After last week’s guest blog, I promised I would update you on my performance at Windsor and give some insights into my race. I do hope you enjoyed the guest spot last week and many thanks again go to Dean for writing and sharing it. I now have another recruit to the growing triathlon community! Triathletes are certainly harder to come by in East London, although saying that, Dean does not live in East London. He’s not that far though! I started alone, and now I can name a handful of people who are beginning to regularly do them. I certainly love that! Anyway, let’s get on…I’m waffling!
This won’t be a long post and I do have quite a few posts on Windsor triathlon as I have completed it twice previously. You all probably know how much I like the race and venue. Last year’s entry can be found here if you’re interested in reading that.
As always, my family and I spend the weekend at Windsor and this was no exception. A nice AirBnB booked around 10 mins from transition was just right, especially with the off street parking, which is a nightmare in Windsor!
I didn’t have any pre-race goals as such, what with the Outlaw a couple of weeks ago and that being my A-Race, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to race well – and on that, go faster than last year.
The thing is with Windsor, is that every time I have raced it, something about the course changes. Saying that though, I have still managed to go quicker each year, even with the bike course being longer due to road works last year out. I do not have a true comparison though year on year. What this means? All good reason to do it again! Previous results are:
2016 = 2:51 2018 = 2:49
What I was really interested in though, was how well I would fair after the Outlaw. This part of the year is always interesting – you cannot gain fitness now. There is far too much racing and recovering to do. This means I race, recover and start to build some training in before tapering and racing again. Eat, sleep, repeat – that sort of thing! If you don’t have the fitness now, then you are going to find it hard to come by at this point.
My Training Peaks numbers were good. In-fact they indicated that my fitness was more or less in-line with my Outlaw condition. One thing that was certain though was my taper into this was far shorter and I felt less rested. The week leading up to Outlaw, I slept well; completed some really easy training; there were no early morning sessions and I just felt great going into it. Windsor was not the case as I completed some harder sessions right up to a few days before. I took the bike out the morning before the race to do a small recce and stretch the legs out. We travelled up Friday and I didn’t want two days prior to racing of doing diddly-squat
Secretly, I wanted also to see how close I could get to the Sub 2:30 wave as realistically I think that it is achievable in the future.
Last wave out again! Same as last year. Yep a 7:50 start time and a fair few to swim through. I was pleased with my swim and felt really strong in the water. The current helps and when turning into it at the turn point, it didn’t bother me really. I also went back to attaching the shoes to the bike for a quicker transition which worked really well. I was much quicker and got my feet into the shoes no problem this time out. I think I have more or less mastered this now and will use this all the time from now on.
The bike started well and then came the rain! Yes it p****d down! I learnt that my aero helmet and visor is superb in conditions like this though. No problems with being able to see whatsoever. The bike leg felt ok, although one thing I can’t do is push too hard when cold. My muscles do not work as well when cold and seem to cramp a little. Power wise I was going to ride a little harder than in the Outlaw – purely down to it being a smaller distance. I wanted to push around 160-170W and actually averaged 168W so more or less bang on.
I certainly think I lost a little time on the bike due to the wet and being a little more careful. It was a little sketchy in places and it just wasn’t worth risking coming off. Coming into T2 I was a little disappointed to see my time, but I knew I felt ok and looked forward to the run
Windsor is not a flat run – especially up to the castle and on the way back in. It’s three laps for the 10k and it was great to see my cousin again as well as a few others I knew racing (Sarah Wixey, former guest blogger and her partner Terry).
The support on the run is always good and even so with the wet weather. Certainly easier to run in conditions like that – just not bike! I felt really good on the run and I seriously need to run a 5k and 10k time trail. I’m sure there is a PB waiting there for me! I’m most pleased at the strength I’m carrying across to the run and this really showed itself at the Outlaw last month and continues again.
It’s great having my family there to support me and get the high fives from Isabel my daughter. Even better that it was Father’s Day and we got to grab some lunch after and receive my gifts. I loved them, especially as I sit now in Peppa Pig pyjamas writing this (well part of it!).
All in all, I’m pleased at the performance at Windsor. I continue to enjoy racing there and will be back next year. I certainly know i can get that 2:30 wave especially after I put in a hard winter block this year.
I now head to the Bananaman Triathlon, Olympic distance again, at Dorney lake at the end of June. I’m adding an extra race this season also and planning to race on the weekend before I head to Jamaica on holiday. I’ll update again before my holidays. I am also going to do a two part blog post on Ironman Vichy 70.3.
Well not exactly, although a small conquering in my performance did happen and one I can be mostly pleased about. I will of course update you all on that in a different blog post planned for next week. However, for this blog entry I am delighted to present to you another guest blog. Although my blog documents my journey, I like to connect people through similar experiences and share the wonders that happen in triathlon. Everyone’s race is different and we all have a story to tell!
Dean is my cousin and a newbie to triathlon. Not a newbie to endurance sports, he is sub 3:30 marathon runner and he is a fit individual looking for new challenges. Windsor was only his second triathlon event. He also writes a regular blog called Mars and Peace. Do check it out and read about his new exploits into triathlon and other things in his world! Be prepared to chuckle and enjoy this one, and I think you’ll all agree with me, it’s a fantastic blog entry.
WINDSOR – RICKSHAW REDEMPTION
ONWARD AND UPWARDS
With my first triathlon (Thorpe Park sprint) under my belt, I wake up on Monday morning exhausted – but elated – even with that horrible bike leg! You can read all about that on my personal blog.
I keep telling myself, “you’ve done one now…what’s
By Tuesday morning I’m back in the gym for an hour
on the stationary bike (20.92 miles…once again…Sunday? WFT?!? 1 hr 8 mins to
ride 13 miles!?!)
That same day I put my bike in the car and bring it to work for a colleague to have a look at. Before I put it in the boot, I give the front wheel a spin – and of course, it’s like a perpetual motion machine, defying the laws of physics! Will it ever stop? No rubbing, no noise. Like a trip to the GP where the ailment has vanished by the time the doctor sees you, I’m starting to doubt whether this is a reasonable explanation for my poor cycling performance at Thorpe Park.
Then I get the bike out of the car at work, and as
I wheel it into my office…. fssss…fssss…fssss…the brakes are rubbing again.
It’s hard to believe that such a small amount of friction had such a negative
impact on my ride – but it was definitely a factor.
After speaking to Danny (tri-to-be-iron), I’m informed that completing my
750 m swim using primarily breaststroke probably didn’t do my legs any favours
either! So maybe it was a combination of the two things?
When my colleague sees the bike, he systematically scans it and says, “well, THAT can go…and THOSE!” pointing at my seat cushion, frame bag and lights. I’m told I can also get rid of my bell and puncture repair kit as well, as I’ll just be putting on a new inner tube which I can store in the pockets of my tri suit.
To prevent any drama with taking off my front wheel and knocking everything out of alignment again, I order a bike rack for the car. I don’t feel guilty about this additional expense as I can put both of the kids’ bikes on it when we go camping later this year – two birds, one stone (or one score in this case – God bless Ebay)!
I take it easy this week training-wise as work is
crazy and family commitments prevent me from getting to Hadleigh for an open
water swim. I do prove my resolve to work on this discipline however by
ordering the Great Swim Local wrist band – although without a triathlon to
train for, let’s see what happens!
