Review of 2016, and 2017 goals

Hi blog fans, it’s been a while!

Just a quick brain dump of the year, and plotting some goals for 2017. Hopefully this won’t descend into a downward spiral of moaning or bragging.

Well, firstly here are the stats for the 3 disciplines I pretend to train in:
Swim: 11.99miles (41.01 in 2015)
Bike: 343.51miles (685.78 in 2015)
Run: 849.72 miles (1,030.78 in 2015)

Swim: ultra poor, bike: piss poor, run: not bad considering no marathon in 2016.

I have just completed a run streak of 115 consecutive days, which started off as a month, then kind of got out of hand when I forgot to stop. In the 115 days, I ran 365 miles, so averaged just over 5km a day. Not bad, but not really any further forward for it.

Running has been OK this year, I’ve ran 3 5k races, Standalone 10k, 3 10 mile races and a half marathon. I PB’d at the 10 mile race distance, and got my second sub 2 hour half marathon, which was as much as a surprise to me as anyone.

Enough of the running streak though. In 2017 I want to have more balanced training, run less, certainly less junk miles, swim and cycle more, I will cycle more miles than I run in 2017, even though I will be marathon training in the first quarter. I also want to introduce some strength and conditioning other exercise.

I also want to reengage with with my beloved triathlon club, Freedom Tri. I miss those crazy buggers! I just need to be more organised, and less lazy.

Think that’s it for now! Hopefully I won’t leave it another 2 and a half years before I blog again!

NiceTri London Brik Standard (Olympic) Distance Triathlon 2014 Race Report

Me again!  I have been up to stuff since writing my last report, but haven’t had the time to blog about it.  In summary, I completed the St Neots sprint again, and beat last Septembers time (1:36:38 vs 1:41:31), and completed a couple of off road/mountain bike triathlons, which were a bit of fun, and made an improvement between the two, so pleased with that.  (1:27:56 vs 1:24:17)

This weekend saw my second standard distance triathlon:

London Brik

London Brik

Not actually any where near London, but just outside Bedford at the old brick works.

I opted for the standard distance – 1,500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run.

Saturday had been a pretty relaxing day, not doing much at all, apart from watching (mostly sports, flicking between the Commonwealth Games and the Tour de France) on TV, cooking and eating, and faffing about with the kit for the race.  I cooked a really nice chicken pesto pasta dish with loads of veg.  It was very tasty, nice and clean, and full or carbs and a good bit of lean protein.
We got to bed nice and early, and it was a really hot night, so opened the bedroom windows.  Unfortunately one of our inconsiderate bloody neighbours had decided it would be a good night for a bonfire, so it absolutely stank, but it was too hot to sleep with the windows shut.
Net result – I had a bloody terrible nights sleep.  I thought I’d been pretty relaxed about the race, and I didn’t consciously feel nervous, but I’m guessing I may have been.
The alarm went off at 5:45, as we had to leave at 6:15 and I had to load the car, and get the bikes on the back of the car.  I scoffed a banana and a cereal bar, and necked a pint of re-hydration drink and a coffee, and we were off.
It was about half an hours drive to the race, so we had plenty of time.  We parked up, got the bikes off the car, and made our way to the race registration, which was pretty straight forward.  We got given our race memento’s and race pack – a NiceTri mug, race belt and, weirdly, some shower gel.  The race pack included race number, timing chip, and swim cap – blue for standard, and pink for sprint.
There were quite a few of us Freedom Tri people racing today – 5 in the sprint, and 11 in the Olympic, so I was in good company.
We racked the bikes, and queued for the bogs, which was tiresome as usual, there are NEVER enough toilet, and just made it back in time for the race briefing at 7:50 for an 8am start.
The sprint wave was first, and as they got half way into their lap, we were put in the water for a deep water start.  We basically had to hang onto a jetty for a bit, before the air horn setting us off at 8:10.  I was deliberately holding back – there’s no point me rushing to the front of the swim to get battered and swam over.
I had 3 goals for the swim – not to get lapped, not to be dead last out of the water, and swim the 1,500 in sub 40 minutes.  Thankfully I just scraped the first two.  I didn’t get lapped, and I think there were probably about half a dozen people behind me.  I missed the sub 40 though, but I did measure the course as a bit long.  My official swim split for the race was 42:02. I don’t know if this was down to my bad sighting in the water, taking a long line around the buoys or what.  But if I’d swam the 1,500m rather than 1,689m at that pace, it would have taken me 37:19, so something’s not right there.  I’m sure I’m just making excuses though.
Taking the positives from the swim – I felt strong in the water, I swam the whole 1,500m (1,689m 😉 ) front crawl, without stopping.  I didn’t get lapped, and I wasn’t last in the water.
Heading for T1

Heading for T1

You can see in the photo above that I’ve ditched the beard, in an attempt to be streamlined and reduce drag (it’s actually that sun cream and facial hair don’t really mix, I’m just pretending to be a pro).
On exiting the water, I did have a bit of a technical hitch.  I couldn’t unzip my wetsuit.  One of the other guys racing stopped to help me, to no avail, but thankfully one of the marshals came to my rescue and pulled my zip down, so I could get on with the race.  Technically speaking, I could have probably been disqualified for that, or been handled a time penalty – you’re meant to be unaided for the entire race, but at my level, not many judges are looking, and the ones that are probably realise that me being unzipped by someone wouldn’t affect the results.
Looking at the map off my watch from the swim, it looks like the chip mat must have been on entry to transition, so my swim time included getting stuck in my wetsuit, so maybe my swim was better than I thought.
Anyway, enough speculation of the swim, onto transition.  I found my bike quickly – there were 5 racks of bikes, and not many bikes left by the time I got there.  So I pulled my goggles, swimming cap and ear plugs out, put my glasses and helmet on while I kicked my wetsuit off, dried my feet, pulled my socks and bike shoes on, and I was off on the bike.  Running with the bike to the mount line, jump on the bike and off.
Looking at the results, I was 115th out of 122 on the swim, so there would only have been half a dozen other bikes in transition when I got there!
The first half a mile or so of the bike was shocking, entirely down to the road surface – it was a terrible bit of road.  I wasn’t happy about that at all!  I had in mind that 4 laps on the awful road surface would be seriously bad times – dodging pot holes.
Thankfully we turned left onto the actual course – 4 laps on pretty good roads to be fair.  The race was billed as fast and flat, and the bike course was 4 laps between two roundabouts.  On the first lap I did hit a big pothole hard, and my water bottle jumped out of the bottle cage . It was too hot to ride dry, do I decided I’d try to pick up the water bottle as I passed it on the second lap.  I’m really glad I did.  I don’t think it cost me too much time, and I think I’d have had a bad day out if I’d let myself get dehydrated on the bike.  I managed to avoid the pot hole on the other laps.
4 laps on the bike was actually a little bit dull to be honest.  It was great seeing a lot of my clubmates though.  Our club tri-suits are pretty distinctive, so was great to give and receive waves and nods of encouragement on the bike leg.  They all pretty much finished a lap in front of me, and the last lap was very noticeable quieter, with fewer cyclists out on the course.  By sheer fluke I glanced at my watch, and it read 1:00 – one hour exactly, and I’d clocked 18.7 miles, so I knew I was on for a pretty quick bike split.
I measured the bike leg slightly short – it was meant to be 40km, but I measure it 36.7km – 22.8 miles.  Average speed was 18.5mph, total time 1:14:15.  VERY pleased with that.  One of my goals for the year was to be riding 18mph rides, so doing this at a decent distance in a race is great progress for me.  My goal for today was to ride the bike in sub 1:30, so no problems there.  I actually gained a few places on the bike, my bike leg was 96th out of 122.
Back down the rough half mile back to transition.  Sam and the other sprinters had finished their race already, so they were there to cheer me on, which really got me fired up.
On my pedalatron

On my pedalatron

I quickly ditched the bike, helmet and bike shoes, got my runners on, grabbed a gel, water bottle and cap, and cracked on.  T2 was a pretty respectable 45s.
Out onto the run course.  2 x 5km laps.  I HATE laps.  But thankfully it was a flat 2 laps.
The other Freedom Tri athletes were on the run, and there were high-5’s at every opportunity  – it’s the Freedom way.
As always, I set off too quickly on the run – finishing the first mile in 8:24.  This was too quick for the 10k on the back of a triathlon, especially in the heat – the sun really was beating down.
I forced myself to slow it down a bit – I’d rather run it all than blow up and have to walk.  I really wanted to run the 10k in sub 1 hour, but even more wanted to run all of it.  I’d rather run all of it in 1:01, than walk a bit in 59 minutes.  Strange as it may sound, but I’m a fan of pace discipline.  Maybe I would be quicker with a run/walk strategy, but I’d rather run the whole lot a bit slower.
Mile 2 was 9:22, which included the turn and a water station, where I downed one cup of water, and chucked another down my back, despite carrying a small running bottle, the cooler water was greatly received.
Mile 3 was 9:24, and I was at the 5km halfway turn at about 28 minutes.  I knew I was on for a decent run split, so long as I could hold the pace, and keep running.
Runners were pretty thin on the ground for my second lap, as most people had finished already.  I did manage to hold my pace thankfully, and finished the 10k run in 56:03.
Running bit

Running bit

Total time 2:54:33
Splits and Positions:
Swim:  42:02 – 115/122
T1: 1:27 – 68/122
Bike: 1:14:15 – 96/122
T2: 0:45 – 42/122
Run: 56:03 – 102/122
Toal: 2:54:33 = 110/117
Still pretty pleased with that all round.  Good all round improvements, so can’t really grumble too much.  My first tri of this distance was the NiceTri Anglian Water Standard Olympic Triathlon at Grafham Water, which I completed in 3:11:38.
And no aches or pains, apart from some sun burn.  Perhaps I should have raced harder?
Garmin links for those stat nerds like me:
Swim: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/550567925
Bike: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/550567930
Run: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/550567943

 

River Arun Swim 2014

Well this is something new for me – a swim race!  No sign of a bike or running shoes, so all new territory for me.

