Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Outlaw 2017 ...race report




Overall impression of the race: freindly, familiar and well organised. I wont say "low key" as I wouldn't wish to give the impression that the organistaion was anything less than 100% professional or that there was anything lacking in terms of provision for competitors - it's just done in a more heart-felt and way with a more relaxed and personal kind of atmosphere (and on a slightly smaller scale too, to be fair)....With a lot of tri clubs involved on the volunteering aspects of the weekend, and making a bit of a social out of it too,  it reminded me of very happy days coming up here for the Club Sprint Relays champs a looong time ago as a newbie triathlete.

The race organiser gets p1$$ed off when he hears people talk of the race as an "easy version of Ironman", and yes - 226km of racing on any course is as hard as you chosoe to make it! However, the swim condtions are very favourable, the bike course about as flat as it could be, and ditto the run -  I'd estimate that with equivalent fitness it'd take about 50min -1hr (or, say, 10%) less time to get around than a lumpy course like IMUK ....and probably about 30 mins faster than an "average" kind of a course.

My fitness going into the race probably about 15-20% less than i'd like it to be going into "race" ... so I was expecting to get through it in about 10.5hrs, avoiding the front end of the race, and gathering data  to inform my next training block towards Kona.
Arrived later than I'd hoped after a busy week at work and 5 hrs in traffic, in the nick of time to register, put up tent, quick dip in the lake and then eat the lunch that i'd not got around to before the rain started. It rained a lot. All weekend. There was lots of talk about the - ever changing- weather forecast. It kept raining.

The Swim: still a mass start ,which i've not expereeinced for a long time. Has not lost any of the craziness - from the start gun just ridiculous, frantic kicking and punching and pushing and shoving. Kept head down, protected face. Occasionally got a stroke in here or there - it didn't really matter as the thrashing foam of limbs would carry you along anyway.   Managed to weave through by pushing legs aside to clearer water ( clear of limbs - not "clear" clear. it's disticntly goose poo coloured) and then at about the 400m point crash into a wall of slow moving bodies. What?!? these guys must have just put themselves on the front line, smashed that first 400...and then come to almost stationary when they ran out of puff!!  Continued to swim the very lengthy length of the lake, easy pace...occaisonal draft, occasionally alongside someone. Found that with a little more effort at the back of the stroke,  could pull ahead of most people who I found myself awkwardly face to face and sharing air with. On the whole bi-lateral breathing...evereyone and then going for a surge to catch a group of swimmers ahead and then cruising on feet. Nice to have company rather then getting droped by the [ack after 200m! Was pleasantly surprised to notice that my watch read 59min in T1. (=slightly short swim)

The Bike: it's 180km. about 600m ascent. pretty much featureless. Luckily for me i had company from the film crew for a bit of interest every now and then, and feeding me a bit of info about my position.  other than that i was really just fixing my mind of maintaining 34kph average, and doing sums. I wanted a 5:20 bike split.  By midway i'd almost caught the leading female & felt that it' had taken a rather long time. The single hill on the course provded me an oppurtunity to really close the gap, and she came into sight - i put in a 10 minute burst of effort to try and put her off the idea of chasing me (i really didnt want to have to race!) and that seemed to work. I went back to my zone. or a bit below because then i was feeling kinda tired and hungry  (i found that i was eating more than usual in this race) but mostly aching and a bit bored. At about 110km a little rocket in female form belted past me,  ....kinda like i had the last girl to be fair. but fast! I was really only just hanging onto my pace so wasnt in any kind of mood to go chasing. I was getting a bit irritated by the film moto, and it started raining a bit, and then a local cycle club decided to come and join in the race, riding as a group, 2-3 abreast and blocking. dangerous and inconsiderate, given how generous i'd seen the moto refs were being with the drafting cards. Yes, i was grumpy... and glad to turn into the rough section of track that  marks the final 3km or so of the bike course. That was kinda slow, i'd already been driven into a big pot hole which caused my bars to slip by that naughty cycle club, so took it real gingerly along there. I could see that i'd narrowly missed my 5:20 target. but that's ok.
In T2 we heard that I was 10 mins behind the leader - crickey  -she'd put 10 mins into me in the last 70km or so of the bike course - how fast had she gone?!! That was enough of a gap to put any thoughts of runing her down out of my head ( luckily!!)

The Run: i like running - i always feel more relaxed once the bike is over and i'm through it without collision or mechanical trouble. On feet all that can go wrong is....er, well - the feet. and the legs. and the tummy too i suppose. It's not fun, ever, but it's just a case of getting on with it. I'd not really looked at the run course in any deatil - i knew that we'd be going round the lake a lot...but also into Nottingham a bit, which i wanted to be a surprise, at least on the first time through. I was looking forwrad to that part. I managed to hold a decent pace for the first lap (21km), and felt pretty much alright up to that point.  I decided that this would make a really nice half marathon route. I didnt so much fancy going round again, especially now I'd seen what Nottingham had to offer (coke and gels!) and that the narrow and muddy footapth was full of other people, and the mud well churned up. Additionally to the other peopel racing, the path was also filled with a lot of spectators and general walkers. And at one point, three people on ponies.  I guess it helped to keep the mind occupied!! My wheels really fell off at about 25km... things started getting a bit walky and a bit huffy puffy - even at slow speeds. I strated eating things like jaffa cakes and crisps. You know it's all over then, right? Was passed by one (or two ?) women as I stopped to stretch my achilles, remove the chip and have a little faff about. Stopping even between aid stations! It was interseting (you might think not all that surprising!) that 25-26km is about the usual distance i've been covering on my "long runs". ha!  Obvious - you say ...but for the past however many years, this has been the case. But I was also racing a lot more frequently then and I suppose I'd just carried that run endurance from each race into the next. Well, apparently no longer can I get away with that.  But that's relatively easy to fix...and realising things like this was the real point of doing this event ...so i just continued on as best i could manage to keep the pace not too far over 5mins/km whilst i was running, and trying to move steadily through them when walking the aid stations (and other parts).

