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!

Windsor Triathlon 2018 – The A Race!

It had a arrived – the A race! This would be the second time of completing the Windsor triathlon and this is one of my favourites. I have only completed it once – two years ago and you’d think I’d have done it more often. The trouble is that this race always clashes with many others taking place on this particular weekend, so it has been alternated with these. I like to experience as many different races as possible although I was pleased to return here.

Pre Race:

Training had been consistent and I had put in two decent weeks post Grafman 70.3 averaging around 11/12 hours. My previous effort at Windsor resulted in a 2:50:56, so any time better than that is an improvement. My goal was to go sub 2:40 – could I do it? There were three areas to particularly focus on:

SWIM WELL            QUICKER TRANSITIONS           BIKE / RUN CONSISTENTLY

Why these you may ask? Well although I swam well at the Grafman 70.3, I do not believe I have been transferring my pool swim times into open water consistently this year. The Windsor Tri swim is always quite fast, especially with the current in your favour for two thirds of it. Transitions have also been slow this year so I wanted to ensure I was a little quicker when going through these. Visualisation is a tool I like to use when I have to think carefully through key parts of my race. I find it extremely helpful at running through the process of key sections, and in this case the swim to bike transition. Transition is a long one at Windsor, so it was important to view previous times to see what I could make up. Remove the wetsuit a little quicker and run a little faster. Simple. The bike/run consistency means biking well with a faster average than my previous visit and running well off the bike to ensure a sub 50min 10k. We will analyse these in detail later on.

Saturday Pre-Race Racking

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This is one thing I really enjoy about Windsor in that we can rack the bike the day before. It does mean staying at Windsor over the weekend as it is too far from me, although the family come along and we make a weekend of it. Windsor is a lovely place also so a great place for weekend away. We managed to find a little railway cottage to stay in this time very close to the event village. Our morning consisted of a lovely boat ride along the Thames, followed by a spot of lunch before I attended registration and put the bike in.

There was one slight problem revealed at registration. The bike course had been added to by around 3-4k due to road works. There’s not a lot I can do about that meaning it would somehow impact into the PB attempt.

I was fairly happy with my position in transition. I was bang in the middle of my rack so it was easy to find and all exit and entry points were noted. I cannot stress how important this is to do for new triathletes! There is nothing worse then not being able to find your bike in transition – trust me it happened to me (briefly) in a race in my earlier days.

Once racked, I managed to nab a couple of whipped protein bites. I like these. High in protein, not typically dense as usual from whey protein and a good recovery snack I find.

Pre Race – Morning

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What is that they say about a red sky?

Up and early at 6:00 with the usually pre-race porridge breakfast. I made my way over to transition to set everything up. I was going with three gels for the whole race and a 1L salt solution hydration drink. I figured this would be enough for an olympic distance race. I would consume a banana also about 20 mins before the swim. The swim start is a short walk from transition so you need to leave time to get there. It was also good to see the pros and elites racing beforehand and a certain Emma Pallant bossing the field! The weather wasn’t great with a slight drizzle and fairly chilly, although actually it turned out to be fairly decent race conditions.

The Swim

I was actually the last wave out at Windsor and now compete in the 40-44 age group. I knew I needed a consistent swim and decided to start towards the front of the pack to get away from most of the mayhem. My swim in 2016 resulted in a 26.27. This year I took slightly longer at 27:48. I did swim slightly longer this year as well when looking at the stats but the swim was pretty much bang on. I felt really good in the water and swam through a lot of the wave that started ahead of me. I always enjoy the swim in the Thames and was pleased at the effort. It really is noticeable when you reach the turn point at Eton Bridge in Windsor and then swim into the current. Who put the brakes on? I wasn’t expecting anything different and overall I was happy with the outcome from the swim.

Transition 1 – Swim to Bike

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Grey tracks above are the transition runs

Ok – so you know this was one of the areas to make some time up in. If you have never completed Windsor Triathlon, one thing to note – how long transition is! It is a fair run from the swim (around 150m) to your bike and that depends on where you are racked. You then have another 300m or so to bike mount point. So was I quicker? Well yes, but by not much. In fact a whole 6 secs! A 6 minute transition is long by any means! Running in cleats for that distance is not quick. I still need to master the shoes attached to bike trick! There’s always something to learn in triathlon.

