willthames's blog

Blenheim Sprint triathlon

My fifth and shortest triathlon in 3 seasons, I thought it was about time to give the sprint distance a try - I'm pretty sure I'm more competitive at distance, but sometimes a short race sharpens your fitness.

Blenheim is a spectacular venue, very well organised (both of these things are reflected in the price!). As a first event, I'd think it would be a hard one to start off with - the run from swim exit to T1 is pretty much straight up a steep hill - 20m of ascent in 400m might not sound much but you feel it. Similarly, for a looping bike course, the altitude change can easily cause you to blow up early on. And then the run isn't much better - two loops of down from the palace to the lake and back up again.

For a first openwater swim of the season I did fine in the lake, I was pushing it quite hard by the end.

I was hoping to have a quicker swim and a quicker bike, and probably a quicker run (although the run course is long and slightly hilly, so that's the bit I'm happiest with). I would have liked to have been far closer to 1:20 than I was, the wrong side of 1:30 was just annoying, especially since I probably lost at least 15 seconds in T2 when my stomach just locked up and I couldn't bend down to tie my shoelaces! (oops should have had elastic laces!)

Challenge Henley - 18 weeks away

I've now done my second week of training towards Challenge Henley after my post marathon lull. If you look at my training against a normal Ironman schedule, it probably looks very light. But I've had some busy weeks with heavy social commitments, and expect to have some more. I'm also suffering from lack of endurance in sports that aren't running. So I'm keeping it simple.

"Each week, do more than you did last week, in each sport".

This is a remarkably simple strategy that should have me back to Ironman-type training weeks in no time. At the moment I can only do 60 lengths in the pool. In a couple of months I expect to be at double that.

Week one had just two full hours training - two runs at around 50 minutes total, one bike at 40 minutes logged (I was on the bike longer) and one swim of 33 minutes.

In this last week I did about the same running (I only got one run in of 52 minutes), much more bike (2.5 hours) and one swim of an hour. So already I'm nearly at 4.5 hours.

For the next week, I have a busy weekend so will again have to fit much of the training in the week - so will aim for more runs, about the same bike and more swims. With that in mind, I will also set the following goal:

"Do two of each sport every week"

Again, I don't expect to manage to meet that one every week either, but it's a good target and achievable most weeks at least.

I'm really not following any particular training plan this year - my plan comes from needing to increase endurance to Iron distances, while maintaining speed. Simple sessions (e.g. one hour on the rollers, a 10km run, 100 lengths) are great for measuring progress, and make planning sessions easier.

My progress can be followed as ever by hitting Log at the top right. I'm usually not too far behind logging activities, although I only filled in May today.

London Marathon 2011

After twitter, facebook, work email, what else is left to say about my marathon race? I've repeated the excuses widely - I started off too fast, it was too hot, I pulled a muscle (twice - once at 8km, and again at 18km). I know I can do better than 3:54, but how much better I could have done on Sunday is debatable. While I set off too fast given the heat later on, I'm not sure it was too fast given the heat at the time. I'm very proud of my half split - I'd have been reasonably pleased with that, given my training, for a half marathon if I'd stopped at 21km.

My training wasn't enough, I know that - injury caused me too much downtime - however, it wasn't my injury that affected me at all on Sunday - my left leg was fine, my achilles giving its usual early twinges but settling quickly, as per normal. Of course I could have overcompensated onto the right leg, but I think I'd just had stiff calves all week and overused it or something - difficult to be sure.

All in all, it was a tough race, and the support at London is a double edged sword - if you're low and need a boost, you'll get one, if you're low and just want to recoup and rest a little, it's really difficult - there is almost no escape from the crowds. I'm not quite sure - I wouldn't be surprised if I was motivated by the crowd urging me on, but some of my kms where I walked weren't much slower than adjacent kms where I ran the entire length - sometimes a bit of rest is needed.

In the end, I'm glad I didn't collapse for 2 hours in the middle of the race, I survived the event, I enjoyed some of it (probably the first 10km and the last 5km), my race didn't meet strategy of enjoying it all or going it at 5:15/km, I know it's not the best time I'm personally capable of, so I will have another go at the marathon, just not quite sure when yet.

Oh, and given the failure of my Garmin 405 (it got to 41.5km - out of what I think would have been 42.7km - it registered 40.5 as I crossed the 40km timing mat) I'm totally treating myself to a Garmin 310XT that can do 20 hours.

Interestingly, even with elevation correction, Garmin Connect thinks I ran up a couple of 100m hills in Canary Wharf - not sure if it just takes a sample of skyscrapers and land and averages it out!

Mental plan for tomorrow

My alarm is already set for 06:45. My backup alarm is set for 07:00.

I will head for breakfast, of one or two bowls of muesli and a coffee. After breakfast, I will change into my race kit, put on bodyglide and 24-hour sunscreen, attach my number.

By this time I expect it to be around 07:30-07:45. I will then head to the tube and use the free journeys to get to Charing Cross, before taking the free overland to Greenwich. I'd expect to get a train around 08:09 or 08:24 (earlier the better is good for train capacity, later is good for not hanging around too long before the start).

Once at the start I'll aim to keep warm and hydrated for the hour or so before the race starts. I'll also have an energy bar just after arrival with water. If there is the opportunity to warm up a little beforehand I'll take it, otherwise the first km or so before I cross the start line will have to do!

