The Season Begins…

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

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

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

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

Results:

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

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

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

The new gear I tried out above

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

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

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

Season End and Planning for Next Year…

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

 

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

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

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So what are the achievements this year?

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

Swimming:

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

Running:

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

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

Triathlon:

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

So What Now?

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

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

Coaching

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

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Why? 

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

Strength and Training Specifically for Triathlon

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

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

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

What are the plans for next year?

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

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

Outlaw half – (May)

Windsor Triathlon Olympic – June

Bananaman Triathlon Olympic – June

London Triathlon Olympic – July

Ironman Vichy – August

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

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

Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 2017

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Finally it had arrived – my A race. The first ever Ironman branded event I would complete, and the one I had planned so much around and trained for this year. Before I begin, I warn you now, it is a long blog post. I thought I’d better do it justice. My condition for swim and bike is something I certainly can’t argue with, however as you all probably know, my run fitness has taken a nose dive due to injury. I approached this race with a slightly different mindset to the previous few, where I had hoped going into each one something miraculous would happen and my knee would be magically healed. With this race, I didn’t go in thinking this. I knew I’d struggle on the run with pain, and shuffle my way through, so Danny, control the things you can and don’t worry about those you can’t! That was the new mindset and do you know what? Low and behold, I was in for a nice surprise (more of this later).

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I spent the Friday evening packing and carrying out a few bike adjustments. The front brake need adjustment as the cable wasn’t sitting quite right through the bars. I wanted it sorted before flying down some of those descents! I’m glad I did it now. I also corrected the hydration unit tubing by cutting it and adjusting the hose length. Both issues I noticed and encountered during the Outlaw event.

We travelled up to Staffordshire on Saturday morning, and went straight to the city centre to pick up parking tickets. The next stop involved a jaunt onto Shugborough estate where the run would take place and the race finished. It is a beautiful setting for a race, but bloody hell Ironman, the logistics and organisation with split transitions, which are miles apart, are something new to me that I can’t say I enjoy.

I spent an evening mid-week trying to work it all out. It was planned and went something like this:

  1. Travel to Shugborough to race registration. Oh – before I can do that, I need to get parking tickets (yep you are charged for this – £12 for whole weekend). Damn! I’m too late booking for them to post (no email telling me that!) so I book them anyway and have to travel into Stafford to pick up at a theatre!
  2. Finally arrive at race registration and get all my numbers and stick them on the variety of bags. There are 3 you know!
  3. Put all you running gear into the red bag and rack this in T2 (the bike finishes here for the start of the run)
  4. Attend a race briefing – supposedly mandatory.
  5. Now make my way to T1 at Chasewater – 25 mins in car and again with no parking!
  6. Find a place to park and walk to the sight with the bike and this time with the blue bag (all the cycling gear needed for after the swim).
  7. Finally done and make our way to the hotel.

It felt like I’d done an ironman before the ironman! In all honesty, the logistics were a nightmare and the organisation of it is slightly ridiculous if you ask me. I don’t mind about the split transition, which is common in Ironman events, but the lack of parking at the venues is no help whatsoever. It just makes everything a pain. Anyway, everything was mainly completed to the plan above except I didn’t attend the mandatory race briefing. I was too late and no doubt that they just regurgitate what is in the guide. The problem with these split transitions is that you are always wondering if you left everything you need at each place. I mean, I rack my run bag with my trainers and visor, so what has the guy with the bag next to me got in his that is so bloody huge! We made our way to T2 and racked the bike as planned. Isabel (my daughter) had fallen asleep so I went off to do this whilst Kate (my wife) waited with her.

Our hotel was around 15 mins away in the car and I had the idea to book a cab/taxi for the morning to get me to the event without the wife and daughter having to be dragged out with me. My race was starting at 7:30am and wanted to get into T1 at the swim start to get finally organised and add some last minute gels, food and drinks to the bike. This meant a 4:30am wake up and 5:15am out the door. A nice relaxing evening meal in the hotel trying to get as much fluid down my neck as possible so I was fully hydrated. I also got my white bag ready with my swim gear in that i would leave my clothes I was wearing in for Ironman to transport to Shugborough.

