willthames's blog

Ironman update - 2 weeks to go

Two weeks to go, and another hard training week done

Swim: 03h30, 8km, longest 3.8km
Bike: 06h45, 178km, longest 116km
Run: 03h50, 40km, longest 26km

While that's only 14 hours, compared to last week's 17.5 hours, 8 of those were in a single day across three disciplines

I decided to go for a Long Day, involving a swim in Taplow Lake, a long bike and then a long run

I suffered on the run and will have to devote some time to emergency run-walk strategies in case similar happens in Switzerland - not sure yet whether I'll cope with 2km run, 1 min walk (which is what I ended up doing yesterday to some degree of success) or will need even more drastic measures. However, decent nutrition and proper hydration (including cooling) should prevent things getting as bad as yesterday.

Still a couple of things on my to-do list that I need to get fixed before the end of the week.

Plan for this week is initial taper - perhaps a week at 3/4 normal volume, and then next week at 1/2 volume.

Too tired to blog

I did 4km swim, 116km bike and 26km run today.

I'll post my Ironman 2 weeks to go and update the training log later in the week...

Ironman Switzerland race plan

Following Joe Friel's advice, here is my race plan:

Ironman Switzerland 2010

"Finish healthily tired"

Goal

13 hrs (01:30/07:30/04:00)

Keys for success

  • Ride consistently
  • Eat well on the bike
  • Eat something on the run
  • Drink consistently
  • Run steadily, with walk breaks for water

Race week

  • In bed by 11pm
  • No alcohol
  • No coffee
  • Day off Thursday to do local preparation (pick up bike box, pack, rest)
  • Race preparation day Friday, Family day Saturday
  • Charge computer and watch

Race day

04:15 wake up, dress, prepare race bottles
04:30 breakfast - one coffee, some cereal, toast
05:00 coach leaves hotel
06:00 body marking?
06:05 Sunscreen on
06:20 Bike ready: low gear, bottles, computer attached, tyres pumped, towel down, socks and armwarmers prerolled
06:25 Run ready: run shoes in place, watch, food in place
06:35 Wetsuit on, body glide applied, goggles under hat
06:45 flush wetsuit and short swim if possible
07:00 We're off!

Swim

Aim: 01:30
Start at the back left
Keep out of everyone's way, and then just swim smooth and slow until I'm finished
Sight well, swim straight

T1

Turn computer on
Finish removing wetsuit, goggles, cap
Helmet on
Dry feet
Socks on
Shoes on
Race belt on
Food in pocket
Take bike to mount line
GO!

Bike

Aim: 07:30
"Make most of flat!"

0-30km flat
30-35km 100m ascent
35-45km flattish
45-52km down
52-57km big up
57-65km down then smaller up
65-70km big descent
70-83km flat
83-85km Heartbreak up and down
85-120km flat
120-125km 100m ascent
125-135km flattish
135-142km down
142-147km big up
147-15km down then smaller up
155-160km big descent
160-173km flat
173-175km Heartbreak up and down
175-180km flat

Computer will be set to beep every 10km - which will be every 24mins, on average
After first 10km and then at 100km, eat bar, wash down with water.
Drink a small amount of energy drink as I feel
Drink from gel flask and wash down with water every 10km that I'm not eating a bar
Refill water at 60km if need be as no more water for another 60km!
Energy drink will be refreshed through packets of SIS Go that can be emptied into bottle.

Aim to make the most of the flat sections by travelling at around 30kph, and take the climbs nice and easy.

T2

Stop bike computer
Rack bike
Helmet off
Turn watch on
Gloves off
Bike shoes off
Run shoes on
Move race belt round
Swap to run food
GO!
Start watch

Run

Aim 04:00
"Finish strong"

Four laps of 10.55km.
First lap should feel relatively easy, last lap very hard, but aim is to finish strong.

