Monday, 5 November 2012

Rutland Water Marathon 4th November 2012

26.2 Mile Run – Temperature 1oC
03:13:49 total time 11th overall
The Rutland Water marathon is 2 miles from my door but with race day was looming I was still trying to figure out why I was even doing the race. I had picked up a niggle in my ankle about 4 weeks before Kona so had backed off the running going into the event. It got very sore during the bike section but wasn’t sufficiently painful to impact my run. Since then I haven’t run at all bar two sixty minute dog runs. Last week it still hadn’t properly settled so I had back to back physio sessions to patch it up – the plan race day was to run until it hurt, cunning stuff. Its results that count not reasons.
I stood on the start line still wondering what pacing target would get me round, ultimately resolving to run and see what happened; never a strategy to achieve anything except disappointment. The horn hooted and we were off, racing across the dam at 6:40 pace, the ankle feeling solid enough. By this time a freezing fog had descended on the water and the temperature had dropped close to zero. Everyone was cheerful enough, skipping along with the sub 3hr pace feeling pretty manageable. We hit 9 miles in 61 minutes; all good except it had started to drizzle. By mile 12 the drizzle had turned into proper rain and by mile 15 it was chucking it down, and it was freezing cold. Half way had come and gone, sub 90mins but by the time I hit 15 miles my legs were starting to give me reasons to pull up. Surely they couldn’t be sore already?
We had started the second lap of the peninsular by this stage and were lapping people. Someone helpfully told me i was in 10th, I had given up on sub 3 but this gave an incentive to get the job done and finish in the top 10. Mile 18 and I was slowing, mile 21 I was slow! I had slipped into an Ironman shuffle and was furtively checking over my shoulder to see if I could blag my way to the end and a top 10. It was still pouring with freezing rain and I was starting to shake, no glory here, just finish and get home; any desire for top 10, sub 3, first Vet etc all out the window. I was passed by a couple of runners, I passed a couple of runners, I crossed the finish line, done.
On a positive note its Monday morning and my ankle feels fine, seems a good thrashing has made everything else ache to mask any soreness there.
This wasn’t the end to the season I had hoped for but it does mark the end of a season with some fantastic highs. This is the first year I have been self coached and i have learnt a great deal, perhaps the most important one is knowing when enough is enough. Ok, I concede this is more than enough, time to rest. Interestingly, reflecting on how I feel right now, I can say I feel more motivated than I ever have at the end of a hard season. Normally I feel physically battered and mentally exhausted but this year I didn’t put pressure on myself to qualify and compete at a high level in Kona and this seems to have made all the difference. Racing to qualify is stressful, more than many would credit. It’s the mental side of Ironman racing that is tough, physical conditioning is well understood and within most athletes grasp given sufficient time.
The 2013 race schedule is shaping up to be great fun, racing with friends and bagging a few races that have been on my bucket list for a year or two. Love it!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ironman World Championships Hawaii October 13th 2012

