Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Forest Rattler

I definitely got the pre-event nutrition wrong for this one - not enough carbs the day before made me pay the price in the end...but the rest of it went really well!

A good nights sleep and a big bowl or porridge and a banana saw me right for the start though, and as the event only started 5 miles away, a group of us met and spun very gently down there - which was very nice to ease legs in to it! On arrival we registered, had a coffee and then waited for the off!

The weather was perfect for fast cycling, overcast and drizzly but warm at about 18-19 degrees and almost no wind - roads were slippery in places but not much you can do about that!

Though this was a sportive I was treating it as a TT, to see what pace I could sustain for 79 miles to get an idea for the Ironman - I kept to my no drafting rule as that would not have helped at all!

I started in the middle of a group of 30, but had overtaken and lost them halfway up the first hill past the Red Shoot...or so I thought, I hadn't realised some character was using me to pull him up the hill! (see the photo)

I didn't realise he was there until near the top, anyway my brief glimpse made me think he was an old timer so I thought I'd lose him soon enough...err nope he was a shadow for the first ten miles while I was secretly cursing him! Over the first two hills and down a long descent on very wet roads (as you can see below) and I had caught up the ground on the group that had started ten minutes before me and by the time I hit ten miles I had clocked a split of 28.49 (my pb is 28.07) and my HR was about 156 so I decided I needed to ease up slightly and my legs settle in to the ride!

My shadow then pulled up alongside me and apologised for drafting all the time but he was doing the short route and wanted a good start - fair enough I said and off he went at 12.5 miles! I was feeling pretty good at this point and passing plenty of riders, there were people trying to draft me but they weren't able to hold on for more than a few hundred metres at a time - I don't know why it was annoying me because it makes no difference to me - but it did!

After 20 miles I eased up slightly just before nearly losing it on a sharp right hander on a hill, then it was a long and muddy downhill where I was able to refresh slightly having clocked 20 miles in under an hour - 21mph ave! I was chuffed!

At the first feed station I upped my aero bottle with a nuun and had a flapjack and set-off again - lots of flats meant I could settle in to a nice rhythm and tick off the miles - the riders were getting spaced out now but I was still passing plenty - although my cheery wave and greeting was more often than not ignored! It would seem that people aren't keen on being overtaken by someone working on their own! (idiots)!

At about 45 miles there were series of rolling hills - nothing big but they tool their toll on the legs and I was suffering a bit - after this I hit some lovely roads in the middle of nowhere and was on my own for about 30 min's so I sat up had a good drink of ZipVit (I love this stuff) and a bite of a Mule Bar before settling down to it around the beaulieu area! My back was a bit tight but it was more tight hamstrings than bike problems so a bit of standing up and stretching on the bike helped!

I caught and passed three riders from the Hamworthy Velo Club (HVC) who really didn't appreciate my cheery greeting! A couple of miles later and I pulled in to the second feed station to top up my bottles and one of the HVC riders stopped as well - we both left at the same time so I offered my draft to help him catch his mates...I rode pretty hard to catch them up, when we did he just rode past and started chatting to them the cheeky git! I did draft here for about 200m to catch my breath and then set-off again as they were too slow...I did get a cheers as I left them but general manners never hurt!!!
The last 20 miles were getting tougher and at mile 65 I had run out of gas having averaged 19.9mph up to there, up the long drag back to the forest road from bramshaw I dropped down to the little ring and spun it out - trying to think of excuses to go straight home! I didn't however and once I got on to the flat I was able to sit at a relatively comfortable 22mph for 5 or so miles...this led up to the 25% Blissford Hill - I was dreading this and cruised slowly down to the bottom of it - a few wheel spins before I got up it...but I did and it wasn't too bad - the round of applause at the top was also very nice too! From there it was a mile downhill and two miles of flat so I put my head down, dodged the horses and came in to the finish in 4.07 hours for the 79.19 miles with an average of 19.5 mph!! This is me going up the 25%...I was shattered but pleased with the time - proper eating the day before may have seen me hit 20mph but thats ifs and buts! No complaints - I have never pushed that hard for that long on that bike before so it was a step in to the unknown - I am now very scared for Ironman as I'd still have to ride another 32 miles and run a marathon...not to mention the swim! Lots of work now required..!!

ooh and I am famous!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Someone hit me with a brick...

So after my last blog when everything was going swimmingly it has....well continued to go to plan actually! Not that means its been easy....oh no no no!

That evening of the blog I went out for a ride with the lads from Fordingbridge for a loop of the forest and what a great ride it started badly when someone turned up with two flat tyres, I volunteered to stay behind and help but after 15 minutes, three tubes, a puncture repair kit and a lot of huffing and puffing, we concluded it was pointless as the tyres were knackered! So with a 15 minute deficit I set about catching the others up!

