Outlaw Half – 2019

So where do I begin with this one?

Well let’s just say that if you ever want a non-branded Ironman event, then the Outlaw has to be it. It really is a great race. Super organisation, excellent marshals, who are very friendly and extremely helpful, and the athletes are really well looked after. I think I would happily say it is one of the best 70.3 races you could do.

There were people I knew that were racing also. I wasn’t alone this time. Sarah and Han from the running club also took part and it was their first half iron distance. For regular readers, you may remember Sarah writing a guest blog last year on her first triathlon at ITU Leeds. You can read that here. This blog will not just include my race, but both Sarah and Han have agreed to provide you with their thoughts and comments also below. You see, its the blog that keeps on giving!

Another Triathlon Adventure

I travelled up with Han on the Saturday and did the registration and race briefing thing. I then made my way to my hotel for a quick snack and nap before meeting up with Han and Sarah for an early dinner. It was an early start for everyone with my wave starting at 6:35, and I think Han and Sarah’s at 6:50ish.

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

Life competing in triathlon requires organisation. Whether that is through sorting out travel, hotels, race info or documents. That’s even before you begin looking at your equipment and logistics on the day. It meant getting everything sorted and organised for the morning back at the hotel and setting that alarm for 3:30am!!! Yes that’s right. Why so early? Well I need at least two hours before racing and eating, meaning I would eat just before I left the hotel at about 4:30am

Preparing my nutrition the night before

What were my goals?

This is a simple one – I wanted to go faster! Faster than in 2017. My goal time was 5hr 45min. Not a made up number, but one that has been in my Training Peaks account since November and based upon what I did back in 2017. My Outlaw 2017 race report can be found here. It’s funny to read back on this blog post. You realise how many mistakes I made. Experience in triathlon certainly helps a lot and this is now clearly obvious in my races. The more you do, the more you learn! I had problems last time out – mainly on the bike and it is pleasing to see that I have learned and moved on from these.

My Race The Swim Leg

So going into the swim I knew my numbers were good. My training has indicated I’m swimming faster than ever before. What were the results then I hear you ask? Well, I managed the 1.2 mile swim in 36min 49s. Compared to 2017 that was slower as I did 35:25. Not by much, but why no improvement?

It’s quite simple really – the swim was not an area of the race I wanted to necessarily go quicker. As long as the time was somewhere around what I did previously I knew it was still a very good time. The thing with open water swimming, and in particularly triathlon racing, is there is certainly less you can control in the swim leg. Whether that be finding clear water, the temperature affecting you, people swimming around and over you or taking on water. They all come into play. The water was bloody freezing, I did have someone zigzagging in front of me and I never actually felt great until about half way through when I started to swim a little better. I knew my race outcome would depend on the bike and run sections. A handful of minutes or seconds in the swim were not going to make any difference to the overall race if I could perform considerably better in the bike and run.

My Race – The Bike Leg

You may remember my previous blogs back in winter when I outlined my commitment to improving my bike leg. You can read about these here and here. It has been a long process, but one that has certainly paid off. Hard work pays off for sure! I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves:

2017 Result:

Averaging = 16.35mph

2019 Result:

Averaging = 18.68mph

A massive PB on the bike and one that I was so proud of going sub 3 hours for. I had a really great bike leg. I felt strong throughout and didn’t feel I would fade at all. I knew the bike numbers to sustain from all the testing and use of the power meter I had invested in. I had a plan going into it and I pretty much stuck to it. My aim was to ride at between 140-150w – more or less Zone 3 for me. This I knew would bring me in under my previous time and ensure I had matches to burn on the run. The data below proves it. My avg power being 145 watts and my normalised power at 154 watts. Ideally these would be a little closer but I’m still happy with that. The difficulty comes on hills when you put out a little more power.

Training and concentrating on developing my engine and FTP over winter has made tons of difference to my biking performance. It takes time though. People often rush it and become impatient. They don’t see improvement straight away, but it is your body that ultimately decides. To train for these sort of distances you need a good amount of time for adaptation and also patience if you want to go fast. I was able to do this on the day because I had followed not only my training plan, but also my race plan. I resisted the the urge to burn more matches then I needed to. I used my head on the bike – not just the legs!

