Monday, 31 August 2009

August and Tri 5 - the season draws to a pleasant close

If I were you I'd sit down, relax, get comfortable and get ready for a good read ... its gonna be a long one.

First and foremost comes the confession/apology ... "forgive me blog readers for I have sinned ... its been nearly one month since my last blogpost."

My last post was Tri 4, and the third sprint at Leybourne Lakes ... Team Outrageous, who I must thank, have been the backbone of my Tri season (3 out of 5 races) and have been a partial gauge of my ongoing improvements.

So what's happened since Tri 4 (on the 8th of August) ... well, to be honest its been 3 weeks of very little training. I've been dogged by a combination of apathy, laziness and being supremely busy at work. I did three 5k runs, one 10k run, 1 swim and 1 bike ride. That was it, over 3 weeks. Excellent prep for a full sprint tri - NOT!!

With little prep let's just say I wasn't particularly confident going into this race, however there were some positives in all of this.

1. I bought a turbo trainer and had one session on it. It was interesting but nothing too exciting. I have to get muc more acquainted with my turbo in the coming weeks.

2. I bought pedals and bike shoes ... I fixed them onto the bike and tried clipping in and out on the turbo trainer. Of course this is nothing like clipping in on a bike on the road (as I was to find out). So as you can imagine, my one bike ride with the pedals was quite interesting. Got to the lakes, got astride the bike, clipped in to one pedal ... pushed forward, attempted to clip in to the other pedal, failed miserably, slowed down, started losing speed, started wobbling, tried to clip out (of the pedal that was clipped in), again ... failed miserably, wobbled more and promptly fell, gashing my knee, my elbow and making a complete fool out of myself in the car park. So i got up, dusted myself off and tried again, with a heavy wobble i finally managed to clip myself and get going. Clipped and unclipped a couple of times (getting decent at it (ish)) and headed off on the Leybourne tri bike course. I had a target of under 38:30 ... which until then had been the fastest I'd ever done it. I didn't have the full 16k in me at full tilt so I slowed down in the last kilometre but I still managed it in 34:15, a full 4 minutes faster. I was mega chuffed. That set up the expectation that I can get my times down.

3. I've now got a coach. Or at least I will have a coach for the winter and in preparation for next season.

Coming back to my fifth and final race of the season, this was an F3 event at Dorney Lake. It was also my club's (yes, I've joined a club - in true fashion - an online club - with a fair few members I chat to through the club's forum - ppl crazy about triathlon, many of them in their first season as well - its fantastic - its the BCTTT!!) first championships (the club was founded this year and I am one of the first members, though the membership is growing regularly).

Dorney Lake is known to be a flat course. The distance was 750/20/5 - full sprint - and the aim was to try and get a better time than London - and in any event, go under 1 hr 45 minutes which was my target time for the sprint in London.

Race day was good. I got to Dorney early and met up with some members of the club. Now bear in mind that many of us had never met and we introduced ourselves by our handles. I must admit, this is the most comfortable and relaxed I've ever been in the build up to a race - cheers guys!!

To the race:

The swim - I hadn't swum in a while so I wasn't sure how it would go. It went - nothing special - I got whacked a few times by other swimmers - a couple of times in the head. Swim time was around 18 minutes. Slow really, but I've barely done any swimming.

T1 - went smoothly - got out of my wetsuit, into my bike shoes (for the first time in a race scenario) got my stuff and ran to the mount line.

The Bike ride - started off with a bang - an uncomfortable one - it was the sound of me falling off the bike, still clipped in, a mere 2 metres from the mount line. At the third attempt - a bad elbow graze and a nasty cut on my hand later I managed to be off (wasting about a minute on that crap). The bike ride wasn't particularly comfortable, the legs weren't up for too much (I did a 5k with Clare the day before and as I hadn't been training too hard that told a bit on my legs). I hadn't worn my bike shorts over my tri bottoms. My bum was sore, my legs were sore and happily I managed to avoid a spill when coming back into transition.

