Category Archives: running
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!
Oulton Park Duathlon was a great day out. I did the sprint distance at this event a couple of years ago when I first started out in triathlon and multisport and didn’t have a great day. I look back and see how far I’ve come since then.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
I celebrated my 1 year Ironman anniversary last week. I say ‘celebrated’, I mean I had one of those moments when you see a date on the calendar or hear it said that you think – ‘I swear today is something? Is it someones birthday? Girlfriend anniversary’. It was just the 4th August ringing a bell and what a significant date I spent the majority of 2013 working towards.
That Ironman was very much about completing the course. This year on 13th September at Challenge Almere I am switching focus a little more to actually setting a target and doing more than just completing the distance.
It’s a funny old sport Long Distance triathlon in that the sky is the limit when it comes to ‘buying speed’. I have slowly built up a good shed of add-ons that will hopefully serve one purpose – make me go faster.
Before IMUK I invested in the TT bike, my pride and joy. This year I have added bits and pieces to turn this into the bike I want to race on. I added carbon wheels, carbon pedals, I’ve bought an aero helmet, proper triathlon shoes to speed up transitions and the garmin heart rate monitor for a nerdier take on progress analysis. All of the above were bought after asking myself ‘will it make me go faster?’ If not, I can’t afford to waste money on aesthetics or funky gadgets that don’t add to my actual race performance.
Ben Hunt-Davis writes and talk about this a lot. He’s a British Olympic gold medallist in rowing and the 8 man team constantly asked the question ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’. If not, why are they doing it? They even took this to the extreme of missing the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony as attending it wasn’t going to make the boat go faster.
British Cycling Performance Director Dave Brailsford talks a lot about ‘Marginal Gains’ and this has been the foundations that so many things have been won out of the Manchester based team. Have a look at the video here, where he explains what he means about these Marginal Gains.
There is also something money can’t buy – shaving the legs! To do or not? I’ve never done it, but if you watch the video below from the Specialized research and development team, it might sway me! It’ll equate to around 4 minutes in an Ironman. Watch this space if I come back with the smooth pins, the girlfriend is sooooo not up for this idea!