Tuesday, 11 December 2012

ironman western australia

Now I've had reasonable night’s sleep, talked with  other athletes about their performances and race experiences and a chance to reflect a bit more about my day – rather than answering a dozen emails with details, it's time for the race report!

I rarely write these immediately after a race, though it has to be said that following a good race, I’m far more enthusiastic about sharing the news and my feelings. Unfortunately, that’s not case this time; after finishing Ironman Western Australia in a time of over 10 hours which was well outside of the Pro awards and my own expectations, I was feeling pretty down on myself for the last 36 hours.  But tired in body and mind isn’t a very good state to be sharing these feelings and possibly by the time that I’ve spell-checked (yes, believe it or not, I do!)  and published this report I’ll be feeling more positive and working on plans for my next race :o)

So, as you’ve read in my previous blog post, I’ve had a wonderful month of training in Perth. In retrospect I did not get the timing quite right, and would ideally have arranged a minimum of 6 weeks out here prior to race week to allow for the loss of a week’s training due to jetlag and climate shock during that first week, and a “recovery” week during the training block rather than coming out of a Big Week and then falling straight into my taper.  This slight mis-timing has resulted in my doing more than I would usually do in the last week before the race whilst not being entirely recovered from recent training high loads….possibly….. I can’t say that I have got a particular formula that has been proven to deliver the best results in this regard. Preparing for every race has to be different due to the race schedule, timing of events and where we are in the race season. Anyway, recently I’d been executing training sessions really well and feeling as strong as I ever have in the pool and on the bike, and pretty consistent with my run too. Mindful that it’s been a long season (this race fell on week 56 of my year!) I’d been including more recovery into my plan and less general volume than in preparation for other races. Not that I think I was short –cutting either. I’m not looking for excuses - I really feel that I had everything about right. 

I’m familiar with the friendly town of Busselton from my previous visits, so I know a few of the locals and was very quickly able to orient myself with the race-courses and training locations. My home-stay really looked after me well, though it was not the most stress-free race week due to some mechanical issues with my bike and a bit of high drama with a shot-gun wielding bike gang busting into a house over the road with an axe through the door at 4am the day before the race. Our front yard was filled with cops all morning and Russell spent 5 hours giving witness statements at the police station, and the rest of the day ‘phoning everyone he knew to tell them the story! Apparently that’s unusual activity around here  ;o) But although somewhat unsettling, and more drama and activity than I would choose for the day before an Ironman, I’m loathe to believe that a race performance could be so easily derailed by minor variations in routine – since every race venue and accommodation arrangement is different anyway, I don’t really have a very specific routine (other than getting rather tetchy!).

Oh, but this is supposed to be a race report!  So let me get on with it. The swim course here is very unique – an out and back around the 2km long Bussleton jetty. It is one of the attractive features of this race, but makes it amongst the most challenging of swims as it’s basically a 1.9km swim directly out to the end of the jetty where it’s always quite choppy and can be extremely so.  The conditions here in the bay are very fickle – an extremely rough sea on Friday, glassy calm on Saturday and something between on race –day with an Easterly breeze creating quite a chop on the surface. The Pros have a 15 minutes advance start from the beach (whearas the main field start in water) which is an other aspect to challenge the weaker swimmers in the pro pack as it can be a very solitary swim. So I was determined to retain contact with others today, and knew that there were a couple of girls who, like me, would swim around an hour in normal circumstances. I felt very relaxed on the start line – by 5:30am it was shaping up to be a lovely morning, there was a great buzz around the place with an Air force fly-over and friendly exchanges amongst the other girls on the line – and  was feeling confident in my performance and looking forward to the race. The horn went and we were off, into the waves. Very quickly I realised that I was alone and off to the side a bit.  It was hard to see which direction to try and chase in and as one of the weaker swimmers I only had a split second  to react with an almighty sprint if I were to manage that, and I missed it. So, from the very first minute of the race I was alone and off the back in water conditions that I am the least suited to and experienced at swimming in. Did I mention the sharks?  Luckily I did have the company of a kayaker the whole way – he paddled besides me as I made my slow progress around the course, hoping that I’d pick up another dropped swimmer but knowing that this was unlikely. Although I did stay focused, calm and positive, I was unable to find a rhythm and work hard, and actually began to feel really quite cold which seemed to slow me down more. This was my bad luck on one hand, but then again Britta found herself in the same situation and still swam around 62 minutes (which incidentally was around where I expected to be) and went on to win the race. I was really not surprised to see my own  terrible swim time of 1:09 when I finally made it to the beach.

Still, the crowds gave me a great cheer on and I was extremely happy to be on solid ground and hopping smoothly onto my bike! I’d suffered awfully out on that flat bike course in 2010, likewise on the flat bike course in Florida last year,  but had been doing a lot of specific work for just this type of relentlessly flat ride and I’m happy to say that not only did I manage to ride a lot better this time around, but enjoyed it too! My power did drop a bit too much  (15%) on the final lap of 3, bringing my overall average power down but the overall average speed was as per my target and enabled me to claim back a few places during the 5hr11 minutes that I was on the bike. As a result of the poor swim, I’d revised my race day goals to sub 10hours, the maths was easy - I had to be out on the run course by midday and that would gave me a very comfortable 3hr30 to run a marathon – I’d expect about 10 minutes margin  with that, and I felt that I had a good chance of a new PB (under 9:43) if I could pull off a “ really good” run. 

This kept me motivated and positive, a fast transition, lots of sunscreen and a special drink in my transition bag for extra energy and salts, I was out there as the day ticked over into the afternoon. Deliberately avoiding running far to fast from the gate to limit overheating, I felt very comfortable at 4:20-30 /km pace. I very quickly caught up to Steven, who’d easily eaten up my 15 minute head-start in the swim and hopped on his bike a good 5 min before I was out of the ocean, but struggled with lack of condition on the bike and I suppose only begun his run a few minutes before me. He looked comfortable and was moving quickly.  Throughout that first lap ( 1 of 4) I ran relaxed and enjoyed the encouragement of those I knew, and many that I did not, out on the course. Told that I was looking string, running well and had a good shot of making up further places, I was absorbing my favorite aspect of the ironman day. I joked with one guy who told me that I was looking good, how was I feeling? – I” feel great but not looking forward to the next 2 hours!” Even when you’re having the race of your life it hurts like hell. Well, it seems that for me at the stage where I am at, I need pretty significant motivation to endure or even increase that pain.  So when, after about 16km my pace dropped from 4:40s to 5’s and 5:10s I didn’t really respond. I’d not made any noticeable gains on the field ahead of me and was unaware that the  Megumi, the Japanese woman that I had passed in the first 5km was creeping back from behind. As it always does, the suffering became worse, the pace dropped and the day got hotter. I slowed significantly by walking through aid stations, throwing drinks down my throat and ice down my bra.

