Coaching update: Handing over the Reins

Jenny HIll's Muddy Feet

So 3 months into a training program, and my first race complete , so a good time for an update on how my triathlon training plans are coming along.

Overall, I must start by saying it feels like I made a good choice of coach for me, and the experience has been very positive. Categorically, a success, but perhaps in ways that might not be expected. As with most things, I’m currently less interested in the number crunching, and more interested in the experience…

I would say the main benefit of a coach at this stage has been being able to draw on his experience and knowledge for support. As an athlete who trains mostly alone, this has been invaluable. Ironman races are selling out within minutes, meaning my first decision was whether or not to schedule a second Kona qualifier. Options and funds were limited, so my coach was able to give me enough confidence that a single shot at IMUK could be enough. That reassurance in race selection has been worth its weight in gold to me.

He offers genuine reassurance and support. I know I swim like a rock, but he finds small victories for me to look at, rather my inclination to focus on the fact we had to cut my sessions in half to make them possible in under 2 hours!!! His support is frankly invaluable, as although peers and friends offer great support, they tend to say nice things and have a misguided belief I always succeed, regardless of the facts.

The second biggest benefit has been changing my approach from what I LIKE doing, to what I need to do. That said, he listens to my preferences and adapts the program where possible.

I have also, reluctantly, and not to the extent coachy wants, started doing some benchmark testing. Of course I know this is crucial, but frankly, I just don’t like looking at numbers. I like looking at clouds and the changing colours of the leaves on the trees as I trot around the forest, oblivious to statistics. But I am trying. A bit.

Another bonus has been his independence. My training (and weight gains) in winter resemble Ricky Hatton out of competition. I wholeheartedly embrace the off season, well beyond the 2 months I took off training entirely in Autumn. I think I made up for my 6 months teetotal in one messy week alone in December. Obviously, new year guilt lead to my preferred style of training. Binge training. A week later on a long run, I couldn’t get my heart rate up. One quick word with coachy, (having not told him that I did 3 of his sessions in one hit the previous day, trying desperately to catch up a bit) and an overtraining diagnosis ensued. Objectively, I knew this to be the case, but as many triathletes will know, sometimes the brain fails to accept and address the obvious.

So the main differences in my training has been more work at higher heart rates. To be honest I really struggle with these, and don’t always make the targets, which can lead to a sense of failure, and the questioning of my ability and commitment.

So what are the negatives? Firstly, I spent more time on a treadmill in the first month than in the previous 12 months. I despise this. I also despise the turbo sessions so much, that I don’t even start the majority of them. This does not make for being a good coachee, and I hereby resolve to be a bit more cooperative.

I’ve got to say I’ve found it challenging handing over the reins to someone else. As an athlete, one of my strengths is understanding my body and mind, and knowing what works. I have taken myself to a 10h 36 Ironman and I am afraid that building a successful harmony with a coach will take longer than the 24 weeks I have left. It is difficult to give a relative stranger control, but I know my body has more to give, and that it can be pushed to greater achievements, if I put faith in the undeniable expertise of my coach, and accept his faith in me.

But what you geeky number crunchers want to know is, am I getting results? If my first race is anything to go by, I’d say ’yes’. I ran a 1h30m ½ marathon, which I’m very pleased with, as I‘ve always been more of a carthorse than a racehorse. Like a carthorse, I’m solid, reliable and can suffer long hours of one-pace toil when pushed, while I fail to embody the natural speed and grace of a talented racehorse. Hopefully from here on in I’ll be more Red Rum than my natural predisposition to, well, just rum.

Controversial coach (and previously successful racehorse trainer) Brett Sutton recently tweeted (24th Jan) that ‘2types of athletes ask2 bcoached those that do as told, those that want 2but can’t 3/imbeciles that do as they want’ (sic) Therefore, my targets for the upcoming months are:

Be a better coachee, and stick more to the program
Log my training online
Don’t allow personal challenges to sap training mojo, instead use training to ease those difficulties

Meanwhile, I’m off to run on the beach. Without a HRM.

Black Line London team up with Pearson Physio

Pearson Physio

Black Line London is about lots of things, as you might have already know if you read our blog posts.

