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!

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 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.

 

Windsor Triathlon 2018 – The A Race!

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

Pre Race:

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

SWIM WELL            QUICKER TRANSITIONS           BIKE / RUN CONSISTENTLY

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

Saturday Pre-Race Racking

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

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

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

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

Pre Race – Morning

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What is that they say about a red sky?

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

The Swim

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

Transition 1 – Swim to Bike

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Grey tracks above are the transition runs

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

The Bike 

 

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

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

The Run

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

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

                                         2016                                                          2018

So what were the overall times? Were PBs achieved? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and please comment, like and share.

 

Guest Blog #2 – Sarah Wixey

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

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

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

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

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

Training

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

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

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

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

Pre-Race prep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Race Day

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

The Swim

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

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

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

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

The Bike

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

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

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

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

The Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

Final Word

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

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

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

 

Grafman 70.3

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A week after the Eton Dorney sprint distance triathlon saw me take on the Grafman middle distance including a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run just outside Huntingdon at Grafhman water. It’s a lovely venue, great for families with a great sand play area for kids.

It’s a new event for me and one I booked back in August last year. It falls on the same weekend as the Outlaw Half so the demand is not as great, although looking through the reviews it seemed a good race to add to my collection. The fact that it is only an hour and half in the car from where I live also meant it wasn’t too far to travel, unlike last year, where having to travel to Nottingham and Staffordshire for the Outlaw and Ironman. Travelling home on your own after doing one of these events with a 2.5/3 hour journey isn’t recommended. Luckily my support team (Kate and Isabel) were here with me again (meaning I would probably fall asleep in the car on the way home – which I did!).

Training

The week leading up to the event didn’t really see me tone down any training. I put in a few hard sessions particularly in the pool. I think from my poor swim at last week’s triathlon, I needed to test this a little to see where it really was. Like I’ve said before, technique wise I believe I am better but I have not done any significant tests for ages, so this week I decided to. The main test was the 1000m time trial and I also chucked in 100m and 50m for some more all out efforts to see what they were like also.

The good news was that I hit PBs in all distances. I have improved the 1000m from 18.31 to 17:45, 100m from 1:44 to 1:33 and 50m from 50.1 to 45.1 secs. I know the smaller time trials are actually a lot slower than what I could do, as these were done at the end of the 2K set when fatigued. The 1k time trail was a straight start swim. So there you have it..my swim continues to improve even though I have swam less this year and just concentrated more on technique.

If I’m honest, the only thing really missing from training are my long rides. With marathon training, these were really replaced with long runs so going into the Grafman, the question was whether I could ride well enough…all to be revealed!

This year has been very different for me with training and I haven’t religiously followed my plan like last year.

Pre Race Prep

Middle distance triathlon does take some planning, especially the nutrition aspect. Gels, food, liquids and electrolytes and where to store it all need to be considered. As you can see from the photo below, the night before means chopping up clif bars into bite size pieces and storing in the bike bag. I promise it isn’t a drug deal!

My Race

The Grafman is not the easiest half iron distance you can do. The bike has 1800ft of climbing and the half marathon run is the toughest I have done in a triathlon. It’s a mixture of trail and pavement and certainly hilly in places.

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My swim went well. 35min done and dusted. No real issues at all and a solid start to the  race. You had your usual hustle and bustle around the buoys, but I managed to find some clear water and get into my stroke. As mentioned last week, it does take me around 500m or so to actually find my rhythm. The swim consisted of an Australian exit also which certainly slowed things down a little.

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The water was actually nice to swim in once you got past the silty bit at the start. You can see it in the pictures below. Transition is very close to the swim exit also which is a bonus as you are out and onto the bike fairly quickly.

