Exercise and Training – A Difference?

Welcome to the blog this month everyone. So there is a topic I wanted to address – one that I often get asked and is worth looking at. In this blog, which is also a vlog episode over on my you tube channel, I am going to try and explore the difference between exercise and training. You can access the vlog episode here, and this goes through many of the points mentioned below.

Why? Well I wanted to address a common question/scenario that many newbies face. Although this blog (and now the vlog) are there to document my journey in this sport, I also create the content to help other age group athletes.

So, back to that question – is there a difference between exercise and training? If there is a difference, then what the hell is it? I’d like to think I have enough knowledge and experience to share with you my thoughts and opinions around this topic…so let’s get to it!

The Athlete

I think the first place to start is with you – the athlete. So I want you to analyse and ask yourself – What type of athlete are you and where are you in your athletic journey? What do we mean by this? Well, this can be someone either new to the sport and may have just signed up to a race, or it could be a someone who regularly races and does this kind of thing. Maybe you’re in your 3/4/5 year of doing it. So think firstly about where you are in your journey and what experience you have.

Goals / Challenges / Categories

This usually works in relation to the experience of athlete. First we have the newbie and in terms of a goal, this could be just completing an event. This could be a challenge in itself. Then we have the next level. An athlete that has possibly completed the event or distance before and know they can do it. Usually their goals change…like wanting to go quicker and possibly break a PB. 

We then go into the more advanced/knowledgeable athlete. These are those that understand performance and training a little more and use this to achieve particular goals. I would class myself in this category. We can go up again here into the Pro/Elite field which gets even more scientific and takes into consideration natural talent. Although for this post, we are not really going to consider them.

Again, back to those questions…Where in your athletic journey are you, and what are your goals?

Why? Well for example, If you fall in the middle here and are fairly seasoned but wonder why when you target a race you don’t break a PB or you just get close..the likely hood is you are more often exercising and not training. Now I’m not saying that we will PB in every race we do, that’s just inconceivable. But mostly these athletes will reach a performance ceiling where results plateau or don’t improve. And there is a good reason for that…basically the exercise (or supposed training) has reached it’s limit. You see… everyone will improve to a point, but it is what we do after that to push ourselves further.

My wife will often ask me if I’m exercising in the morning or evening. My reply – yes I have a ‘training session’ to complete. You see in my mind there is a huge difference between training and exercise and therefore it is often worth noting what the difference is. At least then – particularly when we are training for something, we actually know why we are doing a particular exercise or workout for a specific goal. 

Exercising for pleasure and for health benefits is great. I can’t knock anyone that wants to do that. The benefits speak for themselves. I can’t knock the athlete who just enjoys running for example and entering races. They may not care about times and goals, but for them the enjoyment is the most important aspect and there is noting wrong with that.

For me, general exercise is something I do in my off season. I couldn’t not do something active. But, and this is important – training for something in particular takes a little more than just exercising and building fitness. True – most newbies will benefit hugely from doing that and will mostly be what they need. But go a little further and plan and think a little more scientifically – and my friends you are going into the world of structured training. Unlike exercise workouts, training sessions are meaningful and have purpose. The key word….structure. 

You can prepare for an event no doubt by swimming, biking and running a lot. But add some real structure and planned reasoning into the particular workouts to do and when to do them – then my friends you have that more structured and scientific approach. What does it mean – well you will no doubt perform even better then just completing the event. 

It’s so difficult for newcomers or those who have been competing for a few years without any improvement to understand why, when actually it just comes down to doing the right things at the right time and stressing elements of your body and engine. 

You see there are all sorts of training plans out there…Triathlon sprint to ironman, 5k to marathon. You look for it, you will find something. Are they any good? Well I suppose they serve a purpose, but they would not be what I use as they are too generic! Meaning they take no account of the athlete, their abilities, their experience and current levels of fitness. There is no baselining. 

You see we now start getting into the realms of how to structure training so it isn’t just exercise. And that my friends is a whole other topic. Trust me…look it up…periodisation, base, build peak blocks…all elements of a good plan. I’ve discussed elements of these here on the blog through older posts. It’s probably why a lot of people resort to getting a coach and taking away all that planning and thinking. For me, this is something I really enjoy doing and have learnt so much about myself. 

So guys, there you have it, my thoughts into the difference between exercising and training. It’d be great to hear your thoughts so please do drop me a comment, thought or opinion in the comments box. Get over to view the youtube channel and get subscribed! Speak soon!

 

From Blogging to Vlogging – A Change of Direction?

If you have come here looking for the blog this month then all I can say is prepared to either be disappointed, amazed or surprised. I don’t know how you will all take this, but I decided to vlog this entry over at YouTube on my channel. Do head over to see this month’s instalment clicking the pic above or this link.

Many of you will remember that I have wanted to try and do something like this for sometime and planned an entry on the triathlon plans in France. Unfortunately, I’m not there on holiday at the moment what with this damn situation going on. I certainly have a little bit more time on my hands recently and decided to do this month’s update via a vlog effort. I’m no professional video buff and hopefully you will all enjoy it – go easy on me!

Is it the end of the blog?

Certainly not! I enjoy the writing aspect and will complete a mixture of both. I do think it will add some variety though and possibly increase the audience reach a little more. I will probably supplement some of the vlogs with a written piece. Why? Well it’s only since editing it, you think of other things you could have added in or included and therefore I think a supplementary commentary sometimes may be needed. Anyway…the more I do on this, the more of an opinion I will form I guess. I’m currently planning future posts – both blogs and vlogs.