T2 - smooth and fast (in fact I made up 2 places).

The run - uneventful. I have no idea how fast I actually was (split times aren't out yet) but it felt laboured. I had a stitch throughout but kept going and actually overtook more people than I was overtaken by. I did sprint at the end - properly this time, a full, knackering, "can't breathe anymore once past the finish line" type sprint.

The time? Unofficially 1 hr 37 minutes and 49 seconds (I'm told by clare who was standing a few metres away from the finish clock when I crossed the line). A full 10 minutes faster than my London time.

I'm mega chuffed. A good way to end my season and its reasonable to go try and go under 1:30 next season!

More updates soon as I set out my targets for the winter and next season.

More soon.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Tri 4

Saturday 8th August, Leybourne Lakes, the scene of my 4th tri, the third at Leybourne Lakes.

The lead-up to the race wasn't a good one. After waking up ok on Sunday (very very early coz I had to take my parents to the airport (so it was a 5am wake-up)) we went back to the London Triathlon to watch day 2 and the loympic event. We did, however spend most of the afternoon resting (and recovering).

On MOnday I headed to work and to my first football game since my injury. The game was ok, I think I played ok (nothing spectacular) and our team drew. I actually played outfield for the first time (the point was the workout) and it was a hell of a workout. There was however a big down-side. In the warm-up kick around I went for a shot and felt the toe 'go'. I was in quite a bit of pain but considering its a 5-a-side game and there were only 5 of us, I kept going, played the full game and left myself to regret it later. And regret it I did ... it was back to the pain of the first week of the metatarsal injury, so much so that I couldn't walk on it overnight and had to stay home. I have, however, discovered a new cream "Deep Freeze". I must admit it worked miracles. 4 applications a day. At that stage I had all but given up on the Saturday race but Deep Freeze worked its magic and a day before the race I woke up pain free. I hadn't done any training since Monday but being pain free gave me te confidence tat I could do the race. And do it I did.

I had unfinished business with the Saturday morning race. You may recall this was the setting of my second Tri and debacle so there was a serious detemination to do better, to get a PB for the course and to get under 1 hour 20. To cut a long story short the race was a fairly fast one. I had decided to draft off someone in the swim but within 1 minute of the race I was in limbo, the vast majority of competitors had long gone, and the ones next to me seemed to be going slower than I was. I finally managed to draft over the last 50m. The swim and T1 were my fastest yet.

The bike ride was again my fastest yet (still slow but faster than before). So I got off the bike and into the run after 50 mins and some change. I had half an hour to do the run but that's where the problems started. For the first 500-1000m I felt like there was someone literally sitting on my chest. Not a chance of taking a deep breath. The legs were tired and my laces kept coming undone (three times) which kept interrupting my rhythm. The run wasn't my fastest but sheer determination and a continued realisation that if I kept on going I would be on target for not only a PB but also a sub-1:20 time meant that I kept at it. I finished in 1:19:47. A personal best and under 1:20.

That's it for the Leybourne Lakes course this season. I've hit a target. Next season, hopefully, I'll have improved my bike riding markedly, and my fitness. The target (at present) is therefore to get under 1:15 next season ...

There's still a couple of races to go this season (varying distances) so I'm looking forward to further results (hopefully good ones) which I can then aim to improve on over the winter.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

London Tri (one hell of an experience - I want more!)

It's over, it's done and I feel on top of the world ... there are a couple of storm clouds in the sky but I'm above them at the moment, riding high in the full glow.

Yesterday I completed my first full sprint triathlon i.e. a 750m swim, a 20km bike ride and a 5km run. Those of you who have been following my blog know that this was my third ever race (the other two were shorter sprint tris, so the added length of this race and the pressure of the world largest triathlon event made the run up to this one quite a daunting prospect). As it turned out, the race was even longer than expected ... 750m swim, 21km on the bike and 5.2k on the run.

