Category Archives: Recovery
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For now, I’m eating and chilling!
Once Challenge Weymouth was out of the way, there was very little reason to do any training. I took a fortnights holiday travelling Croatia with my girlfriend Lynsey and we did plenty of walking and sea swimming but nothing that constituted any kind of real exercise like Ironman training would.
It was great. 3 large meals a day, a few beers most nights -I didn’t say no to anything and it was amazing. I put on nearly 2 stone in 3 weeks having absolutely buried myself up until crossing the line at Challenge Weymouth I was owed some down time.
Lynsey was great. She’d suffered a long summer of my training regime and this was a late summer holiday for us both. When we got back it was tough to find any reason to put myself through the 5am turbo sessions and long swim sessions before work. It’s amazingly disappointing to see how quickly the fitness can vanish and how long it takes to build back up. The ‘Ironman Blues’ mindset that gets banded about following a big race was fully getting a hold of me. The routine was all gone. I had my weekends back but nothing really to do with them. It was a slow return to training but it needed to happen and snap out of it. I was in freefall where anything but swim, bike and run could fill my time. I met with my coach Paul Savage for a few beers and we decided it was time for me to crack back on with some kind of base fitness work to get me into a position to start 2016 not totally from scratch. Paul was recently back from Kona and hearing his stories of this epic race reignited my fire and I literally started the next day and haven’t looked back.
I did the 10k Leeds Abbey Dash in November as a little project to work towards, just to give me an excuse to get the trainers on. I stripped and rebuilt the mountain bike so I can still have some fun on the bike this winter now those wintery weekend roads aren’t so forgiving on the road bike. The pool is always there and with the long steady sessions to keep me moving its a good time to focus on technique and get some easy mileage in on a regular basis. Along with an extra focus on off-season stretching and core work (which I’ve never really taken any notice of!) I’m enjoying starting to feel fit again and doing it on a much more social basis. I have been riding with friends rather than to a specific time or distance or effort. There is no underestimating the time investment training for an Ironman takes but thats because you have to respect the distance. I was in the best shape of my life going into Challenge Weymouth and now my energy turns to maintaining some nice winter fitness and trying to enjoy the process at the same time. I don’t really know what 2016 has in store just yet. I’d like to race more and do races that I’ve not done before. Tick off a few classics and cast the net a bit further afield. This year has been great, but having my A race so late in the year felt like a long time to wait.
Thats my ‘A’ race done and I’m back from a three week holiday travelling Croatia and eating – lots! But how did Challenge Weymouth go? Firstly it was great to once again represent GB Age Groupers at the European Long Distance Triathlon Championship and our team manager Tim Whitmarsh was great and bringing all the other GB athletes together in Weymouth. 4th in my Age Group
Starting on the stoney beach of Weymouth Bay, it was a 2 lap swim course in the sea. As it turned out, 2 very different laps. I had my goggles knocked off in the first 200m or so, but thankfully I kept hold of them and surprised myself at how quickly I got them back on.
The first lap felt ok, I held a reasonable effort and felt I was moving quite comfortably through the water. Out for the Australian exit and it was totally different swim – the water had become choppy and I swallowed a lot of it – I didn’t feel too great coming out of the water, a bit sickly and a touch off the pace.
Transition 1 went smoothly and I was off out into the Dorest Jurassic Coast on the bike. I soon began to feel good and respected the early climb that comes after 5 miles. This a two lap race and thankfully I had overcompensated in my training for hills so I knew the 5, 500ft of climbing over the course was going to be manageable. The course was undulating but it was possible to spend the majority of of time on the aero bars. I had a very solid bike ride, registering one of the fastest bike splits in my Age Group and moving myself up the field to level out the time lost in the swim. My nutrition plan worked well on the bike and the time passed relatively quickly. It got a bit lonely out there and I had to keep my mind busy. It took away from the fatigue and passed a few miles. I tried to name every motocross I’ve ever raced on. Then I even tried to name every girl I’ve ever kissed – but that only took about 5 minutes! The bike course was scenic enough, but the country roads made for a very solitary time and with nobody in front or behind I had to be confident I was even on the right course. Luckily I did a recce drive around the course the day before so I had a vague idea where I was headed! Finally back into T2 and I got my first glimpse of my friends and family which was a big boost that I needed.