Competition Update – Last Blog

Oh and the other thing – the naming of last month’s blog. Well I gave it to two winners – No Rocket Scientist – ‘Anything but 2020’ and Andrew Gowland with ‘The here, The there, The now’. Only one can be added of course and this will be ‘Anything but 2020’.

Guys do DM me on instagram or contact me here with your sizes and address and I will send them out to you. Many thanks for participating.

So all there is for me to do now is shamefully plug the vlog video and hope you get over there and watch, like and subscribe. By subscribing you will be notified of future posts.

What to call this? Now… ‘Anything but 2020’

When deciding to write this blog entry, I was very unsure as to what to call it. There are a variety of themes running through it, which probably had something to do with the lack of inspiration for a title. So if you do have any ideas, then do drop them in the comments below (Competition – read on). Anyway I thought I needed to get on with a monthly update of some kind so here goes…

The Virus…

No I haven’t got it, but I think people are now feeling the effect of it in various ways and us athletes are starting to see the hit on our events. So many events out there have either been postponed or cancelled. Frustrating for lots of us, particularly with all the hard work that goes into the training side of things. My planned guest blog from our Marathon Des Sables participant (Sarah) has been put back a little due to the postponement of it. A real shame, as I think that would have been a fantastic experience to share with you, although it will come…eventually. I for one, haven’t as such had any events cancelled – yet. Although I have had a few emails from a few event organisers about possibilities and what would happen. I’m hoping (and praying of which I never do) that none of them do get caught up in this madness. The only saving grace is triathlon is summer based so I’m hoping that by then, we’ve seen the back of it.

Progress and Training

After a new bathroom install I’ve been working on, and a great few days in Lisbon (highly recommended) with my family, I knew my condition and overall fitness were good. I ran a very decent 5K over at Victoria Dock ParkRun in 20:40 in some incredibly windy conditions. It was pleasing to hit that and I’m determined to go sub 20 within the next few months. I use the ParkRun as a way of testing progress every 6 weeks or so and make it part of a longer run. I managed two runs whilst in Lisbon – a nice 7 miler followed by an 8 miler the next day. If you are after a few days break somewhere, Lisbon should be on your list….post corona maybe though 🙂

How many pastel de natas can one eat?

First Race…and injury

The last time I posted, I was heading into the Big Half in London. It was a chance to put a marker down for me and see where my fitness really was. I had a fantastic race, although there was a slight downer. I PB’d over that distance by some 5 minutes coming in a 1:36:50. To be honest, I had a little more to give, although I had to deal with an injury issue from mile 7 onwards. My achilles started giving me some pain, and we all know occasionally things can hurt during a run but they usually wear off. Not this. And it became stronger as the race went on.

Being a sensible athlete as I am, not only did I not stop, I also tried not to slow down. And you would think I have learned my lesson from previous experience? ‘No Danny, keep going’ I told myself. ‘Worry about it after’. It was only when I finished, I realised how sore it was.

To be honest, the pain was bearable enough to continue and the real issue was going up any little bump. I’m two weeks on now post injury, and after some initial swelling and localised pain, I think (and hope) it’s on the mend. I didn’t run for two weeks (ok exactly 11 days) and I have been quite conservative with training. In-fact the enforced rest has me feeling pretty refreshed and my biking and swimming are unhampered. I have since also completed a very small walk/run of around 4km with no issue, and then followed that with a 5K non stop. My plan is to keep it at 5km for a week or so every few days and build the load through it.

Me, Cousin Hannah and Uncle Mike all completing the Big Half

Will this hamper my GB age group hopes?

Well it’s difficult to say at this point, but I can’t see it helping. It will depend on how quickly I can get back to running and carrying out the tempo sessions. These are the sessions that have really made a difference in my running improvement this year. Yes they’re hard, but so worth it. I really do think that with a few more good solid months of training behind me, I could push for that 1:30 half marathon at some point. Consistency with running has given me this form; it’s just a shame I’m slightly hampered now.

As such, I will have to see over the next few weeks what my achilles allows me to do. What’s frustrating is that I have never had any trouble with it, nor any issues in training. I can only put it down to the lack of warm up and then hitting out quite hard. I have 8 weeks left until the Outlaw half. If I can maintain my run form and not lose too much fitness, I may have a good chance of laying down a reasonable time that could get me in contention. So we will have to wait and see I suppose.

What’s on the horizon?

A trip to France during the Easter holiday is planned, although we will have to see what happens with that. We are driving, so that makes things a little easier in terms of travel plans, but you never know with this virus what the governments may do. The plan for me is to take the bike and get some quality miles in the bank whilst out there. Hopefully this happens. We have some work planned to the house and outside and the start of an installation of a small pool. This will also mean the beginnings to sorting out the gym area. Vlog post is coming on this…I PROMISE!

Competition Time

I think that more or less concludes this update. As always, I really appreciate the reading, likes, comments and shares etc. Do not forget, if you need some quality sports gear, do give my sponsors SUNDRIED a look. Use my code DANNY for a great 50% discount. And…one last thing…the competition. I have some great cycling jerseys up for grabs. It’s quite simple to enter with a few simple steps. Here’s how:

  1. If on instagram, do give me a follow @tri.to.be.iron or give the blog a like and share through any social platform
  2. Enter your idea for title to this blog entry in the comments below or on my instagram blog post.

Winners will be selected by the end of the month. Good luck all!

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!

Autumn Update – What’s been happening?

Well I realise it has been since September since I last posted and there is good reason for that. Quite simply, there isn’t much to report on and it’s the time of year that my blog slows down. I like to think of it as its ‘off season’. I take one, so does the blog!