The aid stations here at IMWA are quite remarkable  - local organizations  (yacht club, bike club ect ) take responsibility for a station and it seems that that are competing to be the best station! Both on the bike and run course volunteers really went out of their way , at times sprinting down the road, to ensure that I got what I needed, retrieving my lost hat on one occasion and supplying me with my special needs bag so that I did not have to even break pace. They do this all in fancy dress with loud motivational music pumping, and dancing Santas. Fabulous :o)

 I mentioned the mighty little Megumi? Yes, she passed me again during that 3rd lap, by which time I think I’d calculated that unless I resumed my original 4:30-35 pace I’d not be making 10hrs today. “Great!” I thought , “here’s the motivation that I need to get me moving” , remembering Ironman Wales and how deep I dug there to retain 3rd spot. I did a little digging, caught her back…dropped off again. I don’t know what our positions were, but I figured around 6th or 7th and that would be the difference between a pay day or not, as well as a good few Kona Points.  My legs were not having it. She was running at about the 5 min/km pace that she had been when I first passed her so easily earlier on. From there on it really was a battle to get off that damn hot course, via the finish chute. Which, eventually I did by means of jogging walking and dragging my defeated legs through that last long lap, knowing that I’d blown my target time and not really sure how or why I’d failed so badly on this day, and really quite honestly questioning whether this would be the last time I put myself through it. Not the physical challenge – but the disappointment that I was feeling.

But, as usual, after a few days of being around other athletes – ranging from the winning Professionals, Kona qualifying age groupers, happy first timers, those who have overcome illness, injury, and of course the many others for whom the day did not unfold according to their hopes – to feel inspired and finding the positives and leaning what I can from Sunday.

Even so, it’ll be a week or two before I start planning training for my next event.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

down under diaries - weeks 3&4

Week 3
Big week. Admittedly I’d like to schedule it a bit earlier in my race prep, giving me time for a recovery week, then at one more solid, specific, week before tapering down but all of a sudden it feels like time is very limited. I defiantly underestimated how much the travel, and getting only a small bit sick in the process, would take out of me and lost about 10 days.  But, it’s only by trying new things can I figure out what’s worth worrying about and what’s not.  So after a good massage session on Monday, I had a full -on 32 hour week L uckily the weather was great, I was on top of my coaching work and everything in place to train, eat, sleep, for seven days. It was great - but probably rather dull to write about ;o)

Other than perhaps mentioning my second venture out into the ocean, which was as an official competitor in the next race of the open water series . I made it around all 4 laps of the 5km course  -which I think would be my longest open water swim – in a rather dismaying 96 minutes. I was also one of the few wearing a Wettie. However, a look at the results shows that most people found themselves about 10 minutes behind where they’d expect to be, and I ranked 4th in the +35 age group so not as dismal as my first impressions. I suppose one also has to consider that it was near the end of a huge training week for me….

Week 4
Started pretty good – I couldn’t believe how up for it I was after the 7 hour ride in the hills on Sunday, and added an extra 20k of running into my easy recovery day, which should have been a technique based swim and an easy hour spin on the bike. Not surprising that the next day, I really struggled to get up and felt kinda grumpy on the way to the pool. I survived and even enjoyed the session which involved hanging onto Joel’s toes for some very long reps, but simply couldn’t face the bike set that I had planned for immediately afterwards. I slept a bit instead and later in the day painted the garden furniture at the Rash house, for a bit of a break. 

That night a huge storm broke …and raged for two days. This was frustrating for me as I was well refreshed and ready to get back on with my last week of prep. But the winds were gusting so hard that it really was unsafe to ride. My friend Russ took me for coffee on Wednesday morning, we sat in a tea house over looking the ocean. It was wild  (the ocean, not the lifestyle – that’s the most “out” I have been in a month!). I think that extra enforced rest will have done me some good – I know that I’m prone to overdoing it. The wind died down and sun came out by Friday so I’ve managed a solid 3 days constructed of the important workouts of the week, just a bit shorter. And, pretty much that’s it. 1 week to go. 

down under diaries - week 1&2

Week 1
As, a result of the cold ( which seems to come and go, very odd) and the jet lag,  I'm taking it a bit easy this week, which puts me a little behind where I'd like to be in my training for WA, but this is  a potentially great situation for some solid training over the next 3-4 weeks.  I'm 5 min jog from the water front where I have enjoyed some nice easy running in the sunshine, looking at boats and family's doing Australian leisure activities on the beaches.  It's really a wonderful city with everything connected by a network of well maintained cycle ways and footpaths - i'm finding my way round pretty well - apart from the inevitable choosing the one and only busy highway to ride back into town on, or getting lost in back streets on the verge of a "bonk". 

Having survived my first 3 days without being eaten by a shark, I was feeling a bit bolder this morning and took to the sea. Not entirely bold as it was part of an organized race so not only were there a couple hundred other swimmers, but also full lifeguard support with fin-spotting helicopter overhead. They did not SAY that this was to be watching for predators, but I'm fairly sure that it was high on the agenda - there have been several sightings in the area. Of course it's not stopping people from going in the ocean, even for long swims, but everyone is quite aware and no one goes alone - so I wont be. 

Anyway  - I wasn't eaten AGAIN however i got stung a lot by jellyfish. I had intended to swim 5km race, but got out after halfway ( it was just a training swim for me). Peter, my host, went on to swim 10km in order to qualify for "Rotty" - the Rottness Crossing swim - which is roughly equivalent to swimming the English channel but "easier" in that the distance is a bit shorter, there are less currents to content with and it's a lot warmer, so actually quite a lot of people around here have done it. Most commonly as part of a relay team, whereas Soloists earn a special number plate to display.

I'm surrounded with ace swimmers - Australians, i suppose - many of whom are starting their training to swim the Rottness channel so I've come at a great time to get drilled in the pool and some proper open water training - as opposed to my usual bobbing around looking at fish. 

The first swim with the Swimsmooth squad at Claremont was fun. A beautiful 50 m pool and the session was quite a nice easy introduction which suited me in my "condition". Paul's a nice guy, easy-going. Not sure that's exactly what I was hoping for in a coach, but I have yet to have a session with him focused on my swimming technique (twice a week he swims with us and it's purely a fitness session - he doesn't give out too much coaching on those days and that was what was Thursday's swim was) so I might see the Hard side of him next week! 