The end of the week is double-busy, with work, then band rehearsals on Friday evening. Packing on Saturday morning, driving 70 miles to Windsor to rack up the bike, meet some family and drop Laura and the kids off at the hotel in Slough. Then driving back to Hornchurch for the band’s “last” gig (more on this next week), and then once the final song was played, driving another 70 miles back to Windsor to get 4 hours sleep before the race. Yes, that could have been planned a bit better…but the universe was conspiring against me on this occasion (perhaps)?!
That said, parked next to us was a friendly gent who began speaking to me the moment he got out of the car. After chatting for a while, about this being his first triathlon and my second, and how he had already signed up for an Ironman in Wales (really hard due to the hilly bike ride), he reveals that he’s from Hornchurch in Essex! We’ve both travelled 70 miles to an event where we’re parked next to someone from down the road! (Lee, I hope Windsor went well for you!). A man after my own heart, he has set himself that long-term goal that will keep him training and achieving smaller goals along the way – knowing that right now, there’s no way he could complete an Ironman. Very inspiring – so maybe the universe knew what it was doing after all?!
So despite going to bed around 1 am and setting my alarm for 5:45 am, I find myself wide awake at 5 am. I really could use the extra 45 minutes sleep, but I’m not risking going back to sleep and waking up groggy. Or worse – waking up LATE!!! I manage a banana and some coffee, but not the granola I brought with me for my pre-race meal. I’m still full from the last minute tuna and pasta I uncharacteristically ate 5 minutes before bed last night (which was 4 hours ago, and which didn’t keep me up because I was so cream crackered).
I had the common sense to pack my bags and lay out
my suits the night before, so when the taxi arrives, I’m good to go – fairly
confident that I’ve got everything. Laura and Robyn wish me well on my way out
– Ralph is still in the fetal position, catching the ZZZZZs I’m craving.
I arrive at 6:30 am on the dot, and with my bike
already racked up it all seems stress-free. I say my hellos to the two
competitors I know, Danny and
a work colleague (same one who fixed my bike). I lay out my towel, my flip
flops, cycle shoes and trainers, my swimming hat, earplugs and goggles. I’ve
arrived with my tri-suit on, so the wetsuit goes on next – still without
lubricant. I need to get this for the next race – it goes on easily enough, but
getting it off in transition 1 would be easier I imagine, with a bit of grease.
I notice several competitors with the exact same tri-suit and wet suit (Decathlon….you’re up there with Ebay)! There are also some pretty chunky bikes, which I start to think my basic road bike will fare better than during the race…but those thoughts are quickly hushed by the memories of last week’s cycling performance. The athletes themselves are all shapes and sizes, and just like the bikes, and I’ve already seen that this is no indicator of how they’ll perform. I mean, I look quite fit (more “Canvey Island” than “Love Island” than I’d like maybe), and yet…!
My wave isn’t until 7:45 am, but I’m zipped up in my wet suit and ready to go by 7 am. I decide to have a walk over to the coach station’s toilet block outside the transition area, and luckily everything has been timed just right. My body’s a little too keen if anything, thanks to the morning coffee…which increases the urgency for me to remove my wet suit and tri-suit. I make it. Just.
The swim start is a fair walk away from the
transition point, and as I make my way over with Danny, I notice his white
hotel slippers! I’m trying to figure out the athletic advantage to such
footwear but it’s later revealed that his choice comes down to them being
disposable. I don’t know it yet, but this is the last time I’ll see my flip
flops – they had a good innings. (Note to whoever picked these up: Please do
not wear these. I am wracked with guilt about what your feet may be about to go
through if you do so. My most athletic body part, my feet, have been fermenting
in these flip flops for years. Dispose of carefully.)
I don’t believe that it’s so cold and yet my teeth
are chattering and I notice the uncontrollable shaking of limbs. Danny reckons
it’s nerves…I’m sceptical, as I feel quite positive about what’s to come,
excited even. But I guess physiologically speaking, anxiety and excitement are
similar, it’s just the mental reframe that’s saving me from throwing up or
After a quick briefing, which I try to look focused throughout, but I’m too excited now, I just want to get started. I don’t hear most of the instructions, or if I do my brain isn’t retaining them as they pass through one ear and out of the other. I ease myself off of the pontoon into the Thames and my first thoughts are, “F*** it’s cold…I need a thicker wetsuit…” followed by, “acclimatise…blow bubbles…” and lastly, “where am I? Holy s*** I’m at the front of the pack, I’m gonna get pummelled!!!”
At which point I hear, “15 SECONDS!!!”, have the
presence of mind to start my watch, and we’re off!
I take a few shots to my sides and my legs, but
it’s nothing malicious. I keep touching someone’s foot and think about Mark
Allen doing this to Dave Scott to wind him up. My tickling this person in front
may or may not have wound them up – I’ll never know, as they sped up and left
me in their wake quite quickly.
I manage to do a lot more frontcrawl this time and
the water stays out of my nose, but I swallow a fair amount of the Thames as my
breaths seem to come when sudden waves hit my open mouth.
The smell of hotdogs and onions and ketchup as I am swimming and during my first breastroke break I jokingly ask the kayak volunteer if he can get me one. He’s not impressed, or he didn’t hear me. Either way, no hot dog – and I suddenly feel ready for that granola I missed out on this morning.
I manage some more front crawl, but at one point, having closed my eyes, I punch a kayak which has cut straight across me in its mission to help a struggling swimmer. Later on another kayaker is looking at me like I’m in trouble, which worries me as I feel fine. I give him the thumbs up and prove I’m fine by getting back on with some more front crawl.
I don’t stop swimming. Front crawl and breast
stroke the whole time, and even so I suddenly see the next wave of coloured
hats over-taking me. “I’m going to get pummelled for sure this time,” but
again, apart from a few taps, no one’s dunking me and it even gives me a bit of
a push to swim a bit harder. Not as much as seeing the exit does though!
I crawl out, the most ungraceful sea lion you’ll
ever see, and run for the transition. I struggle a bit with my wetsuit but get
there eventually and notice that Danny is already there in transition (meaning
he overtook me on the swim despite starting later).
It’s a long run out of transition, especially in cycling shoes, but 400m and 7 minutes later I’m off on the bike ride and compared to last week, I’m loving it. I feel like greased lightning!
Suddenly I need to concern myself with overtaking and drafting! A clear sign that things are going well.
The rain starts soon after the start of the ride
and I try not to think about how thin my tyres are or how I’d rather be on a
mountain bike in this weather.
The one piece of advice I had gone against, was
keeping my cycle frame bag on. I’ve got my spare inner tubes, CO2 and cliff
blocks inside and until I get myself a seat bag, this will work fine.
I find riding a bit monotonous, unlike running, and
I hate the feeling of my thighs burning, as the lactic acid builds up – this
lasts for hours after a ride for me.
Danny had told me that the course was flat, so rather than suggest he is mistaken, I keep telling myself, “bloody hell, he doesn’t even consider these hills…I must be crap on the bike.” It turns out the course has changed since last year!
I get into a rhythm though, wolfing down Cliff
blocks and water so that I don’t have to think about fuelling on the run.