My training has certainly started – well the preparation period has anyway which has now come to an end. With the new goal as outlined in my previous post, I needed to start much earlier this year to try and reap the extra performance gains I thought I may need to try and achieve it. I have just finished an extended preparation period of almost 8 weeks and just about to undertake some testing and then begin the base period. My plan is 24 weeks in duration with a little give and take for some planned holidays I have. It’s a much longer than usual plan and one you would think I am doing a full ironman for. Hopefully, I should be in prime condition for the Outlaw half in May which will be my first stab at my goal.

If you wondering what my preparation period has consisted of, well it’s all about getting my body ready to train and carry out slightly harder workouts. My simple goals were:

  1. Follow the base training programme for the bike on Trainer Road
  2. Increase my run miles so that I’m running around 4 times a week
  3. Keep 80% of everything I do low in intensity
  4. Develop strength throughout my body through a dedicated strength programme

I’ve taken a break from swimming which has only just started up again. This is one discipline that doesn’t take very much for me to get back to where I was. It isn’t a limiter for me and therefore a break from the pool was needed. It feels good to be back now though and it is a case of me just swimming for a few weeks – no workouts, no plan, just swimming and drilling to build up some time in the pool before I put some structure back in.

On another note, I have been recently made an ambassador for Sundried sports apparel. It’s a great little company that provide some excellent gear. And I’m not just saying that! A Castelli slave no more! The good news is that all my readers can benefit too – 50% off all their gear by just visiting the website and putting in the code DANNY. Go over and check them out – you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality.

An Apology

I do have a slight confession, as in one of my previous posts I promised a different take on a blog through a vlog type effort, which to be honest I did not manage to get around to do. It’s still in the pipeline though and I will have a go at that when I get the chance to do it.

Changes to my Diet – meat or no meat? Well a few free meat days…

So I’m a meat eater. Always have been and meat of some kind every day is how I live. Most of that is white meat and some fish. I love meat – simple. So why have I changed my diet to include a few plant based days every week? Ok I’m not going into all the mumbo jumbo and vegan arguments of saving the world and why doing it is better for our planet. I get all that (and agree with most of it) but that is not my motivation. And plus – I’m not going vegan, or vegetarian for that matter.

I’ve been doing a bit of research into the various diets and seeing if there is anything I can tap into that would allow me to eek out more performance gains, but more importantly health benefits. Seeing some really high performing athletes also makes you wonder on the effect it is having. This, and the health benefits is my main motivation. So what conclusion have I come to? Diets are hard to stick to and being realistic is more achievable than trying to be rigid. One thing I have learnt is that I need to reduce my meat intake across the week which will surely have beneficial effects on my health. I’m not giving up meat, or fish or eggs for that matter. I will make a conscious effort in reducing the amount I eat and introduce new plant based meals. Notice how I haven’t said replacements there!

The other thing I have learned is that to try and replicate meals you do by substituting ingredients will lead to disappointment. ‘There not the same’ – well of course they’re not! My view is to look at new recipes and try to create new dishes, which on the whole I’ve been really impressed with. There have been some great meals coming out of my kitchen the last few weeks.

What has been really interesting is my performance and training. Since cutting meat I am training really well, have more energy and am less tired. Is it a mental thing? Who knows – yet! Time will tell but from the performance point of view I’m impressed so far. I thought I’d also be hungry and you know what? I’m not! I’m not even snacking as much (something my stomach needed to do particularly late afternoon before a workout). This is all very new for me and I don’t want my blog post to be dominated by this but feel that this is a significant thing to report on. I now have 3 or 4 meat free days a week in which I feel great about. That’s it.

Short Term Goals

So my aim now is to keep training consistently. Consistency is key and trumps everything else. There are days when I’m tired and not feeling it, but it’s these days that make or break a season. It’s a lot harder training during the winter months, but getting a few things right can make all the difference. Planning takes a lot of time with all the things to consider. Consideration into all the workouts and when to do them, family and personal life events, work, what I’m eating blah blah blah…. the list goes on. Although the more thought you put into this, the more successful the plan and season will be you put together. You know what they say about piss poor planning!

I have a few markers lined up along the way to my first triathlon. I’m hoping to achieve PBs in 10k and the half marathon distance. These will act as good indicators to my training and allow me to make adjustments to it if needed. I will of course try and update as I go through my season. So until then…happy training.

Oh and look out for an article I’m doing for Sundried on ‘Turbo Training Workouts’. In-fact, I’ll probably re-blog it here!

A Reflection Piece…

After a very successful season comes the time to reflect. Reflection on everything that has happened; things we have achieved; what we could have done differently or better; and what the future holds and the goals will be for next year. Reflection is an important tool in life in general and something many people do not do often enough. It’s something I bark on about in my professional duties, but also one that I like to think I do myself. Hence this blog. This is one huge reflection documenting a journey into a sport I love and that gives me so much.

I know triathlon, training and racing is not the be-all and end-all. I get that. It can be a selfish sport at times – and hard to manage with everything else that goes on in life. If I had to give it up tomorrow – for whatever reason that may be, it would sadden me and I would miss it. Could I give it up? Well if my family depended on it then hell yes. I love my family dearly and how they support me in what I do, even though sometimes it means an early start for them at some race in the country! They can be as dedicated me! So to reflect just on the training and racing would be wrong. I’m looking at everything that surrounds that. My family are a big part of me being able to carry out this crazy adventure! I’m grateful to them for that.

I look back on this year as a great achievement. By concentrating purely on triathlon this season and being more focused around the goals, it has made for a successful season.