Target pace of 05:39/km, this allows 6 seconds/km break - so after 5km I can stop for 30seconds or walk for 1 min. This means that I can take on water regularly (both drink and for cooling if very hot)

One shot blok before a water stop at around every 5km, with two taken every ten.

Ironman Switzerland - 3 weeks to go

After a couple of slack training weeks in which I recovered from Bala, had our wedding anniversary and then went to California, it was time to get back into proper training.

While all my training can be seen on the Training Log, a quick summary of this week shows:
Swim: 3 hours, 5.5km (approx) - longest 4km
Bike: 10h45, 258km - longest 180km
Run: 3h50, 39km - longest 32km

That's 17.5 hours training! Almost certainly my biggest ever.

It's been a hard week with the weather so warm (for here) - I'm not used to training in such temperatures, although this week plus my runs in California must be helping the acclimitisation process! I've got to hope it's cooler in Zurich, but train as if it won't be.

Next week will be my last hard week. With the work summer party on Friday, I'm taking a rest day on Saturday and then doing a 'Long Day' on Sunday - I'll aim for a 4km lake swim, 110km bike and 26km bike (the latter two being 'metric IM legs', seems a waste to do a metric lake swim to shave half an hour off the day). After next week, I start tapering down.

Things to do in the next couple of weeks

  • Hire a bike box (I have a contact, just haven't heard back yet)
  • Get some straps to tie glasses on with
  • Finalise race day strategy planning
  • Find orange handlebar tape (my wheels aren't matching my bars, terrible)

Bala Middle Distance 2010

Pre-race

I arrived at Bala at around 4pm on Saturday so that I could registration out of the way and have time to just chill out. Saturday afternoon had glorious weather, the view out onto the lake was awesome. Quite a few people took advantage of the offer to swim the course - I figured I'd just save energy for the race. Lots of Pirates were gathered on the lake front.

After checking into my B&B, I rested up for a bit before heading into town where I grabbed a takeaway hawaiian pizza for dinner, eating it up on the castle mound. It was then time for the England v USA match - I found a suitable pub serving real ale and settled down to watch the game. It wasn't particularly enjoyable, and some of the locals cheering USA at the end had a fair point! I stuck to two pints, and made sure I had water later.

I slept reasonably well considering, and got up at around 6.40 to organise myself before breakfast which I'd organised for 7am. I had scrambled eggs with lots of toast, and didn't seem to suffer for it later. I left for the race at 7.30, got to the rugby club, checked my tyres and headed to race HQ to pick up my chip and get marked.

One mistake I made was dressing for the race - so once I got to transition I was wandering around in just my triathlon gear, and my arm warmers didn't do quite enough. In the end I had to get into my wetsuit to protect myself from the wind - next time I'm taking a jacket and trousers.

After the race briefing we were offered a dip in the lake, which I took to flush my wetsuit - but getting in and out of the lake was excruciating as the floor was very stony.

Swim

Once back in the lake to start the race, via the counting pen, the race got off in fairly short order. I stayed to the back of the wave, and didn't encounter too many people in the way. Lack of practice in my wetsuit this year really showed, and I spent a while just getting into a comfortable rhythm. I also hadn't used bodyglide high enough on my neck, so it was a bit itchy. There were times that I definitely didn't take the straightest line between buoys, but nothing major. It was a swim I was happy with, except for the exit - here again the rocky floor took its toll on me - I pretty much had to pull myself horizontally along the floor until I had to stand, and gingerly exited, stumbling quite a bit (my balance is terrible after a swim at the best of times). I suspect I lost two or three minutes just exiting!

Bike

I took my time putting on gloves, arm warmers, socks and other cycle comfort clothes, ready for the 80km cycle ride. My heart rate monitor wasn't working well (doesn't seem to after a swim - perhaps I should just put it on after the swim) so I just paced myself on feel, which worked just fine. On the outbound section, I noticed that I was struggling even on the flat and on small descents (e.g. grades of -1 or -2%) - I realised this was because I was cycling into the wind. One concern on the way out was that I realised I was accumulating altitude debt - the section finished much lower than it started. At the turnaround point I was about 1h33 into the bike, so was relatively happy with my pacing. On the way back, I had to repay the altitude debt, but I was benefited by wind credit - I found even 1% or 2% climbs no worse than I expected normal flats to be - the end result being that I negatively split the bike loop.