Towards the end, a steward annoyingly turns his back on the riders giving me no indication of which way to turn off at the roundabout. So I go left, and have to turn back suddenly as a more awake steward catches me going the wrong way.
At the end of the ride I unclip my shoes and jump off the bike while it’s still going too fast. I skate the first 5 m of the transition, earning a small round of applause for staying on my feet and not dropping the bike.
As I put on my trainers I make a mental note to
purchase some speedy laces – and to find out what “speedy laces” are actually
I throw my glasses down by a tree on the way out
(some kind person puts these on a bike rack for me to find at the end).
The incline on the run is agony for me…I hate
hills…like cycling with any sort of power, they make my thighs burn!!!
There is a lovely stretch on the run, through the
grounds as you go away from the castle and then back again. I look forward to
seeing the professional photos for this part.
I run straight past my family near the end of my first lap, so go back on myself, almost crashing into two other runners (sorry lads) to give high fives to Robyn and Ralph. I don’t want to disappoint them after waiting so long for me!
Stupidly, I start heading towards the finish line
after just one lap and have to turn around – once again, against the current of
runners – and get the other two laps done!!!
Three laps is almost too much – especially when you
know what’s coming. I’m not a fan of laps. I want novelty. Anyway, I keep
going…never stopping (except right at the start to redo my shoelace)…never
I manage to cheer on other runners I know, although
my face is numb from the bike ride, and when I go to cheer on the first person
I recognise, I can’t say their name properly and I’m sure my face looks like
Rocky Balboa’s. I raise both arms, smile and raise my eyebrows – just to check
I haven’t had some kind of stroke.
During the last lap I really focus on my own race. I have my secret mantra while running, which helps me keep the rhythm of my breathing and cadence going.
As I approach the finish line, I have nothing left for a sprint finish which is just as well as I spot Laura and the kids. She is holding Ralph up and lifting him over the gate, so he can cross the finish line with me. So holding his hand, he whizzes ahead and beats me across the line before I hold him up for a cuddle. A very special moment for the Saunders boys!
I ask the steward to put my medal on him, and she not only does so, she also kindly gives me a second medal – which is fantastic as both Robyn and Ralph get one now!
I’m really happy with my time, but my form is sloppy as hell and the run up to race day was less than perfect. I’m sure I can do better and I’ve got no intention to quit now. I probably won’t race again until next season…probably…instead I have a lot of learning to be getting on with, and not just with triathlon.
Massive THANK YOU to the family once again! It really was a Father’s Day to remember, and I’ve definitely redeemed myself on the bike!!!
Thank you also to Danny for inviting me to write a guest blog for Tri.To.Be. Iron
Well let’s just say that if you ever want a non-branded Ironman event, then the Outlaw has to be it. It really is a great race. Super organisation, excellent marshals, who are very friendly and extremely helpful, and the athletes are really well looked after. I think I would happily say it is one of the best 70.3 races you could do.
There were people I knew that were racing also. I wasn’t alone this time. Sarah and Han from the running club also took part and it was their first half iron distance. For regular readers, you may remember Sarah writing a guest blog last year on her first triathlon at ITU Leeds. You can read that here. This blog will not just include my race, but both Sarah and Han have agreed to provide you with their thoughts and comments also below. You see, its the blog that keeps on giving!
I travelled up with Han on the Saturday and did the registration and race briefing thing. I then made my way to my hotel for a quick snack and nap before meeting up with Han and Sarah for an early dinner. It was an early start for everyone with my wave starting at 6:35, and I think Han and Sarah’s at 6:50ish.
Life competing in triathlon requires organisation. Whether that is through sorting out travel, hotels, race info or documents. That’s even before you begin looking at your equipment and logistics on the day. It meant getting everything sorted and organised for the morning back at the hotel and setting that alarm for 3:30am!!! Yes that’s right. Why so early? Well I need at least two hours before racing and eating, meaning I would eat just before I left the hotel at about 4:30am
What were my goals?
This is a simple one – I wanted to go faster! Faster than in 2017. My goal time was 5hr 45min. Not a made up number, but one that has been in my Training Peaks account since November and based upon what I did back in 2017. My Outlaw 2017 race report can be found here. It’s funny to read back on this blog post. You realise how many mistakes I made. Experience in triathlon certainly helps a lot and this is now clearly obvious in my races. The more you do, the more you learn! I had problems last time out – mainly on the bike and it is pleasing to see that I have learned and moved on from these.
My Race – The SwimLeg
So going into the swim I knew my numbers were good. My training has indicated I’m swimming faster than ever before. What were the results then I hear you ask? Well, I managed the 1.2 mile swim in 36min 49s. Compared to 2017 that was slower as I did 35:25. Not by much, but why no improvement?
It’s quite simple really – the swim was not an area of the race I wanted to necessarily go quicker. As long as the time was somewhere around what I did previously I knew it was still a very good time. The thing with open water swimming, and in particularly triathlon racing, is there is certainly less you can control in the swim leg. Whether that be finding clear water, the temperature affecting you, people swimming around and over you or taking on water. They all come into play. The water was bloody freezing, I did have someone zigzagging in front of me and I never actually felt great until about half way through when I started to swim a little better. I knew my race outcome would depend on the bike and run sections. A handful of minutes or seconds in the swim were not going to make any difference to the overall race if I could perform considerably better in the bike and run.
My Race – The Bike Leg
You may remember my previous blogs back in winter when I outlined my commitment to improving my bike leg. You can read about these here and here. It has been a long process, but one that has certainly paid off. Hard work pays off for sure! I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves:
A massive PB on the bike and one that I was so proud of going sub 3 hours for. I had a really great bike leg. I felt strong throughout and didn’t feel I would fade at all. I knew the bike numbers to sustain from all the testing and use of the power meter I had invested in. I had a plan going into it and I pretty much stuck to it. My aim was to ride at between 140-150w – more or less Zone 3 for me. This I knew would bring me in under my previous time and ensure I had matches to burn on the run. The data below proves it. My avg power being 145 watts and my normalised power at 154 watts. Ideally these would be a little closer but I’m still happy with that. The difficulty comes on hills when you put out a little more power.
Training and concentrating on developing my engine and FTP over winter has made tons of difference to my biking performance. It takes time though. People often rush it and become impatient. They don’t see improvement straight away, but it is your body that ultimately decides. To train for these sort of distances you need a good amount of time for adaptation and also patience if you want to go fast. I was able to do this on the day because I had followed not only my training plan, but also my race plan. I resisted the the urge to burn more matches then I needed to. I used my head on the bike – not just the legs!
I think this would be a good thing to add here. You see in previous half iron distances (and I have only done 3 before), I have never really had a nutrition plan. I have more or less just made sure I eat (through some real food and gels) and drink on the bike. Not this time though. If I was going to plan my race, I needed to plan my nutrition to match it. So the objective was:
To consume a gel or 1/3 of a cliff bar at 20 min intervals alternating between each. I would double up on the last 20 main interval (which was at 2hrs 20mins) and consume nothing but hydration fluid and two salt pills for the final 40mins of the bike leg. Did it work? I would only know when I started my run. Let’s find out.