I came out of T2 feeling woeful. Perhaps I had gone too hard on the bike. I’d stuck diligently to my nutrition plan that was tried and tested in weeks of long ride training, but this short stint to the first aid station had all the wrong signs. I perhaps went off a touch quick, but I knew pretty early on that this marathon was going to be a long day of survival. I walked through this first aid station, had a quick word with myself and took on some more nutrition. Within moments I felt better, but by no means ‘good’. My game plan amended slightly, I was holding a steady pace but walking every aid station and constantly cooling myself down. It was getting a bit warmer in the afternoon and running through the crowds of ice cream eating, pint drinking and bbq-ing family and friends was agony! 4 and 1/2 laps up and down the promenade, thats just broken down into 4 x 10k’s which is ok isn’t it? The last one was fairly brutal and probably my undoing. I just wanted it to be over with. I began ignoring aid stations and just focusing on getting to the line as quick as I could and in whatever state that would be. My last 3 miles were the quickest of my run and not out of the coaching manual. I crossed the line 5th in my Age Group and spent the following 2 hours in the medical tent. I had put everything into that and I can’t have any complaints that I didn’t give it absolutely everything I had. It was a tough day and I am proud to have battled through it. I’ve not been to that sort of place before and I had to dig deep in that final 5 or 6 miles to pull through it.
I had an amazing support crew from all my family, especially Mum and Dad and girlfriend Lynsey as well as my coach Paul Savage (physio-coach.co.uk). The days leading up to an Ironman can be odd. Probably different for everyone, but I go very quiet and want to do anything but talk about the race or the weather etc, I drag out little jobs to fill time. I get a bit short and sharp with folks and the littlest things not being triple checked can keep you up at night. They are great to have around and do everything to help me and that is so important even if thats leaving me alone! It’s an individual sport, but the folks in the background make it all possible and on every single lap of that run just seeing them was the highlight of my day and massively kept me going.
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
– 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’.
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.
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:
March – Wilmslow Half Marathon
April – Manchester Marathon
June – Bala Middle Distance Triathlon – British National Champs
September – Challenge Weymouth – European Long Distance Triathlon Champs
Reference to more on Triathlon Blues is in Mark Kleanthous’ ‘Triathlon. The Mental Battle’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
I have done the Chelford 10 mile TT course twice now, having decided to get a bit more use out of my TT bike, and also as nice shot of intensity work on the bike. I’m doing bi-weekly and not as a fixed term event in the calendar just if I can make it and feel good I’ll turn up. It’s only £3 and seems like a good bunch over at Stockport Clarion who organise it.
Both attempts I have recorded 24:04. The second attempt yielding a higher position finish as the conditions were a touch windier but I held the same time which I am happy with. I can defiantly feel it coming back on the 5 mile out and back and really enjoy the pain of it. I think this is a good time too, not too shabby as a TT débutante.
Then on Thursday night, myself and girlfriend Lynsey went down to Woolston Park in Warrington for the Warrington Road Runners annual 10k race. It’s been going for 35 years and is a nice little course around the park. Not too hilly, but a few twists and turns in there. I set a PB here two years ago so was keen to beat that course PB, despite not specifically training for a 10k at the minute. I did and managed a 41:51 which again I can be happy with as a consistent 10k time now. Lynsey went around in 52:12 which she must be happy with having not done a 10k for nearly 4 years and working off her base hockey training fitness. Proud of the gal!
Then on Saturday morning I ended the week of racing with what scheduled as 3.8k open water swim at USwim Dock 9 in Media City. I have been swimming 3k regularly in training and feeling good so I wanted to lay down a little marker for the Iron distance swim to see where I was at. The course was highly inaccurate, with people in the changing room post race reporting their GPS to have measured 4.6k. They decided to throw in an extra bit of course in which to shout your number each lap passed by, so 5 times around there added the extra 800m. I’m glad it was over measured when I saw my time – 1hr 19min. I hope be going around 1:05 to 1:110 at Challenge Almere – for 3.8k!
I felt I swam well actually, having started on the backfoot I had to bridge a gap to the lead group, which I picked away a gradually across the distance, never going into the red zone to make it happen. It was good to be surrounded by swimmers and get back a sense of a mass start. I was recommended by my coach Paul Savage to research the previous years of Challenge Almere and how they start – deep water or run in? It is a deep water start. Check out this video from 2012 Almere Triathlon, it does show some bits of the whole course for a little insight – Almere Lokaal!
I stupidly got involved in a sprint finish! I say stupidly because I got sidetracked with my competitor that we went off course slightly on the finish shoot, deviating from the course and by the time we had picked our way back to the pontoon we had given up two positions. Something I will take great care never to repeat and I was frustrated with myself for this. Although I did out-sprint the guy so a morale victory for me!
With these manageable distances it has been a good week to build in some intensity and sharpen up the speed on all three swim, bike and run.