Paul Deen’s 2013…What A Ride! Part 1.

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As stated at the end of my 2012 review here, my A goal this season was to qualify for Kona with my B goals being a good performance and hopeful podium at UK 70.3 in June plus trying to qualify for the ITU Age Group Olympic distance finals in Hyde Park in September.

Well it didn’t go exactly as I planned but I certainly can’t complain. In hindsight I think I got a bit too fit a bit too soon. Running & biking wise I was absolutely flying early in the year with a huge 4 minute PB at the Wokingham Half Marathon in February (1:21) and then in April at the Fulon Duathlon I had probably one of my strongest and most satisfying races ever where I threw caution to the wind for the first time in a duathlon and decided to race it properly like the big boys do,  so went out at what I thought was a completely suicidal & unsustainable pace on run 1 but I felt fantastic on the bike and then only ran marginally slower on run 2 for 2nd place in the Vets race and 10th overall. Both 6k runs were much faster than my 5k stand alone PB….. I was starting to get excited about Frankfurt but there was a looooong way to go yet.

I managed to narrowly win my age group again (the first one was by a fraction of 1 second and the second by 4 seconds!) at the first two Thames Turbo Sprint races which are a staple part of my early season build up now, I really do love these races.

Then in May I combined another fun week at the always excellent Tri Camp Mallorca with the Mallorca 70.3 race. This was a really great week away there was huge group from @blacklinelondon in attendance plus lots of other friends from the UK racing and supporting, the after race party was much fun too.  Race wise I did ok considering I had trained right up to it and came 16th in a gigantic age group of 444, this race has a massive number of entrants.

A few weeks later and it was back to Exmoor for my third straight UK70.3. I quite fancied my chances of maybe making the AG podium in the weeks leading up to the race but after having a migraine and no sleep at all the night before I was in a particularly negative mood as I stood on the edge of Lake Wimbleball at 7am. My mood wasn’t helped by another very average swim and the wind and rain on the bike wasn’t doing much to improve it either! But after a while I started to realise that all I had done for a couple of hours was overtake people and whilst it’s impossible to tell where you are in the race (us oldies started 15 mins after the young uns) I had a feeling I was doing ok. This sensation continued on the run when all I was doing was overtaking a steady stream of people until eventually and utterly surprisingly I got on to Steven Lord’s shoulder (Steven smashed the 40-44 AG the previous year) I asked him if he knew what position he was in and he said “third but I believe I am now in fourth” and patted me on the back as I went past which was very classy of him. So I had a lap and a half to go and was where I had dreamed I would be pre race, the knowledge of being in a podium spot definitely helped me to hurt myself on those last 6 miles or so. When I approached the finish line the announcer asked me if I wanted the good news  to which I nodded and I was called over the line not as I was expecting in 3rd place but in 2nd, little did I know that I had caught 2nd a few hundred metres earlier and he was in the chute behind me!

Now I was getting really excited about Frankfurt which was just 3 weeks away. There was a predicted 19 slots for Kona there in my AG and I was sure that with a bit of luck I could grab one of them….In a nutshell this just wasn’t to be.

Ironman Frankfurt started pretty well with a 1:01 swim and I was up to my wattage target on the bike immediately and feeling brilliant, I had a grin from ear to ear thinking “this is on” then my power meter stopped working….not ideal but not a disaster as I knew how the effort should feel and had HR as a gauge too so I didn’t let it affect me. Then I got a harsh 6 minute penalty for a drafting rule infringement, this was a disaster as by the time you stop and then re-start its more like 7.5 minutes, this is an eternity when you are on the periphery of the Kona slots. However I still tried to keep my head and decided to ride hard for the remainder of the lap to try and get back up to a decent average pace which I did and just I was trying to calm things down for a sensible 2nd lap my aero arm pad on the left fell off! I stopped, retrieved it and reattached only for it to fall off again a minute later. I thought about quitting as T2 was only a mile or 2 behind me but then figured that I might as well carry on as it was good training for if I was going to try and qualify at another Ironman in a few weeks. I shoved the aero pad down the back of my shorts and carried on in a weird one armed aero position. About 30 mins later my right arm pad also came loose, I stopped and tightened it and it seemed ok but another 30 mins or so later it fell off. I didn’t even bother trying to reattach it and shoved it down the other side of my shorts. I rode the last 20 miles or so on the hoods knowing that my day was done. The aero pad problem was of my own making as it was caused by me fitting a drink bottle holder and not using the longer screws provided, I have never been one for reading the instructions….

Naively when I entered T2 with a cumulative time of 6:25 on the clock I thought briefly that maybe just maybe a 3:15 marathon might give me an outside chance of a roll down slot so I shot out of transition on a mission…. which lasted 2 miles, 30 degree heat sent my HR through the roof and I knew any hope of Kona that day was over. I initially thought I would “jog” 2 laps and pull out so that I had a good chance of reloading and having another pop at either Bolton (via a charity slot) or Copenhagen which WTC had just aggressively taken over from Challenge and attached 50 Kona slots to. I was incredibly naive to think that I could jog and enjoy half of an Ironman marathon in 30 plus degree heat, moving forwards at any pace other than walking is seriously hard work both mentally and physically. By the time I got towards the end of lap 2 I was ready to walk off the course armed with my plausible excuse of saving myself for another Kona crack in a few weeks but I knew I would hate myself if I did this and also by that point I seriously didn’t want to have another crack at it, I was retiring from the stupid distance…again.

The last 2 laps were a bit of a death march with constant thoughts of walking off the course not helped by having to run past my hotel. I also did stints of walking, which was the first time I had ever walked at any event since starting endurance sport in 2007. It made me realise that most people walking can actually run (I could) but don’t have the motivation to do it because it bloody hurts. I realised that I need a carrot to be able to hurt myself during an Ironman marathon, my carrot had gone and with it had gone my willingness to bury myself. The only thing that prevented me from walking longer sections was the knowledge that I would be out there for even longer so the more I ran the quicker it would be over!

Catching up with the Ironman World Champ Pete Jacobs at the end of lap 3 and walking / chatting / annoying him for a brief spell (he was having a very bad day) lifted my spirits and made the last lap a bit more bearable. I crossed the line in 10:08 with a 3:43 marathon, which actually surprised me a bit with the amount of walking I did and mishaps I had on the bike. I was definitely retired from Ironman though.

Until Thursday when I entered Ironman Copenhagen which was just over 4 weeks away. I just couldn’t let what had happened in Frankfurt be the end result of all the months of hard training I had put in. So after an easy week it was back to full training but I very quickly realised that recovering from an Ironman and getting ready for another one so soon after was not going to be easy.  I was absolutely knackered in training, HR was sky high and pace and power was low, as was my confidence of being able to be competitive in Copenhagen. My existing online coach had done a great job of getting me to Kona levels of fitness but his location on the other side of the world was not ideal as communications were difficult. I had been thinking of getting a new coach at the end of the season and ideally a local one that I could actually meet up with occasionally. My confidence wobble pre Copenhagen prompted me to ring Fiona Ford who is based very locally and who I had seen a couple of times for swim analysis in the previous year. After an hour on the phone talking it was an easy decision to switch. Fiona reduced the volume and intensity of my training immediately and within a week I was feeling so much better and was then able to get a couple of decent weeks of training in so that by the time Copenhagen came round I was feeling fairly confident.

I knew it was going to be seriously competitive in my age group because since WTC had purchased the race and put the Kona slots in, the number of entries in 40-44 had gone from circa 200 to almost 450! It was a huge age group and as a result had 9 Kona slots out of the 50 on offer. Trying to come top 10 out of 450 just 5 weeks after an Ironman was a tall ask but I figured that if I gave it my best shot and left everything out there on the course then I would not be disappointed and barring another disaster should have a nice PB to be proud of as consolation should I not qualify.

