willthames's blog

Ironman Switzerland

Yesterday, inspired by Triathlon Plus' Ironman supplement this month, I decided to sign up for Ironman Switzerland (IMCH). Austria and Germany looked good too, but both were full. My pockets are now significantly lighter, and that's just race fees - I'll also need to buy two flights and ship a bike.

So I have 53 weeks to train for IM - most plans are 20 weeks, but in the mean time I'll ramp up the long bikes and start preparing to be able to run a marathon.

Race plans for next year:

April: marathon
June: middle distance triathlon (bala? beaver? day in the lakes?)
August: IMCH
September: vitruvian?

So no London triathlon next year because it will clash with IMCH, but otherwise a pretty daunting plan.

Can I do it? Yes. What do I think I can do it in? Individually, I reckon Swim: 1h20. Bike: 8h. Run: 4h. Could well be a 6hr run on the day though! I'd like to miss the cutoff by a few hours - 13 hours would be ideal. Of course elites can beat that time by 5 hours! Scary really.

Site enhancement plans

A year ago, while still on wordpress.org, I wrote a few aims for what I'd like to have on my ideal blog.

Looking at what I have now, I haven't done so well at achieving all of that - the best I have is my race entries. I just haven't been that motivated to do the rest, although with the Content Construction Kit and Views, I know it's all possible.

What I'd like in future is

  • Race splits for multi-sport - I have the data, I just need to display it
  • To start to use the Gallery
  • A bit of a redesign - the site looks a bit too slashdot-like at the moment - probably the white on darkslategray that does it!

Interestingly having looked at my previous entry, the only thing I still think would be exciting to do would be to pull the training data from my Forerunner - only trouble there is that Peta borrows it from time to time!

Ready for London

Had a couple of great training sessions recently - a fun fartlek session after forgetting to charge my watch, anti-clockwise loop to Barnes Bridge and back. Varying the pace really made me feel like I was getting a proper workout.

Yesterday headed to Richmond Park for a last long brick session - about 25km on the bike (mostly aero once in the park) and then the 11km run loop, and then cycled home. All felt pretty good.

I feel like I'm actually ready for a race for a change, this one hasn't crept up on me. I won't be as fast as I could possibly be, my training regime hasn't been sufficiently consistent what with wedding and honeymoon etc, but at least the last three weeks have been good.

After yesterday, I think my realistic bike split is more like 1hr40 (i.e. 2:30/km) - to get my goal of 3hrs total probably requires it to be nearer 1hr20 (2:00/km).

0:40 + 0:07 + 1:40 + 0:03 + 0:55 = 3hr25, but with some time shaved off those, hopefully I'll get down to 3hr10. Dream would be 3hr00 though!

Cycle training

Confined to within 15 mins of home this weekend due to being oncall for work. So thought I'd dig out the Spinervals DVDs. Tried 'Into the Red Zone' first, big mistake. After about 10 minutes of tiring agonising pain, decided I should step back and go for Spinervals 1.0 Ride Strong with the Clydesdale athletes. Bit easier, but couldn't get into it, felt low on energy and motivation.

So went for a run with Peta, her third session in week 1 of runners world's run walk programme. 1 min running, 90 seconds walking, bit easier, although I did up the pace for her a little today. Good interval training for me too, although the recovery period is a little long and easy! Still, it's intervals that will get me faster. I'll go for a proper run tomorrow, 8-10km I'd think.

Just two weeks until London Triathlon. Swim - slow, but I can do it. Bike - slow, but I can do it. Run - well, best of a bad bunch, really. I'm hoping for 0:40, 1:30, 0:55 + 10 mins transitions, so 03:05. Obviously that's a lame goal, so I'll hope to shave 5 mins off somewhere.

Swimming progress (or regress)

In March I wrote a post called Going Backwards?. I was very tempted to call this one exactly the same.

So my T30 in July was 47 laps, which is the worst performance since November! My technique is much better than then, and I am probably more economic with my strokes, just not faster. Now I know how to breathe properly, I am breathing every three strokes pretty much all the time, to the extent where I've forgotten how to breathe every two.

The three stroke cycle of hold breath, exhale, inhale is working well for me, but I found myself getting a little bit headachey, and might need something to help my stroke maintain its quality when I need to breathe more often, either because I'm going longer or faster, or both.

Or perhaps I just need more practice at both fitness and technique. But definitely time to book another video analysis session!

London 10k 2009

I managed to do a lap of Richmond Park (11.5k) on my wedding day, in just over an hour, which was great! That was the last training I did until I got back from honeymoon (except for a reasonable swim from boat to check out a cave while in Greece). Consequently I was a little underprepared for the 10k a week later! I did a short run on the Monday, and then a longer run to Chiswick Bridge and back (that turned out to be 10k exactly, coincidentally). So I knew I could do it, I just wasn't sure of the time.