Week two
The following week I had a 1-2-1 session with Paul which included a video analysis. I’ve had this done before- or thought I had! But really I was so impressed with what Paul offers it is far more than just getting some really good footage of my swimming. In fact he did not go over board with that  -there was no need since he’d already seen me swimming several time prior to the session ( which is the case with many people he works with – most of the swimmers in Perth have had this consultation!) Paul was able to explain very clearly what the main issue with my stroke was  - not just the problems that I have with the rhythm of my stroke, a slight over-extension, failing to “catch” and dropping my elbow as I do so – but highlighted the very small error that is the cause of most of these issues. It’s a really small adjustment that I need to work on …and we did that there and then with the aid of a set of underwater ear phones and mic. that meant he could talk me through the adjustments. This was really exciting for me – nothing that Paul told me contradicted what many other swim coaches have been telling me for years – but he was able to point out the root cause of many of those other stroke symptoms. Of course  I know that I wont be able to make the change easily- but having a high level of confidence in the theory provides me with huge motivation.

 Feeling fully healthy this week and having discovered my way around and settled into a training weekend,  I was able to log  solid week of training and feeling pretty  good. There is very active triathlon and cycling community here – well, it’s a generally active culture, and we are in a sizable city with fabulous climate and variety of training terrain, so you’d expect that. But still – I was amazed at the sheer numbers of hug packs of cyclists that you see out from 5:30-7:30 on any morning but in  particular Saturday! I would have thought there was a large cyclo-sportive or race underway as they charged around one of the city’s favourite loops .Like wise if you go further and into the hills –it’s pretty crowded with weekend warriors blitzing one another on bikes! I love to see this- but prefer to avoid for my own training purposes. Whilst most locals get out and ride early morning before the wind and heat pick up,  I’ve been scheduling my training sessions for the hot windy afternoons , and rarely see a soul! The way that I see it,  I only have 3 weeks here to prepare for race conditions that are about as far removed from those of my last race, and that I have access to at home, as possible.   I’ve been able to balance this unsociable attitude with making contact with some local’s and joining them for an Olympic distance hit-out race in Bunbury, a town a couple of hours down the coast.  The race organizer was generous and comp’ed me an entry,  and kindly local couple Justine and Anthony gave me a ride and a room in the accommodation that they’d booked, so all I had to do was pitch up and race! If I’m honest, I was pretty hard on myself about my performance –  as a “special guest” it seemed appropriate that I raced “Open” category  - not really sure what this meant, but we got the best racking spot in transition,  and fist wave to start. Well, about 20 seconds into the race I figured out that it meant “ elite swimmers” anyway – as I was dropped quicker  than I could believe possible in the swim.  This must have looked pretty funny from the beach, and it didn’t do my mental focus much good. The Age-Group females started 2 minutes after us, and I was even lapped by some of them before the half way point. HUH. Still, I swam as well as I could and raced the long path into T1 as if I really were in contention – well, why not? There was one bike left there besides mine. Probably someone got eaten.   Wet suit off ( not swiftly – need to address that) and onto the 6 lap bike course. I like lapped courses for this distance  it’s really good for keeping pace and focus up, plus you get to see so much of the  other athletes in the race. I was having fun and  was riding  “OK” – for a half ironman distance. About 20bpm below what I know I should be at for 40km, but I just did not have that extra Go and couldn’t see anyone from my race to pace off or chase The run was a 2-lap 10km , flat and at least I had plenty left in my legs to enjoy a decent run. I pushed hard and caught and passed a few other girls – though more than likely they were the age groupers who’d out swum me. So ,I felt a bit miserable about the whole thing – doing an Olympic tri as a pre-race hit out is great when it all goes well  (or there’s not much competition)  but there’s not time to do much about your fitness by  then, and so if it’s not a great day ….then what ? Well , looking at the results online after the fact cheered me up a bit. Yes – my swim was bout 5 minutes off the pace of the Open girls, but my bike and run really were there or thereabouts – in fact I think I had 3rd or 4th fastest run split - and that was all without being “in the race”, and off the back of a 25 hour training week.
It was a really well organized and superbly supported event, with lovely refreshments afterwards and spot prizes from the many local sponsors.  I got to hang out with a really nice bunch of new people, and was looked after like a superstar by Justine and Anthony who I was really hoping would officially adopt me….they and the rest of the Stadium Triathlon club will be down in Bussleton  volunteering on Ironman day before making a huge racket at their support station. I sure look forward to seeing them again :o)

down-under diaries intro to Perth

Perth is a great place to be - a small city on an large estuary on the west coast. Sunny and hot, but being surrounded by so much water and a constant stiff breeze, is a very pleasant temperature at this time of year. I'm told that mid summer they have a couple of weeks that are unpleasantly warm, but for now it's perfect.  I'm staying with the president of Triathlon WA, Peter Rash, and his family in East Fremantle. Fantastic location for training :o) though it's been a bit of a slow week getting back into it due to the jet-lag and being slightly sick.  But I'm optimistic that I can get a solid 3 weeks training in addition to the swim coaching from Paul Newsome (Swimsmooth) and be in good shape for Busso. I'm certainly coming into the race less F*cked than I was in 2010!!

Peter is racing Ironman next week too, and despite having made a late entry and his extreme modesty, he’s training solidly and looks to be in great shape.  I hope that the relatively short prep period means that he hits the race without the burn out that is so easy to fall into. Yvonne (the wife) is around a wee bit more – she  is also a pretty competent triathlete in her age group and it turns out she was at boarding school in St Audreys, a place on the north Somerset coast that I regularly cycle past, and has relatives who live in Bishop's Hull which is one of the “suburbs” of Taunton! Small world, eh? There are two teenage girls - the elder is about University entry age and is the only one in the family not a sporty type. She is an artist and perhaps a little unsure of what her ”path” is right now. She understands that an Art degree is generally valued by where it was attained. But I have seen her work  -it's really very impressive. She very generously moved out of the Granny flat which she had been living in and using as her studio so that I could occupy it. It is the size of a large 1 -bed flat in the UK. The younger daughter is 15 and is the "sporty" kid - a swimmer of a very decent standard, and especially enthusiastic aboput open water swimming. They are both really intelligent and sociable (for teenagers) towards a stranger in their home.

I daresay that I didn't make a great impression on them though  - I'm still feeling pretty jet-lagged and our first encounter, he popped down to say Hello on Friday morning at about 9am - I was fast asleep and very groggy having carried over that cold/throat infection on the plane. The flight didn't do it much good and it  has turned my insides bright green and my whole nose into a giant scab -  lovely for first impressions !! 