3.8km Swim  180km Bike  42km Run - Temperature 98oF

Swim 1:10:13 - T1 02:57 - Bike 05:11:09 - T2 04:01 – Run 03:21:26 Total Time 9:49:46
9th 45-49 Age Group, 258th overall
I qualified to race at Kona in July at IM UK. I had not planned to compete in Kona and so this was a relatively late stage to qualify and decide to race on the Big Island. Once I had made the decision to go, I felt I was in a race against time to recover and rebuild my fitness to be in top shape for my fifth consecutive visit to the world championships. In the days leading up to the race I was confident I had done everything I possibly could have done to be ready to race the best athletes in the world.
I stood on Digme beach contemplating the day ahead, the atmosphere electric as the adrenaline pumped hard, it was show time. The announcer urged us to enter the water as  7am approached. No time to be faint hearted, onto the front line of the swim jostling for space, no one wanting to give an inch to another competitor. Boom, we were off. Ironman becomes a contact sport for the first 500m of the swim, at the world championships it’s the first 1500m, exchanging blows, some accidental, some not. After 70 minutes I exited the water, relieved not to have conceded too much time to my fellow competitors. Now my race began.
I was swiftly through transition and out onto the bike course, head up, sucking in the energy of the cheering crowds and feeling great as we completed the loop in Kailua-Kona and out onto the Queen K. The first aid station approached, always a danger as less experienced athletes wobble across the road to grab bottles, I opted to stay wide and press on. The planned power numbers were coming easily so I didn’t dwell on them, just stuck to my nutrition plan and ensured I continued to safely pass athletes.
As I sped along I was constantly calculating pace and potential finishing time so by the time I was at Hawi I was perhaps a little too excited. I had arrived in the quickest time I had ever done, my expectations started to grow as I made the turnaround and hit the gas downhill back to Kawaihae clocking well over 60 kph at times. Up onto the Queen K and only 55km to the finish but as I made the turn I ran into a wall of wind and heat. My speed nosedived and my core temperature started to inexorably edge higher; we were in Kona and now what makes this race unique started to unfold. I was ready for this, I had a plan but I was starting to tire and the conditions slowly gnawed away at my resolve. I recalculated my finish time, once, twice, over and over as the minutes slipped through my fingers and my optimism melted away in the heat. At last the airport approached and there was only 20k remaining then suddenly, there was a loud crack from the front wheel and I came to a juddering holt. I dismounted, inspected the front wheel and there, lamely hanging from the hub was a broken spoke. I wasn’t sure if this was terminal but I slackened off the brake to minimise the rubbing, jumped on and started to contemplate how far I would need to nurse the bike before I was close enough to run in to the transition zone. K by k I made progress, and as I approached Kailua once more my spirits lifted, head up, I was back in the race and hadn’t conceded a terminal amount of time.
I laced up my shoes and eagerly set about getting to work on the run, this is what I enjoy most and I was going to take the course on, it was in my hands now. I settled into a relaxed pace and with no real effort I was running 7 minutes per mile. I took another inventory of how I felt; all was good so kept on the pace I had fallen into. I made the turnaround on Alii Drive and as I started back into town I made a mental note that there was good cloud cover and conditions might favour a fast run. No sooner had I contemplated this than the clouds cruelly melted away and the sun bore down with the full midday intensity. I made the 10 mile mark in 70 minutes just as I hit the sharp climb up Palani; I came to a grinding halt at the aid station close to the summit. Within a matter of minutes my core temperature had shot up and now I was in damage limitation mode. I had been in this situation many times in this race so the planned routine snapped into action; ice, water, coke, ice then run to the next aid station. The conditions sapped the spring from my legs and my pace crashed to over 8 minutes per mile; this is where the race can break you and what makes it special. I focussed mile by mile and made my way out to the Energy Lab, the final turnaround and headed for home. There were some dark moments as the conditions battered my body, my head and my heart but I took energy from the other athletes as we urged each other on. I pressed on, concerned that if I lost my momentum then I would come to a grinding holt out in the lava fields. Eventually I re-entered Kailua, hobbled down Palani and rounded the final corner into the cheering crowds lining the finishing chute on Alii Drive. Crossing that finishing line never loses its magic; this is a very special race.
I have been lucky enough to finish this race five times now and without doubt can attest that it is unique in every way, the course, the location, the conditions and of course the field of athletes. I plan to be back in 2014, in the next age group and ready to fulfil a dream.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Carbon, lycra and schwag

It’s now Wednesday and there’s a real buzz in the air. Nearly all the competitors are in town now and everywhere you turn there’s carbon and lycra. Registration opened yesterday and after the initial mêlée of type ‘A’ individuals needing to be first in line, things eased off as the volunteers moved athletes through smoothly.  Many people come to Kona year after year simply to volunteer and be part of the Big Dance, the consequence of which is that this has to be one of the most experienced crews on the M-dot circuit.

