Sunday, 31 August 2008
I've just finished wrestling the Obi into my bike box (real struggle even for my small bikes: DONT buy a DHB box!!) we are definitly on the way now. the count- down begins!
this has been a pretty painless taper - far too busy with work and tri club stuff and a damaged bike needing emergency transportation to Cycles Dauphin (in Surrey) to stress about my own physical condition. In any case i feel pretty good, only that i have certainly not slept enough this week.
I'd like to average 7 hrs in the lead up to a race. Still, we have a long flight ahead and a decent spell in Madison before race day so if my body needs it, there are oppurtunities to catch up next week. Otherwise it's all looking good.
The damage to the bike was a result of riding 90+ hilly miles on a seriously 'out of dish' wheel. and rubbing a groove into the material of the rear stays. Obviously, gutting and cause for serious concern about whether it'd be safe to race on. So, 6 days before flying out to the states i'm considering my options fro setting up the training bike, borrowing or just risking it. Luckily, the guys at the bike shop, who gave it their prompt attention, didn't feel that its as bad as it appears and low risk. So Obi lives on, for now.
And Carritt is feeling pretty confident too; at race weight and satisfied with my training since IM Germany - as good as it could have been given the recovery period limiting time,as well as cumulative fatigue from a long year of higher volume.
In fact my only concern is that i've become a little complacent about it! I don't feel as much anxiety this race as usual. I'd have good reason to be - it's a tough course, expectations of my performance are high, but most importantly i'm hoping to qualify for Kona, so this one does matter!
Still, if my only worry is that i'm not worried enough, i'm in a good position.
So it's Wisconsin a go-go !!!!
Saturday, 23 August 2008
He’s dead right about seeking rest out of any situation, grasping it and hanging to it for dear life. It’s natural, this preference for the easy option, the body is trying to preserve itself and it’s energy reserves. So much so that even those of us intent on overriding nature’s will, pushing the body and training it to be better than those of others, don’t even notice, let alone question it, and allow it to become habit. A continuous leg kick, for example – don’t see many club swimmers with one of those, do we? The legs sort of mirror the arms, waggle a bit to balance the body rotation and our arms match their rhythm. Paul had me practicing continuous leg kick with fins, to accentuate the sensation in the legs, and my arm turnover suddenly seemed to flow more continuously. It felt nice, smooth and fast. It also felt really quite tiring. Proof enough that Paul was right – I was missing the 23 micro naps each length!!
Applying the same idea to cycling, I discovered more shocking facts – my body really IS a marvellous machine when it comes to forming lazy habits! All cyclist have been told about pedalling through the entire circular stroke. I certainly know that’s what I should be doing. Do I do it? Do I hell – its far easier to stomp the down stroke and then…take a rest….stomp the down stroke…..take a rest. And I’m a relatively strong cyclist. It’s true that with riding the decelerating effect of this ‘rest’ is far less than in the water because the opposing leg is forced into position in time to take it’s turn so its far less noticeable.
So, on today’s ride, I was feeling good, and for a bit more power up a few of the hills I rode spells using ‘full circular pedal stroke’. As with the swimming, there was a noticeable increase in speed followed quickly by Dicso Inferno (burn, baby, burn) in areas of the legs untouched by my usual idle pedal stroke.
I looked for similar example in running. Couldn’t really find one….slowing down to a rhythm that requires minimal cardio effort doesn’t really count – that’s just slowing down. But I suppose that the ‘shuffle’ would be the best example – not bothering to lift the legs sufficient to extend the stride, land on the fore foot and benefit from the rebound that the ground can only really offer to an object landing above a certain critical speed.
Again – guilty.
I reckon we can find parallel examples in everything we do form how we file our paper work to dropping out H’s and T’s and saying ‘fucking’ instead of thinking of proper words….
