Tuesday, 14 October 2014

October 11th 2014 Ironman World Championships, Kona, Hawaii

3.8km Swim 180km Bike 42km Run - Temperature 90oF
Swim 1:13:14 - T1 03:57 - Bike 05:17:48 - T2 03:16 – Run 03:15:33 Total Time 9:53:48
8th 50-54 Age Group, 341st overall
The Ironman World Champs in Kona is the big dance, the blue ribbon event in the triathlon calendar and the race that I have been pointing myself at all year. Moving up an age category this year, I figured it was a real opportunity to get closer to the podium. I had a great set of results this year and I was ready to complete the season with a strong showing on the Big Island.
Rolling up to race day had been like clockwork. Having done the race five times before, familiarity with many of the organisational issues meant that even when small things went awry I was unfazed and on track for the big day.
We left the hotel at 0500 and headed down to transition for body marking. The waves seemed to be breaking a little bigger than normal on the rocks but didn’t seem too troublesome; the sky was clear and winds appeared light. As race day approaches near hysteria envelopes the conversations at race ground zero as athletes speculate on conditions, tactics and the depth of the competition. In the last day or two I kept clear of the masses, conditions will be as they will, I had a race plan and the field will be deep as the best athletes in the sport converge on this race with their A game.
This year they split the male and female starts to reduce congestion in the swim and out on the bike course. When we entered the water at Dig Me beach it was clear they had narrowed the start line and therefore the usual carnage was bound to ensue. I had planned a very conservative swim, steering clear of the mass of bodies exchanging blows as they clawed their way forwards. The cannon boomed and I quickly found myself outside the arrow head of swimmers, pretty
much unimpeded as I made my way to the turn buoy at 1.2miles. I arrived in a reasonable time and turned for home but the growing height of the waves meant sighting the buoys marking the route was only possible as each wave crested. As I swam back to the pier it started to feel slow but I was still clear of the argy bargee so kept my head down and concentrated on swimming with a strong stroke. Eventually the exit came and I glanced up at the clock, I had prepared for a slow time but it was a personal worst! My heart sank as I was sure I had given an extra ten minute advantage to my competitors and you simply cannot do that in this race and recover, every second counts at the pointy end and I wasn’t there to make up the numbers (it later transpired that it was a slower day all-round).
I was quickly out on the bike and aiming to work to the power cap I had planned except, for the first time ever, the power meter wasn’t working. I had a heart rate plan so I switched to that, not terminal but nonetheless very distracting and certainly sub-optimal. I headed out on the Queen K knowing I had to ride a little harder than planned to get me back in contention. I was above my heart rate cap but feeling good and therefore resolved to take a few risks with my pacing. By 40k I was ahead of target but then we rode into a wall of wind bringing the speed down to a relative crawl, still passing people I kept working and tried to stay calm as the packs starting to form and the draft cheats sheltered from the wind. The referees did penalise a few but seemed to be content to break up the pelotons by simply making their presence known rather than bust people, shame.