The Race – Run Leg
When racing last week at Dorney All Nations Sprint, I felt fantastic and strong. When starting the run leg at the Outlaw this feeling returned. In-fact I had to control it again as you can see from the splits below. Just like the other portions of the race, I had a plan I would stick to. I was hoping to sustain a pace of somewhere around 5:20-5:40 per km or an 8:30 per mile. It had some leeway in it as you never can tell how you are going to feel at the end with a swim and bike in you. Running is tough at the end of a triathlon especially with longer distances. So how did I do?
Happy? Certainly! I’m really pleased with the half marathon effort. It is also the first half in a triathlon that I have not felt I needed to walk any aid station. Running is by far the hardest part of the race and mentally really challenging. You are constantly fighting the ‘stop for a few minutes and walk demons’. There is a one tactic I seem to be applying in lots of my races though. Find someone running the pace you want and stick with them! I’m not sure of the guy’s name – I didn’t ask to be honest, but I found him at the end of my first lap. Without him to keep pushing me I’m not overly sure I would have sustained the pace. Thank you to whoever you were…and sorry for taking the sprint at the line! We did have a chat at the end and during the race in which I expressed my gratitude. I also refer back to my race nutrition here. Not once did I feel hungry nor did I feel I needed something to keep me going. The only thing I needed on the run was water. Water at every aid station to keep the thirst away. I have to say though that it was perfect running conditions which certainly helped.
I finished my race at 5hr 34 mins. In 2017, I finished the race in 6hrs and 10mins. That is one massive PB of 36mins in which I am incredibly pleased about. It is also a half iron distance best performance as previously this stood at 5:52.
Do you know what? I think I can knock more time off of that. I need to keep working hard on the bike and training the way I do. An overhaul to my training methods this year and the introduction of my power meter has given huge benefits and insight. I know I will get faster, and if I keep working at the run I believe this will also improve. How much time? Who know but I would feel confident in a 10/15 min improvement next year. Next year? Yes I will return again to the Outlaw as it is such a great race.
This blog is slightly lacking in actual race photos I’m afraid. Just like in 2017, my wife and daughter were not in attendance. Not a common thing for my triathlons, but a little too much and too early to ask of them. They were certainly missed though 😦 Especially as they allow family to run with you on the finishing chute – something I would love to have done with Isabel my daughter. I will be back though and I will get to do this at some point. Anyway, I now leave you the final comments from Sarah and Han on their race…Hope you enjoy all the content.
How not to prepare for the Outlaw Half – Sarah
I registered to take part in the Outlaw as soon as the entries opened. I had great plans to train for the event and to really focus on my swimming and cycling. I wanted to build on my performance from the 2018 Leeds ITU triathlon. However, my plans changed in December when I won a London marathon club place via East End Road Runners. As I was representing my club, I spent a lot of time training for the run. The effort paid off. I smashed my marathon PB time and achieved most improved female runner at the AGM. But, all this came at a price. I didn’t spend anywhere near enough time in the pool or on the bike to train for the Outlaw. And as a result I was dreading the event.
The Outlaw experience started the day before at the race briefing. It was a well managed event and the organisers delivered the race information in a very clear and relaxed way. They also helped to calm any last minute nerves.
After the briefing, the plan was to head off to the city centre, check-in at the hotel and meet up with Danny and Han for something to eat. Regrettably I left it far too late to book a pitch at the campsite or a room in the on-site hotel. Instead, I got a last minute deal in a hotel in the city centre. All was fine until 1.30 am when the noisy drunken louts in the next room decided to have a party and that was it for any chance of getting a decent night’s sleep. Getting up at 4.30 am was a real shock to the system. The advantage of travelling at that time was that everyone else seemed to be heading to the same place. I got to the venue in plenty of time to rack my bike and lay out my gear before heading to the pontoon to get in the water.
As expected, the water was cold but also refreshing. During the race briefing, we were given a few tips on how to get used to the cold water without going into panic mode: 1) Get in 2) Take a deep breath 3) Put your face in the water 4) Breathe out whilst under water 5) Repeat steps 2 – 4 at least 5 or 6 times 6) Open the neck of the wetsuit to let some cold water in. These tips worked really well. After a couple of minutes, I felt relaxed and ready for the swim. The great thing about the start was that the swimmers could really spread out and it didn’t feel like a mass brawl with arms and legs hitting each other. Overall, the swim went well but it took me ages to feel warm afterwards. Trying to take off my wetsuit, put on my helmet and shoes was a real challenge because my fingers were numb.
I always knew that the bike ride was going to be my weakest leg. I am still trying to embrace cycling. I’m hoping that one day something will click and I will actually like it. The first 10 miles was tough – not the terrain, just me and my relationship with my bike. I really considered turning around and heading back to the venue. I had enough of the bike but I knew I had to suck it up and just get on with it. The race course was very well marked and it was impossible to get lost due to the sheer number of signs and enthusiastic volunteers and marshalls all the way along the route. The two feed stations were really well organised. But I was so glad when it was over and I could start the run.
The two lap route was split between a riverside path and the lake. There were plenty of feed stations along the course and again there was no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers who were keen to look after all the runners and their nutrition and hydration needs. All the ultra and marathon training I had concentrated on during the winter months had paid off and I had enough energy to run on tired legs. It also meant that I could make up a lot of lost time from the bike as well as passing on words of encouragement to those who had said something similar to me during the ride.
I was so happy to see the finish line and for the event to be over. It was a good kick up the rear end that I needed. Importantly, I learned a number of lessons including:
Book any accommodation as soon as the event place is confirmed – ideally, choose a place to stay as close to the venue as possible
Train for the event by concentrating on all three elements at the same time rather than just one at the expense of the other two
Don’t sign up to too may endurance events so close to the Outlaw – three weeks between each event is not enough time to recover properly
Wear neoprene gloves and/or booties for the swim when it is really cold – transition will be easier when your fingers aren’t numb
Develop a positive attitude towards the bike – this will only come from more practice
Don’t turn up hoping to wing it – the Outlaw will punish you!
Next up for me – Windsor Triathlon in June.
Against All Odds – Han
Pre-race: woke up from intermittent restless night sleep. Sleepy, dazed and had to get ready. I could still feel the tight right shoulder I picked up out of nowhere on Saturday. I showered, ate breakfast and packed and was on the road by 5ish. I cycled to the venue and took the long way round. Luckily I saw other participants who pointed the correct way. Once I arrived, I racked my bike. Everyone was laying out their stuff neatly, but not me. I was stacking my bike items up in pile – gloves, hat, gilet, arm warmers, shoes bootie covers – fear of getting cold on bike after a cold swim. I saw Wixey (Sarah) who calmed my nerves a bit. Now wetsuit on or toilet…opted to put wetsuit on, I needed to eat but didn’t want to over eat before swim. I then did the Toilet bit!
Swim: My swim wave was getting ready to jump into the water. I assumed Wixey was already in the queue. As I waded through the blue hat wave…”dammit Han, you can’t swim with your glasses on” doh moment #1. Glasses away, try again wading my way through the blue hat wave with most already in the water. Slow swimmers on the right, fast on the left…doh moment #2 I couldn’t tell my left from my right. Completely in the wrong group so I even moved closer toward the left hoping to see Wixey for the last time.