I swam the course for the final time yesterday morning sans dolphins and whilst the swell was up. There were relatively few athletes on the course as we had set off at 6:30 am so it was a relaxed swim finding some nice rhythm. By the time we exited at DigMe beach those going out were shoulder to shoulder and it wasn’t even race day! It becomes a massive schwag fest by the pier as manufacturers compete to hand out branded swim caps and the like and once again, those high net worth Kona athletes compete fiercely for a $2 hat. It’s definitely not the taking part that matters.
The sun was up by lunchtime so I took the opportunity to have my last proper run to help acclimatise and loosen off the legs. I had run for 90 minutes on Sunday and whilst the pace was fine, my legs felt heavy as I struggled to hit my normal high cadence. I passed Lava Java on Alii Drive then hit race pace out to the turnaround, the ks passed by, bang on pace and with some spring in the legs at last. I certainly wasn’t skipping along but I am happy now that come race day the legs will be in top shape and ready to unload out of T2.
The parade of nations took part later in the afternoon, its great fun and gives you the chance to catch up with the other GB athletes. I am always amazed at how few GB athletes do in fact come along; there must have been no more than half our number. Chrissie was in the car at the front and as a consequence we probably received way more press attention than we deserved. All done, more schwag at the expo, which opens at the end of the parade, then off to the Canoe Club for supper.
Today was the usual routine, a brief swim, principally out to the Coffees Of Hawaii boat for a deep water espresso,  back in to shore and off to the Active Release Therapy (ART) marquee for a massage. All straightened out we met up at Splashers for the usual veggie omelette and banter whilst watching the bun fight at the pier.
My last session of the week was to do a couple of race pace efforts on the bike to finally tune up the legs for the race. Off up the Queen K then turn on the power to see what comes and how it feels – the numbers were promising. It seems to take at least a week for the jet lag to wear off and to start to feel fresher. This, coupled with coming off a final big block of training, makes the content of the taper a bit of a tightrope. Freshen up for the race, keep reminding your body what it needs to do, acclimatise for the conditions and normalise the body clock. You never really know until race day if you have done it well, so, let’s see!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Routine is your Friend

It’s the rhythm of the days that I enjoy most in Hawaii, swim at 7am then a leisurely breakfast watching the good and the great of triathlon go by. Friday saw Emma Cranfield arrive at the pier, her first trip to the Big Island having qualified at IMUK, first female amateur. As her coach I feel an extra pressure in making this an unforgettable experience for her but actually that’s not hard to achieve out here. Saturday the breakfast club grew again as second timers Mel Dowell and Brett Hedges pitched up for swimming and breakfast banter.

Bike Works serviced my bike Friday so I could get out on the Queen K Saturday for the last decent bike session and an opportunity to ride with Emma on a recce of the course. We did the short 10k loop in Kailua before tackling the climb up Palani, passing a couple of old codgers on equally old bikes. As we arrived at the top the lights turned red so the old boys pulled up behind us. I turned round and casually asked if they were doing the race (thinking that at their age it was fairly improbable, but hey, I was being polite). Yes, one of them volunteered so I asked if he had done it before – twenty two times he chimed back. Feeling a little silly I struck back with ‘have you ever won it?’ (Of course he hadn’t doh), ten times he said without not so much as a note of smugness. Thank goodness the lights changed before I could embarrass myself any further. It’s moments like this that make the race week so special.

As we set off down the Queen K I was feeling good for the first time since we had arrived, the watts were coming easily and the tail wind made it super fast.  I love riding down the Queen K, every athlete cranes his neck as you pass and you crane back to check out who is out there, star spotting. Quickly we came across three of the Abu Dhabi team including Faris then a few ks further there was Rasmus and four of his buddies. Of course as we passed I felt obliged to put the power down, I always feel a bit silly just inching past people then not really making ground.  Across the other side of the highway was another pro I didn’t recognise being motor paced. We carried on to the end of the Queen K then turned to head back to Kailua. This is the hardest part of the bike course on race day, 140k into the ride and you are faced with a head wind and the heat of the day. I wanted to practise this part of the course so I pushed at race pace and looked out for landmarks to tick off, Manu Lani, Waikoloa, scenic point, veterans’ cemetery, donkey crossing, airport then just 10 miles home. Breaking it down into manageable chunks really worked, I found it much easier to focus one section at a time.