Race Nutrition

I think this would be a good thing to add here. You see in previous half iron distances (and I have only done 3 before), I have never really had a nutrition plan. I have more or less just made sure I eat (through some real food and gels) and drink on the bike. Not this time though. If I was going to plan my race, I needed to plan my nutrition to match it. So the objective was:

To consume a gel or 1/3 of a cliff bar at 20 min intervals alternating between each. I would double up on the last 20 main interval (which was at 2hrs 20mins) and consume nothing but hydration fluid and two salt pills for the final 40mins of the bike leg. Did it work? I would only know when I started my run. Let’s find out.

The Race – Run Leg

When racing last week at Dorney All Nations Sprint, I felt fantastic and strong. When starting the run leg at the Outlaw this feeling returned. In-fact I had to control it again as you can see from the splits below. Just like the other portions of the race, I had a plan I would stick to. I was hoping to sustain a pace of somewhere around 5:20-5:40 per km or an 8:30 per mile. It had some leeway in it as you never can tell how you are going to feel at the end with a swim and bike in you. Running is tough at the end of a triathlon especially with longer distances. So how did I do?

2017 Result:

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

2019 Result:

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

Happy? Certainly! I’m really pleased with the half marathon effort. It is also the first half in a triathlon that I have not felt I needed to walk any aid station. Running is by far the hardest part of the race and mentally really challenging. You are constantly fighting the ‘stop for a few minutes and walk demons’. There is a one tactic I seem to be applying in lots of my races though. Find someone running the pace you want and stick with them! I’m not sure of the guy’s name – I didn’t ask to be honest, but I found him at the end of my first lap. Without him to keep pushing me I’m not overly sure I would have sustained the pace. Thank you to whoever you were…and sorry for taking the sprint at the line! We did have a chat at the end and during the race in which I expressed my gratitude. I also refer back to my race nutrition here. Not once did I feel hungry nor did I feel I needed something to keep me going. The only thing I needed on the run was water. Water at every aid station to keep the thirst away. I have to say though that it was perfect running conditions which certainly helped.

Run Splits were fairly consistent I would say!

I finished my race at 5hr 34 mins. In 2017, I finished the race in 6hrs and 10mins. That is one massive PB of 36mins in which I am incredibly pleased about. It is also a half iron distance best performance as previously this stood at 5:52.

Do you know what? I think I can knock more time off of that. I need to keep working hard on the bike and training the way I do. An overhaul to my training methods this year and the introduction of my power meter has given huge benefits and insight. I know I will get faster, and if I keep working at the run I believe this will also improve. How much time? Who know but I would feel confident in a 10/15 min improvement next year. Next year? Yes I will return again to the Outlaw as it is such a great race.

This blog is slightly lacking in actual race photos I’m afraid. Just like in 2017, my wife and daughter were not in attendance. Not a common thing for my triathlons, but a little too much and too early to ask of them. They were certainly missed though 😦 Especially as they allow family to run with you on the finishing chute – something I would love to have done with Isabel my daughter. I will be back though and I will get to do this at some point. Anyway, I now leave you the final comments from Sarah and Han on their race…Hope you enjoy all the content.

How not to prepare for the Outlaw Half – Sarah

I registered to take part in the Outlaw as soon as the entries opened. I had great plans to train for the event and to really focus on my swimming and cycling. I wanted to build on my performance from the 2018 Leeds ITU triathlon. However, my plans changed in December when I won a London marathon club place via East End Road Runners. As I was representing my club, I spent a lot of time training for the run. The effort paid off. I smashed my marathon PB time and achieved most improved female runner at the AGM.  But, all this came at a price. I didn’t spend anywhere near enough time in the pool or on the bike to train for the Outlaw. And as a result I was dreading the event.

The Outlaw experience started the day before at the race briefing. It was a well managed event and the organisers delivered the race information in a very clear and relaxed way. They also helped to calm any last minute nerves. 

After the briefing, the plan was to head off to the city centre, check-in at the hotel and meet up with Danny and Han for something to eat. Regrettably I left it far too late to book a pitch at the campsite or a room in the on-site hotel. Instead, I got a last minute deal in a hotel in the city centre. All was fine until 1.30 am when the noisy drunken louts in the next room decided to have a party and that was it for any chance of getting a decent night’s sleep.
Getting up at 4.30 am was a real shock to the system. The advantage of travelling at that time was that everyone else seemed to be heading to the same place. I got to the venue in plenty of time to rack my bike and lay out my gear before heading to the pontoon to get in the water. 