And a quick update on the training/preps for Ironman Wisco:
Since writing my last blog post, I bombed massively. It all fell apart on Wednesday….possibly NOT a coincidence that I’d gotten up 2 hours earlier that usual to watch the Olympic Games triathlon events live on TV at 3am the previous 2 days, whist trying to maintain my high volume week. So Wednesday morning, at 6.30 I’m stood at the edge of the lido , feeling extremely tired, a bit giddy and not very happy at all about the thought of a swim. A slow swim. Got to the office by 7. logged on ..felt really bad tempered, pissed off about the swim, and giddy. Back on the bike and headed home, called in sick and spent the day eating/trying to sleep/trying to decide whether to do my other planned sessions (tempo run/another swim) before coming to my senses, with a little help form Steven, and officially calling it a rest day. Damn, I needed it. The relief was massive – I did NOT have to train – I was starting my TAPER.
It took a few days to recover from the fatigue and drag myself out of the black hole of a mood that I’d been in, but I’m there now. And as if by way of thanks, my body gave me a little bit of reassurance today with a really good brick session. I felt strong and keen riding hard over the rolling terrain of Somerset, covering my usual 3 hour route so quickly that I had to add another 5-6mile loop to bring me close to the panned session time. I’d got my legs nice and cooked for the brick run, but pushed through and managed to get the first 6 miles knocked out at 7:20 pace.
It was almost as if body says to mind: “It’s OK , I’m in shape – look I can do it – but now I need you to take care of me and get me to the race fresh.”
Monday, 18 August 2008
It was enjoyable, including a trip down to Kent to ride with a friend Jill (who has stormed the age group Olympic triathlon racing scene over the last few years, taking a silver medal in Vancouver recently), and to meet the swim coach who helped her to totally turned her swimming around. She’s pretty frightening on the bike too! It was great to catch up and get an insight into just how dedicated she, and her fiancé are. It also made me pretty glad that I stepped away from racing those distances, I’m not much n a fan of the excruciating agony that she must go through to produce +300watts AVERAGE over a 20 min turbo TT!! But I guess that if I didn’t live in a permanent state of ‘near exhaustion’ I might feel differently.
So, Saturday I completed my scheduled +115miles riding, broken by an hour session in the pool, and 1hr run with 30 min at race pace off the bike in 9 hours total training time.
Sunday was scheduled my key bike session- I’d eaten well and ensured 8 hour sleep, woke before my alarm, had light breakfast and was up for it. as we rode out, the enthusiasm drained and the usual dread of the hard session ahead set in. I’m kind of getting used to this feeling since I’ve started doing some more specific power based intervals on the bike, and know that I just need to push through it on the first interval and get into the zone, and I start to enjoy the feeling of strength, control, and the bike fitness that I’ve developed. It’s a mental thing. Unfortunately, though the first interval went well, I messed up the timing on the second – enough to throw me out of the zone. I’d been riding at slightly below target wattage, too, but attributed that to a bit of fatigue from the previous day. Now it started to bother me. I tried to get back on track, but for the next hour was unable to battle with myself to keep going. I was plain tired. I knew the legs could do it, but not the mind. I just wanted to sleep, or sit and stare vacantly at a wall. Mentally exhausted. I decided to bail - felt pretty terrible having to tell Steven, but he was pretty understanding. I knew that in such circumstances HE always pushed through.
It’s often tempting to compare myself to him, and have to remind myself that despite having similar goals and lifestyles, we inhabit very different environments. Each with their own benefits and strains, which we deal with differently. When training is so much an important part of your life, when your goals and ambitions are so great that they almost define you, the details of our emotional and physical environment are often neglected , but they play a massive part in our ability to contribute the energy required to live out those goals.
Back to the side of the road. As I say, Steven’s understanding and offers to ride with me back to Epping – I’ll return and grab a couple hours sleep, do my run and swim session whilst he rides on. We’ll meet later for tea and Olympics.
I was asleep within minutes of getting into bed, slept 90 min and headed out to run to the pool where I’d swim with the masters. The run felt ok, but slow. Like wise the swim, but I was pleased with myself for pulling the day back together.
But its all so slow at the moment. Since Wensleydale I have had no speed in me at all. The early part of the week, of course I was not trying for it, going easy for recovery, but I was dropping off the back of my lane in the club swim on times that I KNOW I can hit no problem on Wednesday. Thursday’s bike session was a real struggle to maintain power (through the hill reps went well before hand ) swimming on Friday was equally frustrating. This morning ( Monday )I was failing to make 100m times that I’d usually make easily, by 10 seconds.
There are a number of reasons I can think of for this – I don’t know which is the most significant.
