Half year update

Just a quick update to reflect on the first half of 2013.

Races ran:
Silverstone Half Marathon (PB)
Flitwick 10k (PB)
Bedford Tri #1 (First, so PB)
Greenway Challenge Half Marathon (Course PB)
Blenheim Palace Triathlon (First OW Tri, so PB)
Bedford Tri #2 (PB)

Training is going pretty well at the moment, although it’s a bit “run heavy”.  In terms of numbers, so far this year:

  • I have swam 27 times (5 open water), totaling 18.53 miles.
  • I have cycled 24 times, totaling 365.09 miles.
  • I have ran 106 times, totaling 600.10 miles.

I think I need to do less running – I ran 729 in all of 2012, and my target for this year is 750, so I’m on target to smash that.

I know I definitely more swimming, especially open water swimming, and some longer distance cycling.  My furthest ride so far is 26.25 miles, only 6.25 miles longer than my farthest run of the year! I think for the second half of the year, I’m going to try and concentrate on quality training, with a goal for each session, be it pace (fast OR slow), distance, heart rate, or number of intervals, etc.

I’m going to a couple of Freedom Tri training sessions a week – either Monday night cycling or Tuesday morning swimming – I’ve tried and failed to do both in the same week, as I struggle to get up on the Tuesday morning after the Monday evening cycle.

The Saturday morning open water swim session with the club is a must – I really need to crack on with the open water swimming.  Confidence is slowly creeping in, but I’ve got a long way to go.  I’ve got the fitness and the stamina, but my technique and confidence leave a lot to be desired.  In my latest swim, I did manage to swim between some of the buoys non-stop though, with is definite progress, so there’s a bit of a glimmer of hope.

I’m also going along to the Thursday night run session, which for the last few weeks has been hill repeats.  They’re all great training sessions, as they make me do different stuff – more technical training.  That’s the benefit of training with coaches I guess – structure and quality, over quantity. So, what’s in store for the rest of the year?

I’ve got a few more races booked this year:

  • 21st July: The Olympic Park run – a 5 mile race around the Olympic village, finishing in the Olympic Stadium
  • 1st September: The Duck N Dash Aquathlon – 600m swim in Letchworth outdoor pool, followed by 2 laps (6km) run around Norton Common.  This race is organised by my club, Freedom Tri
  • 22nd September: Anglian Water Standard Olympic Triathlon – 1,500m open water swim/42km (26.1 mile) bike/10km (6.22 mile) run, based in and around Grafham Water
  • 6th October: Standalone 10k – 10k road race – was my first race in 2010, and will be the 4th time I’ve ran this

In terms of goals for these races, the Olympic Park run, I just plan on enjoying the atmosphere of a big London race, and crossing the iconic Olympic finish line.  I’m running with my wife Sam, who is returning from injury, so it’ll be nice to run together.  The Duck N Dash, and the Anglian Water Triathlon, the only real goal is to complete these two, and to set a benchmark.  At the Standalone 10k, I’d love to complete under 50 minutes.  I’m hoping with some more structured training over the next few months that this might just be possible.

That’s it from me for a few weeks, until my next race report from London!

Bedford Traktors Triathlon – Race Report

Races are coming thick and fast at the moment!

It only seems like 5 minutes ago that I was writing my race report from the Blenheim Palace Triathlon last weekend.

Not much time for training in between you might be thinking?  Well, you’d be wrong there  – training this last week has been a bit excessive (obsessive?):

Monday:  Cycle session with the tri club – about 18 miles including cycling there and back
Tuesday: Long bike ride – 26.25 miles
Wednesday: Run with my running buddy Tom – 5.25 miles
Thursday: Hill repeat session with the tri club – 4.39 miles
Friday: Slow run – 7.21 miles
Saturday: Tri club aquathon race – roughly 950m swim, then 3.1 mile run

So to be fair, after all that lot, I was pretty knackered before I started!

I took part in this event back in April, as my first triathlon, so was keen to do it again, to compare performance and see if my training has paying off.

