Friday, 28 August 2009

Eton Sprint and random thoughts

What a race!

I mean not so much that the race itself was epic, but damn the weather made it just seem that much more so. The funny thing about the weather, was that I thought about bagging the whole thing as a short race like a sprint is not a major goal, but on the flip side it was a short race. One hour and I would be done so how badly could it really be? Well, I stuck it out and had a good race, I was hard to see if I had improved over the month prior when I last raced on the same course and distance. The wind was blowing so badly that both the run and bike splits were definitely affected so to be a bit quicker on the run and about the same on the bike is hard to get my head around. Am I fitter than a month ago? With my recent training it would sure seem so, but on the day the numbers don’t tell much. The one good thing was that I really felt like I was getting stronger as the bike went on and had tons of energy on the run, which gives me the impression that my training has me well prepared for an Oly or Half. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those on my schedule, other than the Xterra type race next month. I am tempted to do a half in October, but if I do that will push my race total for year to 16, which seems like a lot.

Is it?

That is a race nearly every 3 weeks, which doesn’t seem like too frequent. I really am not sure on this one...race more or train more. Which will set me up for a great IM Utah next year? It is so far off, that I cannot put that as my near term training objective, but of course I want to do the training and racing that will put me on the trajectory to hit my goals next May. Maybe that is why this question over the races is so hard for me to capture...I haven’t really determined my near term goals. Last year was easy as I was racing in Australia in December, so Sept – November was easy to plan. Now there is no big race on the schedule until next spring.

Perhaps it’s time to set some running goals over the 10k/half marathon distance as my key near term goals, as well as some FTP targets on the bike.

Monday, 24 August 2009

3 Weeks


That is a very meaningful term for me at the moment and hope it gains even more value in the weeks to come. Why? Well, to back up it was only four weeks ago that I returned to organised training after Ironman Ch. Four weeks ago, I did my first full week of training with a reasonable volume and moderated intensity structure that had about 15 hours of training in total. It was meant to be a decent transition to full training with about 75% of the volume I had planned for the next few weeks, and about 50% of the intensity. That week went well, and included a sprint triathlon where I took 4th overall, so the fitness was decent and I felt good. From that week, I wanted to do a 3-week block of 20+ hours of training with slightly increasing volume and moderately increasing intensity. For example, I wanted to do 4 climbs up Box Hill on the first of the three weeks, and then 5 climbs the next week, and then 6 climbs on the final week. Swim volume was to be roughly the same at around 16k over 5 swims per week, and my running included a long run of 90min, a track workout and a hard tempo run off the bike on my IM ride day. It was a daunting stretch, not so much because of the volume or intensity, as I put in bigger and harder weeks in my Ironman prep period, but with no Kona to drive me I wondered if I would have the mental strength to meet my goals day in day out.

I did.

I can count on one hand the number of workouts I missed or had to modify over the last 3 weeks, and each week was close to 100% of my goals in volume and intensity. Amazingly, I felt good each week and had more motivation as the days went on and in my last day, I did a very hard 4 hour ride, followed by a 1 hour tempo run then a solid hour in the pool. When I crawled out of the pool, very gently as my toes, feet and calves were all cramping or about start, I felt like I had climbed a mountain and wanted to give a war cry. As I was amongst less fatigued and out of their mind people, I decided to just pump my fist and head to the showers.

What do I expect to come from that 3 week block? I expect to come back next month and race fast and continue to enjoy this process as I work to reach a new level of fitness over the winter.

This week is a nice easy race and test week where I am doing another sprint triathlon and a power profile test, as well as giving a load of time to AC as it is her birthday and she deserves to hear other words out of my mouth than ‘I am tired’


Ironman Switzerland

9:26:xx! - When I crossed the line and saw that number I was so incredibly elated that I let myself collapse as I not only achieved my goal of going under 9.5 hours, but I also thought I had my Kona slot. I raced a smart and aggressive race (except for the swim – more on that later) and felt I nearly did everything right. Unfortunately I quickly found out that my age group was crazy fast, so much faster than the year before that I was extremely confused and disappointed. If I had raced a 9:26 in 2008, I would have finished 3rd in my AG, but this year I would have had to go under 9 hours to get on the podium. Anyways, to the race:

Check in & set up – I dropped off the bike on Saturday and had the weird experience of getting photographed with my bike, helmet and race number for security purposes, much like a mugshot. We waited until the end of the check in time period to avoid the crowds and it turned out to be a good decision as I got in and out very easily. On Sunday morning, the only issue was I left the pump at the local train station so I had to ask Tim for an assist. Other than that, the bike we good to go and I set up the transition spot as usual and had the luxury of having a couple empty spaces next to me.

My nutrition plan during the race (the bike portion anyways) was to consume 8 gels, 2 bars (1 small Clif bar, and 1 Powerbar), along with 500ml of Gatorade as well as two bites of banana (equiv to a whole medium banana). I actually consumed all but 2 of the gels, which in hindsight seems like I nearly had the nutrition dialled in, but getting an additional gel or two would be helpful for the run.