Saturday had been the first day I was beginning to feel a little fresher and the jet lag start to subside. It will take a few more days to feel properly rested but it’s starting to come. Now for the routine of dinner and some more tri-craic !

Friday, 5 October 2012

Too good to miss

The plan for this season wasn’t to come to Kona but to have fun racing with friends and focus on building a better swim/bike leg for 2014, the year I plan to go back to Kona in the next age group. But, perhaps because of that more relaxed seasonal plan, I had some great races, nailing PBs and a number of wins, the most significant of which was at IMUK. A trip to Kona was too good to pass up.

As the taxi approached Kailua-Kona, after some 27hrs of travelling, we went up a slight rise – this was Mark and Dave hill or what might perhaps now be known as Chris and Andi hill. I felt like a small child on Christmas Eve, how could I have even contemplated not coming? This year we were stopping at the Kona Seaside Hotel, right in the thick of the action, the finish line visible from the room’s balcony. Making such a last minute decision to come meant my usual hotel, the Royal Kona Resort, was fully booked, in fact just about everywhere was fully booked!

By 4am Thursday morning I had given up trying to sleep in, my body totally confused as to what time of day it was. I got up, put the coffee on and set about assembling the bike. I managed to drag out a few more bits of admin until first light then took the 5 minute walk down to the pier. When I first made the trip out here, in 2008, there were no more than half a dozen athletes turning up for the swim the week before the race but things are very different now. It’s not as chaotic as the actual week of the race but there must have been at least a hundred athletes swimming the course or some variant of that route. It’s very organised now, a rack to drop your bag off, volunteers on hand with water and Perform plus canoeists and paddleboards out on the course directing swimmers.

By 7am I was stood on DigMe beach, warm water washing around my ankles, wow, this is it. In 10 days time I would be standing on that very spot with 1800 other athletes and the adrenaline pumping hard. I set off, planning to swim to the 1.2m turnaround buoy, just off the Royal Kona beach. As soon as my head went in the water I could see the tropical fish darting around the coral, I have even caught myself in the race temporarily mesmerised by them. I paused to watch for a brief moment then got into an easy stroke. With the shelter of the pier, the first few hundred meters are always easy but then clear of the pier, the swell starts to hit you. The date of the race is always determined by the timing of the first full moon in October and the tide was fully in by 7am, the time the race will start.

I swam along the line of buoys leading along the course and then passed the new 1500m buoy, seems the Americans discovered meters at last!  As I approached the 1.2m mile buoy I noticed it looked a little odd – after umpteen years bobbing up and down, it had been pulled out of service and a shiny new one plopped in – is nothing sacred?? No sooner had I arrived at the buoy then a very familiar and exciting sound greeted my ears, the high pitched squeaking of a pod of Dolphins. Within seconds I was amongst them, swimming all around me, seemingly oblivious to my presence, shepherding the pups and occasionally jumping in the air, simultaneously spinning round. I hung around until hey had disappeared then set off back to DigMe beach.

Quick shower at the pier then off for brekkie – love it.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Vitruvian Middle Distance Triathlon 8th September 2012

