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Going backwards?

I did another T30 on Tuesday. I finally got around to entering the results in my spreadsheet (I occasionally miss the button when counting laps, so some of my laps take twice as long as others). The end result was quite depressing really - just 50 laps this month (after 53 last month).

I've tried to consider where I might have gone wrong. I haven't done much swimming recently, after a week of skiing (I'm coming around to the idea that, actually, skiing is no exercise at all once you get alright at it, although shaking your way down a red mogul run certainly uses the quads!). So perhaps it's just a lack of practice. Taking on new techniques, particularly my new pull, might not be immediately effective. Anyway, I'll crack on.

Yesterday I went for a run - it was supposed to be a recovery run in preparation for the weekend, which was just as well as, after a reasonably heavy weights session after the swim, my legs didn't seem to want to do any pace other than sloooooow. With an average lap time of 5:48, compared to what I consider to be a fast run pace of around 5:00, it was certainly a gentle pace.

Had a good swim today, using a plan from swimplan.com for the first time. It was a good plan, although the endurance and aerobic sets were a little slow for me - 1m15 with 20s rest would have been glacial, given I was managing 1m00 with the same rest. Similarly the aerobic set of 1m15 with 10s rest became 1m with 10s rest. But I can tell the planning software that I thought it was a little easy and it should adjust for me next time.

On Saturday I have the fun of Mudman. Which I've realised is like Hellrunner, but half way through you stop and do a 15km bike ride. I don't feel prepared (and I'm not prepared, I need to do a lot of work tomorrow night changing tyres over and checking the bike is ready to race), my aim is to complete. Hoping for three hours (1hr run, 1 hr bike, 1hr run), should be doable.

January T30

In previous months, I've improved 50m per month. In my last endless pool session, I asked for tips on how to be more efficient, but I clearly hadn't maximised those gains before the last T30, as the improvement was still only 50%. However, I've been practising lots, and going to 90 min swims once per week, as well as my session with Cassie at the weekend.

This time, I did 53 laps, 1325m, an improvement of 150m! 1

I said last month that I didn't see 1500m within 6 months as an unattainable goal - and this just goes to show it's within reach. I'll need some more efficiency and speed gains in the meantime though, to get my lap times down to 30 secs. Still, I'm currently consistent - the standard deviation is 2seconds, which is the lowest its been, rather than 10seconds last month!

I'd be interested to do a T30 in a 50m pool to see what differences there are.

I also had a go at tumble turning yesterday - room for improvement, and I certainly won't be using them during a T30 for quite some time yet, but nowhere near as horrible as the last time I tried!

1 Actually, looking at my numbers from last month, I can't believe I had an 85 second lap, that is more than 30 seconds longer than any other recovery lap, so I've split it into two, so the improvement is 125m. Still good!

Into 2009

As 2009 starts, I'm happily keeping my training on track - this blog is probably the most neglected aspect of my triathlon work at the moment. While training logs are important, I'm just getting out there and doing it, and then forgetting to write anything about it!

Last week I went for my first fitness session with Swim for Tri at Kensington Pool (far north Kensington, it seems, near Latimer Road tube). I had serious doubts about my ability to swim for an hour and a half, but it was an entertaining session, and I wasn't the slowest or the least fit, so I'll be happy to carry that on. I have trouble maintaining the discipline in swimming, as it's so easy to stop, or not quite do as many lengths in a row as you planned. I think the next focus of my stroke will be The Catch, so I'll look at the drills for that for tomorrow's swim.

Yesterday I picked up my new mountain bike (Specialized Rockhopper Comp 2009), and took it from the bike shop in Fulham for a circuit of Richmond Park. I nearly gave up tired, but popped a couple of strawberry Clif Shot Bloks and carried on - after that my motivation returned. My GPS decided to crash yesterday, so I have no record of the ride, other than it took me about an hour and a half from Barnes Green up to Richmond Park, round and back home. Rather than my usual road cycle route, I took the offroad Tamsin Trail around the park - great fun, although nearly an early crash as I went down a particularly muddy and slidy downhill tree section. I'm having problems with the inside of my left knee when really having to mash the gears - on one of the hills I had no choice but to mash even in first gear, and that hurt a little, so I'm hoping to get it checked out shortly.

