Category Archives: Nutrition

Race Report: Ironman UK 2016

IMUK Race Report

Race day came around so quickly. I try to spread out the little jobs of race week across the final few days just to fill the time and keep myself occupied. My to-do-list on Thursday was ‘Steady Run. Sort kit. Massage. Hair Cut.’ I considered that a busy day! It’s a nice time to chill and embrace the feelings that surround race week. Checking the weather and boiling up more pasta all begin to fade into one.

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Ironman UK is a well oiled machine, with the Macron Stadium being a perfect venue to host registration, an ever improving expo (if a bit pricey) and location of T2. Nothing mega going on in the goody bag, but if you want to add to your shot of free shower gel, simply do a few passes of the Innocent Coconut Water girl.

The overnight rain had left T1 as a bit of a muddy one. I always leave my bike racked in T1 fairly bare, adding my nutrition, water bottle and spares on race morning. My bike was very damp and needed a wipe down before I could begin the finishing touches. I add my shoes to the pedals, check the correct gearing is good to go. At least I know nothing can get lost or rain damaged overnight if I keep hold of it all.

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Ready to rock, time to head to the seeding pens for the rolling start. Time is approaching. Nervous chat fills the air, crossed with the exhaling track pumps and requests for help with wetsuit zips.

Swim: 1:13:12 / AG Rank: 78 / Overall Rank: 518

My first experience of the rolling start, something IMUK introduced last year. The self seeding pens were paying lip service to the idea of everyone being of similar speed but it was pretty tight in there so just finding a space was a bonus. As soon as you cross the matt, your chip starts so get in the water and crack on sharpo. I’m never going to set the world on fire with my swimming. I found in training that my speed and times of reps had plateaued. I wasn’t getting any faster. But I was getting fitter. I could perform a good swim set or steady state swim much more efficiently. I could hold my splits rather than see them drop off. So I adopted this philosophy for my Ironman swim – OK, it doesn’t matter the time isn’t any quicker, but I’m much fresher for hitting the bike – fitter not faster.

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The rolling start gave us all plenty more room on the straight length of the swim course, with the usual bottle neck appearing at each buoy. Obviously the course tightening comes with the flying elbows and nonsensical kicking as standard. I lost my hat and goggle as a result, but was lucky to save the goggles and only lose the white swim cap. The swim caps at IMUK are decent quality, Arena ones. I opened mine out the packet and straight on my head the morning of the race, but when swim caps are brand new they are a bit chalky and too new. It came off my head fairly easily, next time I’ll give the hat a good rinse and make sure the first time it goes on is not on the walk to the start line.

Pennington Flash is a purposeful venue for the race start. It’s tough to see further than a foot in front of you so there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the swim. Just focus on technique, try and find some feet and sight enough to stay on track.

Bike: 5:33:40 / AG Rank: 5 / Overall Rank 65

I started the ride with a single water bottle. The first aid station appears after around 15 miles and is a gentle climb up towards this point. I didn’t want to be carrying the extra weight. I still had the bottle cage fixed on my downtube, as well as the torpedo mount between the areobars. The reasons were two-fold; Running out of T1, pushing the bike holding the saddle makes it very unstable with all the weight at the front of the bike and I also prefer not to climb with all that weight on the front of the bike. Secondly I wanted the option to have two bottles. I took two bottles at each aid station regardless. One for hydration, the other to throw over me but discard. The aid stations on the bike were regular enough for me to not have to carry more than one water bottle if I didn’t need to.

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The bike went so quickly. I was overtaking all day. I must’ve overtaken a couple of hundred people. My bike division rank was 5th in comparison to my swim of 78th. Defiantly need to limit the damage of the swim and use the strength of my cycling to move forward rather than catch up.

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The two-lap bike course takes in 4 climbs in total, 2 times up Sheep House Lane and twice also up Hunters Hill. The atmosphere was fantastic at both of these locations. The course is also very technical. The descents aren’t straight and gradual, but twisty and fast. I am a confident descender and enjoy using this to marry out that average speed.

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My bike was great, I felt fast and comfortable and was able to grind out a solid ride that I was hoping would come together from the training I had been putting in and seeing the gains slowly coming in time for a peak on race day. I experience some cramps in my quads on the final climb up Hunters Hill. I got through it, knowing the roll into T2 was not far away. I took everything I had left in my nutrition. I threw the remaining salt sticks down and as much water as possible, in preparation for a marathon that was beginning to warm up.

Off the bike in bare feet and a painful tip-toe across the car park at The Macron Stadium. I’m ready to run the marathon. I knew I’d had a good ride as it was quiet in T2, not many bikes on the racks. I felt good.

Run: 3:44:13 / AG Rank: 6 / Overall Rank: 74

Off the bike, I was in a confident mood. I felt strong. The first mile out of T2 was a brutal rise through a housing estate before a further 5 miles from Horwich into Bolton Town Centre to begin the laps. It was soon I realised I have lured myself into false pretences about how good I felt.