Luckily I was on my tri bike and well up for the chase, 13.5 miles later at 21.7mph average I caught them up - this included 2/3 hills and I was holding 25+ on the flats and a new 10 mile pb of 28.07 - If I had been warmed up and avoided the hills I reckon I could average 23mph over 10 miles - however I am not going to try, whats the point!

I was pretty knackered by this point and the rest of the ride was a good solid bit of fun with a very fast final 6 or 7 miles along the top of the forest in a train - its an awesome feeling when there is 4 or more of you hitting it hard in a big group!

Anyway I followed that up with a solid swim the next morning, 10 sets of 250m, alternating with the pull buoy - it wasn't particuarly fast but it was good and solid! That evening I got back on the tri bike for two loops (17.2 miles) of my local roads - legs were tired at first but got stronger and finished with an average of 19.6mph which was a genuine surprise as I wasn't checking as I went along!

Friday and Saturday were spent down at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage HQ near Lyme Regis - its an expensive but incredible experience and I would recomend it to anyone! Lots of wine and food left me feeling gooooood!!

After two days off, Sunday required something pretty big so I set off with a friend and we went off along one valley before crossing up and out of it, into another, then up in to another before eventually reaching the top of the hills above Shaftsbury - as Chris is showing below :-

It is stunning up there (apparently Madonna and Guy Ritchie lived in that valley below) and well worth the climbing - although I actually really enjoy the hills up to it - its only steep at the beginning, after that its a looooooong drag over about 4-5 miles I'd estimate - on a good day you can set a fine cadence and off you go!

Down off the top (past the sign in the top photo it goes straight down) and we made for home, we stopped at a pub about 8 miles from home for a coke and a bottle fill up which was needed - my legs were pretty tired by then but I had enough to set a good tempo over the last climb before home!

Lots of food and I went for walk with the girlfriend (sorry fiance...) for a few miles as it was a stunning afternoon and saw this taking off, right from beginning to end - which was pretty cool!

I then decided to go to the Swimwise+ which are the coached swimming sessions at the pool, I've only been to one before and really enjoyed it - unfortunately they are always on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday nights so not all that convenient! Basically they divide the pool in to 8 lanes (1 hardest, 8 easiest) with different plans for lanes 1+2, 3-6, 7+8 and you then crack on with them while a coach walks round and picks out pointers for you!

I hopped into lane 4 and started my warm up - however it started to get busy and so I was moved into lane 2 as I was quite quick apparently (flattering but I was not ready for it!) There were some young lads in there who race sprints and are pretty damn quick, however I was more than able to hold my own and led out 2 of the timed 400's which was good fun! Unfortunately my battererd legs from earlier came to haunt me and my feet were cramping towards the end - I did however complete the whole 2400m and a reasonable pace so was happy! Just for note a girl in lane 1 has a 400m pb of 4.41....gulp! Mine is 6.16!

I was buzzing after this session and a great day of training - not my longest ride or swim but definitely my best and hardest day of training yet!

So to this week - it is a rest week with only 4.5 hours required however I was feeling good so thought I would continue for the first half before a mini taper to Sundays TT...nope didn't happen - went for a brief spin with a friend on monday night that turned in to a 10 mile slow pace with a pub stop as I was exhausted - legs wouldn't go...hence hit by a brick! I didn't swim tuesday though had a good run around with the boys at rugby training (a rest week treat) in the evening - though it was tough and I was tired! Last night it was another 30 miles in the forest with lads - I didn't have much in the tank but still put in a good performance!

I am now empty though and looking forward to resting today, tonight and tomorrow (I may swim in the morning but unlikely) and then saturday will be servicing the bikes and then maybe a gentle spin before Sundays 80 mile TT (again its actually a sportive but I plan to go on my own and treat it as a TT)!!

So my 2nd and 3rd largest training weeks went fantastically and I can't wait for Sunday - hopefully I will be bursting to go and will hit my targets!

Wouldn't it be nice if it was always like this...!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good days...

I normally post on here when I need to vent frustration/sort my head out, so today I will just update on the last week or so as its been good!

Last week was a great training week - 10.5 hours in total (my 2nd highest to date) though the average is creeping up steadily - I have averaged well over 8 hours for the last ten weeks so its building nicely! Had a few snide comments that its not enough but hey ho - theres always a few!! Plus it will look different come January..!

Last sunday culminated with a 70 mile cycle on my road bike - which went well, was with a couple of others, one who had never ridden beyond 50 before and he did amazingly well! You can forget how far you've come - this was a reminder that I was that guy a year or two ago! Towards the end the pace was dropping - so I did some faster intervals on my own to get some work in, which was good and my comfort and energy levels are looking good!