The Bike 

 

6mins 28secs! Not how long it took me to ride the course, but the added time to my ride due to the course additions because of the road works. On the face of it, I rode well. Much better than 2016 where I average 17.6mph and did the 25 miles in 1hr 23min. The modified course meant me cycling and additional 2.3 miles, which may not seem a lot, and it isn’t, although when your aiming for a course PB, this matters hugely. So you see, it took me an extra 6min 28secs to ride those 2.3 miles. I also completed the bike in 1hr 26min averaging 18.9mph so it would have meant a 1:19 for the 25 miles.

The course was fairly uneventful and the roads were poor in places. I was worried towards the end something was loose on the bike as I was rattling all over the place. Luckily it was just my canister which had unscrewed from the holder. I was pleased to get back to transition in one piece! This transition was fairly swift – 2016 = 3:24  2018 = 2:38.

The Run

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If there is any part of the race I am most happy with then it is the run. To be able to run well off the bike is under estimated in triathlon. You can’t just expect to run a normal 5k/10k time or whatever distance you are covering as per normal in triathlon without training this aspect. There is a distinct feeling you get in your legs as you begin running and you have to expect and accept the fatigued feeling. The thing is, if you train for this then you can run well and this is where the all important brick sessions come in. One thing that really stood out was the amount of triathletes that hadn’t done this. It was very obvious! If you can run well, particularly in longer distances, then huge amounts of time can be made up on someone. I felt good on the run, but did have to overcome initial cramp in my hamstring. You can see me grabbing it below as I left transition. Luckily this was temporary, and it is common from where you utilise muscles differently. After a mile or so it had completely gone thankfully.

I ran fairly consistently over the 10k managing an average pace of around 7:50 miles meaning a 47.11 10K finish time. I was really pleased with this considering the run had some hills to consider and in particular the one up to the castle. The course is also different now to back in 2016, so again comparing it and considering PB efforts was difficult. Back in 2016 I run the older course, which I believe was slightly easier, in 51:29 so a really good improvement.

                                         2016                                                          2018

So what were the overall times? Were PBs achieved? 

2018 resulted in me going quicker – but not by much. 2016 results in a 2:50:56 and this year I came home in 2:49. What we need to consider here is the course difference in the bike and run. As mentioned, the bike was 2.3 miles longer and the run route has changed which I believe is slightly tougher. So considering all this, I still managed to be a little faster over a longer course. If we work out the additions on course in time (6 min 28s) then you are looking at a time of around 2hr 42min. Not quite the sub 2:40 I was looking for, although I feel I’m being slightly hard on myself here. Was I disappointed? Well actually yeah I was stupidly.

I look at my data each year and analyse things and can clearly see I’m improving year on year. The question I’m starting to ask myself though is how much more can I improve especially as I get older? The desire to be faster is growing! I also know where I can improve – the question is whether I want to invest in the time and possibly the money to do it. The improvements are simple:

  • Working on my bike leg even more particularly with some FTP power improvements and using a power meter.
  • Continue the improvements in my running as I am sure I can eek out more.
  • Move my swim training to the advanced fink level.
  • Consider being professionally coached.

You see – all this takes time and money! We shall see what this means in the near future no doubt. I’m planning a future blog post on this.

I have one more triathlon booked in for the end of June. This is more of a fun event for me as I take on the Bananaman Lidl at Dorney which I have never done. I go to it with no targets, no preconceptions and just to enjoy it. I will be taking a few other EERR members who will be using it to do their first triathlon in preparation for the London Triathlon in August. I will mainly help these and support them through it.

I hope to get in one other late season event – possibly September time although my condition will be questionable after my summer holidays!

Thanks for reading and please comment, like and share.

 

Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Day

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

Swim

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

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Bike

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

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

Run

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

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

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

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Isabel enjoyed the medal…and a croissant!

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

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

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