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!

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

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.

Season End and Planning for Next Year…

Firstly – apologies on the short break and lack of posts over the last two months. I’ve been incredibly busy with work and then enjoying some family time. This is the post that for me closes my season. In September I hear you say! It’s the post in which I will review my year and look to 2018-19.  It’s been a great year, and one that I look back on and know I achieved and improved in a number of ways in each discipline. There was a lot of racing and so many achievements. So here goes…

 

Where do I begin with looking back? Many ask why I look at August/September as my season end. Well to me, it’s simple. My season calendar works with my lifestyle and work life. August is the time for family and holiday, and I usually ease down at that point of the year. I lose fitness and eat and drink lots! What are holidays for? It’s been a great summer with two family holidays and a new house purchase in France. More on this in another post, but here’s a sneak peak:

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One thing I that I make sure I do when not in training and racing mode, is to not completely stop. By this, I mean I usually still swim, bike and run, but in a much less structured way. No tracking of miles, no looking at pace but just doing it to enjoy it and not lose too much fitness. I feel it’s important to keep the body moving which is why I do it. Cyprus involved some very hot short runs and rides on a road bike rental. Also a little swimming, but nothing too strenuous. I still actually have one more more event to do in a few weeks – Swim Serpentine. I will be tackling the 2 mile distance in order to secure the London Classics medal so I’m not completely done!

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So what are the achievements this year?

Well it is probably much simpler to look at the three individual disciplines.

Swimming:

My times continue to fall and PBs were set at various distances – not by much but small improvements. . I haven’t focused on the swim at all this year but continued to maintain where I was. I have swam a lot less than normal and feel it isn’t a limiter for me so have put less work into it. I’ve certainly enjoyed helping others in this area this year. It makes me appreciate how far I’ve come in this discipline. I certainly realise that I would probably need to swim at least three times a week if I am going to get any more performance out. For a 3/4% rise, the time invested isn’t worth it.

Running:

Seven 10K races, 2 half marathons and my debut full marathon. My times on all distances have come down particularly over the half marathon distance where an 18min PB happened earlier in the year. My London Marathon run was hampered by injury and I was so pleased to manage a 3:53 even missing 6 weeks of running and only managing to run again two weeks out from it. I had an initial goal of sub 4 and somehow managed to do it. This has certainly left some unanswered questions for me at this distance. What time could I really run when fit and fully healthy? I think my next marathon will likely be Berlin (if I get in) in 2019. That’s the plan anyway…unless London rears its head with some unexpected place.

I do have one goal outstanding which is probably what I will work to over the winter, and that is going sub 20min for 5k. I know I can do this, although you can’t train for everything right? The two 5Ks I have completed have been in the 20 to 21min range. What is pleasing is I can pretty much hold this pace even in a triathlon which shows my improvement and strength over the shorter distance and when transitioning from biking to running. I don’t think the same can be said for the half iron distance. The half marathon times are no-where near the PB time. They don’t need to be and are not likely to be either. What is clear though, is that I need to bring them closer together and it is certainly an area to focus on.

Triathlon:

Every race I did this year involved me posting a new personal course or distance best. There were 4 triathlons and two of these were new courses, one being a half ironman – the Grafman. You can read about that event here. I didn’t quite get my 5 triathlons in this year and it’s always a tough decision to do one in September after holidays. It really is a bit of a slog when unfit!

So What Now?

Reflection is important as it allows you to analyse things that have gone well and aspects of training that have worked. Running has certainly been the highlight this year, although I’ve come to realise that my bike performance has stunted a little. This for me is the one area where I know lots of time gains can be made in future events if I put the work in over the winter. Cycling is going to be a huge focus for me over the next 6 months.

I intend to keep running at the same level and repeating the process I took this year. I believe I have more to come, meaning faster times. One thing the marathon training gave me was a superb base run fitness and I intend to build that again, although without the injury this time round. And on the injury…use them all as a process of learning. Not warming up properly for a race and then trying to run it as fast as possible is not good practice. A school boy error really, but one where the weather was so awful prior to it that it completely put me off. Lessons are learnt. Faced with that again I certainly would change my race plan or incorporate a warm up – somehow!

Coaching

I did contemplate the option of receiving some professional coaching although decided against it. I believe I understand enough of this process, read enough manuals by some of the top coaches, and follow a lot of what the they prescribe. I don’t claim to be a coach or as good as a top professional, although I can certainly put together a training programme based on the understanding of my body, performance and limiters. I love learning about the sport all the time and feel that coaching myself is part of the enjoyment I get. It is probably why I enjoyed helping others this year also. I continue to read and learn and during the summer reading involved me ploughing through this:

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Why? 

Well the theory behind improving my bike performance has been completed. I have taken the step in purchasing a power meter so that I can train more effectively and pace my efforts accordingly. Slightly cheaper than hiring a coach and now just to put the theory into practice. I will write a future post on my understanding of this and how I intend to train with it next month.