One of the other side effects of the wedding was having lots of people to stay. It would be rude and unsociable not to stay and drink with them on their last night in England before heading back to Australia, and so my pre-race preparation seemed to involve more champagne and scotch than might be typical.

I didn't feel too hungover on the day, but drank a fair bit of liquid before I left home, and then a bit more waiting for the start. I got to Green Park tube at around 9am for a 9.30 start, so was able to get pretty close to the start. I didn't realise how much that would help me until I later heard that there were multiple starts. It was a pretty warm day, even at that time, so I was a little worried about my hydration strategy.

In the end the race started at around 9.40am, and I was just seconds behind getting through the start. I hadn't found the chip timers (I hadn't looked to be fair) so I was self-timing this race. I started off making sure I was feeling comfortable in my pace, running hard but hopefully not too hard, and just set off hoping to enjoy the race. With the heat and the hangover, I saw less of London than I hoped to with the course, because I was just concentrating on running well, not bumping into other people. My water stop strategy was to drink a little and then just pour the rest over my head to keep cool. Early on my splits were sub 5min/k, but apart from a couple of absolutely unrealistic splits that my watch gave me when going through a tunnel, later on they were all pretty much 5:15/k. There was a lot of great support on the race, and some of the music was excellent to run to. Finishing the race to Chariots of Fire was very cool!

My pre-race goal was for sub-55min, but during the race I started to hope I might do sub-50. In the end I finished on 51:06, which was pretty good considering, but I know I have the potential to achieve so much more, so looking to go sub 50 next time, and maybe sub 45 in the future!

After the race I had the long walk to collect medal and goodie bag (pretty uninteresting, although I've made use of all the free teas), and a fruitless search to try and find my mobile-less wife, so went home, happy enough but still thoughtful about what might have been.

There are some cool photos of me in front of the Houses of Parliament which at least show I was there, even if so little of the sights in particular were memorable!

Wedding!

I'm now married, and as a result, I've changed my name. So I'll be changing the blog name and address too!

The blog will move to http://triathlon.willthames.org.uk/, but I hope the change will be invisible!

Finally, I'm a triathlete

It can't be much less than a year ago that I bought my first copy of Runners World after recently taking up running again. With it came Triathletes World. I was even going to post it to a triathlete friend at one point, but ended up taking it on holiday to France with me as reading material instead. I didn't even like swimming at that point, so the very idea of doing a triathlon seemed ridiculous. I'm not quite sure when that changed, but I remember thinking by the end of that long weekend in Champagne that it might not be so terrible an idea (hmm, perhaps Champagne is the clue)

Starting learning to swim again (I could literally just about swim a length when I started, although I have been able to swim further in the past) from July onwards meant that I missed last year's triathlon season completely. I did, however, sign up to London Triathlon shortly after going to look at last year's. The earliest triathlon I got around to signing up to (Sevenoaks Sprint got full while I dithered about entering) was the New Forest Triathlon, held at Ellingham Water ski lake.

I managed to wrap a New Forest holiday around the triathlon to take advantage of the bank holiday weekend, staying at a lovely B&B in Ringwood. Friday was spent exploring the Jurassic coast, visiting Lulworth, Durdle Door and Lyme Regis. Saturday we went to Burley and also Lymington.

Yesterday (Sunday) morning I got up at 5.15 to have breakfast before heading to the triathlon. The patter of rain on the conservatory roof was a little annoying - the weekend had so far been gorgeous. Luckily it had dried up by the drive. The walk from car park to transition area deterred me from taking my transition box - instead I just put everything I needed in my backpack, slung my wetsuit over my shoulder and pushed the bike. Registration was quick and easy, after which I ensured my transition area was suitably set up (towel, bike shoes with pre-rolled socks in, run top, bike jacket, helmet, run shoes and race belt in place). Once I saw a few other people were in wetsuits, I changed into mine, leaving my tri-shorts underneath, applying body glide under the arms, and gingerly headed over to the lake avoiding as much gravel as possible.

The sun was rising over the trees bordering the lake at this point, still quite low in the sky, so I hunted areas of grass out of shadow, in the hope that standing on them would warm up my cold feet a little. To some extent it did. We then had the race briefing, including 'please cycle on the left' - apparently a competitor had a fairly nasty accident last year not doing this! I then discovered I was in the first wave into the lake, and everyone started moving towards the lake. I hung back a little, wanting to avoid the cold as long as possible. However, walking into the lake, I found that the water was warmer than the ground, and the water wasn't as unpleasant as I had feared. As a fairly poor swimmer, I headed to the rear of the scrum that is a triathlon start, and we treaded water for a minute or so, before the horn went.