My day did not start too well with a 1:04 swim which shocked me in all honesty as it seemed to fly by and I thought I was swimming well at the time, I was absolutely convinced I was for the first time going to see a 59:**so for the initial few minutes I felt a bit defeated as it seemed like a big chunk of time to give up so early in the day.

It was a cool damp and windy day in Copenhagen but apparently the wind was in the right direction meaning we would get blown up the coast so that the bike times should still be fast. This turned out to be very true and within a few minutes on the bike my disappointment with my poor swim started to fade as we were flying! I knew we had a tailwind and wasn’t kidding myself but at the same time I was riding past virtually everyone in front of me and very few people were riding past me or getting too far ahead which gave me confidence as my watts were exactly where I wanted them and the perceived effort felt easy, just like in Frankfurt 5 weeks earlier I was grinning from ear to ear and thinking “this is on!”

Going through 25 miles in under an hour was great fun and even when turning round and heading back towards town in to the wind the average speed stayed pretty high and I started doing mental calculations about possible bike splits, sub 4:45 seemed very feasible as I went through the first lap. I made a decision to push ever so slightly up the fast coastal section to make a bit of hay and this seemed to work really well as i dropped a group of guys who had been around me for a while. At this point in the race I was thinking that Kona was a real possibility as I was feeling good and thought I was executing a well paced bike that was going to set me up for a great run.

As I turned off the coast road after about 3 hours on the bike I started to realise that I didn’t feel too good. I felt a bit headachy and nauseas, not to worry I thought, its just a low patch, get some calories on board and it will pass. I took a couple of extra gels but 30 minutes later I am feeling worse and my watts are dropping and so was my confidence. All the people I had passed on the coastal section rode past me, and all the time my watts just kept dropping until I was struggling to hold 200. From feeling super confident of a Kona slot an hour ago now all I could think about was how on earth was I going to run a marathon. I started to feel marginally better during the last few miles and was hoping that I would feel even better once off the bike. Dismounted with a bike split of 4:51:47 still pretty quick despite my pace drop off in final 2 hours.

After a swift T2 I was out on to the 4 lap run course with a cumulative time of exactly 6 hours on the clock, I briefly felt confident again as conditions were good for running and my pre race dream run goal time of sub 3:15 didn’t seem unrealistic, surely a time of around 9:15 would be good enough for a Kona slot? My speed for the first few miles was pretty good and was a tad above my hoped for sub 3:15 pace but it didn’t feel very fast as it seemed that every single person in my AG was running past me, well at least that is how it felt. At the first out and back I started counting people that had grey numbers which indicated they were in my AG, I stopped counting at about 20 as it was too depressing. I also started to realise that the pace I was running was unsustainable, my HR was too high and I felt sick meaning I couldn’t face taking on board any fuel. After lap 1 I forced myself to slow down and got my HR under control, I still felt like crap but at least I could now get gels down so had some chance of fuelling and getting to the finish.

So I had 3 laps to go and I knew Kona was gone but luckily for me I did have the carrot of a decent time to chase, I was running at just under 5 minutes per Km and whilst not easy it felt just about sustainable so even if I stayed at this pace I would go comfortably under 9:30, which is quite a tidy benchmark to aim for and one that I was willing to fight for. My plan was to if at all possible pick up the pace on lap 4 but if this didn’t happen Sub 9:30 would still be okay so long as I didn’t slow down by very much from my current pace.

With about 2 Km to go on lap 3 I was starting to think about whether I would be able to lift the pace on the final lap when my auto lap bleeped on my Garmin and to my surprise it was a few seconds quicker than my previous few Km’s even though I didn’t feel like I had put in any extra effort, interesting I thought and then a Km later it was another few seconds faster, it was like a switch had been flicked. I was now running towards the final turnaround at the finish line and had picked up my pace considerably, I was passing everyone in front of me and for the first time in several hours felt like I was in a race and that I had some control over it. Only 1 lap to go and I felt like I was flying, adrenaline had really kicked in and I started to look forward to hitting the timing mats as I knew my friends tracking back home would start to get excited when they could see I was speeding up, this spurred me on even more and made me want to get even faster, I was passing everybody, I was buzzing!

I had a bit of a blip with about 5k to go where I had a bit of a dizzy spell and briefly panicked that I had overdone it but after calming down for a couple of Km’s with only 3 to go I knew I could get home safe and just emptied the tank, I was now running faster than I had done for the whole marathon, I was passing lots of people quickly and for the first time  during the run I started to look down at their numbers as I passed them to see if they were in my AG, quite a few were but I was pretty sure that I was still well outside the Kona slots. When I took the final right turn that leads to the finishing chute I got overtaken for the first time in nearly an hour, I immediately looked down and saw he had a grey number but he was moving so much quicker than me that I knew I couldn’t catch him as he gapped me with ease, I had been running pretty much flat out for the last 12k and had nothing left. I distinctly remember thinking that it could be a factor the next day at the Kona roll down. I ran in to the chute and aware of how important losing any more places could be was looking constantly over my shoulder, which after over 9 hours of racing is quite a bizarre feeling. I crossed the line in 9:24:44. With a negative split 3:22:54 marathon, I was absolutely delighted, not so much with my race overall which was far from perfect but for the fight back I had shown on the marathon… oh and the finish time wasn’t bad for an old former fat bloke either.

When I got my bag and turned my phone on, I was blown away by the support I had received during the race and sure enough my increase in speed at the end had caused a bit of excitement on Twitter and Facebook which made me smile a lot! Nico & Paul B had sent me messages saying I had come from 24th to 14th in that last hour and that I had a good chance at the roll down, I honestly didn’t consider this a possibility as 5 roll downs was logically too much to ask. At Frankfurt 5 weeks previously there were 3 rolls for 19 slots, there were not going to be 5 for 9 slots here and I honestly didn’t care as I was happy with what I had achieved.

So the next day with a bit of a hangover I rocked up to the awards and Kona roll down ceremony with absolutely no expectations. Eventually after an age they got round to the Kona slots allocation and I am sitting there waiting for all 9 in my AG to get gobbled up pretty quickly. It immediately however got interesting when the AG winner declined his slot…..when the third person declined and there were still 3 slots left I started to involuntarily shake, I was tweeting a live update which became quite hard to type as I was shaking so much! A couple more accepted and we were down to 1 slot remaining with just the Belgian chap who overtook me right at the end and finished 8 seconds in front of me standing between me and a place at the world champs in Kona. They read his name out and there was total silence in the hall, surely not?! They read it out again and I am thinking “don’t be here you bastard” and there was silence again and then they read his name for a third and final time before reading my name out. Gob smacked was an understatement, I could not believe what had just happened, when I went on stage to sign for my slot my hand was shaking so much that I could hardy sign my name, it was a surreal experience!

It took quite a few days for it to sink in that I was actually going to the world champs in Kona and then it dawned on me that I had to do another Ironman in 8 weeks time and in hot and humid conditions! Up until this year my Ironman experience consisted of 2 events spread over 24 months now I was getting ready for my third in 13 weeks, seriously unchartered territory for me but I didn’t care because I was going to KONA BABY!!!!!

To Follow …….. Two World Championships in 5 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just The Beginning – Nico’s Story

Nico in Kona

Last weekend in Kona was Ironman number 6 in 23 months.

 Cozumel – Nov 2011

Austria – 2012,

Wales 2012,

South Africa 2013,

UK 2013

Hawaii 2013

My  journey into triathlon and endurance sport started in 2010 with a short stint training for the London and Amsterdam marathons. It was during this time I got to learn about triathlon and it was watching the coverage of the 2010 race where I decided I want to go to Kona. Over the coming weeks I looked at what it would realistically take.

The ideal high-level plan looked something like this:

2011 – Get a solid 8-10 months of training for Ironman Cozumel in November.

2012 – Get strong on the bike and achieve a sub 10 Ironman.

2013 – Qualify for Kona.