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The Bike 

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The stats above say it all really. You can see the elevation profile and the course was a series of out and backs. The first hour was fairly quick and I averaged just shy of 20mph. I knew I wasn’t going to maintain this for the whole ride, although I was surprised at just how long I did. Right up until 45 miles I was at 18.5mph and then a few tough hills and fatigue set in. Overall I am pleased at the bike leg. It is the fastest ironman bike leg I’ve ridden and considering the lack of long miles in training, I’ll take it!

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The Run

Ok – Let’s get some toilet talk out of the way. So I started the run with a very long pee! I had been holding it for a while on the bike leg and decided not to stop and wait until I reached transition. I certainly wasn’t going to do what the guy I was riding behind at one point did – pee whilst riding. I’ve heard many a story of people doing this, particularly pros although not age groupers. There I was, riding away thinking something is leaking on this guy’s bike. I was just about to call out to him when I noticed it was actually coming from his triathlon suit! Yuk!

I wasted time peeing as I had to wait for the toilet. One bleeding toilet for the whole run! Probably my only moan of the whole event. I started fairly well and the first section of the run is a nice out and back along the lake. I made a stupid school boy error also here as when I got to the first feed station and the turning point, I grabbed some water and just kept running 🙂 50m I carried on for and heard someone calling out. Back I came and onto the course. The run back to race village was easy enough and then you hit the trail part. It’s tough. Short hills and lumpy under foot. It’s pretty open to the sun as well so you battle with the heat.

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I had a few moments of contemplation in this run and again wondered why I bloody do it when it is so hard. The other week I compared the marathon to a half ironman on a par to toughness. Today I reconsidered that point. Running a half marathon after the bike and swim in your legs is tough…bloody tough. If you have ran a marathon before, you’ll know the feeling after about 17 miles. Well you start the half marathon in the triathlon feeling a little like this.

Today I finished in 5hrs and 52min. That is a PB for me over this distance by 18mins. I can’t complain. I keep improving.

I would certainly recommend the Grafman to anyone thinking of doing a middle distance event. It’s cheap in comparison to others, well run and a great venue. Like I said, it isn’t the easiest you can do but overall a very good event. I have a nice recovery week to look forward to before I put in a few good weeks of training which I am currently tweaking the plan for. Windsor is my A race this year and I want to go well there.

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Enjoy you week whatever you may be doing!

Eton Dorney All Nations Triathlon 2018

Well here it was – the first triathlon race of the season for me. This is now the second time I have taken part in this event and I can see it becoming the first event and a regular thing for me each season. Why? Well it is just a nice, simple race that is flat, fast and a sprint distance (400m swim, 20K bike and 5K run). It’s a chance to blow some cobwebs out, and there were a few of these especially the transitions.

I cannot recommend this event more for any beginner or newbie. Being enclosed around Dorney lake with just a few hundred participants, you can’t get a simpler triathlon. It all kicks off at 10am, so not the usual early morning start. What’s also a bonus is that the wife likes this one as it’s dead easy to spectate.

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Isabel had fun with my wetsuit beforehand!

Race Analysis

I’ll try and break this down and go through each section of the race. The overall results in comparison to last year are good. A new PB for this course. The graphic below shows the 2017 result and then the 2018 result.

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So a PB of nearly 5 minutes. I’m getting older, but I’m getting quicker 😉 Don’t write me off too soon!

Swim

The swim was probably the worst part of the race for me which is unusual. I didn’t feel great in the water and the swim was slightly slower this year. I don’t think it was lack of fitness although I have swam a lot less this year. I just didn’t feel great and couldn’t find my stroke. I also felt like I zigzagged a bit and need to get in the open water to swim and get some feel for it. That’s the great thing about this race though – it uncovers the cobwebs that need dusting. Short distance swims are not my forte. It takes me at least 500m to start getting into my stroke! I struggled to get out of my suit surprisingly as well. It took me a few goes to get the velcro open. I’ve never experienced that before!

Bike

I was happy with the bike section and the splits this year. The 2017 was a 42:25 and the 2018 a 38:26. My average was 19.9mph so was pleased with this. The bike was running well, the legs felt good and I certainly had less of a head wind this year.