One of those, things, maybe one of the most important, is people. We like people. We especially like nice, likeminded people.

Which is why we are delighted to announce a partnership that see’s us team up with Pearson Physio for 2013.

Pearson Physio is Nicole Oh and she’s pretty cool. As an Ironman finisher and founding member of hard racing ladies cycling team Les Filles RT, she is the perfect go-to for expert physio and sports massage for triathletes and cyclists, because she is one.

Based in the uber-cool Pearson Cycles in East Sheen, Pearson Physio will be (literally) hands-on with Black Line Londoners this season. And we know those are good hands.

Visit the website at , follow Nicole on Twitter @PearsonPhysio and expect some cool updates along the way.

Nicole Oh / Pearson Physio with her bike.


2013 Resolutions: Black Line London, Baby..!

Run Big T Shirt

This time of year is usually all about resolutions. For the more athletic-minded amongst us (which means the gang here at Black Line London), it’s about entering spring races, cross training, duathlons, mountain biking, the turbo, single-sport focuses and generally fitting the plan around the summer Ironman which you signed up for in a fit of enthusiasm months earlier.

For me this year is different. I’ve been asked a lot since Kona what my plans are and the thought process usually comes down to this:

1) Race another Ironman? Not this year. Eight in three years is more than enough

2) Go back to Kona? Definitely not this year and not just because of lack of (1)

3) Do more varied and different events? Definitely

4) Stop feeling like it’s not a proper event unless it involves a long-haul flight to get there (Andrew will thank me for this one)

5) Be a more balanced person and more focused athlete. Always yes

But here’s why this year is really different. Our family will expand by one this summer with a mini Trimble due to arrive in July. So what I have actually been doing since Kona is learning a lot about exercising while pregnant, the main rules for which seem to be: (1) don’t get too out of breath; (2) don’t get too hot (not likely in January); (3) don’t worry if random women shout at you in the park and (4) go by feel but if you’re used to exercising then do as much as you feel comfortable with (note: obviously I’m not a doctor, I’m an athlete. So if you are pregnant please get your own advice and don’t sue me).

I am a relentlessly goal-driven person. And the idea of nine (now six) months without a goal depresses me. So for the moment on the athletic front (and leaving aside all the other rather more important goals like have a healthy baby, be a good parent, buy a bigger house) I have two goals: run 50 times in 50 days as of 1 Jan; and run the Wokingham Half Marathon on 10 February. I’m hoping to go under 1.50 which means around 8.20 / mile pace or pretty darn close to the pace I seem to end up running every Ironman marathon. At 17 weeks pregnant this may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s only, er, 17 weeks after Kona too so at least I have a decent base to start from.

To help with achieving both of these goals, I will be usually be running in Richmond Park from Roehampton Gate car park on Sundays around 9am, one lap or two (7-14 miles) and would welcome company – we usually have a fast group of Blackline boys (and girls) running then but I plan to evict myself into a slower group – so if you are getting back into shape, in need of motivation, pregnant or just happy to run somewhere between 8 and 10 minute mile pace then please come along. With speedy boys on hand faster paces will be catered for. Get in touch on twitter @lauratrimble1 or @blacklinelondon. We’re a friendly bunch.

Paul Deen’s 2012 Season Review and 2013 Goals

Paul Deen’s 2012 season review makes for excellent reading, and his 2013 goals are set in stone.

My A goal for 2012 was a sub 10 finish at Challenge Roth in July. I also succumbed to peer pressure and entered Ironman Wales in September because half of  Black Line London were doing it! I had no particular goal for Wales other than to experience what a bloody hard IM course feels like and see whether a harder hillier course may suit me.

Other minor  goals were to try and get faster at all distances and to hopefully win my AG at one or two of the smaller races, I had come close a few times in 2011 so this didn’t seem an unreasonable.

I had toyed with getting coached towards the end of 2011 but after looking around and emailing a few I chose to be a cheap skate and opted for a generic training plan which I purchased via Training Peaks. Initially this was ok but when I had a ski holiday and then started doing some early season races I was realising that a generic plan didn’t really work as I was just randomly shifting all the sessions around.