The first Ironman in Cozumel was tough as I overcooked the bike and had a struggle on the run but was very happy to hang tough on the run with a 10h27. I shared parts of the run with fellow BBL’r Laura Trimble who got robbed of a Kona slot by finishing 2nd and getting no roll-down with a 10h20.

In January 2012 I started a role with a new company where I certainly had my work cut out for me. Getting the ideal training and recovery/sleep became in a little more difficult. This tipped me over the edge. The biggest impact has been on my immune and digestive systems.

Training for Ironman Austria started off very well and I finally started to see some results of a bike focussed training plan. Frequent weekend bike rides with fellow Black Line London friend Troy Squires and another pal Jamie made it much easier to drag myself out of bed every Saturday morning for a ride, and Sundays for a long run.

A few weeks before Austria a familiar pattern started with me getting sick. The combination of intense training and stress saw reduced training and a loss of strength due to a combination of chronic fatigue and just generally being run down. I was not in a happy place before Austria and although Luzelle and I had an amazing road trip through Europe the race was a write off before it even started. Austria was very hot and it was a blessing in disguise to not be able to push on the run. Running in 42 degree heat is agony, so being able to cruse it in for a 4 hour marathon made it a bit more bearable.  Finish time was 10:3x.

Having read all the race reports for the inaugural Ironman Wales I entered the 2012 race the day registration opened in 2011. After Austria I was just more determined to keep going and after a two week rest I jumped back into full training and got about 4 weeks of good swim/bike/run training with a course recce thrown in. The bike course is simple amazing, and the most fun bike course I have done so far. Come race day I was feeling fit and more importantly healthy. Work was a bit calmer and that allowed me to get the necessary recovery to be in good shape. On race day I had a slow swim, followed by a really good bike ride and a wobbly but steady run to finish in a respectable 10:06, Paul had a good day too and we finished really close to each other.

Both Paul Burton and I decided to enter Ironman South Africa with the aim of bagging some Kona slots. Training through winter went really well and we steadily got the bike and run miles ticked off every week.  Mel Wasley and Deenzy were also training through winter so we had company for most of our Saturday morning rides.

In February we did the Wokingham Half marathon and all ticked off massive PB’s with me running a controlled 1:21:00. This gave me confidence that things were on track and we pushed on looking to perform well at the spring Ball Buster. A week before we did the Hell of the Ashdown Sportive and I felt really strong on the bike. This made me feel quite excited about the season ahead.  The Ballbuster came around the week after and Paul smashed it, with Deenzy and I finishing well down. Turns out Deenzy had a cold and I came down with my first (of many) bouts of a bacterial infection.

This stayed with me as we headed over to Lanzarote for a 10-day training camp with coach Richard Hobson and I spent most of it in bed. After the camp I tried to catch up on training and probably ended up doing too much leading into Ironman South Africa. The body felt tired with no power or strength. I ended up walking most of the marathon with my slowest Ironman to date (10:4x). Paul missed out on the roll down after a solid race where he went 9h30. Both of us shrugged the experience off and looked to our next race – IMUK in Bolton.

I took a month off structured training and during May/June/July we had a solid few months of training. I never got rid of the bacteria in my system and struggled with colds and just generally feeling run down. Every now and again I would feel really good and we had number of really solid training rides that served as motivation. Wimbleball 70.3 came around and I had a decent performance but nothing that excited me, so I just kept my head down. Looking at my training logs I can see a repeating pattern of a solid few weeks followed by a week where I was sick or just too tired to do any proper training.

Troy was back from his long stint in Mallorca looking tanned and he joined us for the latter part of the training block. It was good to have another Bolton starter to train with.

Two weeks before Bolton Stu Anderson from Team Freespeed, Paul and I went on a ride to Henley. I have just been through a patchy week and I was very happy to feel quite strong on the day. We went really fast to Henley and it was a great confidence booster for our upcoming races (Stu competed in the iconic Norseman triathlon).

With about a week to go the final training bumped me over the edge again and I started suffering from chronic inflammation and the bacterial infection in my stomach flared up again. It was really frustrating but I decided to do what I can and stopped most training + upped the dosage of a natural enzyme I was taking. This stabilised things going into the race. Going into the race I knew my body wasn’t firing but I had a year of training behind me, so I was going to race within myself and not worry about what is happening around me until the final miles of the marathon.

I was still hoping to get lucky with a shot at a Kona slot although the odds were against me. The race started with a decent swim for me. Swimming a lot in the Lido with Paul and Troy helped a lot and I recorded my best swim to date. The bike ride is quite hilly and my cup of tea. On the day I dreaded the hills as it felt like a slog from the start. I kept my heart rate and power under control but tried to stay focussed and keep myself in contention. At one point I got splits that the leading age groupers (including Paul) were about 20 minutes up the road with 60km to go. I didn’t let it worry me and just kept trucking along.

Getting off the bike was a massive relief. The first 10km at Bolton is flat and fast and I ticked it off in 45 minutes with George Dunn doing his first Ironman for company. From there on it becomes quite a different ballgame with a few laps going up and down this massive hill. The good thing about the course is you can get a feeling for where you are in the race. I soon realised I must be in the top 10 in my age group, so I kept running at a steady pace. I introduced some strength work into the training routine and it was helping me to keep the form up and moving well. With about 5km to go a guy in my age group ran up to me and I decided to do everything I can to finish in front of him. It turns out this was a wise move as I finished 7th in the age group about 30 minutes off the lead (10:12). Troy and Paul crossed the line together, Troy had a decent day considering some of the health/injury issues he had, and Paul’s race was a bit of a disaster as he was doing fantastically until he had to stop due to energy issues deep into the run.

That evening we celebrated the race. I thought I finished in the slots as there were 7 provisional slots according to the race organisers. Turns out there were 6, but in hindsight I was quite happy about this. I was lucky enough to be called onto the stage to get my roll down slot by fellow Saffer Paul Kaye – in Afrikaans!

Qualifying for Kona was amazing, I was a little sad that I was the only one with a slot, and I also felt like it was a shame not to do it with a better performance.

As with Ironman Wales, I knew if I got a month of really solid training in I would be in good shape for Kona. I took two week’s off and started my training really hoping that I can get a healthy run through to the Big Island. Unfortunately a couple of big projects came to the boil at work and I struggled to switch off at night. This interrupted my sleep and I got a really bad bout of the flu. This took me out for a solid 10 days and I couldn’t train for about two weeks. With the recovery and sickness I lost almost a month of training, and with the taper I had two weeks left to train. I gave it my best shot and concentrated on bike intensity over miles and managed to throw in two long runs.

I went with some really good advice and decided to start my taper with 2 weeks to go rather than go to Kona overcooked. This was a good strategy and I arrived on the Island feeling fresh and excited. Most of all I was here to share the experience with my wife Luzelle and to take it all in. Swimming in the sea every day was great and I managed a few good bike/run sessions to get used to the conditions. My bacterial infection and long list of other issues were fairly dormant and only flared up a little…I could live with that.

Race morning came around very fast and I spent the morning at the swim start with Paul Deen, Sam Baxter and Tom Babbington. We had a bit of time and sat around in anticipation of the suffering. I decided to go against my normal strategy of starting the swim too hard and too far in front so went out very easy and kept far from the buoys. It felt controlled and by half way I settled into a nice rhythm. To see 1h09 on the clock I was satisfied. Being about 800th out of the water means the course is packed with cyclists. The strategy was to ride easy for the first hour and then start passing people and push on the way back from Hawi. The ride went well and I always rode within myself. At one point I was hoping for a sub 5 bike, and needed to cover the last 35km in an hour. A headwind squashed that plan and I concentrated on staying within my limits. The ride took me 5h07…I was fairly happy with this.