As we turned up the hill to Hawi the side winds were starting to gust and in the course of the day a number of athletes would be knocked to the ground and end up in medical. If you are inexperienced or a light athlete the on/off battering of the wind can be very intimidating, the tone of the ride was set. On the way down the head wind turned into a side/tail wind but as is the way of the island, it ultimately swung round to become a head wind. It was clearly a day for the strong bikers and the final ride times were testament to it being a vintage tough year.
I actually felt pretty reasonable throughout the ride with the nutrition plan clicking into place and the higher heart rate not coming back later on to drain me on the last hot, windy 50k along the Queen k. My time was respectable but again I was certain I had gifted more time to my competitors. I was going to have to really nail the run to salvage a top 20 at the very least.
I set off down Alii Drive aiming to work to a strict heart rate, having suffered badly before when setting off too fast. I passed Mary and she shouted I was in 24th – wow, didn’t reckon I would be in the top 30 – game on, I was sure I could run down at least a dozen in the next 26 miles. I cracked on with renewed purpose trying to keep a firm pace but no matter how much I slowed the heart rate would not come under my cap. Bugger it, run on feel and concentrate on keeping a steady pace, I was clearly not sufficiently acclimatised to the Kona heat and humidity.
I made the turn by St Peter’s church and came back past Mary at the 9 mile mark – 14th she shouted. I braced myself for the toughest part of the course, out onto the furnace of the Queen K, on to the Energy lab and back. This is where the race is won or lost, it’s brutal with the heat reflected off the black top and nowhere to hide from the sun’s midday intensity. The legs felt good, the miles were clicking off and the pace was very consistent (I had thrown the heart rate strap away by this stage). I didn’t seem to be passing anyone in my age group and I didn’t allow myself to scan the bib numbers of the athletes coming back towards me on the home leg. I focussed on what I was doing and maintaining my best pace, the race would take care of itself if I gave it everything. In and out of the Energy lab and I passed three guys in my age group in quick succession, ok, must be in the top ten now. I was certain my pace would give me some additional scalps before the finish line. Boom, at 11km left I got a searing quad cramp but fortunately it was only a 100m walk to the aid station. I retrieved some salt tabs I was carrying, iced the offending muscle, altered my gait and headed off, praying the cramp wouldn’t kick in again. After 9 hours of racing the finish I had worked for looked like it could be snatched away at the last minute and all I would be left with would be hollow excuses. So unfair but that’s the nature of this race, don’t come here and expect fairness from the conditions, the brutality is what makes this race special and unlike any other.
I continued towards the finish line, carefully taking time to cool and feed at each aid station and keep a consistent pace. Finally I was propelling myself down Palani, along Kuakini Highway and then turning into Alii Drive and the emotionally suffocating roar of the crowds. It’s a rare athlete that can keep a lid on their emotions crossing the line on Alii Drive. I was ecstatic with my result having spent a good deal of the race thinking I was out the game. A great end to the season in my fiftieth year, now for some R and R.
As for next year’s plans, the campaign starts at IMSA in March and I have booked my hotel for October 10th……

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

September 7th 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Champs Mont Tremblant, Canada

1.9km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run - Temperature 75oF
Swim 30:56 - T1 04:42 - Bike 02:29:04 - T2 02:22 – Run 01:25:43   Total Time 4:32:47
8th 50-54 Age Group, 432nd overall
I had signed up for this race as a spur of the moment decision back in May reckoning it would be a great place for a holiday and there would be no real pressure to attempt to be competitive over the distance, after all, I am a diesel engine trained for double the distance. But as the race approached my ambitions rose to a point that I felt I could have a shot at getting a result if I focussed with some specific training. The flaw in the plan was a great race at IMUK and a real sense that I could finally nail the result I want at the full distance IM champs in Kona. I came to MT having fudged any real intensity training for the shorter distance and opted to put in the volume of work required for Kona right up to the race. The silver lining to this was a great block of run training to build my capability to deliver a strong marathon – I would need this to claw back the time I would undoubtedly give away on the swim and bike portions of the race.
The setting for the swim was simply stunning with tree clad hills rolling down to the water’s edge. A straight forward swim in the pristine lake would ensure I could limit my early losses. The fireworks boomed, we sprinted down the beach, into the water and settled remarkably quickly into an orderly pack. Exiting the water and I headed straight for the strippers...wetsuit off, a 500m dash for T1 and onto the bike.

