IRONMAN Vichy 70.3 – Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of the Ironman Vichy 70.3 two part series I promised. I write this as I sit here in my kitchen in France looking out over my garden waiting in anticipation for the deer to make an appearance. I find this a great place to sit, enjoy a coffee and write as everyone else is sleeping. It’s one of my favourite times of the day. I also have the camera by my side eager to capture a few pictures of the two deer that seem to be living in our garden. What with red squirrels, umpteen types of birds and bats, it’s like our own Springwatch. Anyway enough of the wildlife!

I go into this race knowing that it isn’t a race. For one, I am not as fit as I have been this year. I’ve succumbed to the fact that it really is one race two many for me and completely the wrong time of the season. My summer holidays are not conducive to me racing at this point of the year. It was a struggle in Jamaica keeping the fitness (blog here) and it has continued to be a struggle in France. That doesn’t mean to say I couldn’t be fit and willing to do it in the future; it just makes it extremely difficult being away and training and eating consistently. It’s just too damn hard in your holidays! There’s a constant battle in your head on enjoying yourself and not worrying about what you eat or do VS ‘oh if I eat this’ or ‘ if don’t do that’ it’s going to affect me in my race.

Ironman Vichy is going to be about the experience and enjoyment. I mentioned I hate shuffling around courses in a previous blog, and although I’m not as fit as I was earlier in the season, I’m fit enough to complete the race without it being too much of a physical battle. My training peaks numbers show a good level of fitness, but not the level where I could race the way I would like. Sometimes that is a good thing. Pressure is off and when I look back I can confidently say that I have had a great season. You never know, I may pull off some great race, although I doubt it! Yes I’m still watching (a little) what I eat and drink but I’ve totally given into the fact that I can’t be super strict with myself. Jamaica saw me put on 4kgs of weight which I managed to quickly strip 3kgs of that. God knows what effect France has had on me. I’m not bothering to check although I know I’m no where near race weight!

Being in France has allowed me to ride my bike and run. I haven’t ventured into the lake to swim. I probably could have been out a little more although to be honest, I’ve been just too darn tired what with the DIY work I have been doing – some may say a different type of training maybe? Not quite sure how I equate TSS numbers to that although it’s been pretty physical.

I’m really enjoying the riding so far. It isn’t flat by any means! Undulating to say the least but I have enjoyed getting to know all the local lanes and roads close to our house. I’m certainly developing a good local mind map of the area, and being in a national park it is great riding through forests startling deer (and me) as I whizz past.

RACE PLAN

There is one major difference to all my races so far this season. I will be riding my road bike instead of the Tri-bike. Why? Well the Vichy course will be hilly. I’ve put on my race wheels and elected to be a little more comfortable (and climb a little quicker) with the road bike. It will be the first time I’ve completed a triathlon of this distance using it as my weapon of choice. I’m actually looking forward to the bike section. Who knows what that will do to my legs though for the run. That question…to be answered…

My nutrition and hydration plan will be the same as I have followed earlier in the season, which you can read about on my Outlaw blog. I intend to drink a little more what with the heat as race day plans to be around 30c so hydration and salts will be important. We are travelling down on Thursday and this race poses to be a lot less stressful in terms of registration and racking compared to when I did Staffordshire. The logistics there were a nightmare (blog here), but Vichy has one transition zone meaning it should be a lot simpler. This is certainly one of the things I look at now when I book a race!

My goals and ambitions for next season are already starting to become clear. I’ll speak of these in a future blog, but I find that these are now stepping up a level considering that each year the improvement is continuing. Some keep asking me – When the full Ironman? My answer…still not yet. Mastering distances and racing to my best is what triathlon is about for me and when I feel I have achieved this, then the time will be right to step up and that I feel is still 1 or 2 seasons off.

I head to Vichy this Thursday (about 3 hours from our house) with my wife and daughter and will meet some additional family (aunt and uncle) who are coming out also. We are there until Saturday and will leave to head back to spend the last week in France straight after the race. I’ll probably spend two days being unable to walk but that will be the conclusion of my triathlon season. Look out for the race report in the next blog!

Isabel loves our drone…although flying the thing is bleeding stressful!

The Season Continues…

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

What a season so far!!!

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

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

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

“IF IT IS TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME.”

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

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

Banana Triathlon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedford Triathlon – So how did it pan out?

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

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

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

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

An empty transition – the calm before the storm.