As expected, the water was cold but also refreshing. During the race briefing, we were given a few tips on how to get used to the cold water without going into panic mode: 1) Get in 2) Take a deep breath 3) Put your face in the water 4) Breathe out whilst under water 5) Repeat steps 2 – 4 at least 5 or 6 times 6) Open the neck of the wetsuit to let some cold water in. 
These tips worked really well. After a couple of minutes, I felt relaxed and ready for the swim. The great thing about the start was that the swimmers could really spread out and it didn’t feel like a mass brawl with arms and legs hitting each other. Overall, the swim went well but it took me ages to feel warm afterwards. Trying to take off my wetsuit, put on my helmet and shoes was a real challenge because my fingers were numb.

I always knew that the bike ride was going to be my weakest leg. I am still trying to embrace cycling. I’m hoping that one day something will click and I will actually like it. The first 10 miles was tough – not the terrain, just me and my relationship with my bike. I really considered turning around and heading back to the venue. I had enough of the bike but I knew I had to suck it up and just get on with it. The race course was very well marked and it was impossible to get lost due to the sheer number of signs and enthusiastic volunteers and marshalls all the way along the route. The two feed stations were really well organised. But I was so glad when it was over and I could start the run. 

The two lap route was split between a riverside path and the lake. There were plenty of feed stations along the course and again there was no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers who were keen to look after all the runners and their nutrition and hydration needs. All the ultra and marathon training I had concentrated on during the winter months had paid off and I had enough energy to run on tired legs. It also meant that I could make up a lot of lost time from the bike as well as passing on words of encouragement to those who had said something similar to me during the ride.

I was so happy to see the finish line and for the event to be over. It was a good kick up the rear end that I needed. Importantly, I learned a number of lessons including:

  • Book any accommodation as soon as the event place is confirmed – ideally, choose a place to stay as close to the venue as possible
  • Train for the event by concentrating on all three elements at the same time rather than just one at the expense of the other two
  • Don’t sign up to too may endurance events so close to the Outlaw – three weeks between each event is not enough time to recover properly
  • Wear neoprene gloves and/or booties for the swim when it is really cold – transition will be easier when your fingers aren’t numb   
  • Develop a positive attitude towards the bike – this will only come from more practice
  • Don’t turn up hoping to wing it – the Outlaw will punish you!

Next up for me – Windsor Triathlon in June.

Against All Odds – Han

Pre-race: woke up from intermittent restless night sleep.  Sleepy, dazed and had to get ready. I could still feel the tight right shoulder I picked up out of nowhere on Saturday. I showered, ate breakfast and packed and was on the road by 5ish. I cycled to the venue and took the long way round. Luckily I saw other participants who pointed the correct way.  Once I arrived, I racked my bike. Everyone was laying out their stuff neatly, but not me. I was stacking my bike items up in pile – gloves, hat, gilet, arm warmers, shoes bootie covers – fear of getting cold on bike after a cold swim. I saw Wixey (Sarah) who calmed my nerves a bit.  Now wetsuit on or toilet…opted to put wetsuit on, I needed to eat but didn’t want to over eat before swim. I then did the Toilet bit!

Swim: My swim wave was getting ready to jump into the water. I assumed Wixey was already in the queue. As I waded through the blue hat wave…”dammit Han, you can’t swim with your glasses on” doh moment #1.  Glasses away, try again wading my way through the blue hat wave with most already in the water.  Slow swimmers on the right, fast on the left…doh moment #2 I couldn’t tell my left from my right. Completely in the wrong group so I even moved closer toward the left hoping to see Wixey for the last time.

The gun went off, and away I went totally not ready. I hadn’t even acclimatised to the water, hoping my slow swim would warm me up. It didn’t take long for the cold to get to me though.  I decided to hang on to the boat to get myself sorted and off I went again although still not completely ready for it. As I pushed on, the pack was some distance away.  The fast blue caps started to over take me. I was so happy to see the red square buoy (turning point). I could also feel the blue pack catching up and for sure not long they started to swim over me – I felt the odd kick, drank some water and then a little more. Turning next into the next corner I could see the home straight and became a little more relaxed. I picked up the pace, but was still a little stop start to catch my breath.  Finally I got to the end and exited the water.

