Windsor Triathlon 2018 – The A Race!

It had a arrived – the A race! This would be the second time of completing the Windsor triathlon and this is one of my favourites. I have only completed it once – two years ago and you’d think I’d have done it more often. The trouble is that this race always clashes with many others taking place on this particular weekend, so it has been alternated with these. I like to experience as many different races as possible although I was pleased to return here.

Pre Race:

Training had been consistent and I had put in two decent weeks post Grafman 70.3 averaging around 11/12 hours. My previous effort at Windsor resulted in a 2:50:56, so any time better than that is an improvement. My goal was to go sub 2:40 – could I do it? There were three areas to particularly focus on:

SWIM WELL            QUICKER TRANSITIONS           BIKE / RUN CONSISTENTLY

Why these you may ask? Well although I swam well at the Grafman 70.3, I do not believe I have been transferring my pool swim times into open water consistently this year. The Windsor Tri swim is always quite fast, especially with the current in your favour for two thirds of it. Transitions have also been slow this year so I wanted to ensure I was a little quicker when going through these. Visualisation is a tool I like to use when I have to think carefully through key parts of my race. I find it extremely helpful at running through the process of key sections, and in this case the swim to bike transition. Transition is a long one at Windsor, so it was important to view previous times to see what I could make up. Remove the wetsuit a little quicker and run a little faster. Simple. The bike/run consistency means biking well with a faster average than my previous visit and running well off the bike to ensure a sub 50min 10k. We will analyse these in detail later on.

Saturday Pre-Race Racking

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This is one thing I really enjoy about Windsor in that we can rack the bike the day before. It does mean staying at Windsor over the weekend as it is too far from me, although the family come along and we make a weekend of it. Windsor is a lovely place also so a great place for weekend away. We managed to find a little railway cottage to stay in this time very close to the event village. Our morning consisted of a lovely boat ride along the Thames, followed by a spot of lunch before I attended registration and put the bike in.

There was one slight problem revealed at registration. The bike course had been added to by around 3-4k due to road works. There’s not a lot I can do about that meaning it would somehow impact into the PB attempt.

I was fairly happy with my position in transition. I was bang in the middle of my rack so it was easy to find and all exit and entry points were noted. I cannot stress how important this is to do for new triathletes! There is nothing worse then not being able to find your bike in transition – trust me it happened to me (briefly) in a race in my earlier days.

Once racked, I managed to nab a couple of whipped protein bites. I like these. High in protein, not typically dense as usual from whey protein and a good recovery snack I find.

Pre Race – Morning

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What is that they say about a red sky?

Up and early at 6:00 with the usually pre-race porridge breakfast. I made my way over to transition to set everything up. I was going with three gels for the whole race and a 1L salt solution hydration drink. I figured this would be enough for an olympic distance race. I would consume a banana also about 20 mins before the swim. The swim start is a short walk from transition so you need to leave time to get there. It was also good to see the pros and elites racing beforehand and a certain Emma Pallant bossing the field! The weather wasn’t great with a slight drizzle and fairly chilly, although actually it turned out to be fairly decent race conditions.

The Swim

I was actually the last wave out at Windsor and now compete in the 40-44 age group. I knew I needed a consistent swim and decided to start towards the front of the pack to get away from most of the mayhem. My swim in 2016 resulted in a 26.27. This year I took slightly longer at 27:48. I did swim slightly longer this year as well when looking at the stats but the swim was pretty much bang on. I felt really good in the water and swam through a lot of the wave that started ahead of me. I always enjoy the swim in the Thames and was pleased at the effort. It really is noticeable when you reach the turn point at Eton Bridge in Windsor and then swim into the current. Who put the brakes on? I wasn’t expecting anything different and overall I was happy with the outcome from the swim.