Needless to say I was nervous, I had a restless nght, woke up at 7:30 and helped myself to some brekkie. I spent the rest of the morning trying to relax and then had an early pasta lunch (at 11:15) and set off to the race. A traffic jam and parking issues later I walked up to Excel to find a mass of ppl (both competitors and their families/supporters) and bikes milling around what is quite a huge area. I headed over to pick up my chip timer and then moved on to transition. Transition was a shock ... I kid you not, the place was huge! I obviously haven't seen that many transitions but this was incredible. Line upon line of rails for bike racking. Bear in mind, I was scheduled to start off at 3pm and I was racking in row K1 ... when you consider that each row racked in excess of 150 bikes, that's one hell of a transition area (which by the way, went up all the way to row Z). It was intimidating to say the least (more on that later).

I got into my wetsuit nice and early (had a chat with a few ppl who had racked next to me) checked out the various transition entries and exits (different entry and exit for each T) and headed towards swim assembly ... a full 300-400m from my transition layout. My wave gathered, all 400 of us and after some race prep we headed down (2 stories) to the dockside (picking up our pink (yes pink) swimcaps on the way) and got into the water. My goggles immediately started leaking and fogged up. I must admit I panicked a bit at this stage. My other pair of goggles were way too far away to go and get so I tightened the pair I was wearing, tried to defog them as best I could and headed towards the start line (about 50-100m away) using it as a bit of a warm-up. The dock was choppy (over 100 canoes there making sure we were all safe, hundreds of swimmers and a touch of wind) and the water was very murky with a 2 foot visibility maximum. I kid you not, I could not see beyond my wrist when stretching during my swim stroke. That made drafting very difficult ... you don't see the arms, or the legs coming.

I placed myself in the middle and towards the back of the group, preferring to pick off slower swimmers rather than getting into the ruck at the beginning. So we set off, I found some space, settled into a rhythm and picked off a few swimmers. All was going well, goggles were fogging up a bit but no particular leakage. The murky water was a bit of a problem as I usually calm myself out by focusing on technique but hey, it could have been much worse. The water was choppy so I tried some bi-lateral breathing but it was the sighting (usually my forte) that ended up being a bit off ... I got to the half way point a bit off so I had to close in on the buoy which meant I had a bit more crowding. I ended up at the very end of the swim area in the return leg ... constantly jostling for position and squeezed against the rope. This is where I lost my rhythm and with that the momentum I had built up. My stroke got choppy and lost form and technique, I had to slow down and I was getting hit (elbows and kicks, one particularly just under the ribs) frequently and hard. The swim ended, I was a bit woozy but I got out of the water and started taking off my wetsuit (it came off this time). My swim time was 18:48 - I was looking for a sub-17 but considering my second half of the swim was a constant struggle I'm satisfied I went under 20 minutes.

London is a bit different, you take off your wetstuit by the dockside, put it in a plastic bag and then go up 2 flights of stairs and a few hundred metres to the bike. I must admit, I walked up the stairs and half jogged, half walked to my bike. Got my bike shorts on, my Unicef Tee short, socks, shoes, sunglasses, number belt and helmet on ... unracked my bike and headed to the mount line ... again, a couple of hundred metres away ... and got on the bike ... T1 was 6 and a half minutes long (an absolute age) ...

The bike has been and continues to be, my weak spot ... the course is generally considered a flat one (not for me), 2 laps of 10k each and while I did pick off a few ppl over the course, the amount of ppl passing me was much greater. Apart from the struggle, an occasional risky moment during the 180 degree turns at the extreme ends of each lap and settling into a (slow) rhythm, the bike ride was fairly uneventful. I got annoyed because someone spent a good 2k drafting me after I had overtaken him (which is supposed to be illegal) and was even more annoyed when he then proceeded to get past me with a burst on the last bit of a small hill. I have no idea what the draft busters along the course were thinking or doing but anyways, the guy did what he had to do, I guess, well done him for getting away with it.