T1: Into transition and wetsuit off, chip timer off and neatly laid on the towel.  Saw Wixey, we both agreed that it was a horrendous swim. I got dressed just about to put helmet on, doh moment #3 HR monitor I can’t race without it (issue with high heart rate low iron…another chapter of my journey). Quickly undressed HR monitor on, watch, helmet off I went.

Bike: I exited transition, felt good and chuffed that I managed to put on my toes socks without any problem (smirk on face)!  Happy days, just need to keep a steady pace, eat well and keep hydrated. Feeling at ease I caught up with a few ladies “E” and Michelle. We had some light banter and guessed E’s name is Elizabeth! No brainer.  E zoomed ahead, I followed, caught up with Wixey who told me off for drafting (I was beside her, not behind…only later that she told me someone in briefing raised this point in which they were flagged as drafting!) Off I went, passing a few more cyclists. About 20 miles in, sshiiiiit pothole, too late to dodge, please please no puncture = full on blow out flat.

Flipped bike, started to prepare to replaced inner tube while waving goodbye to the cyclists I overtook earlier. The ladies shouted “sorry, not technical to stop to help”.  One gentleman slowed down but I sent him off as I would feel really guilty if he got pulled off the race. Determined to get it done, almost there then I realised the last bit popping the tyre in place I always struggled with – accept help woman I thought!  Lucky me, a cyclist passed by and I accepted his help. Perfect timing I thought. Wheel sorted, just need pumping.  Got the CO2 canister out, running through Nick Gorman’s (fellow EERR Tri) instructions in my head, screwed it on but no gas released.  I panicked and asked the stranger to help me. He never used one before so we were both in the same boat.  Finally, gas hissed he got spooked I saw wasted gas going in mid air and not the inner tube…I directed him to press it on the inner tubes nozzle…gas stopped hissing and still a flat tyre.  I borrowed his manual pump and started pumping – done! I thanked him and off I went.  Doh moment #4 know how to use tools you carry!

I then got a good pace going at 16mph. If I could keep it up, I could make the cutoff.  Miles after miles and anxiety setting in at the back of my mind. I thought I could pass Wixey and I would be fine, (sorry Wix) but no sign of her, “good on her she got it” I thought.  Now solo on the road, anxiety becoming stronger and finally out of the northern loop and on to the next, reassuring as I saw other competitors cycling in the opposite direction. We greeted with the subtle cyclist nods, hand greeting gestures and some yelled encouraging comments. 

Solo again, not a single soul just pot holes and cars.  Approaching junction around 45 miles, 2 volunteers started crouching low toward me with their big foam hands which made me smile and lifted my spirit. As I went passed, they cheered.  This encouraged me to push on. I also was surprised as two officials creeped up from behind, chatted and they reassured me I can make it at current pace.  Finally, getting closer to the venue. 

T2: I entered transition, pressed watch to transition didn’t hear the buzz pressed again…doh moment #5.  Had to stopped watch as it is now in run mode.  Rack bike, changed shoes, helmet, gloves, gilet, arm warmers off and grabbed nutrition, stuffed home made gel in back pocket as I started to run it was bouncing so I decided to leave it and figured my energy drink will be enough and then clocked the neatly laid timing chip siting on top towel. Doh moment number 5 – although I still didn’t realise it!

Run:  I crossed the timing mat, off I went and thought to myself this is ok, what jelly legs?  A little further along, uh oh quads hurt, quads hurt.  Grabbed water at fee station sipped my home made energy drink. A little further and the pain reduced. As I passed the first timing mat…I thought why didn’t I beep? Oh Han – ultimate doh moment #6 – realising at the same time and the image of the timing chip sitting on towel flashed across my head – “You muppet”.

As I pressed lap button on my watch when doing the second lap, yup doh moment #7 watch bleeped “activity completed”.   Quick I reset and start another run activity.  As I ran round the first lap encouraging other runners they are doing great, I knew I was in a worse position than them with no chip and no time!  Entering the second lap and my tank was almost empty. At the feed station I yelled water and gel. The volunteer offered me caffeine or no caffeine. I grabbed both out of her hands, while finishing the water and taking the gels which was a make or break scenario.  Best decision though, I was back on track, and grabbed another caffeine gel and sipped it. At the back of brain I said to myself that this is not a good idea so chucked it at the next feeding station.