Transition 1 – Swim to Bike

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Grey tracks above are the transition runs

Ok – so you know this was one of the areas to make some time up in. If you have never completed Windsor Triathlon, one thing to note – how long transition is! It is a fair run from the swim (around 150m) to your bike and that depends on where you are racked. You then have another 300m or so to bike mount point. So was I quicker? Well yes, but by not much. In fact a whole 6 secs! A 6 minute transition is long by any means! Running in cleats for that distance is not quick. I still need to master the shoes attached to bike trick! There’s always something to learn in triathlon.

The Bike 

 

6mins 28secs! Not how long it took me to ride the course, but the added time to my ride due to the course additions because of the road works. On the face of it, I rode well. Much better than 2016 where I average 17.6mph and did the 25 miles in 1hr 23min. The modified course meant me cycling and additional 2.3 miles, which may not seem a lot, and it isn’t, although when your aiming for a course PB, this matters hugely. So you see, it took me an extra 6min 28secs to ride those 2.3 miles. I also completed the bike in 1hr 26min averaging 18.9mph so it would have meant a 1:19 for the 25 miles.

The course was fairly uneventful and the roads were poor in places. I was worried towards the end something was loose on the bike as I was rattling all over the place. Luckily it was just my canister which had unscrewed from the holder. I was pleased to get back to transition in one piece! This transition was fairly swift – 2016 = 3:24  2018 = 2:38.

The Run

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If there is any part of the race I am most happy with then it is the run. To be able to run well off the bike is under estimated in triathlon. You can’t just expect to run a normal 5k/10k time or whatever distance you are covering as per normal in triathlon without training this aspect. There is a distinct feeling you get in your legs as you begin running and you have to expect and accept the fatigued feeling. The thing is, if you train for this then you can run well and this is where the all important brick sessions come in. One thing that really stood out was the amount of triathletes that hadn’t done this. It was very obvious! If you can run well, particularly in longer distances, then huge amounts of time can be made up on someone. I felt good on the run, but did have to overcome initial cramp in my hamstring. You can see me grabbing it below as I left transition. Luckily this was temporary, and it is common from where you utilise muscles differently. After a mile or so it had completely gone thankfully.

I ran fairly consistently over the 10k managing an average pace of around 7:50 miles meaning a 47.11 10K finish time. I was really pleased with this considering the run had some hills to consider and in particular the one up to the castle. The course is also different now to back in 2016, so again comparing it and considering PB efforts was difficult. Back in 2016 I run the older course, which I believe was slightly easier, in 51:29 so a really good improvement.

                                         2016                                                          2018

So what were the overall times? Were PBs achieved? 

2018 resulted in me going quicker – but not by much. 2016 results in a 2:50:56 and this year I came home in 2:49. What we need to consider here is the course difference in the bike and run. As mentioned, the bike was 2.3 miles longer and the run route has changed which I believe is slightly tougher. So considering all this, I still managed to be a little faster over a longer course. If we work out the additions on course in time (6 min 28s) then you are looking at a time of around 2hr 42min. Not quite the sub 2:40 I was looking for, although I feel I’m being slightly hard on myself here. Was I disappointed? Well actually yeah I was stupidly.

I look at my data each year and analyse things and can clearly see I’m improving year on year. The question I’m starting to ask myself though is how much more can I improve especially as I get older? The desire to be faster is growing! I also know where I can improve – the question is whether I want to invest in the time and possibly the money to do it. The improvements are simple:

  • Working on my bike leg even more particularly with some FTP power improvements and using a power meter.
  • Continue the improvements in my running as I am sure I can eek out more.
  • Move my swim training to the advanced fink level.
  • Consider being professionally coached.

You see – all this takes time and money! We shall see what this means in the near future no doubt. I’m planning a future blog post on this.

I have one more triathlon booked in for the end of June. This is more of a fun event for me as I take on the Bananaman Lidl at Dorney which I have never done. I go to it with no targets, no preconceptions and just to enjoy it. I will be taking a few other EERR members who will be using it to do their first triathlon in preparation for the London Triathlon in August. I will mainly help these and support them through it.

I hope to get in one other late season event – possibly September time although my condition will be questionable after my summer holidays!

Thanks for reading and please comment, like and share.

