Monday, 2 December 2013

Dash 113 Brazil race report

As always following a disappointing race, reflecting the morning after it doesn’t seem half as bad as it felt at the time.  My experience yesterday seemed to go from bad to worse as my psychology was all wrong and I was unable to motivate myself to put in a better performance after a poor start.

However bad it feels to be going through a “disaster” of a race, my experience has taught me that it really isn’t all that awful, and to at least continue to the finish as credibly as possible. So, once I got onto the run course, where there was a lot of support and I was able to get sight of the other women ahead (not as far as I’d feared) I did buck up a little and found some energy to run at a decent pace.

In fact, although my perception through the first stages of the race was that I was dead last and a long way behind, the reality was that I finished in 7th place, and only a minute or so off 6th, with the rest of the field all only minutes ahead of that.

The conditions for the race were pretty perfect- it would have been nice to race in blazing sunshine, but an overcast and still 20 degrees suits me pretty well. The sea was pretty calm also and sufficiently warm that wetsuits were optional for age-groupers and not allowed for the Elites. We started in a small group of Elite women, 3 minutes after the men and about 10minutes before the mass start. In these circumstances, especially without wetsuit, I knew that the run into the waves and first few hundred meters would be critical for me to have a hope of a decent swim split, and was ready for it. Or so I thought. Unfortunately within a few seconds that opportunity was gone, I was somehow at the back of the rapidly disappearing field of short-course specialists and before long the group had made off without me.   I noted one other swimmer who had managed to stay in the pack up to the first buoy at about 200m but was becoming separated, and made a course for her feet, but found that I was actually swimming faster than she was. I told myself that there must be others in that group like her – with a good starting speed, but less endurance than me. It’s a bit of a joke that my instinctive ability to swim straight is pretty lacking, and so sighting the far away buoy would be critical to my chasing attempts. I managed this pretty well on the way out, but unable to see where the group was after we turned there. At that point my vague understanding of the race briefing gave me some confusion as to where to head next and started feeling pretty despondent after having been told by a kayak to swim back against the current to round a buoy which I had understood to be merely for sighting. I’d not seen that other women come past me, but I felt sure that if she’s swum the correct course, she would have done so…and I was dead last out of the water in 34 minutes. 

The “silver lining” of this cloud was that by now the age group men were also coming out of the water, and would give me something to pace of on the bike. Although not a “long” day as such, I felt confident that it was long enough to capitalize on my endurance and make up some good ground on the bike section. I resolved to go as hard as required by pacing off the strong age group athletes until I’d passed at least one other female pro, and then re assess the race situation and appropriate intensity.  The course had 3 turn around each lap so there’d be plenty of chances to see who as ahead and by how far at regular intervals.

Grabbing my bike stuff in the “open” transition I removed the ankle tag that I’d been given for the swim section, and went on my way out. I was stopped there by the spectating crowds and transition security, and eventually realized that they wanted me to go back an retrieve it. I was pretty sure that the tag I’d had to attach to my bike’s forks, and the one that was I’d had to attach to my shoe laces meant that the heavy metal piece we’d worn in the swim was only required for that part of the race….but it didn’t seem worth debating at that point, and so I went back on my tracks to find and re-attach it. 

Well, this additional delay didn’t do a lot for my mindset. I don’t fall easily into feeling  “hard done by”, but the frustration was pretty overwhelming. I tried to use this emotion as a fuel to fire me up, which worked to some extent – but rather I just felt cross with myself, and doubted whether it would be possible to make up the time now. I was so unfocused that, although comfortable and holding a good power and riding a fantastic flat course, on several occasions I found myself almost crashing into the traffic cones that were in place to separate us from the traffic! I had to pull my self together. It did help a bit that at each of the turn points I saw the race leaders, and it wasn’t huge time gaps that separated us, though not really enough. Pulling out was a very appealing option but or the fact that I was pretty sure I’d regret doing so –none-the-less it occupied a lot of my mental energy, which is no a good mindset or racing.

I got through the ride in 2hr25- not awful, but certainly compromised by my lack of motivation. I was looking forwards to the run actually, although by now I was just expecting to get around it at a comfortable pace, feeling sorry for myself. I left transition with an age-group woman who set out at a good pace, and was determined not to have her show me up and was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt pretty good. The two of us were close together for most of the run-  she’d let me go ahead for a while and then she would be coming from behind again, maybe pass me briefly – at one point gave me water –before dropping back.  I expected this to last for only the first lap before she conceded that the pace was just a little too much for her to maintain, but I guess I was providing motivation for her also. It was certainly useful after I had to make a toilet stop in the final lap – catching back up to her and re-passing to get back into “my” position on the course. At the last turn-around, I caught sight of pro woman in front of me…very close and realized that I was certainly catching, but without enough kms left to pass her.  Maybe if I’d been more focused I might have, maybe if I’d not been into the bathroom, been delayed at transition, got lost in the swim…..all these things…..BUT all these things are what make the race, right?

Really I just didn’t care – I only wanted to get to the finish. 

It has been a great experience for me as a guest pro and the only international entrant, and for a first-running of an event it's been very impressive. The organisers put a lot of thought into touches that really enhance the athlete's experience of the whole event, with a great selection of race sponsors, a gluten free pre race meal, very stylish high quality race T-shirts  (you get two - one in your registration pack and another Finisher shirt), thoughtful location around the race hotel and simple, fast courses. This year's race sold out within 20 minutes of opening registrations, but the organisers are keen to attract a more international participation and there will be a certain number of slots left available for international entries. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

From Brazil - pre race Dash 113

 I felt very honoured to have been invited to come and race at the first ever Dash 113 Brazil here in Floranopolis. It is a half –distance race, admittedly not my specialty, but as such the addition to the end of a pretty full-on 2013 race season (which included 6 Ironman races as well as organizing 3 training camps) seemed feasible. And a trip to Brazil in December was as just appealing as the chance of a new race experience and the chance to race on my recently acquired Airstreeem Air TT bike.