It was an early start again – I picked my mate Stuart up at 5:30, and we headed off to Bedford.  We arrived early, and parked up.  We were there before registration opened, so we hung about a bit, then went to pick up our race numbers.  As I’m now a member of the British Triathlon Federation, I was due a £5 refund on my race fee, and as luck would have it, they back dated this to the April race, so I was a tenner up before I started!  What a great start to the day!

We got the bikes set up in the transition area, then went for a coffee. Here’s my trusty steed, racked up and ready:

Transition Area

Transition Area

I was due to start the 400m pool based swim at 8:02, which was a bit later than last time, as I’d revised my time down on the swim.  This race the slowest swimmers start first, so there were 86 people ahead of me on the swim already.

The swim this time, the timing was spot on.  I wasn’t overtaken by anyone, and no-one overtook me.  I was swimming fractionally quicker than the lady in front of me, but I decided to swim at her pace, rather than rush to overtake and overdo it – there’s cycling and running to save myself for after all!  I finished the 12 lengths in 9:50, and then it’s a quick dash over to the transition.

This is the first race that I was wearing my tri-suit.  Thankfully there are no pictures!  Think short legged romper suit, and you won’t be far off the mark!  It’s to help speed up transition – minimising how much clothing you have to change.  I’d worn it swimming a couple of times, and running a couple of times in training, but I’ve never worn it on the bike before, so I was a bit apprehensive, as it’s significantly less padded than my cycling shorts, so I was a bit wary of the impact on my delicate little derrière.

I towelled off, and pulled on a long sleeved cycling jersey, as it was quite windy, and I do tend to feel the cold on the bike.  I also donned my mitts, helmet and cycling shoes.  I did forget to move my watch from my wrist to my bike though, which was a bit of an issue.  I do probably over rely on my watch.  My bike is fitted with a cadence sensor, and I use the watch to try to keep to about 80-85rpm, so it helps with the gear change.  Not having this meant that I was cycling by feel.  Looking at my stats, I did manage to average 80rpm, so perhaps I need it less than I thought?

The bike leg of the triathlon is a loop through the leafy north Bedfordshire countryside, and there are a few hills to contend with.  Over the 15.18 mile bike ride, there’s 659ft of hills to climb.  Thankfully, there’s just as much downhill, so I managed to average 16.7mph, maxing out at 30.8mph on one of the downhills.  I took an energy gel after about 10 miles on the bike, hoping that this will give me a little bit of a boost during the run.

I did have to stop a couple of times for traffic, but despite this, I managed to complete the bike leg of the triathlon in 54:36.

Arriving back at the transition, there’s a bit of a run across to re-rack the bike.  Running in cycling shoes is surprisingly difficult – there’s no flex in the soles at all, and the metal cleats on the front make it sound like you’re tap dancing!

The cycling shoes were soon replaced with running shoes though, and I ditched the cycling jersey, mitts and helmet and grabbed my cap and running water.  Unfortunately, I’d left my running water bottle inside my shut plastic transition box, so this disgustingly warm! Another mistake I won’t make again!

Running off the bike is always tricky – it takes a few minutes for the legs to catch up with what they’re being asked of!

They soon got the hang of it though.  The run is fairly flat, and 2 and a half laps of the Bedford Park.  I managed to pace the first lap fairly well, but probably started off a bit quick.  I clocked the first mile at 8:36, which is probably a bit on the quick side.

Completing the first lap, I glanced at the transition area, and thankfully Stuarts bike was back.  When we did this race in April, he somehow managed to do 2 laps of the bike leg, so didn’t finish.  I was really pleased to see his bike – he was going to finish this time!

I cracked on, and mile 2 was slightly slower at 8:56, but I was glad to stay under the 9:00 per mile pace.

The rest of the race was pretty much uneventful, although it was pretty warm.  I pushed on, and picked up the pace a bit.  The last part of the run, I averaged a pace of 8:24, and completed the run in 25:02, which I was very pleased with!

Here’s me at the end:

All done!

All done!

I know a lot of proper cyclists shave their legs to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics.  I wonder how much quicker I’d be if I shaved my face?!

