Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Motivation Check

I once belonged to a student organisation (marginally ... I wasn't particularly active but my girlfriends at the time were) that had motivation checks during long(ish) meetings to ensure that the participants were still on the ball, still thinking straight and that they all hadn't lost the will to live. While I found those humorous at the time I find myself in need of one at the moment.

After the great high of the race, and a couple of days' rest I'm finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things. I had a good 1.5 hr session on Sunday (1 hr of swim sprints with my coach) followed by a 2.6km run in under 14 minutes (which I'm happy with). After that I'm struggling. I had to wake up early to go to the gym on MOnday and failed miserably to heed the call of my alarm. All was not lost, I did play 40 minutes of 5-a-side football ... as a goalkeeper but you'd be surprised how much jumping around gets done in those 40 minutes. I reckoned I'd get my run in the evening. But during the course of the afternoon I realised that I'd tweaked something in my lower inner thigh so I decided (as much to do with laziness as with treating my body as a temple) that I'd best not aggravate it by running. Session missed and plan made to train Tuesday morning, where another woeful response to my alarm meant I didn't get up either. Its becoming a habit and one I need to break. I'm stiff and sore after all the jumping around, my leg still aches etc. but I'm headed to the gym this evening. I must do. To make up for it I'm going to do Bike/Run Brick Sessions ... 3 sets of 10 minutes in large gear on the bike followed by what will hopefully be a good 10 minute tempo run. That's the plan ... the mind is willing but the body is weak (well the mind is a bit weak at the moment too).

The come down from the race high has been quite shattering, and a busy Saturday which knackered me hasn't helped (see Clare's blog for further details). AND!!! I'm sooo looking forward to our summer holiday in Malta (during which I will be training).

On the bright side I am now the owner of a brand new bike computer (thanks to my parents and my wife who together co-operated to get me this rather useful birthday gift). My birthday isn't for 2 weeks but we all reckoned that the quicker I start using it the better it is so I got it early. I'm also the proud new owner of a Garmin Forerunner 50 with footpod. That'll be coming on holiday with me to accompany my training.

I'll be turning 30 in 2.5 weeks, and though the weight of the significance of turning 30 hasn't yet settled upon my shoulders I'm sure it'll hit at some point and that's where Triathlon comes in. Something to keep me going and keep me healthy for the next however many years.

So to all you AIESEC ppl out there who remember (or still do this) ...

"MOTIVATION CHECK ...!!!" ... to which the standard reply was (once you'd recovered from your moderator's shout giving you the fright of your life) ... "YES! WHAT!!"

Friday, 19 June 2009

Race 1 - Race Report

Its a day late I know but for all of you who were wondering what actually happened at the race here goes -

(Race minus 2 hours) - "HOly crap I'm nervous, my stomach's doing somersaults like an olympic gymnast and I can't settle down. Breathe ... concentrate ... and visualise ... you can do this, you will do this ... and sod it if you come last, you'll still have done it ... now go check your equipment again, make sure you've got everything ... shit, hydration, better go get those bottles ready, you're gonna need something to drink before and during the damn thing"

(Race minus 1.5 hours) - "Why is there shitloads of traffic?! I just wanna get there, settle down, take in the course and get ready ... what?!?!? can you see all those cars lined up on the bike course in traffic? how the hell am i supposed to get through that at speed?!"

(Race minus 1 hour) - "Great I'm the only one here ... so much for making it to the race with two hours to spare ... at least I'm registered ... the weather isn't too nice is it? i hope it doesn't rain, my riding's crap enough as it is without the rain ... water looks cold ... will need to acclimatise well before we go off ... ahhh, ppl getting here ... jeez, look at the size of him, did he pump himself with a track pump before he came here? ... crikey that's an expensive bike ... he's gonna go faster than me without even pedalling ... ok, breathe ... oh my God there's a 65 year old man ... I hope he doesn't beat me!! ... let's set up transition ... quick drink ... will get into the wetsuit with 20 minutes to go"

(Race minus 20 minutes) - "I've spoken to noone and I probably look like a lost little rabbit ... confirmed by Clare ... ph well ... here we go, friendly face, making conversation about wetsuits, here we go, Marshall's prep ... breathe, breathe, quick drink ... time to get into the water .... you can do it mate, you can see yourself doing it so now just put that into practice".