So, having settled into “off season” mentality and habits, gaining close to 5kilos as I did so…I quickly booked up a two week training camp in Lanzarote in order to recruit a bit of fitness, get used to the bike and build a bit of a sun tan.  I managed to put in a couple of good weeks training from my base at Trisports Lanzarote who always look after me and their other favourite Pro visitors exceptionally well (let’s just say that I didn’t loose any of that weight!),
trying to be disciplined about limiting my training volume and maximizing focus on race intensity. Having Cat (Morrison) around helped with that  -  after a session with her I really had little desire to add in any incidental mileage!!

The three days between my return from Lanzarote and departure for Brazil were spent mostly avoiding the cold – which meant training inside something that’s pretty unusual for me, but having this race as a focus I was able to rather enjoy it.  


The journey was as you’d expect long and tiresome ,but I eventually arrived on Thursday morning and was met by one of the race organisors ,with whom I’d been exchanging emails prior to arrival. Unfortunately the other British guest Pro, Jodie Swallow had to withdraw from the race…which made me the star guest! (No pressure then) And I must say that I have been looked after very well – both in terms of hospitality and ensuring that I have all the information about the race that I need.  Triathlon is very popular in Brazil and I learned that this race filled within 20 minutes of it’s entries opening – mostly to locals. So of course all of the race information is in Portuguese , with English not widely spoken…whatsmore the Brazilian “way” is somewhat different to anything I’ve experienced previously - so I would have been pretty lost without Ina’s taking care of me.

The race courses are pretty straight forwards actually ,and very similar to those used by the Ironman race which also starts out of Florinopolis .There’s not a huge amount of options actually – as we’ll ride a serious of out and backs along the highways. I went out for a ride on the course yesterday with the motorways still open to live traffic. “Terrifying” sums it up quite well – but it was good to have a spin out and survey the topography (flat and fast) which we with thankfully ride on closed roads on Sunday.  Cycling is not so common around here and since cyclists (as well as pedestrians) share these main roads, accidents are common .The local triathlon clubs have started initiatives to educate drivers about sharing the road with cyclists – and vice versa trying to teach cyclists to ride safely and with awareness and respect for vehicle traffic. However, for the race I am very impressed with the measures gone into ensuring safety and that traffic will be managed or stopped to allow us clear use of the roads. 

At this point in time I’m somewhat confused about the variety of different bags we have been given and the three separate timing chips…but I’m sure that it will become clear in due course!

It’s also not clear whether we will be using wetsuits or not. Yesterday I went in and swam the course without wetsuit, and I strongly suspect that it’s too warm…which is unfortunate for me, but it’s best to be prepared. Having done that practice I discovered that those 5 extra kgs were responsible for some pretty bad rubbing in my Huub swim-skin, which I will have to try and counter with Vaseline.  The forecast is for calm water – and calm cool weather in general, so although I’m not exactly looking forward to the swim, it shouldn’t be unduly difficult and my best bet is to try and stay connected with the small group of elite women that start together.

From that point on, with good conditions, I’m looking forward to the day  and getting on with the task of making up lost ground through the bike and run! 

better get some sleep - it's an early race start. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Life on Camp

I am currently enjoying a week of coaching in the warm climes of Lanzarote on the EverydayTraining Late Season "Booster" camp. This camp was designed for athletes with autumn/winter races wishing to tune up their summer fitness in a warm climate. As it's the end of season there is less emphasis on building endurance than our usual pre-Ironman camps in March, and more focus on coached training sessions. This makes the camp also suitable for athletes seeking an opportunity to develop particular aspects of their training in a focused environment and enables us to accommodate athletes with a wider range of experience. So..we have multiple Ironmen in preparation for Florida and Arizona training alongside novice triathletes who's longest ride coming into the camp was 20km!

We are having a great week so far...and you can follow the camp action and updates at:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Ironman Wales, Race Report

My good friends Debs and Darren from TriSports Lanzarote had decided to come over and give some support to me and other the athletes regularly who go out and train from their villa during the winter. They kindly sorted out my accommodation and acted as super support crew over the weekend, with the perfect balance of leaving me plenty of time and space to myself in the days before the race and being there in full force on race day. Being a little out of town, I kept my head down and really thought about the impending race very little over the 36 hours that preceded it in order to avoid the feeling of “mild dread” that tended to follow any consideration of what was ahead…

Race morning I went through the usual race morning routine, still not really thinking too much about the day ahead…but when the attendant in the Tenby multistory car park paid for my day ticket rather than making me go back to my car and find the £2 change, I gave thanks for a positive start to the day and reminded myself that maintaining that was in my own hands. Or rather, in my own head.

Tenby offers an excellent and unique view of the swim race to spectators who are able to line the streets overlooking the North beach. They see the Pro field slowly edging further into the water as the Welsh national anthem plays, seeking to create as much space between ourselves and the 1800 age-group athletes waiting 100m or so up the beach,  ready to run us down in a mass start. We made it to the first marker buoy, enabling us a few seconds of swimming before the fastest in the pack hit us from behind and crushed us around that first turn. I had a good start – there was a good sized pro field and for once I found that I was able to stay in amongst the back of the pack. After the first turn the front of the mass field caught us, providing further bodies to draft. My swim training has been going very well in the pool and although I tend not to do so well in the sea, fortunately for me we had relatively calm conditions, and once through the rough and frantic first kilometer or so I stayed within a loosely spaced group swimming together. I felt I was swimming well and at a suitable intensity, though it always seems like an age has passed before even halfway! Once in this rhythm though I found that my mind was wandering – I was loosing focus – and so was glad of the “Australian exit” providing a short run on the beach and a chance to survey the spread of the field ahead and receive some encouragement from the spectators who had packed the beach despite the pouring rain that had started as soon as the canon fired! My second lap was still with my group which I could see include a few male pros but no pink capped females, and although certainly less intense I felt my focus was better and I continued to swim strong.  I exited the water with friend and former EverydayTraining camper, Team Freespeed’s Tim Bishop.