During the week I had ridden the course a couple of times so I had a solid plan figured out. Stick to the power numbers unless passed then ride hard and stay with them. Over this distance it’s a race, red lining from gun to tape! Sadly there were a number of big packs of riders and little in the way of draft marshals to deal with the blatant cheaters, the only issue that marred an otherwise superb event. I made up a few places on the bike but knew the only way I was going to bag a result was to run the life out of my legs.
The last 20k of the bike had a few sharp rises up a hill then a dead turn and 50 kph downhill with some awesome sweeping turns. I hit T2, handed off the bike to the catchers, grabbed my gear bag, slipped into my running vest and took off after the field ahead. Setting out in 21st place I had my work cut out but a result was within my grasp if I was prepared to suffer a little.
The run course was rolling with little opportunity to set a rhythm for any length of time and the temperature was rising but for me, tougher was better. The course was spectacular, along the lake, through some wooded sections and eventually completing the lap up through the narrow streets of Mont Tremblant and back out for the second and final lap. The aid stations were slick, the crowds immense, cheering the athletes on as the course narrowed to almost one body wide up the hills. I set out with the intention of 4 minute ks and to see how many competitors I could hoover up in the first lap. I passed nine in my age group by the time I hit the turn. Figuring I was in with a shot of a top ten I eased up for the next 5k to consolidate and prepare for the final all-out effort.

I picked off two more before I wound myself up for the final 5k, wanting to finish with a sense I had left it all out there and delivered the run I was capable of. I pushed, zoned out, racing every step until I crossed the line certain I had given my best over the 21k.
Oddly I didn’t immediately go searching for my splits and result, in a way it wouldn’t make a difference to how I felt. Ultimately I had raced hard and felt certain I had bagged the top ten result I coveted but importantly also nailed a fast run to build confidence for my season’s finale in Kona. I met up with Mary and she told me I had come 8th. I was thrilled as it was beyond my expectations and a massive bonus for the season. It still hasn’t sunk in and I guess it won’t until a certain race in October is over.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

20th July 2014 Ironman UK, Bolton, England

3.8k Swim 180k Bike 42k Run – Temperature 24oC

Swim 01:02:54 - T1 03:54 - Bike 05:39:21 - T2 03:09 - Run 03:13:19 Total Time 10:02:37
Age Group Champion 50-54, 22nd Overall

I didn’t set out this season with a plan at such, work commitments had made any degree of planning a recipe for injury. I had IM Kalmar in the diary and a few low key events. However, winning a slot at the IM 70.3 Champs meant a more cerebral approach to the year was required. IMUK released some slots in late May so I grabbed an entry, Kalmar was only 3 weeks before Mont Tremblant and was relegated to the status of back up. I was 50 this year so could I make it a year to do the IM WC double?
I had started training in earnest by the end of April, very late for a sensible IM build but after a number of years racing long distance the endurance comes back pretty quickly, or at least I hoped so. The early season races had gone very well and the numbers in training, whilst not my best, were certainly in the right ball park for a serious shot at a result in Bolton.
My pre-race routine is very dull; routine is your friend at times like this. I swam up to the start line relaxed with a clear idea of what was required, I just needed to execute well. Controlling 2000 athletes pumped with adrenaline on the start line has no realistic chance of success, it was more of a rolling start as many were in full stroke when the gun sounded. It’s a two lap swim and I resisted the temptation to take a time check at the half way point. I have conditioned myself over many races to expect very little from my swim, I am always slower than my pre race exuberance plans for; I saved the disappointment for the swim exit. I had calculated that under 65 minutes would put me around 10th based on previous years so when I saw sub 63 I was stoked.
I move smoothly through T1 and was quickly pushing my bike to the exit and over the mount line. I had changed my bike six weeks ago and tweaked a few other areas of the set up so this was the first time to test it out in the heat of a race……..I settled into the tuck, focussed on finding a rhythm and taking in some fluids (I had got pretty hot by the end of the swim with the water over 21oC). Being a slow swimmer has its advantages in that you do pass a lot of proper swimmers early in the bike leg, every cloud has a silver lining.
I set about hunting down my estimated ten guys in the age group that were up the road, managing to bag my first scalp before we hit the two 45 mile loops of the course. Early on the loop the main climb is on you, not especially steep but certainly long enough to have to be conservative with pace rather than push hard to the top. Inevitably some of the guys you have passed come charging by, mashing the pedals as they race to the summit. By the time I crested the hill the weather had closed in, it was raining and the mist was so thick that the decent was almost blind in parts. I sat on the brakes all the way down, not a good descender in fine weather, this was a time to exercise some caution as there a lot of racing ahead. It wouldn’t be for another hour or so the weather would lift and the roads dry out a little.
The course had changed this year and whilst there were less hills it was quite technical. There were never more than a handful of miles before you were taking a sharp turn, slowing at a junction or searching for a clean piece of road without pot holes. I had expected that the flatter course would be about 15 minutes quicker than 2012 and I had set my pacing targets based on this assumption. By the middle of the first lap I felt I was cycling too hard and too slow to hit my plan. I had caught another guy in my age group but I would have to back off now, be more conservative with my pace and hope the guys up the road were not putting too much time into me.
The second lap was pretty uneventful, the field was pretty thin and I didn’t catch anyone else, it would be down to the run, as usual.
I hit T2 behind plan and uncertain how much I had left myself to do. As I exited a friend shouted out 3rd place, 2 minutes off 2nd, 10 minutes off the lead. Fantastic, time to go to work. This put me in a really good place mentally, I could relax, find my running legs and if I simply held a reasonable Ironman pace I would be good for third and a Kona slot, but of course I was there to compete not settle for third. I nailed second within 8k and then reeled in first by 18k, legs feeling great I just pushed on but being careful not to over reach. Not a time for heroics, just tap out the pace and make it to the finish line.
There were lots of friends and family on the course (you can hear their quiet encouragement on the video), really helping to keep me on task, in the lead and heading for the tape. I crossed the line chuffed to have bagged the win, booked my ticket to Kona and finished 22nd overall. It was a great result and my year at the ripe age of fifty would be marked with the Ironman World Championship double, it’s not all bad getting old.