(On your marks ...) - "Deep breath, here we go, you're at the back of the field, take it easy, don't blast out, its all about rhythm ... regular breathing ... every 3 strokes, then every 4, occasionally every two ... see?! you're already practically at the first buoy ... and you're overtaking ppl ... come on son! keep it steady ... straight ahead ... where's the flipping second buoy?! just follow the splashes ... damn I wish this guy would just get out of the way ... will have to swim round him ... ... close to the end now, use the legs a little bit, occasional kick to get the blood flowing ... and ... stand up, get ready to come out ... they've pulled your wetsuit zip down and opened the wetsuit, get your arm out quick ... Shit, its not budging, its closed again, just get to transition and deal with it then ... come on!!! come off you bugger of a wetsuit ... ppl are blasting past me, damn thing, stretch it, stretch it ... finally! velcro off ... christ that took nearly a minute!!! BUT!!! i'm only 13 minutes into the race ... 550 in under 12..5 minutes ... that's good, now keep it up ... there's still a few behind you ... helmet, gloves, sunglasses, drink, grab the bike and off we go ... skip on and we're off, 16km of this and then the run, take it easy, save the energy, we're ahead of schedule ..."

(During the bike ride ...) - "damn my legs feel like I can't push a high enough gear, tone it down, don't knacker yourself ... ppl are lapping me but I don't care ... I knew he'd be fast on that bike, bloody hell ... ... can't find a comfortable position for my feet on the pedals ... really need to invest in cleats ... stop thinking about post race, concentrate, breathe, up a gear, push push ... keep pedalling, its downhill, let's make some time ... damn she's passed me ... ok, still 3 ppl behind me .... fuck ... he's passed me too ... where do I go now? I think its a left at the lights ... why's she going straight? ... dammit, I'm going left anyways, I'm sure the lake's that way ... oh well, at least I passed her now ... here we go, i can see the lake ... a marshall ... I made it into T2, good stuff, still going and the legs don't feel too rough ... there's 2 ppl behind me, let's keep it that way, helmet off, gloves off, bike racked, quick drink and off we go ... 5 km away ... you can do it mate .. come on ... here comes the winner already finishing his run, geez he's fast"

(The run) - "regular breathing, keep the legs pumping, short strides ... crikey they feel like jelly, come on, keep going, crap a stitch, keep braething deeply come on, it'll go ... blue vest ahead, the guy who passed me on the bike ride, come on can catch him, keep it regular, he's going slower than you are ... breathe, breathe ... encourage ppl coming the other way, thumbs up to nice guy who was chatting to me before the race ... here we go, 10m, 5m, past him ... now keep him there, keep steady"

(Lap 2) - "damn the stitch hurts, but a bit less than before, keep those legs moving and the breath regular, look back, that guy's nowhere to be seen, well done ,,, turn round the cone and back again ... you can do this, 2.5km to go ... breathe ... I can see someone ahead ... can I catch her? ... don't do anything stupid now, keep it steady, you're 2k away from the finish line, don't blow yourself out, keep steady and kick in the last bit ... ok, it hurts but there's only 200 to go, when I get round that bend I'll be visible from the finish line so I'd better kick a bit ... go on, kick ... pathetic effort at a sprint but sod it, 15, 10, 5 ... finish line ... OH MY GOD I've done it!!! Fukc I'm tired ... but it feels good, my first tri! ... there's definitely 2 ppl behind me ... where did that woman go? I didn't come in last!!!! ... need a drink, need a rest ... sit down, most of the others have all left but who cares ... I've finished :) ... need to check the time, by my calculations I did it in less than 1:30 ... 1:25 maybe ... sod that, I'm just happy I finished."