The River Arun Swim is an Ironman distance swim, 3.8km, in a salt water tidal river, and a significantly longer swim than I’d ever done before.  The race is point to point, so you start upstream at Ford, and swim downstream for 3.8km to Littlehampton, and the finish is at the top of the lifeboat ramp in Littlehampton harbour.

River Arun Swim

River Arun Swim

Swim training has been going pretty well though.  At first I was very daunted, and struggled to see how I could go from struggling to do an 800m lap of our training lake, to do almost 5 times that!  Thankfully, one of the Freedom Tri coaches Greg posted up a “Zero to hero” training plan, which really did help.  It was a gradual build over 7 weeks to get up to the distance.  A training plan really helped me to break it down, and focus on the task at hand.  I didn’t quite manage to make all the sessions, as life and a couple of other races meant that I had to juggle a couple of swims here and there, but I did get up to swimming 2.75km in training.  I had in mind that it was like marathon training – you don’t do the full distance in training, although I do wish I had done a bit more to give me a bit more confidence.

The weeks training a week before the big silly swim involved an off road triathlon – a 750m open water swim/10km mountain bike/5km trail run (I didn’t bother with a race report, as I had in mind it was a training race, bloody good fun though!).  Unfortunately I feel off during the bike course, and hit my shoulder quite hard, so I was a bit worried that might affect my swimming.  Racing on the Thursday before the longest swim of my life probably wasn’t the brightest of moves, but I did enjoy it.

I have suffered cramp quite a bit in the water during training, and I stumbled across an article pointing the finger at caffeine as a potential trigger for cramp, so I stopped drinking coffee a week or so before the race.   It seemed to be paying off, as I hadn’t suffered cramp since stopping.  I only used to drink about 3 cups of coffee a day, but did have it very strong – 3 heaped teaspoons of coffee per cup, so I suppose that was quite a bit of caffeine in my system.  Thankfully I haven’t had the caffeine withdrawal headache that a lot of people seem to suffer when giving up coffee.

I’d arranged for a lift down to Littlehampton with my tri-buddy James in his happy bus, and had offered to collect club mates Jenny and Rachel, and leave my car at James’s.  I was up early, and left home at 6:30 am, arriving at Hitchin at 7am after a couple of pick-ups.  We got loaded up and got a shift on.   The journey was good, apart from my dodgy navigation, and we arrived in Littlehampton and parked up before 10am.

First things first: breakfast!  Although I had had a bowl of Ready Brek before leaving, there was plenty of time to consume and digest a cooked breakfast.  The race start time was 1pm, but was dependent on the tide, to we had plenty of time.  The bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes and toast went down very well.

After breakfast, we went over to the lifeboat station to register and pick up our race packs, which included colour coded swim caps.  I was given a green cap, along with all the men under 40.  All the women were in blue, and the men over 40 were in a dashing raspberry pink.  The race was split into 2 waves – the under 40 men and women first, and then the over 40 men would be set off a few minutes later.  This did worry me, I could put myself at the back of my wave, but it wouldn’t be long before the big boys would catch me up and swim over me.  Oh well, not a lot I could really do about that!  There were over 400 entrants, with approximately 250 in the first wave, and 150 in the second, so it was going to be busy at the start.

We went for a walk about, and had a look at the river.  We spotted this sign – this really put my mind at rest:

DANGER!

DANGER!

And here’s a photo at low tide of the finishing ramp.  At high tide. the water is about 6.5 metres higher.

Low tide

Low tide

At noon, we were all transported via coach up to the start area.   The race organisers had laid on coaches to the start.  We got wetsuited up.  This is where the official photographers come in!  We posed for a group photo of all the Freedom Tri swimmers taking part in the race – 24 of us in total.

Raw Energy Pursuits, REP Arun Swim, June 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com

Group shot

We had to hang about quite a while at the start, while everyone got bussed in, and waiting for the tide to turn.  The idea of the race is to get in the water while the water is slack, which apparently means when the tide is turning.  Then start swimming as the tide turns, then be swept out to sea assisted to the finish of the race in the Littlehampton harbour by the tide.  There was also a race briefing, with instructions to stay on the right hand side of the river at the start, through the middle of the two bridges, avoiding the water turbine (!), then move across to the left of the river to exit up the lifeboat ramp.  The first bridge is about 1km from the end, and the second about 500m from the end.  Sounded easy enough.  We were told during the briefing that the river water temperature was 19c and the deep sea temperature was 17c, so well within my comfortable range of water – considerably warmer than when we started the open water swimming swimming at the start of May, but not quite as warm as we’ve seen in the still lakes that I’d been training in.

We were also told to get in the water quickly, as there were a lot of people to get in, and single file would take a long old while if people were sodding about.

By about 1:30, I think a lot of people were getting a bit restless waiting for the water to turn, so we were sent off to get in the water.  We made our way down to the river bank.  We had to walk down a single file track that had been cut into the grass, pretty much the width of a lawnmower, and had to get in quickly.  I would have preferred to have taken a minute or two to sort out my goggles, and make sure I was sorted out, but it is what it is – get in, and get on.

Here’s another snap from the official photographer, grinning like an idiot, and doing my best to look relaxed and composed before queuing to get in the water.

Raw Energy Pursuits, REP Arun Swim, June 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com

Pretending to look relaxed.

When we got in, the water didn’t feel very slack – the tide still felt like it was coming in, so we had to swim forward against the tide to stay still before the gun went to start the race.   I got my face in the water as we swam towards the start line, and was hit by the saltiness of the water.  I knew it was salt water, but had no idea how I’d get on with this.  I was very conscious not to swallow any of the water, as it can cause an upset stomach – the last thing you want while swimming!

I stayed right at the back of the pack, in the middle of the river, away from the bustle at the front.  I’ve now done quite a bit of open water swimming compared to last year, but I’m not very confident in a big group of swimmers, and worried about being kicked or smacked by faster, stronger swimmers.

I remembered being told to try to keep to the right hand side of the river, but seemed to be stuck in the middle.  The river is 30 – 40 metres wide, so getting from one side to the other is easier said than done!  Going against the race instructions did mean that it was less congested, so I was swimming in clearer water, but the middle of the water flows faster, so I was probably disadvantaged while the tide was still coming in.

I did get knocked and swam over a bit, and one particular bloke was getting right on my wick  – he was slightly in front of me, and was zigzagging all over the place.  I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but he was all over me.  I eventually managed to give him a wide berth and get away from him though thankfully.

It wasn’t that long into the swim that the raspberry wave caught up and started overtaking me.  I didn’t seem to be moving very quickly, and pretty much the whole wave ultimately shot past me.  I did manage to get into a good and relaxed rhythm.  I was deliberately not trying to swim too quickly – it’s a marathon not a sprint after all.  I had a target time of 1:30 in mind, but was going to be happy just to complete the distance really.  It’s really hard to judge time or distance in the water, with no real land marks to go on, apart from a grassy riverbank.

After what felt like a very long time, and not having reached the first bridge, I had a breast stroke breather for a few strokes, and took a glimpse of my watch.  I was not quite half way in, 1.8km, and had been swimming for just under an hour.  So at that sort of rate I was looking at 2 hours for the distance.  Well over my target of 1:30.  For the first half, it did feel like we were swimming against the tide, and this is reflected in the results.  Most of the people I spoke to after the race were 10 – 15 minutes slower this year than previous years, so the general consensus was that they put us in the water and set us off too early.  It certainly felt that way!  I don’t know if this was because the swimmers at the start were getting restless, or if the river was only able to be closed for a certain length of time.

I got my face back in the water after a few easy breast strokes and breaths, and got my rhythm going again.  I was still middle to left of the river, not quite where I should have been!

One of the support boats seemed to be stalking me at this stage, I hope they weren’t eyeing me up to pull me out of the water.  It did feel like the boat was close to me for a while – I kept feeling its wake, and it really smelt fumy, so I was pleased when they finally left me to it.  Perhaps it was making sure I wasn’t drifting too far left, but there were plenty of canoeists on the river too, keeping an eye out, and looking after everyone.