I’ve been really pleased with how my body has held up. I hate to say it, or to tempt fate, but there were no major injuries throughout the season. Why? Well you may remember me speaking about adapting some of my training methods (training slower more often), which I think has had a major impact into me staying healthy. Yes I’ve had a few niggles, mainly older injuries just playing up, but these are managed and we move on. It meant a tweak to training or easing up a little. Nothing that couldn’t be dealt with, meaning I have had the healthiest season so far. Training slower has worked for me…and do you know what? It has made me a faster athlete. My times and performance prove that this year.

Proof I hear you say? Well check the previous blog posts! I often compare my race performances against my previous efforts. My A race this year was the Outlaw half. The middle distance is my preferred event and the one I believe I hold most potential at. I’ve hit personal records/bests at all my events this year. For those I didn’t, it was because of a change of distance or a new event making it difficult to compare. The one result that stands out for me is the Outlaw Half. Previously 6hr 10mins to 5hr 34mins this year. I’m certainly hitting consistent numbers in the olympic distance as well, although I haven’t had a race where the conditions helped this year. The longer the distance though, the stronger I am. I’m no longer scared of the distance, the pain you endure or mental side of it. I’ve also made real strides in managing my nutrition during these longer events. I still think I probably need to tweak a little more on this but everything is moving in the right direction.

So even though I have made leaps and bounds in my performance, the question that always hangs over my head…’How much more can I do?’ I’m not getting any younger.

So I’m going to make a statement now…a big statement. One that takes me out of my comfort zone and one that will challenge me. So here goes:

I AM GOING TO TRY AND QUALIFY FOR THE GB AGE GROUP TEAM FOR THE MIDDLE DISTANCE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS.

There we are…off the chest! That is the goal for next year. Life is too short to not take risks. I’ve made my commitment and shared it. If I don’t succeed, it’s not the end of the world. It will give me a good indication of how close I can get and whether it is a goal I can achieve. Maybe it is out of reach, but if I don’t try, I will never know. I’ve been completing in triathlon a fair few years now and it’s time to lay down my most challenging goal to date.

What will I need to do?

Well apart from going faster, there are a few things I need to consider. Making sure I train effectively and staying injury free will be a challenge in itself, I mean it always is. There are going to be a few tweaks to my training again and I will make an effort to up my run volume this year considerably. I’ll also have the help of this:

The treadmill (or dreadmill for some) is the new weapon in my training arsenal and one to take a little bit of the impact out of my running. I’ve already had a few sessions on Zwift run, which I must say I have enjoyed. It’s going to be great for the winter runs and my brick workouts.

The training plan is already being devised. It’s not knowing what to do in my training, that bit I believe I have covered. Extensive reading, use of Training Peaks and trialling approaches have meant me being my own guinea pig and learning lots over the last few years. I have a few milestones set that I will need to hit throughout. The length of training time will be increased and I have already started after my three week break. I’m taking a much longer preparation and base period this time out and getting my body ready to train will be key. There will be an element of being a little stricter with my diet also.

What are the qualifying rules?

Hopefully I can explain this a bit clearer than British Triathlon. The idea is that you need to be within a qualifying time of the winner of your age group. This is 115% or in other words within 15% of the winners time. On calculations from the Outlaw this year, the winners time for the 40-44 age group was 4hr 22mins. To get within that qualifying time I would need to be somewhere close to 5hrs. That’s 34mins quicker than I raced this year. You see, it’s tough. 34mins is a lot, although I do believe I can get at least 20mins off just by training consistently as I have done this year. I certainly held back on the bike during the event this year.

You can probably see now why my training has started earlier than previous seasons. It will need to if I am going to reap that extra performance gain. I could do with a slice of luck on the day also. By this I mean it does depend on who turns up. If I get someone racing who is quicker than the winning time this year, then it obviously makes the qualifying time harder as I would need to go even quicker.

You see some of this is out of my hands. The only thing I can do is train hard and consistently and race the best I can on the day. If that happens and I hit my target, I can’t ask for anything more. I can be sure that a 5hr half Ironman is more than respectable and a qualification spot will be a bonus.

The funny thing is, if I do get it then I’m not even sure I will go. The cost of everything age group related isn’t cheap and I think logistically it might be a challenge. I have decided to not worry about this part though and just concentrate on getting in. If I do get in, then we worry about that. So there you have it. My reflection and my main goal next year laid out in full. I could have kept all of this under wraps, although I feel that by sharing it, it gives me added impetus and healthy added pressure.

Only time will tell if I’m aiming for something well out of my reach! There’s only one way to find out so let’s see what this rollercoaster holds in the coming year!

Guest Blog – Miia Amara

As promised to you all a few weeks ago, here is the guest blog from Miia Amara. For those who follow the blog, you may remember that Miia is the lady I have been coaching this season. She had agreed to write a final piece to this 3 part series and here it is!

If you didn’t catch the first two blogs, you can find Coaching Project Part 1 by clicking here. Part 2 is also available here. I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching Miia this season and it has been pleasing for me to trial my own coaching practices and adapt these to someone else. I’ve been asked by people in the past to help and have always been hesitant due to the time it takes. Coaching to this level requires time – time to analyse, time to plan, time to schedule, time to spend with your athlete. I was only going to do this with someone who was committed and wanting to achieve. Miia was certainly that, and I couldn’t have asked for a better student! Anyway, enough of me…enjoy her blog! It’s been one great first season and I’m looking forward to seeing what she achieves next year.

Hello all! I’m Miia and I want to share my experience and story of my debut season competing in triathlon this year. I do hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I have enjoyed my first year racing and training.

