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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

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!)

Box hill loop

Out to Box Hill via Cobham and Effingham, and then back via Epsom. Traffic around Hampton Court was dreadful, and I still have no clue how to get around Kingston's one way system using the cyclepaths to keep me out of the way of the three lane ringroad.

Started off quite nice weather, but that deteriorated, luckily quite late in the ride, the last 30km were a bit wet, but I had my gilet and armwarmers, thankfully.

Some of the descents were terrifying, had to apply the brakes almost constantly as the road surfaces weren't good, the roads were winding and I'm not at all confident going downhill these days.

Happily, the wind was in my favour too, into the wind on the way out, but with the wind on the way back, I had some major assistance going up some of the hills which was nice!

It was a good ride, and I found myself enjoying myself on quite a few occasions!

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.

To the Windmill via Richmond Park returning via Beverley Brook

It took a good while to warm up today - my legs only really felt good after 7km, which was interesting - no need to worry too much if the start doesn't feel so good.

This was the shorter version of last weekend's run - up through Mortlake to Sheen Gate rather than the long loop around the Thames and Richmond Park. Did manage to get thoroughly lost in Barnes Common to add an extra km onto the run.

Was happy with my pace on a warmish morning - I pushed a few parts to target marathon pace (05:15) and felt very comfortable most of the run (except my shoulders, bizarrely).

To the Windmill via the Thames and Richmond Park returning via Beverley Brook

Took the very long way to the windmill, taking the Thames as far as the turn off for Petersham Gate, then into the park, around the outside to Robin Hood Gate, and then into Wimbledon Common, up to the Windmill and then back via Putney Heath, Putney Park Lane and Barnes Common, finally onto the Beverley Brook trail.

Felt pretty good most of the way around, even with the hills and a final progression push for the last 2km (which worked better for the first of the two, although the bridge probably impeded the second a little).

Boosted my confidence after the last two weekend long runs where I didn't meet my goals - here I had two copout options - an Oyster card in my pocket, and the option of continuing around Richmond Park rather than heading into the hills of Wimbledon Common. However, I felt strong enough not to need either, in spite of the 10km yesterday which was supposed to put some tiredness in my legs!

Long run to Teddington Lock and back a bit.

I was hoping to do 16km out, 16km back. Conditions were not in my favour (I don't really get on with running in the heat), and there are probably some lessons for the marathon itself - I was dehydrated with no easy way of fixing this, I didn't take any nutrition. Also the river at Richmond was packed - obviously the marathon will be too but at least they'll be heading in the same vague direction with fewer bikes and pushchairs. I realised I was fairly beat at the turnaround point and hoped to make it back to Richmond to refuel - however, I flagged before that far, and a stop at a public toilets to wash my face, dampen my scalp and sip some water didn't seem to be enough. By this point my achilles was making its presence known so I called it a day soon after as I realised I didn't even have the energy to fight through the crowds a second time. I caught the tube back from Richmond (I had realised I might need to do this so had my oyster card).

There are some reasonable excuses for my poor performance - I haven't run in two weeks, trying to recover my achilles, and have been skiing the last week - which meant poor nutrition and hydration (i.e. great food and drink, just not for athletics) and destruction of quads and calves - and have picked up a minor cold further decreasing hydration and probably energy. I expect to have the latter two issues go away shortly, and then it's just a case of minimising impact to achilles by shorter runs and more cross training.

Next time, I'll take some gels and plan a route that involves a hydration stop or three. On the day that will be less of a problem!

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