IRONMAN Vichy 70.3 – Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of the Ironman Vichy 70.3 two part series I promised. I write this as I sit here in my kitchen in France looking out over my garden waiting in anticipation for the deer to make an appearance. I find this a great place to sit, enjoy a coffee and write as everyone else is sleeping. It’s one of my favourite times of the day. I also have the camera by my side eager to capture a few pictures of the two deer that seem to be living in our garden. What with red squirrels, umpteen types of birds and bats, it’s like our own Springwatch. Anyway enough of the wildlife!

I go into this race knowing that it isn’t a race. For one, I am not as fit as I have been this year. I’ve succumbed to the fact that it really is one race two many for me and completely the wrong time of the season. My summer holidays are not conducive to me racing at this point of the year. It was a struggle in Jamaica keeping the fitness (blog here) and it has continued to be a struggle in France. That doesn’t mean to say I couldn’t be fit and willing to do it in the future; it just makes it extremely difficult being away and training and eating consistently. It’s just too damn hard in your holidays! There’s a constant battle in your head on enjoying yourself and not worrying about what you eat or do VS ‘oh if I eat this’ or ‘ if don’t do that’ it’s going to affect me in my race.

Ironman Vichy is going to be about the experience and enjoyment. I mentioned I hate shuffling around courses in a previous blog, and although I’m not as fit as I was earlier in the season, I’m fit enough to complete the race without it being too much of a physical battle. My training peaks numbers show a good level of fitness, but not the level where I could race the way I would like. Sometimes that is a good thing. Pressure is off and when I look back I can confidently say that I have had a great season. You never know, I may pull off some great race, although I doubt it! Yes I’m still watching (a little) what I eat and drink but I’ve totally given into the fact that I can’t be super strict with myself. Jamaica saw me put on 4kgs of weight which I managed to quickly strip 3kgs of that. God knows what effect France has had on me. I’m not bothering to check although I know I’m no where near race weight!

Being in France has allowed me to ride my bike and run. I haven’t ventured into the lake to swim. I probably could have been out a little more although to be honest, I’ve been just too darn tired what with the DIY work I have been doing – some may say a different type of training maybe? Not quite sure how I equate TSS numbers to that although it’s been pretty physical.

I’m really enjoying the riding so far. It isn’t flat by any means! Undulating to say the least but I have enjoyed getting to know all the local lanes and roads close to our house. I’m certainly developing a good local mind map of the area, and being in a national park it is great riding through forests startling deer (and me) as I whizz past.

RACE PLAN

There is one major difference to all my races so far this season. I will be riding my road bike instead of the Tri-bike. Why? Well the Vichy course will be hilly. I’ve put on my race wheels and elected to be a little more comfortable (and climb a little quicker) with the road bike. It will be the first time I’ve completed a triathlon of this distance using it as my weapon of choice. I’m actually looking forward to the bike section. Who knows what that will do to my legs though for the run. That question…to be answered…

My nutrition and hydration plan will be the same as I have followed earlier in the season, which you can read about on my Outlaw blog. I intend to drink a little more what with the heat as race day plans to be around 30c so hydration and salts will be important. We are travelling down on Thursday and this race poses to be a lot less stressful in terms of registration and racking compared to when I did Staffordshire. The logistics there were a nightmare (blog here), but Vichy has one transition zone meaning it should be a lot simpler. This is certainly one of the things I look at now when I book a race!

My goals and ambitions for next season are already starting to become clear. I’ll speak of these in a future blog, but I find that these are now stepping up a level considering that each year the improvement is continuing. Some keep asking me – When the full Ironman? My answer…still not yet. Mastering distances and racing to my best is what triathlon is about for me and when I feel I have achieved this, then the time will be right to step up and that I feel is still 1 or 2 seasons off.

I head to Vichy this Thursday (about 3 hours from our house) with my wife and daughter and will meet some additional family (aunt and uncle) who are coming out also. We are there until Saturday and will leave to head back to spend the last week in France straight after the race. I’ll probably spend two days being unable to walk but that will be the conclusion of my triathlon season. Look out for the race report in the next blog!