Run

Last year I was suffering a little with my ITB but managed to run it ok. This year I felt good on the run and could tell all the running I’ve done this year was paying off. It’s the fastest 5K I’ve run in triathlon sprint distance. The first KM was used to ease into it and it should be like this on a triathlon run. I certainly upped the pace with each mile and the mile splits were 7:27, 7:15 and then 7:08. The run was completed in 22:32 compared to 24:16 in 2017.

I always love finishing a triathlon and the great feeling being an all-round athlete it gives me. I think the photo below shows!

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Isabel was happy also with the sweets on offer at the end that I managed to get her, so all is good in the world!

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So what do I need to work one?

Well my transitions were painfully slow especially the bike to run. I decided to run in socks and sodded about putting those on. I don’t like running without them, but for this race they weren’t needed. The run is not long enough to cause any issues. I certainly also need to get into the open water. The trouble is, the next open water swim will be in a half ironman distance event – the Grafman, next weekend!

Thanks for reading and I will blog my exploits from the Grafman next weekend! Enjoy your week!

 

Virgin London Marathon 2018

On the 22nd of April 2108 I took part in the VLM. This was my first big event of the year and a debut for me at this distance. What an event to do it at!

They say it is the best supported marathon in the world, and you can appreciate why when running it. I don’t remember one part of the course being without supporters. A truly fantastic crowd that do their uttermost to help push you through the pain and find a few more miles for every runner.

I had been building to this event all winter with official training beginning in January. Many of you know of the trials and tribulations I went through with injury to get to the start line. Was it worth it – Hell yeh!

So it all started like this…Once upon a time…lol

It was an early start for me and I had my usual porridge breakfast with an added banana before heading out and making my way to Greenwich. I arrived earlier to meet some of the other fundraisers and then on to the starting area. My current fundraising total stands at over £2400 so very pleased with that.

The VLM is a well oiled machine and everything is superbly organised. Bag drop, toilets, starting pens – I couldn’t fault any of it. Upon arrival there was an air of excitement but also nerves. To be honest I had been thinking about this event for the last couple of days leading up to it. I think at the expo everything became very real.

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Edginess had certainly set in on Saturday. I slept surprisingly well the night before which is not normal for me. Being able to sleep in your own bed makes a big difference here I believe. Usually I am in some hotel the night before a race.

What were my honest thoughts prior to the event? Well I contemplated many things. What pace to run at? Should I go harder to put some time in the bank? Is Sub 4 still possible? What about the weather? What kit shall I race in? What would my hydration and fuelling plan be? Many many questions and I could add more! I’ll try to answer these as I go through the post.

I had managed three weeks of running post injury prior to the event. I believed I could complete the distance, although I wasn’t sure about the sub 4 bit. I knew 4:10 / 4:15 would be achievable even not fully fit. I didn’t give in to it though. Once I arrived and saw the 3:45 pacers, I instantly knew I would go with them and stay with them for as long as I could. My idea of putting time in the bank goes against a lot of what people tell you to do…and I agree to an extent. Negative splitting is the way to race any event particularly endurance events. This however depends on your fitness. I knew full well I could not run the last half of 26 miles quicker than the first!

I knew I could complete 12/13 miles at the pace the 3:45 pacers were going at and possibly a few more. I also knew that if I could keep with the 3:45 pacers for a fair distance then it would leave me enough time to run 9/9:30 miles and get under 4 hours towards the end. I didn’t expect to stay with them the whole way. My plan worked. My splits were pretty even for the first 17 miles. I felt great for the first 13 and I could tell things were starting to get a little tougher after this point. In fact it was just about the 16 mile mark that the 3:45 pacers were starting to forge a gap between myself and my close friend who was also running it.

