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