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)

Three quarter marathon

Was aiming for a Marathon Pace 32km run. I certainly managed the distance, if not the pace.

Today was another warm day - it didn't feel too bad at first, and that shows in the paces of the first few kilometres, but I quickly found myself slowing as dehydration and hunger (forgot to take food, again!) kicked in. Had the first break in Richmond where I bought a bottle of Lucozade Sport. When I got to the Park ten kilometres later, I found the water fountain at Kingston Gate very useful! At Roehampton Gate, I resorted to using one hand cupped to drink from the tap at the trough (I couldn't push the tap and hold the other hand underneath at the same time!)

With the hills, and traffic, and slowness of hydration, some of the poor pace can be accounted for.

I'll be developing a strategy for coping with this in the race - after all, if my race goes to plan my run will be starting at a similar time as I started today, and Zurich is currently experiencing similar weather to here, so I need to be prepared!

I suspect it will be run 5km, pop a shot blok, slow to a walk to drink water and pour water over head, and repeat. If the heat is really bad I might have to shorten the gaps to 2.5km, but I'd prefer not to have to do that!

Training for the Ironman bike leg

I planned to do a 170km ride as the last really long ride before Ironman Switzerland. Relying on the auto route planning from ridewithgps.com was a mistake1. One of the routes took me to a road marked 'unsuitable for road vehicles' - which means unsuitable for my bike too. Another bit took me to a ford that was a foot and a half deep - I might have gone for it on a mountain bike but, again, not on my road bike.

There were a few slow bits - the usual wait at level crossings, having to break to buy water refills, not to mention top up on energy drink.

However, it was in general far slower than I had hoped. I struggled to get close to 30km/h which I would like to be hitting on average. Temperature was definitely a factor, as was the headwind on the way out (the way out was further than the way back, if the way out is defined as being the route to the furthest point as the crow flies).

My heart rate went quite high too, up to 170 on one of the climbs, always a bad sign!

I bought three litres of water and half a litre of lucozade sport, on top of the original 800ml energy drink and 600ml water. I consumed 6 gels and nearly two whole chocolate brownie Clif Bars.

As I went further and slower than expected, I was going to be later home than I'd told Peta. I didn't want to take my shiny new phone, so relied on a payphone. It swallowed the 60p minimum fee(!) with me hardly saying a word. Luckily Peta phoned me back!

On the ride I went through Henley which was fully geared up for the regatta - didn't seem like any races were going on, but loads of people milling about looking smart.

Lessons learned:

  • Take a second gel flask
  • Take extra energy drink powder
  • chocolate brownie Clif Bars are really difficult to eat
  • Find a cheap PAYG phone to take on rides

Me afterwards, nice salt patches!

1I should have checked it, it's not like any of the sites on the web get it right, suspect it's Google's directions or classifications of roads that are at fault - one example where OpenStreetMap is superior for routing - at least if it gets stuff wrong I can correct it later - bikeroutetoaster uses OSM, but I've suffered too many freezes 3/4 of the way through defining the route to rely on them

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

Long brick session

As we went to a lovely wedding yesterday, the plan for this week was always to rest on Saturday and then do a brick session (bike followed by run) on the Sunday. I didn't feel much like cycling when I left, and the hangover really had its effect later on!

I rode out to Cobham and then across to Westhumble, taking in some reasonable climbs along the way (including of course Box Hill). Total ascent was over 1000m. The full route is at http://ridewithgps.com/routes/92092.

Everything went well until I got to Epsom town centre. As I turned left around a corner I lost all steering and had to quickly just take the bike across the road (there was no traffic coming the other way - I could have braked if there had been, so wasn't disastrous). Early investigation shows no apparent cause - I used the last of the CO2 canister to test the tube - it would take some air, but not much. Might be a hole that only opens up under pressure - will test it with the track pump later. But nothing to indicate why that happened. A quick tube change later (just 10 mins this week, very happy with that) and I was off again, although the bike felt a bit more bumpy - the wheel looks a little uneven around the valve, so need to check that before I can be confident something similar won't happen again - but the bike lasted the next 30km without event.

Once I got to Richmond Park, I slowly transitioned (include a fill of my water bottle) and set off on the run. It was a hot afternoon, and the hills of the park really got to me - I had to frequently stop to drink or even just to rest, which was unusual. It could well have been a lack of fuelling though, as I barely ate on the bike, just drank energy drink. I walked some of the hills too! Anyway, it was a lesson learned - while I wasn't planning not to eat on the bike in racing, the effects were certainly severer than expected today. But a hot day, and dehydration, and a backpack would all combine too. I finished the lap in an all-time slow time of 75 mins (I've done it in an hour). I then headed home (quite slowly, but the real training was done by then)

Pace below is overall pace for the session - the bike pace overall was 02:40, the run pace was 06:34.

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)

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