While on the bike I had an energy bar after 20 mins, and then just sucked on my gel flask (containing around 7 gels) every so often (it was pretty much empty by the end). I used around half of my 800ml energy drink.

Run

I racked my bike, took my gloves off, I removed my left armwarmer, I put on my run watch, changed shoes, took my helmet off and headed out. In this process I forgot to remove my right armwarmer, pick up my run food (a pack of clif shot bloks) or move my number belt to the front. The kids at run exit told me the latter (I suspect they were telling a lot of people, but handy to be told). I set off on my run, trying to get my watch started as I went - it took about 600m to pick up the satellites (should have started it going as I entered T2 really - I turned on the bike computer as I got to T1). Having the watch tell me my pace every kilometre is quite handy to ensure I don't go off too fast, but I was mostly pacing the hilly run by feel anyway. As I hit the 7km mark, I felt great considering I was a third of the way through. After that, it really started hurting as I did the 100m of altitude gain between 7km and 10km. Still, settled into a pace that as comfortable as it was ever going to be, and just pressed on. It wasn't pleasant, but hitting the turnaround was a great psychological boost as I knew it was mostly downhill. I stopped to actually drink the water rather than sip and pour over my head, as I was feeling a little thirsty, but it must have cost me around 10 seconds - a price I was very willing to pay. The downhills were naturally faster than the ups but only the 11th km was much faster as there were still some ups on the return. By the time I hit around 17km, I was feeling it quite hard - I finished the last squeeze of gel at the last water stop and then just pushed on to the finish - I desperately wanted to finish strong, tempting though it was to slow down. My last two and a half kms were at a good pace and I really tore through the last kilometre, to finish well.

My half marathon personal best is 1h51 on an almost entirely flat Grand Union Canal (there were a few bridges and more human traffic there) so getting 1h48 on a 20km run with 170m of climb, after a 2km swim and 84km bike was astonishing to me. My target time for the Royal Parks Half has gone down by 5 mins now!

My results

Swim: 00:44:09 (515th)
T1: 00:04:29
Bike: 03:00:25 (452th)
T2: 00:02:09
Run: 01:48:03 (344th)

Total time: 05:39:17 (441st out of 662 starters)

I was extremely happy with that time, particularly as I had predicted a 6h30 time - I beat my bike prediction by 20 mins and my run prediction by nearly half an hour!

Lessons learned

This race was intended to be practice for Ironman Switzerland and also to give me confidence that my training is going well. I think it succeeded on both counts.

* My wetsuit rubs a lot higher on my neck than I thought
* Have a jacket and spare trousers for before and after the race to stave off the cold
* Don't drink too much pre-race, it'll just be uncomfortable
* Openwater swim practice is important!
* Don't forget to take run nutrition - I got away with it on the run here, but wouldn't on an IM run!

One week to Bala

A break from my Ironman updates (7 weeks until IMCH) - it's only a week until my first race of the season! I'm expecting it to be a fabulous race - everything I've heard about Bala has been positive (except that it's a bit hard).

In terms of readiness, I'm reasonably happy - while my training hasn't been 100% in the last few months, it's been reasonable given the circumstances. I know I can do the distances (at least individually!) and the climbs, so I'm not expecting too many problems. I'm now well tested at puncture repairs (although need to stock up on spare tubes!). There are three things missing from my kit list, but all race kit is well tested, as is race nutrition (although haven't fully decided on nutrition strategy yet - whether to stick purely to gels plus water or use energy drink and shot bloks too).

Car is booked, accommodation is booked (with much thanks to Gareth at Bala TIC who sorted that out for me), so it'll be a nice gentle week tapering ready for the race.