Have been meaning to write a blog covering everything as there's a lot to tell, but my days are pretty full mostly. but at the same time perfectly simple. sleeping well, getting up early, swim training, head home, have breakfast & catch up on emails and a bit of work that needs doing in response to them, head out for ride or run of varying length - back home by 5, tidy up laundry shopping etc , have early tea, a bit more emailing and work, read a bit and usually in bed by 9:30 and often earlier. It’s now almost the end of my time here, and as always I ‘m wishing that I could stay for longer. I’m also winding down in readiness ot race an Ironman next weekend, and so finally have the time and spare energy to sit and put together a blog. The following entry may seem a bit disjointed since parts have been written at various times over the last month. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Ironman Wales

Cant really explain why it's taken me so long to get this race report finished. Narcolepsy? 
I hope that you can stay awake long enough to read it!!! 

Ironman Wales 2012 (10:12:34 - 3rd Female) 

I arrived in Tenby early in the week before the race, I most enjoy those first few days being at race site before the main influx of triathletes come and take over the place. In Tenby the contrast is most stark – the average age of visitor to the town at this time of year is about 100, and this gave the place a very relaxed  (sedated) vibe. Though you’d have been out of luck if you hoped to find an unoccupied bench from which to enjoy a flask of tea in the September sunshine to which we were being treated. Following the success of last year’s race, the local area had really got behind the race; towns and houses were adorned with Ironman Wales flags and banners, and coffee shops stocked with “Ironman Specials” in anticipation of the weekend.

Being in place early gave me the opportunity to ride the bike course, run on the run course and swim in sea. Having prepared for but not started the race last year, I knew pretty well what we were in for already but I always feel more prepared for a race the better I know the details of the course.  I’d remembered it being pretty brutal, and so it was a good experience for me to ride around it on Wednesday, feeling very strong.

In particular I feel it was an advantage for me to swim in the sea each morning in the hope that I would acclimatize to the cold water. Not fond of swimming under normal circumstances, these refreshing sea swims were really a joy for me – but unfortunately the effect of cold water makes my hands cramp,  “claw” up in attempt to retreat up the sleeves of my wetsuit after only about 15 minutes. This makes it pretty difficult to swim and was a concern. The best I could do was get in the water for as long as possible every day  -more swimming than I’d have liked to have done pre-race but I feared the knock –on effect of disabled digits in transition and the bike more than I did the slower swim time.  Whether 4 days is sufficient time for this adaption is unlikely, but the feeling that I was doing what I could to improve my situation was important.

Race week quickly passed and before we knew it, the town was an international buzz of triathletes, the shared language of race wheels, pointy hats and compression socks. With the race site central to the compact town of Tenby, pre race logistics were really easy for me as we’d managed to get sea front accommodation within 500m of the finish line and transition. This also enabled me to return to my room once I’d sorted my bike on race morning for a final coffee before donning my wetsuit and making my way across to the North beach swim start.

The professional athletes lined up knee deep from the shore line start, with the 1500+ age groupers poised ready to pounce from their position a few meters up the beach. In order to prevent athletes cutting the swim course by running the shoreline towards the first buoy ,an additional marker had been moored a couple of hundred meters directly in front of the start line which we all had to swim around before taking the direction of the first turn buoy. Although a much less ambiguous course layout ,this  set us up for a very rough first few minutes as the faster age-groupers caught the pro pack, and then congested around the tight turn.  I’m quite used to this, and aside from choking on waves, fear of loosing my goggles the blows to the head and sudden appearance of rubber limbs across my path, I am at least presented with a good choice of feet to swim after and take advantage of.  I didn’t feel that I’d managed it particularly well on my first lap, with my mind wandering and line drifting wide of the main mass of swimmers. I felt comfortable but not very “on it” and frustrated at the frequency with which I seemed to come into conflict with other swimmers. The lap felt like it was taking an absolute eternity, so I was surprised and encouraged to be running around the half way point in 27minutes. Despite a far greater feeling of focus and rhythm for the second lap, I was about 2 minutes slower. Overall, 57 minutes is a fairly decent swim for me, but I knew that the likes of Hilary Biscay would already be 10 minutes up the road already by the time I’d made my way up the steep ramped beach exit, slipped on my shoes and begun the 1km dash through town to transition. This quirky feature of the race was great fun – fantastic for spectators and really helps to build a bit of an atmosphere to encourage athletes for the long and tough bike ride ahead.  

This is the part that I was most looking forward to .I have been riding very strong on the bike since Roth, and have had plenty of practice doing hard, hill sessions in some fairly gnarly weather conditions as a result of training from my home in Somerset through a British summer.  I was hoping for the toughest conditions that Pembrokeshire could provide, which would give me the best chance of making up ground of the women ahead. The plan was to ride as hard as I could for the first 1/3rd of the course and make up as much ground as possible early on, before settling into a more steady middle third ensuring that I was getting enough to eat and deal with the first round of hills by smart gearing  rather than brute force .The final 1/3 is always just as hard as I can go…as long as I have managed that middle section well.  I was pleased with how well I executed this, and had ridden from 7th into 3rd place by the 2nd hour. Being in a podium position kept me focused, and working solidly in the hope a catching a glimpse of Eimer in her distinctive green race attire up ahead. I did not think she’d have had much of a start on me after the swim (I was wrong - she swam 53minutes!!) but has demonstrated that she is a strong cyclist. I kept telling myself that all it would take was for her to be feeling tired after a heavy season of racing  -this is no course for the fatigued! – and kept pushing on. What I really should have been thinking about was who was behind me though, as I was passed by Kristin Lie in that final 1/3rd of the ride. Gutted. I kicked myself for having eased off  the pace (even though this WAS planned, the plan had not assumed I’d be this far up the field)  and from that point on – about the 4.5hr mark- did not let up the pace at any point ,just about able to keep her in my sights.  Logic told me that to have passed me this late in the ride, she could only have been riding marginally faster – and expending more energy in doing so. I was well on top of my nutrition, and felt confident about all of the climbs having eased up them all on the first lap. For sure, my legs ached now, but I was not going to give up a podium finish and the extra cash that I’d receive as a reward.  I caught and passed my friend Chris as we neared the Narbeth, who I typically pass back and forth with during an Ironman, told me that she was only about 90 seconds ahead. By this time it had started to drizzle and the approach to Narbeth has a very fast descent into an off-camber bend immediately followed by a stupidly steep climb. My least favourite bit of road, but I’d practiced it a few times and knew what was coming. Kristin was not so lucky  - as I rounded the corner and geared for the sharp climb out , I came across her trying to get back on her bike, on the steepest part of the hill having dropped her chain or something. She was clearly very frustrated and yelled at a spectator to “Canst Sie Give Ich a Push” ….which he did, enabling her enough momentum to re-mount the bike. Well, her hard luck was a gift for me, I bit down on the bars, and was off. If she wanted to come by again she was going to have to put in another supreme effort, and take some risks on the wet slippery hills in the process to do so. 