   The race finishes with a double lap of the lake, which is great because it's flat and you pass a lot of supporters. but it's a long way round! as I started my first of the "last laps" the lead woman was announced as having completing that lap and about to start her final lap.... so, i calculated in my weary brain, by this time she was about 20 mins ahead of me.    At this point I knew I was 3rd - and saw what i thought was 2nd female not too far ahead of me. I focused on reeling her in...and was able to pass her before the end of that 5km lake lap. This focus brought my pace back up a bit too, and I was starting to enjoy myself, despite feeling very tired and having very sore legs. Becx was standing at the start of the final lap, and informed me that "2nd place is about 10 seconds ahead" . What? I AM second place, I said. nope. i'd actually just been chasing someone who was still in their first half marathon ,and a looong way behond me ....so I chased some more. Really chased! It got to about a mile to go... i didn't want to risk making the pass too soon and provoking her to come back at me. I was too tired for that !  So I  waited and waited, behind her. With  1km left I went - as hard as i could, and didnt look behind , just kept running at full pelt to the finish. It was kinda fun, really painful fun, to actually be racing...

Overall finishing in 10:03 was better than I expected. I DID not expect to get trounced by a 53 year old...and to be honest it's not much of a consulation that Gill Fullen is a no ordinatry 53 year old (read her story) ... So, I think I will try to get fit for Kona :o)



Saturday, 19 November 2016

ironman weymouth 2016


Having raced the course as it was as a Challenge event in 2012 and 2013, I was very much familiar with the swim and run portions, and the general layout of the race venue. Under the new Ironman banner, significant changes had been made to the bike course though; aligning it more to the typical terrain of the Jurassic coast, and overlapping in part with the original Ironman UK (Sherbourne) course. A big improvement in the aesthetic of the ride, though undeniably increasing it’s difficulty. Since it’s not too far to travel to Weymouth from my home, I’d made 3 trips to the area for the purpose of recce rides prior to the race. The first of which, back in April, was a bit of a shock to my rather out of shape system … I recall having to stop for a breather at least twice around the 90km loop! 

Needless to say, my fitness improved somewhat over the course of the long summer build up, and by race-day I was ready for a shot at my goal of a Kona slot. This is not to say that there weren’t doubts: I’ve training ‘differently’ (i.e less!!) through 2016 for a number of reasons… and it had been a long time since I’d been on the start line of a race where the outcome was of real importance to me. Probably a full year - racing the Challenge version of this race, as the ETU long course champs and my final “hurrah” as a Pro. 

My routine has always been to get a swim, a ride and a run done of the morning of Race Eve prior to racking…but the weather was terrible, and so on this occasion I skipped that routine rather than get drenched. The brake set-up on the Dassi had been a little temperamental for the last of my few rides…but a short test ride down the road during a brief break in the weather indicated that all was fine, no need for more tinkering….and I handed it over to rack. 

Wearing a 4-digit race number was rather unfamiliar, having to rack my bike in the huge corral amongst so many others, and hang my bags somewhere in the middle of 2000 others. All gave me good cause to worry over minute details of the upcoming race day…which is nothing new. I now accept this fretting as part of my pre -race routine, and would be lost without it, In reality, I’ve done this enough times to be quite relaxed about whatever comes up during the actual race, and pretty sure that I’d perfectly ably locate my bike and bags…but, still - that part of my brain enjoys dissecting the possibilities of what COULD go wrong. 

As usual I had the great fortune to be staying at my friends cottage in the nearby village of Combe Keynes - allowing me very relaxed couple of days before the race. I prefer to be a little out of town and able to measure out the dosage of The Hype that i’ m exposed to pre race-  i.e other people’s anxieties. It’s great to catch up with the many acquaintances and familiar faces that I always see at events, but important for me that i’m able to retreat and escape it - to organise my kit, my thoughts and then turn on a  mindless TV show or distract myself with some work. 


Ellie had travelled down to support Suzie ( Big Suz) in the pro race, and her friend Andy, racing for a Kona slot in the full. This meant I was also to benefit from her superb support all day too :o) 
We watched the pros off, and then got ready for our start. This was my first experience of the Rolling race start….and I found it confusing - there was no distant starters order…but it just became apparent that people were already swimming …with chip timing there was no rush to get in the water, in theory…but from a “tactical” point of view I didn’t want to be too far behind the better swimmers, if indeed they had chosen to position themselves in front.  
It did however make for a pretty pleasant swimming experience - no panic, time to get into my swimming, and find  similar paced swimmers to group up with. The conditions were absolutely beautiful - in stark contrast to both of my previous experiences swims at this location! My swim time was pretty good, considering it was mostly at a pleasant pace, and I lead my age group out of the water. It was nice that there were plenty of kit bags surrounding mine in T1 for a change!

Unusually, race day was combined with the 70.3 distance event, which actually had about twice he number of competitors than the full Ironman. Only this 70.3 race had  Pros racing ( the Ironman being AG only) and this is the only reason that I can think of for starting both distances at the same time the full - to enable the professionals a clear run at the courses rather than having to negotiate through the slower field of Ironman racers. I’d certainly support that decision - to give the pros a fair race - but seriously question whether sending the amateur 70.3 athletes out on the same gun as the Ironman starters. The very predictable result of this is that the fast Ironman athletes  - those actually “racing” the event for age group wins and Kona slots - quickly caught up with the very back markers of the half distance. 