The run section worried me the most, I knew my run fitness suffered the most since Bolton so I decided to go out controlled. First 10km was ticked off in 50 minutes; if I kept the pace I would end up around 9:55. Soon it became clear this wouldn’t happen as I started to slow down a lot. I caught up with Tom and shortly afterwards Deenzy caught us as we all walked up Palani. Deenzy pushed on and Tom and I made slow progress together for a while. I had to make a pit stop and soon after started feeling a bit better so picked up the pace a little. Tom was having a difficult time so parted company. The run out towards the energy lab is quite a lonely and hard stretch. By now I have slowed to a shuffle. The only focus was not to stop. I saw Richard Melik and we chatted for a bit before he went the other way to cheer on the rest of his Freespeed team members. The rest of the run was quite uneventful, I didn’t run fast enough to have any serious mishaps and kept ticking over until the last 2km where two girls came flying past. For some reason I decided to join them and run with them to just before the finish chute where I accelerated to get a decent finishers pic. This made me a bit wobbly and two volunteers had to help me down the ramp and kept me company for about 5 minutes to ensure that I was ok. Marathon time 3h59, overall time 10:22. All in all I was happy with the day.

The experience was amazing and I am so inspired by all the amazing athletes that raced here yesterday. It was really cool to see the professionals on the bike and run course. I shouted the names of the pros whenever I could. The Freespeed crew did very well. Cat, Ali, Matt, and Sam. Dec was going well until an injury forced him to walk the last 12km.

2014 will hopefully be my best year to date. The first objective is to get professional help and get on top of my IBS, inflammation problems, bacterial infections etc etc. The second piece of the puzzle will be to get to grips with stress and devise a sound strategy to maybe train a bit less but make sure it’s all absorbed. Finally I think I have now built the biking base to warrant starting to look at my run as I believe I can turn it into a weapon to become competitive at Ironman races in future.

Believe it or not but I am already looking forward to training through winter. The plan will be to be as careful as I can to stay healthy. Eating wise I have been playing with LCHF and when I manage to stay off the carbs I certainly feel a lot better. My achilles heel is a fairly overpowering sugar addiction so one of my missions will be to at least control my sugar intake whilst getting a lot of quality protein and fat and greens in my diet.

Looking back three years it is amazing how my life changed from couch potato and living a very unhealthy lifestyle to being focussed on health, fitness and having a goal of being as good an athlete as I can be. The social aspect of the sport has been the surprise element and that is what makes it all worthwhile …and still having that sub 10 Ironman to chase!

Special thanks to Richard Melik of Freespeed for the awesome pic of Nico on his bike in Kona. Freespeed are not only friends of Black Line London, but also the best bike fitters in the business and you owe it to yourself to check them out.

 

 

 

 

 

Ironman South Africa Race Report – A Change of Mindset

South Africa was chosen as I heard nothing but great things about it from friends, it’s been one of the softer races for Kona qualification in the past and had increased from 30 to 50 slots. So Nico and I entered and set about a winter’s hard training. We weren’t the only ones with this cunning plan – a scan of the entrants revealed a large number of Europeans, many of whom had been to Kona before. So this wasn’t going to be straight forward…

We all love a good excuse in a race report. I have none. Preparation went perfectly. November and December were a struggle getting back into the swing of it through the fog of the festive party season, but I had a good week with James Beckinsale and the Optima juniors in Spain and then pushed on with consistent training over January, February and March, including 10 days in Lanzarote with my coach, Richard Hobson. A 1.21 half marathon in February and 2.55 Ballbuster in March showed I was in decent form.

Finally, a word about training partners. They make an Ironman. The race itself is just an expression of everything you’ve put into the previous months. This is what Black Line is all about – getting a group of like minded folk together for rides and runs, cake and coffee, and make the hard yards significantly less hard. So to all the gang, thanks. For this race Nico and I spent every Saturday and Sunday in eachother’s company with a shared goal, a shared coach and, it turns out, a shared dry sense of humour. A winter that I truly enjoyed, despite the weather. Dankie, bru.

I got to Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, enough time for a few quiet days and to see the course. It was good to spend time with Declan Doyle (Team Freespeed), Graeme Buscke (Clapham Chasers) and others. Everyone had eyes on Kona slots, and it was clear that Nico, Declan, Graeme and I might be pretty close in the race. There was the added twist of Graeme being in my AG – but we got on well and both were sensible enough to know that everyone was a friend until the final 10k of the run.

Race day was glorious with barely a cloud in the sky. Most importantly the wind, whilst an Easterly (wong direction for fast bike times), was down – a rare treat in the ‘Windy City’ and a world away from the storms of 2012. It was set to be a fast day. There were likely to be 6 or 7 slots in my AG, so whilst the controllable aim was to be smart and get to the line in 9.30 or so, the non controllable goal was to be in the mix and get a slot, automatic or rolldown.

Swim

The wind was down but the swell wasn’t – much choppier than the days before. Sighting was a game of luck whether you saw the buoys. As expected, a mass start of predominantly South African men led to the most physical swim I’ve done. One guy was particularly keen on my new wetsuit as he was trying to take it off my back. I can’t say I enjoyed it – a little bit like survival, and smooth technique went out the window in exchange for something faster, choppier and with a lot more kicking. I got out just under the hour which given the conditions I was delighted with. 22nd in AG. Now onto the bike, which is where my fun starts.

Bike

My plan was to sit on my power number, which was in a 10w range depending on perceived effort and HR, and minimise surges. On the day the bottom of my range felt right, so I just kept it there. It’s a 3 lap course, with a minor climb in the first half, a fast out and back where you get a good look at who’s around you, before descending to the exposed coast road back to PE. The surface is pretty poor. Not Surrey potholes, but just rough that led to a bit of teeth chattering. I was making good progress and saw Graeme was 60s behind at the first turnaround and Nico was maybe 6 minutes further back. I felt great and the pace was easy. At the first lap I saw I was on sub-5 hour pace and that the lap was slightly short, so times would be fast.

Paul Burton Ironman South Africa Bike

At the second lap turnaround at 90k I had made my way towards the front of the AG race but there were lots of fast looking guys within 2 mins, reminding me to keep focused and keep the power down. To my surprise (I hadn’t clocked him earlier and this meant he had a good swim) a smiling Dec arrived with: “we’re right at the pointy end of things here!” This was my one decision to make in the race – go with him (he’s very strong!), or keep plugging away as I was. I decided to up the power. Riding in a pace line (legally at 10m) with a couple of guys in an Ironman can make a huge difference. It keeps you focused, on pace and moving along. Graeme then caught and we were in a group of four. Game on. As they had been riding faster, I went to the back of the line to assess how they were moving and I was feeling. After 5 mins things eased off a bit so there was no risk with me sticking with them. At about 115k I went on the front, feeling great so I tickled the pedals a little harder. When we got to the end of the lap I looked back and a gap had opened up. So I stuck at it, and what followed was the most enjoyable 2 hours of sport in my life. My legs felt free, power felt easy, my HR wasn’t rising and I was running out of people to catch. I got to the 150k turnaround and there was not much ahead or behind. No heaviness in the legs that you normally feel after 4 hours. I felt like a rockstar. I wanted to hammer it but kept telling myself to keep it in my pants and stick to the plan. I had picked up a Danish follower and bullied him into taking a turn at the front, but when he did the pace felt too easy so I dropped him on the descent and headed back to T2 solo.

The final ride was a pleasing 4.51. Although it was only 176k, so c.4.57 pace for a full course – more like it. The most pleasing thing was that this was done without any risks. For power geeks I rode at 73% FTP – not hard – and a VI of 1.01, so pretty smooth. Power and HR remained constant with no up or down drifts. With that data and how I felt, I thought I’d judged the bike right and felt great heading onto the run. I was up to 5th in AG – bang in the mix. But as they say, bike for show, run for dough. All to prove.

Run

To my surprise I was in the tent with Raoul de Jongh, an SA athlete in my AG who I think has been first AGer overall at this race a couple of times. I had also dragged the Dane who was also in our AG into T2. Having out transitioned them I was up to 4th and 8th AG overall on the run. This is new territory. Very quiet with nobody around. Shit, what am I doing here? Did I miss a lap? With only 5:55 on the clock there was also the prospect of going well under 9:30 if my run legs showed up to the party. Exciting stuff.