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I headed out of T2 far too excited, far too fast. It was early into the marathon when I started to make deals with myself. The projected marathon time went straight out of the window and I was holding on. Yes, from 6 miles into a marathon, I was in survival mode. I couldn’t face looking too far ahead. There was too much road in front of me. I concentrated on the next 3 yards. I turned my gaze to the floor, sunglasses down and tried to disassociate the pain I was in and let my mind only worry about the next 3 yards. My back was locked, perhaps a result of a slightly over aggressive aero position on the bike or not sitting up early enough on the final roll into T2.

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My stomach began to churn and I needed to have a toilet break to relieve myself in the most literal sense of the word. I thought things were going from bad to worse. I ran passed my coach Paul Savage who was well position for my current state of mind! I grabbed a gel at the next aid station, threw down coke and had a feast at most aid stations. I was craving calories and sugar hits wherever possible.

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I saw my Mum, Dad, sister, brother-in-law and my new nephew Abel soon after, on the brutal little climb out of Botllon town centre. This was a huge moment for me. I had to keep going. This race had to end on my terms. I slowly began to feel ok and decided to push on until the very end. My feet were in agony, I was hot, depleted and so close to home. I was still unable to ignore the aid stations and had to consider every ounce of energy right up until the final few meters. Any piece of extra effort was coming at a huge cost.

Result: 10:39:52 / AG Rank: 6 / Overall: 74

I’m so proud of myself for not quitting. It was the hardest and most mental battle I’ve had with myself in any race. Perhaps I pushed too hard on the bike? I set off too quickly on the run. I didn’t respect the hilly run course in my training so I was surprised at what came on that 26.2 miles.

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It seemed a lot of other guys struggled through the day as well. I ended up 6th in my Age Group which has concequently qualified me for a slot at Kona and a chance to take on the best at the Ironman World Championships on October 8th.

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For now, I’m eating and chilling!

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Post Triathlon Blues

Post Triathlon Blues is something I’ve never really had. When I completed Ironman UK I was such a high for completing the event I never came down from that and almost enjoyed the pain I was in because I knew the process I’d been through.
2 weeks on from Challenge Almere and I wouldn’t say I have ‘The Blues’ per se, but I have been constantly thinking about my race and noticed more than ever that the training is absent.

I consciously talk myself out of doing any training, instead I started walking home from work (roughly 5 miles) just to keep some activity going. The weather was good and it was a few days until pay day and the tram is a fiver!
What are the ‘symptoms’ of post triathlon blues?
– Missing the challenge of training
– Everything seems like an effort
– Sadness
– More time on your hands so you’re bored
– mood swings

Nutrition can play a part in the mood swings as the body is now super sensitive to sugar and I’m probably eating more but minus the training. I’ve put on over half a stone in weight in 2 weeks and it was a bit of anti-climax being able to let loose on the Domino’s and curry and beer and wine. I thought I wanted it more than I needed it. Moodyness probably comes from thinking how my race could have gone better, but then balances out by thinking about how it could have gone worse! My stresses of water in goggles, getting beat up in the swim, mechanical failure on the bike or punctures or blowing up on the run never materialised. So that’s good. But I wasn’t in bits like I was after IMUK and feel I may have left something on the table during my run. But when I tried to pick up on the pace on race day, my hamstrings were tight, so perhaps that was my best performance for the day. It’s easy to forget the good things about a race when it went well and heighten the minor ‘could haves’.

Wine & a bath after IMUK 2013

Wine & a bath after IMUK 2013

Taking a two week break was important to rebuild my hunger for training and rushing back into anything may have delayed any enthusiasm I had for returning, focussing on what can be done in the future rather than what has happened in the past. My mind needs a rest as much as my body. I was having trouble sleeping when I returned to my usual routine of work in Manchester and couldn’t really concentrate on things for too long. I was unmotivated to do anything; housework, the big shop, everything was an effort. I had devoted so much time to training and sacrificed little things like drinking and late nights, my routine had been solely based around training rather than anything else, so taking this away overnight was massively noticeable . Without the adrenaline and endorphins released from training there was no real reason why I had to do anything at all.

Crossing the line at Challenge Almere 2014

Crossing the line at Challenge Almere 2014

It’s good practice to write down a race report and something I’ve always tried to get in the habit of doing. I have a record of went well and it’s documented for next time. I never saw training as a burden and was always up for it, and when both my body and mind are no longer active it’s been difficult to replace it. I believe I needed this tunnel vision to get up for training and my race and wouldn’t change anything in my build up for my ‘A’ race. Placing such emphasis on it makes it a big deal to me personally and therefore something I don’t want to risk fucking up! I train alone so have no social aspect that has been taken away, just my own sense of well being.

