Category Archives: Useful

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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Switching from Ironman France to Ironman UK

As I mentioned previously, I have decided to switch my 2016 Ironman plans from Nice, France to Bolton, UK.
I did an old fashioned ‘Pro’s & Con’s List’ (see below) and it just made sense when I went on a 4 hour bike ride to argue the toss with myself. I got off the bike, still in my kit and paid the £50 transfer fee.
I signed up to Ironman France with all the best intentions. I wanted to do an EPIC Ironman race, one of the iconic races that is on the calendar. A real tester, an honest course. A swim in the Med, an alpine pass on the bike and a stinking hot seafront run – I knew if this were to be my last Ironman for a while I would be going out in style in a race that would really hurt me.

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So why am I now back at Ironman UK, the site of my first Ironman back in 2013? As you can see below the ‘Ironman France Con’s’ list is the longest list!
I was stressing myself out with questions about gearing and bike set up. There are long standing arguments all over the internet about using a road bike vs a TT bike at IM France. I was looking at a brief trip to do a course recce, but this wasn’t going to be possible.
The major problem came when the European Football Championships were announced and Northern Ireland are based in Nice from the same weekend. This naturally meant the flights from Manchester and Liverpool to Nice doubled as well as the accommodation – air BnB etc all saw the chance to cash in alongside the football.
Ironman France Pro’s:
Epic Course
Tough bike ride to play to my strength
Opportunity to travel for a race
Guaranteed weather
Ironman France Con’s:
Price of flights inc bike haulage
Need to hire a bike box
Hire Car in France
Price of accommodation
Sea Swim (proven not too good in the sea at Challenge Weymouth!)
Paying for Lynsey to be there
Extended time off work
Ironman UK Pro’s:
Local, able train on the course
20 minute drive to start line
Known entity
More family & friends able to watch

 

Ironman UK Con’s:
Done the race before (albeit a slightly altered course)
I believe I’ve made a sensible decision and with both courses spitting out similar finish times I’m still opting for a tough course and a long day of racing. I’m over the idea of having to do an epic race (for now). I just want to do an Ironman and I forgot how lucky I was to have one on my doorstep!

2016 Return to ‘Brand’ Ironman

After Challenge Weymouth in September 2015, I decided I could squeeze one more big effort at the full Iron distance in 2016. I’d raced Challenge Almere in 2014 and Challenge Weymouth in 2015, the latter really coming up short on the experiential aspect of achieving something HUGE. I signed up for Ironman France, an epic, famous race on the Cote d’Azur, but I’ve since transferred to Ironman UK for 2016 – this is a long story I’ll talk about another time!

The ‘razzmatazz’ – for want of a better word- that Ironman as a brand has when it rolls into town is arguably worth the premium that comes with it. Yes, I am saying Ironman races are worth paying more for, but not necessarily agreeing with that cost – a lesson in diplomacy there! When I did Ironman UK in Bolton in 2013, my first Iron distance race, it didn’t disappoint in making me feel like ‘Anything Was Possible’ to coin the tag line. Challenge Weymouth notably lacked this. Yes it was a cheaper entry point, but the Pavilion where registration was held was a touch shabby, the finisher chute was extremely anti-climatic and as the event was ran as a franchise the organisers struggled to deliver that grandeur Ironman can seemingly replicate week in week out.

It’s similar to the current commercial radio model of ‘National Brands, Delivered Locally’ whereby Capital Radio and/or Heart are well established London born brands that have been rolled out across the country. A clear single minded vision, that filters down from the top under a brand guided umbrella, the experience of listening should be the same in London, South Wales, Manchester, Liverpool etc while maintaing a local touch. Ironman clearly governs centrally and retains its brand values and delivers that experience in the same way, whether that event be in Brazil, Bolton, Texas or Zurich. The success of this models is built on network communication and a defined image that cannot be compromised at ground level.  The stand outs like Kona (and for this analogy Capital Radio London!) are the flagships, they rule the roost, they are a different entity setting the standard. Attracting the biggest stars to their events, blazing the trail of what they do and leading by example. They are the aspirations of every athlete – or listener – that is coming into contact with the brand and these brand expectations need to go above and beyond – at every moment. Clients and commercial partners they align themselves with for example. These established brands have earned the right to be ‘picky’ of who they want next to their logos (you might not hear an ad for The Sun Newspaper on Capital Liverpool nor see Kona take Malboro as a title sponsor!) – protect the brand at all costs!

It will be interesting to see how Ironman re-brand the Weymouth event now they have bought it. Will the juggernaut of WTC demand their brand be protected with a course alteration or venue change (the locals in Weymouth did not like the event being ran on their roads last year!). Much like Capital FM landing in Liverpool, replacing Juice FM, the all new Capital FM Liverpool brand needs to have an impact. It certainly has, with Justin Bieber and Fluer East being part of the launch campaign, so will we will see some big names racking their bikes at the inaugural Ironman Weymouth?

For a moment, whilst I was soaking in the finishing chute at Ironman UK in 2013 I was the star. The 25 meter long finisher chute at Challenge Weymouth was over before I could enjoy the moment. Just look the difference above. Hearing Justin Bieber say your city’s name or being put on-air as a caller to win some VIP gig tickets is also making you the star. Aspirational, they are off to sit in the posh seats with a slap up meal and see their heroes perform on stage. The Ironman just wants to hear his/her name being called and then told ‘You. Are. An. Ironman’. Those few words carry a certain commercial weight that is fully in use from a savvy brand like Ironman.

These two brands are closely related in corporate values, brand awareness and the monopoly presence within their respective industry, but what they fundamentally share is the desire to deliver a better experience on the ground for their audience. It is an uphill struggle for their competitors to replicate. These hugely successful brands capture your mind and for me, it is very difficult to resist the association with the mainstream in both of these cases.

Croatia and ‘The Ironman Blues’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Pre Season Bike Fit

It’s been good to finally get outside and even throw in the odd spring event recently. It’s been difficult to chase those cycling miles over the winter, so I’ve taken the opportunity to mix up the riding and also get the all important bike fit done before the race season rolls around.

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I’ve had the mountain bike out quite a lot over winter and used this as a good alternative to the turbo trainer. The Mountain bike works you hard and has transferable skills for bike handling and is much more accessible in all weathers. Now it’s a bit more bearable to get out on the road bike and clock up some miles in the Peak District hills, it means I’ve not had to sacrifice too many weekends to the indoor turbo sessions. It’s great having North Wales and The Peak District on the relative doorstep of South Manchester.

Bike Fitting at Paul's

Bike Fitting at Paul’s

The time spent not racing was a good chance to get the TT bike dialed in and set up for the season ahead. I had a great bike fit session at Paul Savage’s (www.Physio-Coach.co.uk), tweaking my position to get the best possible fit. With my main races being the British Middle Distance Championship at Bala and the European Long Distance Championship in Weymouth we reached a set up that isn’t too aggressive and means I can comfortably stay on the aero bars for long periods. It’s a thorough process and an important one to get right.

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Getting the bike fit done before the season kicks in means I have plenty of time to get used to it and familiar with the set up as each Mountain bike, road bike and TT bike are all slightly different. I won’t have to touch this again now so everything is on point and ready to go racing.

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My road bike is an old Specialized Allez Sport that I don’t mind running into the ground and is heavy. Once I switch to the TT bike (Cannondale Slice) it feels so slick and light and easy to go quick on. The training effect of the old tank-like Spesh is actually a great benefit when I swing a leg over the Slice. I don’t think I’d be allowed another bike even if I did want to upgrade, as when she reads this, I’ll have to admit that I never did actually sell the mountain bike!

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.

(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.

Shaven Legs – Her Reaction!

With just over 2 weeks until my ‘A’ race of 2014, the European Long distance Championships at Challenge Almere, I have acquired my first injury of the year. It’s depressing as hell, a real blow mentally and obviously physically. My right foot is struggling after a long 16 mile run on the Northern Irish coast, which was undulating and windy. I am due to rest and recover and see my physio and coach Paul Savage for treatment this Friday in the hope to turn this around quickly. I can take comfort from a great block of run training in the bag, so as long as I can avoid aggravating it further I will hopefully carry my base fitness over this next fortnight.

The moodiness I’ve felt since has brought me on to another point, which I am guilty of neglecting and selfishly putting to the back of my mind. The affect on my girlfriend Lynsey around this recent set back and how I then act and behave.
I think having my ‘A’ race so late in the year this time around has just dragged on a little too long. Training has been high volume and hard on my body. I have set a self imposed drinking ban 3 months out from the race and most of my weekends have revolved around long rides and brick session that take up a lot of time. It hit home when Lyns said in conversation that she is looking forward to going out for dinner and sharing a bottle of wine again. Something we take for granted and the fact that she has noticed that this fundamental part of our relationship has not happened for a while made me feel like I have let her down a bit and not given her the attention she deserves.

The other girl in my life

The other girl in my life

She is so good at letting me get on with things and understands how important training and this race is to me. She recently turned 30 and we hired a big cottage for 25 of her friends to party over two nights – I didn’t drink but I still had a good time. Then in Northern Ireland we went back to see her family and friends where again I can’t drink but still had a good time. It gets on me too, constantly answering questions as to why and how I can cope without drinking from her pissed up friends. It’s a like being pregnant – moody, sober and craving cake.

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Lynsey’s 30th Birthday (sober) Toga Party

I’ve taken annual leave days to fit in training, something I should be using with Lyns. I go to bed early, leave her up on her own and I get moody when I don’t. It’s difficult to talk about training with anyone apart from my coach Paul as Lyns doesn’t really understand the regime and how I’m feeling about sessions and although she tries to answer my anxieties and worries as best she can, it’s difficult to turn our dinner time conversations into training as well. I’d hate to think that my boring lifestyle has held her back from doing things and going places or seeing people and having nights out. It’s important to make time for her.

I think the tipping point will have been when I shaved my legs, something Lyns was dead against. I still did it and she wasn’t happy! Listen to her reaction above when I recorded it and played it out on my radio show the following day!

I’m just ready to race now and feel training has gone on 4 weeks too long this year. I’m ready to get it out of the way and enjoy that dinner and drink with my girl. Spend some time, money and attention on her now rather than swim, bike, run which it has been for the majority of the year.

‘Will It Make Me Go Faster?’

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.

Cole T50 Lite Carbon Wheels

Cole T50 Lite Carbon Wheels

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.

The Slice with Race wheels

The Slice with Race wheels

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.

Giro air Attack & Bont Tri Shoes

Giro air Attack & Bont Tri Shoes

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!

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.

drunk

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.

guinness

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.

pint

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!

toga

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…