Paul Butron Ironman South Africa Run

Normally I start with legs like lead which free up after a few km. This time they were raring to go. The adrenaline of unchartered territory? The plan was to run the first lap easy, at 4:40km pace if all was well, the second on pace and the third with whatever was left in the legs and heart. Not to ‘race’ anyone until the last couple of km. The first 2ks were both under 4:30 – I gave myself a telling off. Raoul and the Dane were long gone – they flew past running 4:00 pace. After the excitement I settled down into 4:45s. Perfect. Then I realised that it was hot. Really hot (29 deg). So I just kept on top of my hydration and nutrition, getting carried along by the unbelievable crowds, all high on braai and beer. The 3 lap course is out and back for a few km, a quiet loop up at the university, then back through the tunnel of noise and the smell of chargrilled beef. First lap was ticked off at 4:48k pace. Spot on.

At the start of the second lap I was overtaken, so down to 7th. The battle started in the second lap. It was hot and I was beginning to suffer. You don’t quite know how hard to push as there’s still a long way to go, but a bunch of guys behind ready to pounce. 4:50’s slipped to 5:00s, to the occasional 5:10. The target 3:20 marathon was not happening, but I was still on for a sub-9.30 and was scrapping it out for a slot. At one point I noticed Dec was about 50m behind me but then he was gone again. Second lap completed in 5:04 pace. Still 7th.

The final lap was auto pilot. I was hurting. Not cramping, just in agony trying to cover the ground in front as efficiently as possible whilst the body was slowing shutting down. You take on water, coke, anything. Battling to keep core temperature down. I slipped into 5:15s but not the 5:30s+ that would see places bled. With about 8k to go I heard word I was 7th or 8th. That was great to focus the mind. At some point between 32k and 37k I was overtaken by 2 guys in my AG. Down to 9th. The final 5k is pure pain. It’s hard to describe. I knew I was in a fight. The enemy is unseen – you don’t know people’s AG, some have their number concealed, others are hiding how many lap bands they have. If you can’t beat them, join them – I tucked my sacred white lap 3 band under my Garmin, away from view. A couple of guys flew past at 4:30 pace. No idea if it was their last lap.

14.line

And then with 3k to go I had this incredible desire to just… stop, and sit down. I’ve never had this before. A negotiation started. ‘Fuck off’. ‘No, it’s time to stop and sit’. ‘Just wait 15 minutes and you can sit down all you like’. ‘How about a short walk then – it’s quiet here, nobody will see?’ ‘FUCK. OFF’. Mid argument I noticed a familiar squat, blue & red Freespeed figure in my rear view mirror. Dec was back. I think it was about 2k to go. This snapped me out of it and made me realise it was time to floor it – you never know who you find walking in the last 2k. Get to the line. Graeme was walking on his second lap. No time for sympathy, I was having a good day and wanted the pain to end. As we hit the final straight the crowd was epic – a tunnel of noise. Dec finally reached my shoulder with 1k to go. He looked exactly how I felt. Destroyed and very, very deep in the pain cave. He said we were in the clear – nobody behind, nobody in front. We agreed to cross the line together. We were ‘sprinting’ at 4:45 pace. With 300m to go someone flew past. I think my exact words were ‘DEC, WHAT THE **** IS THAT?’ Confusion reigned. I had no sprint. Dec tried for 50m but he was gone (turns out he was in neither of our AGs!). This time there was nobody behind and we could enjoy the finish. Collecting high fives on either side before meeting to cross the line hand in hand at 9:30:25. The delirium of finishing, the pain ending, plus a splash of bromance – I think that’s clear in our faces!

A 21 minute PB for me. The hardest I’ve ever raced and an honour to finish with such a gent, who had an incredibly gutsy return to racing after 2 years out. At 4th in AG, he is returning to Kona.

I ran 3:34. Whilst the bike was 4k short, the run was 500m long, so 3:31 marathon pace – the same pace as my 3:18 for less than 40k at Wales. Not what I wanted, but in the heat it was ok.

I limped to the timing tent to find out I was 10th. Someone had got me in the final 5k. Elation turned to deflation as I realised that would probably not be enough. It wasn’t – there were 7 slots and the next day it rolled to 9th. He was 2 mins ahead of me, and only 34s separated 7th to 9th. The margins are wafer thin. 9.30 saw me (joint) 44th overall, (joint) 22nd AGer and would have been 2nd in the AG below and 7th in the AG above. Shit happens. It’s not easy racing in the same AG as Kyle Buckingham!

Pretty gutted, but I’d have taken 9.30 before the race. With hindsight there’s nothing about my race I would change. We thought I was in shape for a low 3:20 run, but maybe the heat got to me? Heat chambers aside, it’s not easy to condition yourself for 29 degrees when it’s snowing at home. When it became clear my run legs weren’t quite firing, I managed the decline well. On the day I got myself to the line as fast as my fitness and the conditions allowed. I gave it everything, and there’s no more than that.

To my friends also on the start line – massive congratulations Dec and Liz Pinches from Thames Turbo that got their Kona slots. Graeme, Glenn and the others had a pop but it wasn’t to be their day – everyone’s got it in them, so keep at it. It also wasn’t Nico’s day, but to see him pause his race and to stand and scream encouragement at me as I headed into the final stretch of mine – thank you buddy. It’s what Black Line is all about.

I would recommend IMSA to anyone. I’ve done some crackers in Roth, Frankfurt and Wales and this race is potentially the best of the lot. The laps just work, the course is fast but has teeth (choppy swim, heat and the potential on another day for serious wind), the crowds are amazing and the organisation is flawless. The race director is a Kona qualifier and it shows – everything is thought of from the athlete’s point of view.

Amongst the lovely messages after the race from friends, family and team mates, one from fellow Blackliner Laura struck a chord: “it’s pulling off the performance that changes your mindset”. For her that was IM Cozumel where she had a great race but didn’t qualify. I had a long look at the front of a competitive race and loved the view. I’ve been open about my Kona goal but never really knew how realistic that was. Right now I’m not good enough, but now I know it’s within touching distance.

I have three big races this summer – a qualifier for the Olympic distance age group world champs in London, Ironman 70.3 UK and Ironman UK. I’m hoping to show my nose towards the front of those races, and with a bit of luck have some big races to plan my end of season around.

Thanks to everyone for the support. You know who you are.

London Marathon Tips

You’ve done the hard bit (well nearly), you’re fit, healthy and raring to go so here are some London marathon tips I’ve put together from my own experience of this amazing event. Obviously stick to whatever you’re used to and only take advice on the things you might find helpful