I’m not overcoming post race blues, but I have enjoyed getting out on the mountain bike again, something I put away for most of the summer while I hit the Ironman training hard. I didn’t want to risk injury or be using up energy on the MTB that could be spent on road miles. It’s nice to not have the clock running over my rides and just being out doing things I want to do rather than the things I have to do.

I’ve signed up for the Leeds Abbey Dash in November, a 10k flat road race. It’s a reason to get back into some good running and have a structure back in place. I’ll be back in the pool, social riding and on the turbo for just the one day a week.
My coach Paul Savage has again fired up the plans and will continue to be my main man for 2015. Now Paul and I have worked together for a couple of years I appreciate he knows my body, my injuries and what I am capable of more than anyone and I’d find it very difficult to go this alone. I do as I’m told and it’s worked every time so far.

My 2015 calendar is beginning to take shape with a few races pencilled in, which is great to have set so early on:
MarchWilmslow Half Marathon
AprilManchester Marathon
JuneBala Middle Distance Triathlon – British National Champs
SeptemberChallenge Weymouth – European Long Distance Triathlon Champs

Reference to more on Triathlon Blues is in Mark Kleanthous’ ‘Triathlon. The Mental Battle’

Same Old Race Prep

My name is James and I am a nerd. It’s a good admission, one I’m not scared to say out loud.
I always take my race prep very seriously and for Challenge Almere this was no different. Literally, I did nothing different in my race prep and made sure that this was going to be the case. Although this time I was travelling abroad, living out of a hotel for 3 days before the race.

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Self Catering
I took my own pasta, bread, peanut butter, jam, honey, orange juice and even the toaster just to make sure I could have what I wanted when I wanted it and not rely on any outside factors disrupting that.
I ate plain white pasta and some chicken I grilled in garlic and turmeric that was batched up in Tupperware and put in the cool box for Thursday and Friday meals (race day was Saturday). I had the toaster just in case the hotel kitchens were not open at 5:30am on race day. I did attend the pasta party on Friday early evening, mainly for the social aspect, and I had some of their plain pasta and bread – I didn’t take the sauces, so true to this philosophy, I wasn’t going to risk it.

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If It Ain’t Broke…
I had my last long ride the week before Almere and the bike was superb, running like a dream, so I didn’t need to strip it down and rebuild it – why? I’d be risking it not going back the same way. I did tighten everything, check it over several times and took it for a spin on Friday to triple check the gears were clicking, the brakes were ok and nothing had worked its way loose in the car journey.
It was a warm day on Friday (24C) when I racked the bike, so I deliberately let some air of the tires, thinking the afternoon heat could expand the tires and cause an overnight puncture. I would be checking the air pressure on race morning anyway, so I’ll just do it then.

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I spent a lot of time in the transition area until I got bored of it. I eyed up a flag that was directly in front of my bike and I was 3 rows back from there. I walked up and down, until I was really familiar with the place.
I had thought about another way of securing my spare tubes on the seat post, getting rid of my obscure hanging saddle bag that every rider politely reminds me looks like is hanging off, but again – why? I’d hit my training times with this saddle bag on, so why try and switch it up now? So it stayed. A little to the right, but it stayed.
I saw the press release from Challenge Almere that the race would be sponsored by High 5 gels on the run, so I bought a box of 20 of these to train with. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a bad reaction to them and I knew what they looked like, what they tasted like come race day.

Easy Research…
My bike nutrition had been tried and tested several times in training which I mentioned in the race report.
A few guys had problems out on the bike. A frayed gear cable eventually gave way for one, a pedal arm worked its way loose for another, a bad reaction to the caffeinated sports drink caused a DNF and one fella had to run 8 miles back to his hotel after bike racking. All massively avoidable problems.
I checked with the race organisers via e-mail that it would be ok to wear my race number belt underneath my wetsuit from the start (not allowed in Ironman races) and familiarised myself with the rules for a different branded event. Another chap was DQ’d for removing his helmet while he fixed a puncture.

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Control The Controllables…
I was actually quite calm in the few days leading up to the race, because I was never on the hunt for anything I needed. I knew it was all under my control and I can’t wast energy worrying about the things that aren’t.
I carried 3 spare tubes, but didn’t need any of them. I had two spare chain links, but didn’t use them. I had 2 too many salt sticks taped to the bike and carried 1 more Go Bar than I needed. I’d rather be bringing them home than coming up short. I threw away the sports drink I had accidentally been given at a bike aid station as I’ve never had it before.
I trained in my GB Age Group Tri-suit as this was new to me. I did my long Ride and Run Brick sessions at 6am every weekend, because it was the same time I would be racing at.