I felt really strong on the bike, and able to ride relatively hard. There was, as predicted by the logistics, a constant line of 70.3 athletes out on the road to get past.  Keeping in mind that these people were starting their ride at the same time as us, having swum only half the distance, you can imagine that their pace on the bike was not especially urgent either. They were riding two or more abreast at times, having conversations along the way! It was necessary therefor to remain super alert, and constantly shouting warnings and reminders to “please ride on the left”. I heard one or two more amped up Ironman athletes being pretty aggressive about this - a little unkind perhaps, but perfectly understandable. It was a frustrating situation. I had to laugh when one 70.3 athlete responded to my request that he move over to allow me to pass with the comment “oh, to save yourself two seconds? chill out!!”   … I’d have like to point out that if each of the 1200 competitors in the 70.3 race all cost me 2 seconds, that would be 40 minutes, which I would like to save  …..but of course it took me far too long to do that mental arithmetic with my “race brain” on!!   And, on reflection, that first lap spent passing a constant stream of 2-3 riders abreast surely provided a good slip-stream to ride in, as well as the psychological effect of constantly passing people, which on the whole provided quiet pleasant exchange of encouragement that my pro racing ( mostly very solitary rides) had lacked. 

I was only about 20km into the first lap when I failed to notice and rode directly into a pot-hole, loosing my gel flask before I’d even touched a drop of my nutrition. A draw back of this system, which to be fair has worked well for me to date as it saves the need of storing, opening and discarding the packets of 8-10 Powerbar Gels, but it does pretty much put all my eggs (aside from 2 caffeinated gels, and a mars bar that I carry separately) in the one basket. So I had to make a stop at the next aid station, and pick up a supply of bars (they didn’t have gels) - which are not my preferred type of race food, but would have to do today. I was pleased that I’d made the decision to put on my Reko cycle jersey in T1, and therefor had pockets which I could fill up. 

As I rode I was also aware of the rubbing of brakes - the ones that i  thought i’d adjusted pretty well prior to race day. In retrospect it’s likley that hitting the pot hole knocked my wheel a bit, and with very little tolerance in the very aero design on my Dassi TT bike, the rim was now rubbing against the brakes on each revolution. I did my best to put this out of my mind,…but of course in race situations, these things are had to ignore, and actually become a bit of an obsession! I knew I wasn’t carrying the correct tool (inexplicably these brake require a T10 to loosen the cable, and I’d decided against the minute extra weight of carrying one with me) to fix it. I considered stopping a the mobile mechanics…but reckoned that it’d be unlikely even that they had one. or it would take too long to find it. Instead I just rode on. My friend Naomi who’s also living out at Combe Keynes, a fine ultra athlete herself and hardened Iron-supporter was waiting about 40km in, told me that I was in 5th position and had a big lead on my age group. I wasn’t keen to stop again. 

As we turned for our second lap, and the 70.3 competitors had all returned to T2, the roads were suddenly rather lonely! After several km of riding on my own, I decided to stop and see if i could resolve the rubbing brakes at the side of the road. There wasn’t much I could do other than attempt to re-align the wheel…as I was doing so at the side of the road, a girl, apparently attached to the rear wheel of a guy passed. That looked a bit closer than necessary to me, so back on my bike I rode behind a while before pulling up alongside and suggesting that she created a little gap as i passed them. I’m not sure that she understood me, as her response was quite a big grin!!  We passed on another a couple more times, depending on terrain, and I made a further stop to adjust my brakes ) which to my frustration, i’d managed to make a lot worse in my first attempt to fix… she seemed pretty determined to stick with her man, who was a British guy and so I assume not know to her. I just put it out of my mind - there wasn’t anything I could do about it, and at the end of the day, she was not in my age group. She didn’t look likely to be a fantastic runner. Elle’s fried Andy caught up with me near the end of the second lap, I guess he’d not been having a great day so far. To be honest by that time I was “feeling’ it - the 180km course has a total of over 2000m ascent, delivered in a unrelenting series of smaller climbs - and fed up listening to my damn brakes stealing the pithy watts I was putting out!  Thankfully, the last 10km of the course was a nice long descent back to town on the coast. 

I was unsure of what position I was in hitting the run, I think still in 5th. I was also unsure of what sort of pace I’d be able to sustain for the marathon on the very little running I’d been able to do over the summer. But still, I set off at an optimistic pace glad for the support of the crowds there, in pursuit of the women ahead of me. I knew for sure that there were none in my age group, but had no idea how close behind my competition might be.  I had my super supporters Ellie and Naomi out there to feed me the info I wanted as well as my drinks. Naomi was confident that I had a gap, but wisely kept quiet about how big it was at that point! Over the first half of the run I passed a couple of women and was holding 3rd place into the 3rd lap, That’s when I decide to take a loo stop….and at that point was passed by another girl (AG35-39) . I caught up to her and we ran together for a half lap, back from the far point of the beach towards the town, it was good to have something t focus on other than the discomfort in my legs, and good for my pace. We pushed each other along a bit, until we passed her husband, who with a very loud voice encouraged her “ if  you’re going to go - go now”   she was chasing two in her AG group up ahead, and only had about 10 km left to do it in. I also encouraged her to push on…and she did. Feeling pretty secure of my own position in AG by that point, and was holding a tough pace without the “need” to do so, I watched her slowly pull away. I suppose after that, I slowed down. She went on to catch and pass one of the girls ahead of her, and placed second overall.  

The “apparent” drafter was 3rd, and in retrospect I’m annoyed that I’d not fought a bit more to beat her on the run… my marathon time was 3:30 dead, and although that effort felt just as hard at the time as my best runs ever have, iIm sure that with one less loo stop and a bit more motivation to suffer the podium was attainable. 
But…Overall I was pleased with my performance, enjoyed it too and successfully earned a Kona slot, These were my 3 intended outcomes, and to be honest the fact that I hadn’t really prepared myself, mentally or physically, for more is what prevented me from “fighting” harder for that podium spot. 