And so it went ... final finishing time well within the 1:30 at 1:21:05.

Splits were as follows :

Swim + T1 - 13:53
Bike - 38:24
T2 + run - 28:48

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The Tri-Man Cometh ...

Today is a good day, nay a great day ... today I completed my first tri.

I did it, I did it and I did it ... going under my target time to boot.

I'm still buzzing from the excitement and soon gonna crash but suffice it to say I really enjoyed the experience and I'm sure I'll be doing many more.

Full race report tomorrow :)

I can't believe I can officially call myself a Triathlete now ...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The (supposed) calm before the storm

Its 24 hours before racing time and I'm just preparing to leave work, do my last mini work-out and then get some proper rest. I'll be at work for a half-day tomorrow and then will head home to prepare for what is already becoming a pretty nerve-wracking event.

I'm running through lists in my head - which reminds me I have to make sure I actually write the list and pack my bag early tomorrow afternoon. The race is pretty close to home so there shouldn't be problems but I want to be as prepared as I can be. My legs are a bit sore from the workouts over the weekend and I need to make sure I'm properly limber for action tomorrow. The upside is that there's no rain forecast for tomorrow afternoon though it is supposed to be cloudy. We'll just have to wait and see I guess. Come rain or shine, I wanna be at that start line ... and more importantly, crossing the finish line.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Inhale ... and man up

I'm actually quite excited. Contrary to what a number of ppl advised and contrary to what may possibly be common sense I've signed up for an earlier tri race ... quite a bit earlier ... in fact, its on Wednesday (yes, this coming Wednesday).

Wednesday evening, at 7pm London time I will be suited and at the start line of what will be my first official tri. I'm super excited and I'm bricking it at the same time!!!!!!!!!

As you know I've been quite hesitant about doing this but on the back of a good weekend's training I'm reasonably confident ... or at least within the general realm of being resonably confident ... that I can actually finish. I haven't set myself a finish time, the goal, and the visualisation is to finish, give it a good go and actually run (not walk or crawl) across the finish line.

Let's talk distances ... the race is a 550m swim, 16km cycle and 5km run ... shorter than the sprint in London on 1st August but not by much, so finishing on Wednesday should be a good confidence boost for London ... and let's face it ... if I set a time for Wednesday's race ... which will obviously be a personal best, I can always train for the next six weeks to try and actually beat it in London (yes I know the race is longer but one must have ambition ...).

So what did I do over the weekend to have instilled such confidence? Well a couple of good brick sessions worked wonders (when I say good I mean good in the context of results, coz actually doing them was quite tough) ...

Saturday - swim session with Mike and an 800m swim with paddles timed at 18 mins 20 secs. Which I was exremely chuffed about considering that I've set myself a target of 20 mins for 750 in London (once again, no targets for Wednesday, I can come last by an hour for all I care, if I post a finish time I'm happy). That was followed up by some short sprint sessions. Apparently technique and consistency are improving, next week we work on speed. I followed the 1hr swim session with a 5.2k run, nothing spectacular, but once again on the open road not the treadmill. I have no idea what speed I'm running at (its probably considerably slower than I would on the treadmill) but the knees are responding ok. We'll drum up the gadgetry later.

Sunday - the plan was a 2hr bike session with Stewart. Unfortunately, Stewart had to bail so I was left to my own devices. I decided that I would do the race course to familiarise myself with it. The race consists of a loop which doubles back on itself ... so I did the loop without the double-back for starters (about 12k) had a 5 minute chat with Mike in between (met him at the lake) and then decided to do the entire course afterwards (12k wasn't enough to convince me I had the distance in my legs) ... so I did ... and did what is probably 15 - 15.5k (not the full 16 coz I took a shortcut to my car at the end) in around 35-36 minutes. Fairly happy with that. I followed it up with a 2.6km run (which was slow ... the transition from bike to run is painful (jelly legs aplenty)).