The home stretch was getting closer as I sighted the orange carpet.  Entering the chute I saw Terry (Wixey’s other half aka our supporter, photographer, driver) and I started celebrating even managed a sprint to the finish line. I grabbed the finish banner lifted high with both hands “I won against all odds”.  Just waiting for my timing to be officially confirm.

Training, Power Meters and Updates…What more do you want?

Greetings.

I know! Two months since my last post. Well, here’s the update some of you have asked for…

I believe the last post mentioned something along the lines of writing about how I will use a power meter and what it would mean to my training. Well, ok I’ll do a little bit on that – but only a little. I don’t want to bore you all. What I would like to do is give you a rounded update of everything that is going on training and fitness wise, but also life in general and of course, the power meter bit. So, let’s get on!

Training

So what’s the fitness like? What am I doing? When do I start the training?

Questions questions questions. After a great summer and a recent trip to Italy, life has been good. I’ve recently celebrated my fortieth birthday and have entered a new age group in triathlon. Although I’m older and supposedly more decrepit as people keeping telling me, my results should automatically improve in my age group as I’m no longer competing against whipper-snappers and the age group is a little smaller! That’s not to say the 40-44 age group isn’t competitive – believe me, it is!

 

Over the summer and up to now I have just been keeping active. Nothing really structured at all training wise. I have since visited the Doctor to try and sort the shoulder issue I’ve been struggling with all season. This resulted in a referral to a sports clinic and has been a bit of nightmare to be honest. The last race of the season saw me take on the 2 mile Serpentine swim to complete the London Classics. That is the last time I swam – back at the end of September. I do really miss swimming although I had to commit to getting the shoulder sorted, and that meant stopping the swims for a while.

Without going into too much detail, I’ve just had my second ultrasound two days ago after 8 weeks of physio, which has resulted in a guided steroid injection. This is the price you pay for racing over a season on an injured shoulder! So I’m hoping to return to the pool in December. When that will be exactly who knows?

Injuries are annoying and something as I’m getting older I’m noticing more and more. Sometimes it isn’t about how fit you can get, but what fitness you can achieve without getting injured. The more I train, the more I understand my body and what it can cope with. For me it is no more about planning a 12 or 16 week programme and following it to a tee.  Yes I try to do that, although I adjust my plan on the fly and no longer worry if it isn’t followed exactly. Triathlon is hard on the body. A strong body that uses everything is one that is difficult to keep tuned. Listening and understanding it is key.

My reading around coaching and methodology continues and this is one thing I love doing. Comparing, evaluating, assessing and reflecting on my own performance and improvement are all possible through reading. It allows me to pass on knowledge also to my budding triathlete friends, especially where I have used and tried methods myself. A lot of my reading has been around the use of a power meter to improve my bike performance next year.

Power Meter Training

I’ll try and keep the geeky and technical stuff simple. You may be thinking ‘what the bleeding hell is a power meter?’ There are different types – pedals, cranks and hubs are a few. Too technical already right? Here’s a picture:

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Power meters are a great way to train incredibly accurately and also allow you to measure your performance and pace a race perfectly. All professional cyclists and triathletes use them. It’s how Chris Froome measures his effort so well on a long mountain climb.

You may remember me saying that my performance is lacking on the bike and I want to put some serious effort into improving it over the coming months. So at the back end of August I purchased a power meter – a german brand by Power2max. It’s a crank based system and cost me just over 600 Euros. Power meters are not cheap by any means, but I felt this was a good investment in comparison to hiring a coach. It will also mean I probably run a lot better and not burn too many matches on the bike!

The idea is that I carry out a simple test on the bike and work out my power zones and then train them resulting in improved performance. You can do this with heart rate to a certain degree although it isn’t as accurate and instant. It isn’t hampered by feeling, illness and conditions. It’s also important to regularly test and adjust the zones with increasing  fitness. I will also look to practice race like conditions with it in the new year on the road. And this is why I love triathlon – there really are lots of things to think about and you can make it as simple or as complex as you want to.

At some point I certainly want to take my coaching badges. I’m in the teaching profession anyway and know that leading groups and activities is second nature. I’d love to be able to apply this to triathlon and in that arena. Something for the future for sure, although I have no idea when!

Where am I in my training cycle?