I managed to keep a little space around me, avoiding the people around me, but ready to protect myself against thrashing feet, and after a while, the space opened up a little and the swimming got a little less cramped. I found that I was swimming fairly comfortably, not with perfect technique, but reasonable enough not to exhaust myself. I was also sighting regularly to ensure I was still on course. One thing I found was that I had little choice about which side to breathe - within minutes, the sun was high enough that I would be breathing into the sun on one side, so protected my eyes by breathing on the other side. Rounding the buoys that marked the course was often crowded, but I managed to avoid trouble. By the end of the swim, I was a little tired, but by no means shattered.

On leaving the lake, I felt pretty wobbly, but able to jog at a pace slightly quicker than walking to transition, where I wobbled out of my wetsuit, and into my bike gear. My transition clearly needs work, as the person next to me was in and out in a small fraction of the time I was there.

Once out on the bike, I started being overtaken. A lot. Some of the bikes made really cool whirring noises due to their aero wheels. Many of the bikes looked very shiny. I slowly got into the bike - I got some pretty good speeds out in the middle of the course, the winds and hills definitely played a part. The roads were lovely, and I quite enjoyed passing the group of 4 New Forest ponies, but cycling was my weakest link. I tried to keep cadence highish, and get a decent speed up, but the only bloke I overtook for longer than 20 seconds was on a mountain bike. I kept telling myself that if I got around in less than three hours (my goal times - 30 mins swim, 1:30 bike, 1 hour run, with transitions eating into those times) I could have a new bike, although I suspect that what I really need might just be more practice and a more flexible back (or perhaps a better fitting bike?).

Transition 2 was much quicker, racking the bike, removing bike jacket and helmet, switching shoes, moving race belt around so number was at the front (slowed down a little when the belt detached from buckle - stupid thing!).

The run was pretty horrendous - the first km was flat (and quick for me), the next few had a lot of uphill. My lower back was really giving me grief at this point, I was in a bit of pain. I plodded on slowly, and walked up the worst of the hills. This probably helped. By about 4km into the run, I was feeling a lot more comfortable. At the half way point, I took the offered water, swallowed some, breathed some (oops) and poured the rest over my head. Still far too many hills, so a few walk breaks at times, but most of my kilometre splits were sub 6 mins, which meant that I was doing well against goal times.

Peta was spectating at the finish, when I saw her waving, I returned her wave, it was lovely to see her there (she'd caught a taxi to the finish, rather than spend four hours waiting to see me during the race). I was able to gather a few more places nearing the finish, I was determined not to lose any places either, so when I noticed someone trying to pass, I picked up my pace. So did she. I picked up some more. So did she. It was an all out sprint to the finish. I have zero idea who won - there is noone with the same time in the race results. My theory is that she was from the second swim wave, so I was racing against someone who was beating me by 20 mins.

Peta came to meet me, I think she was torn between giving me a giant hug and staying well away from the dripping sweating monster, and we headed to get race tshirt, biscuits and tea, and we watched the prize giving, which was a first for me in a race, it did show that if you want lots of cheering, join a big tri-club!

I must have twisted my ankle (or sprained or strained or whatever) during the run - I even think I know when I did it, slipping off the edge of the road, and remember thinking, 'ooh, that could have hurt, lucky escape there' - presumably adrenaline got me through. Hopefully it will recover quickly enough.

So I am now a triathlete, and hope to remain one for a good while yet. Lots of things to learn (I need to improve my cycling, my core strength, and do better on hills on the run, improve my transition times, and continue to improve my swim, which may no longer be my 'weak discipline', particularly taking proportion of race time into account).

Final times: swim 1100m: 31:42, bike 34km: 1:21:30, run 10km: 56:11, total: 2:49:25.
Position: 239th male (out of 263 who started, 253 finished).

Running plans

I have finally sat down and worked out my running schedule, so that I know at exactly what pace I should be running at during which sessions.

My plan is to have two Stamina runs and two Endurance runs per week. The endurance runs will be one easy run and one long run, the stamina runs will be one steady state run and either a tempo run or tempo intervals.

I'm currently running too fast during the tempo intervals - this means that either I need to slow down, or that my target pace is too slow - I'm calculating all of my paces from my October half marathon, nearly six months ago, so I will do another race to see if I've gained any speed. I plan to do next Saturday's parkrun in Richmond Park.

I acknowledge that I'm unlikely to achieve 4 runs every week - however, I'd rather aim to do four and achieve three, than aim to do three and achieve two, which is what I'm currently managing. It's time to get those weekly miles up ready for race season.

