willthames's blog

Bridge to Brisbane 10k

I had high hopes for this race - I'm pretty well trained, I ran 10k in training on Wednesday in 48:30 and doing an iconic race should have given me the motivation to do well.

I knew that I had to get near the front or a lot of energy would be wasted getting past slower runners. However, never did I expect what actually happened.

Shuttle buses from the finish to the start were between 4:45 and 5:30, so I figured I'd aim for the 4:45 buses to get me there in plenty of time. I left home at 4:30, and got to about 500m away at about 4:50. I then sat in traffic waiting to get into the car park until I finally got parked at 5:25, at which point I rushed to get to the bus for 5:30. When I got to the bus queue it was snaking around the finishing area - there were a few concerned people around me that we might not make it, but I remembered I just had to be in the queue at 5:30.

Finally got onto a bus around 5:45, which drove the 10km to the start - at 6:10 we were still on the bus, but I knew that there was a staggered start, so I just hoped I'd catch a later running wave.

The crowd just kept moving and then pretty soon we were across the start line and racing. Along with everyone else - the joggers and the walkers had already started.

My entire race was pretty much spent running at full pelt whenever I had space, often having to weave around slower people, cut through small gaps, brake hard to avoid groups of walkers in a line across the road. I don't think I've ever sworn so much during a race, either at the race itself or at fellow 'competitors'.

I don't know - I guess I just don't understand 'fun runs'. Runs aren't supposed to be fun - if you're not suffering (at least by the very end), you're not going fast enough. The idea of entering a run to walk 10km seems slightly ridiculous to me. The notion of walking while wearing a top saying 'Pain is temporary, Pride lasts forever' or whatever to me seems laughable. And then to not at least have guidelines to suggest that walkers stay on one side of the road or something to allow faster traffic to pass seems bizarre.

In hindsight I know I should have left home 30 minutes earlier - all my issues with the race stem from that. Next year I will qualify for the sub 50 minute starting section too.

I wanted to do sub-46, in the end I managed 48:15 - my GPS suggests I ran 10.25km which I could well believe with the weaving (although it's not really outside the GPS's margin of error either). Slowest km after the 1st km going over the bridge was the 5th, which was when the road narrowed significantly. Fastest km was the last, but that's not too surprising as it was entirely downhill!

Anyway, another 10km in which I got a PB (the last was a hot July day with a hangover in 2009) that falls well short of what I suspect my potential should be.

Graphing performance

I've been getting into data analysis and training performance is a perfect target for such analysis.

Using pandas, along with matplotlib, NumPy and SciPy, I can graph the number of hours run

The python I used for this is

(Note that I had to use ImageMagick's convert -trim +repage to remove unnecessary white space for display here - I'm sure I could have fiddled more withpyplot for a while to achieve similar results)

The data comes from my training summary, a drupal view I created to produce a CSV of my training log for such purposes (importing it into excel and playing it with it there was my original analysis method)

Getting faster

With less than three months to go until the Gold Coast marathon, a progress update is long overdue.

I'm running four times a week (consistently - I rarely miss a planned run, even though I almost always schedule my runs for the end of the day), I'm up to 24km on my long run, I've done intervals, hill sessions, boring loop repeats with tempting ways out (e.g. 4 x 6km loop at no point more than 2km from home).

I'm suffering from very few niggles - occasionally my left achilles or my right knee let me know of their presence, but I've not had to suffer through. Most excitingly, after Sunday's run, I noticed my hamstrings. I never normally notice my hamstrings, I just don't make them work enough (even though I should) so I'm glad I was working them for a change.

Today I did 6 x 500m with 1 min SR. Because of the foreshore wind, which typically gives me a tailwind running west (away from home) and a headwind running home, I alternated them running out and back. My 1st interval was after the warm up, so probably least rested of all of them, the 3rd effort was fast as expected, but interestingly the 6th was the fastest of all - by this time I was sheltered by the Shorncliffe cliffs, but I could really feel my body start to loosen up and just run.

My technique tends to improve at speed - my heels come up, I drive through and behind (at least I do these days, I don't try and gain speed by launching my leg in front!) and my strike is very midfoot, and will probably naturally move towards front foot as the pace increases. I'm no longer so bothered by forcing my form to improve - I think focusing on speed naturally helps.