Pre race activities: I got up around 4:30 and had a very normal breakfast of yoghurt w/honey (180grams, whole fat greek style) with some granola, 500ml of OJ, and a slice of bread with nutella, which I think is just about the most magical food ever from god! Trans to Race site was very easy as we parked near the train station and took a short (6min) train ride to the transition area. Could not be easier or less stressful, other than my pump and I had to look for an assist from Tim.

Swim – the swim was the worst part of the race as I found myself at the very back as we entered the water and I was still on my feet when the gun went off (totally unexpected) and I had to swim around 250m to get to the start line, then proceed to get kicked and mauled for the remainder of the first lap and part way through the second lap. I never felt great or horrible, but I knew I was not having a great swim day and knew I was not likely to improve on last year’s time. I couldn’t help but remind myself of how little I have actually swam this year, which was certainly not the best mental approach to have at that point. The good news was I never felt tired and swam pretty easily with no cramping in my calves like Western Oz. I did have to pee twice which was unusually but I didn’t fight it as I would rather have an empty bladder going into the 180km ride. I found the course to be reasonably easy to follow, but the turns were just pure chaos and the pinch at the bridge on the first lap was quite hectic. On the second lap, I managed to swim a bit off course near the turn under the bridge and had to make a serious correction to get back for the finish. Overall, I was way too relaxed at the swim start and let myself lose time before I even got started, which was not smart and is an easy fix going forward.

T1 – my transition spot was right near the entrance from the swim (with the pro’s) and I got my wetsuit off nearly in one effort, but my left leg needed a couple of extra tugs. I decided to sit down to put on my socks and cycling shoes, which seemed to be a pretty quick method and everything went pretty smoothly with no issues. Getting out of the transition area was tough as there were so many slow moving folks who were obviously not racing and just taking their sweet assed time, and I wasted 15 seconds or more working my way through it all.

Bike – the bike course has two distinct aspects: long flat sections (the first 30km and nearly the last 20km of each lap), and the rolling hills that start at around 30km and the short, sharp hill near the end of the lap (Heartbreak hill). My strategy was to ride a solid 220-230 watts on the flat on lap one, and bump it up to 230-240 watts on lap two, with all the climbing maintained under 350 watts. The first lap went to plan, although the first 10km was a bit harder than the plan (pretty normal and not an issue). I saw loads of little packs developing on the flat parts and the marshals did not seem to care, which would become the story of the bike course. I came out of the water well behind most of my competitors and begin to overhaul loads of people, especially on the climbs where I just seemed to be going so much faster than most of the people around me. On the descents, I took it a bit easily as I didn’t remember all the corners and specifics, so I am sure some guys pulled back time there, but as I returned to the flat and back to towards Heartbreak hill, I didn’t have many riders around me. Once on the steep hill, I caught and passed 20-30 riders over the 1km climb, saw Angie shouting at me and went way over my upper limit of 350 watts. I felt good and the climb was so short that I really just rode comfortably (albeit hard!). The second lap was distinctly different than last year as I felt much fresher with no noticeable fatigue. The only problem I encountered was the drafting packs really grew as we turned into a moderate headwind and I was soon surrounded by a huge peloton of cheating bastards. I knew that I would have to do a solid 350 watt effort to go off the front, but with all the climbing to come I decided to sit 10 meters off the back (the legal distance) and just bide my time until the climb. On the climb, I immediately put it in another gear and just dropped everyone in my peloton, then I passed the next peloton up the road, and then I caught and dropped another group over the last big climb on that section. Once I got on the descents, I rode like I stole something (to paraphrase someone) and just hung it all out (hitting 90kmh at one point) as I was determined to keep the drafters from latching back onto me on the flat run in towards Heartbreak hill and the finish. Once I got on the flats I pushed hard all the way to end, and it worked as no one was near me on the flat, nor up the steep climb or back to the finish and I got off the bike reasonably happy with my bike ride and feeling pretty good with only moderate fatigue.

T2 – Went very smoothly and I was out very quickly. The only issue was my speed laces were not pre-tightened and I had to take care of that, but at most it cost me a few seconds.

Run – For the run, my plan was to run the first 13 miles at a sub 7min mile pace, then see if I could hold a 7-7:30 pace to finish. I managed to run to plan pretty easily up to mile 14 and felt really brilliant. I felt strong and smooth and my one mile lap splits were very consistently around 6:50 or so, but unfortunately I skipped quite a few aid stations and only took a tiny bit of Coke at the ones I did visit and that hurt me on the 15th and 16th miles, where my energy levels plummeted. I reacted swiftly however and hit the next several aid stations and got my energy levels up after a couple of tough miles and ran back in the 7min/mile range. From there it was a matter of general fatigue and mental strength, which I managed to hold my own against my failing legs. I expected the 3rd lap (4 laps of 10.5km) to be the hardest, but actually it wasn’t until I neared the end of it that I really had to fight the demons in my psyche. The next 3-4 miles were the toughest as I was really getting tired and my resolve came into question on occasion. I did hold it together and only walked through two aid stations and knocked out a solid last mile with a great kick of speed and emotion. I was so pleased with how my stomach felt throughout the run, with only one pee stop needed and only mild gas issues. Overall, my nutrition on the bike was spot on (if only just a bit short on or two more gels early perhaps).