Monday, 9 June 2014

June 8th 2014 Grafman National Middle Distance Championships

1.9km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run - Temperature 77oF
Swim 29:56 - T1 01:10 - Bike 02:23:37 - T2 01:11 – Run 01:25:20 Total Time 4:21:14
National Age Group Champion, 15th overall

The night before the race I got pre race butterflies (been a while) and realised I was more excited about the race than I had anticipated. Recent training and racing had gone well so maybe this was a chance to grab my first national title. The only question mark over my impending performance was whether the Edinburgh marathon was sufficiently out my legs. I had run 40 miles since then but each run had ended with sore calves so I was going to have to break a rule and run with calf guards to try and hold things together. Normally I shun them as counterproductive to the training effect of running and when racing unsportsman like as they hide your age group calf marking.
The old guys were lumped in with the ladies for the last swim wave so I was hoping for some fast feet to latch on to. A beach (?) start and quickly into the usual anaerobic churning as I looked around for the lead group, luckily finding three sets of feet side by side to give me a nice tow. It was a warm sunny day, perfect for racing apart from having to swim into the blinding rising sun on the return leg; I hung onto the feet and trusted they could see more than me!
Pleased to be out in under 30 mins and into T1, my eyes scanned the racking to see how many in my wave were off up the road ahead of me – it didn’t look like many. A smooth transition and onto the bike to start hoovering up the slower competitors from the previous waves. With light winds and a rolling/flat course there was going to be a lot of time tucked into the aero position, dodging pot holes and making sure I didn’t get passed by anyone. The whole ride was pretty uneventful with no real idea of position in the age group or overall, I just focussed on keeping an even power and moving through the field. The wave start makes the race effectively a solo time trial and I guess takes a little of the racing spirit away.
I entered T2 in good shape, glancing across the racks to count the bikes back……..zero in my row so I was probably in front but without a definite confirmation I couldn’t take that for granted. I set off and quickly locked into a good rhythm, not sure what pace this was as I don’t use a gps device and there were no distance markers on the course, it felt close to 4min ks though. I just controlled the pace and stayed comfortable, only pushing harder in the last 5k. I crossed the line in 4:21 and felt that should be good enough for the win but still wasn’t sure. You could get a print out of your splits but ultimately had to wait three hours for the awards ceremony before any idea of position…..quite a few didn’t bother to wait so the podiums were peppered with gaps, shame.
My first national middle distance title, very chuffed. Six weeks until IMUK and a shot at qualifying for Kona so it’s time to get my head down, rebuild my run endurance and nail a few harder miles on the bike….bring it on.