 

Guest Blog #2 – Sarah Wixey

So here it is folks. As promised, we have another guest blog from the one and only Sarah Wixey. Sarah is a fellow East End Road Runner member and has taken on a fair few challenges in her time and very recently completed the Leeds Triathlon – one I have not done myself. My thanks goes to Sarah for taking the time in writing the blog and providing us with a wonderful insight into her build up and race day experience. If there are lessons to learn from this, I think it’s clear that it doesn’t matter who you are or your athletic background, when you put in the hard work you can succeed in whatever capacity that is. Whether that just be finishing the event, or achieving a time or PB or just enjoying the experience – we can all take something away. I hope you enjoy the entry.

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Hi, I’m Sarah and I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon at the AJ Bell World Triathlon in Leeds on the 10 June. Danny invited me to write up my experience for his blog, another first.

As you can see from my photos, I’m not a ‘typical’ triathlete that you’ll see in magazines – for a start I’ve got curves – and I’m more interested in enjoying the experience than the time I take to finish. More tortoise less hare.

My triathlon journey began back in 2015 when I turned 40 and I booked a holiday to Everest Base Camp. In the year leading up to my trip I knew I needed to get fit. I started by joining East End Road Runners (EERR) and that’s where I met Danny. I also knew that I would need to do more than just running so I signed up to complete the Southampton Fast Twitch and London triathlons, both sprint distances. I enjoyed these events and felt proud of what I had achieved. I went to Base Camp and I loved the experience. However, when I got back from Nepal I lost my fitness motivation.

At the start of this year, I decided I needed to set myself a series of new challenges as a way of pushing myself. The Leeds triathlon was high on the list of things I wanted to do, and I managed to convince my fella and brother-in-law to join me but this time I had to do the Olympic distance.

Training

As soon as I signed up, I told Danny, who offered to pull together a training plan for me. Apart from one week, where I felt really rubbish, I followed my plan. On a couple of occasions, I ran and cycled further than what I was supposed to because I had other events to complete. Overall, I started to get more PBs.

My training schedule included: 7am morning runs with Rav and Sarah – fellow EERR members; Tuesday night EERR running track sessions; Wednesday morning spin sessions; Thursday night runs – 7 miles at 7pm; Sunday morning social runs, swimming in the London Docks and London Fields Lido with Kathy, Allyson, Sherry, Claire and Han and long bike rides with Alice, Kathy and Han. Mixing up the training in this way made things more interesting. However, on reflection one thing I didn’t do, which I really should have, was to include more core sessions in my training. This is something I will do next time.

Soon after I signed up for Leeds, a few other people from EERR – Nick, Han and Jecks – registered for the London triathlon. The four of us, plus Danny, formed a small What’s App group and we started training together as well as providing each other with much needed motivation and moral support.

Out of the three disciplines, freestyle swimming is by far my weakest area. I don’t have a problem swimming in open water or with my head being under water as breaststroke is my preferred style. But, for some unexplained reason, after a few metres of swimming front-crawl, I panic, and everything goes wrong. After speaking to the others in our What’s App group, I soon learned that it wasn’t just me who was concerned about the swim. Danny offered to help us by showing us some basic techniques, drills and building our confidence more generally.

Pre-Race prep

There’s a lot to do the day before a triathlon including:

– Last-minute spin on the turbo, bike cleaning and basic maintenance. Luckily, my 7-year-old niece, was on hand to help my fella with his bike.

– Register for the event. We headed to Roundhay Park to sign in, pick up our race packs, rack our bikes, drop off a bag for the finish line and look at the route in more detail, particularly the different transition stages.

– Kids, and dad, to take part in a Tri event organised by the Brownlee Foundation. A short race on a static bike followed by a run to the finish line. Not sure who enjoyed it the most, competitive dad or the kids. As soon as he crossed the finishing line, my 5-year-old nephew wanted to do it again – another triathlete in the family?

– Tour of the event village to pick up some last-minute energy drinks and gels and a quick go on the bouncy castle.