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Pour Preparation…
I even knew how difficult it would be to find Guinness in The Netherlands and I was dammed if I was not going to have that after 3 months of sobriety, so into the cool box that went. Along with a bottle of champagne we had saved from our trip to Epernay, France. Even my post race (drink) problems are fixed!
Basically, I try and leave nothing to chance. The only thing I did leave was the toaster and said bottle of champagne, which has pissed a lot of people off.
Russell Hobbs & Dom Perignon probably don’t go into too many sentences together, which is ironic as they are the only two things we needed to make any kind of a toast.

Race Report: Challenge Almere 2014

Race Date: 13/09/14
Race Type: Iron Distance
Result: 10:38:35 / 12th AG
Performance: Played the percentages 9/10

My 2014 ‘A’ Race is done! In windy and warm conditions at Challenge Almere, I went around The ETU Long Distance Triathlon Championship course in 10:38:35 – a 51 minute PB.

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Flat and windy was the forecast for the event and it lived up that. For a Brit, there was literally no hills to talk about on both the bike and run course, just a savaging headwind on the 60km Coastal road.
The whole week was fantastic, from getting the ferry, to meeting up with the other Great Britain Age Group athletes and sharing the trip with my parents and girlfriend Lynsey.

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Swim 1hr 11mins:
This was not my best swim, but also an improvement on what I had recently been going through in training so I can’t be too dismissive of the performance. The water was murky, weedy (not even the Amsterdam type of weed) and busy. The Age Groupers set off 10 minutes after the Elite start cannon and it was brutal swim for the entire fist lap, it never seemed to settle down. I was in the main group, taking a few elbows and whacks here and there, but I never let it get to me and just cracked on. There was nothing to write home about the swim, just focus on technique and get it done.

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I was deliberate through T1, finding my bag and putting my helmet on. It felt very empty inside my Bike Bag, as I had attached the shoes to the bike and all my nutrition. Wetsuit in and away we went. Transition was based in an underground area for both T1 & T2 and I was familiar with where I needed to head in and out from. I had walked through this area the day before and memorised my bike rack position. I did a full race mount and got straight into my pedalling.

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Bike 5hr 32mins:
The course was flat and windy, much like the non-alcoholic pint & subsequent side affects thereof that was being handed out at the finish.
99% of the course was on the aero bars. The coast road being the main punishing factor, I’d almost of preferred a hill. The wind was relentless and nowhere to hide. We had to do this road twice and watch my speed drop to 17mph for the duration of the road. The second lap was actually a bit easier as I knew what to expect and how to cope with it. Just head down and once this is out of the way, you’ve broken the back of the bike course. There were a few cattle grids that can’t help but make you a touch nervous, but I managed to avoid any punctures or serious mishaps, trying to pick the speed back up to 24mph for the return to Almere.
It was a lonely ride, not littered with support, but the turning point made for a brief encounter with some spectators before heading back out – alone.

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There was plenty of drafting going on, which will always be there I guess. Once they were busted and had to break up, I picked them off and went by. I passed nearly 100 people on the bike leg, putting in the 79th best ride time of the day, averaging 20.3mph so in relative terms, I had a great ride.
I also took the decision to pee on the move! This was almost forced upon because of the GB Age Grouper full Tri suit and going to the toilet wasn’t going to be easy all day. I prefer the two piece. I remembered to whip off the nutrition from my seat post and put this in the tri suit so I didn’t piss all over my lunch. Something Paul had wrote about in his IM Austria race report! 
Although as soon as I stood up to pee and roll, I was coming to a stand still on the flat roads. So I had to pedal again and try and pee again. I was consuming 1 bottle of water between each aid station, but began to take on 2 bottles for a little shower. I had not taken two bottles to avoid the extra weight. I pee’d once more on the bike, this time when I had the wind behind me to try and maintain some rolling speed. This only meant my pee overtook me in some kind of Urine Whackey Races.

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I was talking to myself a lot on the bike, especially on that coast road. Just telling myself we’ve done this once and it’s all good from this corner, all the way home. I never really went into the red zone and felt happy to maintain the effortt for the distance, with still some running left in the legs.
Nutrition wise, I took on half a SiS Go Bar every half an hour after the first hour. I had 1 bottle of Lucozade Sport at the beginning of the ride and then sipped water throughout. I chewed on a pack of Jelly Babies as and when I fancied. This was all rehearsed several times in training so I knew it worked for me. I was accidentally handed a bottle of energy drink at an aid station, and when I had sip, I threw it away immediately. I wasn’t willing to try anything new today.

The dismount line into T2 wasn’t very well thought out, immediately after a sharp bend with no signage, which caught a few people out. Again, I had the feet on top of the shoes and right leg leading for my race style dismount. I was on with the socks and run shoes and straight out in what was now turning into the hottest part of the day.

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I had very gratefully borrowed Paul’s Garmin for the bike, keeping my Forerunner 110 full and ready to rock for the run. I turned the watch on and searched for satellites with 5 minutes to go on the bike.