The gun went off, and away I went totally not ready. I hadn’t even acclimatised to the water, hoping my slow swim would warm me up. It didn’t take long for the cold to get to me though. I decided to hang on to the boat to get myself sorted and off I went again although still not completely ready for it. As I pushed on, the pack was some distance away. The fast blue caps started to over take me. I was so happy to see the red square buoy (turning point). I could also feel the blue pack catching up and for sure not long they started to swim over me – I felt the odd kick, drank some water and then a little more. Turning next into the next corner I could see the home straight and became a little more relaxed. I picked up the pace, but was still a little stop start to catch my breath. Finally I got to the end and exited the water.
T1: Into transition and wetsuit off, chip timer off and neatly laid on the towel. Saw Wixey, we both agreed that it was a horrendous swim. I got dressed just about to put helmet on, doh moment #3 HR monitor I can’t race without it (issue with high heart rate low iron…another chapter of my journey). Quickly undressed HR monitor on, watch, helmet off I went.
Bike: I exited transition, felt good and chuffed that I managed to put on my toes socks without any problem (smirk on face)! Happy days, just need to keep a steady pace, eat well and keep hydrated. Feeling at ease I caught up with a few ladies “E” and Michelle. We had some light banter and guessed E’s name is Elizabeth! No brainer. E zoomed ahead, I followed, caught up with Wixey who told me off for drafting (I was beside her, not behind…only later that she told me someone in briefing raised this point in which they were flagged as drafting!) Off I went, passing a few more cyclists. About 20 miles in, sshiiiiit pothole, too late to dodge, please please no puncture = full on blow out flat.
Flipped bike, started to prepare to replaced inner tube while waving goodbye to the cyclists I overtook earlier. The ladies shouted “sorry, not technical to stop to help”. One gentleman slowed down but I sent him off as I would feel really guilty if he got pulled off the race. Determined to get it done, almost there then I realised the last bit popping the tyre in place I always struggled with – accept help woman I thought! Lucky me, a cyclist passed by and I accepted his help. Perfect timing I thought. Wheel sorted, just need pumping. Got the CO2 canister out, running through Nick Gorman’s (fellow EERR Tri) instructions in my head, screwed it on but no gas released. I panicked and asked the stranger to help me. He never used one before so we were both in the same boat. Finally, gas hissed he got spooked I saw wasted gas going in mid air and not the inner tube…I directed him to press it on the inner tubes nozzle…gas stopped hissing and still a flat tyre. I borrowed his manual pump and started pumping – done! I thanked him and off I went. Doh moment #4 know how to use tools you carry!
I then got a good pace going at 16mph. If I could keep it up, I could make the cutoff. Miles after miles and anxiety setting in at the back of my mind. I thought I could pass Wixey and I would be fine, (sorry Wix) but no sign of her, “good on her she got it” I thought. Now solo on the road, anxiety becoming stronger and finally out of the northern loop and on to the next, reassuring as I saw other competitors cycling in the opposite direction. We greeted with the subtle cyclist nods, hand greeting gestures and some yelled encouraging comments.
Solo again, not a single soul just pot holes and cars. Approaching junction around 45 miles, 2 volunteers started crouching low toward me with their big foam hands which made me smile and lifted my spirit. As I went passed, they cheered. This encouraged me to push on. I also was surprised as two officials creeped up from behind, chatted and they reassured me I can make it at current pace. Finally, getting closer to the venue.
T2: I entered transition, pressed watch to transition didn’t hear the buzz pressed again…doh moment #5. Had to stopped watch as it is now in run mode. Rack bike, changed shoes, helmet, gloves, gilet, arm warmers off and grabbed nutrition, stuffed home made gel in back pocket as I started to run it was bouncing so I decided to leave it and figured my energy drink will be enough and then clocked the neatly laid timing chip siting on top towel. Doh moment number 5 – although I still didn’t realise it!
Run: I crossed the timing mat, off I went and thought to myself this is ok, what jelly legs? A little further along, uh oh quads hurt, quads hurt. Grabbed water at fee station sipped my home made energy drink. A little further and the pain reduced. As I passed the first timing mat…I thought why didn’t I beep? Oh Han – ultimate doh moment #6 – realising at the same time and the image of the timing chip sitting on towel flashed across my head – “You muppet”.
As I pressed lap button on my watch when doing the second lap, yup doh moment #7 watch bleeped “activity completed”. Quick I reset and start another run activity. As I ran round the first lap encouraging other runners they are doing great, I knew I was in a worse position than them with no chip and no time! Entering the second lap and my tank was almost empty. At the feed station I yelled water and gel. The volunteer offered me caffeine or no caffeine. I grabbed both out of her hands, while finishing the water and taking the gels which was a make or break scenario. Best decision though, I was back on track, and grabbed another caffeine gel and sipped it. At the back of brain I said to myself that this is not a good idea so chucked it at the next feeding station.
The home stretch was getting closer as I sighted the orange carpet. Entering the chute I saw Terry (Wixey’s other half aka our supporter, photographer, driver) and I started celebrating even managed a sprint to the finish line. I grabbed the finish banner lifted high with both hands “I won against all odds”. Just waiting for my timing to be officially confirm.
Finally it is here. The season has started and I already find myself nearly two races in. I write this after my season opener sprint distance event at Eton Dorney for the All Nations Triathlon. This I do every year to dust off a few cobwebs, test new gear and get back into racing mode. An update on this later. I’m just about to complete the Outlaw half this weekend coming – the second time I have completed this race. Both are a week apart and it has been a ?????? start to the season. Why the question marks? Well I think I will answer that one after the Outlaw. Remember that statement! Let’s revisit it after the Outlaw.
I’ll use the blog to update on a few other things also, such as the coaching project with Miia and her first race.
Fitness wise, I’m good. The numbers are good, especially in the pool. I think this is finally starting to show in my open water swimming and something I have struggled to transfer across in the past. I’ve managed a few niggles and things this season (as always) and believe I’m probably fitter than ever. So as I entered my first race of the season, it was going to be a good insight to where I was but also how hard/easy the effort felt.
It has certainly been a cold start to the season. I managed to get an open water swim the week before the Tri with Sarah and Miia over at Upminster. Water = 13.6c. At Eton there was no improvement. Water 12.6c! Colder still, and it felt it when we got in. So how did the race pan out? Well, I can sum it up in a few words… Great swim, terrible transitions, mediocre bike and great run.
I actually completed it in the exact same time as last year – 1:11. No improvement you may think? Well when you look between the lines there was actually. My swim was under 7 mins for 400m – the timing mat is situated way after the swim exit hence the time difference. That to me is a massive improvement. I think I believe in myself a little more in the open water. I finally believe I can sustain the paces I set and not blow out my arse half way through. I’ve always started cautiously and saved probably too much in the swim tank. I started right at the front of my wave and had the cleanest swim I’ve ever had in a triathlon. No bumping, people swimming next to me or touching me in any way at all. My wife watched from the sides and caught me exiting the water somewhere out in about 4th from the wave start.
The swim at Dorney was bloody freezing and my hands were so cold I couldn’t get the wetsuit off. This carried on throughout the bike and into my feet, as when I got off, they were like two blocks of ice and I could not feel anything until after the first lap of the run! Plus – add on trying out shoes attached to the bike for the first time which was interesting. It took me a lot longer getting into them on the bike then I thought, so more time lost. I still need practice at this. I ran really well off the bike considering the numb feet. The 4:23km average for the 5K was easy. It’s always good to try and find another athlete to run with which I did through a GB age grouper. I only wish now I went a little harder as felt I had more in the tank.
