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Old Deer Park 5k

Headed to Richmond's Old Deer Park for one of the newer parkruns in the calendar. A cold morning, with the grass still looking frosty before 9am. I probably could have warmed up more, as I think my pace suggested I started off slow.

Having said that, I'm pretty pleased with my pacing overall, a gentle progression faster from 04:36 in the first kilometre to 04:15 in the last. Again, was barely overtaken on the run, except for one bloke who I overtook very near the end, accidentally cut up, annoying him enough to give him a final kick to the end (that's what he told me when I apologised at the end).

In the end I got my personal best over 5k, but only by a few seconds - my GPS said I ran 30m long, but also it's a much flatter course, so don't really know if it's a better performance than the last Richmond Park 5k.

It's a very different 5k to the Richmond Park one, as it's so much flatter, but it's still hard enough. Not sure if I'll do it again soon, as I suspect other ones are a bit more interesting, but it's good to do a different race.

Race time (hh:mm:ss): 
Race date: 
18/09/2010 (All day)
Race component: 
Race status: 

Running thoughts

I've realised over the last few weeks that my philosophy of running is changing almost daily - there are so many things I've lost faith in and so many things I've started to consider

Stuff I used to do but don't any more:
* Gait analysis
* Stretching
* Heart rate monitoring

Stuff I do instead
* Focus on good running form, with midfoot strike and high cadence
* Engage the core (I follow the principle of specificity and don't do much additional core work)
* Run by feel, particularly rate of perceived exertion

There are a few things that I think might or might not be sound - barefoot running (I do understand the philosophy, but am happy just aiming towards forefoot strike), paleo diet (it might work, but I'm not convinced that people don't just lose weight because of the strictness of the regime).

I'd like to move up to ultra distances next season, I'm definitely considering the London Ultra race, which is barely ultra at 50 km, but is a step upwards from my one and only marathon. Not sure I'm ready for desert running, but I like the sound of mountain marathons, as well as some of the hillier coastal endurance runs. One step at a time though. But I want to make sure I'm running right for long distances, hence the focus on form and technique, something that is often neglected in running.

London Duathlon Ultra Distance 2010

I wasn't really looking forward to this race. I felt under-prepared (because I was) and had a minor niggle in the form of a tight left outer calf on the last two runs. And my last bike ride was three weeks ago.

However, I had an early night Saturday (I'd had an early night most of the week as jetlag following my return from Australia to be fair) and was up at 6am. Had breakfast and coffee, finished off the last remaining tasks and cycled off to the event. A remarkably quiet ride later, with none of the usual waits at level crossings, and I was in the park, ready to register. I realised after registering that it wasn't even 7.15am, the official opening time.

It was very pretty though

After registering, I racked my bike, and then had around 90 minutes to relax. So I took some more photos, and just sat and chilled out. With thirty minutes to go, I returned to transition, put on the timing chip, and suncream, put on sunglasses and headed to race start. Watched the elite men start, had a quick warm up jog, and then returned to find my fellow racers being herded into the start pens, so joined them. At 9am prompt, Zac Goldsmith started the race and we were underway.

Given my recent form, my race strategy was to take it easy and hang in there until the end. So I aimed for a Rate of Perceived Exertion of 10 out of 20, and to maintain good form, and that was pretty successful - I slowed down going uphill, sped up slightly going downhill, and ran gently on the flat. Plenty of people overtook me, but that was ok, I was just racing myself. As I got past the 5km, my left calf was feeling slightly tight, but as I got past 6km, and the second water stop, disaster struck - I took the water, and realised that as I slowed to drink it, I was blocking people behind me, so moved to the left slightly, and then turned to throw the empty cup in the bin, and then completely missed a tiny little lip between car park and path and tripped over it, sprawling onto my hands and then rolling onto my hip and left calf. For all the pain of completely stacking it, and the accompanying embarrassment, I got up, dusted myself off, and kept running. I quickly realised that although my hands and legs were sore from cuts and grazes, the calf tightness had disappeared completely. The next kilometre downhill was free and easy and I suffered no running problems from my fall, thankfully.

The second lap was much less eventful, same strategy of RPE 10, and that all went fine - I overtook one bloke who had overtaken me on lap one while sounding knackered already but the rest of it is pretty unmemorable. The stats show I went marginally faster, and wasn't the 4th slowest on that particular lap.