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

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

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

The other weird thing on the bike…this:

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

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

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

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

Windsor – My Race

After last week’s guest blog, I promised I would update you on my performance at Windsor and give some insights into my race. I do hope you enjoyed the guest spot last week and many thanks again go to Dean for writing and sharing it. I now have another recruit to the growing triathlon community! Triathletes are certainly harder to come by in East London, although saying that, Dean does not live in East London. He’s not that far though! I started alone, and now I can name a handful of people who are beginning to regularly do them. I certainly love that! Anyway, let’s get on…I’m waffling!

This won’t be a long post and I do have quite a few posts on Windsor triathlon as I have completed it twice previously. You all probably know how much I like the race and venue. Last year’s entry can be found here if you’re interested in reading that.

As always, my family and I spend the weekend at Windsor and this was no exception. A nice AirBnB booked around 10 mins from transition was just right, especially with the off street parking, which is a nightmare in Windsor!

A little bit of larking about in Windsor prior to racking
Race morning consisted of my usual porridge breakfast

I didn’t have any pre-race goals as such, what with the Outlaw a couple of weeks ago and that being my A-Race, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to race well – and on that, go faster than last year.

The thing is with Windsor, is that every time I have raced it, something about the course changes. Saying that though, I have still managed to go quicker each year, even with the bike course being longer due to road works last year out. I do not have a true comparison though year on year. What this means? All good reason to do it again! Previous results are:

2016 = 2:51 2018 = 2:49

2019: 2:40:25

What I was really interested in though, was how well I would fair after the Outlaw. This part of the year is always interesting – you cannot gain fitness now. There is far too much racing and recovering to do. This means I race, recover and start to build some training in before tapering and racing again. Eat, sleep, repeat – that sort of thing! If you don’t have the fitness now, then you are going to find it hard to come by at this point.

My Training Peaks numbers were good. In-fact they indicated that my fitness was more or less in-line with my Outlaw condition. One thing that was certain though was my taper into this was far shorter and I felt less rested. The week leading up to Outlaw, I slept well; completed some really easy training; there were no early morning sessions and I just felt great going into it. Windsor was not the case as I completed some harder sessions right up to a few days before. I took the bike out the morning before the race to do a small recce and stretch the legs out. We travelled up Friday and I didn’t want two days prior to racing of doing diddly-squat

Secretly, I wanted also to see how close I could get to the Sub 2:30 wave as realistically I think that it is achievable in the future.

THE RACE

Last wave out again! Same as last year. Yep a 7:50 start time and a fair few to swim through. I was pleased with my swim and felt really strong in the water. The current helps and when turning into it at the turn point, it didn’t bother me really. I also went back to attaching the shoes to the bike for a quicker transition which worked really well. I was much quicker and got my feet into the shoes no problem this time out. I think I have more or less mastered this now and will use this all the time from now on.

The bike started well and then came the rain! Yes it p****d down! I learnt that my aero helmet and visor is superb in conditions like this though. No problems with being able to see whatsoever. The bike leg felt ok, although one thing I can’t do is push too hard when cold. My muscles do not work as well when cold and seem to cramp a little. Power wise I was going to ride a little harder than in the Outlaw – purely down to it being a smaller distance. I wanted to push around 160-170W and actually averaged 168W so more or less bang on.

I certainly think I lost a little time on the bike due to the wet and being a little more careful. It was a little sketchy in places and it just wasn’t worth risking coming off. Coming into T2 I was a little disappointed to see my time, but I knew I felt ok and looked forward to the run

Windsor is not a flat run – especially up to the castle and on the way back in. It’s three laps for the 10k and it was great to see my cousin again as well as a few others I knew racing (Sarah Wixey, former guest blogger and her partner Terry).

The support on the run is always good and even so with the wet weather. Certainly easier to run in conditions like that – just not bike! I felt really good on the run and I seriously need to run a 5k and 10k time trail. I’m sure there is a PB waiting there for me! I’m most pleased at the strength I’m carrying across to the run and this really showed itself at the Outlaw last month and continues again.

It’s great having my family there to support me and get the high fives from Isabel my daughter. Even better that it was Father’s Day and we got to grab some lunch after and receive my gifts. I loved them, especially as I sit now in Peppa Pig pyjamas writing this (well part of it!).