1)Recovery from Wensleydale. It was a HARD race – perhaps I’ve done the usual trick of feeling good from a win/ pressure to keep training for WI and not recovered sufficiently
2)Diet. Last week I was trying out Maffetone’s www.philmaffetone.com (2 week carb free test – cutting carbs (sugars) entirely form my diet. I tend to eat very low carbs when getting down to race weight, but do eat a LOT of fruits and yogurts – in the 2-week strict no-carb test, these are out too. My body did feel different after 3 days, blood sugars much more stable, but the adaption phase is inevitably difficult. I don’t thing a period of high volume training was the best time to make these tweaks as my muscles probably need a bit of time to get used to the enforced change in fuel source!
3)Swim stroke – have I done something awful to my stroke with all the technical improvements that I’ve been trying to make?
4)General fatigue/overtraining. It’s been a hard year, thinking back, with periods of heavy training, racing followed by brief and shallow recovery periods. Approaching the end of the season, perhaps I’ve reaching the limit. I can see the end in sight, and perhaps this has triggered a response.
However, following the success of the enormous week at Epic camp at a similar period prior to IM Germany, I have scheduled the week as a deliberate overload week. I felt wasted at Epic – and not fast there either. I came out fine. I don’t think that I’ve tipped over into full blown burnt out.
I had a very useful chat with our swim coach, Paul, this morning. He could see I was not hitting my reps, and getting frustrated, so we discussed this fatigue. When I told him I was doing ‘high volume’ he asked a few clever questions. I was reassured by my own answers:
- how long have you been doing the high volume?
> hmmm about 2 weeks, and then 3 weeks the month before that , and 3in the month before that too, oh and before Germany…so actually, about 4 months.
- how have your performances been going during that time?
> fantastic. I’ve won every race that I have done
- when’s your next big event?
> 3 weeks
- and then what ?
This made it clear to me, reinforced by Paul's response - he did not feel it was a worrying level of tiredness. "You've just got to complete the planned work.
The last hurdle...and then enjoy the taper, sharpen up a bit feeling fresh. and dont worry about the swim times - just push it as hard as you can....4 x 4 reps with 100 easy between ;o)"
Sunday, 10 August 2008
One of the ten toughest triathlons in the uk? dont gimme that! - i genuinely cannot recall having done as gruelling event as this (and i'm not one for shying away from anything cold, steep, wet - infact, just tell me it's 'brutal' and i'm rushing to get on the start list). The fact that its just shy of half ironman distance the only thing preventing it form being renowned as the toughest half in the world. And that' s without the weather that we had today. 10th august? of COURSE there'd be over a foot of chop on the small lake, transition 1 would be under 4ft of water! and why on earth would you DOUBT that you'd be treated to lashing horizontal rain, carried by 60mp gusts of wind over the tops of the Yorkshire Dales? packing summer race gear?? stupid southern cow - we're going 'oop north' to race this weekend...and we all know it's grim up north. Well, in my defence, when we recce'd the course 2 weeks prior, it hadn't been. The toughness had been provided by the lay of the land, as the bike route follows an extremely scenic course over the dales, taking in gradients +25% in generous measure but rewarding with some beautiful moorland scenery and fast descents (plus a couple of very very steep and technical ones for good humour). The 12 mile fell run takes an immediate skyward turn, testing the aerobic endurance on up to the top of the fell, and foot speed on the 6 mile descent to the finish line.
But this is just my sort of race. Having checked the course, and my current form, i entered this one with the win in mind and boldly informed the very friendly organizers, the owners of the bike shop from which the race starts and finishes, of the fact.
come saturday the 9th august, a rainy day in North Yorks, when i felt so far under the weather that i cut my training ride (easy 50 miler) short after 2 hours and sulked in bed instead, I was beginning to rue this bravado. Fortunately, the weather report for the following day was much better, so when we woke to bright skies I felt more positive AND I’d had a bit of a 'taper' too.