Tonight I took my Petzl Myo for a test run, doing Hammersmith Bridge to Chiswick Bridge almost entirely in the dark - there was a reasonable amount of ambient light, but I was glad of my headtorch at times! I had my reflective arm strips and a rear flashing LED to increase my visibility, there were plenty of almost black cyclists about, although there were also a few that lit up like a Christmas tree in my full beam!

I have also started on the weights, in part to try and build up some knee strength, as well as improve my upper body strength. Hopefully I'll see the benefits. I might look into some ski specific exercises too as my knees were certainly hit hard last year, I'll hope extra strength, lower weight and better technique will all combine to prevent too much pain!

On Sunday I'm off to my first outdoor swim session, a training session with Olympic openwater swimmer Cassie Patten, arranged by the Outdoor Swimming Society at London Fields Lido. One of my minor New Years resolutions is to do at least different five outdoor swims (excluding triathlons).

My next race that I've signed up for is now in March 2009. This will be my first multisport effort, an offroad duathlon.

Happy Christmas

I just wanted to create a record of what I got for Christmas 2008 (tri-related goodies only).

Wild Swim, the book of the Outdoor Swimming Society. Came with a silicon Christmas Pudding swim hat, which looks silly and cool at the same time, I think.
Petzl Myo XP
Garmin cycle mounting kit

The book will be great inspiration to do more (i.e. any right now) outdoor swimming, the light should mean that I do more interesting running, and the cycle mount kit should make my rides a little more interesting, particularly once I get the Garmin cadence kit!

T30 count

I did my third T30 test today. Swim 30mins, see how far you go.

The improvements to my efficiency have greatly improved my speed, but I'm tiring myself by trying to swim too fast. By swimming a little slower I'd still have improved my pace, but without the minute long rests needed between some laps!

Anyway, standard lap pace was around the 32 second mark, although average was worse. I just need to slow it down just a little.

So, result was 1175m, another improvement of 50m. I know there is still lots of room for improvement, I don't think that 1500m is out of the question in the next 6 months!

Interestingly, the laps after my T30 were very very smooth - I was swimming almost as slowly as I could, and each stroke was almost perfect. That should be something I try and do more of, trouble is I almost need to tire myself out to slow down enough!

Slack posting

Haven't updated the blog for a while - after Hellrunner, there seems to be quite a gap in my season. I've signed up for another tri (New Forest in May), and kept up my training as best I can (the running distances have gone down, and I've been trying to do more cycling and maintain the swimming).

I had an endless pool session last Thursday which was probably my most instructive yet. I finally understood the timing of when to start the catch, I realised I wasn't pulling through enough back to the hip, and also that my post-recovery entry was floppy. I had been starting to doubt whether the endless pool was necessary and, while I know that they'd have picked it up in a pool, I'm not sure that I'd have been able to see the difference so quickly. Anyway, now that Swim For Tri have moved, I might have to go to their endless pool at Canary Wharf. Fitness sessions start in January.

I pick up a new mountain bike in the New Year - I have the Bike2Work voucher now, but as we'll have people staying in the room where I plan to store the bike, I may as well leave it until after Christmas, especially as there may be more January discounts! Current plan is for the Specialized Rockhopper Comp Disc 2009, although I may go up a model if there are any in the sale.

Hellrunner 2008

I booked Hellrunner months ago now, having seen pictures of friends do it previously and it sounding like an event where you need a bit of fitness but most of all a sense of humour. And I fancied doing something muddy and offroad as a bit of a winter change.

I got up at 7:30, for coffee, muesli and toast, leisurely taking my time with breakfast, finally leaving the house at 8:15. Which wasn't too much of a concern, I was supposed to be at Longmoor Camp by 10am, and the AA reckoned on a 1:15 journey time.

I picked up the Mini I'd hired from Zipcar from around the corner, and made very good headway, until late in the journey, where I hit roadworks. Not only did the roadworks go down to one lane, it then had only one lane open at all, so we had to wait our turn with those coming from the other direction.