After what seemed like another absolute AGE, I finally caught sight of the first bridge, so I knew I was roughly a kilometer from the finish.  I started to get a slight twinge of cramp at this stage, but thankfully it stayed a twinge, and didn’t amount to much.  I really didn’t want to cramp up in this swim!

I passed the bridge in the middle as per the race brief, and before I knew it I was at the second bridge, so only a few hundred metres to go!

I started moving over to the left hand side of the river, and started my “sprint finish”, which I use in the loosest sense of the words!  I had been genuinely worried about getting swept out to sea, as I had heard that it was a super fast river, however I managed to get across to the exit ramp without any problems.

There were a couple of marshals helping people out of the river.  I lost my footing on some slippery weed on the ramp, as you can see the green stuff on the photo above.  I wish they had jet washed it at low tide, as I felt a right fool falling over in front of hundreds of people that had finished ahead of me!  Here’s me, being all smooth!

Raw Energy Pursuits, REP Arun Swim, June 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com

Smooth exit!

I think you can tell from this photo how hard I found it – I don’t think I’ve ever looked quite so wrecked!

Raw Energy Pursuits, REP Arun Swim, June 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com

Wrecked!

I soon found my feet, and gave coach Greg the thumbs up, as I stumbled up the ramp, and through the finish line.

Raw Energy Pursuits, REP Arun Swim, June 2014 by SussexSportPhotography.com

Stumble trip!

Thankfully at the top of the ramp, I was greeted by one of my club mates, Laura, and was handed a Snickers bar and a bottle of Coke.  That was the best!  I couldn’t get the taste of salt water out of my mouth quick enough, so pretty much inhaled them.

My final finishing position was 342nd out of 351, in a time of 1:31:42.  I’m very happy with that, I was hoping for about 1:30, so coming fairly close is good, and I’ve left plenty of room for improvement for next year.  I couldn’t give a monkey’s that I was so far down towards the bottom of the race – I’m really pleased that I managed to build up to this distance after only 13 months of open water swimming.

And here I am a while longer, enjoying what I came for – the ice cream, with my lovely club mate Jackie.

Will swim for ice cream!

Will swim for ice cream!

The whole day out was fantastic, and it had a real school trip feel to it – lots of fun, and lots of banter.  Definitely one for next year.

Full results can be found here:  http://www.rawenergypursuits.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Provisional-Results-20141.pdf

 

And here are the stats from my watch:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/520580657

Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2014 – Race Report

Hi there sports fans!

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, you may well have read my race report from here last year:

Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2013

Last year, the Blenheim Palace Triathlon was my first open water triathlon, and back then, it was only my third ever open water swim, so I was pretty terrified about the swim!

Well, this years training has been somewhat different, as I’m in training for an Ironman distance swim of 3.8km (which is on Saturday!), I’ve been spending plenty of time in the water.

Blenheim Palace Triathlon

Blenheim Palace Triathlon

Here’s a comparison for year to date 2014, compared to the same period last year:
2013 – 1st January to 7th June
swim: 15.45 miles 13.97 miles pool, 1.48 miles open water
bike: 268.47 miles
run: 532.96 miles

2014 – 1st January to 7th June
swim: 24.63 miles 12.31 miles pool, 12.32 miles open water
bike: 620.97 miles
run: 455.28 miles

It does seem a little strange that I’ve ran less this year, despite running a marathon this year, but the swim and bike have made up for it. I’m pleased with how training is going, and how I’ve got the balance between all three disciplines.  I imagine the swim and bike miles will grow a bit more quickly over the summer and the running will be on the back burner until autumn.

So, this race is a sprint distance triathlon, which was a 750m open water swim, 19.8km bike, 5.7km run.  The normal sprint distance triathlon is 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run, but they can vary a bit, depending on geography, so this one, the bike was slightly short, and the run was slightly long.

We decided to commute from home this year rather than mess about with the expense and hassle of a hotel, the gains of sleeping in my own bed outweigh having an extra hours of poorer quality sleep in my book.  We were up at 7am and out at about 7:30, and arrived and parked up with no problems at all.  We were in the car park before 9am.  My race time was 10:55, so plenty of time.

I opted to take a mug of Ready Brek with pumpkin seeds and raisins, and a flask of hot water to make instant porridge in the car – this worked really well.  I’d already had a banana and a couple of slices of Soreen as pre-breakfast, so was pretty well fuelled.

We went to register, pick up the timing chip, and get my £5 refund for being a British Triathlon Federation member.  While I was queuing, I spotted a board with the water temperature – 18.2c!  Result!  That’s warmer than where I’ve been training, so happy days!  That really cheered me up, and put to bed the fearful memories of last years swim.

I went to set up in transition – racked my bike, and arrange my helmet and race number belt on my tri-bars, and arrange my cycling shoes and socks,  and running shoes, cap and bottle around my bike.  It was a warm day, so no need to bother with extra layers, and I decided not to bother with bike gloves either – it seemed a bit superfluous for a short race.  I also had a good look around the transition area, to familiarise myself with the bike and run exits, and to try to reduce wasting time looking for my bike.  5th rack along, opposite the second little tree – sorted!

I exited transition to have a chat with Sam, and we met up with my mate Stuart, and a couple of club mates, Dave and Jon, from Freedom Tri.  We had a bit of a pre-race chit chat, and it was soon time to head back to transition to don the wetsuits, and head down to the river side for the pre-race briefing.

Here I am – a game of “Where’s Wally”:

Swim Assembly

Swim Assembly

The swim briefing was really good – it really put everyone at ease, and remind everyone that we’re there for fun, which is the point – it is fun!

Our start time was 10:55, and we were chucked into the water for a few minutes to acclimatise.  You can see the pontoon at the far right of the photo below.  Quite a few people sat down and edged their way into the water, but I just jumped in.  It must be pretty shallow, because I hit the floor of the river!  The few minutes soon passed, and the start klaxon sounded promptly at 10:55.  There were 250 people in the 10:55 mixed wave, and I’m placed pretty much right at the back.  I’m much more confident in the water now, but I know I’m going to be slower than a lot of people in the race, so don’t want to be swam over, don’t want to get in anyone’s way, and don’t really want to get kicked in the face!

Swim start

Swim start

The swim went really well – I swam continuously for the whole 750m without stopping.  I was mostly breathing to my right, but I tend to in open water for some reason, even though I breathe bilaterally in the pool.  I did nudge a few people, and got my feet tickled a couple of times, but apart from overtaking someone doing backstroke, the swim was over quickly, and uneventfully.   The swim actually seemed pretty short – I suppose it’s probably because I’ve been swimming over twice the distance in training, so a 750m swim IS short in the context of my recent training.

I completed the swim in 18:14 this year, so 2:50 quicker than last years 21:04.  I’m VERY happy with that!  It’s good to see the swim training it paying off.  Swimming is still by far my weakest of the 3 disciplines of triathlon:  I was placed 3055

I filled the wetsuit with water by pulling the neck down as I was getting out the water to help get it off, and I managed to get my wetsuit unzipped and off to the waist, although I was fumbling with it a bit.  There’s a sharp hill to run up to the transition area, my watch measure it as pretty much 600m from where we exited the water to where my bike is, so T1 at Blenheim is never going to be very quick.

Here’s a photo of me just about to get to the transition area.  You can see Stuart in the back ground – he was quicker than me on the swim, but I managed to get ahead of him on the run up the hill:

T1

T1

It was a warm and sunny day, so I didn’t bother drying off of putting extra layer on, just glasses on, helmet on, race number on,  socks and cycling shoes on, and then out.  I thought 4:49 for that was pretty respectable for my T1 time.  It was 2:13 quicker than last year, and only 957 people were quicker than me in T1, so that’s my strongest discipline! 😀

The bike leg starts with a downhill, which is a result, so I went from 0 to 27mph in about 12 seconds!  The bike leg is 3 laps, and it’s certainly not what I’d call an easy course.  It’s quite twisty and hilly in places, and a couple of bits seem a bit narrow.  With all abilities of cyclist out there there was a lot of over taking, and quite a bit of being taken over.  On a couple of the hills, a few people were getting off to push.

Being on closed roads though, it is very safe, with no cars or other road users to worry about.  And being 3 laps, it’s great for spectators too, and they can get some great photo’s:

 

Cycling

Cycling

4bike

I was pleased with the bike leg of this triathlon.  The bike behaved beautifully, I did use the full range of gears though, and my speeds ranged from 6.2mph right up to 35.6mph.  The 19.8km bike ride took me 43:35 this year, so 3:55 quicker than last years 47:30.  It’s not really a fair comparison though – I’m on a better, faster bike this year, and last year there was a dismount point on the bike, due to a bus having crashed into a foot bridge.  That said, my highest speed last year was 31.9 mph so I was definitely genuinely quicker at some point!  Anyway, I was placed 1931 on the bike.

The bike leg was a bit short for my liking – looking at the results, the bike is actually my best discipline of the three, and certainly my preferred (although I am admittedly very fickle, and this may well change!)