For the first 5kms I don't expect to do great pace, and will also contribute to my warm up, as there will be a lot of traffic and I'll just go with the flow and try and pick up the pace as the people thin out.

I'll hope to be doing 5:15/km on average for the race. My nutritional plan is to have a shot blok, washed down with water, every 6 or so km (water is every mile so may well be every 6.4km, going down to 4.8km later on), although I will have spare. I don't plan to take on much water otherwise, unless for cooling purposes - however, I will drink when I feel thirsty, training suggests this is sufficient.

In the main the plan is to enjoy as much as the race, especially the iconic sights, as much as possible while getting the best manageably consistent pace throughout.

At last, it's nearly upon me

It's just over three months since I found out I had a place for the London marathon. There have been injury niggles, particularly after my half marathon, that I managed to overcome with a lot of rest and perseverance.

The most I've done in one day is 28km in training, so there will be half as much again to do on the day, although at least I did 38km in two days that weekend.

On paper my run volume looks shockingly bad - particularly March where injury, recovery and then skiing took over, but April looks very good considering that's only half way through.

Month Runs Distance (kms) Time
Jan 13 119.2 13:11
Feb 12 131.21 13:45
Mar 6 71.6 06:41
Apr 9 89.1 10:08

Am I as ready as I'd have liked to have been? Three months ago I thought 3:30 was a real possibility - I'm still not ruling it out but I've accepted that 3:40-3:50 is a more likely result. However, I'll give London the effort that such a world-class event deserves. Hopefully then some more sponsorship will come rolling in!

I'll leave my plan for Sunday for another post.

Garmin Connect replacement: 1st iteration

User detection (doesn't have to rely on authentication, must be in models)
File upload
Canonical form conversion
Summary data display

Race plan for tomorrow's half marathon

I will set my alarm for 07:30 when I will quickly dress into my cool weather running gear. Going upstairs for breakfast, I will put on my GPS watch, and then have a mug of coffee and some cereal.

I will aim to leave the house for 08:00, taking with me my backpack packed tonight with a dry set of clothes, and a set of race clothes suitable for warmer weather (lighter top, shorts). The bag will also contain my race number and timing tag. I will then drive to the race venue, which will already be in TomTom.

I hope to arrive at the race venue for 09:00 with an hour before the race starts. I will keep warm and warm up during this time, changing if necessary into the warmer clothes. I will also have a caffeine gel with some water at this point.

At 10:00 the race will start. I will aim to start at around 05:00/km and progress towards 04:45 as the field thins out and I warm up further. Each lap of the lake should take around 47 mins.

At 11:40, I hope to cross the line. I will do some gentle stretching and some easy walking before driving home.

London Marathon

When work's new charity of the year, the Prostate Cancer Charity was announced, I emailed our charity coordinator to see if they had any places. Unfortunately, they didn't.

Today I got an email asking if I still wanted a place! Of course I do! The London Marathon is the one event I've wanted to do since starting running!

Not long to go though - just 14 weeks to build back up to marathon distance. I should be pretty conditioned to running after last month's efforts, but I know I need to build up nice and gently - destroying myself with injury would not be good.

At least I know what the next three months' training looks like - a marathon training plan with some cross-training of cycling and swimming. FIRST should do the job, once I can actually do the long runs!

2011 training

How fortuitous. One of my favourite sports writers, Matt Fitzgerald, has done a 20 week iron distance training plan in this months Triathlete Europe. That takes about 8 weeks off my training plan, meaning a start in April rather than February.

Now obviously that doesn't mean I can doss around for the next three months, but I can go to Running School (a Christmas present from my lovely wife) and possibly even treat myself to a swim training day too.

I do need to get back on the bike and back in the pool in January though, I can't keep being slack!

I also learnt about Yasso Intervals today, which also totally fit with the principle of reducing variation. While they might not correlate with a marathon after 8 hours on the go, they should correlate with the 'add a sixth of the time' school of thought (so if I can do 3:30 800s, I should be able to do a 3:30 standalone marathon and 4:03 iron distance run leg)

Next step is to start formulating a proper training plan focussing on my key workouts and fitting in other things such as holidays etc, so I'm totally ready to start hard graft in April, while improving technique in the interim.

Goals for 2011

For 2011 I plan to do:

  • London Olympic distance in less than 2:30 (0:30, 1:10, 0:50, with transitions coming out of that somewhere!)
  • Richmond Parkrun in less than 0:22
  • Challenge Henley in less than 12 hours - this may not seem ambitious after a 12:17 Ironman Switzerland but there are a *lot* more hills. (1:20, 6:40, 4:00)
  • 6k pool swim in 2:00
  • Go sub 1:40 in a half marathon

How do I plan to achieve this? Obviously I want to improve my running, hence the improvements on my run times - this will be done by increasing frequency, and working on improving form, while minimising injury risk.

My bike performance should have a good baseline from last year, but I've let it slide - I need to do a lot of miles and that will mean rollers, turbo and long rides before summer even starts.

Swim will also be built on volume rather than technique - overdistance training, regular testing, plus some speed work. Biggest issue is probably feel for the water, so sculling, doggy paddle and distance.

Races planned for next year include: Richmond Half Marathon, Blenheim Sprint, London Olympic and Challenge Henley. No middle distance tri planned yet (Bala is the weekend after Blenheim, which might be a big ask, A Day in the Lakes is probably too hilly and badly timed for me).

I guess this means I'm not so ambivalent now.

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