I held her off for the rest of the ride, and entered T2 in 3rd place, about 6 minutes down on Eimer. It was the fastest transition that I could manage having decided to wear compression calves for the run because of a sprain that I’d picked up the previous day. They don’t slip onto wet legs all that well! Dashing out with a big smiles from race ref and fellow Somerset RC Tri member Paul Lester and a bar of Kendall mint cake clutched n my hand, I had the company of a lady called Paula on a mountain bike. Paula was obviously a well –known character from Tenby Bicycle Club, and I think that she got almost as much support from the crowds that lined almost the entire run course as I did!  We didn’t, chat much on my first lap, partly because I was unsure of the protocol having never had a bike with me before, but mostly because I was running just about as hard as I could both up the long hill out of town, and then back down it again into the headwind.

The design of the 4 –lap marathon route was such that there were at least 4 places on each lap where you could get a time check on anyone close to you. Eimer was far enough ahead that I was just missing her on the first lap, but my sister and her boyfriend had positioned themselves in the perfect position to time the gaps and relay the information to me as I made my return past them a few minutes later. “am I doing enough to hold her off?” I asked. Their answer did not deliver much joy –“only just”. With lap one done, I felt that I’d got into a good rhythm for both the ups and downs having run through all of the aid stations on the way. That’s where the Kendall Mint cake came in – 400kcals in a very palatable format and didn’t require a lot of water to wash it down meant that I didn’t need to stop.  At the second turn-around things were beginning to feel much harder, and I learned from my sister that although I’d made small dent in Eimer’s lead over me, Kristin was chasing hard from behind. I was lucky that I had Paula and plenty of support along the route from both spectators and other competitors to keep me from a very dark place for the next 10km, as I could see for myself that she was closing in on me. By the time I reached the third turn-around, I think my lead had shriveled to a mere handful of seconds and even Paula, who had also been providing me with little bits of information, started preparing her farewells. Thinking quickly, my sister reminded me that if caught I could still fight back, and I prepared myself for whatever pace she would pass me at. It’d taken her 25km to catch me, so it wasn’t THAT fast, I reasoned.  I’m not exactly sure what happened then. I think it was a combination of that thought process, the thought of handing over $500 after all this pain, and a very helpful age-group girl (who was on her first or second lap) who gave me encouragement to match her pace as she passed me. The result was that for just long enough I picked up my pace for just long enough that Kristin was unable to quite catch me, and must have lost hope of doing so. The next time we ran through Tenby, up and down the hilly streets to a din of music and cheering, each out-and back section revealed a little more breathing space. By that time in the afternoon most people had started their marathon and the course was getting rather congested. This is where having a lead bike really comes in handy, as I was able to send Paula ahead of me, blowing her whistle and shouting “lead runner coming through” ensuring that I had a clear run of the narrow streets as I dug deep. It was awesome – every one that I passed, whether they knew me or not, gave me a huge “well done” and stepped aside to let us through.  The final run up the hill seemed as easy as the first, but I grabbed several gels just incase a fast finish would be required. I knew that if challenged I’d be able to dig deeper now that I was so close. It may sound a pathetic, the first woman had already crossed the finish line at this point, but finishing in third place was important to me – and was providing the motivation I needed to get the very best out of myself at the end of such a long day. 

I didn’t use my Timex GPS watch due to my haste in T2, but it seems to be widely agreed by those who raced that the run course was somewhere in the region of 2km short, so my 3:09 run split isn’t quite as good as may seem – none-the-less, I am pleased to have felt strong for most of it, and persisted when I didn’t. I feel  that the terrain more-or less than compensates for the mis-measurement, but it’s still a mystery to me that such an error can occur when there are 3 dead turns which should enable adjustment when the route is being checked. Not that I’d have thanked anyone fro an extra 2km at the time!!

In all, a very enjoyable race, if you like more challenging terrain and conditions.  This one really gives value for money with bike splits typically 10% slower than the “average” Ironman and the level of spectator support and local interest from start of the week  and then from the start line to the finish on race day ranks amongst the very best that I have experienced. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

My GSSI visit

The Gatordae Institute of Sports Science is a brand new (as of Feburary 2012) lab kitted up to administer a full spectrum of testing and run by Dr Ian Rollo and Dr Jimmy Carter in their wide ranging research around sports nutrition, hydration and performance. In conjunction with the other GSSI laboratories around the world, they are building a data base of physiological data of elite athletes across all sports. So, as well as the Aerobic Metabolism testing that I was primarily interested in for my training, I contributed results across a wide range of  tests from a detailed body composition examination, nutrition and sleep habits surveys, cognitive function, reaction times to the strength of my hand-shake!

The first step for me was a morning of fasting and a break from training. I was not complaining about the latter following a weekend of back-to-back triathlon and half marathon racing, though the fasting (which included coffee!) was another matter - I usually feel faint if it’s more than 2hours between snacks.

I was shown around the gleaming lab, which resembled something between a very modern gym and a space-ship, then asked to pop into the bathroom and pee into a vial.  This would be used to test my Acute  Hydration status. With a specific gravity of <1 .01=".01" first="first" hydrated.="hydrated." i="i" nbsp="nbsp" passed="passed" test="test" was="was" well="well">

The lab have 3 methods of analysing Body Composition and are collecting data to for the  calibration between two sophisticated methods:  BioImpedence Analysis and Air Displacement Plethysmograhy (the BodPod) and comparing both to the classic “skin-fold” measure.  I was pleased to discover that I am 86% fat free and have some muscles. So, I’ll call that a “pass” too. 

Dressed in my cycling kit and ready to get on the spin bike, Jimmy first took some pre-workout blood samples which will be sent away for a detailed analysis for indicators of general health and mineral composition, and also compared to a final sample collected immediately post-exertion.