So all in all, I was very pleased with my performance.  I improved on each leg of the race on last time, including the transitions.  Here are the splits (last race are bracketed)

Swim:  9:50   (9:58)
T1:   2:45  (2:49)
Cycle:  54:36  (55:54)
T2:  1:21  (2:00)
Run:  25:02  (27:05)
Total: 1:33:34  (1:37:46)


Here are the Garmin traces:


All in all, a great day out, and pleased to have knocked over 4 minutes off my time last time.  I wonder how I would have performed if I had rested and recovered, rather than trained like a mad person?  I’ll find out one day.  Maybe 😉

Next race is the National Lottery Olympic Park run on 21st July.

Blenheim Triathlon 2013 – Video Update

My lovely sister, Nic, shot some video of me on Sunday at the triathlon:

A couple of points of explanation:

During the swim video, you can hear my Mum asking “Is he right at the back?”  Yep!  I was safe and comfortable at the back, fewer people to kick me in the throat.

In T1, I am jiggling more than I’d like, and yes, I am working on it.

Just after the Lap 1 on the bike text, I was trying to chuck my pump to my lad – I kicked it off the bike in transition, and had to hold the blasted thing for a third of the bike leg.

Lap 2 of the run, I was ditching the free gel’s that I picked up, and the ones that I was carrying.  Perhaps a gel at the start of the run would have helped me nick under 30 mins for the 5.4km run?

That git who did me on the finishing straight did piss me off – I should have finished stronger.

And yes, as observed by my mate Neil, who had a sneak preview of the video – I am a bloody giant – 6′ 5″ in my socks to be precise.

I finished 3188 out of 4546 finishers.  The results give split positions for each part of the race.  I was 4,011th on the swim, 3,700th on T1, 2,690th on the bike, 3,430th on T2, and 2,712th on the run.  

I’m surprised that compared to others I’m quicker on the bike than I am at running.  I feel more comfortable running, as I’ve done more of it, and been running for longer.

Having had a couple of days to reflect on my race, and scrutinised the results, I’ve deduced:

I need to work on my swimming – big time: priority one – both technique and confidence in open water

I need to work on my transitions – be more organised, and have less kit

Persevere with the tri-suit

Experiment going sock-less

Get a quick release kit for the watch

I’m sure there are many more improvements I could make, but I guess with experience, I’ll fine tune a few things.

That’s all for now.

Next race:  The second in the series of the Bedford Sprint triathlons this Sunday! Racing again!  Don’t mind if I do! 😀

Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2013 – Race Report

Cripes, this has come around quickly!

My first open water triathlon! I entered this triathlon back in November, and it was meant to be my first, but I got excited and ahead of myself, and took part in the Bedford sprint as a warm up event.  I have had in mind that it’s the race of the year though. Training for this event has been interesting.

I’ve had no problem with cycling or running, and I’ve done a few brick sessions – practising the transition from bike to run, and a few speed sessions of running.  I’ve totted up over 500 miles running so far this year, and over 250 cycling, so in a fairly good place with two of the three disciplines.

Swimming, however is a completely different story.  My pool swim is OK  – I can swim a mile non stop in a pool in about 40 minutes, so I had in mind that I was a fairly competent swimmer.

This triathlon however, is a 750 metre open water swim, in a lake. I had in mind that the open water bit was just a formality – surely swimming in a pool can’t be that different to open water?  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Due to the extended winter this year, my first opportunity to open water swim was only a few short weeks ago, and it was terrible.

So terribly cold I couldn’t breath, couldn’t feel my hands, feet or head.  After that first open water swim, I very almost didn’t go back, and seriously considered binning the idea of open water triathlons, and stick to the pool, of just stick to running.

I was going to go a couple of weeks later. but bottled out on the grounds of it still being too cold still, and panic and fear of the open water.  In hindsight, I should have got straight back in the open water – persevered, forced myself to acclimatise, but I foolishly didn’t.

Then something odd happened: my race pack for the Blenheim Palace Triathlon arrived:

Blenheim Race Pack

Blenheim Race Pack

This made it real.  I had to get back in the water.  I’ve paid good money on the race,  I’ve paid good money on a wetsuit, and I’ve paid good money to join Freedom Tri and the British Triathlon Federation.  I’m tight – I don’t waste money – I’ve got to squeeze value out of this things, and man up and do it.

