would have to wait til race day. There was one ride that stood out: Rob and I decided to head out for 45 minutes or so one evening and rode out of the village. Upon reaching the junction where we usually turn right, we saw a massive black cloud in the distance, so thought it was probably a good idea to go the other way! We headed through a nice little village and down a main road before heading back. When we got back to the village, the weather took a turn for the worse, and the big black cloud had suddenly come and put itself right on top of us! We decided that heading into the thunder and lightening(!) probably wasn’t the best idea, so took refuge in a bus shelter in the village to sit the storm out. 15 minutes later, after the heavens had opened and the lightening showed no sign of letting up, we decided it was probably a good idea to call for backup and got Howard to come and pick us up!
Our apartments were located in a tiny little village, away from all the stress of Roth, and with the forests, perfect roads and lots of lakes nearby, it was the perfect training location, and I would have been quite happy to have spent the week there putting some hard training miles in. As it was, I spent most of the week eating food, which all proved rather nice! The regular café trips we certainly something I could get used to! Throughout the week, I did have a couple of issues that were causing me to panic a bit. First, my stomach problems that had plagued me for the previous weeks were still occurring occasionally, although they had certainly settled down. I also woke up in the middle of the night on more than one occasion unable to breathe, midway through an asthma attack. Thankfully I had my inhalers with me, which soon shut the wheezing up, but it did not bode well!
The day before we headed down to race site to rack the bikes and bags. A short ride and run in the morning helped settled the nerves and convince me that I was ready. I passed through bike check-in and racked my bike, making sure that everything was ok and headed out to find the others. When I found Howard, I head that both he and Skip had had their helmets failed, Howard’s due to a crack on the ear covers, which apparently is fine for every other triathlon federation apart from Germany’s! We had to dash to a nearby bike shop where Howard was charged an extortionate amount for a new TT helmet, while Skip settled for a road helmet they were craftily selling right next to where he had had his helmet failed. A quick trip to an internet café before some food and then it was bed.
I slept OK, waking a few times in the night, but awoke feeling pretty refreshed. A shower helped wake me up, and then I put my Biestmilch tattoos on (which gave me some incredible tan lines!) and wolfed down as many coco pops as I could stomach. We arrived at race site with plenty of time, and with the wave start, I had over 2 hours to get set up and ready. Once I had put all my food on the bike and said good luck to the others, I wandered around transition and said hello to the various people I knew who were racing as well, including my old PE teacher who was randomly just across from me in transition! Small world! Eventually I got my wetsuit on and it was nearly time as we were herded into the pen before we were let into the water.
The wave start of Roth means that instead of the 1500+ people you usually have to fight with, I only had about 300 people to contend with, which turned out to be rather civilised! I found some space on the inside a couple of rows back and waited to go. Once the gun went, I stayed out of trouble and ended up having a pretty boring swim! I kept it really nice and relaxed, and felt good and entirely within my comfort zone. I had a few drafts for a bit, but on the most part I swam by myself. If anyone came along side me looking for a fight, I just put a bit of a surge on, moved ahead and then settled down again. I had no idea how quickly I was swimming and it wasn’t until I came close to the last turn that I knew I would be fairly close to the hour. By this point I was having to weave in and out of the waves of front, and in the end I hit the exit ramp with 1:03 on the clock. Slightly down on what I had hoped, but given how easy a swim I had, I can’t really complain!
Once I exited the water, I ran into the changing tent and picked my bag up on the way. I had cleverly wrapped the string with black tape so it would be easy to spot. Stupidly, this meant that when I came to open it, I had taped it well and truly shut! I managed to open it enough to start getting stuff out, and midway through I got a helper who proceeded to take the bag off me, try and get it open while I was wanting to get the last of what I needed out and not give it back to me until she had emptied it completely! My pigeon German didn’t exactly help matters, so in the end, I just sat and waited for her to finish before heading out, grabbing my bike, helmet on and go.