  • Get a good night’s sleep on Friday, it’s the most important night. Stay off you your feet on Saturday (you could go for an ultra slow 15 minutes jog), drink water (don’t glug it down, it will only make you wee it all out) and relax on the couch all day!
  •  Pack your marathon bag and lay your race day outfit out, the night before. It will help you sleep as you won’t be thinking about what you need to pack/remember.
  •  Take your race number, scrunch it into a small ball and then open it up fully again. Making it crumply stops it from acting like a sail while you’re running. (Trust me, this is one of the best tips I’ve ever been given & I do it to every single race no. I get.)
  •  Smear your feet (esp. toes) in Vaseline when you put your socks and shoes on in the morning. It will feel squidgy for a few minutes but then your feet absorb it and it stops the blistering. Honest.
  •  Pack a loo roll to take with you to the start. Loos there will ALWAYS run out.
  •  Rather get there early and sit around at the start than have to jog to the start if you’re late. It’s a bit of a walk from the station. Going early also means you might get a seat on the train on the way there. Rest those legs, you’ve to 42.2km coming up.
  •  Take an old ‘throw-away’ t-shirt and a bin bag (cut 3 holes for head and arms) to wear once you’ve put your finish bag on the truck. If cold, run with them on for a few miles until you’re feeling warm and then bin them. Don’t waste energy trying to keep warm while you wait in the start pens.
  •  Take water to sip and a banana to eat before the gun goes off.
  •  Stretch a little before the start but don’t worry about doing a jog to warm-up. You’ll have plenty time to get warm.
  •  Make sure you run self-sufficient. Don’t hope to receive something from a supporter/loved one. If the trains have issues and the person isn’t where you expect them, you’ll be stressing. It’s a bonus if you do get something extra along the way but don’t rely on it.
  •  Don’t stress if the going is slow at the start. Think of it as a blessing as starting out too quickly will come back to haunt you later on. Seriously don’t worry if you feel the pace is too slow. Because you’ve trained well, the first half of the race will feel easy. It’s the second half that you’re saving it for.
  •  Run consistent. Stick to your mile splits but if you feel it’s too hard to keep reaching them, slow down a few seconds and reassess your goal time. (Better to slow down than blow up.)
  •  Take water from the end of the watering tables. It’s less busy. There’s so many watering tables, only drink when you feel you need to, not at each one. Don’t carry the water you pick up. Take one, have a few sips and throw it. Energy is wasted carrying it.
  •  Most importantly, enjoy it. Soak up the atmosphere. It’s incredible! You’ll get goose-bumps. It’s like running in a stadium for 26.2 miles. People will shout your name; raise a hand and smile (if you can). It’s so much fun, but don’t get too excited in the first half. All the adrenaline will make you want to run faster. Save it for a sprint finish.
  •  The last bit on the Mall will blow you away. Tears will flow, you’ll feel as light as air, and that’s it, you’ve done it!

Couchbound.

Andrew Trimble's Couch.

“And so long to devotion… you taught me everything I know”

If you follow any triathletes on twitter then (amongst the list of workouts completed, heart rates achieved and gluten avoided) you’ll undoubtedly have noticed a recurring theme: mojo.  Who’s got it, who hasn’t and what you can do to boost it.  I’m still waiting for forward thinking “businessmen” to catch on and start filling my inbox with emails headed “Mr tRIAthlete: MAXIMUM help with MOJO for yOU WITH CLICK HERE.”

Our very own Troy recently posted up his own tips on how to get yourself out the door when you’re having a rough patch.  Very good they are too.

There are however times when things go beyond a drop off in mojo. I’m sure that the majority of the readers of the Black Line London blog are themselves pretty active, but there’s a whole load of people out there who are (for want of a better word) couchbound. Some people who’ve never discovered the enjoyment of getting outside and moving, and others who for whatever reason have lost the desire to do so.

Like me.

It’s coming up for a year now since I ran for anything more than a bus, rode a bike further than to the coffee shop (I live two doors down from the best coffee shop) or swam more than was required to save myself from drowning in an overlarge bath (I am after all only a small chap).

As triathletes, or indeed any kind of sportspeople, we are often guilty of forgetting quite how hard it is to exercise when you aren’t already fit.  We understand intellectually the vicious circle that comes from lack of fitness discouraging exercise, but trust me when I say that those of you out there struggling with your IM workouts have lost the sense of what it is like to start from rock bottom.  I know because I was training like that myself not all that long ago- I remembered the beginnings being tough, but the reality fades.  We tell ourselves that exercise is as hard as you make it- that there’s no difference in the pain of pushing yourself through the last mile repeat and the pain of running your first mile in years.

There is.

You forget how your knees hurt, how your stomach burns and your lungs seem to have shrunk away to nothing.  Most of all you forget the emotional struggle with the shame of running a mile in 9 or 10 minutes and feeling like you sprinted the whole damn way.

Do these feelings last? Of course not.  Persevere and they’ll go away – but sometimes that perseverance can be be hard to find.

But as of today, I am getting back out the door.  And I hope that amongst the Kona aspirants and ultra runners that follow the blog, there are a few of you that are couchbound like me. I hope that you will come with me.

Everyone has to have a reason to train.  For some people it’s to lose weight, for others it’s to race and win… I could go on.  Somewhere along the way I forgot what mine was and ended up couchbound.  Having found it again I’d rather like to share it in the hope it strikes a chord and gets you out the door too.

When we started BLL it was because we all had something in common: we all followed the black line, each of us for our different reasons.  It’s nothing to do with ability but nonetheless the BLL crew can seem pretty daunting.  It’s a bunch stuffed with Kona qualifiers, Kona chasers and athletes who race at what can only be described as the pointy end of the field.  My wife Laura’s recent performance at Wokingham while three months pregnant means that my unborn child almost has a faster half marathon PB than I do.

Ouch.

When you’re unhealthily competitive like me (board games in my family have been banned for years) it’s hard to persevere with something when improvements from hard work merely result in moving you a little further up in the back of the pack.  A few years of recurrent injuries was enough to eventually put me back on the couch, and I have to say I didn’t miss that feeling of constantly falling short.  Which made it all too easy just to stay right there on the couch.

Sure there was a load of other stuff going on, work, moving house, starting a family… but let’s be honest, none of those things stop you going running for 20 minutes in the evening.

What I forgot about were the experiences you get along the way.  Entering my first ironman (in fact my first triathlon, no, actually my first proper sporting event) was what got me started on the way, but all the best stuff? That’s been outside of races.

I have been blessed with some amazing moments, memories of which I have been ignoring for some time.  Reminded of one the other day, the rest came back in a surge, making it painfully obvious how much I had been working to suppress them while I clung to my couch afraid of getting out the door.

Here’s an obvious truism: Some things in life you can only do when you are fit.

And some of them are amazing.

I’m going to try and describe some of my happiest memories below.  But they’re personal and may mean nothing to you. Maybe one of them will remind you of something, or be something that you want to try.  Maybe they’ll make you realise you would be motivated by something entirely different- so find that thing.

Because when I finish this* I’m putting on my trainers and heading out the door for what I suspect will be the first of many runs.  I may race again, I may not.  I will doubtless injure myself in new and exciting ways.  But I will be looking forward to seeing where the black line takes me next.

I hope to see you out there.

Andrew

* ok more honestly, when I finish this, go to work, and then get home

Moments that have touched me:

  • The first time I swam 25m front crawl.  Only slightly marred by the thought that I still needed to up that by 3775m.
  • Fuelling up on pizza in Beddgelert before Peny-Y-Pass
  • The camaraderie standing with 1000 other neoprene clad idiots under circling helicopters as we prepare to charge into a grey and angry sea
  • Overtaking an angry commuter cyclist.  While eating an ice-cream.
  • Dig Me Beach.
  • Floating in perfect solitude in the centre of a Swedish lake, sun above and no one for half a mile in any direction
  • The pride of not crying when, tired and hungry, I happened upon a 1:4 climb at mile 107 of the longest ride of my life
  • Orzola.
  • Not only dodging the queues by running to work but getting to see the very best parts of London, at the most beautiful time of day, before the tourists are even out of bed
  • Mountains.
  • So many coffees in Windsor with so many good friends
  • Coming home from my first hill climb TT
  • Discovering that Shepperton Lake is my new happy place.
  • Running the three bridges at sunrise or sunset to sigur ros.  Too many times to count.
  • Being able to share some of Laura’s training.  Taco del Mar to the Energry Lab in particular.
  • Watching the sky turn orange as we rode a tail wind down the coast and chased our shadows into Port Elizabeth

None of these could ever have happened to the couchbound. They are part of who I am.  Its been no fun living as if they never happened.

 

 

 

Jane Hansom : Age Group Winner ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ Race Report

This was a race I’d been looking forward to for ages. I had entered the ballot back in the summer of 2012 and was delighted when I got the email to say I was in. Before I knew it, it was the weekend before I was supposed to leave. I’d done no hill training on either the bike or the run and read none of the emails giving the background to the race. I was blissful in my ignorance.