So I went along to another early Saturday morning swim session with Freedom Tri.  I managed to arrange to swim around the pit with a couple of other slower swimmers, but I don’t think realised how slow I was.  They had to hang about at each buoy for me.  It was a real struggle, but I got around.  I had to alternate between front crawl and breast stroke, which was improvement over the first time, which was 5 strokes of front crawl, then stopping for a bit, panicking and treading water.  It was still cold though – the water was so cold that it made my teeth feel all sensitive!  While not as terrible as the first swim, it was still pretty shocking.

I’m very grateful of the support, patience and friendship that I’ve been given by the triathlon club, and I hope to be able to carry on with them, and become less of a burden in the water.  I really wish I’d joined the club sooner.  They’re stuck with me now though, and hopefully as time goes on, I’ll be able to bring a bit more to the party.

So fast forward to race weekend.  Being a bit of a trek, and not knowing my start time until quite close to the race day, we decided to split the journey up, and stay in Buckingham over night, so we packed up on Saturday night, stuck the bike on the back of the car and headed off.

There’s a lot of kit to pack!



We booked into the hotel, and were given room 13.  Great start! Not that I’m superstitious, but it did make me smile.  Turns out that 13 is lucky for me – we won a tenner on the lottery last night!

After a later than planned night, and a pretty lousy nights sleep – combination of pre-race nerves and a bed far too small and soft, the alarm went off at 7:30 to get up and out.

I got the bike rack and bike back on the car, and off we went.

My start time was 11:10, and we were advised to get there a couple of hours early, to get parked up, booked in, get the bike racked, and get the lie of the land.  This made breakfast and fuelling a bit tricky, so I decided to pack a flask of boiling water, and have a couple of pots of instant porridge in the car when we got to Blenheim Palace.  This actually worked really well – I’m used to porridge power for my running races.  I did also scoff a banana, some Soreen and necked a coffee before the race too.

We arrived in time to see the back of the elite race.  Now these guys and girls can really shift!  The speed at which some people can swim, cycle and run is truly baffling!  The problem is, a lot of the time, in my mind, I’m a 22 year old elite athlete.  In reality I’m a  37 year old bloke, who’s spent most of the last 15 years being obese, firmly glued to the sofa, surrounded by empty beer cans.  I think my body is still in shock from what I’ve put it through in the last couple of years with all this healthy eating, running, and more latterly, swimming and cycling.  I’m sure as time goes on, my body will continue to adapt to what I ask of it.

Must be time for a couple of photo’s?  Here’s me before the race, just outside the transition area:

Transition area

Transition area

To give you an idea of the scale of this race, there were 3,000 people racing today, split between 19 waves.  In my race, we racked out bikes on row F, and there were 220 of us starting at the same time.  My bike’s about 100 yards down the row.  A race for this size is a bit tricky for me – wearing glasses, and having to leave them with the bike, getting from the water to the bike and finding everything is a bit of a worry.  I ought to have another go with contact lenses really, but I’ve not got on with them in the past.

Racked up and ready to go!

Racked up and ready to go!

Time marched on, and it was soon 10:45, and time to head off for the swim assembly.  So I nervously ditched the glasses, and followed my fellow wetsuit clad triathletes down towards the water.

There was a safety briefing before the swim, which was light-hearted, but useful and reassuring.  I did pick up a useful tip – pull up the arms and legs of the wetsuit to increase movement and flexibility in the body of the wetsuit.  This is the complete opposite of what I’ve done in the past – pull the arms and legs down to maximise coverage, and minimise skin contact with the cold water.  I was hopeful that this would help me feel less restricted, and be able to breathe more freely in the water.  It was also reassuring to be told that about 60% of the participants were first time triathletes.  It’s good to be in newbie company!  It was also good to be told to ask for help from the canoeists if struggling, and this wouldn’t result in penalty or disqualification.

After the briefing, there was a few minutes of hanging around before the 220 of us piled into the water.  I had a look around, and spotted my support crew coming down the hill – my wife Sam, daughter Erin and son, Ewan, along with my Mum and sister.  They were able to get a couple of photo’s:

Suited up

Suited up

Here’s another.  I’m in there somewhere, towards the back!