Base training has begun for the bike and run. This is the process of building the aerobic endurance system. This will last for around two and half months. I’m not starting from complete scratch, although I do want to have great engine before I tackle the specific power meter workouts on the bike. I have developed my triathlon plan now for the first 6 weeks and will begin proper specific triathlon training at the end of January. This will lead me into the Outlaw Half in decent shape. I’m looking to do exactly the same for swimming (when I eventually get back in the pool) and running. This will be the longest time out I have had from the pool so it will be interesting to see what shape swim wise I will be in. I know in previous breaks (although no longer than about 4 weeks) it hasn’t taken too long to recover the endurance and my race pace. I hope this will be the case again.

Winter always includes some sort of strength training programme that I follow also. This is slightly hampered with the shoulder so I’m having to do what I can and work around that. It means 2 or 3 strength specific sessions every week. It is also important for injury prevention, something I’m really keen on!

Other News:

Oh and our French house purchase completes in December so I shall definitely be looking to do an April training camp out there next year. There’s a few projects to do involving a gym kit out and the separate house renovation. We will take our time with these.  I take on Ironman 70.3 Vichy in France next year so will base ourselves here for a few weeks in summer. The journey to Vichy is about 3 hours away and an event I’m really looking forward to taking on.

So that is it. Updates complete. I will try and publish again in December with some analysis of fitness. Tracking workouts and collecting the data is important to reviewing current and improving fitness. The geek in me likes this bit so it’ll be good to share my understanding on it. Until then…enjoy the on-coming winter – my least favourite season, Urgh!

 

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!

 

2 weeks to race day…

Two weeks (actually 12 days at the time of writing) to race day…yikes!

There’s a mix of feelings at the moment for a number of reasons, but I am looking forward to experiencing one of the best supported marathons in the world. Many of you will be familiar with my frustrations over the last 5 weeks due to my groin injury and the lack of running. It’s not been ideal preparation, although this weekend I managed a half marathon here in France which was pleasing to get under the belt. One foot in front of the other…tap tap tap. No amazing time, just steady paced.

This was the first real test really for my groin, as I have been running the last two weeks and managing to up the distance KMs bit by bit. I would say the groin is around 90% – still a small amount of pain when running and certainly aches afterwards. However, the important thing is that I can run! Not fast, but I can run.

I have mentioned in a previous post about endurance events involving a lot mental strength. I think this will be the case for me in the marathon – particularly as I lack run fitness. It will hurt – I know that. It is something I am used to – I know that. I have experienced it before. Having this mental strength is going to be key when not totally fit.

Fitness for me is a lot about numbers. I track all of my training activities and regularly review my numbers. I can tell when I’m swimming, biking and running well. The swim and bike numbers are fine at the moment – particularly the swim. They don’t need to be brilliant at this stage as the first triathlon is not until May. My running numbers are not where they were two months ago, and by this I mean the speed at which I can maintain for a particular distance. To be honest, I probably have not lost a lot of endurance performance but certainly speed. It’s always the first thing to go for me.

My fundraising has now taken me beyond my target and with a few weeks to go there will probably be a bit more to come in. I have spoken to the local Newham Recorder about my efforts and had a tweet from the charity featuring me.

I have been in France for the past 11 days house hunting again and have managed to probably get in around 100 miles on the bike also. The weather has been hit and miss so a few rides have been scuppered! I’ll get back in the pool when I return home and tick over until marathon day the weekend after next. I’m hoping to get a few short runs in also and keep the legs turning to some degree. I’m not chasing miles now – there’s just no point.

Marathon day is going to be an emotional day (especially crossing that finishing line) I have no doubt. It seems (and maybe some of you can relate to this) that with all these new challenges, when you cross the finishing line you certainly go through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

It has happened a few times to me – Ride London 1st time and last year taking on my first half ironman. It’s hard to explain and all I can say is you find yourself holding the tears back! That accomplishment is overwhelming, but the amazing feeling afterwards is indescribable.

 

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I may post just before the marathon or it may be just after. Anyway, to all those who have supported so far and followed – THANKS!

London Marathon Update

I thought I’d post an update for the followers and my sponsors for the London Marathon run.