Anyway I’m not going to delve too deep into this triathlon, as like I said, it is more for me ironing out issues and enjoying it really. The real test for me is the Outlaw Half. More on that in the upcoming post.
The new gear I tried out above
As mentioned earlier, it was Miia’s (who I have been coaching since winter) first triathlon and one she was looking forward to, but obviously a little apprehensive about. She performed really well and overcame some open water fears and came in at 1:22. In-fact, her words were ‘I loved it.’ It must be noted that Miia had quite a bad bike accident a few weeks ago, fracturing her cheek and hurting her shoulder. Luckily she managed to get herself back together for this and had enough time to recover. Her training took a little backward step – quite obviously and with good excuse. She is more or less back on track now and with a few tweaks to her plan, she will be in good shape for her A race. We spent the following day getting in one last long ride for me – a nice 63 miler out to Hanningfield Reservoir.
I have entered a taper week now as I prepare for war with my body on Sunday. I just hope the weather holds and the lake warms up a little! The next post from me will be on the Outlaw half. So check back for the read on that.
Well it’s been a busy few weeks my end and great to be able to publish this blog post finally. I don’t just think and write these up on the day you know! They do take time and I aim to put good content into them that are worthy of a read.
So as promised, here’s the update on the coaching project I explained I was undertaking with Miia. I have also given details of performance updates my end as well. Therefore you get 2 for the price of 1 this time! How lucky you all are!
Let me cast your mind back. If you didn’t read the last blog post on the coaching project, you can read it here. I introduced you all to Miia, who is a keen beginner, and has shown great determination and dedication to her training so far. I wanted to provide you with the updates of how she is getting on, but also to show how the training is working. I’m going to break this down into the relevant parts of each discipline. It will be easier taking it one by one and I will also add in my training data along the way. This should put some things explained into some sort of context for you.
As I mentioned before, without benchmarking and testing in training at different points through the training cycle, we have no idea whether something works or is having impact into our fitness or performance. For the swim, I like to use either a 400m or 1000m time trail. Miia being a novice, we use the 400m time trail until she is at a level where she is swimming the 1000m comfortably and it is worth taking a time from.
In the last post we documented Miia’s initial 400m time trail. She had a time of 10min 45 secs. This was back in December and she then repeated it again in mid January after carrying out the technique sessions I planned for her. She had improved to 9min 48secs meaning her pace went from 2:32min per 100m to 2:27. So this improvement only came from working on her technique. Since then we have not only been working on technique, however we also added in fitness sets to her swim. We wanted to build some specific swim fitness and develop that engine in the pool.
We retested on 26th March. What is her time now you are wondering? Well it stands at…drum roll please…8min 42secs! Amazing! Truly great progress.
Test 1: 10:45 Test 2: 9:48 Test 3: 8:42
Her new time is obviously showing that she is getting faster. She’s knocked over 2 mins off in a short amount of time.
How much faster will she get? Who knows. One thing I can’t do with Miia is regularly get to the pool. Swimming improvements take time and require patience. Some would argue that she would improve naturally anyway just from swimming more – and this I agree with. But the question is how much would she have improved on her own? When would she have hit a plateau? In-fact, you could argue this with all three disciplines. Would she know which sets to do also to improve the swim fitness? This is the advantage with coaching – someone to do the thinking for you!
You see, there is still a lot of work to do with her stroke. There are many aspects that still need to be improved and areas that were highlighted before are better, but could be improved further. This is where the one on one pool coaching is really beneficial. Unfortunately, in this part of the season, we need to balance fitness and technique. Although Miia will continue to improve this year, the question is how much more? Personally, I feel these will be small improvements through the season, however if she puts some work in over the next winter, then I think there will be massive developments again. We need to now continue developing her swim fitness and begin some open water sessions. We are happy at the level of swim so far though.
My training has been going very well in the pool and my 1000m time trail has shown I’m faster now then I ever was. This is what I mean when I say we improve over time. You never make massive jumps, and if you do, they are usually early on. Below is a collation of my times over the last few years for this distance. Whenever I swim it, I swim it as flat out as I can go. A combination of fitness, improved technique and bloody determination has led to this.
1000m Time Trails:
2015: 21mins 33s
2016: 20mins 35s
2017: 18mins 29s
2018: 17mins 45s
2019: 16mins 35s
Fitness, technique is developed over time. The longer we do something, the better we become. I certainly feel Miia will improve further and this year is it about getting a first year baseline. It’s also about ensuring we are carrying out the technique sessions well with good form and not instilling bad habits. The better we become, the smaller the gains we make also.
I know that to improve my swimming times, I would have to swim an extra day a week. I’ve certainly swam more this year, including the extra day, although probably every other week. Has this helped? Possibly. I’m probably averaging at around a minute less a year over that distance a year, but I also know I am more in tune with my technique than others and know when it feels right!
This is a discipline I feel Miia is more naturally gifted in. She is a strong rider and this was noticed early on. We have been riding together when we can on a Sunday to get in our longer ride. Weather has hampered us a fair few times and I gave Miia a particular workout to do on the turbo if that happens. Again she has really followed the plan well and allowed her bike engine to be developed. So let’s explore her results…
Her initial bike test results were as follows:
Starting Bike FTP Power: 141w Starting Bike HR Threshold: 155bpm
Current Bike FTP Power: 171w Current Bike HR Threshold: 162bpm
And there we see it! Training to specific zones and following the plan has led to a massive increase. I think it’s fair to say also that on the second test Miia knew what to expect and pushed a lot harder than the first. I was meant to take a video of it but completely forgot! The more you do this test the better you become at judging the effort, and I was worried she went off a little too hard at first the second time round, although she surprised me and maintained it for the majority of the test.
Many wonder what this actually means, but basically the FTP is the level she could ride and and sustain for the duration of her event. Now, Miia isn’t necessarily going to use all this information, but as a coach, the data is important to allow me to analyse the fitness and performance gains. It tells me whether the workouts prescribed are having the desired affect.
Our longer rides have let her develop the endurance and distance and the shorter workouts at home have pushed the HR up and got her into zones where it is a little uncomfortable. She has taxed her cardiovascular system and will continue to improve in this discipline now that the next part of her training makes FTP workouts more specific.
My performance has also improved here as I’ve pushed my FTP up to 177W at the last test a few weeks back. You may note that this isn’t much more than Miia. The trouble with the test is you need to be able to pace it well, something I don’t think I did well in the last test. A consistent effort required throughout and resisting the urge to go to hard too early on and fading towards the end. The problem – I don’t think I went quite hard enough. You see cycling is based around power to weight ratio. You want to be light, but strong. I always keep a check on my weight throughout training and I’m currently hovering around 62kg. If you are lighter but can produce the same power as a heavy rider, you are stronger. It also means climbing hills you will be quicker. It’s why we see so many skinny Tour de France riders that are incredibly strong on climbs!
I asked Miia to keep an eye on her weight throughout training and before I mention this, I will say she gave me permission to publish this! Her starting weight was 73.5kg and now she is 70.5kg. Probably due from training, but certainly helpful in her bike performance.