I got into triathlon racing last summer, when my triathlete friend from Finland entered me into an Olympic distance relay.  As I have been running for a couple of years, I contributed to the running section of the race.  During the race and after observing the other competitors, I wondered how they managed do all three disciplines together, when I was struggling with just the running stage.

When I got back home, I supported my running friends in one of London’s Triathlon events and I was hooked!! The atmosphere alone got me. I decided there and then – next year I WILL BE HERE!

Soon after, I started to look for races for the following year.  After signing up to a few, I started to learn how to swim freestyle, which was new for me.  I actually looked at a few tutoring videos from YouTube, and bit-by-bit I learnt to swim freestyle. How well I was doing this was another question!

I knew Danny from our running club and his heavy involvement participating in triathlon.  He approached me and asked if I wanted to train for a triathlon.  Everything about triathlon was completely new to me. How would I ever swim in a wetsuit in open water?

We first met at the local swimming pool.  I showed him what I had learned and he worked with me teaching me the right technique with freestyle swimming.  This made a massive difference to what I thought was the correct form.  Over the months, I worked on my swimming and slowly improved. Not only did my technique improve, but also my speed. Soon after, I bought my very first road bike and I was ready to go.

Danny tested my swim, bike and run times first in December, and soon after that I was on a full training program that he had designed for me.  I had my first race in my sights for early May – a sprint distance over in Dorney.  Luckily, Danny had signed up himself for this one so he would be there to support me at the race.

When I started the training, it was completely different to what I had done before. It was pretty much two work outs daily four to five times a week around my work timetable. That sounds quite a lot, but actually it was very manageable.  It worked for me very well. After six weeks of training, he tested me again and I could already see how much I had improved. I very much liked the training program part.  My social life was getting shortened certainly, but I didn’t mind because the only thing in my mind was on those finish lines and medals from those races that I had signed up to. Triathlon can be a scary sport, with much to master, so being prepared and training well helps with any fears.

I had so many questions for Danny, especially in the beginning, but he always had an answer ready for me.  I learned how my body worked when it was fatigued and also how much rest was needed.  Plus – eating crap food made you feel crap!  Nutrition was so important. One thing I quickly realised was that there is a big difference between what training and exercise is. Training = structure and doing the correct workouts at the correct time. This is where the coaching part was so important and having someone to guide me through this process made life easy.

Learning about my heart rate zones and running in your prescribed zones was challenging.  It took me around two months to get use to it. You learn a lot about your body and what running feels like at an easy or racing pace.  This is important as looking at a watch all the time is not the most enjoyable thing! Patience is key though! Things do not happen over night.  Most Sundays when I was off from work, we started to ride outside. I was lucky because this seemed to be my strongest discipline. I could keep up with his pace and it pushed me to make improvements. We had many good rides up to 60 miles. Rainy Sundays we knocked on the head though and the stationary turbo that I bought on Danny’s recommendation came into its own. You can’t train effectively without one of these!

The first time going into open water was a bit scary for me.  I took open water training sessions as recommended by Danny.  I seemed to have a problem with dark water.  I don’t know where it came from.  I’m Finnish and I grew up next to lakes, but after a couple of times going into open water, the fear disappeared and I could swim normally.

When the first race in May came around I was nervous and excited at the same time.  Danny told me not to worry and that I was going to love it because I had put the work in through my training.  The swim went well and my overall time was quicker than I expected.   When I was on the bike, I truly enjoyed it and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.  The cycle part was faster than expected and my run was also very good, even managing to sprint in the end. I was happy for my achievement.  Now I could say that I am triathlete!

After the race and a couple of days rest I was back to training.  Training went smoothly until the Easter break until a small disaster struck! I went for a ride on my own, and had an ‘off’ from my bike. The accident was something so stupid which could have been avoided. I flew over my handlebars and landed on my shoulder and left side of my face. All because I was fiddling with my phone in its holder and grabbing my brake too hard!

I was lucky it was only bruising in my shoulder and a little crack on my cheekbone. I had to take a week off from training because my shoulder was so painful. Swimming and biking (especially outdoors) was extremely painfil. After a week, I started slowly again and it took for a while before I managed to train without pain. And eventually I was soon back to track workouts. I didn’t loose much fitness thankfully as I was following the plan fully from beginning and it gave a little enforced rest.

At the end off June I took on my first Olympic distance triathlon that I had been training for all spring.  I had a tapering week that Danny set for me and I felt so ready to race that I couldn’t wait for race day.  We went there together.  Danny’s wave was first.  It was the hottest day of the year +35c at midday when I started.  Even though it was hot and humid, I was sure I could manage.  My swim went well and I had a good bike leg. I was flying! But in the run the heat got me – I was knackered. Did I overcook the bike? I managed to the finish line and it was obvious that my run was slow. One thing I learnt though – heat affects performance so don’t be too hard on yourself.

I had another race at the end of July – The London Triathlon. I thought that this would be the one I will do a PB in.  My Training program finished at the end of June and I was on my own from then to this race.  I had the tools and workouts to do though to keep a good level of fitness.  I managed to organise my training off of those programs that Danny had planned for me.  

When the London Tri came around, the weather was not ideal. It was raining in the morning.  This was not what I wanted for race day, but the weather was a lot cooler.  By the start of my race, the rain had stopped and I was ready to go. My swim was a bit slower than in my last race, my bike was pretty much the same. The one thing I learned and took into this race was pacing better.  I managed to save energy for running and I ran faster than last time out. The cooler weather certainly helped. Overall I had PB’d by a couple minutes over 3 hours. My goal next year – sub 3 for sure!