So my fastest effort today was at 4:16/km for 500m. Ideally I'd be able to sustain that for 2-3km to be able to beat my 5km best. I'm definitely feeling that the speed sessions are helping, and that I'm improving week on week.

Let's hope I can sustain the work through until July without any injury, and keep getting faster and faster.

I know I can beat my London time, and probably by ten minutes or more, but that will depend on staying healthy, and good conditions on the day, and continued improvement between now and then!

Happy New Year - now back to it

I haven't updated this blog since Challenge Henley. I've barely trained since Challenge Henley.

Three months off has done me no good at all. Drinking and eating my way through a north American winter and then landing in an Australian summer has done me no good at all either.

My plans for 2012:

  • Complete a triathlon
  • Lose 8kg and 2in (the impact of just three months slacking)
  • Start shaving significant time off my 1500m swim (sub 30?)

While completing a triathlon might not seem much of a goal for someone with two Ironmans behind them, I really have got so far behind in my training and I need to start learning to race in the Australian summer (not to mention calm my fear of jellyfish/sharks/blue-ringed octopus).

NB: my training log is not up to date as the USB stick for data transfer from my watch is hopefully in shipping (if not it's lost) - either way the total is 1 run in October, 4 in December and 1 in January. Not great.

Challenge Henley and on

So, results are in:
Swim: 1:19 !!!
T1: 00:09
Bike: 06:33
T2: 00:05
Run: 04:36
Total: 12:42

Not quite as planned, for the run at least. A quick summary before I go onto the lessons learned.

Swim was lovely. Bike was pretty solid. Everyone said I looked good during the run, the trouble was I was stopping a lot for aid or toilet breaks and when I was running, I really wasn't running very fast.

The bad...

Stomach problems

I had to take several 'pit-stops' on two of the bike laps and three of the run laps. Without going into too much detail, these cost me time on the bike, whereas on the run the stops themselves weren't much worse than a long walk through an aid station but the cramping probably didn't do my running much good.

Lack of run training

I haven't done anywhere near marathon level training in the past six weeks - if you look at my run log I was probably tapered four weeks ago.

Lack of brick training

I did one brick which was one lap of the Henley course after two laps of the bike course. In hindsight that should have made me revisit my expectations then, I put my slowness down to high winds rather than a tough course. More brick sessions would have been sensible.

Not race weight

I could have probably made more effort to focus on nutrition and drink less beer. That's pretty boring, but sometimes so is a six hour bike ride and I accept that as part of the deal.

Henley run course is hard!

It's a cross-country course in places, running on muddy farm tracks, up hills, down hills, across fields, even some of the tarmac is cross country!

The Good...

Swimming

Ok, I'm still not very fast, but it was a gorgeous swim in cool, but not horribly chilly, conditions. Going sub 1:20 was a great result for me.

Cycling

Without the stops I'd easily have done 6:30 or less, which is as good as my IMCH time last year, but with much more hills. I'm really pleased with the gains I've made with more bike focus this year, but there's still room for improvement here! I overtook lots of aero bikes going up hills. Of course they all got me back on the flats and the downhills.

And onwards

I am not going iron distance in 2012. I am going to concentrate on smaller races, more often. I will join group sessions for added competition, and see if I can get smarter about my training too. I've got the discipline and motivation to do the training hours, I'd like to get more results out of them.

Less than one week to Henley.

I'm mostly glad it wasn't yesterday! Hopefully Hurricane Katia will clear off properly and we'll have a nice calm Sunday.

I'm a lot more confident that I'm ready to race, and with a sensible week tapering and resting I can only get more ready.

With that in mind, my hoped for race day looks like

Swim: 01:20
T1: 0:10
Bike 06:30
T2: 0:05
Run: 03:55
Total: 12:00

With good conditions the above is possible, although the run target is ambitious to say the least, as it's the same as my London marathon time. However, I'm probably fitter now than then, and I'm hoping that it'll be cooler. Certainly I don't think my London time is anywhere near my potential best. Oh, the bike target might be ambitious too - it's actually a quicker pace than the two-lap cycle I did a couple of weekends ago. Again, I'm hoping conditions are better on the day than they were that day!