Out on the bike, it was time to get settled in and open the legs up. The first 60k were much like my swim – boring! I was nice and aero, stuck to my nutrition plan of 60g of food carbs an hour with drinks to top up and effectively sat there, spinning the legs, thinking of things to keep me occupied. Although it makes for a dull race report, it was exactly where I wanted to be and hopefully ensured that I hadn’t been pushing too hard. I hit the 60k mark in about 1hr40, the German roads were making me fly! The support out on the roads was incredible, living up to all the expectations. The Solarerberg climb is truly incredible and at one point on the course, I thought I had reached it. It was a short drag up with a few people on the side cheering along before hitting a packed aid station. ‘That was nice’ I thought and I continued on, ‘not quite the 5 deep I head heard about’. A bit of rolling terrain before a descent and then into a town. The roads are lined with pubs, which were packed with people, and then in the distance you could hear the roar of the crowds. The sides of the roads soon had barriers on and then you came round the corner to this:
I started the climb wandering where the hell I was supposed to fit, and then the gap opened up and I was screamed up the climb. It is an incredible experience, and pushed me over the top, a little harder than I probably should have. But hey, when in Rome! By this time the lack of long rides was beginning to show and I was beginning to tire. By the time we hit 120k, my average speed had slowed significantly and I was in a bad place. My legs hurt, my back and my neck was killing. I couldn’t really get aero and no matter what I seemed to do, I couldn’t get my average speed up. I think my nutrition probably needed a bit more in it, and I was certainly not drinking enough. However, it felt like I was hammering, but nothing happened, so I resigned myself to sitting up for the climbs and trying to push the downhills, but mentally I cracked. There is no way I should be cycling this slowly, and by about 140k it soon became clear. My speedo suddenly went to 0 and I realised that I had in fact been cycling quickly when I tried, but my computer was playing up and not giving me the right speed. Soon, my 2nd wind came and in a little over an hour I ate up the final 40k, flying past everyone to come off the bike in just under 5:30. Perfect.
Handing my bike over, the legs felt wobbly but nothing major. The only concern was that I still had not peed since the start of the race. I grabbed a drink, got my shoes on and headed out to a cheering crowd.
I knew I needed around a 3:20 marathon to break 10 hours, which would be a big ask, but certainly not impossible given recent performances. I decided to stick to 4:30 ks and see what happened. To begin with I was running on feel, while I waited for the GPS watch to locate the satellites and crossed the first km marker in about 4:05. Ah. I slowed it down to something more realistic and kept around target pace for the first 5k or so.
At around the 7k mark the heat began to get to me and the wheels came off. It has seriously hot, and running along the canal provided no cover at all, not ideal when most of my training has been done in the wet! I was really starting to overheat and my energy systems began to shut down. At around 9k I suddenly started to get a really tight chest to the point where it felt like I couldn’t breathe if I took and deep breathe in. Not being able to breathe heavily is not ideal for running a marathon, and predictably my pace slowed, with only being able to run by taking my HR monitor off and rolling my top all the way up, so it wasn’t squeezing my stomach, which was painful enough from bloating, and not resting on my lower ribs to restrict my breathing. I looked like a tit but at least I could still move.
Finally at 10k I finally had a toilet stop, which provided some comfort, but showed I was clearly dehydrated and it wasn’t going to get better. As long as I kept moving I was OK though and managed to keep running til 15k when I had to stop behind another runner to pick up a sponge at an aid station to cool myself down. From then on the cycle was broken and I started walking parts. I saw Howard, Rob and Skip out on the course, all of whom seemed to be running well and all I could do was count the kms down to the finish. I didn’t want to DNF – the choices of forfeits we had come up with certainly proved good motivation! Plus I had paid a load for that finishers shirt and wanted it!
At about 30k I shuffled past Rob who was on for sub-9 but had blown and I kept up a pattern of walk aid station, dose self in as much water as possible, grab some food, shuffle to the next. With a few k to go, I was running on fumes, completely zoned out and unaware of the crowd, just counting down the ks. Finally the finish came, and I crossed and line and promptly collapsed. I finished with a 4:10, way off target but not bad considering the state I was in. Coming home in 10:51 I was more relieved than anything else to have Pbed and gone under 11, and had plenty of lessons to take forward for future races.
An argument ensued with one of the helpers at the finish line who told me I would feel better if I got up, whereas I had decided I was perfectly happy having a nap right there. I wasn’t exactly coherent. In the end she got me to my feet, and satisfied I didn’t need a stretcher, got some poor girl who had to pretty much carry me towards the med tent. On the way I saw Skip and pointed myself in that direction, decided I couldn’t be bothered going to the med tent and fell into a heap next to him.
It took a good few hours for me to come round to thinking normally. I was completely empty, worse than I had ever been before and wondered if there was any chance I would even be able to start IMUK three weeks later. In my haze, I had decided I was going to drop out, but once we had finally got home, and I had had a proper meal, lots of fluids and a sleep, and was feeling sore, but at least thinking straight. The only question is, had I pushed myself too hard to put in a good performance at Bolton.
Wow I have been crap at updating this lately! Laziness has really set in since Roth, that race report is still waiting to be finished…
Anyway, a quick note about tomorrow. Since Roth, I had a good rest, and then too much rest thanks to graduation, road tripping around the country and general life, but this is probably a good thing. The sessions I have done range from me feeling great, feeling OK with an elevated HR or feeling completely terrible! As such, I have no idea how tomorrow will play out. I would like to think I should settle into my groove once I warm up, but with only 3 weeks since Roth it may not work out like that. I am going to see how packed the swim is at the front, I want to try and get a draft this time, but would rather not get beaten up for it, especially with such a busy swim, but hopefully will be out close to the hour. Once out on the bike, a ride time of 6 hours would be great, especially on a course like that and I’m hoping I am in good enough shape to do so. So hopefully out of T2 with 7-7:30 on the clock.