After the race I could not eat anything for about 5 hours, but did have the appetite to eat half a pizza and half a large insalata caprese (after a nice 2.5 hour sleep).

Final thoughts and stats: The race went nearly to plan and I am very pleased with my performance overall. I know that I will need to train to go under 9 hours at my next IM to compete for that Kona slot. The biggest disappointment was how little I swam going into the race and my mentality at the swim start. I need to fix that and make the swim a much smaller weakness, although I don’t know if I will ever go under an hour, but I will train with that in mind as a goal. After a couple weeks off and one or two of unstructured training I will go back to work and swimming will get the focus while I can swim outdoors at the Lido, and will continue to be a bigger part of my training week throughout the fall and winter.

Overall Time - 9:26:09
Swim – 1:11:27 WTF!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
T1 – 1:49
Bike – 4:58:40
Lap one – 2:28:12
Lap two – 2:30:28
T2 – 1:01
Run – 3:13:12
Lap one (10km) – 42:22 (4:14/km)
Lap two (11km) – 45:19 (4:07/km)
Lap three (10km) – 51:11 (5:07/km)
Lap four (11km) – 54:20 (4:56/km)
Average – 224 watts
Normalised – 245 watts
Max – 625 watts
Average – 146 (Bike), 157 (Run)
Max – 176 (Bike), 170 (Run)

Kcal estimate
Swim: 700-800
Bike: 4014
Run: 2918
Total estimate: ~7780

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I'm Tired

That pretty much sums up me as the two words I have said most often over the last 3 weeks has been ‘I’m tired’, and A has reminded me on numerous occasions that there are more words in the dictionary. Nonetheless it has been since March that I last threw my thoughts down on this blog, and mostly that is due to travelling and training. I won’t go into the travelling part too much other than to say it kicked off with a half iron man triathlon in Galveston where the heat and humidity nearly did me in, followed by a week in Austin where I ate like a king, trained like a full time professional and generally had a great holiday.

Back to sunny ole London, the last three weeks have been a solid, very solid progression of training volume and intensity. Over the course of the three weeks, I put in 20, 22 and just over 24 hours of training each week, and I also added some addition intensity incrementally over that time period as well. In reviewing my logs, it looks like I did around:

Totals for Weeks 17(04/20/2009) - 19(05/04/2009)
Type ------------ Distance --------- Duration
Bike ------------- 1130.0 km -------- 37:30:00
Weights ----------------------------- 05:00
Run ------------- 133.0 mi ---------- 15:15
Swim ----------- 34792.1 yd -------- 11:00
Total Duration: --------------------------- 68:45:00

I have to say, I feel really good overall and even with all the tired talk, I can say that the training has been a great sensation that I hope will show up this week when I test myself after taking it easy for a few days.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Bum knee

That pretty much sums it up. My knee was noticeable a few days before flying to Greece, but it was not until my run with Duncan up and down his local mountain that I knew something was wrong and my hopes of an epic weekend of training went up in smoke. Nonetheless, D & I did get in 2 good rides on Poros, and the nearby peninsula where we had great sunshine, roads with little or no traffic, plenty of climbing and overall great riding. I had to cut both rides short as my knee was increasingly painful as the rides went on. It really gutted me to let old D off the hook, but it was probably smarter. The real downside was that I continued to eat as if I was burning 7000 kcals per day and when I got back to London, my first weigh in was not a pretty sight...

All in all, the weekend in Greece was more holiday and less training, but unfortunately for me and those around me, I could not get my head around from my frustration with my knee and was a bit of a stress case the whole time. I do look forward to joing Alex & Duncan for one of their camps (or many) both to provide coaching and to enjoy their fantastic training environment and great location.

This week is off to a pretty good start, as my knee is feeling much better with significant less pain (hope, hope, hope things will be fine soon)...I am not sure about doing the Reading Half Marathon, as running hard is the last thing I want to do until my knee is 100%.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Last week and the week ahead

Another good week in the books and I surprisingly feel pretty refreshed although the legs did not have the pop in the ride yesterday...could not win either sprints on tthe Windsor ride...

For the week, I got in around 24 hours in total with 11 hours on the bike, 5.5 hours running and almost 6 hours in the pool, along with some good core work and a pretty rigorous yoga session (really, it was!)... I enjoyed each workout and had good motivation every day and even survived without hurting myself (did have a scare when I turned over my ankle on my tempo run on Sat, but it felt fine after a few gentle steps...)

The week ahead is another big volume week with a bit more intensity and hopefully some sun and warmth as training moves south to Greece. The plan is to link up with some mates and get in to some holiday fun along with some good training, including sea swims (first time in the wetsuit since Busselton..should be fun!).

This is the beginning of a significant period as I have a key event every week for the next several weeks, so staying healthy, eating good snacks, getting loads of rest and stretching daily (if not twice daily..) will be key sub goals. Now if I can just avoid those wonderful pastries...