A very nice way to end the season, picking up a lai and an entry to the Dream Race with over year to get myself in the best shape for it. 



Saturday, 29 October 2016

week 52


Yes, it's week 52 in the training diary and  officially the end of my 2016 season. As usual i’m reviewing the data in my training log, and my thoughts on the races and events this season. 

Blogging has been intermittent, mainly due to the increase in coaching work over the last 2 years.  I’ll make an attempt at an update for the second half of my racing season, which actually has been the most interesting in terms of my own increased level of focus (towards the goal of Kona slot at Weymouth) and the variety of races and activities I managed to take on around this. I'll do this over a few seperate posts. 


As seems to be a theme this year, I felt that I only “just” came into shape to race in time…and spent my “taper” period wishing that i’d advanced the process because the training was just starting to become fun!!  In retrospect this has probably “always” been the case ….and is probably the best case scenario. When you enjoy 8 hour training days, and have the ability to arrange your working schedule to allow 3-4 of those a week, is when you’re most likely to get yourself overtrained - so that “sweet spot” is best kept short, and fresh for race day. 

Unfortunately, the other way to put this is that it’s best that training feels difficult, the routine very tiring and the whole process a lot of hard work not  a lot of fun, for *most* of the preparation period before for your key race! 

This year’s antidote to this, which due to a generally more relaxed approach to my race performances, was a continued development of my off road riding ….not nearly as much as I’d have liked, but I was able to take part in the Aggregate 100km Gravel race (and flukily “win” it) and then The 3Peaks cyclocross race - a unique, gruelling, fantastic experience which I’d like to write about separately sometime. Actually, this took place after Ironman Weymouth…now that I think about it. 

So…going back to talking about triathlon races, and chronological order ….Xman XXX really was the kick start to my training campaign for Ironman Weymouth. The event that I had forked out a lot of quid to do, and was the key event of my season. The goal being to win my age group, and pick up a slot for the Ironman World Championships. There was certainly a period in my preparation for that ( read back two paragraphs!) when I decided that I didn’t want to go to Kona, or specifically didn’t want to have to get in shape to do another Ironman. And then a period where I didn’t really expect p qualify anyway. Training, compared to the previous 7 years, was not going well…. very few long rides and nothing specific, a persistent niggle in my foot that limited my running to only every few days and 16-18km at a time. Although there was a joyous period when my swim pace did improve …


Through the association of Team Reko with Freak Events, I’ve had many opportunities to get out and race this year. I have to admit that I took a rather relaxed approach to these races - even so, each event provided a great boost of invigoration, and somewhat reassured me that I wasn’t quite so unfit, or slow….and I’d just have to be prepared to push it a little more on the one day of the year. Race day. 

There will be full a report of Ironman Weymouth to follow.... but the outcome was good. I enjoyed the race, from start to finish ( aside from a few moments/hours of frutsration with my bike) and although did not push for podium, won my age group and the privilege of handing over my credit card to Ironman once again the following day ...to accpet my age group slot for Kona 2017. 

2016, my first year as a 40 year old, my return to amatuer racing in a nutshell? I got through it on the minimum effective dose ... which still gives me a small feeling of guilt. This is my problem though..."minimum efective dose" is actaully the optimum!  I was able to get the outcome I was aiming for without having to do too much of what I didnt want to do, and fit it around a lot of stuff that I DID want to do. Essentially, it's been a year off. 

Next year, the outcome goal is a bit more ambitious...Iand the "minimum effective dose" to achive that will be significantly more arduous. So if 2016 has been a bit of a break, I feel it's been a break that was needed....and has had the secondary benefit of demonstrating what really is necessary, and what is not in terms of getting in shape - potential areas where I will improve on " good enough"  with a return to my previous focus in training, and the bits that really didnt seem to make a great deal of difference!! 



week 52


Yes, it's week 52 in the training diary and  officially the end of my 2016 season. As usual i’m reviewing the data in my training log, and my thoughts on the races and events this season. 

Blogging has been intermittent, mainly due to the increase in coaching work over the last 2 years.  I’ll make an attempt at an update for the second half of my racing season, which actually has been the most interesting in terms of my own increased level of focus (towards the goal of Kona slot at Weymouth) and the variety of races and activities I managed to take on around this. I'll do this over a few seperate posts. 


As seems to be a theme this year, I felt that I only “just” came into shape to race in time…and spent my “taper” period wishing that i’d advanced the process because the training was just starting to become fun!!  In retrospect this has probably “always” been the case ….and is probably the best case scenario. When you enjoy 8 hour training days, and have the ability to arrange your working schedule to allow 3-4 of those a week, is when you’re most likely to get yourself overtrained - so that “sweet spot” is best kept short, and fresh for race day. 

Unfortunately, the other way to put this is that it’s best that training feels difficult, the routine very tiring and the whole process a lot of hard work not  a lot of fun, for *most* of the preparation period before for your key race! 

This year’s antidote to this, which due to a generally more relaxed approach to my race performances, was a continued development of my off road riding ….not nearly as much as I’d have liked, but I was able to take part in the Aggregate 100km Gravel race (and flukily “win” it) and then The 3Peaks cyclocross race - a unique, gruelling, fantastic experience which I’d like to write about separately sometime. Actually, this took place after Ironman Weymouth…now that I think about it. 