So all in all, over Friday, Saturday and Sunday I've swum approximately 1.5km, biked nearly 28km and run 12.8km. Not a bad effort. Tomorrow is a rest day (mini taper before the race) and Tuesday will be a light workout in all three disciplines (no more than 10 minutes of each) ... after that its T-Day ... wish me luck!!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Its been a while ... but there's decisions to be made

My last post was over a week ago ... and rather than not have things (or training) to write about I must be honest and simply admit that I was lazy and couldn't drag it out of myself. Wednesday of last week seems like a long time ago (it is actually) and there's been plenty of training between now and then. I'll give you a short run down and then a bit more detail:

Thursday - enforced rest day - had client dinner so didn't get home until well past midnight
Friday - lazy day - couldn't get up in the morning and couldn't be ar**d in the evening (or so I told myself.
Saturday - brick (and payback for 2 days not training) - 50 minutes spinner followed by 32 mins (5.5km) run
Sunday - 1 hour with swim coach - approx 1.6km of open water swimming (1k of which was one continuous swim) and a 7 mile bike ride in the afternoon (again payback for the lazy two days)
Monday - rest day (2 days of two events per day really did take a lot out of me) did some weights to feel less guilty
Tuesday - brick (disastrous session) 30 minutes absolutely caning it on the spinning bike followed by what was supposed to be another 5km run with intervals ... after 8 minutes (and 1 interval into my run) my legs literally screamed stop (which I had to do) ... massive low point
Wednesday - depression and pain induced rest day (my legs felt like they were made of lead)
Thursday - 1hr in the pool ... approximately 1.8-2km (I lost count) in total
Friday - 5km road run during my lunch hour spent dodging tourists and city workers getting their food but fun nonetheless.

That's the training summary. As you can see there are still wayyy too many rest days but I am trying to listen to my body in a bid to avoid serious injury.

I had a chat with my swim coach about taking part in a race over the coming weeks to test myself over a slightly shorter distance, get transition practice and generally gauge where I am with fitness. His thoughts are that I should definitely go for it and that it will be fun.

There are plenty of reasons which scream for me to do it - the confidence it would give me and the practie for the London race which will be watched by quite a few people including some friends and family (my parents will be over from Malta and will be watching th race) as well as the UNICEF team which I do not want to disgrace.

On the other hand, the only realistic race I could be doing is on Wednesday (yes, exactly, Wednesday coming) and considering how my body's been reacting to upping the intensity in training it may not be the best of ideas to go for it quite yet. I'm afraid of the effect that a potential DNF may have on my confidence. In addition its a small race (maybe 15-20 participants) and watching the times of the previous race I'm going to be dead last.

So you see ... I've been mulling over whether or not to do it and I must admit that Tuesday's session didn't help. I had just about managed to convince myself to take the plunge when that happened. I know I shouldn't be giving up but then again, it may be too early (the Tri is actually a 550m swim/16km bike/ 5km run so its pretty close to the race distance in London - which is now 7 weeks away). At the same time there are no races which aren't a million (ok that's exaggeration) miles away or that aren't occurring when I'm on Malta for hols! There's also the thing that it'll be my first triathlon ... should I be doing it as part of training and just another run of the mill event or should there be some pomp to it? If that is the case then I may as well wait for London and pop that cherry there?! Anyone's thoughts would be more than welcome.

My sessions this weekend (and how well I do in them) will determine my participation.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Two arms, two legs, two wheels ... but many goals

I've been holding off writing this post for a while but the time is right and I can now put down on paper (or rather electronically) what I've been thinking about for a couple of months now. (I'll get there in a bit - and no its not further procrastination).