I actually had two more races left for the season – one in Finland (Olympic distance) and The London Duathlon in Richmond.  I even changed that one from half to full distance.  Training wise, I trained less and was not as fit as earlier in the season. I have two children and they were off from school for their summer holidays. I couldn’t do my daily routines plus I started to feel mentally tired.  I finished both races, and I was happy with the timing.  Not the fastest ones but not far away.  Now I will take couple weeks rest then a couple months gym training – possibly Cross Fit for toning by body.

Before Christmas I can start to get ready for next year. I am in the ballot for the London marathon.  If I get in, that will be my first marathon – something to consider! I want to complete more endurance events and go longer, so it will be half iron man distance for me…. plus I will be in new age category turning 45 in march so hopefully I will manage to stay above 50% of the age category field. This I have managed to achieve in pretty much all my races that I completed in.  I will also take on a few shorter races but not as many as I had this year.  I didn’t mention that I did the amazing Dunamo Dunwitch (112 miles) night ride and 1500m dock to dock swim.  This on top of running PBs for half marathon and 10km in spring time. You see – a busy season! Danny says I raced too much…I have to agree!

I hope you have enjoyed my blog entry…what next season holds…let’s wait and see!

Keeping the Fitness for Ironman Vichy 70.3…a short update

Well I said it would be a struggle…and it was! Temptation around every corner! Huge breakfast choice; cocktails on tap all day; three course lunches and dinners, all followed by more drinks in the evenings. All inclusive holidays are either hell or heaven eh depending on how you look at them! Well certainly not great for the waistline or the fitness!

Now I am not saying I had to consume this all, and there were days (ok 1 or 2) when I didn’t 🙂 On a more serious note, I was more concerned about having the motivation to train (if you can call it that). Trained I did – or exercise I would call it. You see training requires a certain structure to it with particular workouts at certain times. This was the bit my training, actually exercise (which I will call it) lacked. My exercise really consisted of me swimming a little each day (only around a 1000m) and using the gym to spin on the bike and run on the running machine. Everything for the maintenance of fitness and to not lose too much of it.

The only benefit I really got was through running. I was able to run quite well and work to heart rate and pace quite sufficiently. I had purchased a footpod before I left for holidays in order for me to use the treadmills accurately. Gym treadmills are usually so beat up and well out on recording distance and pace. To my surprise, these in my hotel were not too bad actually. The longer you run the less accurate they would become though. Over 5k they were probably about 0.5km out.

This has made me realise that treadmill running, although slightly boring, (but hey if you can cycle on a turbo, then mentally running on these isn’t too bad), shows that you can build up volume quite easily and complete intervals also. It has certainly allowed me to run more as it was easier on my joints, and considering I have suffered from run injuries all too often it was a real benefit to me. It has got me thinking though – how can I add one of these to my training arsenal? Not enough space in my training room so a bit of head scratching to do!

Training (sorry exercise) also involved me adding back in strength and conditioning work as the gym equipment was good in this respect. So here is a small video compilation I made of some of the ‘exercise’ I did.

This all meant that no fitness could really be built. My goal was simply to hang on to as much of it as I could and keep updating Training Peaks to keep a check on my numbers. I knew my bike numbers would diminish slightly but I also have two weeks of easy riding in France that I would do to help with that prior to Vichy to get the legs back into it.

So that’s it for this blog. As mentioned, only a short one to provide an update for the regular readers! My Jamaican holiday is about to come to an end unfortunately. It is a lovely place with great people. Do visit it if you ever get a chance. I do have some really good blog content coming over the next few posts. Look out for a two part special on Ironman Vichy 70.3 and also one on the potential for training camps in France. We will also be hearing from the coaching project Miia in regards to her season and her achievements and success this year. SO STAY TUNED!

Ya Man…No problem…Respect!

My daughter Isabel and her new friend ‘Phoenix’

Windsor Triathlon 2019 and Guest Blog – Dean Saunders

‘I’m the King of the Castle’

Well not exactly, although a small conquering in my performance did happen and one I can be mostly pleased about. I will of course update you all on that in a different blog post planned for next week. However, for this blog entry I am delighted to present to you another guest blog. Although my blog documents my journey, I like to connect people through similar experiences and share the wonders that happen in triathlon. Everyone’s race is different and we all have a story to tell!

Dean is my cousin and a newbie to triathlon. Not a newbie to endurance sports, he is sub 3:30 marathon runner and he is a fit individual looking for new challenges. Windsor was only his second triathlon event. He also writes a regular blog called Mars and Peace. Do check it out and read about his new exploits into triathlon and other things in his world! Be prepared to chuckle and enjoy this one, and I think you’ll all agree with me, it’s a fantastic blog entry.

WINDSOR – RICKSHAW REDEMPTION

ONWARD AND UPWARDS

With my first triathlon (Thorpe Park sprint) under my belt, I wake up on Monday morning exhausted – but elated – even with that horrible bike leg! You can read all about that on my personal blog.

I keep telling myself, “you’ve done one now…what’s next?”

By Tuesday morning I’m back in the gym for an hour on the stationary bike (20.92 miles…once again…Sunday? WFT?!? 1 hr 8 mins to ride 13 miles!?!)

That same day I put my bike in the car and bring it to work for a colleague to have a look at. Before I put it in the boot, I give the front wheel a spin – and of course, it’s like a perpetual motion machine, defying the laws of physics! Will it ever stop? No rubbing, no noise. Like a trip to the GP where the ailment has vanished by the time the doctor sees you, I’m starting to doubt whether this is a reasonable explanation for my poor cycling performance at Thorpe Park.