Run 3hr 47mins:
It was getting warm and I was conscious I hadn’t ran in this heat for a while in training. My longest run had been 17 miles at 8min/mile. I felt great. It took 3 miles to get my back stretched out and loosened up after being aero for so long on the bike. It was 6 laps of a 7k course around the Weerwater we had swam in that morning. 6 laps had its pro’s and con’s. I was able to see my family and have that to look forward to, but on lap 4 when I realised there was still 2 more to go it began to play mentally. I do have a little mantra to turn to at times which always works. I took a gel every 6 miles, as per training, and cola every 3rd aid station (aid station were 1.5k apart) and water at every one, just little sips as the aid stations were so frequent. I began to to walk through the aid stations in the second half the run, which took my average pace down, but I was more concerned with making sure I had fuelled correctly in this heat. The wind had disappeared by now!

That's my Mum with the flag!

That’s my Mum with the flag!

I ended strongly with my fasted mile coming at mile 25. It’s an odd feeling to know you had something potentially left in the tank, but if I had have pushed it earlier I may have blown up. I was perhaps too conservative with my pacing or at least my effort and over compensated for the unknown. My hamstrings were feeling tight but manageable at my pace, so to have gone even a touch fast may have flared these up.

Myself, Lynsey, Dad & Mum

Myself, Lynsey, Dad & Mum

A massive thank you to my coach Paul Savage, for all the sessions, plans and massages and encouragement. My girlfriend Lynsey for putting up with my sobriety, early nights and long rides. Mum and Dad for following me and supporting me at anything I decide to take on. Rob, Rachel & Nige from the Capital Breakfast Show for their well wishing and patience. And also Dawn and Emma at British Triathlon for making me Team GB Captain, which I enjoyed being part of.

I can’t be too disappointed and I’m not! I made up over 100 positions from getting out the water, put in another strong bike split and claimed a marathon PB. I finished 12th in my Age Group, 9th in the European Long Distance Champs, and qualified for the 2015 ETU Long Distance Champs at Challenge Weymouth – but what if…

(Time) Trial & Error – The 100m/10m Brick Revisited

I had a re-run of my 100 mile and 10 mile run Brick session I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I blew up on the run majorly the first time of asking, so this time I was determined not to repeat that. What I learned from the first attempt was a possible mishap with nutrition, pacing and general naivety!

I stuck strictly to my nutrition plan on this second attempt, taking in half an SiS Go Bar every half an hour after the first hour, with a handful of jelly babies. This is the general formula of 1g of carb per 1kg of body weight. I sipped plenty of water, taking in 6 bottles all together. I had a High5 gel 5 minutes before the end of the ride and most importantly this time I took a gel on the run at 5 miles and also sipped water throughout. The latter is what was lacking in my first attempt and paid dividends in this second run.

BRICK Analysis

BRICK Analysis

I actually rode quicker, averaging 0.5mph faster over the 100 miles with 21mph. I then held my 8 minute mile pace on the run and didn’t get too excited when I felt good and stayed at this pace throughout. I set off too quickly previously and paid for it later.

Overall, I’m very happy with this and it is the final century ride I will do before Challenge Almere in two weeks time. Tomorrow I take the mileage down to 80 mile ride and 3 mile run brick, all done at the same target pace. This will lead into a week of training heavier at the start  of the week and then begin to taper down from 8 days out race day.

It’s good to repeat this session and prove to myself I can do the desired pace. It’s also good to find out this early about my nutrition plans as this is now set in stone as to what I will take and use at what times and just how much. Hydration being the main point.

I rode the same flat course, in similar conditions on the same bike and set up, just tweaked the nutrition.

The 100/10 Brick Test

This is a week late going up on the blog:

As I sit in the coffee shop, hips grinding and calves burning from tackling the stairs I know I’ve just done a big session the day before.
The 100 mile ride and 10 mile run brick session was looking at me on the plan I have pinned to my wall for a few weeks. It’s a bit of a Joe Skipper special session that this years IMUK’s runner up put in his plan in his build up. Joe writes a great blog and is regularly sharing his training on strava. My coach Paul Savage (who also works with Joe) ran this set before going on to a 9:27 at IM Austria.

The Idea:
It’s one of those session that looms that you kinda look forward to, but once you’re kitted up on the morning of doing it all of a sudden becomes a tad daunting. You’re going to be out of the house doing exercise for between 6 and 7 hours!

These are the sessions that really start the day before. It’s a test, a simulation of what you might be hoping to do come race day in terms of pace and times. Eat the right food the day before and for breakfast. Have a decent nights kip and lay the kit out ready to rock at 6am. Ideally timed around what time you will be racing at.
It’s a session that will address nutrition issues and show up any tweaks you want to make to your bike set up.