Muscular endurance has been a focus for me to build the strength in my legs, and I have only just started to build my ftp with specific workouts. It just shows, bike fitness can come from a variety of ways. Miia also will continue doing this workout in her build phase.
I think it will be fair to say that Miia has found Z2 HR run training hard. Not in the sense of actually doing it, but actually sticking to the zone when it feels actually quite slow – even slower than her normal run pace. Patience was key here and initially she was using her watch strap to take the heart rate that actually didn’t help. It was over-calculating it and it was only when she starting using a chest strap she found this out. I think her run has massively improved. We have done very little on speed work but just focused on consistency and trying to develop the engine. Look at these incredible results:
PB Half Marathon Times:
Initial PB: 2h 28mins
16th Dec Half marathon: 2:17:22 10th March Big Half: 2:07:37
Remarkable or what eh? She’s also brought her 5K time down now too. Initially her PB was 29mins which then went down to 27:21 and then 26:54. Miia can certainly see her improvement now and still wants to go closer to 2hrs for the half marathon distance. She will get there with this no doubt. She set out to run 2hr at the Big Half but just run out of steam towards the end. Why? Well I have no doubt she run a lot of that race anaerobically which is fairly taxing on the system and just run out of energy. The positive though is that the more she trains specifically and we look at adding some tempo running, this time will eventually come as her body becomes even more efficient. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this particular aspect goes.
And for me?
Well if there is one aspect of my training that hasn’t gone to plan, then running is it. The foot issue has been on-going and having to manage it means my running is slightly inconsistent. I’ve run two half marathons since and my aim is to try and get that consistent. I’m not too bothered with speed work as my body (foot) is not holding up to additional stress. The important thing, which I’m pleased to add though, is that things are finally starting to look up and the all important brick sessions are now happening. I managed over 20 miles this week without any issues…finger crossed now.
What was apparent recently in my half marathon was how strong I felt at the end of the Big Half. I certainly have the endurance and strength there, I just need to build a little durability in my body for the rigours of running!
Is data everything?
No certainly not! I know many pros and elite athletes who swear by riding on feel and if that works then great. Everyone can have a bad day at a race and not perform or just feel like crap. But what we are wanting to do is not only build fitness, but also confidence in our ability to complete and race events. Going into something knowing you have done the hard work is a much less stressful feeling than turning up and slogging your way around. I certainly hate racing like this. In-fact, for me it isn’t racing. I have no problem with anyone doing this and for many completing an event is an achievement. So it should be. When I started working with Miia, this was her goal. I think if you ask her now, she already knows she will complete it. The question will probably lead down the path of what time?
So I hope you enjoyed the read and the next round of blog posts will be race reports as the season is upon us. I can’t wait! It will be great to update on Miia’s races also. We both take on the sprint triathlon at Dorney lake in 6 weeks time.
Here we are 6 weeks into training and 12 weeks out from my first A race – The Outlaw. I thought a brief update would be good to provide for the regular readers, so here it is. Below is a snapshot of my current fitness numbers.
Current Fitness Levels
They are generated through my premium Training Peaks account. If you not aware of Training Peaks and the numbers above, they’re quite simple to understand. The main number (middle number) is my current fitness. How can you put a number on fitness you may think? Well Training Peaks does, and they do it very well through its calculations based around your training and stress scores placed on the body. I’m not going to go into that. If you keen to know more, then head over to their website as it explains it all.
My Fitness 6 Weeks Ago
This was my fitness 6 weeks ago, which shows a remarkable improvement in a short space of time. The other numbers are useful as well. The fatigue number tells us how much you are currently carrying, which changes constantly and allows to spot for injury, but also ensure we have recovery built into the programme. The longer the training goes on, and that number will increase over time. This is why recovery days and recovery weeks are so important when training, as we want to reduce this number and back off a little each week. This means we can usually go into the next week feeling a little more refreshed than we ended it. It affects the form number also which is a measure for how race ready you are. Most athletes will want to be somewhere between -5 and 10. This number also increases negatively the more tired you become. Reduce fatigue, and form improves. I’m not too concerned with this number at the moment and it will become more important as we get closer to racing as we look at a taper.
Currently I am scheduling a recovery week every fourth week into my plan. My fatigue levels at the end of a block are somewhere between 110-120 by the time I get to a recovery week. When the recovery week is complete they are back down to 20-40ish. My aim is to get the fitness number somewhere around 100-110 for the Outlaw and then push it up a little further for Ironman Vichy. This will be difficult and a challenge over the summer holidays!
Training so far has been going fairly well. I passed a major test two weeks ago when taking on the Olympic Park half marathon. I haven’t run that sort of distance in ages and I have only managed to get up to 8 miles in the first base block. The foot was absolutely fine only biting a little in the last mile. I must admit I felt ok throughout that race and took it easy for 7 miles or so running at 8 min miles. I haven’t run 8 min miles for ages either! All base training has been Z2 which currently equates to about 9:10-20 min miles.
This race was my only long workout of the week as it was at the end of my recovery week. I put in a little dig mid way through the race and upped my pace to 7:30 min miles and sustained it for around 3 or 4 miles. Towards the end of the race I did feel like I was blowing a little and the lack of mileage showed at that point. I came home in 1:45, so at this point in the season I cannot be more pleased.
I did have a little stiffness in the knee and foot next day so thought better to take the running down a notch and allow time for some rest. It has been fine though and I’m now back at it!
Why periodisation? Why is base building so important?
People underestimate the need to periodise their training. What do we mean by this you may ask? Well it is simply breaking the training into chunks that have specific goals to each. I’m currently still in the base building aspect which mainly focuses on developing the endurance engine. It’s an incredibly important stage and so often many people neglect it.
Once there is a solid base to work from, we can really start to develop other parts of the cardiovascular system. This means we now start to enter a build phase in the training where we may be focusing on building strength or increasing our threshold in each discipline. The intro blog video above details a current focus of mine in building bike strength in the legs. Although still in my base phase, we can still add some specifics to workouts and focus on things that need developing.
A recent Instagram Post
I certainly feel more dedicated this year. That’s not to say I wasn’t last year, although I was certainly less structured and racing far too much what with 10ks, half marathon, marathon all before even any triathlons. My build up this year to my first triathlon will consist of just two half marathon races and that is it. I’m really looking forward to the my first sprint race and it still seems so far away!
Ok, I said this would be brief and I’m going to wrap things up there. I’ve recently been posting daily updates on Instagram so do head over there and give me a follow – Tri.To.Be.Iron. I’m always interested to hear people’s thoughts and comments so please like, share or get in touch.
Next update will probably be after the 8 week testing and where I will take on the Big Half in London. I will report on my 400m and 1000m swim time trail and my FTP result along with some detail into the training focus for the next few blocks. I’ll also be posting an update to the coaching project with Miia as she will close out her first 8 weeks and take on the testing again. All in all, a busy few weeks ahead and all this to juggle with a busy term at work!
You may have read from my previous posts about how much I enjoy the coaching side of triathlon. Whether that is coaching myself or other people. My teaching and leadership background probably helps with this as I feel I do (or I should) have a good understanding of what makes a good coach.
This year, I decided to take a further step and dedicate a little more time to helping others in their Tri exploits. It’s always difficult with this as I have my other roles – my work, family life, training and racing myself. There’s a lot to fit in! In a previous blog I introduced the athlete I was working with this year – Miia Amara. She is completely new to triathlon and one that approached me to help her.