– Kit preparation. Double and triple checking I had packed everything and lay it all out for the very early morning start.

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Race Day

As usual, I didn’t sleep that well the night before the event. I had to make a couple of trips to the loo during the night. How much of this was due to nerves or simply ‘getting older’ I’m not too sure. I do know that I was awake before my alarm clock went off at 5am and I already felt tired.

The Swim

As soon as we arrived at Roundhay Park, we were told that due to fog and poor visibility the swim had been reduced from 1,500m to 750m. Phew I thought.

Feeling anxious whilst waiting to start, a woman standing next to me asked if I was in the right group because I didn’t look old enough. A simple comment, but it made me smile and cheered me up.

My brother-in-law was the first to start followed by fella and both set off to do the 750m distance. However, by the time it came for my wave to start (16 out of 18 waves), the fog had cleared and the organisers decided that we would do the full 1,500m!  We were called to the start line and received the swim briefing in which we were told to get into the water, hold onto the pontoon and wait for the klaxon. There was no time for a quick warm up. The water was cold but clear and unlike the London Docks, it didn’t taste that bad either.

As soon as the klaxon blew, I waited for everyone around me to go. I started swimming front-crawl but then the old demons kicked in and water was seeping in through the side of my goggles. I changed to breaststroke to calm down and then tried front crawl again. It just wasn’t working. I decided the best option was to alternate between the two and just get myself around the course. Towards the end, I was overtaken by swimmers from not just the next wave but also the one after that. I felt disappointed in myself – not a great start. I ran the 400m or so uphill to the transition area – passing several swimmers who had finished before me.

The Bike

My bike is really basic. It’s not a fancy light carbon fibre tri bike with tri bars. I have an aluminium framed Specialized Dolce bike. I don’t like cleats – but I now know this is something I will need to try again going forward.

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At the start of the bike ride, there’s a really steep hill. Danny had already told me that I needed to make sure my bike was in the lowest gear possible. This was great advice and my bike was all set up. The organisers kept making similar announcements because a couple of riders had already fallen off.

The two-lap course, which was really well sign-posted involved riding through hilly residential areas. When I say hills, I really do mean hills. Living in London, Richmond Park is probably one of the hilliest rides I’ve completed as part of my training. But, that’s nothing compared to the Leeds course.

As expected, I was overtaken by loads of riders from different triathlon clubs on some really nice bikes. Overall, I enjoyed the bike ride, despite the hills, and made a deal with myself to do more hill training when I get back to London.

The Run

As soon as I finished racking my bike, I set off for the uphill run out of the park. More hills. At this point my legs were on fire. I knew this would happen and I had trained for it. I soon started to pass runners who had overtaken me on the bike and I settled into the run to the city centre where I knew that my family would be waiting for me. When I reached the turning point, I heard ‘go-on Auntie Sarah’ and then saw my niece and nephew jumping up and down and waving. This was a much-needed boost and I was looking forward to seeing everyone at the finishing line.

When I finished, the first thing my nephew said was: ‘why did you take so long – daddy and uncle Terry finished ages ago?’. When I said I swam the full 1,500m and the guys only had to do 750m, my niece said: ‘you swam further, that means you won’.

It may have taken me 3hrs 55mins to finish…… but the main thing is that I did it.

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Last but no means least, for Sherry’s benefit, the all-important goodie bag at the end….

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If you have read this blog and are thinking of doing your first Olympic distance triathlon, here are my top tips:

  • Find some like-minded people to train with
  • Find a really good training plan and stick to it as much as possible. Treat all three disciplines equally and include core strength training in your plan
  • Nutrition (something I need to understand better)
  • Aim to finish first and look at your times second
  • Enjoy it.

What’s next?

I’ve got a few more challenges planned for the rest of the year, including a couple of long bike rides, 24 hr Spitfire Scramble run, 2-mile Serpentine swim, half marathon, my first marathon and my first ultra-marathon. Time to get off the sofa….