Bike – 100 miles – Strava
I had a nice route laid out, reasonably flat with 3 left turns so there was no stopping at junctions and also no traffic lights so I could do as fair a test as possible.
I nailed the 100 mile bike in 4:49 which was promising, holding an average speed of 20.50mph which is about where I want to be at. Hopefully closed roads and the extra fitness I will gain between now and September will hold this nicely on race day.
I used my TT bike, but not with race wheels. I now switch to using this bike in all my rides, but want to save the wheels to avoid any wear and damage and also enjoy the extra percentage they’ll give me in the race.

Nutrition:
I took on half a SiS Go Bar every half hour after the first hour, with a hand full of jelly babies here and there. I went through 4 bottles of water and took a High 5 energy gel 5 minutes before of the end of the ride.
I used SiS Go Bars at Ironman UK last year and they seemed to work and the High 5 gels are what have been advertised as the official nutrition supplier for Challenge Almere so I wanted to test these myself – no surprises on race day.

Run – 10 miles – Strava
Once off the bike, I set off a little too quickly on my run. I was meant to be aiming for race pace, but I got a bit excited. I didn’t take any nutrition with me, not even water on what was a warm day so I can attribute some of my explosion to both the over zealous pacing and lack of hydration.
It wasn’t too dissimilar feeling to what In had at Chester Marathon back in October when I fell apart in the final few miles. My stomach locked, my HR was fine and my legs felt good. It was taking breath and a solid core that halted me pretty instantly.

Conclusions:
So what I have learned from the test? I can hold a good bike speed, without going into the red zone. I believe I can build on this too, which fills me with confidence. The other positive was the run split! I need to have a think and review this run with my coach Paul Savage and evaluate whether my pacing needs to be addressed or my nutrition. I think its a combo of both, but the idea of doing this test 5 weeks away from Challenge Almere means I do have time to make any tweaks and try things with a bit of time to spare.

Rest day for me after another really good and solid block of training. It’s important now for me not to panic about the run, but work around it and figure out how my race plan is going to pan out as we get closer to the European Long Distance Championships.

Cutting Out The Booze

Ironman UK is a bit earlier this year – 20th July (4th August last year) – and the ETU Long Distance Champs that I am competing in is on 13th September, so about 6 weeks later in the year.

For IMUK I gave up drinking 12 weeks out from the event and I have done this again. Coming up to 4 weeks without a drink. Not that I’m struggling to get clean in the stereotypical sense, but I find it a very mental approach and a test of my discipline more than anything too beneficial health and fitness wise. Obviously there are a few extra calories take on board when we have a cheeky bevvy, but as long as you can continue to train and not let it get in the way it’s not a problem. Personally, I see it as a switch in mindset to recognise that there is 12 weeks to go and its time to go to work. This is an official start date of my race build up I suppose.

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I didn’t tell anyone about my first Ironman until I was 6 weeks away from it, when there was no turning back. I just felt I didn’t want anyone asking me about it all the time, putting doubt in my mind that it was as big as and epic as it sounded and whether I could do it. I didn’t want to have to tell people I was no longer going to do it should I have got injured or not made the grade. I could’ve pulled out and nobody would have known. My silence was my insurance policy. This time around however, everyone seems to know, asking how training is going. Its nice, they care and they are interested but I enjoyed the anonymity of IMUK and my down time not talking about training or making me nervous about the pending race date. Cutting out the booze last year was like what pregnant women have to do when they lie about why they aren’t drinking to avoid the questions! I was a pregnant lady – sober, moody and tired.

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I love a drink, Guinness mainly and a few rum and cokes or I’ll happily nail a bottle of red with the girlfriend. I’ll smash a jagerbomb, line up another and see off a 4 pack of lager at a bbq. It’s all good. I’ll dress up, do a pub crawl, dance like nobody is watching and wake up vowing never to do it again. It’s a good laugh and a social part of life that I enjoy. The World Cup, the summer evenings and walking past a pub beer garden has heightened my observation of booze and a Corona with a lime and condensation of the bottle looks incredible. A velvet guest ale, with a perfect head has never been so appreciated in its grandeur, clinging to the glass all the way down. I had my face in the girlfriends wine glass the other night, just sniffing a lung full of Rioja that was simply sublime.

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Soda and lime for me. Or a coffee. It’s fine. I’m going to be all over the gaff in Amsterdam once I cross that finish line. After IMUK I had the most underwhelming first drink ever! 12 weeks off the booze, soaking wet and exhausted from 11 hours of suffering and I could finally have that drink. I’d ran past people on the street cheering on the athletes with a pint in their hand. I was ready, I’d earned this. There was one old man pub near the car park and they only had Fosters. Gutted. Still drank it!

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Basically it’s a chance for me to focus the mind solely on the task in hand. It worked for IMUK too so I’m sticking to what is tried and tested for me. I enjoy drawing a line in the sand and saying to myself that we are entering the business end of training now and the countdown to Go Time has begun.