Once I'd got through the Headmine Tunnel Roadworks, it was all pretty smooth going, heading into Hampshire ("Jane Austen Country", not sure how much of what I've seen today she'd recognise). The track into Longmoor Camp itself was potted and slow, but I found a space easily enough.

I put on the remainder of my running gear (I was already wearing top, trousers, watch and socks, so it was just shoes and HRM), and headed to the start. I had a quick warmup jog and stretch, and then awaited the slightly delayed start (apparently there was an accident on the M3). I decided to start at the middle of the back of the field, so that I wouldn't start off too fast.

Once the fireworks went off (yes, fireworks, in the middle of the day, a bit silly, but just visible) to announce the start, we trudged past the start line and then we were off, running along a decent trail, pretty wide and solid. From here on in the terrain was either: decent trail (probably a reasonable proportion of distance, but not time, was spent on these), muddy trail (lots of people avoiding puddles, lots of other people splashing through them and booing anyone who wasn't getting wet. I figured I'd stay as comfortable as possible for as long as possible, which wasn't long, and then once my feet were wet, I tended not to care too much), sandy hills, or bogs.

Because this was a reasonable size race (approx 2400 supposed to start, not sure how many did), and the hills tended to be cuttings, wide enough for two or three people to go up, they were effectively bottlenecks throughout the course. I didn't mind too much, as I was unable to run up many of them anyway, but the faster runners must have found it frustrating! I had a really enjoyable run, I kept up a good pace on the flat and on the downhills where not too crazily steep, and overtook loads of people en route - I really must think about starting nearer the front in future races, it's getting a bit silly.

After lots of ups and downs (there really were enough hills), and the first bog (only about knee deep to one side, which most people kept to), and then a bit more running, I saw the car park again. At this point we were only about 11km in, and I felt quite disappointed, as I knew the Bog of Doom was coming up. It wasn't that that disappointed me, I thought the BoD was near the end, so thought I might be being shortchanged distance wise! I knew I must be having a good time if that was a concern!

On to the Bog of Doom, a chest deep wade through muddy water (apparently it was clear when the first runner got to it, and he just swam front crawl through, I don't think many others could!). Here I had the bizarre experience of bumping into a friend. 'Oh hi Mike, how are you, fancy seeing you here!'. I didn't even know he was running, so we had a quick chat, apparently it was quite surreal to see from a distance, to see two people meet there! Chest deep water is pretty unpleasant, but when you leave the water, it seems to get even worse as it drains. The effects of cold on the male anatomy are interesting when combined with running, it was pretty grim!

There was, thankfully (?), plenty more that Hellrunner had to throw at us. More hills, and then down to what might be described as a lake, muddy, again chest deep, cold water. So another unpleasant experience on the way back out, but then it was another reasonable bit of trail before the Hills of Hell. Now I wasn't sure before I got there that I hadn't already done enough hills that I considered to be sufficiently hellish, but sandy hills really aren't the easiest of things, and there were about six or so in quick succession, so it was run (well, walk really) up, then run down, then short flat and then the next. Pretty tiring by the end, but once through the sand, it was a short run to a manure smelling knee deep bog, then decent trail again. Knowing that we must be close to the end there, I decided to pick up the pace, and finish strong, and I crossed the line head held high, smiling for the photographer, after 1hr50 mins, for a 15.5km run, a very pleasing result.

After collecting the race tshirt and goodie bag, and not collecting my Goodness Shakes milkshake (they'd ran out of every flavour but banana, and I saw them give out the last vanilla, which doesn't surprise me, as strawberry and chocolate milkshakes are always going to win that popularity contest), and headed back to the car, with Mike and one of his travelling companions, Tess. We went our separate ways after deciding on a pub for lunch. At this point I discovered I'd forgotten a change of trousers! Disaster! Unfortunately my initial attempts to get hold of Mike to see if anyone in his car had a spare pair were unsuccessful, so I trudged the 15 min walk back to the event to see if the Puma stall selling clothes was still there, but it had packed up. Frustrated, it was back to the car park, and I did get a hold of Mike, who did have a spare pair.