Final Word

Well done Sarah on a fantastic achievement! When are you planning on an Ironman next? hehe! I hope this is the start to a few more triathlons in the future and it inspires others to take one on!

Next up? Me! Look out for the Windsor Triathlon blog entry later this week!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share, comment and like!

 

Guest Blog – Christopher Lomax

To all the regular readers, I bring you something a little different in which my blog is opened up to a series of guest blogs from close friends and training partners. Although I love writing and recording my races and experiences, I want to share some from others who share similar passions and take on their challenges in the world of sport – whatever that may be.

The first blog is from a very close friend, Christopher Lomax, who I have known since I was two-years old. Chris ran the entire London Marathon me and kept me company throughout that wonderful experience and he has many others to share. He is a pure runner. It is part of him and will be for the rest of his life I have no doubt. In this blog he shares not only some wonderful experiences but also gives us an insight into why he does it. I am sure you are going to like this! ENJOY!

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HAS ANYONE EVER RAN THE A-Z OF MARATHONS???

I have considered myself a runner now for too many years to remember and I absolutely love it. I still get the same rush of adrenalin completing an event today as I did when I ran my first half marathon in Reading in 2003. I have, so far, successfully completed numerous events at a multitude of distances. Each event has its own story to tell and a medal proudly displayed in a shoe box somewhere under my bed.

I do participate in Parkrun every Saturday. I can’t speak highly enough of what this type of event brings to the local community and the opportunity to meet up with a wonderful array of like-minded people. For those reasons I have taken on the position as one of the run directors at my local Parkrun in Mile End.

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The amazing Mile-End Parkrun crew

When it comes to running, and specifically racing, the half marathon is my favourite distance, yet it’s the marathon distance that most people show interest in and keen to talk about – and yes I have also been asked if my next marathon is the same distance as London!

I recently completed the Stockholm Marathon which now takes my marathon tally up to 18. I’m not sure how many more I will eventually do. In the short term I have set myself a target of completing an A-Z of marathons, entering events in cities around the world starting with each letter of the alphabet. I thought that this would be a good way of keeping motivated as well as seeing new places. The perfect excuse for a family getaway. Sometimes I find myself scouring the internet looking out for races away from the more traditional tourist hotspots, at offbeat locations. I am still looking for a Marathon starting with an X. Do you know of any?

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K is for a freezing cold Kiel Marathon!

The toughest of my marathons so far has to be my first, Berlin. I thought I was prepared and until the half way stage I felt really good, waving to my wife as I sped by. Ten miles later I was a complete mess but I persevered and completed it saying “never again!” Luxembourg stands out as one of my favourites. This event is run in the evening and you cross the line once the sun has set to a candle lit finish line. You can spend the rest of the evening enjoying a hot dog and a beer (or two).

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The Luxembourg Marathon finish line at night
My main aim when competing in a marathon is to get around and to still feel good enough that I could spend the next few days sightseeing (if travelling) without feeling too lousy. My training routine is to get out for a run 4-5 times a week with the traditional LSR on a Sunday. I cycle to work and also do some strength and conditioning in the gym once or twice a week. Is it all worth it? I certainly like to think so. It’s important that you set yourself goals and be ambitious with things you care about in life. Yes, my long runs take me away from spending Sunday mornings with my family but that is soon made up with our adventures travelling to new cities around the globe and exploring the sights and sounds they have to offer.

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Authentic meatballs in Stockholm
My question for those who are considering running a marathon but have not quite got round to do so is what are you waiting for? It’s true, you do have to give a fair level of commitment towards the training but I truly believe that everyone has one marathon in them. Proof of this is when race day comes and you see people of all ages, shapes and sizes coming together at the start line ready to push their bodies to the limit. Yeah, sure, at the end, all you may get is a medal and a banana but it’s an experience that will remain with you for a lifetime. And something for you to talk about at the staff Christmas party for the tenth year in a row!

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The all-important finisher’s medal

Thanks for reading and I do hope you enjoyed it. You can find Chris on Twitter @lomax_chris

Look out for another guest blog very soon!