Strength and Training Specifically for Triathlon

This part of the season also allows me to deal with an underlying injury niggle – one of which I been suffering with for the last 7 months and that is with my shoulder. Not a major issue or one that has stopped me competing as it is manageable, although it does need some consideration as it hurts after every swim and sometimes during. There’s definitely limitations in what I can lift also.

I usually strength train every autumn, however this year I intend to increase the length of weeks I do this as well as ensuring I keep some maintenance during the specific triathlon training. It tends to drop off a little when structured triathlon training begins as getting all the major sessions in can become hectic with real life!

One other thing I noticed when looking back at my training last year was the lack of specific triathlon sessions. Certainly brick running was difficult as coming back from the groin injury meant me reducing the load and running only when I really needed to. The double load of a brick is dicey. Running on tired legs is risky and I definetly do not bounce back like I used to.

What are the plans for next year?

I want to race a lot more next season and return to doing two half ironmans. When I say race a lot more – I mean triathlon only. I’m going to do less of the smaller events such as the runs. I’m looking at potentially 6 races and this will include my first overseas triathlon in France whereby I will go to Ironman Vichy 70.3. This does open up a big question for me as this will be taking place at the end of August – yes…the time when I wind down and become unfit. I have somehow got to maintain that fitness over the summer holidays which will not be easy. It will probably mean starting my specific triathlon training a little later in the new year, having a mid season shorter break and then ramping up the training again. So here is my provisional race calendar:

Fix events sprint – Season opener at Dorney lake. (May)

Outlaw half – (May)

Windsor Triathlon Olympic – June

Bananaman Triathlon Olympic – June

London Triathlon Olympic – July

Ironman Vichy – August

I will certainly race a lot less with the running and don’t intend to do a marathon again unless there is some miracle of me getting into London. And even if I do, the goal will be to train as normal for triathlon. The pure focus next year is triathlon and making a massive improvement over the half distance. It’s about pushing myself next year and training has already started now. I’m into week 3 of my base schedule (mainly focusing on strength) and it’s nice to be back, even though it has been a bit of a slog. Do follow me on Strava @ https://www.strava.com/athletes/mansfield_danny

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So there you have it…it’s only taken me two weeks to write this! Next update – Using a power meter! Stay tuned and happy training, racing and enjoying life!

Guest Blog 3 – Jacqueline Fernandez

Welcome to the regular readers and those who may be viewing the blog for the first time. This week sees the continuation of the guest blogs where I invite other friends, athletes and club associates the chance to share their experiences and challenges within the realms of sport.

I introduce to you Jacqueline Fernandez (Jecks), who on Sunday took on her first triathlon (Bananaman) as part of a series of challenges she is undertaking throughout this year, including a hike to Everest base camp. I have been working with Jecks over the last 6 weeks or so in providing advice and helping her to swim better. This is her recount on what I see as a very successful first triathlon. Incredibly apprehensive to begin with  in which I assured her that she would love it – AND SHE DID! Jecks has certainly listened and practiced, especially with swimming, her dreaded discipline. I was very impressed at how quickly she has improved. I hope you enjoy this wonderful recount and at the end I’ll give you a short update on my performance. A big shout also goes out to @Hazpicss from Instagram, a Sports Photographer, who captured some of the wonderful shots. Over to you Jecks…

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Where do I begin? Firstly, what an honour to be asked to be a guest blogger! I’m Jacqueline, and I recently heard the term “girls who tri”- that is me! Trying new experiences, aiming for 30 fitness challenges this year to celebrate my 30th birthday.

Challenge 20 was a big one – my first ever triathlon at Human Race events. I only signed up for this triathlon a month beforehand as Coach Danny recommended to do a tri as practise for London tri in August (Challenge 25).

Honestly, I am not a strong swimmer, I struggle with cycling (I recently cried during a group cycle!) and I have only been a runner for over a year and a half, so taking on a triathlon was going to be very difficult for me. Sarah, a fellow club member, recommended connecting with Danny as he is an expert in this field and has done so many. Forming a tri group with Han, Danny, Nick and Sarah has been incredible helpful for me, especially as a newbie.

Training

Just about a month ago Danny took me for an open water swimming session. I can say it now- I was AWFUL! Even though I can swim, I was tired very easily and I was kicking frantically! At that point, I was concerned whether I would be able to do this tri! Danny created a training plan after a pool session, aiming for: 1. Better swim fitness 2. Improving continuous swimming. I put a lot of effort into reaching those two goals (I got slightly carried away, over training which was leading to a shoulder niggle and was told by Danny to only swim twice a week!!). I LOVED having a training plan, using different equipment and doing drills (my favourite drill so far is working on my extension).

Doing the other challenges helped training for the cycling and running parts. I am currently training for Ride 100, so I was already learning about my bike and getting used to cycling. Challenge 17 was my very first duathlon, and my god, I was dreadful. My legs felt like jelly on the second run and I came last but I did it!! My worry was putting everything I learnt, all together. I questioned, can I swim, cycle and then run? Well, I was about to see!