In February a decent contingent of Black Line London raced the Wokingham half marathon. My half PB was an old and rather soft 1:28 so I was confident of a PB and was pretty happy with a 1:25:13 off the back of fairly limited training.

This was followed by a disappointing result at the March Ballbuster and was the tipping point in my decision to get a coach as I was way down on where I wanted to be and was a whole 5 minutes slower on the bike than my previous effort just 4 months earlier and it was in better conditions…..worrying

So I did some more research and talked to a few more coaches. My main requirement was that they had a decent amount of  long distance triathlon experience preferably personally as well as professionally as a coach. I also wanted them to be Training Peaks based as I had been using the platform for about 6 months and had really started to appreciate its many brilliant features. I had also just started using a power meter but had little idea of what the numbers meant at that point.

In the end I opted for Steve Lumley who used to be head triathlon coach at Birmingham University, he had completed 33 Iron distance races including 4 trips to Hawaii and coached people of all abilities to over 300 Iron distance finishes….so that was the experienced box ticked! He had recently relocated to Malaysia to set up a coaching and elite development squad. Having a coach located half way round the world doesn’t sound ideal but using Training Peaks is absolutely ideal for this situation as the workouts are loaded directly into my planner and coach and athlete can communicate via Training Peaks and also email.

So mid March and I am being coached professionally for the first time and boy was it a shock to my system,the volume and the intensity went up immediately most noticeably on the running front where I went from circa 25 miles per week to more like 40…..ouch! I didn’t notice any jump in performance at my next 2 races: The Fulon Duathlon where I came 4th in my AG & Thames Turbo Sprint Race 1 where I also came 4th in my AG but was disappointingly slower than Race 4 in 2011…..mmmm

Shortly after TT race I spent a week training at the excellent Tricamp Mallorca run by Nick Dunn.  Fellow BLLers Paul B & Ash were also in attendance and we had a fantastic week of swimming (a bit) biking (a lot) and running (quite a bit)  in absolutely perfect circa 20 degree weather. I think we hit 30 hours of training for the week and had a lot of fun.

Black Line London on bikes.

A cut back week on return led in to a week with 2 races in 6 days, Thames Turbo Race 2 on the May Bank Holiday and then my first proper triathlon test of the year at The Swashbuckler middle distance in The New Forest.

I felt totally knackered the morning of TT race 2 and wasn’t feeling very confident on improving on race 1 but I was determined to give it the full beans. After my usual utterly crap swim, I had a v swift transition and my first ever flying mount (cheers Nick!) and just rode as hard as I could putting all thoughts of the 5k run to come out of my head,  It bloody hurt!  Despite the run being agony from the get go, the pace was ok and I was delighted to cross the line for my first ever AG win…..happy days!

6 days later, after another week of hard training I was feeling even more knackered at the start of The Swashbuckler. Cold weather in the lead up  had left the water temperature of the Beaulieu River at 12 degrees and it was touch and go whether there would be a swim. In the end they opted for a shortened 750 metre version and to split us in to 2 waves based on our predicted 1900 metre swim time, I was in the 2nd wave that would go 5 minutes after the faster swimmers.

The cold swim combined with the freezing 5:30 am air temperature made for the most uncomfortable bike ride I have ever done. Thin gloves and toe covers gave little to no respite and my hands and feet were frozen from the start. Because of the discomfort I didn’t feel great all ride and when I got off the bike assumed, because of how I felt that I was having a bad race. I can remember very clearly the utterly bizarre sensation of trying to run with frozen feet after that bike ride, it felt like you were running on stumps.

My pre race plan was to try and do the 14 mile run at 7 min pace, this calculation was based purely on me wanting to improve on my previous best of 7:15 pace from 2010. I didn’t have any benchmarks in recent training that gave me a clue as to what pace to expect, plus I was tired, untapered and cold so I wasn’t at all confident when I started  running. It is a 2 loop run and my plan was to keep HR under control for a lap and a bit (which would hopefully be 7 min pace) and then from about mile 10 pick up the pace if I was able to. Well this plan worked out much better than I hoped and I found myself holding back a bit for first 7 miles and was ticking off sub 7 min miles with ease. By lap 2, I could feel my feet again and was starting to feel pretty good so picked the pace up . A girl on the side of the road then told me I was in 16th place which made me feel even better especially when It dawned on me that I had a 5 minute lead on the 15 in front of me!