An hour later after speed-reading 10 weeks of email briefings I was suitably freaked out. Not only about the terrain (remember the car chase in Bullitt? Yup it’s pretty HILLY) BUT the cold. Escape had been brought forward by 2 months due to the America’s Cup and water temp was a rather cool 9 degrees.

Drastic measures were needed so I jumped into Hampstead Lido on Monday to acclimatize. It was 7am, was snowing and minus 1. Despite wearing a wetsuit, I did not even manage a single width. I could feel the hard-core non-wet-suited contingent eyeing me suspiciously. I knew what they were thinking…(”soft as shit” Triathlete). It was pitiful.

I started to pack that evening (making the fatal mistake YET AGAIN of starting to dismantle my bike at 10pm). Note to Bike Box Alan…. It does not take between 10 and 30 minutes to dismantle the bike (no matter how proficient you are), if the pedals are soldered on.

Emergency trip to local bike shop ensued at 9am on Tuesday to get said pedals off while ever-punctual husband goes berserk. Shoved it all into Alan’s box and I was in the taxi en route to the airport by 9.45am.

Nothing like being prepared.

The flight was great. I love flying, as it’s the only chance I ever get to watch 2 movies one after the other. It feels like a MASSIVE indulgence.

We landed in San Francisco and drove straight to Monterey for a few days. The early morning runs I did on those days down the coast will stay with me forever. On the 2nd day I rode from Monterey to Big Sur. This coastline is gobsmackingly awesome and great runs/ rides to be had. Go and spend a few days here if you ever go to SF.

After a magical few days on the Big Sur coast, we headed back to San Fran for the briefing. Made friends with @AndyPottsRacing who was the guest speaker and got some freebie TYR goggles. Nice!

The next morning I met Pedro from http://www.waterworldswim.com. Pedro is a local legend and hard-core bay swimmer. This was my master plan. Do the crossing the day before to understand the current and sight lines. I’m so glad I did this. Even if to practice jumping off the boat and bracing for the “cold” hit.  Shit it was cold. But not as cold as Hampstead Lido J

Messed around with race day options- neoprene scull cap under latex one, 2 latex caps, booties or no booties and finally decided on 2 latex caps and no booties.

The consensus of opinion was that they slow you down so my mind was made up and I was prepared to suffer. Wore the new multi coloured TYR goggles Andy gave me. I do like to bust out a new pair of goggles on race day. New ones never seem to fog.

Next day was the ride recce and I set off to ride the course. It was not clearly marked out so I hooked up with 2 other riders who looked as though they knew the course. They turned out to be Heather Jackson and Sean Watkins of @wattieink. Super nice of them to let me chum them riding the course and I was so pleased for Heather who won the ladies pro race in AMAZING form (reminding me that it’s ALWAYS won on the run!!!)

Rocky at the Specialized store gave me super fast and grippy race day tyres, I picked up my number at the expo, and was all set to go. Had dinner at 7 and was in bed by 10.

The alarm went off at 4 and after breakfast I made my way down to Mission Green to rack my bike. Transition was on a great street with $1m plus unique SF houses and the one at the end of my row looked like Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house. I wouldn’t miss that. Plus there was a Canada flag at the end of my row, which I was super chuffed about. I won a 70.3 last year with a Canada flag at the end of my row. I was convinced this was a sign. I was feeling pretty good.

And so at 6.30 am, 2,000 other triathletes and me boarded the San Francisco Belle for the short crossing to Alcatraz. I was excited. Really excited. We pulled up beside the island; they opened the doors and played the USA national anthem. The Americans sang along, hand on heart. The pro’s lined up. The hooter sounded. And they were off. I had managed to get myself into a good spot right behind them out of the same door. All participants have 6 mins to get off the boat. I was told to get off as quickly as I could as the boat drifts so the longer you delay, the further you’ll have to swim. So seconds after the pro’s I plunged into the colder than usual waters of the SF Bay. I had already decided to jump in rather than dive as was worried my goggles may come off. I hit the water. COLD! I got started swimming immediately in case someone jumped on top of me. I could see the landmarks in the distance but the waves were much larger than the day before.

The 1.5-mile swim was quite tough and I didn’t swim it brilliantly (taking an aggressive line following the pro’s instead of swimming across and letting then current take me to the beach) like I had been told. Should have listed to Pedro!!! It’s amazing how spread out everyone was across a pretty wide channel. After I few seconds I was all alone and started to worry I was taking the wrong line. The waves were so high I could not see ANYONE OR any landmarks. I soldiered on and rolled with the waves but I was getting worried. I noticed another cap. I decided to trust that he knew where he was going so followed him. Anyway somehow I managed to navigate my way across and make it to the beach despite fighting against the fierce currents close to shore. If you are not a strong swimmer or get it wrong, you can overshoot the beach and end miles away under the Golden Gate Bridge. I like sea swims but they are not for everyone.

Towards the end of the swim I could feel my hands and feet loosing feeling. I was expecting this. I pulled on my trainers in the mini Transition area for the 3/4 mile run to T1 proper and that warmed me up a bit before jumping on the bike for an 18-mile bike ride though the streets of SF and Golden Gate National Park. I remember thinking how glad I was that I wore my arm warmers under the wetsuit. I actually ran out of T1 without my gloves. I would normally never do this but thought better of it and actually went back for my gloves, loosing a few places in the process. Hands were so numb and I don’t think I would have been able to change gears.

2012 Course Elevation

Quite a technical bike course and a few “out of the saddle” hills but shorter than normal. The 1.5-mile swim, 18-mile bike and 8 mile run distances suited me perfectly being swim and run heavy.

It was my first race outing on my new Vitus road bike from sponsor @chainreactioncycles It did well. LOVE this bike. Fast, light and electric gears! Enough said.

Then came the run. Now this bit I had not recced. Eight miles of fierce elevation gain and on a variety of energy sapping surfaces. 2 miles flat run out toward the beach and I ran past a guy in green budgie smugglers with a yellow smiley face on his arse. It made me smile. He looked like an old school Ironman like Dave Scott or Mark Allen. @JavierGomez passed me in the other direction. He was flying.

We ran down and along the beach. I skipped along on the dry sand and as soon as I could, switched to wetter sand to get better energy return. I saw a girl in front of me and knew I was closing the gap. I was determined to catch her as she had caught me on the bike; we then hit the sand ladder. 400 steps up a steep cliff. Holy Shit. That was hard. I though my lungs were going to explode.

This is one tough course. Not for the faint hearted and I thought felt more like a 70.3 in terms of effort. But it’s a GREAT race. I was seventh out of the swim, fourth after the bike and ran my way into first place for my age category. I was even more chuffed to finish 16th overall in a race with 13 pros

This is truly a bucket list triathlon. A great race in a great city. Perfect for spectators too so your supporters will have a great time cycling across the golden gate bridge spotting dolphins and drinking wine in Sausalito while you prepare for the race. The entire city gets behind this race and the vibe is awesome on both the days running up to the race and the race itself. This has got to me my favourite Triathlon to date. It’s no average Olympic distance tri and should challenge most who prefer longer races. And of course when you’re finished you are less than an hour from Napa Valley for a well-earned glass of the local nectar ‘J’.

Podium

Extremes

Mallorcan Snow

It’s safe to say that most triathletes are extreme. Why else would we choose to do 3 different sports?

I’m a fan of extremes. It follows my nature. It can be a massive plus but also a huge hindrance. But now’s not the time to discuss my issues.

What got me thinking about extremes was yesterday’s run here in Mallorca. With some storm clouds brewing, we decided to can the planned ride and take to a trail that follows a beautiful little river that normally trickles towards the ocean.

5 minutes into the run, the hail came down. At this point, three quarters of the group turned. Sod this. With a few runners off the front, it fell on me to catch up to them to ask if they wanted to continue. With the hail plummeting my head and face, I reached the group. I was greeted with grimaces but their eyes were alive. I didn’t even have to ask.

