Hibernation Over!

So I feel it is now the time to resurrect the blog from its winter sleep! Just like our tortoise, Rodney, the hibernation period is over. The time has come to update on progress and performance, but also on future plans – of which there are a few!

Winter is not my favourite time of the year, which I have probably passed comment on numerous occasions in various blogs. I am a summer and warm weather person and that is for sure. The slog of the cold miles and dark nights are a drag, although there is one plus – it is certainly an easier time of year to train to intensity. Quite simply, there is no heat to contend with when doing the intense workouts, which certainly makes them more manageable. I’m glad now that the light is starting to return though.

So what’s been happening with training my end?

After a consistent winter base building programme, I am now 14 weeks out from my first A Race – the Outlaw Half. I do have two smaller events lined up prior to that, one being the Big Half (March) and a sprint triathlon the week before the Outlaw. These are going to be markers for me to allow me to see what my fitness is like and what kind of shape I am in.

Overall I’m very happy at how things are progressing. I started my training earlier this year to give me that extra performance gain. I also wanted to take a longer base period and I think I’m on target to meet my expected Training Peaks CTL – somewhere between 95 – 110. Below is the last two snapshots I took of it a few weeks apart.

If you are unsure of what these numbers mean, I have briefly explained them in a previous blog found here. I have just got to keep moving that middle number up, but manage the fatigue and form along the way. Training is going very well and I just need to make sure I build in enough rest and recovery. The Big Half in a couple of weeks will give me a real good indication of my run form and this is certainly an area I have tried to be even more consistent with this winter. I will do a small taper before this event as I want to feel fairly fresh for it. Training for all three sports is tough and requires some bleeding planning I’ll tell ya!

TrainerRoad has been fundamental in my bike training and to be honest the structure has been excellent. I’m seeing big improvements in my bike performance, even though my weekly mileage and long rides are not where they should be. You see, that’s the thing with winter, is it can scupper those long Sunday rides and I for one have lost out on a fair few. I’m certainly not motivated to go out in the wind, and if it is raining before I go out – no chance! For me the risk of accident is far too great. It has meant a fair few Sunday rides on the trainer, but that can’t beat those outdoor rides. Mentally nicer riding outside and a much more pleasurable way of clocking up the miles and distance.

Race Calendar

Sprint Distance Triathlon9th May 2020
Outlaw Half 70.3 17th May 2020
Ironman Staffs 70.37th June 2020
Windsor Olympic15th June 2020
Ironman Vichy 70.323rd August 2020

This is definitely the most challenging race schedule to date for me. This year I will take on three 70.3 distance events, the most in a season before was two. I said I would never return to Ironman Staffs, and low and behold, here I go again. Windsor follows this on the very next weekend. Why am I doing this then? Well I love this race, and this year I will be doing it purely for enjoyment as my recovery from the weekend before will not be complete. Who knows what state I will be in, but I just couldn’t miss it!

I certainly will take a week or so off after and some rest before heading out to France to take on Vichy again. My calendar this year nearly looked very different. I was very close to signing up to Ironman Luxembourg 70.3 and the new event in Holland. I was persuaded (and there was some compromising) by the wife to do Vichy instead, however there is no way I will be in the same kind of early season shape after my summer holidays. I learnt that the hard way last year. Do have a read back at those previous blogs to find out.

Vichy Build Up / Vichy Part 1 / Vichy Part 2

My race calendar next year will certainly look different. I have always said I want to experience as many races as possible. I am starting to feel that I’m exhausting my list a little here, hence my thoughts to racing in Europe a little more. I most certainly will take part in a different race in 2021 on the continent and who knows, that could be in a GB suit!

Age Group Qualifying Contention

I’m certainly going to use this year as a chance to get as close to the age group qualification as possible. To be honest, I haven’t planned out my chances very well and realistically the Outlaw will be my best shot. It will certainly tell me whether this dream is possible or it is all just pie in the sky. The Ironman events are so competitive and I will most likely be physical shot by Vichy. There are only two or three real times you can peak for top fitness in a season. The two half ironman races in May and June will be my top end. It’s too difficult to keep hold of that level of fitness for so long. You only risk burn out and fatigue. I will almost certainly try and add another race to my schedule in July, but that will be at the Olympic distance. I just need to work out what race that will be. There’s a fair long lay off from Windsor to Vichy and I would like to feel that gap with a race before my holidays.

The age group qualification dream has been a big driving force for me this season. It is a long shot and I will need some luck no doubt, but to be even considering it, I think is an achievement. And believe me, this is not just some idea dreamt up that I have no chance of actually getting. I’m not that unrealistic! If I don’t achieve my goal, yes it will be disappointing, but I know that I will have put everything on the table in trying. I may get close. How close? Who knows? But will I be prepared to do it all again the following year? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing I am learning is that I seem to race faster each year, and it may be that this year is another stepping stone before actually accomplishing my goal. Only the season ahead will tell us, so let’s find out in the coming year.

What else is lined up?

We will have a special blog this year from Sarah Wixey, who you may remember completing a few triathlons and has written some guest blogs on here for me. She is taking on a incredibly challenge this year in attempting the Marathon Des Sables. If you are unaware of what this is, it is a gruelling multi-stage footrace across the Sahara Desert. Sarah has agreed to blog her experience. I possess a James Cracknell DVD of when he did – check it out! Bloody hardcore and fair play to anyone doing it!

And I promise I will complete that Vlog/Blog type effort on the triathlon plans for France. I’m keen to do it to document the process as this is all part of the journey. I am also considering next Autumn in taking on my triathlon coaching badges. This will be another step towards the long term goal of the camps planned.

I also planned to do another marathon this year – I hoped for and entered Berlin, meaning if I got in then that would also be on the cards. I was unsuccessful – again, although there is the idea in my head of the Bordeaux marathon in October. We are in France anyway as it falls during my half term and it is just a case of whether I enter it. We will see on this one!

So there you have it! This year has finally been kicked off and I hope to increase my readership of the blog even further this year. It always amazes me at how many enjoy reading this and ask about the next instalment. Please continue to share, like and comment. It is much appreciated!

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.