I always think with newbies that the easiest thing to do is to basically to get them to train a little more consistently ensuring they swim, bike and run regularly, building up to a distance in which they will complete their event in. This isn’t difficult and there are guaranteed improvements until a plateau is usually reached. The real gains however, come from being a little more scientific and structured in the approach. Now what newbie is going to know this? Not many that’s for sure.
I agreed that I would help Miia on a more formative, in depth level. The only thing I asked from her was that she followed the structure and worked to the programme. I have been asked by others to do this before, although I have always been wary of it. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it takes a lot of time planning, adjusting and spending time with athletes in testing and analysing data to track improvement. I suppose that is why seeking a coach is fairly expensive, and it takes a committed athlete to want to take that step. I needed an athlete that was willing to give commitment back in order for me to do it and not waste my time. At no point was any money exchanged! I don’t claim to be some amazing coach or possess badges. What I do have though is experience in doing it myself and a lot of knowledge on it. I read a lot on this subject and have applied many of the concepts on myself. It’s great to be able to transfer some of that knowledge to someone else.
How come Miia you may ask? Well I could see she was eager to really get involved and I had her base training for 8 weeks prior to really starting a proper tailored plan. I could see she was dedicated and agreed to help her. Let’s meet our athlete:
As with all training plans, a clear bench mark of current fitness and form were needed as a starting point. I spent some time in the pool with Miia looking at her swim stroke and what we needed to do to improve it. We also completed a run test and a bike test a little later on. Miia also committed to purchasing a Turbo for home training and any necessary equipment for the pool. You see, I told you she was keen!
We started in November 2018 together and looked at spending around two months working on swim technique and building up some base miles to build her endurance engine for the bike and run. We also rode together most Sundays on our long rides.
I would be supporting her until her first Olympic Distance Triathlon in June and she would be taking on two events which I would also be participating in. These were the All Nations Sprint and Bananaman Olympic. Miia would be also going for the London Triathlon at the end of July. In terms of what were her ‘A’ or ‘B’ races were, we weren’t overly too stressed about identifying these. I knew if she followed the plan until June, she would be in fantastic shape to take on her first Olympic distance. I’ll say that again – her first Olympic distance race! She will learn a lot about herself in that race and use it to prep for the second Olympic distance in July. I would hope also that by then, Miia would know the workouts to continue in her lead up to that final event. We also had the bonus of the sprint race beforehand in May to get her used to some race conditions.
She is also aware that to keep peak fitness for that amount of time is very difficult. Rest and Recovery are key aspects of training and these have been built into the plan designed for her, but also after her second event in June before she builds up again for her final race.
What was interesting was Miia had expressed and showed me a few of her runs she had completed recently. Here is one:
Miia was surprised to hear that although she thought she was aerobically fit, and had the endurance in her legs, I thought differently. Yes, she can run long, although, if we look at the pace of the run for each mile segment, it slows down considerably as we go on and the heart rate is all over the place. There were no hills on this route. Generally the more miles she ran, the slower you got. Yes this will happen to all athletes eventually, but what I was trying to explain to her was that we want to try and reduce the amount by which each mile slows down and ensure we hold onto the pace a little longer. The aim was to make her run a lot more balanced both in pace and effort.
I introduced Miia to MAF run training. I like and use this for building base miles and training our cardiovascular system to become more efficient, thus putting out a greater output, and in this case we mean pace. In essence, training at this particular HR (for her 145bpm) allows her to become more efficient and so she ends up faster without too much stress. It takes time and Miia has found this one challenging, particularly keeping to the desired beats per minute. It’s also difficult to run with others on this so makes this training a little lonely. If you can stick with it though, it does pay dividends.
We also took some base PBs for different distances and set some goals around these. Here you can see her performance indicator chart with current PBs and Maffetone results:
We agreed to make these PB times something as a goal in bringing them down over the course of the year. In-fact she has already done this for both 5K and half marathon and I will update further on these in a future post.
By her own admission, Miia had expressed that she needed lots of work around swimming. Initial pool tests and swim analysis did show me that she was correct in her own assessment. Like most triathletes, swim is an area of weakness and we had work to do here. The results of her first 400m time trial are shown here:
After spending time in the pool with her, highlighting some flaws in the stroke and showing the drills to correct these, I developed a swim plan for her to follow for 8 weeks or so with the drills built in to develop the areas of weakness. You can’t break too much apart in your swim. Little and often is best for improvement as it is one of those technical sports that has lots to think about. Trying to work on two or three things to improve on is usually too much for our brains to cope with! This swim plan mainly focused on the leg end and getting that kick going from the hip and not her knee. She took to the drills really well and got practising them and we took another test before her official triathlon training started at the beginning of February. This was her plan:
On the 12th January we retested again and here are the results:
So what do we already notice? Yes a massive improvement already just through improving technique! There is very little in this plan that develops swim fitness and so it is pleasing to see with a little bit of work on technique, we have already seen a big improvement. I expect her to continue on the technique side of things and also work on building some specific swim fitness now. We will retest again at the end of the base period in the plan.
Miia also undertook the FTP test for the bike to mainly give me the base line of what her current output is, and what she produces both in power and heart rate. I wanted to give her the personal heart rate zones and ensure she was aware of training correctly within these zones and necessary workouts to follow. I must say I was impressed with her on the bike. I worried at first in terms of pace on our endurance rides and whether she would keep up, although she is very comfortable on a bike and took to this like a duck to water! She is STRONG! It was clear that her bike leg is the strongest and strength out of the three disciplines. This is good considering the majority of the race is spent on the bike! I wouldn’t hesitate going on any long ride with Miia.
First FTP Test
Miia’s working pattern had to be accommodated here and this usually results in her working either two or three days each week. The working days are pure rest days. There is absolute no way any workouts can be fitted in due to the nature of her job. The plan has been designed to make the most of her time and it averages at around 6 or so hours a week for the base period. Potential athletes are always looking for plans to follow for something in the lead up to an event. I myself have done this in the past. The problem is that they are so generic and do not take into account prior fitness, baseline and are usually not fit for purpose for that particular athlete. No plan should be the same for everyone! Here is a snapshot of Miia’s first week:
The key to all this though is enjoyment! Hopefully I have taken away all the thinking, scientific aspects and her worrying whether she is doing the right thing. I want her to enjoy her journey into triathlon and continue it long after this. Enjoyment is the number one goal! Performance will come along for the ride also.
I’ve split this blog into three posts, although it may end up being four by the end depending on the reporting and my time management. This of course being the introductory piece and setting the story or scene – whatever you want to call it. I will then write a second to give the updates and tracking of performance (probably after our initial 8 week base period), and either a final piece on the outcomes, although this may be in two parts in which I hope Miia will add a few comments herself about her experience.
It’s a slightly different take on my usual blogs and I do look for content that is both interesting and different. I hope you enjoy this mini-series as much as Miia enjoys her journey into triathlon! I will of course update on my performance and blog the race reports as usual.
Until next time…tail winds to you all!
I leave you with our route for the last easy endurance ride we did. it was blooming freezing although Miia took a 3rd and 4th on two Strava segments! Do give us a follow on Strava!