I think the splits show you where I hit the wall – somewhere around mile 19. Those last miles were tough to say the least. At the 20 mile point I was at 2:55 and knew I had over an hour to run the last 10k. My race plan had worked, and certainly running with my close friend helped those last few miles. We went through some world of pain I can tell you.

Back to those crowds – amazing…simply amazing. I give a big shout out also to my purple running family the East End Road Runners. What a club! Based on the highway at the 13 and 22 mile point. A massive cheer going out and boy was I so looking forward to seeing them on the return part. They certainly give you something to look forward to and if you want a lesson in cheering (and running) this is the club. They’re also a friendly bunch! My family and friends were also based at this point.

I can’t thank all those people on course shouting words of encouragement and singing football songs with your name in. A wonderful experience. Remarkable.

Those last few miles were really tough and the onset of cramp didn’t make things easier. This happened around mile 16. My nutrition plan was great, my hydration plan however, a different story. This went well out the window at mile 6. Why? Well I stupidly took my salt pills out of their blister pack and left them in my back pocket thinking they’d be easier to get out and take. Because of all the water and sweat, they dissolved! I managed to take one at mile 6 and then my other 4 were gone within the next two miles. This I knew from experience is not good for me particularly when it is warm. I have a high sodium loss rate which you read about here. Cramps were due and so they began from mile 16. I battled with them right until the end.

It was great running with Chris; a close friend who I have known since we were 2 years old. I have no idea how he managed to find me as we were in different coloured waves but met just as the waves came together at the 5K point. It certainly helps running with someone. You hit peaks and troughs at different times and help to get each other through. We have run a few races together now – I certainly enjoy it.

Along the embankment is great. You know you are on the home straight but those last few miles are some of the toughest you will run. The crowd push you home though.

Coming through the mall and past the palace is truly iconic. The London Marathon was epic and one event I will not forget. My finish time – 3:53 – Get in! Somehow with 4 weeks of missed run training at the most critical point (only getting up to 17 miles) I managed the original goal. Just think – What could have been achieved with those extra few weeks training eh?

It was great to finish. I received my medal and collected my bags. I spoke to one guy who had run the course twice and had been up since 11pm the previous night. He did it in reverse first of all and then with everyone else for charity. Simply amazing and crazy! I also spoke to a lady who had completed the marathon majors. What a medal that is!

It was also great seeing my family and totally unexpected seeing a few of them. I felt a little emotional at the end and have to say I have a wonderful wife who puts up with the moaning when I’m injured and supports me through it all. To the friends that came out…thank you also. All the support means so much.

So what now? Will I do another? Was this the hardest thing I have ever done?

Well the triathlon season is upon me now and that will be my primary focus over the next few months. I consider myself a triathlete firstly, but running has certainly made me a better triathlete. If I do another marathon, ok when I do another marathon, it would need to be a big one. Funnily enough I looked at Berlin this morning, and my wife will be pleased to know that I have missed the boat on that one this year. So keep posted on this one. No plans yet and my body is so broken I need some time to rest.

The next big event is a half ironman in June with a warm up sprint in four weeks time. When I compare the marathon to anything else I have done, I would say this:

Mentally it is a tough thing to do. Completing one discipline for that length of time is draining especially in tough conditions. My half ironman last summer I would say was on a par with the marathon, although the ability to break disciplines up through swim, bike and run helps with the metal aspect. It doesn’t feel like you are out there longer although you are. My body today is broken from the waist down. My legs in pieces and feet battered! You tend to ache all over a little more from an ironman – certainly the back and arms. The weather did not bother me too much yesterday. It was hot, and too hot to run, but nothing like the 32c Ironman last year. I take my hat off to anyone who attempts a marathon. Completing it and not even considering time is an amazing feat. All finishers should be hugely proud of themselves.

I do hope you enjoy the write up. The blog is becoming more and more popular so I am pleased. Do feel free to comment, like and follow. Until next time! Let those aching legs and feet heal.