However, during the 50 mile westward drive to the venue the day turned steadily greyer, and wetter, and by the time we arrived, it was clear that Wensleydale was situated in an entirely different season, with weather akin to a miserable march day. We were not keen to get out of the car. This is exactly how it had been for Steven in 2006 - the first running of the event (only 40 or so competitors compared to 250 odd that had signed up for today), which he went on to win, and thoroughly enjoyed, so i was not taking these feelings of reluctance too seriously. if i am honest, i cannot think of a single occasion where i have arrived at a race actually wanting to go through with it. nerves, or something.
so we get on with it - scurrying out of the car between frequent and heavy downpours to assemble our bike to (fell) run gear in the Kudos Bikes carpark which is T2 for the day. no support is to be expected up on the fells, so as per fell running conduct waterproofs are mandatory and own water and energy supplies are to be carried up. i have only 1 sort-of waterproof jacket (brought along as 'token' for the hot summer racing that i expected) and had to choose whether to use it in the bike or run. Optimistically, i left it for the run, still hopeful that the weather forecast would prove accurate as the day went on.
The swim and transition 1 was about 6 miles away, so that was our next destination of the morning. we arrived to find that parking was a bit tight to say the least, the lake being at the bottom of a very steep and narrow lane. turns out the reason for this is that the bottom bit of the lane including transition area and the swim exit ramp, was entirely flooded.
well, that's the scene sufficiently set. on to the racing part.
the swim was shortened. not much disappointment amongst the crowd of frozen competitors huddled around the ominous looking waters in their wetsuits, in the rain. it would be a 400m straight out and back dash. Over the noise of the howling wind, i dont think anyone heard the starters orders, if any were given, and we all just started swimming when those around us did. it was like swimming into a vertical wall of water - swimming square out into the direction of the wind and waves. total chaos. actual swimming was out of the question, which is a bizarre way was quite relaxing - no one seemed too concerned about racing and there was really no scuffling between competitors as we all just did what we had to progress forwards. i saw several people calling for canoes around me within the first 100m. i was a bit surprised to discover that i was really quite enjoying it, and even felt a little disappointed when we reached the turn-bouy much sooner than expected. the swim in was super fast, of course!
transition was pretty slow - find bike in the bushes (remember - bike racks under 4 ft water, so we'd all just had to lay our bikes and kit out along the grass verges) and put on as much clothing as i had, whilst wet and shivering. Steven was still in transition doing the same.
first bit of the bike course is a 1:3 climb from the lake. luckily i knew this and had put the bike in appropriate gearing - unlike some! this was really a nice little 'starter' provided by the organizers to set the tone for the rest of the bike course, which i have described already. today though was the added discomfort and difficulties of my being very very cold and there being section where it was extremely windy. coupled with wet road, winding steep descents and a bike crash fresh in my memory i was not enjoying it much. The winds made it so treacherous that i was reluctant to take my hand away from my bars to grab water bottle or zip up my gilet, and my jaw was locked so tight from the cold that i had a face-ache and had difficulty eating anything ( i usually like to get some water and energy on board early in the bike leg - luckily it was not hot and the swim was short so i wasn't really in need of either). it was a total battle to stay on the bike and there were several occasions when i considered retiring form the race on safety grounds. the few supporters that had ventured out around the course were treated to some pretty grim facial expressions, I’m sure!
for the first half of the course i just concentrated on working hard where i could make progress and riding safely in other places - convinced of the fact that everyone else out there would just have to be doing the same. On the climb past Garsdale Station i was passed by a woman wearing Wonderwoman pants over her cycling shorts! she was flying up the 25%-er, and i though good thing too, in those pants....this cheered me up a bit and encouraged me to dig in. i'd passed a few girls early on but since then had really stopped thinking about the racing, and had no idea of my placing, but reckoned that realistically we'd be right up there. Wonderwoman and i played cat and mouse - she was amazing on the hills and I was in the unusual position of being stronger on the flatter sections. Just my luck that bloody wonderwoman shows up, i think. The last part of the course is a long rolling descent into Hawes enabling me to catch her and we enter T1 together. I guess i'm just a more hardened racer, as i was out on the run a good couple of minutes before she was. i did not know who she was, and could only assume that she was some local girl, born and bred on the fells, and would certainly have me on the descent even if i'd held her off on the way up. so i had my work cut out.
like the swim and the bike course the run was flooded and extremely windy. my gilet behaving like a sail - irritating but with the wind mostly from behind on the climb, i decided i could live with it - just made staying on the path a bit more tricky when those side gusts hit! it truly was nose-runningly, wimperingly gruesome! and people were coming down already!
