“Hang on hear me out. Socks are definitely a bad idea unless they are Tenspeed Hero socks in which case the more the merrier. RULE #28 states: “Socks can be any damn colour you like” and TSH socks come in every damn colour and pattern you could possibly want for a sporty loved one. Hoping some will find their way under my tree this year.”
“Neil’s poster illustrations cover a variety of subjects – football, cities, music, and shipping forecasts to mention a few, but it’s his cycling prints that resonate with my inner design geek. I’d love to have a few of these grace my walls. I’ve had the joy of working with Neil in a professional capacity for work projects and his work is top class.”
Sunday brunch, over a triple English breakfast, I am wondering what to do with some spare days before Christmas.
I had always wanted to take on the classic cycle challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats, known as LEJOG, the traverse length of Britain. Like most people I had imagined cycling it in summer to take advantage of the long daylight hours. However the number of days seemed to fit my schedule and despite being winter it would make for an extra challenge. I figured accommodation could be booked on the fly, being low season. I would allow myself the flexibility to cycle as far as each day permitted and had no fixed end date. A quick check of the 10 day forecast and conditions looked good. Why wait for next summer? I was going do it now!
I had never individually raised money for charity before as I always felt I couldn’t ask for money for something like a marathon or the like, as I’ve run many. LEJOG seemed a worthwhile and lengthy challenge. I chose CRISIS, the national charity for single homeless people. They organise “CRISIS at Christmas” each year for the homeless and the time of year seemed appropriate. They also run The CRISIS Skylight Cafe on Commercial Street in East London near where I used to work. I wanted to help.
I went into preparation overdrive. A quick list of things to do before I set out and a t-shirt design that evening with the charity and fund raising details.
Monday I purchased some new items, had the t-shirt printed, booked a train ticket for Penzance, packed my panniers (9kg rear, 3-4kg in the front), which were not light as I was truly packing for winter. I took two front lights, a head torch to light the road, a rear light for the seat post and two for the rear of my bike helmet. I marked the whole route out on a £10 Phillips Road Atlas.
Tuesday I took off to the station, panniers on for the first time, they felt clumsy and awkward and I wondered if they’d be fine for the entire journey. I was off to catch the train from Paddington. Due to the speed I put this plan in to action, it meant I hadn’t told many people what I was about to take on. By chance, I ran into one of my best mates Ben, at Paddington. He saw my laden bike, along with me all kitted up and asked what I was up to. I told him I was off to Penzance and he knew exactly what that meant and gave me a few words of encouragement.
That night in Penzance, the B&B would only let me lock (cable & padlock that I had) my bike to the grate in the ground at the front of their house. I went to sleep hoping it would still be there in the morning.
I arrived at Land’s End with the sunrise having already broken through the clouds. I wandered down to the famous Land’s End signpost and due to the absence of anyone else around I tried to take a few ‘selfies’, only to end up dropping and cracking the screen of my iPhone. I wandered up to the Hotel and signed the ‘End-to-Enders’ logbook, the most recent entry being 6th December 2013…eek! One of the hotel staff obliged in taking a photo of me at the Land’s End sign.
A 10am depart; I made my way along the Cornish coast. St. Ives was particularly scenic. I had to have a Cornish pasty, so stopped for one in Hayle. Hit some really hilly sections. Through to Padstow and across the river to Rock. Then into the dark of the night with bike lights blazing and flashing. I arrived in Launceston at Rose Cottage B&B and rewarded myself with a steak and beer at the White Horse pub for dinner. Apparently some of the hilliest parts of the route were now behind me, after only the first day, whew!
The B&B host afforded me an extra banana for my day’s journey. He told me they had hosted a JOGLE (the reverse route) cyclist about a week ago, as I figured it must have been the cyclist who signed the log book on the 6th December. I pushed into Devon and found myself having to change the tube on the front wheel as it seemed to be leaking, though I couldn’t detect where, using the usual means. Snacks at a service station, I was then into Somerset and encountering more tractors and farm traffic on the roads.
Into Glastonbury that evening but had to double back after missing a turn, to a place called Street, and to the Wessex Hotel for my accommodation. I noticed one of the straps on my panniers had broken, after only two days! Pasta and pizza with a pint of Carlsberg for dinner to the sounds of a live act at a nearby Italian restaurant. All was sweet in Street!
