The Season Continues…

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

What a season so far!!!

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

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

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

“IF IT IS TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME.”

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

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

Banana Triathlon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedford Triathlon – So how did it pan out?

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

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

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

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

An empty transition – the calm before the storm.

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

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

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

The other weird thing on the bike…this:

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

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

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

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

The Season Begins…

Finally it is here. The season has started and I already find myself nearly two races in. I write this after my season opener sprint distance event at Eton Dorney for the All Nations Triathlon. This I do every year to dust off a few cobwebs, test new gear and get back into racing mode. An update on this later. I’m just about to complete the Outlaw half this weekend coming – the second time I have completed this race. Both are a week apart and it has been a ?????? start to the season. Why the question marks? Well I think I will answer that one after the Outlaw. Remember that statement! Let’s revisit it after the Outlaw.

I’ll use the blog to update on a few other things also, such as the coaching project with Miia and her first race.

Fitness wise, I’m good. The numbers are good, especially in the pool. I think this is finally starting to show in my open water swimming and something I have struggled to transfer across in the past. I’ve managed a few niggles and things this season (as always) and believe I’m probably fitter than ever. So as I entered my first race of the season, it was going to be a good insight to where I was but also how hard/easy the effort felt.

It has certainly been a cold start to the season. I managed to get an open water swim the week before the Tri with Sarah and Miia over at Upminster. Water = 13.6c. At Eton there was no improvement. Water 12.6c! Colder still, and it felt it when we got in. So how did the race pan out? Well, I can sum it up in a few words… Great swim, terrible transitions, mediocre bike and great run.

Results:

I actually completed it in the exact same time as last year – 1:11. No improvement you may think? Well when you look between the lines there was actually. My swim was under 7 mins for 400m – the timing mat is situated way after the swim exit hence the time difference. That to me is a massive improvement. I think I believe in myself a little more in the open water. I finally believe I can sustain the paces I set and not blow out my arse half way through. I’ve always started cautiously and saved probably too much in the swim tank. I started right at the front of my wave and had the cleanest swim I’ve ever had in a triathlon. No bumping, people swimming next to me or touching me in any way at all. My wife watched from the sides and caught me exiting the water somewhere out in about 4th from the wave start.

The swim at Dorney was bloody freezing and my hands were so cold I couldn’t get the wetsuit off. This carried on throughout the bike and into my feet, as when I got off, they were like two blocks of ice and I could not feel anything until after the first lap of the run! Plus – add on trying out shoes attached to the bike for the first time which was interesting. It took me a lot longer getting into them on the bike then I thought, so more time lost. I still need practice at this. I ran really well off the bike considering the numb feet. The 4:23km average for the 5K was easy. It’s always good to try and find another athlete to run with which I did through a GB age grouper. I only wish now I went a little harder as felt I had more in the tank.

Anyway I’m not going to delve too deep into this triathlon, as like I said, it is more for me ironing out issues and enjoying it really. The real test for me is the Outlaw Half. More on that in the upcoming post.

The new gear I tried out above

As mentioned earlier, it was Miia’s (who I have been coaching since winter) first triathlon and one she was looking forward to, but obviously a little apprehensive about. She performed really well and overcame some open water fears and came in at 1:22. In-fact, her words were ‘I loved it.’ It must be noted that Miia had quite a bad bike accident a few weeks ago, fracturing her cheek and hurting her shoulder. Luckily she managed to get herself back together for this and had enough time to recover. Her training took a little backward step – quite obviously and with good excuse. She is more or less back on track now and with a few tweaks to her plan, she will be in good shape for her A race. We spent the following day getting in one last long ride for me – a nice 63 miler out to Hanningfield Reservoir.

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

I have entered a taper week now as I prepare for war with my body on Sunday. I just hope the weather holds and the lake warms up a little! The next post from me will be on the Outlaw half. So check back for the read on that.

4 Weeks and Counting…

Not long now until the big one…around four weeks or so and I shall be standing on that start line regardless of injury or not.

If I’m honest, it’s been a frustrating few weeks. Not being able to run when you have one of the biggest events coming up is not ideal. You see friends and running club associates hitting the miles and achieving longest runs they have never done before, and all you can do is watch the Strava feeds grow. Four weeks ago I was in fantastic shape running wise and really looking on track to go sub 4 fairly comfortably. That is probably not likely now, which means re-adjusting my focus to just enjoying the event and experience. I am hoping I will still be able to get in a few runs before the event. The injury is certainly on the mend, but could probably do with another two weeks. A groin pull is not something I have had before.

Not once have I thought of pulling out though. The fundraising has continued and the target almost achieved. Last Friday saw the staff at Curwen Primary School take part in a quiz night to raise money for the charity run. A superb £587 was raised. I really am thankful to everyone who donated and took part. The £2K target is almost achieved. It was a great evening and one I should have taken some photos of, although I completely forgot! Big thanks go to all team that helped out especially the wife!

I’ve managed to keep cycling and swimming so I’m hoping I haven’t lost too much in terms of fitness – just run specific fitness really. This week also sees another test run take place to see where I am with the injury. I sure am desperate I can tell you that much! Rehab has started and continues with the exercises as well as massage. I’m also using a tens machine – Does that show how desperate I am?

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Upon reflection, I think in hindsight I have probably run too many races. Two half marathons and five 10Ks. It was in a 10K on a cold and wet night that this occurred. Running quickly definitely increases your risk of injury and puts a lot of stress through the muscles. If only I hadn’t taken part in that race eh!

Anyway, there is no point dwelling on it. I plan to bike as much as I can over the Easter as I head to France on the house hunt again and will be taking the bike and my running trainers (just incase) with me.

Next blog will hopefully be from France and there will be some runs in the bag…I pray!!!

 

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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