Isabel loves our drone…although flying the thing is bleeding stressful!

Keeping the Fitness for Ironman Vichy 70.3…a short update

Well I said it would be a struggle…and it was! Temptation around every corner! Huge breakfast choice; cocktails on tap all day; three course lunches and dinners, all followed by more drinks in the evenings. All inclusive holidays are either hell or heaven eh depending on how you look at them! Well certainly not great for the waistline or the fitness!

Now I am not saying I had to consume this all, and there were days (ok 1 or 2) when I didn’t 🙂 On a more serious note, I was more concerned about having the motivation to train (if you can call it that). Trained I did – or exercise I would call it. You see training requires a certain structure to it with particular workouts at certain times. This was the bit my training, actually exercise (which I will call it) lacked. My exercise really consisted of me swimming a little each day (only around a 1000m) and using the gym to spin on the bike and run on the running machine. Everything for the maintenance of fitness and to not lose too much of it.

The only benefit I really got was through running. I was able to run quite well and work to heart rate and pace quite sufficiently. I had purchased a footpod before I left for holidays in order for me to use the treadmills accurately. Gym treadmills are usually so beat up and well out on recording distance and pace. To my surprise, these in my hotel were not too bad actually. The longer you run the less accurate they would become though. Over 5k they were probably about 0.5km out.

This has made me realise that treadmill running, although slightly boring, (but hey if you can cycle on a turbo, then mentally running on these isn’t too bad), shows that you can build up volume quite easily and complete intervals also. It has certainly allowed me to run more as it was easier on my joints, and considering I have suffered from run injuries all too often it was a real benefit to me. It has got me thinking though – how can I add one of these to my training arsenal? Not enough space in my training room so a bit of head scratching to do!

Training (sorry exercise) also involved me adding back in strength and conditioning work as the gym equipment was good in this respect. So here is a small video compilation I made of some of the ‘exercise’ I did.

This all meant that no fitness could really be built. My goal was simply to hang on to as much of it as I could and keep updating Training Peaks to keep a check on my numbers. I knew my bike numbers would diminish slightly but I also have two weeks of easy riding in France that I would do to help with that prior to Vichy to get the legs back into it.

So that’s it for this blog. As mentioned, only a short one to provide an update for the regular readers! My Jamaican holiday is about to come to an end unfortunately. It is a lovely place with great people. Do visit it if you ever get a chance. I do have some really good blog content coming over the next few posts. Look out for a two part special on Ironman Vichy 70.3 and also one on the potential for training camps in France. We will also be hearing from the coaching project Miia in regards to her season and her achievements and success this year. SO STAY TUNED!

Ya Man…No problem…Respect!

My daughter Isabel and her new friend ‘Phoenix’

The Season Continues…

Winning doesn’t always mean being first place; it means getting the best out of yourself.

What a season so far!!!

I write this as I have just finished my 5th race of the season – Box End Triathlon in Bedford. This was unplanned and added into my schedule only three weeks ago. I also recently completed the Banana Triathlon at Dorney lake on a scorching hot day a few weeks back.

So why the extra race? Well I am just about to go on my summer holidays – that’s about 6 weeks off from the day job and a visit for two weeks to Jamaica, before we spend the rest of it France. I’m certainly not complaining about that! However, it does throw up the problem of how I keep my fitness over summer, especially considering I have Ironman Vichy 70.3 in the last week of August! What with all the delicious food and drink on offer – how will I cope?

I decided on the ‘extra’ race in order to keep the training momentum going and also so I could head to Jamaica feeling fairly fit and knowing a few days off with a lighter schedule for a week or so out there would do no harm.

“IF IT IS TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME.”

Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae, professional triathlete, former world champion

I certainly know from experience that completing a 70.3 when unfit is a slog. Ironman Staffordshire taught me that when it was 32c and I had no run fitness due to getting over an injury. I DO NOT ENJOY COMPETING WHEN UNFIT! So if I want to enjoy Vichy, it’s up to me to put the work in! The quote above is my mantra leading up to this final race and the challenges of staying fit over the summer. Shuffling around a course for me is no fun. It hurts way too much, especially over that sort of distance.