Light rain in the morning. It was over the course of the day that I had to tend to pannier problems no less than 5 times. Again, thankful for taking some zip ties as they were a saviour, I even had to secure the rack with them. Through North Dorset and over the River Avon. Got lost a bit with the myriad of roads. Some sections here were a little more traffic heavy than I’d encountered. Into South Gloucestershire and over the River Severn.
Skirted through Wales and passed though the lovely town of Monmouth as an amazing sunset took place. Was following the Wye Valley over some hilly quiet roads as it got darker and darker. The muddy farm roads of Somerset had left my bike so dirty I had to give it a gentle jet wash at a service station.
Arrived at my accommodation, The Old Vicarage, near Hereford. Walked 30-40 min into town to the 24 hour Tesco to collect a some cold chicken and a selection of salads for dinner. A stretch of the legs before bed. Feeling good after three good days!
Pannier problems again from the outset, they continued hitting my spokes on some of the rougher sections of road. I secured them again successfully without too much of a problem.
Highlight of the day was passing up over Long Mynd. I was at first cursing the steepness of the gradient having to push my bike up part of the ascent as it was way to steep for my gearing and load, though I was rewarded with stunning Shropshire scenery. The strong wind blowing across the top of the moorland and the descent into Church Stretton was a blast. Due to the excitement of the descent, I missed a turn had to route back via Stapleton & Lea.
The bike chain was now squeaking so I purchased some general purpose oil from a service station, to use for the rest of the trip.
As dusk approached, the wind was absolutely howling and it was pushing me along at a fantastic pace, up around 40km/hr+ with ease. I imagined my rear panniers were acting like sails. I pulled into Ellesmere to stay at the Red Lion pub. Chicken wings and a massive lamb shank for dinner washed down with a couple of beers. Despite the locals having a big night out in the pub, I slept solidly in my room above.
The day was going well until about an hour in and I heard the ping of a broken spoke. The pannier problems from the days before had weakened the spokes. With very few shops open on a Sunday I secured it with tape to the adjacent spoke, released the rear brake, and aimed to nurse it to Blackburn.
The highlight of the day came as I slowly passed and shared a conversation with a guy called Alan from Chester who did LEJOG in 2000 when he was aged 65. I enjoyed hearing him recount his experience and the route he took, it gave me a lift. In fact he was riding the same frame as he did LEJOG on, though he’d since had it re-sprayed.
As I checked into the Hill View Hotel in Blackburn I noticed I’d now busted a second spoke. Pizza Hut for dinner and all I could do was scoff at the “500 calories only” pizza options.
I missed breakfast! It was a 6:45 to 7:45 sitting! So I had some sandwiches from a service station instead.
It was raining from the outset but I had my waterproofs on. The morning hours were dedicated to addressing the rear wheel problem I now had. The guys at Ewood Bikes sold me an affordable replacement Mavic wheel, arranged postage home for my broken wheel and gave me a cup of tea, top service! I was on my way again despite taking a few wrong turns trying to get out of Blackburn.
Off through the Forest of Bowland, which surprisingly wasn’t at all densely populated with trees, though I imagine many years ago it was. The rolling landscape was all very scenic none the less.
As the daylight closed, I had now pushed into Cumbria and checked in to the Blue Pig Inn in Kirbky Londsdale. A really nice little town. Dinner at the Orange Tree pub while a group of locals sang Christmas Carols. I enjoyed Fish n Chips and a few of the local brewery’s ales, their ‘Singletrack’ brew was superb!
DAY 7 : 17-Dec-2013 Kirkby Lonsdale to Gretna Green
The host of the Blue Pig Inn advised me of a shortcut through the town and down to the historic Devil’s Bridge, on the way to Casterton. The morning was crisp and I enjoyed cycling along seeing the low lying blankets of fog in the valleys.
Into the Yorkshire Dales and over Scap Fell, which is used as one of the climbs on the Tour of Britain. The cycling was fine until my chain started to slip on gradients of only 3-4%. So without surging I continued cautiously to Penrith and over the lunchtime period had the chain-set replaced. After which I was back on the road and flying along again.