Monday night was a great 7.2 mile run, having not run for ages I was happy to hit that distance and shouldn't complain at 8.58 minute miles - that includes a 30 second walk at about 2.5 miles! Once that had passed I felt really good for the rest of the run and had a turn of pace at the end! Plenty more careful knee management and I will be back on track no worries!

Yesterdays swim was a bit crappy - I was flapping around big style! Still managed to do 2.1km but was chatting a fair bit with another triathlete in the pool for a while - (I know...annoying when people are sat there chatting but this was a one off, I can assure you!) Still with all the good swimming last week I wasn't worried about one poor session!

Last night it was peeing with rain so I forwent the bike ride and did some paint work in our new kitchen - good way to appease the good lady and only fair really!

Big ride tonight which I am eager for big time - its always a group ride on a wednesday and a good crack! Tomorrow will be swim and cycle, friday swim - then we're off to River Cottage friday for a meal and that will take up saturday too - so I'll hopefully hit the bike for 4 or so hours on Sunday! If I don't hit my target 10.5 hours for this week I will be smashing by 4.5 next week (its supposed to be a rest week)

I'll smash it mostly because I'll make up any shortfall plus I am loving training and also because I have the 79 mile time trial on the 22nd! Actually its a sportive but I am taking my tri bike and treating it as a time trial as it is reasonably flat (other than the 25% blissford hill) - I will be aiming for an average of 19-20 mph over the whole distance and will chuffed to bits if I do it! Otherwise I'll be blown to bits!

Ahhhh....happy days!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Personal Bests....

Personal bests are a funny thing…well that’s a lie they aren’t but anyone that follows my twitter feed may notice that I seem to be setting a lot of them recently!

There is no real point to this post (is there to any?) but I just wanted to note my thoughts! Its more of a rambling thought process in my head than a coherent report…..there’s a shock!

My 100m swim time has, in the last two weeks, dropped from 1.36 to 1.32 to 1.28 and now to 1.25 - I genuinely think this not because I have got 11 seconds ‘fitter’ or that my technique has got 11 seconds ‘better’ but so much of it has to do with how hard I am prepared to go…don’t get me wrong, I always go hard when trying to achieve a ‘pb’ but there is a difference between hard and really, muscle burning, lung popping, nearly dead hard! (I should note that all my 100m attempts come at the same time, in the same session – after a mile of drills and 100m splits)

There is also a lot to do with the fact that I only recently started timing myself consistently so these times will drop reasonably quickly before reaching a plateau!

Something that I am also conscious of is, as mentioned by @tomstraining in his blog – the subconscious –although I can’t check my time during a 100m swim, I always know if it’s fast or not – does my subconscious become aware of this and go in to preservation mode so that I do ‘just enough’ to beat a pb! I think this is relevant in all three sports, though certainly easier to manage with running and cycling as there is a computer in front of you giving real time pacing info – just a matter of pushing harder (!)

My running pb’s will change quickly because I am new to it – I would expect to set a new pb in most races I enter! Cycling too in a way because although I have done a lot more – these days I am always pushing harder and getting lighter – though again the subconscious comes in to play in those last few miles of hard ride…the bulk of the work is done, I can ease off at still set my pb….it happens so easily!

It’s a clichĂ©, but imagine what pb’s we or I could achieve if I could get myself to push 100% of the time, right to the finish line….I guess that refers back to my original point before about being 11 seconds faster – so much of is the belief of how hard you can push – every time I set-out on a 100m swim pb attempt I come in breathing hard and happy with what I have achieved, as its at the end of my set I then warm down and I’m done…then next time, I get back in I know how hard I pushed last time and survived, lets go a bit harder…boom a new pb! Again…what if I could train myself to go 100% right from the start every time – to really blast myself and to know I have given anything, literally everything!

I guess that isn’t the point of training, you physically can’t go 100% all the time, you’ll burn out – that’s what we don’t set pb’s every time we go out for a session! You build your body up over a period of time so that you can set pb’s!

I suppose I’ve come full circle in what was I was saying but in effect the idea of setting a pb isn’t based purely on physical effort and body conditioning – so much of it is in the mind – so is a pb a true reflection of how fit we are and what we can achieve? No I don’t think it is (unless your crazy and go 100% all the time), there is always more it’s just a matter of convincing your mind that its there!

Maybe the few that really set the world on fire and have gone to that next level – Chrissie Wellington, Lance Armstrong, Usain Bolt, have the ability to go that extra distance…..its not doping, it’s the going beyond what your brain thinks!

Having said that, the ‘pb’ is the only measureable (unfortunately you can’t measure potential) so I suppose it is a reflection…just a slightly skewed one!
My pb’s however will continue to fall, because I will keep pushing myself and if I reach my physical limit, I know I’ve got a heap load of mental potential (it rhymes) to break through….so sorry if it seems that I post a PB every week but I’m only just breaking the iceberg!