A unique and enjoyable feature of the Tenby course is the mile dash from the North beach to T1 on the other side of the town. The run up the long ramp from the beach is hard going, with an extra transition point on the way where run shoes can be collected.  Athletes must make a call as to whether to remove wetsuit before the run and carry it, or run in it and get it off in transition (I felt it was faster to remove it). Tim caught back up to me just as we entered t1 and commented that the swim was a couple of minutes slower than last year…how he knew this, or why he cared at that point, I don’t know – but it turns out that he was right. I felt I’d had a much better swim this year, but having checked the results see that I was indeed a couple of minutes slower than in 2012.

To my surprise Steven was still in transition when I arrived, and was struggling with a pair of am warmers. Due to the forecast conditions I had packed mine also, but seeing how much time he had lost trying to get his cold wet arms in them, I quickly decided that a wind vest would be enough and left him to it. I felt bad for him knowing that must have had a poor swim or a very long delay in transition and would not be happy to see so many people, including me, past him already…but I had a race to be getting on with!  The hard ground surface we had to run over to get to our bikes brought tears to my eyes to the extent that I didn’t really notice how many of the other women’s bikes were left on the racks by mine.  Knowing who was in the field, I had a pretty good idea of who was likely to be long gone though…I figured probably 7 or 8 out of the 12 starters.

The bike course consists of one large loop of 110km, the second half of which contains all the major climbs and is ridden twice. With a total of 2700m ascent over 180km, there really is very little flat riding on this course, although most of the climbing is done in after the first 30km. This stretch is scenic, rolling, quite exposed to the coast and heading west towards Angle, generally into a head-wind. At the far western point there’s the opportunity to see the male pros and the front of the female field on their way back. I was feeling good and starting to warm up and enjoy the ride. I had plenty of company amongst male age-groupers, but not so much that there were issues with spacing or passing. A course with regular hills tends to spread riders out well – and I was being extra cautious on the wet descents having seen several crashes and punctures on the wet and gritty road surfaces. I don’t recall passing or being passed by any of the other pro women, but settled into a good rhythm holding my power steady and not taking risks on corners or descents. The winds did not seem too strong fortunately, however it did rain on and off all morning which made me feel extra nervous about the more technical parts of the course. To be truthful I didn’t enjoy the down hills at all and spent most of the ride in fear of either puncturing or falling off the bike. I don’t recall a race where I saw so many people at the side of the road with “technicals”, ambulances’ on the course or riders with bloodied elbows and hips, which made me feel even more nervous. I completed the first lap feeling good and set out again for the repeat of that hilly 75km loop. Riders were a lot more dispersed and the course was quieter. There were still lively pockets of support despite the weather, but these did tend to be focused around the main hills. Riding out along that Tenby –Penbroke road, I started feeling very drained…my powermeter concurred that I had lost a lot of power compared to my first lap, and it was a struggle for me to pick up the pace. I ate gels and hoped that this bad patch would pass before we hit the hills again! Well, it didn’t really and I must admit that the second lap was not much fun and by the time I got to the very steep hills (those which are over 17%) I was genuinely concerned that I’d be able to get up them or stay alert enough on the way down. I just kept eating and buying myself a bit more energy before the next wave of tiredness got me. By Saundersfoot - what I had remembered as the last climb in the course – I was pretty light headed, and so it was with some horror that I remembered the REAL last steep hill that we had to get up back into Tenby town centre!

At this point I wasn’t even thinking about the run –what I have learned through doing so many Ironman races is that it’s really better not to. I don’t think that I have EVER finished the bike course in an Ironman feeling great, full of energy and keen to run a marathon. I doubt if anyone ever does, but it seems to be no reflection on how I feel once I’ve dumped the bike, been through transition and lifted by seeing the support out on the run course. 

