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!