As of today they are:-
100m swim = 1.25
400m swim = 6.16
1 mile swim = 28.17
10k run = 46.46
10 mile cycle TT = 28.27

I reckon I could beat a number of them on any given day because I know I have more mental strength than last time…its just convincing my brain that it’s the case!

this whole thing is a journey and its conquering the fear of the unknown...I just want to know it all and push myself right to that very edge...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July Update..

I was going to start this month’s update saying what a struggle this month has been and that I have not been focussed but that would actually be a lie – I’ve reached a point in my training where I have plateau’d mentally in my training – after the high of a successful Dartmoor outing (see previous update below) and then a very relaxing holiday I found that my training “seemed” to falter a bit….(well it did almost completely on holiday)…but looking back its not been too bad a month at all really!

Swim – 9.4 miles – 5.9 hours
Bike – 153 miles – 8.5 hours
Run - 46.4 miles - 11 hours

Total 209 miles – 25.4 hours

Now those figures don’t look great in comparison to previous months but if I factor in 10 days holiday and I’m not doing anything on the 31st (moving day) that’s not too bad for me!

In summary of the month – after my holiday, the thought of trudging out lots of miles on my own wasn’t appealing so I went back to pre-season training with a couple of rugby clubs taking advantage of the core and fitness sessions and generally getting some speed back in to my legs – this helped to reinvigorate me and get the blood flowing again! The sprinting however does my tight hamstrings no good and as the root cause of my knee problem, I have cut back on this but it was good to get me going again, I then had my second triathlon last weekend (I’ll come back to later) and have rounded off the month returning to my normal training!

Swim :-

This has been a great month for swimming, I go through periods of loads of swimming, then none – currently I am doing loads and really enjoying it! Its also been a month for personal bests – I smashed my mile pb – its now down 28 minutes 30 seconds, I smashed my 100 metres pb by 5 seconds this very morning – it stands at 1 minute 28 seconds and during the race I apparently did a 6.34 400 metres which is not bad (includes getting out the pool)!

I have started using training aids during my swimming and they are helping tremendously – this involves floats between my legs with my ankles tied together (to help body position) and hand paddles – these are really hard work and absolutely kill your shoulders!

Whilst swimming is the shortest part of Ironman, the easier I can make it the more energy I will have for later on!

Bike :-

Err…yeah less said the better on this one, I’ve put in a few good rides on the tri bike, but after June the rest was needed. As of August I’ll be back to my commuting ways and be racking up a few more miles….I’ll have to actually as got another event lined up……

Run :-
I’m reluctant to say too much here, as its been three months since I ran properly but…I think I’m getting there – this months total includes estimates rugby during training so don’t read too much in to that!

But….I did a couple of little runs on holiday, pain (well knee pain) free and since then I have done some gentle runs with stretching stops – I being pretty religious with my stretching and icing and whilst I’m not 100% injury free there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel!

This careful management allowed me to finish the race last weekend with 4.5 miles at 8 min/miles – not super fast but pretty good considering! Fingers crossed I can keep it going!

So the reason I though it was a struggle this month is because I am used to the training, I am used to feeling tired and hungry and I am used to drumming out the miles….however that’s no bad thing – the key now is how to up it to the next level – simple answer…work harder and for longer! Having moved house (Saturday), I am next the pool and next to a 10 mile flattish cycle route…so no excuses! I am really looking forward to August!

On the 23rd I have the ‘New Forest Rattler’ its another cycle sportive (similar to Dartmoor) only its flat and fast – my plan is too treat it as I would the ironman – on the tri bike, fully fuelled up and just bang it out on my own and see what happens….for 80 miles…4 hours would be nice but I think 4.20 is more realistic!

So the race last weekend…I’ve done a full in depth report here…

But to summarise, I loved the swim, I won my wave of 8 (you go off in groups of 8) and had the 12th overall fastest swim, I had a good bike – averaging 21mph over a hilly course for 20th overall fastest bike and then the run as mentioned – all together I came 26th and 4th in the 25-29 age group – not too bad I don’t think…..

So actually its been a good consolidation month, now its time to up the work and look forward to some more ‘pb’s’ in a few months!

Oh and to my list for next year…Kel and I got engaged…next year I have my finals, my 30th, Ironman and a wedding….should be fun

What I do take time to remind myself is how lucky I am to be doing this and have this experience, which I am beginning to believe is totally changing my life and how I live – recent events make me realise what an opportunity I have! I also remind myself why I chose to do this….if you haven’t please re-read my Just Giving page to remember what it’s all about!

I’ll give you all a break from begging for donations this month (thanks always to those that have donated this month)…but if you have a penny or two in your pocket – stick it in a jar, it all adds up!

Remember also…. - daily mutterings - weekly mutterings