Race Day

Up and ready as planned with he trusty porridge for breakfast. My cab picked me up at the time arranged meaning I arrived at Chasewater with plenty of time to spare. I hate rushing for these things and find a bit of extra time to relax and prepare is good for me. What I really like about these events is the opportunity to mingle with the pro athletes. They are there with you in transition and most are really friendly, especially Lucy Gossage, who went on to win it for the third year in a row. It’s great to be able to check out their gear and set up. I didn’t have my phone with me and unfortunately missed a few opportunities for photos.

Swim

The swim was pretty uneventful to be honest. I really like the idea of rolling starts, where they set you off in 3s and 4s roughly 10 or 20 seconds apart, meaning you are not all fighting each other for clear water. It wasn’t my fastest swim ever, but I kept a little back considering the boiling day ahead of me. In and out for 36:55.

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Bike

I did consider using the road bike for this event with just under 2600ft of climbing, but eventually decided with the new steed. Climbing is certainly harder and slower on the tri bike with bigger gearing! I flew around the first 15 miles averaging 18.5mph and didn’t feel too hot. I also knew that the course would become a little tougher. The hydration system was working beautifully as well since the adjustments. I realised I was going through an incredible amount of fluid and used every feed station to top up with water. I had loaded before the race with 1.5L in my bike unit containing 3000mg of sodium. I also had salt pills with me and an extra sachet. This I lost as it came out of the pouch on the bike, but the pills came into use then. Did they work? Well I didn’t suffer one cramp in the entire race and felt fully hydrated throughout. You may remember my visit to the sweat experts earlier in the year, which I believed has now paid off as I stuck to the hydration plan.

One thing I did notice on the bike was the heat. Eventually it got to me. I certainly slowed down finishing with an overall average of 17.2mph. It also became a little more lumpy, and at around 45 miles in, the worst of those hills was savoured. I arrived in transition after 3hours and 16mins on the bike.

Run

The bit I was least looking forward to. I think you all know why. It went like this – 1km, no pain, 2km – no pain, 3km – no pain and so on. No bloody knee issues whatsoever apart from a little stiffness. If anyone suffers from ITB, I have the routine to get you back from injury. I’ve suffered it twice and followed the same routine to great effect. Much quicker back from injury this time as I knew what I was dealing with and how to deal with it. The rehab has certainly paid off, but unfortunately I had lost so much run fitness. Along with this was the stifling heat (30c) and a few longish hills to run up.

The crowd support was fantastic throughout. They really got behind you. I wouldn’t say three loops whizzed by, although the crowd certainly helped me along. Some amazing residents had their hose pipe sprays going constantly. I cannot explain how difficult the heat was, but every opportunity for water was taken. I walked through every feed station chucking a cup down my neck and then one over my head. Each loop of the run was faced by the hill – I only ran up it once. I have never walked in the running part of a triathlon or when running a half marathon, however the heat and lack of run fitness broke me. Mentally it was the toughest race or anything physically I have done. I like to think that I can suffer pretty well and grind things out when they are hard, but not then. The end goal was to finish and I wasn’t going for a time so I did just that. My slowest ever half marathon – a whopping 2hrs and 23mins! A total time of 6 hr and 29mins. Do I care about the time? Hell no! Not in that heat. I honestly know I can go a lot faster (my Outlaw was 6:10 and the injury was at its strongest then), certainly sub 5 hrs, but this will be a goal for next year now as I do not have anymore half iron events planned for the remainder of the year.

This was the last time Ironman were holding this event at Shugborough, so it is not possible to do this exact same event again. It is too early to plan next season just yet. I know my wife wasn’t too pleased with the logistics as well as the spectating on the day. It took her ages to get into the grounds because of the road closures, and the fact no-one could tell her how to get in was so frustrating. Every marshall was clueless – and no fault of their own, but Ironman. What was a shame was that these poor people had not been informed and considering the amount of money Ironman charge and make, more effort into this side of things could have been made.

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Isabel enjoyed the medal…and a croissant!

As we had the day off from work to travel back on Monday, we had a good day at an adventure park on the way home as well. I was as stiff as a board but managed to clamber about with Isabel for a bit – although very slowly!