This time was no different and my legs felt good as I ran out of the town. The fact that after the first 500m there is literally not a single flat step on the route was a little daunting, but I had the confidence of having run the course well last year and a recent, decent run at ironman UK. I certainly missed having a lead bike with me - it provides SO much motivation-  and so was desperate for some information about my position and the time gaps both ahead and behind me.  I did not have to wait long before I saw Deb and Daz who had positioned themselves smartly to relay the information that I was in 6th place, had about 9 minutes to make up to 5th and there was someone about 2.5 minutes back. So, I was “in the money” but only just – and had to watch my back. It was only a matter of minutes before Julia ran past me at a pace that I might have maintain for a lap, but certainly would not survive. I had passed her around midway through the bike course, at the side of a road with the mechanics van – clearly one of the race favourites she was having a bad day but certainly not giving up on it! At the start of such a long and challenging run, my strategy was to hold my own pace and wait and see. I am always slightly surprised at the drop out rate ahead – and with such a tough race, athletes less prepared for the bike course ride which typically takes an extra 20-30 minutes to complete, may pay the price on the run.  I focused on my own race, pace and used the motivation from support and seeing others that I knew out on the course as we passed back and forth. With several out and back sections within the 4 laps, it was quite easy to keep an eye on the gaps ahead and behind. I was pleased to see Scott leading the men’s race and already almost two laps down! Tim had done about 8km by the time I first saw him (so 6km ahead of me) and Steven, who had passed me surprisingly late in the ride was about 3km behind him. I felt pretty sure that even if he had a good run, I’d catch Steven before the end and used that as motivation. I fell into step with a nice looking guy who was a lap ahead – he didn’t speak a lot of English, so I chatted to him a little in Spanish, which he seemed to understand a bit better (he was easy to find in the results as he appears in Lucy’s finish-line photo! - it appears he was from Venezuela) and we ran almost two laps side by side.  I passed Steven at the end of our second lap, had lost more time to Julia but we were both closing a little on the girls in 4th and 3rd. News from my super support crew was that I had a comfortable margin back to 6th place, and I was certainly feeling the strain of the day by then I guess I used that as excuse to ease off the pace a bit during my third lap. Up until that point I had been carrying a small drink and some gels so that I’d not need to stop at aid stations- but between 20 and 30km I did walk through a few of them, and also made a port-a-loo stop. My average pace dropped to over 5 min/km though I still passed into 5th place as Simone, who had been holding 3rd, reverted to frequent walking (before eventually withdrawing). Near the end of the third lap I heard Lucy coming from behind, completing her race. She told me something along the lines of “it’s all falling apart up there” – meaning that the others ahead were dropping pace too. Being simultaneously lapped and encouraged shamed me into digging a bit deeper, although by this time my ITB was tugging pretty aggressively on my left knee cap, and was making the down hill sections especially painful.  I was at that point feeling relatively comfortable in the belief that I had a 9 minute lead on the woman behind me, so it was quite a shock when, as a made the final far turn around, to see her within 5 minutes. She’d closed that  in a matter of 4 or 5 km….and there was enough of the race remaining for her to make a pass unless I seriously addressed the situation!  Over the next couple of kms she managed to gain another minute or even two on me…I was running as hard as I could with 5km remaining, all of them down hill. I calculated that she’d need to run almost 1 minute per k above my pace to close the gap down, but she had certainly looked comfortable when I’d seen her at that turn around, which was a million miles from how I felt! But, I appreciated the kick up the backside and the challenge of digging deep for the finish,  reasoning that I’d just had a pretty cruisy lap to recover, whilst she must have been pushing hard to catch me. I wasn’t taking any chances though, and with tunnel vision made my way to the finish line with thoughts of a sprint finish that I’d rather avoid. 

I crossed the line in a time of 10hr45 having held my 5th place. The time was substantially slower than last year, largely due to the run being a full length marathon rather than 2km short as it was previous years, but also both bike and swim splits seem to have been slower across the field too, due to conditions.  Taking that into consideration and given standard of the female field this year, I am happy with how I raced and pleased with the result.

I’m equally happy that there are no more Ironman races in my schedule for several months :o) ...although i cant quite put my feet up yet, since Steven and I are heading out to Lanzarote next week for the first running of EverydayTraining's  "Late Season Training Camp, Lanzarote" which will be based at the Trisports Super-Villa. 
You will be able to read my blogs from camp via the above link :o) 

Ironman Wales, pre race

About 4 weeks after Ironman UK the post race high had well and truly worn off, the last slither of hopes of a Kona qualification by roll down had been laid to rest and my enthusiasm for the trip to Wales for the world’s toughest Ironman race was similarly low.  My body was beginning to deliver hints that after 5 Ironman so far in the year, and 2 of those in the previous 2 months, I was operating very close to the margin by manifesting minor niggles and persistent neck and back stiffness.  On the other hand, I had put in some very encouraging training sessions since IM UK and could see that my form was still good, and there was potential to finish the year off with a lovely “home” race amongst many friends, club-mates and some athletes that I coach.

Having 5 weeks between races made all the difference to my training compared to what I had done in the 4-week gap between Frankfurt and UK (which I wrote about ) with that additional week was assigned as a second recovery week. This enabled me to include one “big” week of training in the middle of the block – the first since prior to my taper for IM DE. At this stage of the season it’s not necessary to “back up” these big weeks in the same what that I do earlier in the year to build endurance, but I feel 3 weeks is too long to go without some proper endurance work. After this week, I then reduced the load prior to a 10 day-taper. 

As I say, by the end of this mini block, I was not feeling like I had a lot of energy or enthusiasm, but I talked Steven and Rob into accompanying me for a Half IM simulation session 9 days out. It proved to be good fun, a 5 hours of decent work with pleasing “numbers”  provided me with a good confidence boost. From there I spent a lot of time on the yoga mat, massage table and the foam roller trying to appease the parts of me that were ready to curl up into a ball and hibernate, and trying to resist joining them! 

Friday, 6 September 2013

the chase for Kona 2013....over

So, with my stated year’s goal being to qualify for Kona via the KPR system and the final cut off date passed, I spent a couple of days feeling really pretty depressed. The fact that this feeling of depression coincided with the first few days of caffeine fast and the end of a big week of training (high level of fatigue)  are probably not coincidence, but truly I felt there was reason to feel upset. Failure is no fun, especially when accompanied by a sense that there were many things that I could– should- have done differently or –let’s be honest - better.