Onto the bike, and here the pain in my hands didn't really help matters, but neither did it hinder my performance particularly. Again, my strategy was to maintain a low RPE, and thus hopefully a consistent pace. Also I tried to eat gels regularly, and drink sufficient energy drink and water. Looking at my times, I pretty much succeeded at consistency, but it did get harder. Part of the problem is psychological, I've done plenty of laps around Richmond Park but never more than four in one go before getting bored! Seven was a real stretch!

I found myself treating the laps like a giant interval session, with two intervals (the main Broomfield Hill and then the hill up to Pembroke Lodge) and the rest of the lap the recovery between them to get up them the next time around.

Peta had come to watch me from the start of the bike - I just saw her enter the park at the end of my first lap, and it was good to see her at different points on the course in the following six bike laps. Apparently I spoiled the photos by telling her how many laps I had left too many times. It was good to have that little extra support though.

As I got back to transition, I had a really slow transition, as the walk from bike dismount to my rack was so far and I didn't feel like running in my bike shoes by this point. After a slow change of clothes, it was back onto the run.

Again, I tried to maintain a consistent RPE, still 10, but that translated to a bit slower - the run lap was only five minutes slower in total though. My watch died after just 7 minutes on this lap, so I really was going on feel! At the halfway point, it was great to see Peta again, and had a quick kiss before heading on my way to the finish. I was only overtaken by one other ultra distance competitor, and I overtook a few myself. On this lap I was 103rd on the run, compared to 157th on the first run lap, so I was obviously doing better consistency-wise than others.

It was great to finish and to collect my medal - I was happy with 5:55 overall, especially my poor preparation. I then collected my bike and headed to Pembroke Lodge to meet up with Peta for coffee and ice cream. The ride from the finish to Pembroke Lodge is only 4km, although I had to do it along the footpath as the road was still closed, but it was utterly exhausted, so rather than cycle home, I walked to the train station with Peta.

From my times, my goals of consistency and injury-free running were well met (although I'm in more pain today) - there is about a minute difference between lap 1 and lap 7 on the bike, and five minutes between lap 1 and lap 3 on the run.

We took some photos of my scars

Four weeks later

I rode my bike for the first time in four weeks today, did four laps of Richmond Park. I bonked a little on the last lap, but had a gel and a bar and was ok after that. Pretty pleased with my pace, all things considered.

My goal for the London Duathlon is the least ambitious sounding goal I've ever come up with - to finish before the cutoff. However, as the cutoff is quite aggressive (6h30, I think), it'll be relatively tight. I think I should be able to do the 77km bike in 3 hours, if I get my nutrition right (plan will be energy drink and water bottles, and then one gel per lap). That does leave 3h30 for the run, which is longer than I'd aim for, but Richmond Park is a hilly place, and 30km of that could easily take it out of me. And my training plan for the next fortnight will be runs in Australia when I can, and perhaps the odd swim too.

Ah well, it's only a B race, and if nothing else it will be an endurance training session for the half marathon four weeks later. Which I really need to prepare for - I have no worries about going the distance, but I'd really like to hit 1h45, even if only because that's what the friend I'm racing against will be aiming for too!

Getting back in the groove

Two weeks after Ironman, I've yet to regain my mojo. I have a long duathlon in early September and a half marathon in early October that I need to be prepared for, but so far I've run three times (admittedly one of those was a fast 5k) and swum once. I haven't once got on the bike.

I'm not too bothered, I think it's fairly natural, my motivation to train is diminished (especially swimming - I have no races even planned yet in which I need to swim - but it's the area that has a lot of gains still to come), but I will get back into it.

I'm starting to think in terms of goals for next year - for example, I'd like to get towards a 2:30 olympic triathlon, towards a 3:30 marathon, towards a 20 minute 5k, and get under a 30 minute pool 1500m swim. As I'm 35 this year, I could aim for a 3:15 marathon in the next couple of years and qualify for Boston - I think there's more chance of that than qualifying for Hawaii (slowest M35-39 qualifier in Switzerland was 9h24)!

I plan to work on swim and run technique over the next few months, moving towards a more lightweight run shoe, for example (e.g. my new Brooks Green Silence, pictured here - taken on my phone) and will consider more video swim coaching (as well as going to swim group sessions).

Interesting results from my full Ironman results - I was 386th in the swim, 390th on the bike, and 279th on the run - 346th overall. Guess my bike needs as much work as my swim! Also my first run lap (57 mins was ridiculously fast relative to the other three (all around 70 mins)).