The last part of the run is the without doubt the best sensation I have had in a race since I started endurance sport in 2007, I was hurting for sure but it was a controlled hurt. I felt totally in the zone as I focused on targets up the road and reeled them in one by one. When I crossed the line I knew I had had a great race. I had just run 14 miles at 6:46 pace with a big negative split and felt awesome.

Obviously I hung around for the awards and had no idea of the results other than I thought I was top 10, I was just hoping no gun 40-44 AGers were in front of me so that I would win mine. Turns out I needn’t have worried as my nearest rival finished 7 minutes behind me and I won it easily. I also came 8th overall only 10 seconds behind 7th and 50 behind 6th. Bearing in mind the top 2 guys were pro this  was  my best result ever. I also had the 5th fastest run of the day which was the most pleasing and surprising aspect of the race.

So that was 2 age group wins in 6 days… mmm maybe this being coached business was working!

A few weeks later and it was a revisit to Wimbleball for UK70.3, this race had completely humbled me a year earlier when the hilly 3 loop run had been utter agony, I think I gave up triathlon about 100 times in my head on that run. Because of that experience and also because I was again untapered I took the bike fairly steady and built into it gradually. The run was of course still difficult as the course is an utter bastard but it was in no way as uncomfortable as a year earlier and I managed to maintain a fairly consistent pace throughout. I crossed the line in 5:10:10 knocking 18 mins off previous years effort and came 5th in my AG earning me a Las Vegas World Championship Finals Slot (which I declined) My run was also a lot faster than I had anticipated and was the 20th fastest amateur split of day which again surprised me.

So it was the final push towards Roth for a few weeks and then a taper and finally the big day was upon us. I have written a full race report for Roth here  but a quick summary is as follows:

Swim pretty much exactly where I expected in 1:05 but painful cramp in both calves near the end was sub optimal.

A difficult 5:20 bike in unexpectedly windy and slower than usual conditions for Roth. I felt awful for 3 hours but great for final 2….weird!

A well paced 3:26 negative split run  that sounds easy when you write it down but was bloody hard work

Finish time 9:55:35 = Job done.

After some serious Bavarian eating and drinking and a couple of easy  recovery weeks it was back to proper training to get in shape for Wales. This included a trip down to Tenby in August with fellow BLLers Ian, Jen, Nico and Paul B to check out the course. We had a great weekend and the bike course was awesome but I was having serious doubts about whether I had the motivation to do another Ironman so soon after Roth. I dwelled on it for a few days when I came back and consulted with Steve who confirmed what I had been thinking which was to pull out if I didn’t have the right motivation. The problem for me was that Sub 10 at Roth had been my total focus for 7 months and once I had achieved it, I couldn’t motivate myself for Wales where I had no specific goal other than to get round as best I could. I had for a short period after The Swashbuckler thought that a Kona slot might be a slim possibility at Wales but my results at UK70.3 & Roth plus a serious study of previous years results had convinced me that this was a pipe dream.

So with no IM Wales I focused on a few short term goals, firstly I wanted to see how I would do at an Olympic distance race as I unusually hadn’t done one all season. I also wanted to go well in my AG at The London Duathlon, a race I have done a few times before and always enjoyed. Finally I wanted a sub 3 at The Ballbuster.

These late season goals  panned out pretty well….

I entered the F3 Henley Olympic distance race and came 6th overall winning my AG comfortably.

After that it was Thames Turbo Race 4 in which I won my AG again and also got a third in the series prize which I am pretty sure was a mistake! But it did make it 4 AG wins for the season which is way beyond what I hoped for.

At The London Duathlon it was an absolute scorcher of an early September day and everyone struggled in it but I managed 15th overall and 2nd in AG just 18 seconds off the win.

Finally in November I was delighted to get around the Ballbuster in 2:58:39 for 14th overall and 4th in AG. 

I also joined the fat tyre brigade with the purchase of a 29″ hard tail in November and did my first off road Duathlon a few days later at The Wildman and absolutely loved it. More of those races to come for sure.