Monday was my run day. As this is my supposed recovery week my programme provided for a short run (30 minutes). So a short run it was (not that there have been much longer runs recently, but you know that). Instead of taking it easy I did however decide to push myself (I deserved it, haven't been on the treadmill enough to deserve a really relaxed jog) and tried to force the pace and do the occasional faster 1 minute interval (I managed 2). After a 200m warmup I upped the pace and did 5k in 28:39 ... faster than I've gone in a while. I struggled a bit at the end but hopefully that'll improve. The eventual target (and not necessarily by race day though it would be nice) is to be running sub 25 minute 5ks on the treadmill ... race day will be another matter. I finished the 30 minutes and did a 5 minute cool down and some situps afterwards. I've completely neglected normal gym/weights workouts in favour of concentrating on the disciplines themselves (3 out of 4 - yes there are 4 disciplines in triathlon) so I'm going to have to do something about that.

Tuesday was my bike day, and my first foray out on the roads of my neighbourhood alone. It was a bit daunting but I was up at 5:50am changed by 6 and hopping (with a bit of a wobble) onto my bike at 6:05. The roads were fairly traffic free (which was the intention) and though my signalling is not yet up to satisfactory standards there have been slight improvements and the ride worked wonders for my confidence. It was a very easy (in terms of pace and for the most part effort) 40 minute ride (as per the programme) with a few hilly bits ... I'm still getting used to the gears and an actual uphill on a bike so it was a bit of a killer but anyways. The mission was 'recovery' and confidence and that mission was a success. Only 7.5 miles in total, which is woeful for a 40 minute ride but then again I wasn't really trying. I'm still becoming acquainted with my bike ... we'll hopefully become friends soon, and a lack of spills or falls was much more important than speed, that will come. I also made another appointment with Stewart for 2 weeks time. Another session with him should help build my confidence and 2 hours on a bike never did anyone any harm ... if that anyone actually stays on the bike for the whole two hours that is ... and no ... being hit by a car or bus while actually on the bike doesn't count here ok?!

Today was supposed to be a swim day though I've tweaked the programme a bit due to circumstances I'd rather not go into and too short a sleep as a result. I'm sorry but I fail to function on less than 5.5 hours sleep especially when a training session needs to be followed by a day at work being productive. So I took a rest day and will be in the pool tomorrow.

Coming to the meaty bit of the blog I've decided to set myself some goals for the race ... realistic ones which I hope will be exceeded anyhow ... so here goes:

GOALS for London Triathlon

1. Finish the race
2. Finish with a smile on my face having enjoyed it
3. Finish in under 1 hour 45 minutes
4. Finish the swim (750m) in under 20 minutes
5. Finish the bike leg (20km) in under 45 minutes
6. Finish the run leg (5km) in under 30 minutes
7. Not make a compelte t*t of myself in transition.

Whether or not I will do any shorter races in between now and 1st August will be decided at a later stage, I'm tempted but slightly hesitant.

You can see that my goals are not necessarily that ambitious, but for someone like me who's been unfit for the vast majority his life, finishing will be a challenge in itself. Once I've done that (and I can't even afford to think about it being an 'if' at this stage) we'll drum up the next challenges (one of which is already brewing in my head to be honest - OD London 2010). But one step at a time matey .... I've learnt how to walk ... no need to go sprinting for now, all in good time.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The last week in numbers

Its been a week of ups and downs personally speaking ... coming off an injury to the foot and then a tummy bug or IBS or whatever it was I was starting to panic that there was too much 'wrong' going on in my training.

What didn't help was my Wednesday morning work out, supposedly a 37 minute run. 18 minutes into the run an my breathing was laboured, I had a stitch and I couldn't continue, and there it was, one of the biggest knocks to my self-confidence I've had since I started training. 9.5 weeks away from the race and I can only do a 3k run without needing to stop and walk. And walk I did, followed by another jog, another bout of walking and some more jogging. Instead of the 29:30 that it should have taken me to do the 5k, it took 34:30 ... cue disappontment.

Thursday night and another shock to the system. Swimming was the idea, using the new technique I imagined I would improve my stroke rate and my time ... I was very very wrong ... my stroke rate is the same and (29-31 strokes per length) and the time for a 750m distance actually went up to 23 minutes. I was slower and in much more discomfort and pain. I swam about 1.2km in total and it wasn't pretty. Cue more disappointment.