1.9k Swim 80k Bike 21k Run – Temperature 27oC
Swim 00:31:44 - T1 01:47 - Bike 02:15:21 - T2 01:30 - Run 01:23:01 Total Time 04:13:25
Age Group Winner 45-49, 11th Overall
This was the fourth time I have raced the Vitruvian, it’s in my back yard and serves as a last hit out before the final five weeks running into the World Championships in Hawaii. It’s a great benchmark for my fitness and helps me fine tune the last few weeks of preparation. I had won the last three years but this year top age group athlete Tim Bishop was racing. A fourth win looked unlikely, particularly in the light of the hard training block I had completed in the preceding weeks.
For the first time the swim was a beach start. This added to the drama as the gun fired and we raced to hit the water, elbows and feet making heavy contacts as we fought to find some clean strokes. I opted to swim hard to the first buoy and it paid dividends as I quickly found a rhythm and some clear water. Having turned on the buoy I latched onto Tim’s feet for a pull through to the next turn. As we exited the water to start the second lap it appeared we were at the head of the age group and it remained that way through the entire lap. I entered T1 in third place, and moved through smoothly and out onto the bike course. I quickly caught Tim and it was nip and tuck as we spent almost the entire ride trading places, catching the age group leader half way through the second lap. The conditions were excellent, warm and with only a light wind.
As we approached T2 I prepared myself for the transition to running, having no more than a ten second gap on Tim. I only needed one small chance to gap him and this was it. I ran hard out of T2 and ran at close to 6 minute miles for the first three miles hoping to open up a sizeable gap such that his appetite for the chase would be thwarted.  I reached the first turnaround and hadn’t wanted to look back, but on the return leg I was able to clock the deficit I had built - two and a half minutes, significant but not decisive. Lap 1 done, I had the opportunity to recheck the deficit and I was pleased that it had grown to over three minutes although I had been running at my limit. A solid second lap was all that was required but with the temperature inexorably rising, it was getting tougher to maintain my pace and running form. I tried to zone out and just focus on rhythm not the race as such, staying relaxed but purposeful. My second lap was slower than the first but good enough to maintain the gap and cross the line as age group winner.
It had been a great contest, fantastically organised race with lots of friends and family racing and supporting. I was stoked to have won, achieving a course PB and finishing 11th overall, my highest ever ranking. This has set me up perfectly for the race in Kona, proving my fitness is probably as high as it has ever been entering the final build up. All that remains is to sharpen for the race and freshen up to have a crack at the best athletes in the world.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ironman UK, Bolton, England 22nd July 2012

3.8k Swim 180k Bike 42k Run – Temperature 27oC
Swim 01:05:58 - T1 04:03 - Bike 05:33:30 - T2 02:17 - Run 03:08:14 Total Time 09:54:02
Age Group Champion 45-49, 14th Overall
IMUK was my A race for the season as I had decided at the end of last year not to try and qualify for the IM World Champs. My plan for the season was to consistently build for six months, add in some racing to sharpen up the speed and then attempt to win at Bolton.
I had a great training build and some really good results; all that remained was for the weather gods to be kind and for me to have the race of my life. My confidence was high going into race week and as I anxiously looked at the long range forecast each day, it look certain we would be blessed with great weather – racing in hot conditions was something very familiar to me and a great bonus.
The race was due to start at 0600 so it was an even earlier start than usual. I was tucking into breakfast by 0300, surrounded by a room full of athletes silently devouring a mountain of calories as they contemplated the culmination of months of training and dreaming.
The deep water start was delayed by a few minutes as the logistical challenge of getting all 1800 athletes in the water had been underestimated. No drama though, most stayed calm, assembled on the start line and boom, we were off on the two lap swim. My swim was punctuated with an occasional heavy contact but nothing out of the ordinary and I quickly found myself being hauled out of the water onto the ramp and off into the transition tent in preparation for the bike section.
I ran to collect my bike and took a cursory look across the racking in order to estimate my approximate position in the race; all looked well and I was confident I was out on the road with maybe only 10 athletes in my age group ahead of me. I started to ride by the power and heart rate numbers but something wasn’t quite right. There was a rubbing sensation coming from somewhere on the bike and my quads felt red hot to the touch.  The swim had been cold and towards the end I had detected the onset of some minor cramp but that had passed by now. I leant down and eased off the brake callipers although I was sure this wasn’t the source of the rubbing and spun the cranks at a high cadence to try and reduce the strain on my quads. The rubbing continued, my quads remained on fire but I had a few hours to sort things out so I pressed on.
By the time I hit the looped section of the bike course I had passed three athletes from my age group and during the course of the next lap I reeled in a couple more.  As I hit the second lap it occurred to me that the quads were now fine and the bike was rolling, it was as if a switch had been thrown and all of a sudden I was flying. The last 60k of the bike was a real joy and as I hit T2 the PA blasted out that I was third in the age group – time to go to work on the run.
Straight out of transition and quickly past the guy in second, now to hunt down the guy in first and take the lead. The field was now pretty thin and I sensed that I was perhaps in the top 50 in the race overall , my legs felt springy and I was comfortable running at what I estimated to be sub 7 minute miles.  My strategy was to run on feel and keep the cadence high whilst I felt I could. By mile six I had caught the final athlete; all I needed to do was remain calm and keep the pace I had set. The final part of the run course was three 10k laps and as I ticked each one off my legs became progressively more painful , I had now refocused my goal to finishing as high up the overall ranking as possible. I was now being carried along by the incredible support, not wanting to walk any of the final few ks, I just pushed hard for the line and managed to pass a few more athletes who were now hobbling or walking to the finish.
I was thrilled to cross the line as the age group champion, an IM marathon pb and was certain I was in the top 30 overall, what a fantastic day. Everything had seemed to click with no significant issues for me to deal with; it was one of those rare days you have, super consistent in every discipline and able to race to the tape. I was astonished to hear shortly after crossing the line that I had won by over 30 minutes and finished 14th overall, beaten only by a handful of Pro athletes and a few young guns. On a wave of euphoria I signed up for Kona the next day and now have to start the process of recovering and rebuilding my fitness for the sport’s on The Big Island.