The run is anyone’s guess. The weather looks like it will be another scorcher, so electrolytes are in and I hope I’ve recovered enough to put a solid effort in and run the 3:30 I want. All in all, it adds up to an A target of sub-11, with a stretch target of PBing – breaking 10:51.If I go sub-11, that should put me in a very good position for bagging a Kona slot, then all I need to do is beg/borrow/steal the money for it by Monday 😉
As usual, you can track at http://ironmanlive.com/ – I am number 1221.
See you on the other side
So we are on the way to Germany! The 4 of us are crammed into the car with the bikes loaded on (hopefully the picture works, I’m on my phone at the moment!) for the 1000 miles or so it will take us to get to where we are staying. I have no idea of Internet access out there, so I best get a short plan up just in case.
For those looking to track me on race day, I am number 1272 and if you go to The Challenge Roth Website there is an athlete tracker section which should give you splits are various points in the race.
Plan and Predictions
As usual I will aim to go by feel for this most part as trying to use HR with the heat and being fresh and speed/pace on decent roads is difficult to gauge. I also don’t want to hold myself back and stick to a certain pace or speed. I have no idea how I will fare at the moment, I’m extremely nervous about the lack of long, long sessions compared to previous years – I haven’t ridden over 130k in a loong time – yet at the same time I know I have a massive base to perform off. I am nervous as to how exams, finishing uni and moving house have affected my consistent training but recent performances at Bala and Liverpool show I am in good shape. Liverpool was only a week ago! I won’t have lost much.
I aim to have a solid swim and if I can swim anywhere near how I swam at Liverpool I will be happy. Hopefully I will come in under the hour, but as Switzerland taught me last year, if I get boxed in and beaten up a target time can go out the window. However I feel I am much more confident at getting into the thick of things and my ability has taken me front hanging on to 2nd packs like last year to leading them, and with wave starts I should be ok.
Once on the bike I want to settle in to a good rhythm early and keep it controlled. I don’t want to be afraid to push though and as long as I can keep my nutrition down I should be able to hold a good pace. I want to be coming in at 5.30 or at a stretch get closer to 5.15.
The run is a bit of an unknown for me. All my half marathon performances have been good, but my IM metric day was terrible. Again I think it will boil down to nutrition. If I can sort it out on the bike and get some in on the run I know I am capable of running 3:15. Realistically I will be closer to 3:30 and to be honest any lower than this and I will be disappointed.
Overall then, the absolute must target is a PB (11:04 current) and I really can’t see my going over this even on a bad day. The aim for Roth has always been to go under 10 and this is what I am aiming for, and know I am certainly capable of. On a perfect day I reckon I could break 9:45, though I think it really would have to be the perfect day as I am just simply not a strong enough cyclist yet to do any better. I certainly won’t hold anything back however.
Hopefully I can get some Internet out there, but I will keep my twitter page updated through texts, so might not be able to reply to tweets.
I can’t wait!
So a long time has passed since my last post and a lot has happened! I have spent the last few weeks deep in exams which has reduced my training significantly (and any blog updates!) but it hasn’t all been quiet.
November saw the completion of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge and the accompanying knee injury that took a while to heal. Whilst I felt I was recovered in few weeks, it took a lot longer for all knee pain to disappear and for the exhaustion to finally go. It was great fun but not something I would do in the middle of the season.
December and January saw the start of the returning to a decent training schedule and fitting in what I could around work and holiday opening hours. This time last year I had just returned from Lanzarote having put in a good solid week of training but being completely knackered. This year sees me returning from good few solid weeks of revision and being completely knackered! I do however feel I am in much better shape than last year: my weight is a lot lower and I am certainly carrying around a lot less winter insulation, and my speed and fitness are better.
Goals For 2011
So the main goal for this year is going sub 10 hours at Roth. Not exactly an easy challenge but I want to push myself and certainly think it is possible, especially on that course. Having nearly broken 11 hours at Switzerland, and ‘Roth’adjusting’ the time, it means I need to improve by 30-45 mins, which after another year in the sport should certainly be achievable. Having a time goal gives me some nice times for each discipline to aim for:
- Swim – 1 hour
- Bike – 5 hour 15
- Run – 3 hour 30
- Contingency/Transitions – 15 mins
The other main race for the year (providing it isn’t sold out when I can pay for it!) is Ironman UK 3 weeks later to see how close I can get to a qualifying spot. A gap of 3 weeks is going to be tough, but I proved from the PCC that I can cope with the distance, it will just be a question of recovering as best I can to keep a decent pace up. With 3 slots available in my age group this year, it should hopefully mean I get pretty close. Sub 11 hours here shouldn’t be out of the question providing Roth goes well and I recover well.