So…going back to talking about triathlon races, and chronological order ….Xman XXX really was the kick start to my training campaign for Ironman Weymouth. The event that I had forked out a lot of quid to do, and was the key event of my season. The goal being to win my age group, and pick up a slot for the Ironman World Championships. There was certainly a period in my preparation for that ( read back two paragraphs!) when I decided that I didn’t want to go to Kona, or specifically didn’t want to have to get in shape to do another Ironman. And then a period where I didn’t really expect p qualify anyway. Training, compared to the previous 7 years, was not going well…. very few long rides and nothing specific, a persistent niggle in my foot that limited my running to only every few days and 16-18km at a time. Although there was a joyous period when my swim pace did improve …


Through the association of Team Reko with Freak Events, I’ve had many opportunities to get out and race this year. I have to admit that I took a rather relaxed approach to these races - even so, each event provided a great boost of invigoration, and somewhat reassured me that I wasn’t quite so unfit, or slow….and I’d just have to be prepared to push it a little more on the one day of the year. Race day. 

There will be full a report of Ironman Weymouth to follow.... but the outcome was good. I enjoyed the race, from start to finish ( aside from a few moments/hours of frutsration with my bike) and although did not push for podium, won my age group and the privilege of handing over my credit card to Ironman once again the following day ...to accpet my age group slot for Kona 2017. 

2016, my first year as a 40 year old, my return to amatuer racing in a nutshell? I got through it on the minimum effective dose ... which still gives me a small feeling of guilt. This is my problem though..."minimum efective dose" is actaully the optimum!  I was able to get the outcome I was aiming for without having to do too much of what I didnt want to do, and fit it around a lot of stuff that I DID want to do. Essentially, it's been a year off. 

Next year, the outcome goal is a bit more ambitious...Iand the "minimum effective dose" to achive that will be significantly more arduous. So if 2016 has been a bit of a break, I feel it's been a break that was needed....and has had the secondary benefit of demonstrating what really is necessary, and what is not in terms of getting in shape - potential areas where I will improve on " good enough"  with a return to my previous focus in training, and the bits that really didnt seem to make a great deal of difference!! 



Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Xman XXX full distance Tri, Exmoor

The site of the long standing Half Ironman (aka 70.3) event, and one of my favourite places in the summertime, I’ve often pondered the possibility of racing a full distance race from the venue. Renowned as one of the toughest courses on the 70.3 circuit, even that race stays close to the venue which is barely the edge of the moor, whereas with 180km to play with, there is a whole lot more fantastic riding to explore. So it was with real excitement that I heard of Xman Events ’s proposals to stage their first Iron-distance race from the venue, and much curiosity as to where they’d take the route.  There would have been a few options to make it a more “average” ride, around the area  - the lake is within 30 miles of the  pan-flat Somerset Levels after all – but my hope was that they’d make the most of the stunning scenery and quiet roads one finds by heading deeper onto Exmoor.
Being locals themselves, of course this is what they did, and what fantastic a route they chose. 

Fantastic, but with ~4000m of climbing on the bike route, and an entirely off-road marathon this would by no means be an easy feat. The fastest athletes could expect to take 2 hours more than they might on a regular iron-distance course, and the organisers weren’t shy in their statement that they expected a high proportion of the field would NOT finish at all. We needed all the daylight that was available, so as dawn broke on Sunday 31st July 2016, approximately 50 competitors started arriving to organise their equipment in transition for the adventure that lay ahead of them in the inaugural  XXX Extreme Triathlon

SWIM 
The weather forecast was good and the early morning air reflected that, as we listened to the final race briefing, surveyed the flat calm waters of Wimbleball lake and contemplated 4 laps of the triangular course that had been set out for us. A few people said that they thought it looked rather far –but, don’t people always think that?? 19 or 20 degrees and still, we had perfect conditions. I positioned myself close to the front and got a good start, remaining inside a pack for most of my first lap. Though not a strength of mine, my swim training in the pool has been going well recently, and I have been fortunate to have had quite a bit of open water swimming experience in my new BlueSeventy Helix suit thanks to the races with Team Reko, organised by Freak Events through the summer.  I felt I was swimming well – drafting off one swimmer for most of my second lap, before their exit point (for the popular Intro distance race) at half way. As I swam I felt relatively strong but relaxed and able to enjoy the sight of ducks flying in “V” formation over head, the mist hanging over the water and the changing colour of the sky in the early morning sunshine, and appreciate what a wonderful experience I was having.  On the third lap my left arm started to ache as usual, I found myself veering to the left if unchecked and was pretty desperate to reach dry land. But 75% good :o) I was disappointed with the apparent swim time of 1hr 08…but still, there were plenty of bikes left in transition, and it turns out that those “over distance” speculators were (probably) correct . I didn’t know it at the time but I was 3rd out of the water.

It wasn’t a rapid transition, I put on socks, a cycle jersey (with Powerbars loaded into the pockets) and - a first in a race for me - gloves. I knew it was going to be a long and tough ride, and my ‘plan’ was really not to treat it as a race but to just ride it steady and efficiently.