The Points Rankings system was introduced by the WTC in 2011. There are clear commercial interests at work in creating this incentive for pros to race more Ironman races (that is both having to choose WTC owned Ironman Series races rather than the other attractive races put on by competing organizations, and having to do more of them).  However, existing was a situation where was that it  was relatively easy for female Pros to get a start at the World Championship race based on a top placing (or a roll-down) at just one race in the qualifying year.
For example, in 2010 I qualified with a 3rd place finish at Ironman UK in a time of 10hr 16. With a (then) small number of women with a WTC pro license and about 30 (at the time) races on the circuit, probabilities played a significant part. Anyone who was willing to travel, do more races and/or race closer to Kona had a decent chance, and certain races offered significantly better odds for qualification than others based on their location, prizes purse or timing in the calendar. 
 So the points system addresses this – now everyone has all year to collect points, and points are given based on finish positions in up to 5 races. The top 35 women (50 men) holding WTC annual licenses, plus one or two pre-qualifying world champions, based on points standings at the end of the summer will go to Kona. With an increasing number of professional athletes, and an increasing level of performance from the best of those, I feel that the new system is designed to achieve the creation of a World Championships event which features only the professional athletes of a truly elite standard. 

So whilst my poor mother, devastated at having her autumn Hawaiin vacation cancelled, considers the system which favours  “top-tier athletes” very unfair…I need to remind her that creating a greater separation between our professional and amateur athletes is a positive for the sport.

And really this has been my motivation throughout this whole season – an effort to qualify for Kona in this new climate and able to count myself as a “legitimate” part of the elite field.

For me, generally posting finishing times a little either side of 10 hours, I knew that it would require good performances at the maximum number of counting races (5) and being somewhat strategic about which races I picked. What I don’t possess in speed on the course, is made up for in someway by an ability to handle high load – and I know that 5 races in the year is something I am able to do. I have also learned however, that I am prone to over fatiguing, and so my training and scheduling of races would have to be considered carefully in order to achieve the “good performances” component. I think the details and outcomes of my year a it unfolded will be the topic of another post, but after the first round off qualifications in July when the first 31 spots were given, I was sitting in the 30s…with my last race to go. I had a very good race at UK, bumping me up a nice few places. We held our Kona hotel reservations, but was far from certain because Ironman UK is amongst the lowest scoring races in the series, and there were other races around the world through the month of august.  I’d picked my events, raced 5 Ironman and had no more chances – it really would be down to luck. 

My final ranking on the 25th August  - the final cut off date – is 47th
Four places and about 500 points below the final qualifying position.  And, as I said at the start of this post - Failure is no fun, especially when accompanied by a sense that there were many things that I could have done differently. 

First off, two out of my 5 races were frankly pretty poor results. Obviously this was disappointing at the time,  but in retrospect even more so. Considering that even on a bad day I should run in around 3.5 hours – that’s just a question of keeping going. It feels like shit at the time, and there barely seems any point in raising the degree of suffering even the slightest when the wheels have truly fallen off and the race for prize money has disappeared into the distance. But had I thought then that the two places that a 3:29 marathon would have gained me  in both of those races could have made all the difference to how I spent October, I’d have found that motivation for sure!
My big race for the year was to be the European Ironman Champs in Frankfurt – a race I love, and carrying big points. I had a good day there, however I hadn’t counted on such a stacked field, and my 15th place finish was lower than I had hoped for.  The North American Championships at Mont Tremblant would have been a better pick for my big points race…my second error being insufficiently inform to make good the strategic selection. Once my season was planned in my mind, I had not been reading my news close enough and was only aware of the increased standing of this race long after I’d committed to Ironman UK and spent out my races travel budget.

But that’s the way it goes. Of course, feeling that I got so close, missing out through redeemable errors, I want to have another crack at it next year.

However, recently announced refinements to the points ranking system will be in place – these are heavily weighted for podium finishes, and intended to reduce the number of races that athletes have to do in order to qualify. This makes it less of a realistic prospect for “workhorse” athletes like myself.  Again, I see this as a positive change for the sport – a further separation of the Elite from just those with a Pro License. 

Since I find myself on the start line for Ironman Wales this Sunday, I guess I’m not quite ready to assign myself to the latter category just yet! 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Ironman Uk - race report

visit my website to read the report of last weekend's race, ironman uk 2013

& get up early on sunday morning to see it on channel 4 tv!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

race week preparations

Although every race I travel to is a unique experience in terms of the location, degree of access to the courses and other training facilities and nature of my accommodation, there are a few features of my race week preparations that I try to keep consistent. By the time you are on race site there’s very little in the way of training that can improve your fitness for race day, but feeling prepared by following a few key workout outs as “looseners” and to gain some familiarity of the course is essential to get me ready to race. Whist having rigid set of pre-race rituals is not something that I personally believe to be productive - these can verge towards superstition and there is a danger of undermining confidence if it is not possible to observe the “rituals” -  know what works for you in the run up to an event makes planning simple and provides a degree of stability in an often unfamiliar and nerve-wracking environment. 

Here is a short piece that I provided for my Team sponsors Active Instinct on the topic in the form of a race week diary leading into Ironman UK 2013

Monday, 5 August 2013

post DE/pre UK: 2 Ironman, 4 weeks

what to do with 4 weeks between Ironman races?

read the blog that i contributed for   here

i'd like to retract my comment about being "unsupported out there" - the support that I had, both personal and general, was AMAZING!!
thanks so much Bolton, Emma & Ali and others who happened to be there either racing or spectating.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ironman Germany Race report

I was really lucky with my home-stay allocation, and stayed in a really nice part of the city with a wonderful woman and her daughter who did everything possible to provide the perfect environment for my final  race preparations. As a result I felt unusually relaxed in the days before this race, despite knowing that my placing here in this European Championships would determine my chances of achieving this year’s ambition to qualify for Hawaii. 