All in all, I’m pleased at the performance at Windsor. I continue to enjoy racing there and will be back next year. I certainly know i can get that 2:30 wave especially after I put in a hard winter block this year.

I now head to the Bananaman Triathlon, Olympic distance again, at Dorney lake at the end of June. I’m adding an extra race this season also and planning to race on the weekend before I head to Jamaica on holiday. I’ll update again before my holidays. I am also going to do a two part blog post on Ironman Vichy 70.3.

Tailwinds everyone!

Training Updates and Periodisation

 

Here we are 6 weeks into training and 12 weeks out from my first A race – The Outlaw. I thought a brief update would be good to provide for the regular readers, so here it is. Below is a snapshot of my current fitness numbers.

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Current Fitness Levels

They are generated through my premium Training Peaks account. If you not aware of Training Peaks and the numbers above, they’re quite simple to understand. The main number (middle number) is my current fitness. How can you put a number on fitness you may think? Well Training Peaks does, and they do it very well through its calculations based around your training and stress scores placed on the body. I’m not going to go into that. If you keen to know more, then head over to their website as it explains it all.

My Fitness 6 Weeks Ago

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This was my fitness 6 weeks ago, which shows a remarkable improvement in a short space of time. The other numbers are useful as well.  The fatigue number tells us how much you are currently carrying, which changes constantly and allows to spot for injury, but also ensure we have recovery built into the programme. The longer the training goes on, and that number will increase over time. This is why recovery days and recovery weeks are so important when training, as we want to reduce this number and back off a little each week. This means we can usually go into the next week feeling a little more refreshed than we ended it. It affects the form number also which is a measure for how race ready you are. Most athletes will want to be somewhere between -5 and 10. This number also increases negatively the more tired you become. Reduce fatigue, and form improves. I’m not too concerned with this number at the moment and it will become more important as we get closer to racing as we look at a taper.

Currently I am scheduling a recovery week every fourth week into my plan. My fatigue levels at the end of a block are somewhere between 110-120 by the time I get to a recovery week. When the recovery week is complete they are back down to 20-40ish.   My aim is to get the fitness number somewhere around 100-110 for the Outlaw and then push it up a little further for Ironman Vichy. This will be difficult and a challenge over the summer holidays!

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Training so far has been going fairly well. I passed a major test two weeks ago when taking on the Olympic Park half marathon. I haven’t run that sort of distance in ages and I have only managed to get up to 8 miles in the first base block. The foot was absolutely fine only biting a little in the last mile. I must admit I felt ok throughout that race and took it easy for 7 miles or so running at 8 min miles.  I haven’t run 8 min miles for ages either! All base training has been Z2 which currently equates to about 9:10-20 min miles.

This race was my only long workout of the week as it was at the end of my recovery week. I put in a little dig mid way through the race and upped my pace to 7:30 min miles and sustained it for around 3 or 4 miles.  Towards the end of the race I did feel like I was blowing a little and the lack of mileage showed at that point. I came home in 1:45, so at this point in the season I cannot be more pleased.

I did have a little stiffness in the knee and foot next day so thought better to take the running down a notch and allow time for some rest. It has been fine though and I’m now back at it!

Why periodisation? Why is base building so important?

People underestimate the need to periodise their training. What do we mean by this you may ask? Well it is simply breaking the training into chunks that have specific goals to each. I’m currently still in the base building aspect which mainly focuses on developing the endurance engine. It’s an incredibly important stage and so often many people neglect it.

Once there is a solid base to work from, we can really start to develop other parts of the cardiovascular system. This means we now start to enter a build phase in the training where we may be focusing on building strength or increasing our threshold in each discipline. The intro blog video above details a current focus of mine in building bike strength in the legs. Although still in my base phase, we can still add some specifics to workouts and focus on things that need developing.

A recent Instagram Post

I certainly feel more dedicated this year. That’s not to say I wasn’t last year, although I was certainly less structured and racing far too much what with 10ks, half marathon, marathon all before even any triathlons. My build up this year to my first triathlon will consist of just two half marathon races and that is it. I’m really looking forward to the my  first sprint race and it still seems so far away!

Ok, I said this would be brief and I’m going to wrap things up there. I’ve recently been posting daily updates on Instagram so do head over there and give me a follow – Tri.To.Be.Iron. I’m always interested to hear people’s thoughts and comments so please like, share or get in touch.