BIKE
After an initial 20 km gradually ascending from the Lake to Wheddon Cross (a high point on this side of Exmoor) begins a 70km loop that begins with a very nice descent to Timberscombe. I’d set out at a fairly moderate pace, with no one in sight to chase or race, and following my stated plan to approach this challenging course as a “solid ride” rather than attempt to ride Race Pace. I was relaxing on this descent when Bonnie, who’d started a few minutes behind me, caught and passed. Perhaps I’m taking things just a little too steady, I wondered, and started pedalling a bit in order to maintain a small distance behind her. The route makes a turn at the bottom of the hill, and then winds and rolls up and down through a series of small typical Somerset-y lanes and hamlets. It was great fun chasing her along this terrain, though harder work, and somewhat more risky, than I felt sensible given my knowledge of the route ahead.  We were only 2 hours into a very long day…so slightly reluctant I eased off and let her go, aware that she might be the only chance I had of company for the rest of the ride!! We emerged onto the A39, which provides a break from the intense concentration required in the lanes, and could see her flashing rear light in the distance. She obviously had her head down and was soon out of sight!  This rolling section of A-road leads to Porlock Weir – a seaside town and foot of the first climb Porlock Toll Road.  A favourite of the local cycle clubs who Time Trial up it’s relatively gentle “Alpine” 5% gradient,  it’s just under 7km long finishing  back up at 370m, with stunning views over of the Bristol Channel and Wales along the way. https://www.strava.com/activities/660680834/segments/16181172536.
A feed station at the top was a welcome short break (get off the bike to fill your own bottles) before the next section, along the top of the moor. This is an A-road (A39), so nice and open with a good surface, but still very little traffic passes here. It was  great to have a chance to get down on the tri bars and into a rhythm for 15km to Countisbury and then it was time for  the terrifyingly steep descent into Lynmouth Bay.  Yup, this picturesque little fishing town is back down at sea level and that means only one thing….another climb! The longest climb of the route is  11km long with an average gradient of 4%, the road initially follows the river up through Watersmeet, then opens up onto moorland.
Fortunately, having fought the headwind along the A39 from Porlock, the wind was on our backs for this lengthy slope and we had the second feed station in Simonsbath to look forward to soon after we’d passed the summit. Friendly faces (who were probably just as pleased to see us a we were them, since the small field of athletes were spread across several hours even by this point in the first lap of the race) welcomed us with drinks gels and homemade treats to see us onto what I found to be the most challenging part of the loop.
Although from Simonsbath back to Wheddon cross you actually loose height, it’s reached by tackling a constant onslaught of short and sharp climbs and descents of 15% or more, which come upon you suddenly and are very draining.
Still, by the time I arrived back at Wheddon cross, I felt much fresher than I had ever on any training ride around the loop, and was quite happy to wave at the marshal as I made the left turn to repeat all of the above.  

For the preceding hour, I’d been catching the occasional glimpse of Steven in his distinctive white EverydayTraining kit as it glinted in the sunshine, and realised that I was gradually gaining on him. Steven had entered the race somewhat last minute, and as an afterthought to his race season. As such, he was really viewing it as a training race, and I suspected keeping to his training heart-rate cap on the climbs, thus I was gaining on him on these sections. He tore away on the descent, but I knew I’d catch him in that section of lanes (where I’d been chasing Bonny some 3.5 hours earlier!) and it was nice to have a little bit of conversation. I asked if he was OK. He was fine, and confirmed just riding to his HR cap.  He passed me back a little later whilst I took a pee break, and then sneakily decided to drop the heart-rate cap and hit the Porlock Toll road climb hard on his second round– just to mess with my head!!! I didn’t see him again after that, though the expectation of doing so did help provide motivation in the later stages of the ride….

5 and a half hours passed (I think I was in Lymnouth at 125km then) …then 6 hours ( Simonsbath, 140km – the last feed stop and at least on my way “home”) …then 6 and a half (at last,  Wheddon Cross!!) and by then I was really counting down the kms – not because I really felt terrible ( to my surprise – I’d never felt so comfortable at this point in an Ironman – not that I’d ever got to 6.5 hours on the bike  in an Ironman before! ) but because I’d just been out sooooo  long I’d run out of stuff to think about.  From Wheddon Cross it was 20km back to the Lake, the way we’d come  - just another 45 minutes for me.

I’d estimated that, based on training rides, it could take me 7.5 hours to ride the loop, so at 7hr19 elapsed (7:13 ride time = 6 minutes of stoppage at aid stations and that toilet break)  I was just ahead of schedule, and hitting T2 just before 3pm.

My friend Tanya had probably been waiting for some time to support me on the run. She gave me the best welcome ever, yelling “she’s here!!”  and as I ran out of transition after a pretty comprehensive change of kit, immediately started offering me coke, redbull…and did I need her to run with me? I thought “ surely I don’t look that bad yet??” but I knew I had something to look forward to when I completed the first lap. 

RUN 
The run portion of the race really was what I had been concerned about. I’ve been “managing” a minor but persistent niggle in my left calf and foot, which has limited my run mileage for the last few months. Some days I can run, some days I just can’t. put weight on it.  So distance of longest my run all year was a painful 24km (on this very course 2 weeks prior) and  overall run volume has been low, and my confidence with it. But, as I hit the grass at Wimbleball Lake that afternoon, I was feeling fantastic! I’d decided that rather than asking organisers to send “special needs” nutrition out to aid stations for me, I was going to be self sufficient– at least to the extent of carrying it with me and depositing it at the far aid station myself to pick up on subsequent laps. But within the first few hundred, meters I was already so annoyed by the large water bottle in my belt and the food pouch in my hand that I threw them in a bush (to retrieve later). It was a warm afternoon and almost immediately I began doubting that was a good idea. However, it gave me something to worry about for the next hour, and having something other than my foot to worry about was quite comforting. 

The run course was very simply 3 laps of the footpath around the perimeter of the lake. A lovely trail run – with a variety of terrain to keep us focused. My favourite parts were the rooty single-track sections through the woods – requiring intense concentration, but flat and cool and solid under foot.   The toughest parts were, rather surprisingly,  as we emerged from the woods to cross grassy meadows . Not only were we in direct sunshine, but the ground was cambered, uneven and cluttered with clumps of long grass. Very wearing indeed, and these were also the most inaccessible sections so it was a long stretch between aid stations. I was super pleased to come across Lydia, who’d been positioned as a marshal in the middle of this hell, and happened to have a drink of water when I asked her on my first lap. Only 8km in and I was parched and really feeling that I needed to take a gel but was now carrying nothing to wash that down with. So she saved me there by giving me her own water. Telling me that there was an extra aid station laid on at the Bridge too helped to keep me going through to that 12km point.