Thursday, 26 February 2009


First time racing on my mountain bike since the race where I literally ran into a tree face first…so this was bound to be an interesting affair. I didn't have any cat scans after this race so that was nice, and I stayed on my feet (or wheels) the entire time, but did have some rust in both my technique and my navigational skills. The race was an Xterra like MTB duathlon set in the hills of Surrey County on a beautiful sunny day (hard to believe but true) over a nicely technical up and down course. The run was a 10km first leg, followed by a bike leg of 15km, then followed by the final run leg of 5km, and on each run lap there were 8 hills if I remember…which really left their mark.
After the first leg I was in about 4th place and proceed to get through T1 quickly and onto the bike course where I pretty quickly overshot a few turns and then went completely off course into no mans land. Once I found the race course again, I notice that I had been caught and passed by two riders who were some 500-700meters in front of me. Things didn't get better on that lap as I found myself looking straight down at the terrain immediately in front of my wheel (classic beginners mistake) and because of that I missed several more turns. By the end of the first lap I began to get my MTB feelings back and was looking down the trail farther and entering turns better, but overall the course markings made it tough. As I began the second lap, my calves started to cramp up and I could not believe it and decided that my mind might be involved as much as fatigue was and I decided to not ease up and force the muscles to continue to work (ouch!) and only relaxed them on the short descents. By the end of the second lap on the bike, I was definitely pretty tired and had not caught the riders in front of me, but had hope that I might be able to run them down on the final 5km run. I got through T2 pretty quickly but nearly ran off with my bike helmet still firmly on my head (doh!) …got into a nice running rhthym and began to close the gap, although I really started to struggle running down the steep hills as my quads were pretty shot. I cut the gap to about 400meters when I looked down for a moment and missed a sign for a turn and ran off course. I did not realise it for about 30-45 seconds and then it hit me that something was wrong and I turned around and ran back until I saw the sign and then got back on course. That was the end of my chances to get on the podium and I finished the lap with only one thought and that was to race it like it meant something, so I put down a very hard effort to the finish.
Overall, it was a fun race, and it reaffirmed my love of racing my MTB and Xterra racing in general. I can't wait until that type of riding and racing is a big part of my life again...

Friday, 20 February 2009

Last week...

So I put on my facebook update that I was disapointed in myself one day last week, and a few people sent me notes asking what was wrong. Well, nothing really is wrong, except with my I cannot seem to get my head around to take action on some important things when they need action.

As many people who know me, I am a pretty driven and disciplined person, who seems to some to try and squeeze 30 hours into a 24 hour day. I don't quite see it that way, although some days do feel like that's most include more than enough wasted time. Not all of that time is truly wastful, but often comes at a time that causes me to make a choice to do the important activity or to do the other... Well, that is really getting to me and I am fighting with myself every day trying to realize what is really important and then trying to go after those things first and foremost. What I am struggling with is what happens when life throws a knuckleball and makes me work out a new course of action. The first thought is that being flexible is the obvious choice and easiest to prescribe, but I find that even though I am not a super flexible person (have been called stubborn by some..), I do react to changes reasonably well.

What does this all have to do with triathlon and my training for another shot at Kona? Well, if I am trying to follow my painstakingly worked out training plan, that includes good analysis to ensure I plan the high quality workouts with adequate recovery afterwards, and there are either self induced changes in my day to day plan, or changes tossed in by life, I find it causes chaos!

For example, if I have 6-7 runs, 4 swims, 4 rides, 2 core strength sessions, and 1 yoga session on my plan for a week, with 3 runs, 1 swim, and 3 rides being what I would consider 'high quality' in there, and something comes along and forces a change, what happens? Simple, really, I should just skip the workout if there is no smart way to move it without stacking another day, but if there are two events that go off track, then it becomes much more difficult and stacking becomes more and more tempting. Really, I think the only way to make this work is to fight hard for the key workouts and be smart about lifting and shifting other parts of my life (if possible) to the times that at worst impact the low quality training sessions... That, or find 6-8 more hours in the day...

Anyway, last week was mildly successful with 22.5 hours planned and 21.5 hours actually in the books. I did 6 runs, 4 swims, 3 rides, 2 core and 1 yoga and unfortunately a bit of stacking.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Test Week

Last week was a test week (recovery and a bike test were the focus points). In all I did 6 runs (nothing hard or fast), 3 rides, 3 swims, 2 core strength sessions and one yoga session for a total of about 13 hours. The test was a miserably hard affair where I did 20min at the highest sustainable power and boy did it hurt. It didn't help that I again did the test on my indoor trainer, which makes minutes seem like hours! The result is a power number that I modify to estimate my functional threshold power and then set my various training zones from it. I was not happy nor too upset with the result, but I am definitely a bit behind where I wanted to be. The hard thing to understand or get my head around is how my race season was unusually stretched into December and then a break up to New Years before kicking off formal structured training. So, with that in mind, my power levels are not bad with only a month of structured training in the bank, but it is also another reminder of where my fitness was at Busselton.

The week ahead is a race week with a solid amount of training, including 5 rides and lots of swimming. The race is the Wimbledon XC race, which is the last fixture in the Surrey XC season, and my team (the Clapham Chasers) are leading their division so I hope to run reasonable well to gain them some points. This is, however, a 'C' race and as I always tell my athletes, focus on enjoying the efforts, and don't focus on the result. Hopefully I will follow my own advice and try to enjoy the day.