The Aerobic Metabolism and Aerobic performance tests can be carried out on either a watt-bike or treadmill. It is more common to do this type of testing on a stationary bike because it’s a lot easier to control the work-load, easier to collect the athlete samples, and less of a nuisance for the athlete working at high intensity (we’ll get onto that later!)  The “samples” that were to be collected in this case was my exhaled breathe for measuring the oxygen conversion that was occurring in my system which meant riding with a mask with placed tightly over my nose and mouth. The test starts by cycling at a low power for 3minutes whilst heart-rate is measured, and my exhaled gases are fed through an analysis machine. The power is then increased in 35watt increments every 3minutes. As I ride, I am asked to indicate the level of perceived effort on a chart which is held up in front of me. The progression typically goes like this –“very easy”, “easy”, “easy”, “moderate”, “moderate”, “quite hard”, ”let me off!!”, ”arrghhhnnpphhhckckkk!!!”. In other words, it’s very noticeable when a “threshold” has been reached, and for me there’s not a lot of go after that point.  It’s important that the testing team provide plenty of encouragement for during the test – some good music and plenty of verbal, as wearing that sweaty mask and uninspiring nature of pedalling a stationary bike adds another dimension of discomfort and may accelerate the desire to terminate. My team did a good job, and I was able to push out a full minute longer in my final step than I had on my prior visit 3 moths ago. Jimmy guided me off the bike and into a seat in order to collect a second round of blood samples.

Whilst they got busy in the office working through my data, I sat down and filled in a number of surveys around my sleep, training, nutrition and drinking habits and perceptions. The lab is funded by Pepsico, fundamentally for the research into Gatorade sports nutrition product.  My answers will help provide some insight into the differing habits and attitudes around nutrition of elite athletes from various sports, as well as highlighting areas in my own performance which might be enhanced.  I scored only 64% on the Nutritional Habits questionnaire - it’s encouraging to know that I have so much scope for improvement by making some simple changes.

The data obtained from my Aerobic Metabolism test is what will really inform me about my nutrition requirements, and we next sat down to discuss my results and the significance that they have for my training and nutrition.
Most athletes understand that we have two sources of fuel for exercise: fat and carbohydrate. At lower intensities we burn mostly fat, from our abundant body stores.  For very high intensity exercise, like sprinting or power sports, is fuelled by carbohydrate (CHO) which initially comes from the finite glycogen stores in our muscle and then must be ingested as various forms of sugar.  The Fat: CHO ratio varies as exercise intensity (which is measured by heart-rate) increases, and the rate of change of this relationship is different for everyone. Doing a Aerobic Metabolism test, as I have described above, will produce your unique “Fat-buring” curve, identify significant training thresholds and determine training zones to improve relevant aspects of your metabolic response. My test results show my FATmax HR to be around 110bpm, or ~40% Vo2max.  At 140bpm, 60% Vo2max, it’s about 50:50 – a point commonly termed Aerobic Threshold since beyond this Fat oxidisation drops off rapidly and CHO becomes the critical fuel source. At the Intensity that I target for my Ironman racing (one stage above this), I’m closer to 60% CHO:40% fat - which has an effect on the amount of hydrogen accumulation in my muscles as well as fuel consumption requirements.
As an endurance athlete competing in day-long events, my objective would be to “shift the curve” through training methods such that I’m utilising higher proportions of fat for fuel at higher intensity. Ian and Jimmy had some interesting and useful suggestions for me around the type of training that I could incorporate into my off-season to help with this.

The Aerobic Performance element of the same test is focused around a well-known factor called Vo2 Max. It’s essentially a measure of the amount of oxygen that can be consumed whilst exercising at maximum effort. It’s pretty difficult to determine absolutely, since not only is it pretty difficult to attain “maximal effort” in test conditions (see the following description of my run-based test) but it’s also weight dependant  (i.e. you can improve your Vo2max by dropping a kg), but is nonetheless thought to be a good indicator of athletic potential especially in sports where high intensity work is required.

We repeated the same test the following day running on a treadmill. Using the same apparatus and basic procedure, I was tied to a harness and run at increasing speeds on a slightly inclined (1 degree) treadmill with the face-mask on. We started off at walking pace and increased by 1kph every 3 minutes, measuring my heart-rate and indication of level of perceived effort. It did not take very long for that perceived effort to reach “hard”, though this was more due to the very confined feeling of running with my head held in place by the mask and no visual feedback as I ran as the mask and tubes almost entirely blocked my vision.  I think that this test takes a bit of getting used to and I had to really focus on how my legs and breathing felt rather than how uncomfortable and annoyed I felt by the contraption that I was wearing at each stage.  Once we’d reached a critical speed (governed by how fast my legs were actually capable of turning over!) the intensity was increased by means of adding gradient. I made it through 9 ½ stages, and reached a max HR of 172bpm - about 90% of what we’d got to the previous day.The FAT% graphs here made interesting reading –unfortunately not as smooth as the cycling test due to a very different set of circumstances. Whilst the cycling test was conducted according to the usual fasted and rested protocol, this running test followed an hour swim set, a typical breakfast, then a 3hour ride and …probably the most significant….a recovery bag of  Jelly Snakes. However, this was planned, as we felt that it would provide me with some real race- relevant data.  And, anyway – sweets are not entirely off the agenda in my training or racing.

I was to be tested on my Cognitive Function and Motor Skills.  The former was actually rather enjoyable and tested my awareness of changing environment and ability to react to it quickly and calmly. The "D2" machine really does resemble part of a spaceship’s controls, with an array of LED buttons in a radial pattern surrounding a small central digital screen at eye level. The test subject de-activates each button as quickly as possible, whilst simultaneously reading out the numbers which appear on the little screen in the centre in order to measure mental processing and reaction time skills.  Certainly something which one would very quickly improve on with practice. My score was a comfortably above average 85% hit-to-miss ratio with a slightly above average reaction time of .68 seconds. This does not tell us too much other than that I’m more accurate than I am fast!

Testing my Motor Skills was an exercise in real humiliation for me – putting me in mind of playground games! The "Ispan" consists of nine illuminated discs mounted around a goal-like frame, with 3 on each post and 4 across the top bar. They are movement sensitive and the lights are de-activated by waving a hand in front of it.  Once de-activated, the next light will come on, and the test is a time-trial through a random sequence of 12 lights  - the faster you can switch each light off, the faster your test result. It’s exactly the sort of skill set that the lack of  drove me away from sports in school, and a comparison of my test results against average (5% below) were not too surprising given that I spend most of the 23 seconds tripping over my own feet.

The next test uses a very clever machine to take a very simple measurement. The strength of the muscles in the forearm and hand are here used as an indictor of overall Muscular Strength, and are measured by simply squeezing a solid metal sensor. To my surprise, my readings spat out a score of close to 70kg, which is right at the top of the “above average” range for females.