By the time I’d completed my first 14km lap – passing Steven again in the process ( he wasn’t moving well and confirmed that he was going to with draw at the end of one lap)  - I was still feeling really good, and had not even a twinge of discomfort in that troublesome foot. Tanya had found herself a job on the aid-station too!  Actually that was a relief to me since a) it enabled me to take the coke, red bull and peanut Kit Kat that she’d brought me without accepting “outside assistance”, but also b) I was worried about how bored she’d get waiting for me to come round each time. She was giving me rough splits to Bonnie, who’d continued her pace on the bike, putting almost half an hour into me by T1. Fortunately the time gap  was so great I felt no need to push my pace and chase her down. I’ll just keep going and see what happens.  That time gap remained pretty constant, and I continued to feel unbelievably comfortable!  More so than I’d ever felt in an Ironman before, where I’d either been racing hard or blown up and suffering in an entirely different way. Today I was just out on my longest run of the year, in a wonderful location, in the sunshine. And every now and then along the way I’d stop briefly for someone to give me a drink and tell me how well I was doing! I was also rather enjoying eating solid food on the run (or semi melted Mars bars and kit kats!) rather than just squeezing gels and slurping coke…..In all, I felt very happy for most of the run. Of course, by the time I was on the 3rd lap, legs were getting a bit heavy, and a little bit “walky” when we came across any sort of incline if I did not keep an eye on them.  I also had to watch out for even the smallest stone or twig, which could very easily jump up and trip me over. I made a few great stumbling saves (though only I was there to congratulate myself) and had just  one  “miss”.  I heard strange cracking noises from my index finger, which took the full impact of the fall, heroically bending fully back on itself, which made me feel a bit sick. But I was able to wiggle it and despite swelling and going purple, I think it was just seeking attention which, to be honest, was a welcome distraction from the increasing strain of the running.

I’d estimated that a good run on that course, for me, would take 4 hours.  I ran 4hrs 15, and accumulated 13 minutes of stoppage on top of that to finish in just under 4.5hrs….completing the Xman XXX Extreme Triathlon, Exmoor in just over 13 hours!

The fact that I was 5th overall, and 2nd woman (Bonnie actually placed 2nd overall) and 1st in my Age Group meant little to me compared to how satisfied I was to have completed this extremely challenging event, to have paced it well and felt so strong all day, and had a genuinely great time!

By the way – organisers were dead right – only a about a dozen finished the full Xman XXX this year (and so far in history) ….so if this sounds like you’re cup of tea, get your name in for 2017 !

Monday, 13 June 2016

2015 recap - and Pro Jo No Mo'

A promise to resurrect my blogging was made, and I so wrote this one -  then forgot to post it...
oops!!

So here goes, Take Two:

I guess that last year I just got so behind it seemed like too much to ever catch up on ...so here's the breif summary of my 2015 racing:

Having had  a pretty good race season, or at least end to it in 2014 - and I measure that cheifly by a couple of podium positions in home races paying me well enough in prize money to temp me to invest in just one more year racing with the Pro licence through 2015.  It certainly made financial sense, I'd just achaibed a new PB in Ironman Barcelona (falling short of my sub 9:30 goal due to a 6-minute stand in a penatly tent) ...and I remained succeful by my own measures as a Pro.

But even with the planned close of my professonal racing postponed a year, I found myself investing more of my time, energy and enthusiam into my coaching and developing local projects under EvereydayTraining. Anyone with their own business knows how time consuming any new venture is, I suppose in truth that's really what I wanted to be doing, and not the 25-30 hour training weeks that had enabled me to be competative in Ironman. So I went through the motions ...picking it up as best I could each time a scheduled race was on teh horizon...and my 11th place finish at IM 70.3 Staffs (my first race of the season) showed me the truth loud and clear - you can't blag it!!! Despite having been in great shape through Feb and March running training camps in Lanzarote in truth I'd put in minimal work to maintain that abd certainly not trained myself into race readiness.

That was a good kick up the backside for me though, and with Ironman UK on the scheudle about a month later just what I needed,  and I really did manage to pull my finger out (still juggling a lot of lifestyle changes) for what I felt was a decent race n Bolton. True, it was one of my slowest Ironman finishes, and 6th is the furtherst down the feild that I've finished there...but it was an absolutly gruesome day and given where my fitness was and that I stood on the start line just wishing that I didn't have to do it, I truely raced to the best of my fitness.  Beyond it actually, due to the incredible support that I recieved on the day - bth from fellow copetitors and friends who had made the effort to come over to support. And, more importnat I really really enjoyed the day, which was just the tonic that I needed.
Going into Ironman 70.3 Dublin, a new race in 2015, I was feeling more confident on the start line...although for me it was really another medicore race performance, only just getting into my stride on the run to finsih 6th (again), but like IMUK it was a real blast of a weekend, including the race itself.

The Big One in my mind was Challenge Weymouth...where I'd placed 2nd last year and had all season to train and race into shape. Past experience shows that I tend to race my best later in the year...so my hopes were on this one to be a race that would end my season and life racing as a Pro on a high note. being the ETU championships did mean that this Challenge race attracted a stronger feild than had assembled last year - most of whom registered rather last minute - but I still backed myself for this one based on my knowldege of the area and expereince on the course. It's pretty much on my own doorstep too, so I was in my comfort zone in that regard and would have a lot of support on the day as well as being freindly with the race crew. It all helps.