Friday is supposed to be my 'go 4 it' day with a long workout (I'm going to change that to Saturday because I simply do not have the time on Fridays). Instead, I decided that another run was in order, and run I did ... the difference was remarkable ... 18 minutes came and went (as had the 3km marker by then) and I felt comfortable ... not sitting on a sofa with ice cream in my hand comfortable but not gasping for breath like a drowning man either. I upped the speed somewhat and ended matters with a 'mini-sprint' ... well it felt like one for me. Verdict, 5km in 29:15 and a total of 6km run non stop. I was BACK!!! ... cue hope.

Saturday came along, and my second meeting with my swim coach. I may or may not have told you (i forget what's in my earlier posts) that my wonderful new Zoot wetsuit actually ripped at the neck seams the first time I used it. So i returned it and am waiting for its replacement. In the meantime I still had to do an open water session in the lake with Mike, my coach. SO he lent me a wetsuit (a touch tight but just about ok) and off we went. My shoulders and arms were still quite tired from the swim on Thursday (note to self - I need at least 48 hours in between swim sessions until my shoulders and arms get used to the technique) so while the technique was good, the stamina wasn't ... I ended up throwing my head quite a bit, and though I managed to lengthen my stroke, the result was nothing to write home about ... a touch disappointed but then again, I'm not a robot and I need to work hard at this to master it and get comfortable. ... a slight down but with hope ...

In the evening, having decided that I'd been off the bike long enough and had to catch up on a few workouts I spent 45 minutes on the spinner doing intervals, working the legs. It felt ok, my legs responded this time (rather than last time when they didn't quite want to co-operate) and it was a good intense session (not too intense though - you'll find out why soon enough). Two workouts in one day, I was feeling tired, but satisfied ... I need to improve but then again I'm still a novice so its all part of the learning curve.

SUNDAY - i woke up nervous. I met my cycling coach, Stewart for my 2 hour session. I'm a complete novice on the bike and having a racing/road bike first time around isn't ideal or too wise. Anyhow, I'm getting more confident so I decided to take a 'lesson' before hitting the roads on my own. Two hours, some wobbly looking over my shoulders and signalling later Stewart is confident enough to tell me to get out onto the roads and practice. Nothing too busy but I need to build confidence ... NICE ONE ... we didn't cycle very far or fast, but I was cycling on the road and that's a big boost to my confidence. I can now replicate race riding on the road ... so watch out Medway, there's a new cyclist on the road.

Not content with just the cycling (it wasn't intense enough to be a proper workout) and finally being injury free I decided to head back to the gym to follow my programme. Day 1 of week 4 ... which is the taper/recovery week. I'm not too keen on tapering but I figure it'll stand me in good stead having just come off injuries and maladies and whatnot ... so I'll do the taper (in terms of time and distance) rather than push and then push on in week 5. So a swim it was (please note ... not 48 hours after the previous one ... in fact ... just about 35). The programme said 800 metres, but sod the programme ... hehe ... I did a 100m warmup followed by a 750m race pace distance ... and guess what ... back under 20 minutes ... 19 to be exact ... even though its not particularly comfortable and I still do far too many strokes per length. Still, I'm happy with the time ... we're getting back on track! Hope is returning, I'm tired generally ... my body aches a bit, but I'm happy.

The shoulders are sore today, and a footy game (I play keeper) won't have helped, but my next swim is not until Wednesday now so its ok. Tonight I run ... an easy 35 minute run. I'll keep it steady, do some (very short) intervals in the run and we'll see how it goes. Early to bed tonight ... tomorrow is cycling on the road time. I'm a bit nervous, but I'm sure I'll be ok. I'll get out by 6am so there shouldn't be much traffic, and aim to be in by 7. Its more a confidence building thing than a workout. If I feel like it wasn't enough I can always do some spinning in the evening.

till the next update ...