The Big Event

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Nervous was an understatement, but I really learnt the value of having a coach that day. Danny was doing the Whole Banana distance which was fab because I got to see him in action! I set up my bike early and was hydrating constantly because it was super hot! He walked me through transitions and I watched the earlier waves to see what transitions were liked (this really helped me! Lots of people shouting: “Move! Get out the way!”). I watched Danny do his swim and cycle. His swim looked effortless and very relaxed so I had in mind that I would NOT panic and swim as if I was in the training pool.

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Danny exiting his swim and deciding to swim without a wetsuit

My wave started at 1:30pm (bang in the middle of the crazy heat) and I introduced myself to some of the women with most never having done a tri before (thank God!). We got into the water and were briefed quickly. There was an option of not wearing a wetsuit but the buoyancy of the wetsuit helped with my nerves so I decided to swim in my wetsuit (tip: do not put on the wetsuit early in BOILING WEATHER!!!!!).

To my surprise – I loved the swim. I didn’t stay right at the back as planned but in the middle where I felt comfortable. I swam keeping an eye on the person’s feet in front of me. I didn’t stop nor did I need to breast stroke – I was ECSTATIC! My only issue was not sighting enough so I nearly missed the exit (I need to go to Specsavers!!!). Note to self: do not rely on people in front of you because I learnt, you can overtake them or they may end up at the side of you, so sighting is key.

Because the swim went so well, I had lots of energy for transition 1 and getting on my bike. Getting my wetsuit off wasn’t as hard, but getting into my socks and trainers without patiently drying my feet first were frustrating! I’m not normally a confident cyclist, but the buzz of the event got me excited and two laps went by fast! BUT THEN… I was so ‘in the moment’ I got confused on how many laps I needed to do. I stopped to ask an event member TWICE stating that I have seen this part of the lap twice, ‘should I carry on?’ I guess because there were so many waves, I wasn’t very clear and they both told me to keep going. I knew I did a 3rd lap because no one in my wave was near me and one woman who was far behind was now in front of me! I was very frustrated with myself but I carried on and did the third lap as fast as possible (tip: start your watch so you know can check distance instead of count laps!!). I got off my bike and knew I was nearly there. The sun was blazing and my legs felt like jelly, especially because I knew I did an extra lap. It’s probably my slowest 2.5k run but I did finished strong! I had done itttttt!! I, Jacqueline Fernandez, actually completed my first triathlon, and loved it! I am determined to do that event next year so I can correct my mistake!

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For anyone who wants to do their first triathlon, here’s my advice:

  1. Get a coach / mentor, someone who has a wealth of knowledge on all 3 sports and understands your current ability and what your aims are. Danny has been a massive help!
  2. Get a training plan and stick it to as much as possible. Danny has embedded it into me that training is about consistency, so get each disciple in (also do not overtrain!)
  3. Get to the venue early and walk transitions (“you must count your racks”) and laying out your stuff in the correct order helps (“before anything, put on your helmet when you’ve entered transition for the bike section”)
  4. Have all the equipment (I didn’t bring a pump so Danny pointed out after I completed it, what was I going to do if I did get a flat!?! Oops!!!)
  5. Go at your own pace – there’s lots happening in a tri – lots of waves, lots of movement in transitions and it’s easy to get carried away in the moment (as I did, doing an extra lap!).

I am now officially excited for my London triathlon and look forward to training for it!

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What’s next?

Well I am impressed with doing 20 challenges so far:

  1. NYD 10km
  2. Benfleet 15 miles
  3. Virtual Race the distance Half marathon
  4. Run Through chase the moon 10km
  5. Accelerator Run Series 5km race
  6. Roding Valley half
  7. London Big Half
  8. . 10km in Rio, Brazil
  9. London Landmarks half marathon
  10. Boston UK Half marathon
  11. . 50 miles a month virtual run
  12. . Peckham 10km
  13. Runthrough Crystal palace 10km
  14. Hackney Half Marathon
  15. Westminster Mile
  16. Dagenham 88 5miles
  17. Go Tri Duathlon (Run – Cycle – Run)
  18. . East End Road Runners 5K Elvis race
  19. Orion’s Fell Run
  20. My 1st Triathlon

 I have 10 more challenges to go including London Tri, Ride 100 and Base Camp Everest!

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jecks30for30

 I would really love to train for more triathlons next year!!

Thanks Jecks for a great blog! I hope you all enjoyed that. If you wondering about how I got on, well I did alright considering the heat. Jecks mentioned that I took on the whole banana – 800m swim, 31k bike and 7.5K run. I had the 20th fastest swim of the day and loved experiencing the triathlon swim without a wetsuit. Let’s just say it was the quickest transition from swim to bike I’ve ever done! I averaged just shy of 20mph to complete the bike leg in around and hour and then the run in about 35mins, which was hampered by a terrible stitch on the third lap. A result of 31st overall and 8th in my age group so I can’t complain.

Again thanks to Jecks for the Blog post and the videos of me below.