Whilst it's quite normal myself disconnected from the front of the race after the swim, at the back of my mind was the knowlegde that I really had not put in the sort of training over the season that I'd been doing in previous years (even as an age-grouper!) and so, I suppose that I cant be too surprised to discover that I didn't really have the legs to put in much of a chase on the bike. I've heard people talk about "having no legs" on the day ...and I'd not understood it before as my legs have always been pretty reliable and showed up when they heard that there was a race on.... I reckon that the  truth is that you make it happen if you believe you can.
Racing Ironman is so painful at times (yes, even for those who are the very best in the world at it) that you have to KNOW that you can push that hard, to KNOW that it'll be worthwhile if you do....any doubt in your ability to do so and "common sense" kicks in.
So, having made up virtulaly nothing on the bike, that run was a pretty misreable exercise in will power. By the halfway point it was clear that I wasn't improving my position, and was on track for a pretty dissaponting time result too. The weather had turned proper nasty. Had I not been in a paying position (and I had my sister check that there were no time % rules in pace), I'd have withdrawn.  But, the fact that my mum and sister had travelled to watch me trudge up and down in that weather, and both believied that I could still turn things around,  kept me going. As ever, crossing the finish line ( which I crossed in 8th place) felt great and I enjoyed the rest of the weekend. I didnt really spend too much time beating myself up about it ...at the end of the day I was pleased that I had perserved and finished, and knew that I had only gotten the result that I'd earned.

So the racing season finished on a bit of a downer rather than the swan song I'd have liked  ....but I wont say the same of my time racing as a Pro. Maybe I ought to have stuck to my plan of "retiring" after 2014, and in my head it was already over hence why my lack of commitement to it in favour of thinsg that I felt had a "future" ...but there were some fun times, great moments, and learning all the time.

I've had fantastic support since 2010 and even before from sponsors, friends, family, employers, coaches, race organisers, homestays and most of all other athletes in the community. I will contuine to race, seek new challenges but more of my time will ( legimitmatly) be given over to feeding back into that community, with EverydayTraining and Team Reko.

Now that's got that cleared up, on with 2016 ....shall, we?





Sunday, 1 May 2016

So that was April .....

Following 3 weesk in Lanza to get fit for and then deliver our annual EDT Camp in March, I whizzed off to the Amazon for a "proper" holiday - and this time it was a genuine break with over a week not logging a single training session - so come April I was itching to get my fitness back again after a long winter off.

I'm very goal-driven, but the levels of fitness that I aim to acheive by mid summer seem so far distant at this point, so April was all about setting some intermediate goals designed to get me back on the path and the mojo rolling.

One of my favourite "tricks" to getting my running fitness back is the "30 runs in 30 days" challenge. I probably do this at least once every year ...a very simple premis i.e. run 30 times in 30 days. What "counts" as a run and the paticular rule variations that you make depending on goals is up to the individual...for me it's completion of 30 distinct runs of at least 8km within the 30 day time-frame. So runs can be "banked" by running 2 or 3 times in a  day in order to enable days off from running, which I find I need at least once a week to enable a long ride day.  I have several loops from home of this distance, and my route back from the pool where I train happens to be just over 8km so this is a convienient minimum distance. I was not worried about pace for any of my runs, and looking at my training log, I see that none of them were faster than 5:20/km average pace! 

The biggest difficulty I saw in achieving this was due to another challenge I'd set myself for April - entering a 200km gravel race - the Dirty Reiver! It was fortunate that I'd planned to get out to Lanzarote a couple of weeks before camp and had some good training company whilst there enabling me to clock up some longer rides after a winter spent going up and down a bike path in Sao Paulo! The plan had been to return from camp and then focus on learning some off road skills in the 3 weeks before the event, which would did not depend on good weather in the way that road riding does. It was NOT in the plan to break my cross bike on the 2nd or third ride of this stage in the project  ...necessitating a trip to the Carbon Hostpital and eventualy resulted in a loan of a rather nice Kinesis Pro 6 cross bike....  anyway, that's all written about in this post ....I digress. The point was that a 200km ride, plus 4 days of travel in total  was gonna give me a bit of a logistaical challenge regarding getting my run quota in. Fortunatly, I had no pace requirement and it was rather pleasant to jog around Keilder lake a few times the day after the ride, and I caught up. 

As ever, the real stumbling block with this challenge was due to sickess. Picking up a cold cough and chest infection with 2 runs remaining to do on the 30th, I had to admit defeat. I think it's the first time that I've failed at this challenge (probably not!) ...BUT I did achieve what the challenge was intended to help me do: get back running regularly.  On average I ran 68km/week through April and extending the length of my longest run. Still a long way to go on that front, but I now have the momentum, and it's just a case of starting to build up the pace through MAY.  

The press up challenge continues succesfully through April - up to 120 ( 30x4) on the final day of the month, which now feels perefctly manageable ( even with the Iron flu). I resets to 1x5 on 1st May, and continue to build through the next month. To be honest- there's not a lot of real "point" to this challeneg - although the press up is a very good core exercise - other than out of interest to see how lomg I can keep it up!! 

So...here comes May. An exciting month bacause here's my racing season starts!! 

The 8th may ( next week!!) will be my first hit-out of the year at the Leaky Freaky Duathlon....an inventive run/bike/run /bike/run duathlon held between two venues. No easy task actually as I discovered when I looked at it in a bit more detail...it'll be a 3.5-4 hour race, if I'm fit. And as I write this one week prior still full of snot and feeling like I've got the lungs of a heavy smoker on, I doubt if I will be on my best!! 
BUT still, I cant wait to get the pink Team Reko race suit on and have a go at some intensity alongside my team mates - hopefully not too far behind :o) 

Following that all my energy will be devoted to a race that I organise on behalf of my Tri Club ( but sadly wont have teh chance to race) the Taunton Deane Triathlon on the 15th (entries are still open if you're quick!!) and then the week after another Freak Events race - this time getting into the open water down at The Roadford Lake Standrad Distance Triathlon ...and maaaaaybe I'll be able to round off the month with some more Pro 6 loving down in Dorset at the Dorest Gravel Bash 

Bring it on!! ( err. but first, please pass the Lemsip)