Banana Triathlon

Bleeding hell it was hot! 32c hot. I competed here last year where I raced with Jecks which you can read about here. I like racing at Dorney and it also meant I got to race with Miia again (Coaching Project) with her doing her first olympic distance event. It would be interesting to see how she faired – especially with the heat. Jecks and Nick were also racing here and I believe just made the start of the race after a mad dash and number of M25 crashes holding them up in the morning.

To be honest, heat like that day makes it impossible for fast times which was disappointing really. I somehow pulled out 2:45 and finished 13th in my age group. Nothing really to write home about, although the run and bike were slightly long. I swam the event again without a wetsuit like last year and it is so refreshing doing it. I didn’t feel like I had a great swim though, although after seeing the time, it wasn’t too bad at 28mins.

Miia on the other hand really enjoyed her race and finished in 3:12 I believe. She now has a time to shoot for as she heads into the London triathlon – her last race of the season.

I on the other hand, decided on one other race – the Bedford Box End. It’s not the closest to home, so I decided to get a hotel for the night before. This made race morning much more manageable.

I was hoping for a lot cooler weather – which I got, and it was fairly pleasant at around 23c. It was an opportunity to try and lay down a good time even though I would be going into this slightly cooked. I’d just had two weeks of quite intense training! Whether I could do that would be all down to how I felt on the day.

It’s also fair to say that I had been managing a slight niggle with my adductor in my leg so had a little less running volume leading up to this. Saying that though, I seemed to have caught it and managed to get in a 5 mile mid-week race at the Newman Hilly as part of the Elvis series. I actually ran fairly well there and felt great, even though I made the mistake of starting at the back, meaning it was a right slog trying to navigate through everyone on narrow paths. Hey ho…we live and learn!

A Vlog by Paul Suett of the race will be going live soon, which will give you a feel for that race. Paul does capture the essence of the race through his filming. In-fact Paul does a great job of capturing a lot of local races and is a GB Age Group Duathlete. His channel can be found here.

One thing I have been experimenting with though is my bike workouts. I decided to purchase a subscription to TrainerRoad. I deliberated for weeks on whether to go with this or Zwift, and came to the conclusion that the structure was much more important for me. I will probably write a post on this in the winter as this is when I plan on using it properly. I’m too far into my season to really start at the base and I’ve just been following the sweet spot workouts. First impressions are good – I am pleased with what I have experienced so far.

Bedford Triathlon – So how did it pan out?

I was looking forward to experiencing a new race. Another one I can say ‘ I have done’ and conquered. After traveling up on Saturday afternoon and catching some dinner in the hotel, I settled in for a early night wanting to wake the next morning feeling refreshed. This was the plan anyway, and as they say, plans don’t always pan out like you want them to. My room was far too hot! I had two fans blasting away and an aircon unit in the room that didn’t work! The teasing of this staring at me made me get my tool bag and fiddle with it! No luck though. I also managed to find some stream for the boxing and watched that in the evening so an early night went out the window once I was engrossed in that.

Dinner was great – a Thai residency in house which I couldn’t turn down. I ate so much though…and…wondered if this would come back to haunt me. Stay tuned.

The hotel was only 2 miles or so from the race start. I woke the next morning and consumed my usual porridge breakfast – well a few mouthfuls of it. I couldn’t eat it…hmmm heavens knows why I wondered? I proceeded to the race HQ around 5:45am

The Bedford Box End Triathlon is a fairly small race and it is really nice to do these smaller events from time to time. The competition is usually tougher though as many of the local clubs use it as their championship.

An empty transition – the calm before the storm.

It was a rather nice morning and an optional wetsuit swim with the water being 21c. I chose to swim with the wetsuit this time and watch the first sprint wave from the bank take on the lake.

Eventually it was my turn. One thing about the lake I found out – it was bloody weedy! A lovely swim and really clear though. You could see the bottom in places. My swim went well actually and I completed the 1500m in 24:57. This got me 21st place and 9th in my age group, so certainly a decent start!