The queue to get out of the car park was long, and dull, but I suspect I missed a bit with my journey back to the event, and eventually did manage to catch up with Mike, and Tess and John, in the pub for a pretty decent, and deserved, roast sunday lunch. Again, I think this rest to our journey probably meant that the queues in the roadworks had died down by the time I was going through - while there were queues, it was never too bad.

After showering my kit in the bath, and showering me afterwards, I felt human, tired, but accomplished. A great day out (although next time I'll remember trousers!)

More swimming milestones

Yesterday I did my second T30 count - 46 laps in just over 30 mins, so under the rules I'm counting it as 45 laps, or 1125m.

I did the first 42 laps non-stop, so that is a new milestone of 1050m of uninterrupted swimming. And when I started a length was a struggle!

At this rate, the New Forest triathlon might not be so overwhelming a goal - while 1100m in open water is very different to 1050m in a 25m pool, I'd have a wetsuit, and I have 6 months to go! Right, I think that's me talked into my first big race of next season!

Interesting swim

Today I tried out my third pair of goggles in, what, 4 months? So far I've had the Aqua Sphere Seal XP (they don't really fit very well), my Zoggs Predator (felt and looked good, but I left them behind getting changed) and today, the Aqua Sphere Eagle. Having had to use the Seal XPs again after the Predators wasn't very pleasant, so I wasn't too sure about getting another pair of Aqua Sphere, but I figured fit was more likely to be model-related rather than brand-related.

The reason I got the Eagles was because they can fit prescription lenses. I got 2 -2.50 lenses, and fitted them, and what a difference they make! Now I can actually see in the swimming pool! I can see what time it is from the far end of the pool from the clock! It'll mean that I can use the timing clock in the pool for some timings (although I'll still use my SportCount for more finegrained timings). Oh, and they fit and are really comfortable, too.

Anyway, what is far more interesting is the effect they seemed to have on my performance1. I just seemed to be more relaxed.

I didn't really do too much today other than the Critical Swim Speed test - basically swim 400m, take a few mins break lightly exercising, and then swim 50m flat out. For the first time today, I swam 400m, continuously, and I could easily have done far more, I think. The 50m were probably my two fastest lengths I've done (who knows, I've never tried to go that fast and timed it before).

Critical Swim Speed results
400m 10m13 secs (38.37s per 25m)
50m 53.56s (26.73s per 25m)
CSS 0.63

Increasing CSS is a sign of increasing VO2 max (i.e. I'm getting fitter). So this is another good stat to track.

1 It could of course be entirely coincidental.

Swim performance

Swim for tri really care about swim statistics. They sent me a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet when I first signed up, but it was for the wrong email address, and they didn't notice my reply to that effect until the other day (and I'd forgotten about it too).

Each time I go to the endless pool, they take my performance (stroke count over 1 minute at a certain pressure), which I believe is going down (that's a good thing).

However, today I got out my SportCount Chrono 100, which can store 100 individual lap times, and did the T30 test - basically, swim as far as you can in 30 mins. This was for me long and hard, I had to stop every few lengths for 20 seconds or so. However, I'm relatively pleased with my overall performance. I did 43 laps in 30:07, so just under 1075 metres in total. That's a speed of 0.6m/s, and my average lap time was around 42 seconds.

Looking back on the stats, I obviously started out way too fast - my first few laps were 31, 34, 35, 36, 37 seconds, and when they got down to about 40 seconds they seemed to stay consistent. I felt knackered after the first 7 or 8 laps, and yet was later easily able to do 8 consecutive laps. The notes for the test do say to aim for a steady pace - I just need to get better at slowing myself down before I tire myself out, not just as a result of it!

Next trip to the pool I'll do my 'Golf Score' - average time per lap in seconds + average stroke count per lap, over 4 laps.

I'm not sure about Critical Swim Speed test - apparently you do 400m hard, then 800m warm down (hahaha), then 50m hard. I might see if the 800m warm down is compulsory or if I could do say 200m!

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