I ditched the helmet, bike and cycling shoes in T2, and pulled on the running shoes, running cap and water bottle – it was too hot to not take on water!

The run was the only disappointing part of my race – I was actually slower on the run than last year 31:49 compared to 30:52.  Only 1:03 slower, but I really had in mind that I was likely to go under 30 minutes for the 5.7km run.  I think it was mostly down to the heat – it was really very hot!  I only stopped briefly on each of the 2 laps to take on water at the water station, but I would have really been suffering at the end if I’d ran it dry.

Run run run!

Run run run!

Above is a photo of me on the finishing straight.  My run time of 31:49  put me in 2397th place.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Erdinger were there again, giving away their alcohol free beer – it’s really very nice, and goes down very well after a race!

Here’s me and Stuart on the podium.  I’m standing on 3rd place, but still taller than him!

Podium!

Podium!

All in all a great day out, a strong PB in 4 of the 5 timings, so I’ll take that!

Here’s the splits:

Splits

Splits

Here’s the comparison from last year:

Go Compare!

Go Compare!

Definitely coming back for more next year!

Next race:  River Arun 3.8km Swim on 14th June

Evans Cycles RideIt! Hatfield Sportive Report

Another busy week for me, including

  • Monday – 40 and a bit miles on the bike on Bank Holiday Monday, an actual rest day on Tuesday
  • Tuesday – REST DAY ?!
  • Wednesday – 5:30am open water swim session
  • Thursday – Freedom Tri run session, featuring pyramid intervals
  • Friday – evening pool swim session, featuring hard graft and cramp
  • Saturday – 7am open water swim session, first 2 lapper of the year

And to round the week of with my first ever sportive.  A sportive is a group bike ride, not a race – it’s not competitive, so pretty relaxed.  There were three distances on offer today:

  • Short – 28 miles  Elevation 1800ft
  • Medium – 55 miles Elevation 3400ft
  • Long – 86 miles Elevation 5100ft

I’d opted for the medium distance, as short seemed a bit short, and long seemed a bit long.   The medium distance was still a bit long for me really – I’ve only ever cycled 50 miles once before, and that was last October, although I have done a couple of 40 (ish) mile rides in the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, the weather report leading up to the ride had been abysmal.  Heavy rain and strong windy had been forecast all week.  Thankfully as we got closer to Sunday, the rain at least had dropped off the forecast, but it was still forecast to be a cool 10c and string winds still:

Wind :(

Wind 😦

Great.  Cycling in the wind is hateful.  There’s rarely a proper good tail wind, and a cross wind can be as fatiguing as a headwind.  My good friend Lisa “Ninja #1” Preston posted this on Facebook the other day, which I’d had in mind pretty much all week:

Meep!

Meep!

Anyway, enough moaning for now, there’ll be plenty more of that later on.  At least the rain had stopped.

There was no specific start time for the sportive, just bowl up between 8:30 and 10:30, register, and make way to the start pen, when there’s a load of riders ready to go, they’re given a short safety briefing, and details about how the different distance routes are sign posted, then then set off.

I arrived at 9:15, and went in to register, and have my timing chip stuck onto my helmet (must remember to remove that at some point!).  I was given a couple of boxes of High-5 sports nutrition products – gels, energy powders, hydration tablets, etc.  One box just for turning up, and another, bigger box for signing up 4 weeks in advance.  It looks like a good selection of products – probably £20 if purchased separately, so off to a good start.

On the way out of registration, I met up with Russell from the triathlon club.  He’d suggested we cycle together to share the work at the front in a mini peloton, a great idea, considering the wind.  I went off to faff about and get myself ride ready, and get back to the start line.  We listened to the safety briefing, and set off at about 9:45.

The first few miles went well, I don’t know if we had a bit of a tail wind, but over the first 5 miles, we managed to average just shy of 18mph – a good bit quicker than I’m used to cycling.  Group cycling is fairly new to me, I’m not really that confident cycling close behind someone to get the most aerodynamic benefit from drafting, and also unsure of the etiquette of how long to spend following, and how long to spend up front.  Russell is a far more experienced rider than me, having been a road cyclist since 2008, and having done some pretty serious cycling over the years, including John O’Groats to Lands End, so I followed his lead, and tried to keep up.

We carried on, eating up the miles.  After an hour, we’d covered 16.2 miles, and done more down hill than up hill, 683ft up vs 918ft down.  The Hertfordshire countryside is beautiful, and there’s so much you miss hacking up and down the A1.  We were going through villages and hamlets that I’d never heard of, despite the whole ride being within a 20 mile radius of where I live.  My legs were feeling good, we were shifting along, and enjoying the ride.

We rode with a few other guys for a while.  I almost felt like a proper cyclist, riding in peloton formation with a bunch of guys, a couple of them with Islington CC jerseys.  It was going quite well until I got dropped, and we fell off the back of their group.

Approaching the first feed station, we caught up with Freedom Tri member, Will Gee. Unfortunately, he’d fallen victim to a rough bit of road, of which there was plenty, and picked up not only his second puncture of the day, but had hit a pothole so hard, he’d managed to put a massive dent into the rim of his rear wheel.  We stopped to see if they were OK, and Russell gave Will a spare inner tube, so that he could hopefully get to the feed station.  The feed station also had mobile bike mechanic support, laid on by Evans Cycles, and we waited for Will to arrive to see if the mechanics were  able to straighten Will’s wheel out so he could complete the ride.

The Evans guys came up trumps, and straightened the rim out, and pumped the tyre up to proper pressure, and we said we’d ride together, but thankfully there were no further mechanical problems for the rest of the day.

The feed station was really good – loads of cake and flapjack, and a chance to fill up the bottles with High-5 energy drink.  It was also good to get off the bike for a bit.  With the stop to help Will out, and stop at the feed station a couple of miles later, we must have been off the bikes for over an hour, as by Garmin elapsed time was 1:10 longer than the moving time.  I suppose that’s a good thing about it not being a race – apart from wanting to get home, and beating the weather before the rain sets in, there’s no real pressure on time.

We set off again as a trio, Russell, Will and I, and carried on riding.  The next 10 miles or so were OK, mostly downhill, but still windy.

At around mile 38, there was a 3 mile climb – constant up hill, so the speed suffered during those miles, averaging just shy of 12mph for those three miles.   That uphill really hit me hard, and my legs were starting to suffer.  There was a bit of respite, and a bit of downhill (about a quarter of a mile), before the next mile and a half of solid uphill.

I think that those two climbs pretty much finished me off.  I had now cycled further than I’d ridden since October, on far hillier terrain, and in far windier conditions,  and I was struggling.  Russell and Will were absolute gents and slowed down for me, but my lack of time in the saddle was really showing me up.

We passed the 50 mile marker, and all I could think about was finishing and getting off the bike.  I was done.  I had nothing left.

When we a short sharp hill near mile 51, my thighs seized with cramp, and I had to stop.  The first time ever I’d suffered from cramp on the bike, and the first time I’d had to get off and push.  As soon as I was at the top of the hill, I got back on the bike, and got moving again.  This cramp happened again during the next hill at mile 53 – down into granny gear, pedal for as long as I could, then pretty much fall off the bike, and do the walk of shame.  No hill had ever beaten me before, but these last two, at this late stage of the ride beat me.  Mile 53 took me 7 minutes and 27 seconds.  I can run quicker than that (on a good day).

I got back on, and limped to the finish.  Just to add insult to injury, the race HQ was on top of a hill too, but I just about managed to stay on the bike for the last incline.

I went through the finish tent, and stopped the clock.

Total distance: 55.24 miles
Moving Time: 3:44:57
Elapsed Time: 4:54:54
Avg Speed: 14.7 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 14.7 mph
Max Speed: 35.0 mph

All in all, I’m very happy with that.  On a good day, with appropriate cycling endurance training, I’d have liked to have been quicker, but considering the hills, the wind, and everything else, I can’t grumble at all.

I’ll definitely be doing more sportives in the future – it’s a good way to spend a few hours looking at the countryside, and the group riding feels a lot less like effort – it’s more enjoyable cycling with other people.

 

Will cycle for pie

Will cycle for pie

Next race: the Blenheim Palace Triathlon on 8th June

Garmin details:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/497446062

Greenway Challenge 2014 Race Report

Hello!  Me again! 😀

So, since my first triathlon of the season last weekend, I’ve had a pretty full and varied week of training:

  • Monday evening – ran 10k
  • Tuesday – early morning “endurance swim” of a mile, followed by a 5k time trial at lunchtime (26:45) followed by a mile of Fartlek/strides
  • Wednesday – 16 mile bike ride (55 minutes/17.2mph)
  • Thursday – Freedom Tri run session – dreaded hill repeats
  • Friday night – Freedom Tri pool session (featuring cramp)
  • Saturday – first open water swim session of the year – 900m of cold, rubbery goodness

So I was fired up and raring to go for an off road, trail half marathon!