I have my race day pretty much worked out in my head, so it just remains for me to hydrate and fuel pre-race ready for the big day!

Two weeks to go!

So, a fortnight to go until Challenge Henley. Some recent improvements to confidence, some disasters.

First, the good - 4km (ish) lake swim yesterday in 1:23. So I can do the distance in a time I can be happy with - can't be 100% sure if it was 4k, but either way I should be in the right ballpark.

I hope I can convert that to a 1:20 swim in the Thames, although the flow of the Thames might have an effect.

I did two laps of the bike course yesterday in 4:30. It's only slightly hillier than IMCH now, hence why I'm getting similar times. However, it is bloody windy at times - there were times when I was only getting 26km/h on downhills!

I'd like to shave a bit of time off there and get a 6:30 bike. However, with the wind blowing uphill, it could easily be a 7:00 bike.

I did one lap of the run course yesterday. It was horrendous (my run, the course was pretty enough). I might have been bonking by that point of the day, and it was very windy running back to Henley along the Thames, but if I run that slowly on the day (or, realistically, slower) then I'll struggle with a 4:30 marathon.

So, I predict I can beat my IMCH time, but it may well come down to how well I run on the day. I'll need to get my nutrition and hydration right, and be properly rested (although I don't have much running in my legs to blame it on that) but it can be done. The question just remains, will I manage it. I'll find out on the day!

5 weeks until Henley

So, less than five weeks to go until Challenge Henley. My longest bike has been 137km, my longest run has been 26km and I'm unlikely to do anything longer now. At least I've done a 4km swim, although not in open water.

My target times remain a little uncertain - I don't actually know what the ascent on the bike is like, particularly now they've changed the course. The elevation estimates vary from barometric altitude from the bike to the GPS course plotting estimates of e.g. ridewithgps.

Rough back of an envelope calculations from recent long hilly rides suggest each 10m of climbing adds about a minute, so I can expect to be 30 minutes slower than IM Switzerland if the ascent is 1500m. (This is demonstrably not actual science as that would mean a pancake flat course would take me 4 hours, at 45kph - which is faster than I can maintain for one hour on the rollers, which doesn't have wind resistance. I'd probably need to solve a non-linear simultaneous equation to get a better model). That would assume I had no bike improvements in a year, however, so I'd hope to do better than that.

Also, we can assume that I did Woodcote at pretty much IM race pace - add a third again and you get 7 hours, but from my test ride Challenge Henley has fewer horrific hills.

So, to predictions:
Swim + T1: 1h30
Bike + T2: 6h45
Run: 4h

This would make 12:15, two minutes faster than IMCH on a hillier course (I am assuming I can run ok after the bike there).

Trustworthy data

I've been having problems trusting my gadgets recently. My new Finis Swimsense is meant to be the business in tracking swim sessions - it's supposed to be able to determine stroke type and count lengths - in my 4km swim on Friday it was of the opinion that I did the last third backstroke and breaststroke (and at no worse pace, quite impressive if you've ever seen my feeble attempts at the latter). It has also miscounted quite a few sessions (my 4km came out at 4.025km, for example). I'm not concerned if it can't understand my drills but I expect it to get the basics right!

On Thursday I went to Regents Park and did two laps of the Outer Circle, starting and finishing at the Hub. You wouldn't know that from the map

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/105831213

Oh well, the swimsense got a firmware update on Saturday, and I'll be more careful to check GPS accuracy before starting a run next time (not that that's always a guarantee).

21 days of Ironman training

Since my two weeks off for Iceland and a busy period of work (and beneficial for full recovery from my running injury) I have been training every day for three weeks.

This is the most consistent period I've ever managed.

Weeks to go Swim Bike Run Total hours
Hours Distance Hours Distance Hours Distance Hours
11 01:50 4.65 05:13 147.4 03:13 35.67 10:16
10 02:00 4.4 04:56 122.6 04:31 47.6 11:27
9 03:00 6.8 08:55 215 02:51 31.25 14:46
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