I remembered that there had been a half length event, so that was not an issue - until we passed their turn point and then, being a straight out and back (up and down) run i'd get to see where i was in the field.
i counted 3 girls on the return from the full distance before the top. well, there you go. i could not see wonderwoman anywhere close behind me, but still, not winning is loosing ...thoughts like that running through my head as i checked to see if i could possibly run any harder. not really - the ground was too uneven, wet, steep, boggy..and my feet hurt. however, in the back of my mind i thought it fairly unlikely that there could be 3 women THAT far ahead of me - so reckoned that a 1 or 2 of them were probably in mixed relay teams. i just wouldn't know. so i pushed on, focusing on finishing as soon as possible, and in front of wonderwoman. superjo defeats wonderwoman! yeah.
after an hour we reach fog/cloud, we must be near the top, and suddenly steven appears. he yells 'those women are all in relays teams - you're leading!' exactly what i wanted to know. nice one. i see teh turn around cairn very soon after and realize that i'm not far behind steven, either.
spurred on its back down -but into a severe head wind! i hear the marshal laughing (or is that the howling wind, again? the sound has been ringing in my ears for 5 hours almost!) as i try to reconnect with the ground having been blown clear. take a note of the time to see how far wonderwoman is behind. about a minute and a half. oh hell - and she' s probably a fell runner - i really have to push this descent. a bit scary, with hips and elbows still open from the bike crash a fall would really be painful, so i'm totally focused all the way down. i get a load of people still on their way up ( and some blokes coming down past me) congratulate me - i'm just in the zone, and hardly acknowledge.
at last i reach flat ground, risk a look backwards - no sight - and push hard over the soggy fields. i'm feeling strong still, just weather beaten! a wrong turn costs me a few hundred meters and brings my chaser into sight. but i can see the town and the finish too. she cant make up the distance - can se? run hard along the final stretch of road, to the finish.
what a race -i am exhausted by the efforts, the mental strain, the cold. very happy to have stuck it out, and boosted by the win.
on the car ride back, we agreed - we'll do it again. Both Steven and i have had wins here - it'd be good to get them in the same year! and it'd be such a pleasure in good conditions ;o)
we're off for a run on the hills now, before hitting the road back to london.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
subsequent to the crash i was advised by kathleen, a friend who happens to be an A and E nurse and an experienced cyclist, that swimming is a total no-no with these open gash's and road rash that i have on my hip and elbow. of course my frist reaction was ...nah., i'm no wimp, of course it'll be alright to swim...but a bit more consideration, and my respect for her professional advice, i reckoned that a day or 2 out of the pool in return for rapid healing would do no harm. my body has had a hard time dealing with the wounds and monday and tuesday my glands were swollen, i had a sore throat and felt pretty run down. not much evidence of healing either.
there is a lot of conflicting advice as to how best to treat these sorts of cyclists wounds, too. keep it covered and moist in its own sterile environment? let it dry out and scab over? to use antiseptic spays or not to ( they can kill the body's own 'healing' bacteria as well as germs)? then there is the overwhelming choice of dressings available at the chemist...not knowing that i was doing the right thing was upsetting me, with Wensleydale Tri coming up at the weekend.
so, in the end, i let kathleen take over.
this has kind of thrown the swim push off track, but my consolation is that in the previous 3 weeks i have managed over 22k swimming/week. this week i chucked in a load of extra time on the bike, and took the oppurtunity to start building the run volume a little. despite the aches and pains its been a good week on dry land. i am really feeling that i'm getting in shape, and feeling good on the bike. sessions are now FUN and i can push it, and enjoy it.
some funny/though provoking things that drunks have said to me whilst i've been running:
"are you training for a race, or racing for a train?" - this tickled me initally, then i thought about it a bit more. bloody good question. am i just training for a race , or racing toward something else
"keep running - not that you need to" - i thought , yeah i'm nearly back. but then realized he was referring to appearance, and assuming that we who run do so to loose weight/look good. that whe we acheive that target, we are allowed to stop.