The week also has the biggest Triathlon show in the UK, which should be an interesting affair...I am keen to look at new aero bars and potential carbon clincher wheels. Hopefully, there will be some interesting speaker/presenters to catch while I am there.

Race report next...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Training Update

Last week was better as I felt pretty much back to normal by Wednesday and got in a very solid week from Tuesday onwards and ended up with about 17 hours of quality work. I missed a couple of swims and a core strength workout, but ran 7 times and hit all my goals on the bike.

This week is a test week on the bike so the volume is cut and the intensity is really cut out. I hope to see significant gains in my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) over my last test, and I also hope to see some reasonable weather...

Goals for 2009

Well, now or never as they say...if I don't commit to my goals before January ends, then the door for excuse will get wider each and every day. So, my goals for racing all start with qualifying for Kona (the IRONMAN World Championships made famous by Julie Moss - youtube her if you are not familiar). The road to Kona has already started and for me it means getting my cycling engine back to level it was in 2005 while continuing to build my run speed and resilence with smart run training. Swimming will get its focus too as I will take the coaching from last year and try to cement the good, reduce the bad and in Feb I will dive in with the Otters swim team (already feeling the pain...). I am planning a lot more races this year than last because I want to get that angry -tear their legs off mentality back and nothing does like racing.

In my A races I am racing to win my age group, B races I want to achieve a high placing or set a PB if conditions merit, and C races I want to go hard, have fun and not get injured. So, how do the races stack up:

A races are:
IRONMAN Switzerland
Kona (or XTERRA Utah if I don't qualify)

B races are:
Switzerland 70.3 (High B)
Lonestar Half Iron distance
Tour of Wessex

C races are:
Ballbuster Duathlon
Reading Half Marathon
Iceman MTB Duathlon
Eton Olympic tri
Wimbledon XC race
Croydon XC race

Two other big events on the calendar are the training camp in Greece in March, and the J&C Epic Camp in France in June.

This takes me up to mid summer, where I will reassess the rest of 2009 based on Switzerland.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Rough week, or just weak?

So how did the week go? Well, with a pretty good start to my structured training the week before and hitting about 90% of my training goals for that week, I felt good going into this week, but right off the bat things went awry. We had some serious wind on Sunday night and our flat is so exposed that the wind noise kept up both up most of the night and when the alarm went off early Monday morning, there just wasn’t enough mental strength to get up and head to the pool after such a long night. Ok, not a huge problem, as Monday is pretty easy day and a day of rest wasn’t the worst thing after the solid weekend. Tuesday was back on track with a solid ride and run in the early morning, followed by a good core workout at lunch, then a really solid track session in the evening. Woke up Wednesday feeling good and a bit tired from Tuesday, but had only some core work and yoga that morning…easy stuff…not! Yoga is still pretty challenging for me and pushes my flexibility in ways I just can’t describe. That night I got in a good run and was feeling good about the week at that point…but something didn’t feel right and I went to bed a little achy and scratchy in the throat. Thursday I awoke a definitely feeling that some kind of cold was inbound and decided to shorten my run and go easy…Friday was more of the same, and again I cut workouts short (always trying to get in something, just to build daily consistency more than to induce any real training stress. Saturday was a day I just want to forget as my cold really beat me down, and I was more willing to just give in and was glad that there was some good biathlon and skiing action on the tube…

Overall, the week was weak and I am pretty displeased with myself, but am glad that it is January and not April/May or June.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Ironman Western Australia

Race Week: We flew to Sydney a week before the race to give me enough time to adjust to the time change and see some of Sydney as well. It took about 2 nights to get on track and get use to Australian time, and by Wednesday, it was if Australia time was my normal time. The flight to Sydney was ok, and we had a nearly empty plane from London to Singapore, so we stretched out and got some good rest. The only issue with the transportation was that I locked my bike case, and the Qantas people wanted to inspect it, so we spent a stressful 30+ minutes trying to find the right person to give the key to for the inspection. I was surprisingly calm, but Angie had her moments, and in the end, the bike made it on the plane and arrived with no other problems.
Once we got checked into the hotel, I put on my running kit and did a short easy run on the park that leads to the harbor next to our hotel. The run was pretty uneventful until I stepped off the curb and into an oncoming car…policeman no less. The collision was not bad, except for the car, which had lots of big dents from my shoulder, elbow and hip. On my end, the only injury I seemed to receive was a bruise to my forearm from the mirror and a bruised toe. The policeman made me sit down for a minute, as he thought I might be really hurt and just oblivious, but nothing changed, and I headed back to the hotel where I shared my little adventure… I guess the lesson there is to be extra careful and follow all traffic laws when running in a strange city after being awake for the better part of 36 hours. After that day, there were no more collisions and the week went along smoothly with a nice run the next morning, and a good short swim in the nearby 50meter pool (one of many in Sydney…compared to the one in all of London…arghh!).

The next day started off with another run, and then we made our way to Biondi beach, where I swam in the saltwater pool that sits on the ocean (such a cool pool!) with the waves crashing into the pool at times. After some more time in the sun (super powerful sun that it was under that ozoneless sky!), we fought our way onto what seemed to be the one bus of the day back to central Sydney and had a nice dinner. Speaking of dinner, eating was an issue for me, as I managed to get my weight down to a fairly lean 61.5kg before we left London, but during the time in Sydney, I am sure I put on a solid kilogram, if not more.