The bike was the bit of the race I was actually looking forward to. I’ve enjoyed riding the tri-bike leg this year but today took a while to get going. My stomach was not playing ball – could it be from all that food last night? It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it was burning and it took me 6 to 7 miles or so to shake that feeling. Almost like I wanted to vomit at times. I then had stitch, yes a stitch on a bleeding bike! This was just the start of that. To be honest the rest of the ride went ok and was pretty much in line with my other rides this year so even with the discomfort I still managed to pull out a 1:17 split. I think the TrainerRoad workouts have made a big impact though as I had sustained my highest power output for 20mins and still managed that time with the stomach issues I had experienced.

The other weird thing on the bike…this:

Ok Ok…it doesn’t look like much, I get that. Somehow I cut my finger – really deeply! How? Well I have no idea but I tell you now…it bled…and bled….and bled….a lot. I noticed it as my hand was really sticky – yes there was blood all over my hand, and at first I though I was having a nose bleed. It’s fine now though and safely plastered up you’ll be pleased to know!

Once I got back to transition I managed to open the cut up again as I went out on my run. As I started my run, I felt ok and this is one area I have carried my strength across and have been running off the bike well this season. Not today though! Remember that stitch?…well it was back after about 5k – and this time with a vengeance! I have had stitch before and just run through to it be honest. It hasn’t really bothered me, bu this stitch I think was another symptom of my stomach issues. It was like a stabbing knife and I honestly slowed down to 6:30 per km at one point. No stopping though! It was exacerbated by drinking water on course which I worked out after the second go. Somehow I managed to get through it, which took nearly 3k, and I finished strong. The race was more or less over by then though.

My overall time was 2hr 40min and 54 secs which was a surprise really. I finished 46th overall and 12th in my age category (32 competitors). I was a little cooked going into this race and knew the fatigue and form numbers were not ideal, although I had just completed two large weeks of training. My aim was to use this race as part of that training and end the block with it which I have done. It’s strange though, as knowing what I know now, there was a result there for the taking today if it weren’t for my stomach issues. I blame it on the pigging out the night before but who really knows if that was the cause. Two gels ingested on the bike didn’t help and I think now I’m going to knock doing that on the head – especially for the Olympic distance. I’m not convinced I need them with the sort of length of time I’m racing.

Do stay tuned over the summer as there are three blogs I have planned and I’m going to experiment with a vlog type effort. I have a two part series for Ironman Vichy 70.3 and will show the French house and reveal some training camp plans. Enjoy the summer everyone, and please like, share and comment.

Windsor – My Race

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!

A little bit of larking about in Windsor prior to racking
Race morning consisted of my usual porridge breakfast

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

2019: 2:40:25

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.

THE RACE

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.

Tailwinds everyone!

Windsor Triathlon 2019 and Guest Blog – Dean Saunders

‘I’m the King of the Castle’

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 next?”

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?!

I did this journey three times in one day…I asked Laura to drive home after the event.

RACE DAY

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.

SWIM

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 pulling out!

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!

CYCLE

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.

RUN

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 called!

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 walking.

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!

RESULTS

I aimed for sub 3 and achieved that goal…but I’ve been put off by a half ironman for 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.

Ralph, Danny and me

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!!!

Great cards and presents this year…but best of all was them being at the triathlon cheering me on.

Thank you also to Danny for inviting me to write a guest blog for Tri.To.Be. Iron

Outlaw Half – 2019

So where do I begin with this one?

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!

Another Triathlon Adventure

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.

Hotel Snack – Noodles. Guess who forgot to take a bowl with him? I was pleased with my improvisation though!

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

Preparing my nutrition the night before

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 Swim Leg

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:

2017 Result:

Averaging = 16.35mph

2019 Result:

Averaging = 18.68mph

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!

Race Nutrition

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?

2017 Result:

An average of 9:04 per mile or 5:41 per KM

2019 Result:

An average of 8:32 per mile or 5:18 per KM

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.

Run Splits were fairly consistent I would say!

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.

The Season Begins…

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.

Results:

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.

Miia’s friend also did her first triathlon. All pics were captured by my wonderful wife and her super photography skills!

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.