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Next up you wonder? Well the Eton swim next weekend, followed by the Great Newham swim and run the weekend after. Plus I will keep going with my injury rehab and start running again at the end of this week. The build up again begins to get some sort of run fitness back before the London Triathlon towards the end of July.

Happy reading guys and I’d appreciate if you hit the like buttons.

The Outlaw Half

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Booked last August as a back up to Ironman Staffs incase I didn’t get in, months of training for this (my B race) and eventually it had come around. I have finally made my debut at the middle distance and most importantly, completed it.

The Outlaw has a great reputation and won numerous awards for being a great event that is well organised. It didn’t disappoint. I arrived in Nottingham the day before around 1:00pm and picked up my registration bits and pieces and also attended the race briefing. This was certainly worth doing as there were a few questions I had beforehand that needed answering!

The weather on Saturday was biblical to say the least. Heavy showers all day, but the forecast for Sunday was dry and warmer by midday. In-fact, for once the weather forecasters had it spot on. All the rain had made the ground around the hosting venue (National Watersports Centre) quite boggy and as some of the run was along gravel paths, these were a little muddy in places. Once i had everything I made my way to my hotel and got my kit ready.

I stayed in a hotel in Nottingham City Centre (St James Hotel) although this time on my own. It was unfair dragging the Mrs and daughter to this one as the 3:00am wake up was a little too much. My wave started at 6:15, so overall a fairly early start to say the least. A early night with dinner in the hotel and a small treat…

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When I arrived at the venue, it was chilly to begin with, but the sun was certainly rising.

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At the previous day’s race briefing, they warned of the sun rising on the horizon into which we would be swimming and to use tinted glasses. This is my first rookie mistake – I hadn’t brought mine. It made the swim incredibly difficult to navigate although it meant me following and checking on other competitors as a guide. Not ideal, but it worked. Once I found some open water I was able to get into my stroke and swam really well. I was done and dusted for 1.2 miles within 35 mins, and when I hit transition it was pleasing to see so many bikes there. I knew I had a good swim. Some of you may remember in the last post that I had made predictions about each discipline of my race and my swim time was more or less bang on.

Out onto the bike and I felt good. My avg speed for the first 1/2 hour was 19mph and was hoping to keep between 17-18mph for the whole bike section. I believe I would have done this if I didn’t have to stop three times!!! All simply because my hydration system wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t allow me to suck fluid up. I worked out the the tube angle has to be in a correct position, albeit a little too late as this was near the end. It cost me a lot of time. The other small issue I faced was with my Di2 shifter coming loose on the tri-bars. The roads, in my opinion, were awful. Surface was pretty poor and the only downside of the race for me. So all the juddering and shaking made my shifter come loose. Luckily I noticed and fixed it whilst on the third stop.

There were a few more rookie mistakes here also. I should have worked out why the hydration system does this as it did happen on a training ride a week or so back. In hindsight, I would have set it up properly. Another mistake was not drinking enough, but again due to hydration system. I should have stopped and fixed sooner as I ploughed on for 10 miles with no drink before doing it for the third time. I also popped a salt tab here as well to get a lot into the system quite quickly,

There will be changes I make to my nutrition and hydration plan in future events. I didn’t open any food prior to the race and did this all on the bike. Wrong move! It takes too long doing it and you lose a lot of speed and time. Next time I will plan to possibly break it up and have it in small bitesize chunks ready to just pop into the mouth.

The Run

This part of the race was the bit I feared the most. Not because I can’t do it, but because of the injury issue going on with my knee. Anyway – it was there and stabbing me on an off for 15k! I’m not sure what happened after that as for the last 6km it didn’t give me much trouble at all. It was almost as if it had said, ‘Well sod you then if you are not going to stop.’ I felt good for the first 10km of the race although a little held back due to the injury. To be honest I just wanted to be able to run and get through it. The second half was a  slog, and warm too. A little sunburnt towards the end also. I did it though and I can now say I have a middle distance event under my belt.

I apologise for the lack of photos for this blog post. That’s usually the wife’s job, so as she wasn’t with me there aren’t many I’m afraid.

Anyway i hope you enjoy the read…a little rushed with the write as I’m so tired and now going to bed.

Finish time I hear you say?….6hr 10 mins. One thing I do know now…I think barring injury and bike issues, sub 6 hours is easily on the cards.