Not having ran more than 10k since the Brighton marathon 4 weeks ago also made me a bit nervous of the distance, but I was hopeful that I’d be able to pull a half marathon out of the bag.  I also suffered cramp during the swim session on Friday, and could still really feel this in my calf still – it felt like my muscles had been pulled, so I decided that I’d wear my rather fetching knee length compression socks, to try and keep my calves in check.

This is the third year I’ve ran this race, 2012 in 2:08:41 and 2013 in 2:06:11 (both Garmin time, as the race isn’t chip timed).  I’d have been happy to get close to these times, but my running buddy Tom was hoping to beat our time of 2:05:09 that we set at the Baldock Beast half marathon that we completed in February, so we agreed on trying to run at a pace of 9:30/mile, which should see us right.

Being nice and local, I had a relative lie-in, setting the alarm for 8:00, and got up, had a standard race day breakfast of porridge, coffee and a pint of water, had a shower, and sort my kit out, and Tom picked me up at 8:45.  We were there in a few minutes, and had plenty of to pick up our race numbers, have a drink, and a chat with some of the other runners.  Being so local, we both knew a good few people running, neighbours, old school mates, and club mates from Freedom Tri.

Chatting to club mate Greg about pace before the race, we said we were shooting for 2 and a bit hours, so we agreed to run together – Tom, Greg, and I – the Three Amigos!  Greg was treating the Greenway Challenge as part of a longer training run, as he’s training for the Liverpool marathon in a couple of weeks, so he was more interested in just doing the distance, rather than a specific pace.  He’s ran the race before in 1:44 a couple of years ago, so he’s a good bit quicker than Tom and me, but it was great to have his company.

A few minutes before the race, we headed off to the start, and started promptly at 10am.  The race isn’t chip timed, so the final results are all based on gun time, however, I’m more interested in the time it takes me to run the race, not including getting to the start line, although being a small race, the difference between my Garmin time and the official time was only actually 25 seconds, but in bigger races, this can be many minutes from when the starting gun fires, and you cross the start line.

The Greenway is quite narrow, so with a few hundred runners and a bottleneck over a narrow bridge, the first mile was quite slowish – 9:54.  We picked the pack up for the second mile, despite having to go up the hill from Thursday night’s dreaded hill repeats.  Mile 2 was completed in 9:20.  At about mile 2, there’s the first road crossing, and Sam was there waiting to cheer us on, and take some snaps – she was out on her bike, cycling around to support us all.  Here we are, the Three Amigos, me left, Greg in the background, and Tom, right.

Three Amigos!

Three Amigos!

We crossed Norton Road, and must have picked up the pace, as mile 3 was the quickest mile of the day, completed in 8:56, looking at the stats from my watch, mile 3 was also the flattest.

We carried on well, taking on the hills of miles 4 and 5 well, and saw Sam again just before mile 4.  The water station at mile 5 was a welcome sight – I was carrying my own water during the race, but it was getting warm, and I was rationing myself, as it was such a hot day.  We stopped to neck a quick cup of water, and carried on.

The next few miles were thankfully mostly down hill, passing the 10k mark in 58 minutes, we were on pace for our target “2 and a bit hour” race.  We saw Sam again at this point, crossing Letchworth Gate, and she snapped us again:

6 miles in

6 miles in

Sam headed off home to pick up our son Ewan, and cycle back to meet us at the finish line, so we weren’t to see Sam again on the course.

There are a couple of horrible hills when you get to the Hitchin part of the Greenway, but we managed to run up them, which is a first.  The last couple of times we’ve always taken a tactical walk at this point.  We did slow down a bit for the hills though.

At just after the 10 mile point we hit the second water station and stopped again for water.  There’s a road crossing and gate during this mile, so including the water stop, this mile was the slowest, and the only mile to creep over 10 minutes to 10:15.

There were a couple more undulations in the last couple of miles, but it was mainly down hill from here.  The last 2 miles of the race are on road, taking us past Fearnhill school on Icknield Way, where I went to school.  It is nice being so local!

We were soon back to Standalone farm, where the race started and finished.  Here’s me and Tom on the finishing straight.  It might look like I’m about to slap Tom around the back of the head, but I’m actually coming in for a high-5 from club mate Jackie – it’s the Freedom Tri way!

Finishing straight

Finishing straight

I completed the race in a Garmin time of 2:01:45, official time of 2:02:10.  My third fastest ever half marathon, and a course personal best of 4:26.

There were no medals or prizes at the end of the race, instead North Herts Road Runners give the proceeds from the race go towards Woolgrove School, which is a special needs academy in Letchworth.  There were, however, very welcome cups of tea and cakes laid on – better than any medal!

Here we are at the finish:

Finishers!

Finishers!

Not sure where Tom had wondered off to, but left to right, me, Rob Clarke, Greg Bowie, Angela Phillips, John Phillips, Paul Fairchild.

One slight negative from the race – the dreaded runners nipple from my running vest.  Despite a generous application of Vaseline, I was rubbed raw:

Nippled!

Nippled!

Luckily it washed out though!

All in all, a great day out, loads of friendly faces, and a good time was had by all!  Definitely one for next years race calendar.

Garmin time: 2:01:45

Official time: 2:02:10

Position: 151 out of 227

Here’s the Garmin trace for you stat fans:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/492639449

So what’s next?  Well, next weekend, I’m taking part in a sportive – The Evans Cycles RideIt! Hatfield Sportive.  I’ve opted for the “medium” distance, which is a 57 mile tour of the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.

 

 

Bedford Tri-Crazy 2014 Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Well, my second year of triathlon is now well under way, and my first race of the season was completed this morning.

I took part in the race last year, as my first ever triathlon, so I knew what to expect, so was pretty relaxed about it.

However, it was my wife Sam’s first triathlon, so she’s been experiencing an awesome combination of nerves and excitement!  Her nerves were misplaced though – she’s had fantastic coaching and training has gone really well, as she signed up for the Tri Triers beginners group with Freedom Tri.  Sam has done more triathlon specific training than me since joining the Tri Triers over the last 12 weeks.  Compared to 2013, my triathlon training has been pretty poor.  This tells a bit of a picture:

2013 Training

2013 Training

vs

2014 Training

2014 Training

The training for the Brighton marathon has been my focus for the first quarter of the year, so the swim and bike training has been compromised, and my running has also suffered, as long slow runs really don’t  help with the faster, shorter 5k distance at the end of a sprint triathlon.  Last year I had been doing brick sessions, more swimming, and more speed work on the run, so I wasn’t really starting the race full of confidence on my performance potential.

Saturday afternoon was spent sorting out kit for the race, and we had a good evening meal of chicken and veg in a pesto sauce, on top of a bed of wholemeal pasta.  We didn’t get to bed particularly early, as pre race sleeps are generally a bit restless.   I managed to sleep better than Sam though.  I think she had about 3 hours in total!  The alarm went off at 5:30, and I was up and out.  I got the bikes on the back of the car, and we left promptly at 5:45, aiming to get to the Robinson pool in Bedford for 6:15 when the registration opens.  Parking can be a bit of a problem, so we wanted to be there early enough for this to not be an issue.

We registered, and picked up our goody bags, this year including a cereal bar, Club bar, bottle of water, pouch of Capri Sun, and a choice of t-shirt.  I opted for a pink t-shirt, so I could be t-shirt twins with Sam.  Just for the LOL’s 🙂

After registration, we were able to get the bikes into the transition area and setup.  Here’s a nervous, excited and cold looking Sam:

Sam in transition

Sam in transition

You can see how early we were from the picture below – lots of empty racking for now, also Sam in the background faffing with kit.  There’s a lot of of stuff to mess about for with the swim/bike/run.  You can see here my new bike – I don’t know if the racking is low here, but I had a sod of a job getting my bike on and off the racking.  You can see Sam’s back wheel is about 6″ off the ground, but both my wheels are on the ground:

Transition

Transition

Sam was due in the water at 7:46, where my start time was 8:10, so Sam soon headed in to line up for the swim.  I faffed a bit longer, and soon went in to queue up too, ditching my glasses, it was typically disorienting.

Sam was out of the pool before I got in, so we gave her a good cheer from across the pool.

The swim felt like tough going.  It was only the second time swimming in my Freedom Tri tri-suit, but that shouldn’t make much odds.  I was just following the swimmer ahead.  No one over took me over the 400m swim, and I never pushed it to overtake anyone either.  Perhaps I should have pushed it a bit more.  According to my watch, my swim time 10:37.  A good couple of minutes slower than my 400m time trial at the Freedom Tri club session a few weeks ago, and a bit slower than my pool races here before.  But we won’t dwell on that 🙂

I was out of the pool, and had a mad dash outside to the transition area to towel off and get my bike gear on.  I got my glasses and helmet on, then my cycling jacket was hard to get on, as I was still wet.  My socks didn’t go on much better, as my feet were still wet.  I then couldn’t find my cycling mitts (they later turned up in amongst with my friend Clare’s stuff somehow!), so for the transition from swim to bike was, all in all, a disorganised shambles.  Transition 1 took me 3:06.