Overall, Sydney was fantastic, and the harbor is truly spectacular, and the beaches and pools are amazing. So, with that experience behind us (an in my ever growing belly), we caught our next flight to the west coast of Australia. We landed in Perth, got our bags (no bike issues!), picked up our car (what a nice lady at the Hertz desk!) and proceeded to get lost immediately upon leaving the airport. I guess years of using GPS has left us a bit too confident in our abilities to take a map that was the scale that showed about 3 roads in Perth and find our way to Busselton…not likely! Anyway, after some lunch and a new map, we found our way to the right highway and made our way south.

Upon arriving in Busselton, we found the city to be really excited about the race (with all the signs and banners) and there were loads of lean fit people walking around, creeping me out. The first thing we did was drive to the pier, and wow, is that thing long! From the beach it looks like it goes out 3-4 miles (actually about 1.2miles), and the water could not be clearer or more inviting…which made for a strange feeling of trepidation and anticipation all at once. We then stopped in to register, which was a pleasant experience and also got my energy pumping to see the transition area and finishing chute. Of course our map issue rejoined the conversation and we spent the next ½ hour looking for our little beach B&B, which is hard to believe as Busselton is pretty small and probably doesn’t have enough roads or size to fill up an hour of driving, which says something about our directional efficiency…

The B&B was just off the beach about 5km north of transition, and on the bike course and we were met by our host, Jane, upon arrival. I quickly went to work on getting my bike together (no problems ) and then did a one hour ride on the course with some FTP efforts followed by a short transition run along the beach. On the ride, I saw many others out training and my power was flowing a bit too hot with more juice going into my FTP efforts (more like V02) than a smart man would allow. Oh well, they were short and I was off the bike before I knew it. Run was so short, there wasn’t much to notice other than the endless beach and fantastic ocean. The evening ended with the most disappointing meal of the whole trip (except airplane food). The next day was Friday and two days before the race, so my game face started to appear at breakfast, which was not good…after another hour long ride on the course with some FTP/V02 efforts I stretched and made my way to breakfast where I felt the blood start pumping…see our B&B hosted several IM athletes and we all had breakfast together, which put me on edge as there were a couple of guys that looked to be potential competitors and hence my game face issue. Anyway, not much was said that morning and we quickly ate and made our way to the pier for a nice open water swim (first swim in my wetsuit since Zurich in July…not really great, but swimming in the bogs around London is not enticing). Anyway, to the swim, which was amazing and I felt really good, so who needs to practice OW swimming in a wetsuit!

I saw thousands of fish just under me and even a nice and big stingray, which was far enough under me that I just enjoyed looking at it as I passed and it kept its distance from me. The swim ended with me swimming in to the swim finish chute to get a feel for the sun angle and details of the water exit. Ok, no problems there. Saturday started with another short ride to confirm that, yes, my back tire would not hold air long enough to give me confidence of completing the race…so, I decided to do the most dreaded thing and replace my rear tubular tire the day before the race….I took extra care, and thankfully my spare was fully stretched and pre-glued, so I just had to prep the rim, let it set…then on it went. Long story short there, no issues on race day with the tire, so I avoided the curse I guess. Dinner Saturday night was a pizza and some pasta, which was excellent (specifically the pizza…love Gena’s pizza!) Sleep did not come easily, but once it did, I slept sound and woke up feeling good.

Race Day: Got up around 4am (ouch), and quickly got dressed and had a better breakfast than in Zurich. I avoided the muffins and pastries, and had some juice, banana, yoghurt w/muesli and some toast. Coffee as well, shocker! Made our way to the transition area around 5am, and found it a hive of activity. Since I had already dropped of my bike and T1/T2 bags, I only needed to check the placing of my T1 bag, then set up my SRM on the bike, get the tires topped off (always a bit nerve racking to have to wait for someone to lend their pump…everyone always seems so tense…not sure why J). Once the bike was happy and my nutrition was in place (I had two bottles of water, one of Powerade, 6 or so gels, and a Powerbar on the bike, along with a gel in my race top, and I had a special needs bag with more gels, and another bar for midway through the bike). From there, it was time to drop off my street clothes for post race pick up (kind of felt like an assembly line, which is good and everything went so smooth!), then put on the wetsuit and head to the water.