Whilst I am seeing good signs in some areas of training currently, and having doubts in other areas, I do need to remind myself that I have a significant amount of time between now and my races, and this things should all come, especially as I am not planning on any 2 week, volcano-stranded holidays giving me an extended forced rest and losing my shape!
Approaching The Training Plan
I want to get myself into a routine again and start churning out consistent weeks. Whilst I had a fairly good place last year, I was missing some of that solid consistency that I am aiming for last year. Taking 2 weeks off training in the middle of the season wasn’t exactly ideal.
I did however manage to absorb fairly high training loads and be able to train day in, day out, things that I want to take through into this year. My basic plan will be nice and simple, 5 sessions per sport per week, 15 sessions in total. Due to weekend club sessions and commuting on the bike, I will attempt to work back into getting some training again last year, and then have a recovery week every 4 weeks where I drop the hours back massively, take a complete day off at the weekend, have a lie in etc and drop a few sessions in the week. This should allow me a decent recovery for the next block. To begin with I will keep the hours low and the frequency high to get the sessions in, get a routine back and work towards a consistent training week.
With a target time of 1 hour, I know I need to be able to hold 1:34/100m pace. Though with a draft and a wetsuit this will be a few seconds lower.
I have put a lot of work into my swimming over the last couple of months, ramping up the number of sessions I do a week and mileage and making the most of having a swim squad to train with. I have moved up lanes and now train in either the top or second lane, swimming with some very good swimmers, which is great for pushing me. Taking 12 minutes off my swim is a big ask, but I know I didn’t swim hard enough last year and had a rough swim and with a year of squad training I am hoping to make breaking the hour a reality. Currently I am swimming at a threshold pace in the high 1:30s so with 5/6 months of work, I should easily be able to take this down to the low 1:30s.
The plan is to swim 4 times a week with the swim squad, with will provide me with enough mixed sessions and lots of speed work as I desperately try to hang on the back of better swimmers. I will also have 1 session a week concentrating specifically on endurance work, which will be a 4k session of 4x1k, 2x2k or 4k straight to ensure that I can hold the pace and mixing it up with paddles, bands and pool buoys to help technique, power and balance.
The bike is the leg where I have the most work to do. Aiming for a 5 hour 15 bike split means I need to be able to average over 34kph, which is a significant jump on last year. Whilst the course at Roth will certainly help bump my speed up, I will need to do a lot of work on my endurance and FTP for this to be achievable. Club rides, especially the University Cycling Club session will help with this, as they usually end up with us attacking each other over and over and really helped my speed pick up towards the end of last year after only a couple of months. Returning to these should help pick the bike up and as the days get longer, so will the rides and so hopefully will my endurance. Lots of TT races, another club sessions will all help add to this, as well as specific interval sets. The plan is to have 3 big bikes a week, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and interval set and then an easy recovery ride a week.
On top of the training I also have a new bike! Damaging my decent road bike forced my hand and I brought a TT bike, complete with a power meter! It will take a while to get used to, and I still need to do some work on my position but it is already feeling fast! Hopefully the benefits of having a power meter will enable specific training and racing. The main problems with the bike are that I am unable to yet find a saddle I am comfortable on for the aero position, and the crank length is longer than I am used to. Currently this means pedalling feels a lot harder, and I am unable to spin the legs. This should get easier as I get used to it, I just need an adaptation stage. Worst case, I have a spare crank that I can switch in, which is my usual length, but it has a GXP bottom bracket instead of the ISIS the Ergomo uses, so I would be without a power meter. Hopefully I can get used to the crank!
First impressions of the bike are great though! I finally took it out on the road at the weekend and got 4 hilly hours in. It is nice to be back on a decent bike after so long on my heavy commuter and even with the aero levers, it is nice to be able to stop when going down hill! Once I get used to the crank and holding the aero position, I should be flying!
A sub 3:30 marathon would put me in the top 12% at the London marathon… putting it together at the end of an IM is another story! Effectively I need to hold 12kph, or 5 min/km pace. So this is what I am focusing my training on. Now having a Garmin, I know with greater detail what pace I am running at, how my heart rate is coping with that, where I lag on long runs, the effect of taking food on etc. I need to work towards making 5:00/km pace my easy pace, so that I know I can hold this at the end of the race. Certainly all my current runs are looking good, and my threshold pace is in the 4:20s. So all my non-easy runs need to be under 5:00 min pace and I need to work towards my long run hitting below this in the long term.
The plan is in the week to have a long run, a threshold run, and interval run, a brick run and then either another brick, a hill run or a recovery run, depending on the week and how I am feeling.
Fitting it all together
I am still working out how to balance all the sessions, so will put another post up when I have worked out how everything will fit together. Once a routine comes together, consistent training will follow, and consistency is the key to success.
It should be a good year