Here’s me leaving transition with my bike.  It doesn’t look very big any more, next to me!  (photograph taken by Richard Allen)

Transition exit

Transition exit

As I said earlier, I’m on a new bike, well new to me.  I bought it second hand last week from one of the club coaches.  I did a long test ride on it last weekend before buying it, and a turbo session during the week.  I had put the wheels on my old bike on, and swapped the cassettes over, and this introduced a bit of uncertainty.  A road test would have been a good plan, as it turns out that the cassette was a bit loose, so the gears were a bit jumpy, especially when trying to put power through the bigger gears which was frustrating to say the least!  Despite that, I did manage to average 16 mph on the bike, completing the 15 mile ride in 56:45.  I really should have tested the bike, with a bit of an extra tighten of the rear gears, my bike ride would have been a good bit quicker I reckon.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d have ridden my old bike today, my trusty red Specialized Allez.  It hasn’t been sold quite yet, and it would have been an interesting comparison to have raced the same race on the same bike.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Here’s me entering and leaving the second transition,grabbing a high-5 from Lynn on the way out – it’s the Freedom way! (photograph taken by Richard Allen):

In and out of T2

In and out of T2

Getting back, I was chuffed to see Sam’s bike back in the transition area.  She was nervous about getting lost, and I was nervous of her bike betraying her, with either a puncture or some other mechanical failure, so seeing that she was safely back to Bedford Park, nothing could go wrong now!

I was really please with my transition 2 time – I managed to rack the bike, strip off the jacket and helmet, change shoes and turn my race number around in 40 seconds!

The run leg of this triathlon is 2 and a half laps of Bedford Park.  While it’s a well established fact that I’m not a fan of laps, a lapped 5k is manageable.

Despite not having trained for 5k and the sorted distances, the run leg of the triathlon went pretty well. I averaged 8:39/mile over the run, completing the run leg of the race in 25:21.  I felt strong on the run.   It felt like I managed to run with good posture, and the encouragement from the Freedom Tri support crew was fantastic!  I probably could have ran marginally quicker if I hadn’t taken so many high-5’s off my club-mates, and had mini races with Debz’s and James’s children, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, and at my level, the enjoyment is paramount!  What’s the point of being dead serious and competitive when you’re a back of the pack athlete like me?  I only do what I do for my own pleasure.  If I was results driven, I think it would ruin it for me.  I enjoy pondering over the results and the data and statistics that the gadgets provide me with, but that’s just the inner geek coming out in me.

The social element of the sport is far more important than the results to me.  The friendship that I’ve gained over the last year or so in the world of triathlon has been fantastic.

Remember that pink tshirt that I picked up as my race memento “for the LOL’s”?  Well that kind of back fired on me!  It turns out that the pink shirts were ladies, and the “large” wasn’t very large at all.  Get ready with the eye bleach, because here comes the photo of Sam and I in our matching shirts:

T-shirt twins

T-shirt twins

I somehow don’t think I’ll get a lot of wear out of my shirt!  It’s a bit short, a bit snug, and a bit like a ladies cut.   Oh well, we live and learn! 🙂

For what it’s worth, I finished in a grand total time of 1:36:28.  I was positioned 204th out of 286, and 28th out of the 34 men aged 35-39.

But more importantly, I had a very nice morning, with some very nice people.

 

 

Swim:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/487994833

Bike:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/487994838

Run:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/487994842

Brighton Marathon 2014 Race Report

The Brighton Marathon came around a bit quickly for my liking.  Training hasn’t been great, and not finishing my last race up at Oakley a fortnight ago had knocked my confidence a bit.

I had been trying to find the positives from Oakley ahead of my second full marathon, using it as a reality check.  I do need to respect the longer distance running, the taper is important, as is being well rested and well fueled.  Valuable lessons were learned from Oakley.

I was very conscious that I hadn’t ran over 18 miles in training  though, and that quite a bit of my longest run had been run/walking.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ran much more than 13 miles non stop all year.  Oops.

I had tapered properly for this race though (apart from the triathlon club duathlon race last weekend, but I didn’t race hard) – that’s the one part of my training plan that I did follow properly.  I’d cut out the triathlon club swim and bike sessions in the last week, and only ran a couple of shorter steady runs.  I’d also eaten well in the week running up to the marathon, avoiding anything processed, not eating any junk, eating lots of fresh fruit and veg, and being careful to stay properly hydrated.

My wife Sam and I drove down to Brighton Saturday morning, as we had to collect my race pack from the exhibition.  The journey down wasn’t great, and the traffic in Brighton was pretty horrendous. I don’t know if it was the additional marathon runners trying to get into town that was causing traffic mayhem, or if that’s what Brighton is always like, but I think in hindsight, we’d have been better off getting the train.

We finally got to the hotel and checked in, then went to the expo to pick up my race number.  The expo was pretty busy, lots of excited people collecting their race numbers, and stuff to look at and buy.  I did resist buying any gear though – nothing seemed like an exceptional bargain.  We did have some free samples of energy gels, drinks, and protein bars though.  We went for a bit of a mooch around Brighton, then went back to the hotel for dinner.

What a cock up the hotel restaurant was!  It was half empty, and when we were seated, we were warned that there might be a half an hour wait for food.  No problem we thought.  There was no pasta on the menu, and we were told that there were no pizzas left.  Great.  I wanted nice bready or pasta-y carbs.  I ordered a burger, and we sat and waited.  A lot of other people in the restaurant were complaining that the service was so slow.  After waiting 45 minutes, we were told that our dinner would be about another 20 minutes, and there were 3 tables ahead of us to be served.  We decided to wait.  After about 20 minutes, they started bringing out the meals for one of the tables ahead of ours, but most of the meals were sent back to the kitchen, as they got the orders wrong.  This was the final straw, and we decided to walk out.

I’m really glad we did, as luck would have it, there was an all you can eat pasta and pizza buffet just over the road from the hotel, the Casa Della Pizza restaurant.  What an absolute result!  Exactly what I needed, and right on the doorstep of the hotel.  We had a right good feed, loads of lovely carbs, and for the pair of us, change from a £20 note.

We went back to the hotel, and I laid out my kit, just to make sure I was ready, and not panicking in the morning that I’d forgotten or mislaid something:

Kit

Kit

I don’t particularly see the point of having an early night before a race, as I don’t sleep if I’m not tired, so we didn’t hit the sack until about 11pm.  I had a terrible nights sleep anyway – I normally do when I’m away from home.  The alarm went off 6:45 and we got up.  I decided I’d have a pot of instant porridge in the room, fully expecting the breakfast in the hotel restaurant to be a similar fiasco to the evening meal.  Sam went down to the restaurant for a reccie, but thankfully the hotel was organised and had pre-made a vat of porridge, as well as all the other cooked and continental breakfast wares that you’d expect at a Premier Inn.  I ditched the instant porridge, and went to the resaurant, and had a big bowl of freshly made porridge, sultanas, a load of pumpkin seeds and a couple of mini pots of jam on top for good measure.  This was all washed down with some strong black coffee, and a hydration drink.

Breakfast

Breakfast

And no, I didn’t have HP sauce on it!

It was soon time for the off.  It was about half an hours walk from the hotel up to Preston Park where the race was starting, so we took it steady, following the stream of people heading that way.  There was the Brighton 10k race before the marathon, so we saw some of that on the way.  The guys at the front of the race were absolutely flying!  The winner of the race won the 10k in 29:11, which is crazy fast to me!  A pace of 4:42 per mile – I couldn’t run 100m at that pace, let alone 10,000m.

Anyway, we got to Preston Park, and headed for the queues for the toilet.  They were epic – it took half an hour to get to a portaloo.  One of these days, I’ll do a race where there will be enough toilets.  I wish race organisers would think about how many toilets are needed.  Double it, then double it again!

As I was a bit optimistic about my finishing time when I entered the race a year ago, I was in the red corral, with people expecting a finish time between 3:15 and 4 hours.  With the training I’d done, I knew that wasn’t on the cards for me, so put myself right at the back of the red group, and tried not to get in the way of too many people.  Here’s me just before the start:

Red corral - with the cool kids

Red corral – with the cool kids

Marathon legend Paula Radcliffe was starting the race, and she sounded the klaxon promptly at the 9:15 starting time.  It took a few minutes to get to the start line, but I didn’t see the point of rushing, no point running any further than absolutely necessary.  I got over to the side, and let everyone run past me that wanted to.  As I approached the start line, I saw Paula above the crowd on a platform, and managed to get a high-5 off her!  The marathon was off to a good start!

The first part of a race is often a bit quick, full of adrenalin and excitement, but I was very aware of this, and I didn’t want to go off too quickly and do myself in too early on.  It turns out I didn’t need to worry this time out, as there were so many people getting over the start line, and bustling for space to run, and that combined with a couple of tight turns and bottlenecks, my first mile of the race, completed in 11:10 was actually my slowest mile of the race.

I managed to cement my desired 10 minute mile pace pretty well, miles 2 and 3 were 10:01 and 10:03 respectively.

Somehow Sam managed to get around the course quicker than I did, and managed to cheer me on, and take loads of photos.