Monday, 18 June 2012

UK Ironman 70.3, Wimbleball, England 17th June 2012

1.9k Swim 92k Bike 21k Run – Temperature 14oC
Swim 00:29:25 - T1 04:07 - Bike 02:57:53 - T2 01:52 - Run 01:26:22 Total Time 04:59:39
2nd Age Group 45-49, 35th Overall
Wimbleball was my fifth race in seven weeks and the third half Ironman, my performances getting progressively better. The strategy to race and not ease up on the training was working but I had some unfinished business from Wimbleball 2011.
The weather forecasts for the weekend were looking dreadful with high winds and torrential rain predicted to hit race day hard. I toyed with the idea of not making the 5hr road trip to Somerset and just doing a hard brick session from home, albeit in the rain. Anyway, the plans had been made and I had paid my entry fee so it was time to show a little Iron spirit.
Race day I was up at 0400 for my porridge and banana and then just worked through the normal routine, arriving in the water at 0730 composed, focussed and ready to race. It was a deep water two wave swim start, one thousand competitors in each wave, and the water was a balmy 14oC. I don’t think anyone even waited for the B of the Bang, we were off in the usual melee of thrashing arms and legs but I quickly broke free of the main pack and found a good line for the first buoy. From there I locked onto some friendly feet and drafted pretty much the second half of the swim, exiting in  good shape and under my target 30 minutes.
It was a long run up the hill into the mud bath T1 had become. Quick change and out into the bike, desperately trying to navigate round the previous wave that were strewn across the road, walking or wobbling or zigzagging as they attempted to set off. It was chaos but I tried to keep a cool head, run up the road a little further than usual and then jump on and put the power down. Since I was in the second wave it was almost half way into the two lap ride that I started to get some clear road but it was always a challenge to safely pass whilst pacing a very hilly course. Over the 56 miles it is said there are 56 hills, testing the riders with over 6000ft of ascent. I metered out my efforts as best I could but on some of the steeper hills there is no choice but to just concentrate on turning the cranks as hard as possible. Having grabbed a couple of minutes on the swim compared to last year I was determined to do the same on the bike but leave my legs fresh enough to nail a really hard run.  I was really excited to roll into T2 having completed the toughest bike course on the Ironman 70,3 circuit on plan, a total of nearly 5 minutes ahead of 2011 and ready to go to work on the run.
A smooth T2 and out onto the toughest run on the Ironman 70.3 world circuit, a three lap trail run with not only a challenging terrain, some 1500ft of ascent,  but now crammed with runners running at various paces on muddy footpaths.  I spent lap 1 shouting at runners to move to one side so I could get through whilst trying to keep upright on the deteriorating running surface, clocking 28 minutes. Lap 2 I completed n 30minutes, reigning back a little to conserve energy for the final lap. Lap 3 I just let rip and ran as hard as the conditions would allow and as I approach the 11mile mark I realised that it would be possible to go under 5 hours if I pushed hard. I shut down the sensors, narrowed my vision and went for it, crossing the line with only 20 seconds to spare!
I had swum well, biked well and executed a great run.  I was thrilled with breaking 5 hours and had finished high up in the overall standing in a very competitive field. I am now ready for the real deal, Ironman UK in 5 weeks.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Beaver Middle Distance Triathlon, Belvoir Castle, England 26th May 2012