Then I get the bike out of the car at work, and as I wheel it into my office…. fssss…fssss…fssss…the brakes are rubbing again. It’s hard to believe that such a small amount of friction had such a negative impact on my ride – but it was definitely a factor.

After speaking to Danny (tri-to-be-iron), I’m informed that completing my 750 m swim using primarily breaststroke probably didn’t do my legs any favours either! So maybe it was a combination of the two things?

When my colleague sees the bike, he systematically scans it and says, “well, THAT can go…and THOSE!” pointing at my seat cushion, frame bag and lights. I’m told I can also get rid of my bell and puncture repair kit as well, as I’ll just be putting on a new inner tube which I can store in the pockets of my tri suit.

To prevent any drama with taking off my front wheel and knocking everything out of alignment again, I order a bike rack for the car. I don’t feel guilty about this additional expense as I can put both of the kids’ bikes on it when we go camping later this year – two birds, one stone (or one score in this case – God bless Ebay)!

I take it easy this week training-wise as work is crazy and family commitments prevent me from getting to Hadleigh for an open water swim. I do prove my resolve to work on this discipline however by ordering the Great Swim Local wrist band – although without a triathlon to train for, let’s see what happens!

The end of the week is double-busy, with work, then band rehearsals on Friday evening. Packing on Saturday morning, driving 70 miles to Windsor to rack up the bike, meet some family and drop Laura and the kids off at the hotel in Slough. Then driving back to Hornchurch for the band’s “last” gig (more on this next week), and then once the final song was played, driving another 70 miles back to Windsor to get 4 hours sleep before the race. Yes, that could have been planned a bit better…but the universe was conspiring against me on this occasion (perhaps)?!

That said, parked next to us was a friendly gent who began speaking to me the moment he got out of the car. After chatting for a while, about this being his first triathlon and my second, and how he had already signed up for an Ironman in Wales (really hard due to the hilly bike ride), he reveals that he’s from Hornchurch in Essex! We’ve both travelled 70 miles to an event where we’re parked next to someone from down the road! (Lee, I hope Windsor went well for you!). A man after my own heart, he has set himself that long-term goal that will keep him training and achieving smaller goals along the way – knowing that right now, there’s no way he could complete an Ironman. Very inspiring – so maybe the universe knew what it was doing after all?!

I did this journey three times in one day…I asked Laura to drive home after the event.

RACE DAY

So despite going to bed around 1 am and setting my alarm for 5:45 am, I find myself wide awake at 5 am. I really could use the extra 45 minutes sleep, but I’m not risking going back to sleep and waking up groggy. Or worse – waking up LATE!!! I manage a banana and some coffee, but not the granola I brought with me for my pre-race meal. I’m still full from the last minute tuna and pasta I uncharacteristically ate 5 minutes before bed last night (which was 4 hours ago, and which didn’t keep me up because I was so cream crackered).

I had the common sense to pack my bags and lay out my suits the night before, so when the taxi arrives, I’m good to go – fairly confident that I’ve got everything. Laura and Robyn wish me well on my way out – Ralph is still in the fetal position, catching the ZZZZZs I’m craving.

I arrive at 6:30 am on the dot, and with my bike already racked up it all seems stress-free. I say my hellos to the two competitors I know, Danny and a work colleague (same one who fixed my bike). I lay out my towel, my flip flops, cycle shoes and trainers, my swimming hat, earplugs and goggles. I’ve arrived with my tri-suit on, so the wetsuit goes on next – still without lubricant. I need to get this for the next race – it goes on easily enough, but getting it off in transition 1 would be easier I imagine, with a bit of grease.

I notice several competitors with the exact same tri-suit and wet suit (Decathlon….you’re up there with Ebay)! There are also some pretty chunky bikes, which I start to think my basic road bike will fare better than during the race…but those thoughts are quickly hushed by the memories of last week’s cycling performance. The athletes themselves are all shapes and sizes, and just like the bikes, and I’ve already seen that this is no indicator of how they’ll perform. I mean, I look quite fit (more “Canvey Island” than “Love Island” than I’d like maybe), and yet…!

My wave isn’t until 7:45 am, but I’m zipped up in my wet suit and ready to go by 7 am. I decide to have a walk over to the coach station’s toilet block outside the transition area, and luckily everything has been timed just right. My body’s a little too keen if anything, thanks to the morning coffee…which increases the urgency for me to remove my wet suit and tri-suit. I make it. Just.

SWIM

The swim start is a fair walk away from the transition point, and as I make my way over with Danny, I notice his white hotel slippers! I’m trying to figure out the athletic advantage to such footwear but it’s later revealed that his choice comes down to them being disposable. I don’t know it yet, but this is the last time I’ll see my flip flops – they had a good innings. (Note to whoever picked these up: Please do not wear these. I am wracked with guilt about what your feet may be about to go through if you do so. My most athletic body part, my feet, have been fermenting in these flip flops for years. Dispose of carefully.)

I don’t believe that it’s so cold and yet my teeth are chattering and I notice the uncontrollable shaking of limbs. Danny reckons it’s nerves…I’m sceptical, as I feel quite positive about what’s to come, excited even. But I guess physiologically speaking, anxiety and excitement are similar, it’s just the mental reframe that’s saving me from throwing up or pulling out!

After a quick briefing, which I try to look focused throughout, but I’m too excited now, I just want to get started. I don’t hear most of the instructions, or if I do my brain isn’t retaining them as they pass through one ear and out of the other. I ease myself off of the pontoon into the Thames and my first thoughts are, “F*** it’s cold…I need a thicker wetsuit…” followed by, “acclimatise…blow bubbles…” and lastly, “where am I? Holy s*** I’m at the front of the pack, I’m gonna get pummelled!!!”