There were timing mats at each 5km (3.1 miles).  The timing mats were linked up to the internet, to provide live 5km splits on the Brighton Marathon website, and on a mobile phone app, so Sam (and other stalkers  :p ) could track my progress on their phones.  I crossed the 5k mat in 32:22, which would be my slowest 5k split.

I had a very nice surprise early on in the race.  My club-mate Rowan from Freedom Tri caught me up and overtook me, and stopped for a nice chat for a few minutes, he left me with a pat on the back, and disappeared off into the distance.  It really cheered me up seeing Rowan.

Interestingly, mile 4 was 10:20, which looking at my stats is surprising, as it was pretty much all down hill.  Perhaps I was being a bit too reserved?

Mile 5 was uphill again, and I picked up to 9:51.  All a bit odd, but that is me I suppose.

The first 5 and a bit miles were around Brighton city centre, and the support was fantastic.  The streets were lined with thousands of people, all cheering us on.   I’ve never known a race like it.  This marathon was far bigger than any race I’ve ever taken part in – it was almost overwhelming.  The amount of people handing out Jelly Babies and other sugary sweets and cheering us on was phenomenal.

We turned east out of town, along the coast road, towards a little place called Ovingdean.  I love the water, and running by the sea was a real treat.  It’s a big part of the reason I entered the Brighton marathon, where I live in Stotfold is miles away from the sea, so I rarely get to see the sea.  I’d love to live on the coast one day.

Not long after leaving town, we crossed another timing mat, and looking at the stats, my second 5k was 31:30.  I was feeling surprisingly good.  In fact, I was loving it, feeding off the atmosphere and the camaraderie of the other runners.  I’d not felt that good running for a long time.  There were fewer supporters out side of town, but that was OK.  The runners were more relaxed, and it was good to have a chat to a few fellow runners.  Most runners are very friendly, you’ve got a lot in common with complete strangers, a common interest, so it’s really easy to talk to people, and to make friends.

We headed inland for a bit, and got to mile 9, we turned around, and headed back towards the sea, then back towards Brighton.  Soon after the 9 mile mark, we crossed the 15km mat. It’s a bit weird the marathon being measured in miles, with mile markers, but the splits being measured in 5km chunks, the mixtures of units of measure is confusing, and I spend a lot of time running doing maths to work out what’s what, and where’s where!  I guess I am a geek for life!  The third 5km split was 31:32, nice and consistent, I was in the groove.

Must be time for another photo?

Runnig

Runnig

The 20km (12.5 mile) passed, with the 5km split time being 31:15 – I managed to speed up a bit.  This was not expected!  Back into town, the support was back!

Crossing the half way mark, it turns out I was running really close to the 4:30 pacers, although they seemed to be running a bit quick, perhaps they were building in a bit of rubber, to allow them to slow down a bit towards the end.  I have no idea if proper pacers pace evenly or not.  There were a lot of people near the half way mark, as it was right on the front, and about half a mile from the pier.

At about 14 miles, we headed away from the sea for a bit, and ran a 4 and a bit mile loop along a road parallel to the coast road.  I saw Sam again just before heading back to the coast road, and ran over and grabbed a kiss off here – probably a bit sweaty and snotty, but she didn’t seem to mind too much!

We got back to the coast road at 18 and a bit miles, then crossed the 30km (18.75 mile) mat.  The sixth 5km chunk of the race was my fastest – 30:43.

The next section of the race was a bit grim.  It took us out of Brighton, around a wood yard, and a dock, and it smelled a bit fishy, and on the outward leg, there was a bit of a head wind.  Apart from that wind, the weather had been absolutely perfect.  Cool, dry, still.  In my book, perfect running conditions.  Considering the weather forecast had been dire all week – with heavy rain and 20mph winds forecast, we were so lucky.  If the weather had been as the forecast, it would have been a grim day out.

I still felt really strong at this point.  For a while, I actually felt like I might be able to run the entire distance, and if not, run past the 20 mile without stopping to walk, which was as far as I got without stopping when I completed the Milton Keynes marathon in 2012.  My strategy of taking water on at every drink station, and taking all the gels and Gatorade energy drinks on offer would help me to avoid hitting the crippling wall seemed to be paying off.

The furthers part of the race was 21 and a bit miles out.  The finishing straight was billed as the “Road to hell”.  Not very motivational to say the least!  5 miles straight back to the finish, just the other side of the Brighton Pier.  I suppose the problem is that you can see the pier from such a long way away.  I was determined to not let this bother me though.  I did have my first little walk soon after this. I’m not sure if it was the “Road to hell” playing on my mind, or the fact that I’d ran 21.5 miles non stop, and in my my mind already achieved a lot by running further than I’d ran non stop before.  The mental side of long distance running is a funny thing.  That far into a race, it’s sometimes difficult to remain rational and to think straight.  I’d also worked out that I could afford to take my foot off quite a bit, slow down considerably, and still get a pretty big chunk off my PB of 4:39:21.  Perhaps my inherent laziness was getting the better of me?  Who knows, and never mind.

I decided from here on to run to the mile marker, walk for a minute, then carry on running to the next mile marker.  This seemed like a good plan – take a minute to recover a little bit, then press on for another 9-10 minutes.  If you still move forward by walking, you don’t necessarily lose too much time.

The walking strategy soon went out the window anyway, I got chatting to a lady called Sally, and that distracted me nicely.  She was really happy that she was on for a sub 4:30 marathon, I then realised that I must be too!  I ran with Sally for a mile or so, then she faded away a little bit, and I took off ahead of her.  I did walk briefly at the mile 25 marker, as my quads were starting to ache quite badly, but then the crowd was so loud, I managed to draw some energy from somewhere and managed to shift it along.

I saw my Mum and sister, Nic, at about the 26 mile marker, but somehow managed to miss my wife Sam on the finishing straight – I must have had my eye on the prize, and charged for the line.

I stopped my watch, and it read 4:27.  12 minutes quicker than my previous time, so very pleased with that.  I was presented with my medal, and thanked the lady handing them out, and collected my finishers t-shirt, a couple of bananas and some grotty Belvita biscuits to refuel on, as well as a Gatorade recovery protein drink.  It tasted pretty rotten, but I do think it helped.

There was a queue to get out of the finishers funnel, but there was Sam, waiting for me just outside the finishers area.  Here’s me on the beach, just at the end of the race, with my super cape billowing in the sea breeze:

Super-G

Super-G

And here’s a close up of my medal:

Medal

Medal

After the race, we had a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, and I sensibly re-hydrated, had a bath and a stretch, and chilled out for a bit, before going out for a well earned steak:

MEAT!

MEAT!

This was (less sensibly) washed down with a few beers.  Mum and Nic went off back to their campsite, and Sam and I decided to go and have a look at the sea again, and for some daft reason, I wanted to go for a walk to the end of the pier.  It felt OK to be walking, but was tricky to stop and start again, and stairs were a bit of an issue.  We stopped off at another restaurant by the sea side, and had a couple or more beers and pudding, before a slow walk back to the hotel.

So all in all, a pretty good weekend away.

Will I run another marathon?  No.  Not for a while anyway.  I really haven’t enjoyed the training this time around.  It’s been lonely at times, and some of the Saturday morning spending hours running in the wind and rain have been really draining.  It’s also really compromised my triathlon training.  Pretty much everything I’ve done over the past few months has been in a tired and over trained state.  I’m just not cut out for marathon training and triathlon training at the same time, and triathlon is where my heart’s at at the moment.  I want to improve at swimming and cycling, and have been training hard over the winter to try to improve my swimming and cycling technique, and to get physically stronger, but the long runs have just left me too tired to achieve this.

I’m in a good place with the marathon distance now, but I am glad it’s done.  There’s not unfinished business, so I’m in a good place.

For what it’s worth, I finished in 4583rd place out of 8510 finishers.

Here’s the 5km split times from the official tracker app:

Splits

Splits

And here’s the wonderful stats from my watch:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/475405834

 

Oakley 20 mile race – *** Did Not Finish ***

We’ll get onto my first DNF (Did Not Finish) in a bit, but first things first.

Picture yourself with a face made of porridge, with Nutella eyes, and peanutty nose.  Sorry for getting a bit “Lucy in the sky” there!

Anyway, breakfast – up early for a decent breakfast of a porridge face, with coffee, hydration drink and a banana:

Porridge Face

Porridge Face

Training’s been going fairly well really, I completed my longest run of the year last weekend – 18.75 miles, so well up to the distance.

As I was treating the Oakley 20 as a training run, rather than a race, I didn’t bother with a taper, so had a full week of training last week: Monday, ran just shy of 5 miles, Tuesday, tough turbo trainer session, Thursday, sprint relay run session, Friday 19 mile bike in the morning, then a cramp-fest of a swim on Friday night, plus 2 hours of hedge cutting in the afternoon.

This is quite a contrast from when I successfully ran the same race in 2012 – I ran on the Wednesday, then had 3 days of full rest before race day.

My fuelling was also different, I normally have a pretty healthy meal on the Saturday night before a race – normally brown pasta, with chicken and a load of veg in a pesto sauce, where as this time around, I had a chicken Kiev, potato wedges and a bagel.