The bike leg ended with a shortish climb up a ramp to the dismount line ... not the greatest of ideas in my opinion but anyways, who am I to say ... I got to the dismount line, fairly winded from the last climb, jogged/walked to transition (again a couple of hundred metres) ... took my helmet off, moved my number belt (on the bike leg the number should be at the back, during the run, at the front) and tore one fastening off in the process and spilt my drink all over my towel. So I moved the towel, moved the bag for it not to get soaked (losing more time in the process) and set off to the run out (again a couple of hundred yards away). T2 ... some 3 and a half minutes (when you consider how little there is to do its a shame it takes so long). So I ran out after consuming quite a bit of liquid in T2 (I am not confident enough to ride the bike one-handed so I don't drink on the bike ride) so the moment I got into my rhythm I got a stitch. The legs were heavy but I was determined .... I had one competitor 20-25m ahead of me so used him as a point man to reel in.

I kept chugging away, kept up with the guy ahead of me, got passed by a few ppl and passed a few myself. The course had a bit of a surprise ... a 2 storey ramp (built so that the viewers could get across (read under) the run path) ... so you went down one ramp (1 flight), up another ramp (1 flight) then down to ground level (2 flights) and the reverse towards the end of each of the 2 laps. It was my fault really, I hadn't trained for hilly runs (I didn't know it was coming) and previous races were all flat (with very little incline) so the ramps chopped my rhythm and my breathing.

By 1km into the run I had found some rhythm, by 2k my legs were screaming to stop, then came the ramps again ... my body was screaming at me to stop and walk ... my head shouted even louder that I wouldn't dare ... I spotted my wife, my parents and a friend who came to support, cheering me on at exactly half way and was even more determined not to stop. By the end of the bike ride I knew that a finish under 1:45 was out of the question ... I had lost too much time between the slow bike and the long transitions to make it up on the run, but I wanted to get there as close to 1:45 as I could. I got to within 1 metre of my target point man when at 4.5km my legs just gave way ... 100m from the ramps ... I just about managed the ramps at a jog and headed in to the finish line, smiled at the wife and family ... and kicked slightly at the finish. I had lost the guy I had all but reeled in but I had finished. It felt fantastic ... I must admit when they gave me my finisher's medal, I was on the verge of tears. My family came to congratulate me ... I felt like crap but I was happy and proud ... I'd done it, finished it ... job done!

So ... what were my goals, and did I achieve them

Goal 1 - Finish (achieved!)
Goal 2 - Finish with a smile on my face (achieved!)
Goal 3 - Finish within 1hr 45 minutes (not quite - 1 hr 48 minutes 6 seconds but see below)
Goal 4 - Finish the swim within 20 minutes (achieved - 18 mins 48 seconds)
Goal 5 - Finish the bike leg within 45 minutes (not close - 51 mins 51 seconds but the distance was in fact 21km not 20km ... had it been 20km I still wouldn't have been under 45 minutes but I could possibly have gone under 1:45, maybe)
Goal 6 - Finish the run leg within 30 minutes (achieved - 27 mins 44 seconds)

I achieved 4 out of 6 ... which I consider to be not bad ... not ideal. but I refuse to beat myself up over it ... I was in transition for 9 minutes and 45 seconds in total (needs working on, but the transition area was huge) ... my bike leg needs a lot of work (to that end I've just bought myself bike shoes and clipless pedals) and I have a target ... I do a full sprint (similar distance - different course) on 30th August ... a new PB would be nice

to that end, I might race again on Saturday (another Saturday morning race - the scene of my second race debacle) depending on how the recovery progresses (at this stage its doing well). It won't be with the new pedals and cleats (I need time to get used to them) but I want to exorcise that demon and get a better time.

So onwards and upwards it is then ... it feels great to look back ... I'm proud of myself ... but this is but the first of many steps on my tri road ... I have another 2 (possibly 1) race(s) left this season ... on 31st August I begin 'Project OD' ... the Olympic Distance triathlon, London, August 2010 (and a season including a mix of Olympic and Sprint races).

but more on that later ...