Oh and how could I forget about the Banana Man team time trial which I did with fellow Black Line boys Ash and Jim and was without doubt the most fun I have had at a triathlon! Whilst we were not dressed entirely seriously we were looking for the win but had to settle for second behind the rapid Thames Turbo boys. Black Line will be back for revenge next year though but hopefully without the Speedos.

Black Line London Bananaman
These men are ridiculous.

So all in all 2012 has been rather good with all major and minor goals ticked off plus a few extra ones for good measure.

My 2013 A goal is to try and get a Kona slot at IM Frankfurt. It’s not going to be easy but if I can get very close to or below 9:30 it should be on. Rough plan in my head is 1 hour swim, 5 hour bike 3:20 run…..easy.

I have also finally realised that my swimming was not going to improve unless I switched my brain off and just put the work in like I have done with running and biking. I am now doing 3 quality swims a week and am seeing the benefits already, a sub 60 swim at Frankfurt will be mine…..

Another goal for next year is to qualify for GB Age Group team for the World finals in Hyde Park in September. Getting quicker in the swim will be a crucial part of making this happen.

I’m also going back to Wimbleball for the third year running and assuming I will be in 9:30 IM shape in June would love to go very close to or preferably under 5 hours. If I can do this I would have a decent chance of making the podium too.

So some lofty goals in there for sure and to be honest I have to pinch myself that I have actually said some of them out loud but I think it helps to focus the mind once you have done so.

Have a good New Year everyone and happy training and racing in 2013




Training By Heart vs Heart Rate : My 2013 Plan

Having missed out on a Hawaii slot by 3 minutes at IM Wales, on my aluminium bike with a triple chainring, I decided not to abandon IM just yet and to get some coaching to see if I can improve for 2013.

2012 training ‘plan’

My training for 2012 had been loosely structured. I followed some fairly established IM principles;

  • Include a weekly long run and ride,
  • Try to run and ride 3 times a week.
  • At least one day of no training each week.

And then some less standard guidelines;

  • Swimming is overrated. Once a week, unless it’s in the sea or a lake, in summer, is enough.
  • Don’t break a sweat all winter. Train a bit harder nearer the race.
  • Avoid all training indoors except for weights.
  • Cross train. Climbing, tennis, wii-dance, whatever.
  • Heart rate or any sort of testing is too boring to bother with.
  • Include plenty of easy weeks, in fact have one whenever there is fun to be had elsewhere.
  • Running – always run a new section of road or trail you have never run before.
  • Treadmills and turbos dont make you fit, they make you bored. And boring.
  • Cycling, if there is someone else to ride with, just follow their wheel, for as long as they say.
  • Make a mental note of something beautiful you see or hear on each run or ride. I mean nature or architecture type things, not the finely crafted glutes up ahead. Although sometimes I include those.
  • An effective taper involves watching one Rocky film each day during the final week.
  • Do what you enjoy.

In summary, just train consistently and enjoy it. I read this week that ‘Ironman is the one sport that rewards hard work and consistency above natural talent,’ and I have to agree. I utterly lack natural talent. In fact, I lack natural talent, technique and technology, but I train regularly, listen to my body and I race smart. The training guidelines above worked better than I expected and made the training journey itself a pleasure. My good results were simply the icing on my too many cakes.

I’d thoroughly recommend this approach. Its enjoyable, and I got some surprising results this way. A very surprising 10h 36 IM in fact.

That said, for 2013 I want to go faster. I’ve taken some Black Line advice and found a coach who seems pretty in tune with my way of thinking. He keeps it simple and straightforward. I’m a technophobe and a nomad and he seems ok with that. I’ve only just recently got a garmin for my bike. (I only bought a TV this year.) I’m anxious about not basing each days training on the weather forecast, and I’m wondering if my cycling can still be as much as a social jolly as it has been this year. Does more structure mean less fun? (A life question I am yet to answer). Will training by heart rates, and not by my heart take the pleasure out of triathlon for me? I’ll admit I’m apprehensive; I really want to be trained, but I dont know if I’m trainable.

I’ve got a coach and a plan now, with IMUK 2013 being my ‘A race’, as they say. I’ll update you as I crack on with it, and adjust to letting someone else take the reins. Wish me (and my coach) luck.