There is some further discussion on booze and training on this forum at Runners World

And here at Triathlete Europe

Bottoms up…

Race Report: PruHealth London Triathlon

Race Date: 01/06/14

Race Type: Olympic Distance Triathlon

Result: 2:13:05 / 28th AG / 110th OA

Performance: Great Day 10/10

My first Olympic distance Triathlon and I loved it. Great course, perfect conditions and a race where pretty much everything went to plan. For Breakfast I had 2 slices of jam on toast, a strong coffee and then a banana an hour before my start. I had to ride 6 miles from where I was staying in East London so I was up just before 5am.

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Swim: 26:40

My wave set off at 7:30 on the dot so the sun was just rising which made one length of the Hyde Park Serpentine a bit tricky to spot the buoys. I had to pop up a couple of times just to check I was still on track. I did pack both clear lens goggles and my mirrored lenses and glad I went with the mirrors. Calm water, just got my head down and swam at a constant pace which felt fine and was pleasantly surprised by the time I heard the commentator call.

I never really know what to say about the swim! It’s dark murky water, all I can hear is my breathing and I just concentrate on technique.

T1: 04:02

My helmet, race belt and Garmin were off the bike and laid across the floor. I’m not sure who or why my equipment had been moved about. It was a long 500m run up from the swim exit to T1. I found my bike easily enough and followed the steps in a video (above) I helped produce with Paul Savage recently on transition technique. Elastic bands on the shoes, running holding the seat, leaping mount at the line. Worked fantastically well!

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Bike: 58:45

I’m delighted with my recent bike performance, backing up my Newby Hall Duathlon and Wilmslow Triathlon outings on the Cannondale with the Cole wheels. Averaging 23mph around Hyde Park and feeling really strong. It was the 47th fastest bike time of the entire day, which is something to build great confidence from. I took a Powerbar gel 5 minutes into the ride and also 5 minutes from the end. I had 1 x 500ml water bottle on my torpedo aero bar mount. A nice 5 lap course, with a touch of traffic, but nothing significant. Flat with a few speed humps and two tight turns. Fully closed roads so just get the legs pumping and work hard for as long as possible.

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T2: 02:01

Again, a textbook dismount and entry into transition. It was tight on the racks and someone had racked their bike in my place, so I had to shift a few things around to get near my shoes. No problem. I was on the with shoes and out on the run and feeling really fit. I had my run legs from the off and felt my bike had set me up for a good day if I didn’t blow up on the run.

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Run: 41:40 (PB)

This 10k time is my out and out PB, which is fantastic to achieve in a triathlon. I had been feeling good about my running recently, seeing some vast improvements. I got a couple of fast miles in and then began to tail off, but all in good time. It was a 4 lap run around the Serpentine with a long-ish drag but by no means a hilly course. It was beginning to get hot in the day now, I just held on and tried not to let up although my calves were screaming at me. I paced it perfectly, crossed the line in a time I am delighted with and rounded off a great performance in terms of sticking to and over-delivering a race plan.

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Finish: 2:13:05

Really happy with the result. I finished high up in my Age Group and also did well in the overall classification. My bike time being the stand out performance on paper, although it has to be my run that I personally take most gratification from. This was my final race outing until I head to the European Championship in September. It’s all sneaking up quickly but London was a great event to see where I am currently at. I didn’t mention this, but I was at a midweek wedding in Ireland which involved a few Guinness’ and a couple of servings of cake only a few days before!

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Selfie with The Brownlees

Happy days. It was good to make a weekend of it too. I went down on Saturday morning from Manchester and got registered and also watched the Elite Men Sprint Race, which Mola took out in fine fashion. It was cool to see these guys close up and burying themselves for the win.

Take a look at all my pics from the ITU World Series Weekend below:

Race Report: Wilsmlow Half Marathon 2014

Race Date: 23/03/13

Race Type: Half Marathon

Result: 1:36:38 (PB)

Performance: Pretty Pretty Pretty good 9/10

Luckily the weather held out for us at the Wilmslow Half Marathon, despite the unpredictable reports in the week leading up to it. Some hail at mile 3 was the worst we went through and that didn’t last too long.

I did Wilmslow Half Marathon 4 years when I ran the furthest I ever had at the time, going round in 1:48:48 as a pretty inexperienced runner. I had 4 pints of cider and a 3 course dinner for a friends 30th the night before. This year I was a very different runner, managing to pace my race perfectly in 1:36:38 with a better than expected performance.

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In training, I have 3 paces – Hard 7min mile / Steady 7:45-8min mile / Easy – 9min mile. Along with my coach Paul Savage we agreed a target pace of 7:30 per mile for the half marathon, after I picked up a rogue ITB niggle two weeks out from the race. I managed to clear this up in time to get a little build of steady miles before the race and put the apprehension of the ITB out of mind.