 

Big Half Race Review and Performance – A short write up

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The inaugural Big Half was upon us this weekend. The first half distance on closed roads by London Marathon Events. Mo Farah headlined and put in a stellar performance smashing the distance out in 61 minutes. If only….

With the week of weather we had due to the Beast from the East, I thought it could be an interesting run. It was actually perfect weather for the running – not too cold and the rain held off which was nice.

I actually missed out on getting in this event when it first went on sale as it sold out so quickly. Luckily, I got a place through a fellow club member, Mr Paul Jackson the Head Teacher of a primary school in Hackney. He happened to register the school as a charity for the event in which he offered all our club members and his staff places on the Manorfield Primary School Team to raise money for their new nursery and outdoor learning area. Their target was £25,000!

I myself work within schools and felt that it was a great cause and one in which I would support so agreed to raise the £75 asked. The school have been amazing at fundraising money and they had the pleasure of Callum Hawkins visit the school and decide the winning shirt design which you can see below. if you wish to find out more about them visit their website: http://www.manorfield.towerhamlets.sch.uk

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What did they raise? Well the current total stands at over £45,000, so certainly a smashing effort from everyone. They will be able to put that money to good use!

The Event and Performance

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I ran with a close friend (Chris Lomax) for the event and we did actually ask ourselves at the end in Greenwich how much we actually took in. Well this recount will probably tell you.

I arrived at around 8:00am and was set up to run in orange wave. I put the bag in the drop area which was slightly chaotic – too many people in a space which was far too small. I think this did depend on when you did this though. I probably left it a little late! I suppose with all new events there will be slight teething issues and you improve them year on year. This probably needs a little consideration.

Once I had fought my way through the bag drop crowds, I made my way to my wave and met my friend. It took a while for us to get going with a few waves in front of us. Whilst waiting, we had a guess as to what the winning time would be in which I had Mo down for 61 minutes – so bang on there! The idea was to run to a 1:45 pace, but I have been struggling with an injury the past two weeks so didn’t hold out much hope in sustaining it.

The injury occurred at the Olympic Park 10K Chase the Moon event and I felt it again when warming up for Hampton Court two weeks ago. I’ve been nursing it and not really done much running since. The difference? Well I ran in pain for most of it, but I could manage the pace. I think running with someone helped with this as I certainly would have slowed down I think.

Condition wise I could also tell I was lacking a little top end fitness and the lack of running over the last two weeks showed. Not in my time however, as I was only a minute or so slower than Hampton Court, but in how I felt particularly at the end of the race. The last two miles were hard work whereas at Hampton Court I felt really strong and could have sustained the pace for much longer.

The crowds were great in places, particularly around Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and running into Greenwich. It thinned out in other places and running through the Limehouse tunnel was strange for me. The course was fairly straight forward and a little congested at the start. We were running on the pavement to begin with but this also thinned out with a lot more space after 4 or so miles. By mile 10, the realisation that a lack of running over the last two weeks was starting to show. It meant digging in a little. I would have actually loved to have felt as good as I did as at Hampton Court although that wasn’t to be today. The main thing was getting through it. What damage I have done to the injury will be seen in due course. If this wasn’t the Big Half, I would have almost certainly dropped out. The good thing is I have no more events now until the main one in April – The London Marathon. I’m currently icing as I write this post!

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I must say I love the medal. Really different from either the round or square metal bling you usually get.

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After finishing, we made our way through to the bag collection. This bit had been organised really well. It also meant meeting our supporters – our wives and daughters who had managed to see us on the final mile running through to the end. We didn’t hang around for the Big Half festival and I think the weather recently had put a bit of a dampener on this unfortunately. It was certainly boggy in the park! We had one thing on our mind – food and beer (ok, two things!)

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A lovely visit to Wagamamas went down incredibly well! Now just to recover and see what this injury will do. I’m just hoping I don’t lose a load of run fitness now. Thanks for reading!

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