Predictions: 2km swim: 0:45; 80km bike: 3:20; 20km run: 2:15. T1+T2: 0:10; Total: 06:30

Ironman Switzerland - 8 weeks to go

This week was a solid training effort, although it was spread over 8 days to make the most of the bank holiday weekend - I did the long bike on Saturday and the long run today so that I could enjoy family time at the Wetland Centre (and the Stonemasons Arms for Sunday roast).

Not only did I set personal distance records in all three sports, I actually did more of each discipline this week than is in the Ironman race - this is a first for me (perhaps a late first for this stage of training, but I'm still happy with that).

Swim: 6.7km total, 4.1km longest (108% of IM swim)
Bike: 227km total, 155km longest (86% of IM bike)
Run: 56km total, 35.8km longest (85% of IM run)

Hoping to fit in a reasonable training week in the next 6 days before I start a small taper for Bala - a wedding on Saturday means that I can't do a long run and long bike, so I'll do a medium distance brick on the Sunday.

Nearly prepared for Bala - car hire sorted, accommodation looks close to being sorted, so just need to find (or buy) a few things on the checklist (number belt, bodyglide, glasses cords). Oh, and my wetsuit needs to turn up (apparently it should be with me this week)

Ironman Switzerland - 9 weeks to go

With nine weeks left, I've had my slackest week since I went skiing (and probably got more fitness benefit from that). In fairness, I always knew I wasn't going to get much done in nine days away in Scotland - the fact I did a 27km hilly offroad run was probably more surprising than if I'd done nothing. Holiday and training just don't mix well for me - I usually try and fit too much in to days as it is.

Still, I now have two weeks to get some proper training in before I have a small taper for Bala (as it's not my A race and I'm nowhere near overtrained I'll probably taper less than I plan to for IMCH).

Following yesterday's short bike and today's slow 10km, plans for the rest of the week include Tues: swim, bike; Weds: run; Thurs: bike; Fri: swim; Sat: long bike; Mon: long run

Ironman Switzerland - 12 weeks to go

A mixed week this week - happy with my running and swimming leaving, as usual, my cycling to be unhappy about. It was all looking so good until today - an unprecedented 70km done before the weekend, with my first weeknight outing to Richmond Park, and a strong session on the rollers. Tiredness, lethargy, bad weather and disorganisation combined today to knock a large hole in my plans, and the 150km long ride that I'd planned at one point turned into a 60km set of circuits around Richmond Park.

Talking of Richmond Park, I've entered the London Duathlon. This year they have an Epic version - 20km run, 80km bike, 10km run. Of course I signed up for that one, in spite of the cut off of 6h30 - which is pretty much my estimated time (2hrs, 3h30, 1hr), if you don't include transitions! There will be a few minutes I can shave off here and there, but it will be close! I have a suspicion that after 10 laps of Richmond Park, I may never want to see the place again!

On the positive side this week, I did my longest ever run, of 32km. Of course come 25 July I'll have to do an extra 10km on top of that, after having just swam nearly 4km and biked 180km.

Why do I do it to myself

So, I've had my confirmation of my Bala entry confirmed.

Apparently it was rated one of the UK's 10 toughest triathlons in 2007.

The bike doesn't look too bad - about 650m climbing, the run could be the harder section with 150m altitude gain.

The Bala distances aren't quite half the ironman distances - it's a 2km swim (vs 1.9 for HIM), 80km bike (vs 90km), 20km run (vs 21km).

Taking that into account, I'm hoping to do it in a bit under half my IMCH target - so under 7 hours, with 00:50 swim, 03:20 bike, 02:15 run - allowing ridiculously slow 10 min for each transition (difficult to halve transition times while practising for the main event) that should be 06:50. However, failure to meet this is fine if it results in a learning experience for IMCH - this is not my A race. Things I do want to practise are nutrition and to see if I can survive in trikit or should have a full change in the main event.

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