At which point I hear, “15 SECONDS!!!”, have the presence of mind to start my watch, and we’re off!

I take a few shots to my sides and my legs, but it’s nothing malicious. I keep touching someone’s foot and think about Mark Allen doing this to Dave Scott to wind him up. My tickling this person in front may or may not have wound them up – I’ll never know, as they sped up and left me in their wake quite quickly.

I manage to do a lot more frontcrawl this time and the water stays out of my nose, but I swallow a fair amount of the Thames as my breaths seem to come when sudden waves hit my open mouth.

The smell of hotdogs and onions and ketchup as I am swimming and during my first breastroke break I jokingly ask the kayak volunteer if he can get me one. He’s not impressed, or he didn’t hear me. Either way, no hot dog – and I suddenly feel ready for that granola I missed out on this morning.

I manage some more front crawl, but at one point, having closed my eyes, I punch a kayak which has cut straight across me in its mission to help a struggling swimmer. Later on another kayaker is looking at me like I’m in trouble, which worries me as I feel fine. I give him the thumbs up and prove I’m fine by getting back on with some more front crawl.

I don’t stop swimming. Front crawl and breast stroke the whole time, and even so I suddenly see the next wave of coloured hats over-taking me. “I’m going to get pummelled for sure this time,” but again, apart from a few taps, no one’s dunking me and it even gives me a bit of a push to swim a bit harder. Not as much as seeing the exit does though!

I crawl out, the most ungraceful sea lion you’ll ever see, and run for the transition. I struggle a bit with my wetsuit but get there eventually and notice that Danny is already there in transition (meaning he overtook me on the swim despite starting later).

It’s a long run out of transition, especially in cycling shoes, but 400m and 7 minutes later I’m off on the bike ride and compared to last week, I’m loving it. I feel like greased lightning!

CYCLE

Suddenly I need to concern myself with overtaking and drafting! A clear sign that things are going well.

The rain starts soon after the start of the ride and I try not to think about how thin my tyres are or how I’d rather be on a mountain bike in this weather.

The one piece of advice I had gone against, was keeping my cycle frame bag on. I’ve got my spare inner tubes, CO2 and cliff blocks inside and until I get myself a seat bag, this will work fine.

I find riding a bit monotonous, unlike running, and I hate the feeling of my thighs burning, as the lactic acid builds up – this lasts for hours after a ride for me.

Danny had told me that the course was flat, so rather than suggest he is mistaken, I keep telling myself, “bloody hell, he doesn’t even consider these hills…I must be crap on the bike.” It turns out the course has changed since last year!

I get into a rhythm though, wolfing down Cliff blocks and water so that I don’t have to think about fuelling on the run.

Towards the end, a steward annoyingly turns his back on the riders giving me no indication of which way to turn off at the roundabout. So I go left, and have to turn back suddenly as a more awake steward catches me going the wrong way.

At the end of the ride I unclip my shoes and jump off the bike while it’s still going too fast. I skate the first 5 m of the transition, earning a small round of applause for staying on my feet and not dropping the bike.

RUN

As I put on my trainers I make a mental note to purchase some speedy laces – and to find out what “speedy laces” are actually called!

I throw my glasses down by a tree on the way out (some kind person puts these on a bike rack for me to find at the end).

The incline on the run is agony for me…I hate hills…like cycling with any sort of power, they make my thighs burn!!!

There is a lovely stretch on the run, through the grounds as you go away from the castle and then back again. I look forward to seeing the professional photos for this part.

I run straight past my family near the end of my first lap, so go back on myself, almost crashing into two other runners (sorry lads) to give high fives to Robyn and Ralph. I don’t want to disappoint them after waiting so long for me!

Stupidly, I start heading towards the finish line after just one lap and have to turn around – once again, against the current of runners – and get the other two laps done!!!

Three laps is almost too much – especially when you know what’s coming. I’m not a fan of laps. I want novelty. Anyway, I keep going…never stopping (except right at the start to redo my shoelace)…never walking.

I manage to cheer on other runners I know, although my face is numb from the bike ride, and when I go to cheer on the first person I recognise, I can’t say their name properly and I’m sure my face looks like Rocky Balboa’s. I raise both arms, smile and raise my eyebrows – just to check I haven’t had some kind of stroke.

During the last lap I really focus on my own race. I have my secret mantra while running, which helps me keep the rhythm of my breathing and cadence going.

As I approach the finish line, I have nothing left for a sprint finish which is just as well as I spot Laura and the kids. She is holding Ralph up and lifting him over the gate, so he can cross the finish line with me. So holding his hand, he whizzes ahead and beats me across the line before I hold him up for a cuddle. A very special moment for the Saunders boys!

I ask the steward to put my medal on him, and she not only does so, she also kindly gives me a second medal – which is fantastic as both Robyn and Ralph get one now!

RESULTS

I aimed for sub 3 and achieved that goal…but I’ve been put off by a half ironman for now!

I’m really happy with my time, but my form is sloppy as hell and the run up to race day was less than perfect. I’m sure I can do better and I’ve got no intention to quit now. I probably won’t race again until next season…probably…instead I have a lot of learning to be getting on with, and not just with triathlon.

Ralph, Danny and me

Massive THANK YOU to the family once again! It really was a Father’s Day to remember, and I’ve definitely redeemed myself on the bike!!!

Great cards and presents this year…but best of all was them being at the triathlon cheering me on.

Thank you also to Danny for inviting me to write a guest blog for Tri.To.Be. Iron

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.