Nonetheless, I slept little on the eve of the race, and was wide awake before my alarm was due to go off (this was fortunate for me, since I’d neglected to adjust the time on my ‘phone and would have been an hour late otherwise). The race in Frankfurt has a “split transition”  - meaning that the location of the swim and T1 is some 20km south of the city in a local bathing lake. This adds up to an hour of travel to the start in the morning, and is the one aspect of this fantastic event that I’d wish were different. It makes it more difficult for spectators to watch the spectacle that is the swim start and adds further complication, and time, to the logistics of checking in the bike and equipment on the day before the race, which is far from ideal. That said – the race organisors provided frequent shuttle bus services for athletes and competitors, and it judging by the size of the crowds of support around the lake on race morning, it did not deter too many from making the early morning effort!

I arrived at the start site early as usual, prepared my bike (pump tires, set shoes on pedals, load nutrition, check the brakes weren’t rubbing etc) and then found somewhere to sit and listen to music and watch the scenes of two thousand, five hundred athletes making their preparations. I greeted and wished good luck to a few friends and acquaintances and got in line for one final trip to the porta-loo.  The queues by now were long, and after a 15 minutes stand, I’m having to run to the start (as usual). I seem to have an ability to be rushing at the last second, no matter how much time I have to start with!

It was a deep water start, and there was some confusion amongst the Professional starters as to where exactly the start-line was. It took a while for the water safety patrol to explain that we were already about 500m into the course and persuade the eager athletes to retreat! As the German national anthem played, our group was slowly drifting forwards once more, and we were already virtually swimming when the cannon fired. We were ready!
300 of the fastest amateurs are allowed to start with the professionals, whilst the greater majority of the competitors wait a further 15 minutes for the mass start. With over 100 Pros plus the 300 faster age-groupers, this provided an excellent situation for me – not so many people that it is very rough, but plenty of bodies in the water to assist my swim pacing, sighting and drafting. As a result I completed the 3.8km lake swim, a “figure –of – eight” course with a “land buoy” after 2.1k, in 56 minutes which is a new record for me. (I should, of course, credit my new Huub wetsuit also!)

The run from the lake to transition was a cruelly steep climb up a 200m bank of sand ; certainly a wake-up call for the legs!  Here there is no assistance from volunteers in the transition tents, but there’s not so much to do here when racing in such fine weather : whip the suit off, glasses and helmet on and un to the bike. I’d been swimming in sight of several other pros, hard to tell if male or female (we all had the same yellow caps), which always motivates me to get on my bike fast and pedal it hard!

The 182km bike course starts with a flat 25km on the highway, which has been closed for the event, from the location of the lake to the city centre. The surface is good and this section is a good opportunity to get into a cycling rhythm. I was feeling very good and my Powertap was showing some rather high figures. I suspected that actually there was an error in the offset, actually, but it’s not something that I was able to easily fix whilst riding at such intensity. I do not rely on Power data during the race - it is there as a reference for me and for analysis after the event – but made some calculations as to what I felt the offset could be to ensure that I maintained the same level of output through the next five hours. I was pleased that there were several women on the start list that I have had close finishes to in Ironman races over the season, and that I might be able to use as a gauge of my progress. In particular were Nina and Monique who had pushed me in the last lap of the bike in South Africa and then beaten me on the marathon – which I felt was due to my own poor performance on that occasion. Also Kristin Lie, who had made me fight very, very hard to hold off in the marathon at Wales after she had suffered some very bad luck on the bike course (I’ll mention her again later!).

 Despite featuring 4 climbs in each of two laps, this tends to be a fast course – and there are several reasons for this. All of the climbs are short and steep, but offer long and open descents. Other than these hills, the terrain is generally open and rolling which makes it ideal for the use of disc wheels and every other aerodynamic advantage money can buy. It’s well suited for big powerful riders (which Germany is famed for) and attracts those who excel on the bike and in this terrain; thus it’s somewhat self-fulfilling. Another factor is the great road surfaces and the complete closure of the roads on the route enabling cyclist to take a wide line around corners in safety.  With one notable  exception! “The Hell” is a cobbled section of hill through the town of Hochstade – it’s really hard to ride, but also great fun – I find it difficult not to laugh as we rattle over this short section which is well populated with spectators, of course. It’s important to get into a low gear near the start of this section as it gets steeper and steeper and you cannot let go of the bars to shift with everything rattling around like that!
I felt that I was riding well, and enjoying my first race on the Specialized Shiv that The Sketchers-ActiveInstinct Performance Team has issued me with, though I do perform significantly better on hills than on a very flat course. The conditions were beautifully warm at that time of day, perhaps too warm for some already, but rather windy. There are also many sharp bends through the villages, which I found difficult at speed and noticed that I tended to loose ground on the riders that I could see around me when it came to negotiating these sections. Whether this is that I am still getting used to how the new bike handles, a skill that I am lacking in or just a matter of nerve, I’m not sure- either way, it can only be improved with more practice. Mind you – I did see several guys with torn clothes (including one guy who’d unfortunately ripped the arse right out of his shorts!) and bloody limbs as I rode, so a little caution was justified! 

There was a small amount of to-and-fro with some of the other pro women that I mentioned earlier, but not a great deal. At random locations along the route, my sister and her boyfriend Andy would appear, evidently they were running between points on the course to surprise and give me a huge cheer! As always my legs and neck were feeling more and more painful as the ride went on, but I’d judged my nutrition and liquid intake well and was able to maintain a relatively steady power through the ride, feeling strong throughout. None-the-less, I could tell that I would not be finishing the bike spit faster than I had ridden in 2008, which was a little disappointing considering how much stronger I am not generally on the bike – possibly attributable to the windy conditions (I don’t remember how it was in 2008), slight variation in the route, or the motivation that being in direct contention for the age –group title had provided me with on that occasion.