"nice hair" - this as i was running home late after an evening pool session. obviously, my hair was in a state, having exited the shower as fast as possible in persuit of sleep. so this guy said it ONLY to make me feel bad/self-concious about my appearance. again, the assumption that we run because we care about our appearance.
and a really nice blog by some of the residents living on 'my' canal route home from work, opposite one of the olympic development sites.
tommorow i'll swim for the first time in 5 days, and get kathleen's opinion on the rotting gashes on my arm and hip!
Monday, 4 August 2008
but in my position as race captain, each year i have difficult decisions to make when it comes to the questions: are we putting out our best mixed team? or are we going to try for a ladies/men’s team this year? and i cant help feeling that the WE refers to a fairly select number of our members (selected by and including me) – the rest just coming along for the ride without much overlap in our experiences of the day and often the half of the club who raced in the morning ( ladies and mixed wave) are on the m1 before Tri London Men’s 3 are even out of t2.
so, this year we tried a different tack; we entered all of our teams in the ‘open’ category, racing each other in the morning wave. 5 teams, picked by 5 captains, seemed pretty evenly matched – it brought members of all abilities together as part of a competitive unit. everyone had something important to contribute …and it could have been anyone’s race!
we had the excitement of seeing the lead change again, and again through the swim, bike and run, with the leading 4 ‘anchors’ all starting their lap within a 3 minutes spell with the lead changing yet again in that final 20 minutes!!! by far the best experience I have had at this event, despite the lack of gold, silver, bronze or even sunshine! And for me, the best thing was that it was shared by the entire tri London crew, gathered at the finish chute to loudly support all our guys finishing...in nothing better than top 20 position.
that was saturday, and despite my best laid plans to be back in time for a swim session, the early start, punishing sprint distance racing at full throttle ( i was MEAN on the bike), the long drive and the empty fridge all contributed to a 'day off' training. well, u gotta have 'em and i cant think of many better reasons
nonetheless, we woke on sunday feeling that this would have to be a big day. steven and i both had big (~5hr including 3hrs of intervals) bike sessions to get done, so alarms set for a 6.30 start we headed out of town. the weather was marginally better than the previous day had been, and though i felt totally drained on the warm up ride out (longer than we'd planned) once we split to start the session, riding a 15mile loop in opposite directions, i was really feeling good. i think the bike legs are coming! so i'm really into the session pounding along on the tri bars, its drizzling with rain and we're on country roads. next thing, making a left turn i'm no longer pounding along on the tri bars. i'm skidding down the road on my side. the bike goes even further and i'm looking the sky through the tree canopy wondering when i'll stop moving and just how many limbs i've broken and hoping a car doesn't come and run my bike which has gone all the way onto the road that we were joining, over...
..when i do stop i just lie there ..thinking F8CK F*CK how bad is this?...my next race...all that training....cant feel much. then the pain comes....stinging like mad and i'm shaking and shouting language to make a builder blush. but at least its just cuts and road rash. pretty nasty though. i am very very upset. must have been so pumped up that i went into shock - next thing i'm just crying like really crying and sobbing and even a bit of wailing probably! luckily there is no one around (or if they were, had been frightened away by the very loud and violent swearing ) or they really would have thought i'd broken all my limbs, and neck too.
pretty soon steven came round the loop and stopped. that started me off sobbing again - i'd ripped through my favourite shorts. i think he thought that was why i was so upset!! once established that i was ok really, he got me to check the bike, get on it and continue the session (i'd assumed that i'd just limp home and feel sorry for myself). which i did after a brief stop into a small garden nursery where a very kind old gentleman let me in to wash the wounds and did great job of patching me up.
so, we got 130 miles done, including the session in 7.5hrs. a bit longer than intended but we both felt good for having done it. i also managed to get to the pool for a 3km swim and some lessons in how to do BREASTSTROKE that doesn't look like old ladies social swimming! then off to fill my face with grub at luis's bbq for the tri club and see video footage of the previous day's relay action. of course my wounds were much admired and i felt very proud to finally be a proper cyclist having 'road rash' to discuss!
it is a bit inconvenient however - kathleen, who is a nurse, strongly advised against swimming which puts pay to the heavy swimming schedule that i'm following. must not loose focus on that - but with a fairly big race next weekend, i think that i should respect her professional advice and do what's best for a rapid recovery.
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