1.9k Swim 77k Bike 21k Run – Temperature 25oC

Swim 00:30:18 - T1 01:14 - Bike 02:07:46 - T2 01:07 - Run 01:23:46 Total Time 04:04:11

1st Age Group 45-49, 11th Overall

My race in Mallorca two weeks ago had marked the start of my Ironman specific block of training, using half distance races to sharpen up my speed coupled with big blocks of race specific aerobic training. I quickly recovered from Mallorca and put in a solid 10 day period of hard training running into the Beaver triathlon. I didn’t feel well rested but the post race soreness was gone and I was ready to race hard.

I started my pre race routine early Saturday morning and arrived at the swim start well prepared and everything running like clockwork. I now have an established routine that works well for me. Final preparation then pull the wetsuit up ready for the gun but to my chagrin, the wetsuit ripped at the seam – panic – resignation – into the water and get on with it.
The gun fired and I swam hard to the open water ahead and quickly settled into a stroke that put me in the lead group. Apart from navigating round stragglers from the previous waves and fighting with the silt and duck weed, it was an uneventful solo effort, exiting the water in just under 28mins, fantastic, probably the fastest split I have had at this distance. There is a 500m run up to transition so I took off my wetsuit before running into T1 and grabbing the bike.

I was hard on the heels of the guy leading the age group as we jumped on the bike but he quickly put the power down and disappeared up the road. I knew I had the edge in the run so I focussed on riding hard but consistently. The ride was great in the sunny weather and the wind was even in a helpful direction. I put in a solid effort on the bike and the nutrition plan delivered me to T2 in good shape for the final segment of the race. By this time the temperature was soaring but having raced Mallorca two weeks previously it seemed very manageable.

Through T2 in a flash and out onto the challenging run course. It consisted of four repeats of an out and back route effectively up and down a hill, the wind rather inconveniently this time, blowing down the hill just to make it a little more interesting. I ran the first lap hard to catch the guy leading the age group and was surprised how quickly I passed him; from then on I just wanted to deliver a fast run time to reflect the training I had been doing. The laps ticked off with only a slight wobble at the start of the fourth – this was quickly fixed with half a gel to pep me up for the run home.

It was a wave start so you never really know how you are racing compared to the rest of the field but I was delighted to win the age group and thrilled discover I had come 11th overall.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Ironman 70.3, Mallorca, Spain 12th May 2012

1.9k Swim 90k Bike 21k Run – Temperature 32oC

Swim 00:32:47 - T1 04:40 - Bike 02:38:39 - T2 03:00 - Run 01:26:10 Total Time 04:45:19

4th Age Group 45-49, 71st Overall

I was excited to start my first scheduled race of the season. Having raced the last two weekends and completed a very solid block of training I was due a few easier days ahead of the race, so, time to relax and freshen up for the start line.

Pre-race I bumped into a couple of people I knew that were definitely there for the win and I wasn’t confident that I had the speed at this distance to beat them to the tape. Doubts started to set in and mentally I (too) quickly accepted that a podium was unlikely and started to think about what my goal for the race would be. I settled on a swim PB, push the bike hard and then run a very fast half marathon to reflect the results I had seen in training and racing recently.
We stood on the beach waiting for our wave to start with over 2000 athletes already thrashing through the water ahead of us. There were nearly 300 in our age group so it was going to be a sprint to the water and a bumpy start to the swim. The gun fired and we were off, shoulder to shoulder diving into the surf. I quickly got away from the mêlée and sat about 20m back from the lead group of swimmers, holding my position until the turn. No sooner had I found some feet at the back of the group than I found myself swimming alone on the return leg, somehow my concentration had lapsed and I had missed the train. I exited the water hoping for around 30mins but was disappointed to see 32 something – OK regroup and focus on the bike.