Training has been ticking over nicely and the real marathon training will begin in January. I have been consistent so far with running regularly averaging around 20 miles a week with 3 sessions including a speed, steady and a long run. I have also been completing a monthly 10k time trial at the Olympic Park Winter Series. The month’s run was pretty good resulting in a 2min 31sec PB over the distance with 45:24 time. I think I’m in pretty distance run shape and the body should be in a position now to take some extra load. I will gradually add in another run each week and build this up to a 30 mile weekly total by the end of January.

Fundraising for the event and Place2Be (my chosen charity I work with) is going well. We have since held a Christmas Jumper day with all children in the school contributing 50p to wear their xmas jumpers. I have also run a Christmas Tombola stall at our fair. Currently fundraising stands at £682.45. This is a fantastic achievement so far and we are only in December so plenty of time left to raise much more. There are a few more fundraising events I have planned.

Weekly training sessions have included strength sessions and ensuring the legs are stretched and massaged regularly mainly to ward of tightness and injury. So far so good! Let’s hope this regime continues to reap the benefits.

I’ve entered a number of races leading up to the event also. These include the Hampton Court half, Winter Cancer 10k and The Big Half. I will carry on with the monthly 10k series at the Olympic Park too. So before I end the post, I want to say a big thanks to all those who have supported through sponsoring so far. I still have loads to target, although this will be after xmas now. Hope you all enjoy the festive season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of season ramblings…

After a long season and completing my last triathlon (London) in July, I called a halt to my triathlon season after returning from my summer holidays. I had planned to do one last race like last year, however after the masses of wine, beer and food over my 5 week summer holiday, this meant a severe loss of race fitness. The thought of bumbling through one last race just didn’t sell it!

I hadn’t given up all exercise over the break, just nothing structured with a run here and there, the odd bike and swim…nothing to warrant actual ‘training’. To be honest, it is nice to not have to follow a plan making sure the sessions are done, watching what you eat and drink and tracking data. I have since started winter training officially now and completed the Serpentine Swim the other week. Goals are also already been thought through for next year.

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Looking back, I am incredibly happy with the season. Could it have gone better? Certainly yes. Getting injured two weeks out from the first half ironman wasn’t ideal. I ran through that in pain and then faced problems for the next 8 weeks with a severe loss of run fitness. All clear to see at Staffordshire. The most important thing was finishing, and that is what I did! I know for certain I can complete a sub 6 hour half ironman and this will make up one of the goals for next season. I’ve already entered the Grafman and hope to add a second half distance when the Outlaw organisers OSB release details of the southern half they are planning.

Winter training for me will now consist of hitting the weights and building some strength up again as I do always this time of year. This will last for around 10 weeks and I’m planning on working at my running during this time (currently up to around 20 miles a week). This leads me to my next possible goal – The London Marathon. I’m seriously considering this especially when seeing the London Classics medal bling at the Serpentine Swim. If you are unaware, this means completing the London marathon, Ride 100 and 2 mile Serpentine Swim. It can be done at any time. I’m in the Ballot and we will see how I get on in this. Unlikely I know, but I work for a school that has a children’s charity within it which I will consider doing it for. Watch this space!

I’m taking a 4-6 week break from swimming also. I have a slight overuse injury in my shoulder which I think needs some time to rest. There are other goals – all mainly to do with running. I would love to get my 10k and 5k times down which is certainly possible. I will also aim to run a PB across the half marathon and aim to run longer then I ever have. I’m just taking it slowly considering the injury issues I seem to always have with running.

This season has allowed me to achieve another step to my ultimate goal – a full ironman  distance. Many have said they don’t understand why I don’t just go for it. “Do it next year,” “You could do it on the training you are doing now.”

My thoughts: Yes probably, but it would hurt. And that doesn’t mean to say that a full Ironman wouldn’t hurt ever, but there are some milestones I want to achieve beforehand. For one, I have never run a marathon, let alone running it after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on a bike! Plus, I have always said that I want to go sub 12 hours and with injuries in the past, I am allowing time for my body to adapt. The other issue I face is my work and family life. A busy job with a lot of responsibility and a young family. My wife is in the exact same position with even more responsibility. These are important in order to retain the lifestyle we have, but also realistically I would need to up the hours of training and time is tight enough as it is. I never said project Ironman would be a quick one, although I will get there eventually.

Anyway, next week I will take a 10k on and will run it as best I can to see where I am with run form. It’s a course I have done before so it will give me a good estimate. I will update soon, but my training room is certainly getting full with medals, and that’s only half for them 🙂