Finally we move onto the final test of the day, and in a sick sort of way, my favourite. Probably because I like the name: the Wingate Test. The test itself is quite horrendous, but is over very quickly. Back on the watt bike, in order to measure peak Power and Anaerobic Capacity – the ability to use the muscle-bound energy sources of Adenosine TriPhospahte (ATP), Creatine Phosphate (PC) and glycosis in a short max effort burst.
For this test, only power is recorded – the effort is too short and sharp for heart-rate to be of much relevance. On the Watt Bike I pedal with low resistance, and over a 30 second period gradually increase my cadence from a start-point of my comfortable 80rpm up to my maximum of around 120rpm. At this point I have 5 further seconds, with the very loud encouragement form the testing team, to spin my legs even faster before the resistance goes on. All of a sudden, I’m churning out close to 700Watts before my legs realise what has happened to them. This will be the Peak Power that I produce. The test lasts for 30 more seconds at this level of resistance and I pedal furiously to maintain as high a power as I can for that time. The power graph on the screen shows a clear peak at 0 seconds and then a shallow drop off until about 20 seconds, where I manage to pick it up again for a final 10 second all-out effort.  My peak and average numbers, and the 20% loss in power over the duration compared very well against the collected data averages for females. For an endurance athlete, who’s training really is quite specific to this sort of test, this should not come as too much of a surprise. 

At the end of my visit I’m given a full report of all my testing results, which Ian and Jimmy are happy to discuss, as well as other questions and ideas about nutrition that I have for them.  I’m keen to return in another 3 months time to see if these recommended tweaks have a measurable effect in that short period. I may also do a little work on my motor skills!

The Bod Pod - ready for launch!
Aerobic Metabolism and Vo2max testing 

Cognitive Function Test
Motor Skills? I'm a triathlete....

Wingate Test -  the "before" shot! 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Challenge Roth - race report

better late than never! ( that's what they said to me at the end of the race too ;o) )

Roth is a small town in Bavaria, rural and forested, I consider it to be Germany’s most beautiful region. Cherries and hops grow where the vast pine forests have been cleared. Pretty little villages with their strange looking hop –houses are connected by smooth cycle tracks, and decorated with sculptures from local artists. I was staying with a very interesting Finnish lady who lived alone in a small village on the outskirts of Roth – and had the use of her shopping bike for my excursions into town. It was a lovely spacious and comfortable home, providing just the right balance of peace and privacy and her good company. As a result of airline-induced bike transportation stresses, I’d been unable to follow my training plan for most of race week and would be coming into this race with about half of the training hours that I would usually do and minimal course orientation. Having done less than usual volume in my short race preparation phase, this seemed appropriate and I kept myself and my bike moving with the regular commutes that was necessary to get between the split race venues of Roth and Hilpoltstien, which are about 10 km apart. For future reference, the logistics of this event would be a great deal easier with a car. We had a few impressive thunder-storms during race week, but Sunday’s forecast was optimistic with only a “chance” of storms, and I manage to avoid a soaking whilst riding out and about. Either my luck would hold or I’d get my due on race day! 

A 3 am wake up was required in order to feed myself ,drink coffee for the first time in 2 weeks and get to my 4:20 transfer bus in time. Of course I was at transition with almost 2 hours to spare, which was quite nice as I had a lot of friends racing and once I had set my bike up it was relaxing to go around checking on everyone, wishing them luck and taking a few photos.
 The race start was at 6:30 for the Pros and those age –groupers who expected to go “sub- 9hr” and win a portion of their entry fee back. I really like that idea of reward good performances: I suppose that without Kona slots on offer,  it’s the Challenge equivalent – though rather biased towards the under 40 year –old males.

This method of wave allocation suited me great though – I reckoned that most age-groupers gunning for a sub -9 would be likely to be looking to get most of their advantage on the bike, and not swimming like the Pro packs. This usually equals a good draft for me! And so it was – I seemed to be starting very near the front, but I’m used to the drill – head down, stay calm, swim like mad and get sucked along in the jet stream as the pack stretches out over the first 300m. I don’t tend to even look where I’m going, just enjoy the ride, although “enjoy” is not really a very accurate description as it’s pretty unnerving being unable to breathe for the first 3 minutes and I’ll often loose goggles or even cap in the churn. Once that settled I found myself to be nicely surrounded by other swimmers, including the red (male) and white (female) caps of other pros which always makes me feel a bit better, and got into a relaxed but focused 3 –stroke breathing rhythm never too far from a pair of feet for the first half of the swim. After the first turn I picked up the effort to attach myself to a small group a little further ahead, and the occasional tap that I received on my toes indicated that I’d brought a couple of friends along with me. There were brief periods of 2/2/3 breathing during this 500 m effort, and again coming towards the finish, but on the whole it was one of the most comfortable swims I’ve done and so was fairly pleased to have passed through the change tent with only an hour on the clock.

My bike was looking pretty solitary in the Pro-pen racking area, which makes transition easy ;o) I was really looking forward to this part of the race (the ride, I means, not transition!)  the most – I had been riding really well in training, loving my Enve-Powertap wheel-set, and had not yet seen the bike course but had heard great things about how super-fast it is. YEEEE HAAAA!!

And that’s just how I felt for the first 80 or 90 km. Having set out far too hard in my last Ironman race in Florida, I was deliberately holding myself back as it seemed very comfortable to ride above my target power. The first of the two laps there were other riders around. One or two female pros and some of the faster male age-groupers, riding with enough space between us that the motorcycle refs didn’t have much work on their hands, but close enough to provide some pacing and motivation. Roads were closed and it felt great to be bowling along in a  “pace line”. It was really quite windy and on some of the (many) exposed sections I really had to question how on earth this had a reputation for being a super-fast course! We reached the famous Solar hill climb and it was as spectacular as the photos suggest – a complete wall of noise and bodies, parting just sufficiently to allow a bike through as we approached. I would have been more comfortable riding this short incline much faster than the fellas that I found myself caught behind here -they seemed to want to savor the attention, passing was impossible and I could not make my requests for them to “get a friggin’ mve on” heard over the crowd’s loud cheering. Perhaps my legs would be thankful later on.

Around about the end of the first lap, things started to feel a lot tougher, as they always do. I deployed a Viper Boost gel and picked up a bar from an aid station. By this point the course had been joined by the relay cyclists, which provided some fresh legs to help pace off. The roads had become significantly more busy with cyclists and we were passing one another almost constantly. This certainly gives an advantage in both keeping the effort up as required for these “moves”, and an undeniable benefit of shelter from the wind as I was passing groups at  time. The fact that frequently those who I’d passed would come back by me a short while later seems to demonstrate this. Oddly there was very little sign of the motor cycle refs during this second lap. Not that I saw anything which I felt was obvious cheating, and perhaps they felt that with this many competitors on the roads, crowding could hardly be helped.