The bike to run transition was in a different location, near the finish and due to the pre race logistics, we’d not seen the area before. The dismount line caught me by surprise and I was lucky to get my feet out of my shoes and stop the bike in time! I was sure glad to get off it :o)  I knew that there was not much separation between myself and Nina and Kristin at the end of the bike split, but had confidence in my recent run training to post a much improved marathon performance than I have executed in my last few races, and really this was to be my motivation for the whole event.  I knew that I was currently in around 20th position, and my goal for his race was to a top 10 finish. It was a very hot day, and after a hard bike ride, anything could happen out there. In the next 3 hours things could chance a lot, and I could not afford any doubt that I’d make steady progress with a well-executed run.

The marathon course is, for me, always both the best and the worst part of the day. Of course, starting the 42km foot race in the heat of the, with 185km of racing and a massive calorie deficit already behind you, is really the last thing that you want to do and is always painful - but it also signifies the final challenge of the Ironman, and it is the portion of the race where the athletes receive the most support. In Frankfurt this is particularly so since the whole city, plus the thousands of visitors that accompany the athletes, are out in force to encourage us every step of each of the 4 laps of 10.5km alongside the river Maine.

 I felt great on lap one and had to make an effort to control my pace after the first km. I passed two other Fpros quickly, one of them I recognized as Kirstin, and she was walking; she was in for a hard afternoon. I knew that, as always, things would get tough for me too pretty soon, so I focused on relaxing and not pushing the pace, and to wait and see who else was up the road.  It was getting very hot – and  I could see that this was taking it’s toll on many of the people who were already out on the course when I joined. I wasn’t particularly feeling the heat, and it was tempting to run through the aid stations on my first lap rather than slow to pick up drinks, but I didn’t want to have to deal with the consequences later in the race, so I took drinks at each alternate one. Sure enough the leg ache starts to set in after only 12km or so and after that I start to break the race down into mile-stones: 1/3rd done (14km) half-way, 3rds, penultimate lap etc. In Ironman the second half of the marathon usually comes down to a mental battle to just get through it, and to that damn line. I had many bad and good patches, my overall pace had dropped and I could tell that I was not going to make my target time, so I focused on staying ahead of those behind and trying to reel in anyone ahead who might be in a similar situation!

My sister and Andy were now positioned on the run course, and had found a location where they could see me as I passed on my way to the most eastern turn-around, and then again about 3km later to relay the information.  I find this incredibly motivating – whether I am in pursuit or being chased and in this case it was a re-enactment of ironman Wales 2012 with Kirstin closing in on me through the first half of the run, but receding further and further behind in the later stages. It was very nice to see other familiar faces out on the course – my home-stay family and their friends, Linda from Easy Bike Transport who carried my bike for me and has been with us on camp, and even the taxi driver who picked me up from the airport!

The last lap was a real struggle – but it was also the last lap!  I only had to endure another 50minutes of this. I started to walk through aid stations – and it was in the last 4km when, doing this allowed one of my competitors to pass me! She was running well and slipped through Lotte and Andy’s radar (by this time in the afternoon, the run course was well populated with people on different laps, making it harder to spot people).  This gave me the motivation to chase hard for the last section, but I was only able to make ground back up on her very gradually, and was still 25 seconds off at the finish line.  This was a disappointment to me of course but it was also a stark lesson; don’t loiter at aid stations!!

I crossed the line in 9hours 50, and in 15th place.  I had very clear goals for this race, which were to beat my previous best time here and also to rank in the top 10. As the race approached and the starting list grew, the latter became a far more challenging target – but I did believe that on my best day, with full focus it would be possible.  I’m sad that I missed out on achieving the time target by a narrow margin (by 10 minutes - in talking to other athletes, of all standards, the consensus was that it had been a particularly hard day due to conditions. But, isn’t it always?) and a final ranking of 15th means it’s unlikely that I have a chance to go to Kona this year. But, there are aspects of my performance that I am pleased with, as well as areas that I can see I must do more work. I really enjoyed the course , the race experience that such a Championship event in this wonderful city provides, and the opportunity to compete in a high class field.

In a strangely sadistic way, I’m looking forward to getting back to training and my next racing opportunity in Ironman UK!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

King of The Mountains

i've just returned from a month in the Pyrenees, staying with good friends Ian and Julie  at Pyrenees Multisport practice riding up mountains in preparation for the first ever staging of an EverydayTraining camp in the region.
 I have been blogging daily from camp  -here - so you can read what a great time we all had. We had a little bad luck with the weather, though to be fair most of this hit in the week prior to the camp, the knock-on effect was that the lake water temperature was unbearably cold for some, and the pass over the Tourmalet was not yet clear of snow for us to ride through. There's not a lot that we could have done about either of those things - perhaps arrange some pool swimming? - and so in all we view this camp as a great success. It was certainly a bike -oriented camp, with a LOT of riding hours leaving us a lot less time for running or swimming ...i think that with the bike volume that we were doing, a reduced amount of running was sensible .That said, some of the guys DID opt to cut some of their rides short in order to get some longer runs done. We were able to accommodate those variations quite happily - those guys did not "complete" our camp schedule, but made the right training choices for their own needs with respect to upcoming race preparation. "Camp completion" is something that we make a bit more of a thing of on our Endurance camps in Lanzarote ...and we view it as a way to keep the handicapping system that we use for the KOM competition honest....but for a camp in June for Triathletes, we have to appreciate that  there will be guys with different objectives. That said, the KOM races did get every one motivated, and by the end of the week, people were taking it proper seriously!  My self included- having lead it from day 2 ( Steven won day 1, which was awarded on scratch, by being the fastest up the Aspin) and missed out in the finale by a handful of seconds. The points score for each placing increased daily - a reflection of the increasing difficulty in beating an ever more accurate handicap. The final 1km of those latter climbs were very intense with some close finishes. Each rider had to start out slowest first with each at calculated time intervals after. Sometimes that interval seemed impossibly long ...and each of us had to start knowing that they'd not see the guys ahead until those last few hundred meters - and even then only if they had started out sufficiently hard. It was a real mental battle, but having a Powertap sure helps with this!