Thought for the day

Unless you're actually fighting for a position, you are competing against your potential yous. Those potential yous might try harder, have a better strategy, give up earlier; beat as many of them as you can!

Ironman Switzerland race report

We arrived in Zurich on Thursday evening and didn't really do much other than get to the hotel and go to bed. Friday we went to see a bit of Zurich in what turned out to be the pouring rain, before Peta returned to the hotel and I went to register and to the compulsory briefing. Registration was very efficient - took me about 5 minutes, and I then had a brief look around the expo, although the rain (or Swiss Franc prices) didn't tempt me to do more than quickly browse. The race briefing was very thorough, and was well worth attending for my first Ironman. In the evening I went on the Nirvana-provided coach tour of the bike route, which didn't help my confidence much but did help me realise that the hills were long and that I should take them easy and treat them with respect.

On Saturday we took it easy with a trip to Rapperswil by ferry, a quick pizza lunch and then the ferry trip back, before I took my bike to transition. Again, considering they were photographing every athlete with their bikes for security reasons, this was remarkably quick. I headed back to the hotel and we then went for a meal at the local trattoria, which was great food, although the one waiter was rushed off his feet serving everyone and it all took a little longer than I'd hoped. Got to bed just after 11, and set my alarm for 04:15!

When the alarm went off I got up, headed down for a couple of bowls of muesli and a coffee, and then went back to the room to pick up my bags and drinks ready for the race. The coach left the hotel at 5am, and headed to the Ibis to pick up the other Nirvana athletes. They were loaded on, some spectators were unloaded to make room, and we set off, arriving at the race site around 05:40. Once at the race site it didn't take long to set up my transition area and so I put my wetsuit on and headed to the swim warm up which was supposed to open at 6am, according to the race briefing. It finally opened at 06:15, and after a quick trip to the loos I entered the water, which was beautiful - lovely and warm and clear. I didn't swim very far, just enough to feel loose and ready to go.

After the pro start, they let us into the water at 2 minutes to go, but I hadn't even got to the start line before the race had started, but I didn't mind too much - better a little behind at the back than cramped up in the biff at the front. I found plenty of feet to draft off, I sighted well, and even the buoys weren't too much of a fight. Had a couple of very minor knocks, but nothing race affecting. The channel onto the island at the end of lap one was ridiculously narrow and shallow, and I just pulled myself along the bottom using my hands, ran across the island, back in the water for lap 2. Lap two was fine too, other than the end again - this time the other side of the narrow channel, it got very congested and I was stopped at one point. I thought I could stand on the bottom, but it was too deep and this just gave me massive cramp. This caused me to panic a little, but I remembered to bend my foot and keep swimming - creates more drag and I had to thrash a bit, but by the time I was out the water the cramp was gone and I headed to T1.

T1 was ok, except that I forgot to put on my HRM before putting my gel flasks in my pockets - and the flasks fell out when putting the HRM which cost a little time (probably only fifteen seconds really). The main thing was that I was on the bike within 90 minutes, which was pretty much my swim target, so I was happy there.

Bike was a great ride, if it had been one lap rather than two it would have been a very pleasant ride in the country. I was very pleased with my uphill performance, I overtook loads of people going up (most of them on heavy timetrial bikes who then proceeded to get me back on the flat or downhills). Not bad considering my easiest gear refused to engage (not sure if the hanger got bent on the way over or something). The Beast was nowhere near as bad as it had been made out - it was no worse than a slightly longer, but more gentle, Box Hill. Heartbreak Hill wasn't too steep either, and I took quite a few people here. I was suffering major stomach cramps at the start of lap two, and I wondered if I could survive until 120km where the next toilet was. However, I made it and after a pit stop I got back on the bike feeling nicely rested, ready for the next 60km. My bike pretty much followed race plan, which was to enjoy the flats and make the most of the downhills and tailwinds. Some people were a bit annoying and were too close to the middle of the road to overtake easily, perhaps I should have passed them earlier.

Finished the bike a little under 6 hours 30, so after around 8 hours, and had hopes for a sub-12 hour result at this point.