Swim: We had colored caps to seed us on the swim based on our own predicted swim time. I chose a cap that put me in the 2nd group, and so I was right up near the front and somehow dead center by the time the gun went off. We went off from a deep water start, so there was no race from the beach and the chaos that involves, but there was plenty of foam and flying arms over, on and around me for much of the way out. I started a bit fast, but quickly settled into a steady groove, with quite a few interruptions as I chose a path that was fairly popular. I noticed pretty early on that the self seeding system was not too accurate as I passed loads of the ‘fast swimmers’ in white caps (good feeling), but got passed by many of the swimmers in the groups behind me (not a great feeling). As noted in my swim earlier in the week, the jetty is loooooooooong and it seemed like far more than 30min getting to the end, but I got there in just under 29min (I think at least, since I only just glanced at my watch)…but right after a congested turn, disaster struck and my right calf seized up like a holy terror. I immediately stopped swimming and grabbed my leg, thankfully the wetsuit and salt water kept me afloat or I would have been in a real crap situation….needless to say, and massaging the muscle and slowly kicking and loosening up my ankles and feet, it gave away and I was able to get moving again. I am not sure how long I waded there, but when I got moving there were hardly any of the cap colors from my group or the fast group around me, and lots of the later groups colors were present…oh well, what is a couple of minutes I suppose. Off I swam and settled back into a nice rhythm, passing a few people and swimming on the feet of a couple others for some time. I noticed a girl walking on jetty heading back to the shore, and she was walking the same speed as I was swimming as I saw her nearly the whole way back. It was strange, and yet, comforting for some reason. The comfort didn’t last long, as my left calf seized up about half way back, and I went through the same process to free it up, but had to be even more careful as my right calf was still very tense and so by the time I got going I was seriously disappointed and concerned why this issue was happening as my swim prep was good with the exception of OW swims in the wetsuit (might that be something to consider????)
T1: I did make it to the shore, and up the ramp through the showers (to rinse off the saltwater…very nice feeling), grabbed my T1 bag, then into the tent a quick change. A very helpful volunteer stripped my wetsuit off and stuffed all my swim gear in the bag, and all I had to do was put on my socks, shoes, number, and helmet and I was off and running for my bike. As is usual, I took a very brief survey of the bikes still in transition and noticed about 50% or more seemed to be in place, but I also sensed something new and quickly decided a pit stop would be wise….that over, grabbed the bike, did a nice flying mount and off I went for 180km under a beautiful calm sunny morning sky.
Bike: The one thing about the bike is that it is so long, that much of it fades into oblivion as there is so much that is repetitive throughout (drink, eat a gel, drink, eat a banana, stretch back, drink, eat, etc.) Mentally, I was focused on my power, cadence and keeping aero for 95% of the time, stretching only in the corners or turnarounds. I felt really good on the bike, and passed loads of people and soon saw the leading two groups of top AG riders (just before each turn around…they were about 10-20min ahead of me I would guess) and the gap stabilized on the 2nd lap. I missed my special needs bag on the 2nd lap, but still had gels, and was enjoying lots of bananas, so no real worries came about, but I would definitely need to get that bag on the third lap. I also lost the speed signal to my computer and had to calculate my speed using km markers over the last 70 odd kilometers. As I mentioned above, the weather was lovely, and seemed to be nice and mild, not to hot, nor windy, but in the last hour or so saw the winds pick up and start to put a bit of a hurt on my speed. I am glad I was off the bike course in the time I was, as the winds got worse and those out there for 6+ hours really had a challenge in their rides. Overall, the bike course was good, and I rode it well, right on plan, but an ominous sign appeared with about 20km left, as both of my quads starting to cramp up and fatigue was starting to be very noticeable. I knew that my quads would likely loosen up if I gave them a few minutes of easy effort, and they did. I also knew at that point that running a 7min/mile pace would be unlikely do to my fried quads. I got very low at that moment and really tried to think positively about the possibility of improving in the marathon.

T2: I got into transition nice and smooth with an easy jog into the tent (I love handing my bike off and just cruising to the tent, without having to rack the bike!)…a quick change with a manhandling effort by two volunteers to put sunscreen on me, and off I went.

Run: I quickly felt my stomach seize up in the familiar pain I had from my first year of triathlons, and was beside myself with the idea of running a marathon on fried quads with a stomach that felt like it was tearing in half with every step. The run course was a three loop affair that had a long out and back portion that was exposed along the beach. It was flat and had lots of people on most the course with some interesting entertainment (sign calling a tiny 1meter lump in the trail called Mount Everest!) and lots of music at places. I even overheard two ladies discussing the male runners as they went by with comments like, ‘oh yeah, I’ll take him home tonight’, and ‘he would be a keeper or perhaps a nice boy toy…’ Anyways, fun aside, I was in agony and could not believe I had 42k or 26.2miles to run… Once I got to the long turn around point on the first lap, I had decided that was it, I was done. I was so low on myself at that moment as my goals and dreams were getting crushed and the prospect of running for 4, or 5 or possibly 6 hours lay ahead of me. I decided I would try to continue until I got back to the transition area where I would find a race official and quit. Once I got back to the transition area, I stopped and walked for a bit, then sat down and searched my soul for the strength to carry on, and not let myself, Angie or any of my friends and family, who were following my progress, down. I gave in, and looked up for an official, I was done. Funny thing is, there aren’t that many actual race officials, only lots of volunteers, and I told myself if I was going to quit, then I would have to say it to a race official…kept running a bit, still no official in sight… well, just keep running until you see one, I told myself. I did, and the next thing I knew it, I was a third of the way through my second lap when I saw Angie. I was still hurting with every step and my progress was in fits and when I saw her, all the emotions of the day came flooding through me. She told me to be strong and if I really was hurt, then I should quit, but that I should try to see how it felt if I could keep going, she started chanting strong mind, strong legs, strong will. We agreed that I would run out to the far out turn around, and then I would look for her on the way back and take stock there. Once I committed to that, I began to feel better…at least my stomach eased up and the pain diminished. I started to run fairly strong, and felt good again, but my legs never had anything really, and even when I overcame the stomach cramping, my running speed never really returned. I was also beginning to really feel tired and started to walk the aid stations, with increasing casualness…but I did keep going, and eventually finished the second lap, and made it back to the near turn around where I saw some of those runners who were just coming onto the run course and were already walking (I felt for them, as that would be a tough place to be with all the wind on the bike, then faced with a scorching, windy marathon….yikes). Very glad I was on the last mile at that point, and I decided to put my head down and run it properly, dead legs or not. I crossed the line elated and exhausted and immediately collapsed into the arms of two gracious volunteers. The quickly escorted me into the medical tent where a doc took a look at me and asked me how I was doing….I really didn’t know how to answer that and thought the question was a bit off track considering that doing an Ironman is hard on the body, soul, and mind and most people are exhausted or worse when they finish. I don’t think anyone at that moment really feels good physically. Nonetheless, I said I was fine, just a bit tired and would be happy to just rest for a while…