So I was over trained and improperly fuelled for this race – setting myself up for a fall really.

The race started OK, it was cold and windy, but I was moving fairly well.  I started quite far back in the pack, and was overtaking quite a few people, especially on the hills, a lot of people were slowing for the hills, but I was able to maintain a fairly even pace.

The first few miles were uneventful, which is generally good when running.  I passed the 10k mark in 1:02, bang on my desired 10 minute mile pace.  The route is quite hilly – it seemed more up hill than anything, but that’s often the way when runnng.  There seemed to be very little on the flat, and there was seldom a tail wind.

I carried on at a pretty consistent pace, and completed the first 10 miles in 1:14, an average pace of 10:06 a mile.  After 10 miles, I walked to take a gel on, as I was feeling a bit like my energy was depleted, and then carried on.

My friends John and Angela from Freedom Tri came out to cheer me on, and I saw them shortly after taking the gel.  Here’s a photo of me high-5’ing John – it’s the Freedom way! I was still feeling pretty strong at this point.

Give me 5, John!

Give me 5, John!

The race is 2 laps – a 12 mile lap, followed by a shorter 8 mile lap.  At about 11 miles, I was lapped by the race leaders, which I found hugely demotivating.  I certainly don’t expect to finish anywhere in races, but being lapped by blokes who are absolutely flying really rubs it in.

Passing race HQ at 12 miles was also mentally tough.  I almost (should have?) called a day at 12 miles, but thought if I carried on, and tactically walked the hills, I’d at least complete the distance.

I saw John and Angela again as I was walking up one of the hills not far after the 12 mile marker, and that cheered me up a bit, so off I ran again.

The final straw came approaching the 14th mile marker – a fellow athlete was walking back to race HQ, having withdrawn from the race.  I did run past him, but then thought “Sod it.  I don’t want to run/walk 6 odd miles”, and decided to withdraw from the race.   I was aching, knackered, and cold, so decided enough was enough.  It felt pointless continuing feeling like that.  All I was likely to achieve was injury or illness, and I’m not having that.  I’ve got a full season of triathlon to look forward to.

My head wasn’t in it from the get go really.  I HATE lapped races, especially when the first lap is 12 miles!  I was over trained, and under fuelled, so was asking for trouble.

Things learned from the run:

  • I ran a good 10 miles – consistently paced and disciplined
  • Have more rest days before a race
  • Focus on lower intensity sessions
  • I’m only human
  • Focus on fuelling and nutrition – a reminder that all calories are not created equal
  • I know not to run it again – laps really can do one

When I was training for my first marathon, I read a book called “Run less, run faster”, which really advocates cycling and swimming to complement running.  I wasn’t into swimming or cycling back in 2012, but mis-remembered that swimming and cycling are generally helpful, and had it in mind that I’ve been training smart.  The point I missed, is that these should be low intensity cross training sessions.  I’ve been doing triathlon club turbo trainer and swimming sessions every week, but have been pushing hard to try to improve technique and stamina both in the saddle, and in the pool.  So I haven’t really done much low intensity training at all – it’s either been pushing the speed, or pushing up the distance.

Training 5 days a week is also taking its toll.  71 sessions in the first 82 days of the year.  Oops.

So, what next?  Well, tapering for the Brighton Marathon is definitely on.  I’m cutting right back on the training, I’m going to have a low volume, low intensity couple of weeks, do the marathon and see how it goes.

 

For anyone interested, here’s the bit of the race that I ran:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/466352228

Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon Race Report

I entered the Cambridge half marathon a good few months ago, as part of my marathon training.  The last 3 years, I’ve ran the Silverstone half marathon in March, but felt like I wanted a change of scenery this year.

The Cambridge half is a big race – 4,500 places, and it sells out FAST – within a couple of days normally, so I was quick to sign up and secure my place.

Still no photo’s of my breakfast I’m afraid.  I was picked up early by my club-mate SJ and her partner Mat, so only had time for a quick coffee, and stuck a sandwich in my kit bag that I made the night before – a club sandwich of Nutella and peanut butter, on lovely seeded bread.  It was as delicious as it sounds!

We arrived in Cambridge nice and early and parked at SJ’s office.  We had a leisurely stroll to the race HQ, which was at the Jesus Green park close to the city centre.

As with pretty much every race, there weren’t enough toilets laid on, so there were massive queues for the toilets, but needs must, so I queued.

We met up with some other Freedom Tri members, Jacko, Chris, David, John and Angela, and had a chat and catch up.

It was soon time to head to the race start, so I stripped off to shorts and t-shirt with my Freedom Tri running vest over the top.  It was a hot and sunny day, so I could have quite easily just worn the vest, but as I tend to feel the cold, especially towards the end of a race when I’m getting tired, I was reluctant to ditch the t-shirt.

The race was organised into 4 coloured start pens – blue at the front, then green, then yellow then red.  I was in the green start pen with Chris and Angela.  They both headed towards the front to get in front of the 1:45 pacer, as they’re both a good bit quicker than I am.  I had a look around for a 2 hour pacer, but couldn’t spot one, so just hung about in the middle of the pen, waiting for the race to start.  I was probably a bit further forward than I should have been, but never mind, it doesn’t desperately matter.

The start gun fired, and we started, stopped, and started again, as the field of 4,500 runners surged to the start line, after a couple of minutes, we passed the timing mat, so the race was officially on.

Despite being such a big race, there seemed to be plenty of space to run, and I wasn’t tripping over anyone.  Quite a few people overtook me early on, so I definitely was too far forward in the pack, but I wasn’t going to try and keep up and run too quickly and ruin my race, so I let them sail past me.  I glanced at my watch to check my pace and it seemed like it was having a bit of a hissy fit, and for some reason, it lost the first half mile of the race, and my heart rate monitor was behaving oddly too.  According to that, my max heart rate for the race was 222 bpm, but I think if that had been the case, my heart would have burst out of my chest!

It wasn’t long before I passed the first mile marker, even though my watch had only recorded 0.5 mile, the time was at least about right – pretty much bang on 9 minutes for the first mile.  There is a silver lining to my watch playing silly buggers – it did allow me to relax and not worry about the numbers.  I did glance at the watch a few times, but didn’t have a lot of faith in it.

I somehow missed the second mile marker, soon after was the first water and gel station.  The water was distributed in pouches (like these)  – much better than cups, but hard to get all the water out of.  There were 3 water and gel stations, and as this was a 2 lap course, 6 chances to grab a water or a free High-5 gel.  I took on more water and gels than I normally would for a half marathon, but was keen to finish strong, and with energy to spare, and it was such a hot day, I didn’t want to get too dehydrated.

At the 3rd mile marker, my time was 27:15, a bit over the 9 minute mile pace of a 2 hour half marathon.  I was treating this run as a training run anyway, rather than having a goal time in mind anyway, so was expecting to finish in 2:05 or there abouts.

Although Cambridge is pretty flat, the course is quite twisty and turny, so not as fast as I’d have expected – there were a couple of u-turns in the race, which were a bit of a bottleneck.  Also, a few stretches of the race was on cobblestones – a very hard and uneven surface to run on.

I cracked on, and took advantage of the other 2 water and gel stations on the first lap.  The first 6 mile lap too me 55:17 according to the splits from the official results, so 9:13 per mile- a bit of drop in pace.

I’m not a big fan of multiple lap races – I find getting back to the start and having the same again to do quite demotivating.  This was made worse, as there was a relay part of the race, so some of the runners only ran the first lap – lucky buggers!

I cracked on with lap 2, and passed the 10 mile mark in 1:33.   I needed to pull a 27 minute 5k out of the bag to get a 2 hour half, which I wasn’t expecting to get, but thought I’d give it a shot.  I tried to speed up a bit.

We got back to the park at about 11.5 miles, so the last 1.6 miles were in the park.  It seemed a bit off to be that close to the finish line, but having to loop about before getting there.

Into the finishing straight, and I passed the Cancer Research 2 hour pacer.  Unfortunately, he was a bit off pace, as my watch was showing 2:00 as I passed him.  I picked up a  sprint finish, and my watch time ended up being 2:00:22.

I was quickly through the finishing funnel, and given my medal – a quality, heavy medal.

I was also given a really good goody bag – including a bottle of water, a cereal bar, a bag of Quavers crisps, an orange and a banana, a pack of High-5 energy and recovery products, including a couple of gels, some hydration tablets, an energy bar and a protein energy shake powder, and was also given a pint bottle of Erdinger alcohol free beer.

They were also giving out more free beer outside, so I grabbed a pint too!  I don’t know if it was just post race thirst, but this is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted!

I met back up with some of my club mates, and had a “cheers” moment!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Left to right, Chris Belcher, Mathew Freeman, little old me, and Angela Phillips (photograph complements of John Phillips)

All in all, a great morning out, beautiful sunny day, and a time I was pleased with.  The race was well organised,  and well supported by the people of Cambridge and sponsors.

Here’s my slightly dodgy Garmin data:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/458082050