Mass swim

Mass swim

I placed my self pretty much right at the back of the swim.  I was worried about getting a foot in the face, so felt a lot more comfortable at the back – it’s easier to swim in a bit of space.  The water was a couple of degrees warmer than I’d trained in, which certainly helped!  It was a toasty (?) 15c in the water, and to be fair, it did feel a good bit warmer than the water I train in with the club.

Being only the third time in the open water, I think I got on OK.  I did have to alternate between front crawl and breast stroke, but I didn’t need any help.  It was annoying swimming into people  – that threw me off my stroke quite a bit, and forced me to breast stroke for a bit, as my breathing got disrupted.  I also struggled with the sighting a bit – taking a look forward to see where I’m meant to be swimming.  Again, this threw me off my stroke again.

The swim took me 21:04, which on relection I’m pleased with, being 750m, that’s almost half a mile.  Although there’s a lot of room for improvement  – my time was over twice the quick chaps, but I think I’ll leave them to it!

The swim was soon over, and out of the water, and head up a steep path to the first transition.  I was papped on the way to the bike:



I’m not sure if that’s a smile on my face, or a “Thank fudge the swim’s over!”.

Looking at my watch statistics, from the water to the bike, it’s 0.4 miles, so there’s no wonder that the transition from water to bike took me 7:02, including peeling off the wetsuit, towelling off, getting the cycling shorts and top on, and getting the bike out.  I was relieved to be reunited with my glasses!

The bike leg of the triathlon is 19.8km (12.3 miles), and is 3 loops of the grounds of Blenheim Palace.  Unfortunately there was an accident there on Friday, where one of the temporary foot bridges was hit by a bus.  This meant that they had to put in a dismount on the bike section, so we all had to get off the bikes, sometimes stop for pedestrians, walk the bike for a bit, then get back on, and crack on.  I’m still getting used to clipping in and off the bike, as I’ve only had the pedals fitted for a few weeks.  I was tempted to changing back to normal toe cage pedals, and cycling in my running shoes, but I’m glad I persevered with the “proper” shoes.

Despite having to stop 3 times on the bike, I did well on the bike.  It took me 47:30 according to the official results, and I averaged 15.4mph, hitting a maximum speed of 31.9mph.  I think my cycling could be improved with a bit more fitness, and a bit more technique – my gear choice isn’t always spot on, so room for improvement.  Because I’m so quick (?!) on the bike, the photo’s are a bit of a blur:

Speedy Speederson

Speedy Speederson

The bike route was far from flat, and every hill had to be cycled 3 times.  I’m not a big fan of laps, but at least it was on nice, safe, closed roads.

I completed the bike leg unscathed, and managed to get off and on the bike as required without falling over, or making an arse of myself.

Into transition for the second time, I had to run with the bike for a couple of hundred yards, find the rack point, ditch the helmet, and change into my running shoes.  This took me a fairly respectable 2:05, and then it was running time.

I’ve done loads of running.  I’m not very quick, but at least I’ve got 3 years running experience under my belt, and I can pace myself reasonably well.  I was surprised that there were so many people walking on the run.  Again the 5.4km (3.36 miles) run was two and a bit laps, and I’m still not a fan of laps.

I was tiring a little on the run, and as normal, the first mile was the quickest at 8:41.  The second and third were 9:22 and 9:04 respectively.  I covered the first 5k of the run in 28:12, which is a few minutes slower than my 5k personal best, but on the back end of a triathlon, I’m happy with that.

The total run time was 30:52.  Hopefully that’ll come down a bit, as I hope to be able to carry on with the triathlon club speed sessions to sharpen my running up a bit.

Time for a couple more piccies.  My lovely wife Sam and I.  She loves me enough to hug me while that sweaty!:

Sam and I

Sam and I

And the family:  Sam, daughter Erin, son Ewan, and me:

The fam

The fam

I did pick up a few tips today:

Pull up the wetsuit
Make sure everything is attached to the bike – my pump fell off when I started off, so had to hold it for the first lap
Some dump the wetsuit on top of the running shoes – soggy shoes doesn’t make for great running!

So, here are the official splits:

Swim 00:21:04
T1 00:07:02
Bike 00:47:30
T2 00:02:38
Run 00:30:52
Total  01:49:04

Here are links to my Garmin data for those interest in the geeky stuff like me: