Long day out on the bike with two old buddies exploring the 75 mile Cotswolds trail from Oxford to Worcester. Every now and then it’s nice to escape the turbo trainer and experience the real world and that’s despite having to start the day at 5.30, crashing off the bike, 2 punctures, being stuck with only two gears and getting taken onto surfaces like this:
I’m a terrible runner and I imagine I always will be. However, this weekend I decided I’d do a Parkrun for speed training rather than boring intervals. I’m not sure if this makes any sense as part of training for a middle distance triathlon, and if anyone has any advice I’d love to hear it. In any case, I thought it would be a good way to see whether my fitness has improved since my last Parkrun about a year ago. It turns out it has. My previous best was 28.30 (like I say, I’m a terrible runner), however today I managed to do it in 26.50. I pretty much had to destroy myself to do it, but a good result nonetheless and one step closer to the goal of a 25.00 5k.
Now that I’ve got that out the way, time to get back to half Ironman related training!
I entered and finished my first Olympic distance triathlon… Yes!
A year ago I entered the Norwich sprint triathlon and got my best result of the year. On the 9th of July I took part in the same race, however, this time taking a step up to Olympic distance. I’d been struggling with a leg injury earlier in the year and was worried I might have trouble finishing the race, however, on the day things mostly came together.
I say mostly because there were a few sketchy moments. I ended up getting to the event late and had to sprint from racking to the start of the swim. Aside from starting the race slightly disoriented this didn’t seem to have too much of a negative impact as I came out of the water in 26th out of a field of 160.
Transition 1 was a bit of a joke though as in the earlier rush to get to the start, I’d left my cycling shoes in my tri-bag, on the other side of the transition area. Luckily I’d remembered to bring my bike along so it wasn’t a complete disaster.
The rest of the race
From there on it was business as usual. I’m a fairly strong swimmer, okay cyclist and terrible runner, so basically the rest of the race consisted of people overtaking me. That said, this year the only people overtaking me on the bike ride were on expensive tri-bikes which I take to mean I was mostly getting overtaken by more experienced riders… or simply single people with money to spend (that’s the bike envy coming through).
A step in the right direction
I finished the race in 2hrs 48 which is moving in the right direction, especially since my finishing time ended up being less than double my fastest sprint distance time. The aim is now to slowly build up the endurance base and hopefully stay injury free for a half Iron Man some time next year. One step closer to hearing those words. You-are-an-Iron-Man!
To date I’ve simply been training to finish a sprint triathlon. When I say this I basically mean a relatively unfocused approach to training whereby I train to ensure I can cover each of the distances on race day by going a bit further to take into account fatigue from the other disciplines. e.g. the bike leg takes about 40 minutes so train for about 1 hour. I’ve found this is okay since I’m just getting started and since I’ve achieved my goal of finishing a bunch of sprint triathlons without coming in last, however, by training this way you hit a ceiling pretty quickly.
As a rower, we were often told about the way in which the dominant East German rowing team used to train for the 2km olympic rowing distance. They would row the 2km race over and over which at the time was effective, though probably due to the quality of training programs throughout the rest of the rowing world which was fairly amateurish by today’s standards. It was also incredibly draining on East German rowers as they were effectively rowing at race pace each training session.
In trying to compete the the East Germans the British changed tactics and adopted a different, more nuanced approach to training wherein they isolated particular qualities or areas that make up a good rower. Training sessions were split into those for endurance and those for power. This approach meant either low intensity long sessions for endurance or high intensity short sessions for power. Together this resulted in athletes with more power and a greater endurance base.
With this in mind, I recently changed my training schedule to include longer endurance sessions where I actively slow my speed and heart rate and shorter high intensity sessions. I’m taking part in the HSBC sprint triathlon in September, which though pretty soon, will hopefully help show whether this approach is any more effective. Fingers crossed! My initial observation is that, for me, the guilt factor is quite a big problem. I always feel like I should either be running faster on endurance sessions, or training for longer on power sessions. Anyway, I’ve committed to training smarter so it should be interesting to see what happens.
I haven’t written much lately, but that’s because two holidays in short succession has turned me into a couch potato! Actually, that’s probably a little unfair. I’d decided taking a little break from exercise would good for the soul, though it’s probably been a bit of a longish break. I’d taken off about a month with very little exercise.
Well I’m back now and I’ve been thinking about what to do next. So far I’ve taken part in three sprint triathlons which have gone according to plan. They’ve gotten me more comfortable with everything that happens on race day, I feel a lot fitter and I’ve actually dropped 5kg over the last half year. They’ve also made me wonder how the hell anyone does an Ironman!
I’m currently looking for a last Sprint Triathlon of the year before winter training for Olympic distances next year. It was the Brighton and Hove triathlon which would have been good as the swim leg is in the sea. Unfortunately, you have to register the night before and I’m not staying in a hotel for a sprint distance triathlon. At the moment it’s looking like the HSBC sprint at Eton Dorney on September 18th. As my first triathlon this year was at Eton, this is gonna be a nice way to see if I’ve improved.
As you can see from the above picture, I was totally pumped for this race. I joke! I was feeling quite motivated for the Norwich Sprint Triathlon, especially as I know the course so well having spent so much time in here as a rower. Also, Norwich Triathlon had been voted best club organised (Tri-Anglia) triathlon in 2015 so I was really looking forward to it. The only issue had been getting up at 5.30 in the morning to eat breakfast and drive to the event since registration closed at 7. I suppose it wasn’t too big a deal since I couldn’t get much sleep the night before as I’d spent it thinking about the race. The result though was that I felt shattered before I’d even done anything.
Once registration and racking up had been sorted out I wandered down to the Whitlingham Water Sports Centre where the swim would begin. Whenever I get nervous I seem to need the toilet so I was grateful when we were finally allowed in the water so I could swim off for a bit and take what’s turning into a routine piss in the wetsuit before the race.
Swim (41/180 – 14:05)
Once we were finally set off I had a bit of trouble settling in as I was sandwiched between two guys who refused to give me any space. The result was me getting smacked in the face a few hundred times. Eventually the pack spread out a bit and I could get into more of a rhythm. I ended up coming in the top 41st of 180 which wasn’t too shabby.
I sprinted out of the water, quickly found my bike (unlike last time when I had to have my bike pointed out to me by my girlfriend) and was able to get my cycling shoes on without falling over from dizziness as had happened in the other two previous events. I ran to the bike start and was away in what was by far my fastest transition to date.
Bike (109/180 – 39:16)
The bike ride for the most part was not fun! Perhaps I’d gone out too hard on the swim, or perhaps I’d taken T1 too quickly. In any case I was breathing heavily and my heart rate was sky high for more than half of the bike ride. This was probably also due to the headwind and the steady incline for the first half. At points I was looking down at my Garmin and seeing 13mph and thinking this is getting ridiculous. Oh and on the subject of my Garmin, I once again forgot to set it to bike ride whilst going through transition. I’m pretty sure I’ll never properly record a full triathlon. After the first half I was able to catch a bit of a breath as the last half was either slightly downhill or flat and with a tailwind. 30mph woohoo this might not be the slowest ever bike ride.
Once in the transition area I ran to my rack and saw it was completely full. WTF! Had people racked their bikes where mine was meant to go. I stared at the rack for ages trying to figure out what to do. I marshal started to wander over and I finally realised I was standing in the wrong row. I ran to where I was supposed to be, racked my bike, changed my shoes and then ran around like a headless chicken trying to figure out where the exit was. The same marshal pointed me in the right direction after he most likely decided I was an idiot in need of help. Mental note, figure out the entry and exit points before the race.
Run (119/180 – 29:08)
I set out on the run and whilst I didn’t get jelly legs, they did feel like they were made of lead. I was feeling seriously exhausted and again my heart rate was sky high. Part of it was the muggy humidity which made breathing feel so much harder. I couldn’t believe how tired I felt. The run route is one lap around a lake and it wasn’t until about halfway round that I actually got into a rhythm and my breathing normalised. I was of course getting overtaken by just about everyone but it felt nice not to be gasping for air. Eventually a group of guys overtook me but I was able to latch onto the back of their group and maintain their pace which helped pull me around. Once I finally got to the finish line I collected my medal and a bottle of water and collapsed on the grass for about 5 minutes. This was the hardest race so far. Only a bacon roll could bring me back to life!