By the time we walked back into the villa, the river was a torrent. Crossing a small footbridge, I stopped to soak (no pun intended) it all in. Not many people would be seeing what I could see.

This morning we set off for a ride, which scales an 8km climb. Not long after setting off, we turned a corner, which presented the backdrop of a snow-covered mountain. Our rendezvous point. I spent 90% of the time getting to the foot of the climb staring up at the peak. I was mesmerised.

Cars had been stopped but we were allowed to continue. Slowly but surely the snow lining the road got deeper and deeper. I felt giddy. To see and feel the climb in these new extreme conditions filled me with an unbelievable energy.

The buzz amongst the group at the summit was palpable.

It felt special. We were being treated to something out of the ordinary. Certainly for Joe Average that doesn’t leave the couch. We’d achieved.

Life can’t always be extreme. We wouldn’t survive. But when I happen upon these situations, it’s like having the reset button pushed.

We all need our reset buttons pushed once and a while.

 

 

Laura Trimble on Training and Pregnancy

Black Line London at Wokingham Half Marthon

It’s Spring. I love this time of year. I’ve raced a spring Ironman twice and it suits me – it gets me out of bed to train in the winter mornings and means I can start having fun nice and early in the year. Last year I raced Abu Dhabi long course in March so by now the season was already well under way. training pregnancy

But we’ve already established this year is different. Most of the Black Line London crew are holed up in Lanzarote or Mallorca this week, either warm weather training or ramping up for their own spring Ironmans. And me? Well it’s less about FTP tests and duathlons and more about finding a swimsuit I can squeeze into, wistfully reading others’ race updates and trying to inspire myself to hit the pool even when it’s snowing or zero degrees.

That doesn’t mean I’m not having any fun. We had a good day out as a team at the Wokingham half marathon a few weeks ago. A 1.48 for me was around what I expected, despite chilly conditions and wearing around 6 layers, plus woolly hat, neck warmer, gloves and with a heart rate barely above walking pace (ave “race” HR of 118, for the record). What most people won’t know is that I ran my first half marathon in (I think) 2006 in 1.47, at a heart rate probably in the 170’s, weighing approximately 10kgs less than I do today and working my little socks off. My aerobic fitness has improved a little since then!

If you’re wondering what happened to my second goal of #50runs50days set at the start of the year, I have to admit it didn’t get off the ground. It was stymied by two things I have since learned about being pregnant: (1) you get tired, properly tired. I couldn’t have imagined finding it tiring to run just 30 minutes on consecutive days. But for now at least, this is the new normal. And (2) unfortunately you get ill a lot, and it lingers.

The debate around training and pregancy does bring out strong opinions in people, and I’ve received a fair few. I know it’s big business, but I do feel a lot of the pregnancy / maternity industry is built on making mothers (to be) feel guilty about not providing the best for their offspring, and I have tried to bypass as much of this as I can by focusing a little more on what is rational, scientific or medically supported. That said, I’ve also put the running on the back burner a little since Wokingham, as even if all medical advice encourages running in moderation and up to a sensible level of intensity (max HR numbers of 150-155 get bandied around a lot) it doesn’t take much to plant the seed that it is a selfish pursuit that doesn’t do your baby much good. Time to restart plan “learn to swim properly.” Increased buoyancy must surely help (this is a myth, by the way).

Suffice to say… baby’s doing just fine. In fact she’s doing great. And has long legs, apparently. Now that’s a good start.

5 Great Training Peaks Features

Training Peaks

Training Peaks is a great training tool. While you probably know and maybe even use it to log or plan your workouts, there are loads of great features under the hood that you might know less about.

So here are 5 things that might be new to you, and are well worth checking out.

Plan Libraries:
You might plan your own session, or maybe your coach does that for you. But this resource is a great store for purchasing off the shelf training plans for a massive variety of endurance events put together by some of the beat coaches out there including Joe Friel, Jim Vance, Hunter Allen and Ben Greenfield. And it’s not just training plans – there are also nutrition plans and excercise libraries such as “20 indoor Trainer workouts by Hunter Allen w/watts”. Buy your plan and it’s seamlessly added to your own calendar. Simples!

Training Peaks You Tube Channel

The team at Training Peaks produce tons of great video content – from events like the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Help & How-To guides and behind the scenes at pro training camps and organised into video playlists. But my the really good shit is the Webinars that are archived here. These cover a range of topics from using TSS to Dave Scott’s Mental Training Tactics. I love watching these on my iPad when I’m on the turbo.

Data Editing:

We’ve all had those sessions where the gremlins cause a data spike, or you forget to hit the ‘off’ button when you’ve finished. A fairly new feature if Training Peaks means you can now right those heinous wrongs, quickly and easily.

 

 

Forums:

Got a question and need a quick answer about Training Peaks, nutrition, training or even your device? Chances are someones already asked it and if not, there is a great community of TP staff, ambassadors and users who are quick to help.

TSS (Training Stress Score):

TSS, while not a specific feature of Training Peaks as such, is at the centre of what makes it so powerful. TSS factors both duration and intensity of a training session and gives it a quantifiable score – an hour of effort at functional training threshold would give you a TSS of 100. It is a slightly abstract notion that took me a wee while to understand, but it’s a great way to assess your training load over a session, week or training phase. This deserves a post all of it’s own, but I couldn’t leave it out of my top 5.

 

Find Your Training Motivation

Lost Mojo

Lost your training motivation?

For many Northern Hemisphere athletes, this time of year can start to drag. We all kicked-off or ramped up our training on January 1st and now we are into March with little sign of good weather, it can be tough to keep the mojo flowing.

Reading plenty “Where’s my mojo gone?” comments, I thought it useful to share a few ways to make your own mojo.

Find a friend

A ‘training partner’ can make all the difference. I for one would rarely get up early in the morning if it weren’t for knowing someone else was waiting/relying on me. Make a plan with a friend and help motivate each other.

Commute

When possible, use your route to or from work as training. That way, when you get to the other side, the train’s done.

Prepare

Pack or layout your kit before you go to bed. Make it as easy as possible to get up and go. Any excuse in the morning will be an excuse not to get up.

Small goals

Commit to 15 minutes. In most instances, once I’m out on the road or in the pool, I’ll stick at it for longer. Committing to a long session can be daunting so eat the elephant bite by bite.

Put it in writing

Tell the world what you’re going to do. Facebooking or tweeting your planned exercise makes it harder to back out. It also has the tendency to provoke motivational replies and support.

Train early

When possible, get your training done first thing. Something will always come up, eating into your after work time. By the time ‘5:30pm’ comes, you’re over it and simply want to go home. Lunchtime is another great opportunity to get a session in. It wakes you up and your colleagues will think you’re a super hero. Why not find a colleague to join you? See ‘Find a friend’…

Music

Music is a magical motivator. Create a playlist of your favourite tunes, stick your headphones on, and let the music move you.

Leave your watch at home

Pace, HR, distance, effort…we live in a world where we try measure everything. Go back to basics. If you switch off the clock, you switch off your mind. Far too often we ‘fear the clock’.

Find a carrot to dangle

Enter a small/local race to help you aim towards something. Remember, a small race is part of the training so you don’t have to be ‘peaking’ to do it. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in when you’re on the start line, just enter the race to help keep you motivated.

Explore

Find somewhere new. You’d be amazing at how motivating a change of scenery can be.

Club run

If in the UK, events like parkrun are brilliant. A regular, free, organised (but informal) event with people of massively varied abilities. The social aspect is great.

Reward yourself

Create little rewards for when you get out. I’ll often promise myself a ‘posh’ coffee if I run into work.

Most of us love what we do so it’s not necessary to implement these tips all the time. But when you start feeling a drain in the mojo department, one of these may help plug the hole.

Do you have any fun/clever tips? I’d love to know so please get in touch below.