Doing a marathon is hard (I speak only from this one experience). I felt after 2km as if I'd already run 20km, which was a worry. My early pace was strong, and I was still on for a four hour marathon by the end of lap one, although it was close. However, I was suffering from the heat quite badly, and was very thirsty (perhaps I should have drank more on the bike?), so was having to stop at pretty much every aid station. Even the kilometres when I wasn't stopping, I had slowed significantly. By the end of lap two my dreams of a sub-12 finish were fading (as I'd only had these dreams for a few hours it wasn't too bad) and I just had to dig in to complete the race. If the aid stations had been less frequent I'd have had to go to a run-walk strategy, but as it was, I just ran in between them all and walked the stations.

By the third lap my stomach had settled a little too, and as I started counting down kilometres to go, it started to feel better,
until the fourth lap which I managed to almost enjoy (having a blister from wet feet from all the sponges for the last 5km did not help though) - the temperature had cooled too, and I didn't need as much energy, so managed to skip a few aid stations. Finishing the run in around 4:20 was not a bad result under the circumstances.

You can see me finish - search for 1465.

Final time was 12 hours 17 minutes. I was very happy to pull that out from the depths of the second run lap.

So, I am now officially an Ironman! It's been a great journey over the last eight months to get here, I won't be doing it again this year, and probably won't do another one abroad next year, but haven't ruled out further challenges. Middle distance triathlon is now officially my favourite though, Long distance is loooooong. Thanks to everyone who has supported me or trained with me!

Ironman! taken by Paul

I do believe I have the potential to do much better in future, I think I could shave at least 20 minutes off each of the splits with better technique in the swim, better bike fitness and more endurance for the run, but I am proud of what I have achieved and the training that I have done so far - saying I can do better is just accepting that I still have untapped potential and working to reduce my limiters and build on my strengths (such as being able to endure a 12 hour race) will not be a waste - I am still far off my potential peak.

Richmond Park 5k

I have read that as well as endurance, training for and doing an Ironman can get you some speed. I certainly noticed that in a training run after Bala when I accidentally did a personal best over 5km

This time, I thought I'd actually plan for that, and decided to go along to the Richmond park parkrun, that I've done once before. It's a hilly 5km run, with much of the down in the first couple of kms and much of the up in the last couple of kms, so you have to judge your pace well. Last time I did get a tip about that prior to the race, and paced it well.

I thought I paced this run very well - the first couple of kms were comfortable, but making as much use of the downhill as possible to get my speed up. The last couple of kms really were just hanging in there until the end. The only way I know to judge how well my race is going on such a variable slope course is by other people. Noone overtook me in the last couple of kilometres, and most of those who did after the first kilometre, I overtook back later on (everyone is pretty much in the right order by the end of the first km).

The official time was 22:27, a personal best by 58 seconds, which was staggeringly good. Conditions were almost ideal with a light rain. Obviously I should be able to do better on a flatter course, and maybe soon I'll be able to realistically sign up for the sub-20 minute 5k thread on TriTalk.

Richmond is easily the easiest parkrun for me to get to, as it's just a short tube ride to Richmond and then a 15 minute walk to the park from the station, which forms part of the warm up. But I will try and go to some of the other nearby ones too, at Kingston, along the river, Bushy Park and Wimbledon Common - and those are just the ones within about 10km of me - all of which are an easy bike.

Race time (hh:mm:ss): 
Race date: 
31/07/2010 (All day)
Race component: 
Race status: 

Ironman Switzerland - 1 week to go

This time next week, if things are going to plan, I should be at the tail end of the marathon that concludes Ironman Switzerland.

I fly to Switzerland on Thursday, ready for a day of registering and briefing and shopping on Friday, and a day of rest (well, sightseeing) and racking on Saturday.

I've done my last big swim, my last big brick, everything now will be short for the taper. In terms of preparation, I could have done better - there are weeks that barely register an hour in the training log. On the flip side, there are four weeks where I did more than 14 hours.

In total I've done
Swim: 61 hours, 118km (nearly 30 IM swim legs)
Bike: 95 hours, 2143km (about 12 IM bike legs)
Run: 70 hours, 740km (about 18 IM run legs)

We'll see next week whether that's enough to do a decent time - I'd like to do under 13 hours, ideally quite a bit under. Finishing, however, will be acceptable - if the last few weeks have taught me anything it's not to underestimate the heat over that duration and distance.

Thought for the day

Running is better than walking; walking is better than stopping; stopping is better than giving up.

And that's how I'll get through my marathon next weekend - any way I can that stops me from giving up.

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