I have to say that after two laps and what seemed like constant headwinds, I felt pretty beaten up and glad to be off the bike after 5hr and 17minutes. It was a little longer than I’d hoped to be riding , but I think many people felt the same way and the windy conditions had a lot to do with that. I was 6hr20 into the race, but a 3:20 marathon would still bring me a PB- and I was hoping to run a little quicker than that.
The atmosphere that the supporting crowds in the centre of Roth created certainly helped me to forget the stiffness in my legs and glutes, the run course then took us on a lovely shaded trial through a small forest which was lined with large paintings by local kids and artists draped from trees on either side. It was wonderful and I felt great. I was pretty confident that the km markers would be reliable at this superbly organized race, I had decided against wearing a HR monitor or GPS and would be running on “feel” and checking splits on my stopwatch. The splits looked reasonable for the first 8 or so, I knew that sometime soon I’d see Rachel coming back towards town ahead of the race and she’d be followed by Steven and Mat leading their age-groups….my sister and other friends would be some way behind them, so that occupied me and kept me focused on running well and looking sharp.

I had only covered about 8km when I started to find it very hard to maintain even my sensible starting pace of 4:45/km on a dead flat path. “Looking sharp” already felt like more of a pretense than it should, and once Steven and I had crossed for the first time, I let go of that and allowed my pace to drop even further. About a week has passed between the race an my finally sitting down to finish this race report, and it’s now hard to recall exactly where the problem was – I did not feel it was nutrition, I had no pains in my legs – just nothing in there to ‘give’. I think that I simply ran out of training, the lack of long runs in my brief race build-up period was becoming apparent. It was really an ideal run course – a single lap of a T-shaped course ,most of it was on the canal path – plenty wide enough for the amount of traffic that was out there at that time and constant company from people running the opposite way. This really helps when you have so many friends doing the race. Each  end of the T was a little loop in a small village who’s population had come out to bang drums and pans in the sun! So we never had to run the same stretch twice, but had plenty of significant markers in the race to aim for. But, for me – the perfect course and great conditions couldn’t do anything to disguise the fact that I was having really quite a lousy day of it, and tried not to think about those target times just slipping away as I walked the aid stations ...barely jogged between for a 3:40-something marathon time.

Although painful, the final 2km loop around the town square of Roth, in front of a “mile” of trestle beer tables and jolly Bavarians in the sunshine was an absolute joy. Certainly a highlight of the day and perhaps my racing career given that I was not going to come away from this race feeling very proud of my performance.  But whatever I now feel when reflecting back on that race, at the moment of crossing the finish line, I really did feel extremely happy and proud as I do each time I get myself over the line at the end of an “iron-distance” race.

If it were easy, I don’t think I’d be as interested!!

Here's how my race broke down, with  a little analysis - 
Swim – 1:00:23  About average for me, based on what the 5 fastest female swimmers of the day swam)  
Bike – 5:17:54 About average for me based on the fastest 5 female bike splits, but I did record a new best average power for an IM distance race thanks to the winds! 
Run – 3:42:53  One of my worst ever run performances, over 18 minutes slower than an “average” run time for me would have  (woulda, coulda, shoulda!) been based on the fastest female runs on the day, and of course the element of my race that I am most disappointed, but in fairness least surprised, with.

A marginally better than average time in each of these splits, or a better than average result in any one along with just average times in each of the others would have resulted in a new PB. So, despite the windy conditions on the day, it’s still a fast course, and one that I’m pretty keen to return to with some “proper” fitness! 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Roth ...pre race notes

(this post was scheduled to have been posted before Sunday's event - you'll probably know the outcome of the race as you read it. Bear in mind that, as i wrote this, i did not! )

I had not originally planned to race a summer ironman this year in order to give myself the best chance of regeneration after the double and preparation for Ironman Wales and the start of the 2013 Ironman series. But Steven, my sister, and her boyfriend, some of the athletes that I coach and a crowd from my former club, Tri London had all signed up for Challenge Roth - an iconic event that I’ve always wanted to experience. I’m in the privileged position as a Pro that, although the race had a complete and impressive professional start-list, they granted me an entry and fixed me up with some local accommodation. I was in!

Through the months following the Enduroman, I struggled with the prolonged recovery process and wavered in my decision to race,  but following the Pyrenees training camp in May I started to feel a pleasing return to form – and booked my flights. 

There’s no hiding from the fact that I’ve put in a lot less volume in prep for Roth than I would usually for an ironman – perhaps I’ll be able to draw on the massive volumes that I did back in Jan/Feb would save me? Self-coached for the time-being I have been focusing most of my attention on my cycling; using my Powertap to train very specifically and at higher intensities, rather than the high volume approach which most people associate me with. Similarly with running- this seems to be coming back together recently and I have been focused on specific pace workouts and brick sessions in favour of doing long runs. The race will provide a great opportunity to assess my progress and possible draw-backs of this lack of “long”sessions.

With this in mind, although I do have best-case time targets and hopes on what is considered to be the worlds fastest long distance course, it is most important for me to keep a fix on the “bigger picture" during the race. In my note book I wrote :

the reasons i am doing this race  - three things i want to achieve:

>regain confidence in my ability to race the ironman distance well
> get some power data as indicator of success of current training philosophy (bike) and marker for areas to work on for Wales
> a new iron distance PB and best av (bike) power

and some specific targets (I couldn’t start a race without them, that’s just me)

race day targets and goals:
> close to 9:30
> top 10
> a new race PB < 9:43
>better that Thorstens' race prediction (10:09)
> av bike power greater than 175W

This was accompanied by a list of things that in needed to do and think and remind myself of in order to achieve this. Much of that was about controlling my mental state and reaffirming the key objectives above.

To place top ten would cover the costs of my trip, improve my publicity profile …and a new PB would be good for morale, but in this instance and it was important to be to fixated on these outcomes as I have alternative indicators of a successful race stated here. With the large and high-class line-up of pro women, I feel less pressure as one of the "lesser" pros (who seem to make up about 1/3rd of the pro field) and my race experience must then be focused on "my race"  rather than "the race" and my performance relative to those crossing the line ahead of me. I hope that this will enable me to retain that positive state of mind that has been known to deserted me in the past if I see the leaders out there, an "impossible" distance in front and i'm feeling like a total amatuer with ambitions way beyond her capabilities. 

I am nervous, excited, curious and "up for it" in about the right proportions...!! 

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