In the words of Larry David ‘Pretty Pretty Pretty happy’ with 1hr 36min, equating to a pace of 7:22min miles which held consistent throughout the race. An even split, passing through 10k in 45min. I had to dodge a few of the slower runners who positioned themselves up front at the start, so there was some pavement hopping going on and manoeuvring around these guys in the first mile, but I eventually found a rhythm and never deviated from that pace.

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Wilmslow route is lovely, taking in the Cheshire country roads and relatively undulating run, but still a fast course. Not hilly, just a few ups and downs to keep you working. The only issue with the course is the finish. A work road, with puddles, mud and a lot of people. There is not much room for spectators accord to my folks who couldn’t see me. Spectators were dotted around the course in their gravel driveways and Wembley styled lawns – this is Cheshire like I say.

Runners World reviews of the race can be found here & also the full results page here.

For breakfast, I had 2 slices of white toast with peanut butter and then a banana about an hour away from start time. I had a large latte from my new favourite coffee shop in Didsbury – The Deli – and spent a good 30 minutes on the foam roller and going through my usual stretching routine.

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Overall a very satisfying performance and very pleased with my pacing. I felt good at 7:20min miles so just stuck with it. A PB by 12 minutes and a good sign that my running is coming along nicely. Strava upload here.

Another shout out to coach Paul Savage who nailed the event in 74mins. Very impressive run in what is shaping up to be a good season so far for Paul.

Race Report: MBNA Chester Marathon implosion!

Race Date: 06/10/13

Race Type: Marathon

Result: 3:54:55

Performance: Mixed 6/10

On 6th October I toed the line at the MBNA Chester Marathon. It’s fair to say my involvement in the marathon was somewhat slap dash.

 

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Why did I even do it, 8 weeks after doing Ironman UK? A friend of mine was running in the event on his own and suggested I join him – he dropped out in the week leading up to the race which kinda pee’d me off a bit. I was turning 30 in the middle of October and wanted to get a sub-4hour marathon on my CV before that milestone age marker. Finally my missus had gone to visit a friend in Australia and do a bit of travelling for 5 weeks! So why not, £40, whats to lose? As it turned out, quite a lot of water and a handful of dignity.

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Chester Marathon was billed as fast and flat course. It was not flat. Long gradual climbs dotted around the course culminating in a killer of a hill at the 20 mile mark. Other than the shock of the inclines, the course was beautiful and took in a fantastic loop of the countryside and the old city of Chester itself. It started and finished at Chester Racecourse, which also meant from the off, the dew on the grass had given me wet feet for the next 4 hours.

Here is the link to the Runners World reviews

5 weeks training wasn’t the ideal prep. I had to carefully, but fairly quickly build back up the mileage. Starting out at 10 miles, then 12, 14 and 15 mile long runs with a couple of shorted tempo runs to keep the legs firing. I soon realised I’d taken on too much, but the mentality of just completing Ironman UK made this feel like it ‘Anything really was Possible’* and I’d just done one of these marathon things and felt fine.

*The IM Marketing guy will love this

*The IM Marketing guy will love this

Chester Marathon was the first time I have taken myself to the breaking point. I ran really well up to 30k, knocking out 20 miles all at 8min per mile and felt great. I was on for a 3hr 28min time until I went bang.

My stomach locked and I could barely take a breath. I just made a weird groaning noise instead. I began to slowly shutdown and limped another mile here and another mile there.

My legs stopped picking up my feet. My vision began to blur and my hearing went a bit funny. A bit like when someone is talking to you and you have headphones in. Like walking past a club or a bar with music playing, muffled and unclear. It was a very strange feeling and one that I’d never experienced before.

I still had around 5k to go. My mind went haywire. I saw a brown tourist sign saying ‘River Trips’ and I argued with myself that we were running along the River Dee, not The River Trips. I’d never heard of the River Trips in any Geography lesson. I couldn’t compute the simplest of things. I was going bonkers with myself.

Mum thought it would be funny to get a pic the next day!

Mum thought it would be funny to get a pic the next day!

My splits looked like 10k – 48 mins, 2nd 10k at 49 mins, 3rd 10 at 48 mins and my final 10k home was 1hr 20mins! Yes I did hit my sub 4 hour marathon goal, but I did it the hard way. My folks even decided to take a day out to watch, but they were left waiting while I got some water and a sit down with the fabulous medical crew.

The keys to my downfall: Not enough water, not enough training, too hard too fast. Schoolboy errors and nothing new. I’d put so much emphasis on IMUK that every avenue was covered, no stone left unturned in the lead up & I wasn’t going to deviate from what training had taught me. Chester however, I was far too blaze and lax, not giving the event the respect it deserved and I paid for it.

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I was all over the place. But in a sadistic kind of way it felt good to come through it. I’d taken myself beyond breaking point and still managed to keep going. I proved to myself that I can still survive when I’m at my lowest and things around me are starting to shut down. There was no way I wasn’t going to finish and if I can take anything away from that event it was that I can overcome a losing battle with myself and come out the other side.