The final climb in the competition was the Col des Ares - 6.7km long climb up a 700m ( ish) col very close to Pyrenees Multisport base. All of the cycling camps that they host there finish with this known time trial, with the top 10 fastest times proudly on display in their communal dining room, and also on their website . The fastest lady rider also makes it onto the board...and having timed myself riding it "very hard" on a group ride in my first week out there, and fallen almost a minute became a bit of a mission for me! It may seem a bit of a trivial goal for a Pro athlete to have set herself, and yes, I do know a whole peleton of other pro triathletes who could rock up and wipe me right off that board instantly, but it motivated me to do some hard workouts on rainy days and there's nothing wrong with that.  Each week of my 4-week stay I made a point of ending one of my rides with a timed effort up this hill...and managed to know handfuls of seconds off each time. So, on the final day of our camp I had two objectives 1) to catch Paul, who'd set off 1:20 before me, to win the KOM comp and 2) to post a new best female time on the TT.  I was sufficiently please with myself for achieving the latter,  despite failing by 18 seconds to catch Paul.

By that point in the week, it's been 7 consectative days which started at 6:20am getting up to start the and  briefing for the following day over dinner before heading upstairs to work on the blog, publicity, photos and urgent emails until midnight. I'm quite accustomed to early starts, and long training days, but those late nights really dug into me and so by day 6 I was feeling pretty run down with that tell tale sore throat . I knew that the minute we waved goodbye to our campers, it'd hit me ...and so it has. Fortunately I had scheduled a few days off training in order to recover and get fresh for Wimbleball. I had not planned on being ill for 4 days with a chest infection, but it has forced my to really rest up this week, in the hope that my lungs will be better by the weekend. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

ironman south africa & other related things

It's been toooo long since i've updated this Blog,  I know!!
However, my latest ironman  race report can be found on my website

The plan for this season is to try really, really hard and qualify for Kona this year. The new Kona Points Ranking system that WTC have introduced for professionals racing Ironman has changed the way that the qualification process works for the elites in our sport; it's more significant for some, than others.

To be fair, the previous system made it really too easy for professionals (especially the women, due to the relatively low number of pro females on the circuit at the time) to get to the World Champs - the proof of that being that a 3rd place at IM UK - a great event, but a late season race who's low prize fund attracts few "top tier"athletes - earned me a slot in 2010. So, aside from criticisms of the new system "forcing" athletes to race more, and specifically to race more M-dot events, the ranking system is unlikely to effect those top tier athletes likelihood of qualifying....but makes it a whole lot harder for those of us found hovering on the edge of the podium. If I have to race 5 ironman in a year, as my history shows that's no big deal to me - I love racing, travelling and all that goes with it - but to earn sufficient points for a shot at a race on the Big Island I have to have 5 good days to clock up enough points to make the top 35. I also have to pick my races - and in previous 2 years of this new system, I took little notice of this and raced the races that I like to race and could get to easily and cheaply. Just so happens that those such races carry very low KPR tariff - to the extent that a WIN at UK, Lanza or Wales does less for one's ranking than a 7th place finish at one of the bigger races (in Europe or US).

 Lets' assume that it's a deliberate move toward creating a set of  "non qualification" events  and "tiers" within the pro works. Though I feel it harms these races if they cannot attract the attention of the Kona-focused Ironman community it terms of sponsorship and support. Ironman South Africa was a great example of how fantastic an event can be with solid backing from the local borough and corporate sponsorship. Ironman UK sadly is an example on the other end of the spectrum: the UK events team are top notch, but just don't seem to have the level of support they need.

I certainly wont assume to know all the details and considerations involved in the system, so I'll reel myself in from that tangent.....and get back to how it's relevant to my season's race plans.

Ironman Wales ( last September) was a good race for me and was one of the first opportunities for Pros to earn points towards the 2103 World Champs. Unfortunately, despite being a low tariff race my podium finish earned me a reasonable number of KPR points and a good boost of confidence to take to Ironman WA.
Ironman Western Australia carries twice the number of points as Wales, and with a 6-weeks camp in Perth prior to the race I had great preparation in the run up. Things went a bit pear-shaped in the last 10 days before the race, screwing up my "taper" and that combined with maybe a bit too much load in general through the year resulted in an on-course burn out. Still - I finished and actually collected more points than I had at Wales.

I took winter off to fully recover and get over 2012...before begging preparations for Ironman SA in April. As a P2000 event, like Bussleton, this was another chance to score some good points. Training has been going well since picking it back up in 2013, and I was optimistic about this one. As you'll read in the race report - it was another disappointing finish  -10th place! - thus my plane ticket comes out of savings,  and I earn fewer points than i would have liked. Still more than Wales though!

So, 3 races down and 2 left. A look at the ranking table today shows i'm still in the game - but very much border line. Which of course I realised from the start. Ironman Frankfurt in July is a p4000 race  -that means it carries double the points of WA or SA and 4 times that of Wales! So a good race there should seal it for me...and i have some exciting plans for a few tweaks to my training, which starts from monday! My family are booking accomodation in Kona, so the pressure really is ON ;o)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Everyday Training Camp in Lanzarote

I am currently out in Lanzarote for the 3rd year of our EverydayTraining Endurance Camp.
you can read daily blogs from camp here:

Monday, 25 February 2013

50 runs in 50 days

wow, it's been a while since i've provided any sort of an update here, so here's a blog post that i recently wrote for BlackLine London's site to keep you going:

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