Monday, 26 May 2014

May 25th 2014 Edinburgh Marathon

42km Run - Temperature 60oF

Finish Time: 02:50:34   10k split: 00:38:49   Half marathon: 01:22:57   30k split: 01:58:42
3rd MV50 Age Group from 491, 55th Overall from 8620
For the last few years I have built my fitness over the winter ready for the spring assault on Kona qualification. The rub of this is starting to hit some great run form but not being allowed to test fitness in a spring marathon for fear of the recovery interrupting the necessary consistency required to hit top form for the A iron race.  With friends and family entering the half in Edinburgh it was too good an opportunity to break the rule and have some fun.
I slept well the night before the race, no pressure to place well or qualify for something, just me against the clock. Unsurprisingly race morning was wet and windy, expected seasonal Scottish weather. I had managed to get myself in the lead start pen, just behind the elites, ready get to get clear of the masses as early as possible and have a clean run. The gun sounded and within the first mile the lead runners quickly strung out into small packs of five or six. At the pointy end people knew what pace they wanted to hold and it would typically be round numbers, sub 3, sub 2:50 etc.

By mile three I had settled into a bunch that seemed to feel about right and when I enquired as to what time people were shooting for it was 2:50ish. Since I was sans Garmin I just resolved to hang in with these guys as long as it felt manageable. The first three miles are rolling but nett downhill until you reach the coast by Leith Docks, then we turned east and into a strong headwind. For the next fifteen miles we would take it in turns to run on the front and take the wind, some doing more of the heavy lifting than others. The first few mile splits were around 615 and I was pleased to hit the 10k mark inside forty minutes, on to half way and just inside 83 minutes. At about mile 14 the pace seemed to ease so I figured I needed to start to run my own race, I moved to the front then pushed on to bridge up to the next group. It was hard work solo but I managed to catch the self-appointed 2:45 group and was pleased then to just sit in out of the wind.
We finally hit the turnaround at mile 18 and we were out of the wind at last and heading for the finish line. My legs felt fine and the pace was still consistent with the 2:50 target I had in my mind but every now and then I felt an ominous twitch in my calf. I knew it was the early signs of cramp but just focussed on my form and pushed it to the back of my mind. By mile 22 both calves were starting to lock out but not terminally. I changed my gait, ran tall and moved to heel striking in an effort to engage my quads and relieve the work my calves were doing. Mile 23 and I was propped up against the wall stretching my calves and trying to straighten my legs so I could run. I was cursing myself, a real school boy error – I never race a triathlon without pre loading salt and then taking salt every hour during the race, it’s been years since I cramped.

I then fought my way mile by mile to the finish line, running like some sort of demented robot, legs in periodic spasm but me relentlessly swinging them forwards desperately not wanting to tear any muscles but refusing to hobble in. I had come this far and didn’t want the race to be snatched away from me, time for some iron resolve.
I straightened my back in the finish chute and saw 2:50 on the timer, I staggered across the line, grabbed my medal and two bottles of highland spring water!
I was annoyed when I crossed the line as my legs were not spent, just twisted with cramp as a result of my school boy error with the salt, I was in the world of woulda/coulda/shoulda. The next day, with my results confirmed, I am in a better place. My finish time was a PB and at the age of 50, to have come 55th out of 9000 odd runners, was something to be proud of………for a triathlete.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Ironman 70.3 Mallorca Spain May 10th 2014

1.9km Swim 90km Bike 21km Run - Temperature 80oF
Swim 29:05 - T1 04:05 - Bike 02:35:08 - T2 02:42 – Run 01:23:51 Total Time 4:34:51
2nd 50-54 Age Group, 91st overall