Next update will probably be after the 8 week testing and where I will take on the Big Half in London. I will report on my 400m and 1000m swim time trail and my FTP result along with some detail into the training focus for the next few blocks. I’ll also be posting an update to the coaching project with Miia as she will close out her first 8 weeks and take on the testing again. All in all, a busy few weeks ahead and all this to juggle with a busy term at work!

Please like, share or comment….Check back soon!

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A Daddy and Daughter Training Day!

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog – Christopher Lomax

To all the regular readers, I bring you something a little different in which my blog is opened up to a series of guest blogs from close friends and training partners. Although I love writing and recording my races and experiences, I want to share some from others who share similar passions and take on their challenges in the world of sport – whatever that may be.

The first blog is from a very close friend, Christopher Lomax, who I have known since I was two-years old. Chris ran the entire London Marathon me and kept me company throughout that wonderful experience and he has many others to share. He is a pure runner. It is part of him and will be for the rest of his life I have no doubt. In this blog he shares not only some wonderful experiences but also gives us an insight into why he does it. I am sure you are going to like this! ENJOY!

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HAS ANYONE EVER RAN THE A-Z OF MARATHONS???

I have considered myself a runner now for too many years to remember and I absolutely love it. I still get the same rush of adrenalin completing an event today as I did when I ran my first half marathon in Reading in 2003. I have, so far, successfully completed numerous events at a multitude of distances. Each event has its own story to tell and a medal proudly displayed in a shoe box somewhere under my bed.

I do participate in Parkrun every Saturday. I can’t speak highly enough of what this type of event brings to the local community and the opportunity to meet up with a wonderful array of like-minded people. For those reasons I have taken on the position as one of the run directors at my local Parkrun in Mile End.

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The amazing Mile-End Parkrun crew

When it comes to running, and specifically racing, the half marathon is my favourite distance, yet it’s the marathon distance that most people show interest in and keen to talk about – and yes I have also been asked if my next marathon is the same distance as London!

I recently completed the Stockholm Marathon which now takes my marathon tally up to 18. I’m not sure how many more I will eventually do. In the short term I have set myself a target of completing an A-Z of marathons, entering events in cities around the world starting with each letter of the alphabet. I thought that this would be a good way of keeping motivated as well as seeing new places. The perfect excuse for a family getaway. Sometimes I find myself scouring the internet looking out for races away from the more traditional tourist hotspots, at offbeat locations. I am still looking for a Marathon starting with an X. Do you know of any?

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K is for a freezing cold Kiel Marathon!

The toughest of my marathons so far has to be my first, Berlin. I thought I was prepared and until the half way stage I felt really good, waving to my wife as I sped by. Ten miles later I was a complete mess but I persevered and completed it saying “never again!” Luxembourg stands out as one of my favourites. This event is run in the evening and you cross the line once the sun has set to a candle lit finish line. You can spend the rest of the evening enjoying a hot dog and a beer (or two).

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The Luxembourg Marathon finish line at night
My main aim when competing in a marathon is to get around and to still feel good enough that I could spend the next few days sightseeing (if travelling) without feeling too lousy. My training routine is to get out for a run 4-5 times a week with the traditional LSR on a Sunday. I cycle to work and also do some strength and conditioning in the gym once or twice a week. Is it all worth it? I certainly like to think so. It’s important that you set yourself goals and be ambitious with things you care about in life. Yes, my long runs take me away from spending Sunday mornings with my family but that is soon made up with our adventures travelling to new cities around the globe and exploring the sights and sounds they have to offer.

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Authentic meatballs in Stockholm
My question for those who are considering running a marathon but have not quite got round to do so is what are you waiting for? It’s true, you do have to give a fair level of commitment towards the training but I truly believe that everyone has one marathon in them. Proof of this is when race day comes and you see people of all ages, shapes and sizes coming together at the start line ready to push their bodies to the limit. Yeah, sure, at the end, all you may get is a medal and a banana but it’s an experience that will remain with you for a lifetime. And something for you to talk about at the staff Christmas party for the tenth year in a row!

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The all-important finisher’s medal

Thanks for reading and I do hope you enjoyed it. You can find Chris on Twitter @lomax_chris

Look out for another guest blog very soon!

Grafman 70.3

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

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

Training

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

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

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

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

Pre Race Prep

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

My Race

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

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

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

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The Bike 

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

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The Run

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

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

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

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

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

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Enjoy you week whatever you may be doing!

Virgin London Marathon 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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