Merrell Mudman 2009

After doing Hellrunner last year, I was inspired by offroad events, and decided that an offroad duathlon, or even triathlon, was the race for me. Once I had my mountain bike, I searched for an appropriate event, and found the Merrell Mudman, and entered. The race is a 7.5km run, then 3 x 5km laps on the bike, then another 7.5km run. Later I realised that this is actually like doing Hellrunner, but where you stop half way and get on a bike for 15km, and then finish the race.

The leadup to this race has not gone so well - I had little time to prepare for the race itself, in terms of putting decent offroad tyres on the bike, putting elastic laces in my shoes for quick transition, and my fitness may well be down after a fairly inconsistent training schedule, packed around a weeks skiing.

I got up at the planned time, ready to set off at around 8.30am, to collect my hired car. Due to the lack of choice, I'd had to plump for the Honda Civic, which I imagined would actually be more spacious than the usual Audi A3. However, the A3 is a hatchback - the Civic has a boot, so I couldn't just put the back seats down to use the entire space. In the end, the wheels went in the boot, and the bike went on a shower curtain on the back seats (I'd realised I'd have to protect the car somehow).

In my haste to leave, I'd forgotten to bring my race instructions, but I wasn't too concerned, I knew vaguely where the event was, somewhere near the A311 just off J3 of the M3. However, I may have been spoilt in previous races by signage - I didn't see a single sign on the entire road, and frantically drove around for nearly an hour looking for suitably army looking training camps (including one point where I asked a bloke with a gun for directions). In the end I finally got hold of Peta for directions, and it was simple after that, but it was nearly race start time as it was!

At the site, I unloaded the bike, changed into racing gear (tri shorts, tri top and running shoes) and then took rucksack, helmet and bike to racking. By the time I get to racking the race had already been going 5 minutes, so they let me prop my bike up, put my helmet on it, drop my bag and jacket and get running.

It was obviously no time to be worrying about position. The only thing I was really competing against was the course, with its seven hills per run lap. I'd call the first lap a draw - I overtook 3 people, while trying to maintain a sensible pace. Most of the time this pace was dictated by the course - the hills were so steep that I could only walk up them. And then too steep that I could only walk down the other side. The hills take up the middle third of the lap, so I'd picked up a reasonable rhythm again by transition.

At transition, I quickly took my running shoes off, put my cycling boots on, put my helmet on, and pushed my bike to the allocated mounting point, and set off. I'd already been lapped by people finishing their first bike lap by this point! I really need to work on my transitions (one of the 'laces' on my boot wasn't secure, and wrapped itself around a pedal) and perhaps more importantly, my technique - there were a few points where I pretty much fell off because I misread what the course did, and stacked it! The hills on the bike lap are fewer (thankfully, because it was hard enough walking up them, let alone while pushing a bike), but still hard, and they were the few opportunities for me to overtake. By the end of the first lap I was pretty shattered, particularly my lower back, but the second and third laps were relatively ok - I was relieved to finish on the bike, and change back to running shoes. Perhaps offroad duathlons aren't for me!

I'd noticed that I was getting blisters on the first run lap, and that didn't improve on the second. I'd made the classic error of running in untested circumstances - worse, I'd changed two things! The elastic laces were one thing - my shoes didn't feel quite so secure in them, but that might be a matter of tweaking them. I'd also decided to run in my cycling socks, rather than my running socks - I think in retrospect that was a bad idea, as it's the running where my feet really take the hit.

It didn't really matter, as by now the course was well and truly beating me. There seemed to be more hills the second time around (it was exactly the same course) and I was running less and less. By the end of the hills, I was pretty broken, and could only manage a run-walk, probably about 50:50 (although one of my 1km splits was 6:30, compared to what I think of as a fast pace for me of 5:00, and a slow run pace of 6:00, so maybe I was running a bit more than I thought). However, I knew that whatever I did would be just as far, so running would finish it all quicker, which kept me going. I walked the last few smaller hills before it levelled off for the last 500m or so, and then just ran the rest to the finish.

The support in this race was fantastic - all of the marshalls were really encouraging and enthusiastic, although some of their encouragement wasn't always helpful (e.g. not far to go now, near the end of the first bike lap). The finish was just as good, with people cheering and clapping as I finished. The cup of water was also a welcome gift. The goodie bag was one of the better ones, and there were plenty of freebies from Lucozade too. I heard a few people come in after me, so I wasn't last, but it was certainly not my favourite race ever!

I'm not going to rule out any more offroad events (I'll certainly do more runs) but I want to improve my bike technique before I do more multisport offroad.

Run 1*: 0:54:29
Bike: 1:18:28
Run 2: 0:57:58
Total*: 3:10:55

* I suspect these are both 5 minutes longer than they would be, due to me giving everyone else a headstart.

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