This race marked the start of my tri season but I was feeling way more relaxed than I should have been. Over the last 6 weeks I estimate I had run more miles than I had cycled and this was a course for the bikers - train smart? I must admit that the impending trip up to Edinburgh for the marathon was my main focus and this race felt somewhat of a distraction albeit a very welcome one in the sunshine.
The race had been billed as the biggest 70.3 Ironman in the world with some 3800 competitors signed up. The swim was in waves of 500 so a simple plan to plant myself on the front of the start line would hopefully see me keep away from the argy bargee as we raced into the surf. The only thing that was calm at 08:35 was the sea, the shore line was rammed and the atmosphere electric – bang, we were off and we hurtled through the shallows, launching ourselves into the deeper water. Almost immediately I was in relatively clear water and looking to hunt down the lead group, a 300m anaerobic effort and I was on the train. The rest of the swim was about the easiest I have had for some time, simply moving up and down the lead group as feet came and went but all in all a very relaxing start to the race. I exited the water, glanced down at my watch to see a race PB, 29 and change.
I set off the for the long transition zone, probably close to 1k from beach to mount line. It never ceases to amaze me how slowly some people move through transition, working hard on the sbr to gain minutes just to let them carelessly slip through their fingers in T1/2. I estimate I moved from 15th to 10th just in T1, happy days.
I jumped on my bike, slipped my feet into my shoes and set off only to be passed immediately by someone in my AG, out of the saddle and mashing the pedals. I had resolved not to let anyone pass me on the bike but to start racing so early was a real dilemma. I was here to race and use my numbers to guide me, so nothing for it but to be all in and go with the race. As we approached the big climb another two guys attacked and passed me, I had to raise my power still further to stay with them, hanging on as best I could until the top of the very long climb. At the top of the climb I took stock of the elapsed time and quickly came to the conclusion that I was unlikely to hit the time benchmarks I figured I needed, off the bike in 03:15 to give me a shout of sub 4:40 and a podium. I settled into a more comfortable pace and got back on the numbers plan.

The descent was very technical (not good for a boy from the fens) but as soon as we hit the flats I started to see 45kph, the race was coming back to me. I had to rapidly recalculate my bike split and soon it was clear 03:15 was on. The nutrition was going to plan and a small smile crept onto my face, soon I would be on the run.
Into T2, counted 7 bikes on the racks, passed someone faffing. I had been looking forward to the run, time to go to work. I quickly settled on a plan to treat this like an Edinburgh marathon simulation, 4 min ks on tired legs for 21k – within a couple of ks I locked into the pace, even stealing a few seconds at each split. Lap one on plan but by 7k I felt my pace start to drop and a sense of fatigue creep in. I popped a gel, problem solved. However, by 14k my focus started to wane, perhaps heat induced, but I was certain not a calorie issue so I opted to grab coke at the next aid station to see if the caffeine would get me on task – magic, back in the race. Throughout the run my friends had been trying to shout my position status but with no body marking and thousands of athletes on the course it was almost impossible to spot. More by luck than judgement I managed to clock three guys in my age group as I went by them so I figured just stay on pace and reel them in. The last guy I passed was at 19k so I kicked hard, although I am sure he would not have been able to firstly identify me and secondly respond, I wasn’t taking any chances.

I entered the finish chute pretty certain I had a top 5 and probably a podium but you never can be sure. Mary quickly got the results through the athlete tracker and confirmed I had got second and a 4min/k run split, fantastic. Not only that, but I was faster in every element than when I raced here in 2012, just need to nail on some endurance to be good for IMUK. So much for aging up and requiring slower times.
My plan for this race season was highly dependent on how busy work might be and therefore I haven’t spent a great deal of time dwelling on it. My stint working away from home came to an end about 4 weeks ago and therefore the opportunity to train more consistently has opened up. A spur of the moment decision Saturday afternoon saw me lining up to pay my C$400 to race at the 70.3 worlds in Mount Tremblant. I am not deluding myself I am competitive in a middle distance championship race but it will be a great road trip!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Stamford Valentine’s 30k Road Race 16th February 2014

I had entered this race prior to Christmas but had no real expectation of doing it as 30k this early in the year is always going to be a stretch. The race always sells out with it being so well placed for those wanting a test for a spring marathon. For those of us wanting simply to test our resolve at getting out of bed on a Sunday it hold slightly less appeal. However, I had told a couple of friends I would be joining them and so on that basis the die was cast.