Post Race: Angie was quickly by my side and helped me, she also photographed me some and I eventually got cleaned up and we made our way back to the B&B. As in Zurich, my stomach was a mess after the race, and food was not an option, so I just crawled into the bed and took a nice 3-4 hour nap. Once I got back up, I felt much better and the hunger from the many thousands of calorie deficit I had ran that day made its presence felt. We decided to get another pizza and pick up my bike and kit from the transition area. Once we returned, there were some of the others back from their races and we compared days and experiences. Sleep came easily that night!
Hindsight 20/20 thoughts: So, I did the race in 9 hours and 48 minutes, which was nearly 45 minutes slower than my goal. I knew going into the race, that 9hours would be the time I needed to qualify for Kona, and my plan was to try to do the race in these times: Swim – 1 hour, Bike – 4:45 hours, Run - 3:15 hours including transitions. I actually did the swim in 1:06, the bike in 4:53, and the run in 3:43. The swim was likely not too far off of my goal time, considering the two stops I made, and the bike was close, but the winds made the last hour much slower. The big problem was the run, and really my overall fitness. Going into Switzerland, I was very fit and had the fitness to go much faster than I did, but because of the conditions, I could not get enough calories to run near my potential. In Busselton, my fitness was significantly lower and it showed on the run as I was able to get in the energy to support my needs, but just did not have the fitness to ride the speed I did on the bike and then run a good marathon. The key to a fast IM time is to come off the bike feeling good and strong. That requires good pacing on the bike and for a fast time; it requires excellent bike fitness and power. Cycling is my sport, so I am quite disappointed that my bike fitness is what really let me down, or should I say, my dedication to training on the bike really let me down. I guess the good news is that I have done two Ironman races and both were sub 10 hours, which most people would consider the number of significance. I know I have it in me to go under 9 hours (that is a huge thing to say, but I believe I can get there), and will see how close I can come in 2009.

Friday, 16 January 2009

OK, start this off..

First off, I feel like crap today...not because of work, the weather, too much training, bad food or too much wine. I am experiencing my third (3RD!) damn head cold/sinus infection in the last 90 days. Or, to look at it another way, had one in November, one in December and now one in January...f#'kin annoying and really makes me want to get out of this overcrowded urban jungle.

Rant over, this is my first blog posting and I wanted to kick this off with my not so glorious race report from IRONMAN Western OZ, but now that I am whinging about, maybe I should focus on something else. How about the year ahead. Yeah, this is the time of year where people make resolutions and grand statements about changes for the better. Well, triathletes aren't immune to that, but more often than not, we spend an inoordinate amount of time building up our racing and training goals for the year ahead. Quite often those goals are as grand and unlikely as many resolutions, but nonetheless I believe they are useful and have spent the last few weeks impressing upon my athletes the importance of goals.

What are my goals for 2009? First, is to avoid any more damn head colds! Not sure exactly how to do that and not become a recluse, but anyway, that is goal number 1: stay healthy. Second, I want to train much more consistently with good balance and better quality. Third, I want/need/must improve my snacks...oh how I love those pastries...unfortunately they do me little good and take up space where nutritious fruits and veggies ought to be. Fourth, and probably more important in the grand scheme of things is to be a better husband, friend, coach and person. I am on this track of life with a wonderful woman and need to keep her in the center of my thoughts. Without getting all sentimental, it goes without saying that a healthy, fun relationship lowers stress levels, encourages positive behaviors and builds bonds of strength that cannot be found elsewhere.

So, what about actual racing goals? Well, I am quite along the pathway of picking out the races, but a little behind on what makes the 'A' grade, 'B' and 'C'. I can say for sure, the XC race I did last weekend in lovely Croydon easily goes into the 'C' category as my legs were shocked at my efforts to run fast over rough terrain. I am guessing the next XC race in a few weeks will also be a 'C' priority, but hopefully with better sensations and my explosion.

The rest of the year will be addressed soon...just as soon as I can work it all out.