T2 went smoothly and I quickly found myself pounding up the hill at the 20k mark, the power was coming easily and I was passing plenty as I raced to a 60min power PB. The scenery was sensational and I was feeling good, crack on. The descent was a different matter, with hairpin turns coming thick and fast, quickly exposing my weak handling skills compared to the other strong cyclists. The air filled with the sound of brakes grabbing the carbon rims and the smell of the pads starting to burn. Pleased to finally enter the last 30k of the ride my focus started to drift as I started to feel tired and hot so I started to up my fluid intake and take in more calories. It was at this point that two guys in my age group sped past me and for a while I followed them but they seemed to be a little too close to each other. Through a town I lost contact and knew I should have kept on them, I needed to be in the race and I thought it had just rode away from me. On reflection this was a critical point of the race for me, you need to be in it to win it and I wasn’t.

Prior to the race I thought 4:30 would win and it was now clear, as I entered T2, I would need to work hard on the run to come inside 4:45. I resolved to run hard and aim for a fast run split to give me at least that as a takeaway for the race. I settled into a firm pace for the first lap, making sure I kept hydrated as the temperature continued to rise, it being particularly oppressive on the stretch alongside the beach. Lap one ticked off, lap two ticked off in the same sort of time but by this point there must have been nearly the whole field of 2400 athletes crammed onto the 7k loop. Like some demented banshee I screamed at runners to keep right as I came by and pretty much gave up on the aid stations, they were completed clogged up. I nailed the final lap and sprinted down the finishing chute with pretty much no idea as to my race position having not bothered to clock numbers on the run, preferring to focus on running well.

It was a great early season race course in stunning scenery, suited to strong bikers. I didn’t bag the swim PB and but I put in a very solid bike leg and was really chuffed the run was a top 20 performance on the day. I had learnt a great deal for the season ahead and am looking forward to the next race in two weeks.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

National Duathlon Championships, Ashbourne, April 28th 2012

Run 12k 50:46 T1 01:10 Bike 40k 1:14:10 T2 00:49 Run 4k 15:53 Total Time 02:22:50

3rd 45-49 Age Group, 18th Overall

Defying all the rules of specificity, yesterday I kicked off my long distance triathlon season with standard distance duathlon. My training has been very consistent week in week out but I felt I needed to inject some race intensity into the plan so two clicks and I was entered. My training load in the week leading up to the race was normal albeit riding back to back 180k rides isn’t that normal for me. Throw in a few swims and a couple of runs and I was properly tired for the Saturday, as planned!

Having nearly bailed out of my second long, wet, cold ride Wednesday I wasn’t relishing the prospect of a wet, cold race on the Saturday and I had my excuses prepared. I awoke tired but with only a little soreness in my quads so excuse one was out the window. We arrived at the race venue and whilst it was cold and windy there was no rain – nothing for it now, I was on for the race. It’s been years since I have done a duathlon so I really had no idea how to pace the opening run but I stuck to a half marathon type pace which was hard but manageable. The loop around the reservoir started into the wind and flattish but 6k in you hit the hills which are enough to rob you of pace and rhythm. By this time the field had kind of settled into an order and whilst I did pass one or two more, the race moved to the bike section. A pedestrian T1 saw me onto the bike and after only a few minutes the hills started to come, steadily getting steeper with each mile passing. There was little opportunity to win time back on the down hills as the road surfaces were poor and the turns sharp and blind. I concentrated on pushing hard on the up hills as to an extent, this was the point of racing a short hilly course, that top end intensity that it is not always possible to hit in training. I managed to pass a few riders over the 40k and by the time I hit T2 there were only two bikes in my age group racked. No sign of them so it was clear that there was no realistic opportunity on the last 4k run to make up any places. I ran hard but within myself to complete the race.

A great course and a useful injection of intensity into my programme. As a bonus it transpired the race had been nominated by English Triathlon as their inaugural duathlon championships, so, I had a bronze medal!