The race conditions were almost perfect, a little over 5oC and a lightish wind, my bag of excuses was looking decidedly bear. I had done my normal week of training, including an inadvisable imbibition the previous evening. I found myself on the line, as usual, wondering why.

OK, so I was there so I may as well crack on. I quickly settled on the shoulder of a couple of runners who looked like they meant business and a couple of others dropped in on their heels. After a couple of miles it transpired they were training for a sub 3 London marathon and so were aiming to pace round at that sort of level – the first two miles were 615ish. I quickly made the decision to stick with it to the half way mark if I could then drop back to a more normal pace. I planned to try and get under 2:10 as this would be the same pace as Folksworth. 15k came and we were at 59:43, so, predictably I thought bugger it, wonder how long I can hang in for reasoning that the longer I hang in the slower I need to go to hit my goal once I let them go.

Once we got to 20k I was in IM world, I can pretty much muscle my way through 10k no matter what state I am in. Ironically, have stuck like glue to my two pacers, I ended up pacing them in for the last 5k to pull us through in just under 2hrs.

Rather irritatingly I am 50 this year so in triathlon terms I am 50-54 but in running terms your birthday is the cut off. Whilst being 31st out of 700+, I was only 8th in MV45, in three month time I would be 1st MV50, but that ain’t the rules so I was 8th.

This result has given me some confidence that this year I might be able to have a good crack at a sub 2:50 marathon in Edinburgh and qualifying for Kona is on the cards if I can work on my swim and bike. I have been working away from home a good deal during the last year but with that set to change in the second half of 2014 I might be able to start to string together a little more consistency. It’s time to commit, reckon I am in.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Folksworth 15 Road Race 19th January 2014

I completed Ironman Florida in November and enjoyed an extended break up until New Year. No cunning seasonal periodization, I just felt like doing nothing or at least nothing of any consequence. My only rule was that if the run or bike or swim moved from recreational to something feeling like training then it was time to stop and go grab a cake and coffee. I fully embraced the training regime and stretching my belt to its final notch, a notch showing no signs of wear and tear. So, all set for 2014 with a physique verging on Clydesdale proportions but at least I was well rested.

Folksworth holds no mystery for me having done it more than a dozen times. It’s a brutal 15 miles of lung bursting hills offering no place to hide, sometimes described as an ‘honest’ course. It’s always the first race I enter for the new season, a great benchmark of where my fitness is or rather isn’t. This year it was panning out to be more isn’t than is.

The start is always great fun, the first mile gently downhill, encouraging runners to race from the gun fuelled by unbridled delusion. I approached the race with my usual self talk, you are out of shape, your calf niggles, you did a big ride Saturday blah blah, positioning myself mentally in the ‘it doesn’t matter’ zone, carefully managing my own expectations.

So, BANG, we are off and I got swept along for a 6 minute first mile, twit. OK, check the legs, all good, right, keep comfortable but ‘on it’ until the wheels fall off. Mile after mile ticked by, I even hit the hills like I was doing reps, pushing up and over the top. I purposefully hadn’t started my watch (no HR to run to either, mind games) so I had to ask fellow runners from time to time what the pace was, around 645s. Lap one down and I still seemed to be in a good place so I kept at it and tried to keep my cadence high. I had secretly thought 7min miles would be a good result and had set that as a loose goal but it was looking like I would be well inside that. In the last few miles I reset my goal to be sub 645s and pushing along I slipped just inside this, averaging 637s.Very satisfied to come within touching distance of previous times, 1:39:03 29th overall, although it must be said conditions were as good as I have ever experienced.

Happy with that, now to dial back the cake and dial up the miles.