Made it to Carlisle in good time and given there was still daylight ahead, I raced it all the way to Scotland. This was a good mental milestone. I stayed at the Gretna Hall Hotel in Gretna Green. It was curry night! So devoured a good meal and a few pints of beer.
DAY 8 : 18-Dec-2013 Gretna Green to Balloch (Loch Lomond)
Excellent progress through the first 25mile / 40km. The route largely meandered either side of the motorway towards Glasgow.
Purchased some Scottish Tablet (a sugar slice) for energy. Took a much needed coffee stop near Adington in order to warm up. Each day, I was now starting to get cold hands and feet after only a few hours of cycling.
Made a few wrong turns around Paisley near Glasgow. From Dumbarton I had a tow-path alongside the river to follow. This allowed me to cycle safely an extra 10 miles in the dark to get to Balloch at the tip of Loch Lomond. A most successful day of 115 mile / 185 km! Stayed at the Tullie Inn, with steak soup and vegetables to refuel me.
DAY 9 : 19-Dec-2013 Balloch (Loch Lomond) to Fort William
It was cold and blustery, rain fell as I set off. I followed Loch Lomond from there and because a 300m section of road had been washed away it meant most of the traffic had been diverted elsewhere, being effectively treated to closed roads. At the road construction site, one of the workers said he didn’t mean to be rude but he asked if I was “f**king mental” cycling in these conditions.
Once I got to Crinlairich I had to stop and dry my socks and gloves on the radiators and warm up with two cups of coffee before setting off into the Highlands proper.
As the road crossed through Rannoch Moor, the snow was prevalent and falling. Sleet smattered my face and it was stinging my cheeks. These were the toughest conditions I had ever cycled in. One guy in a car who kept stopping to take pictures of the landscape also asked if I was “f**king mental” (twice in one day!). The cycle to Glencoe was tough and I was concentrating on pushing on through the cold and blocking it out mentally. I was really pushing to make it to Fort William as I knew there were more accommodation options there. I ended up waltzing in to the West End Hotel, soaking wet, to the amazement of the staff.
Dinner in town at the Crofters pub. Haggis neeps and tatties, sausages cooked in Irn-Bru and a pint of Best, a fairly Scottish affair!
After the tough day cycling into Fort William it took me a bit to get going. I’d stopped at a garage at Invergarry for a snack and a chat with the attendant. I later arrived into Drumnadrochit expecting to have lunch, though none of the restaurants or cafes were open, since it was winter and not the tourist season. I settled for some hot chips and a few chocolate milks. A quick photo in front of the fiberglass Loch Ness monster and pushed up over a steep 15% hilly climb into more landscape quilted in snow.
Pushed on to Invergordon as it hit dark. It wasn’t hard to miss the giant oil rig platforms in the distance, all lit up, which were being renovated by the shore. The host at the Ship Inn tumble-dried my wet clothes which was super nice. A pub dinner and on the walk back I noticed the sky starting to clear, so I crossed my fingers for favourable conditions in the morning.
Got cracking early and made good progress with no rain. The sky and the sunlight at this latitude and time of year was throwing off some amazing colours!
Stopped in Helmsdale and on advice of a local had a great coffee with cake and mince pies at a local art gallery. En route, I saw “John O’Groats” on a road sign for the first time, with 85 miles to go. Some windy conditions but a comfortable days cycle, I was feeling pretty fit.
Checked into my accommodation in Wick at the Bank Guesthouse. A pretty low key night, though because I was excited for the final few miles in the morning it wasn’t easy to get to sleep.
The morning sun was glorious and I enjoyed the final miles. The low-slung winter sun cast an amazing light for my arrival. It was an immensely satisfying feeling when I arrived at John O’Groats. It had been a truly fantastic way to see Britain, in all its winter beauty!
As I collected the last stamp on my transit verification form (to be acknowledged as an “End-to-Ender”) I learnt that in the coming months / year they’ll be enabling an embedded timing device at John O’Groats. This will mean that it will not matter what time of day you arrive, your journey can be verified on arrival 24/7.
I caught the train from Thurso to Inverness where I boarded The Caledonian Sleeper which travels overnight to London. A great train journey to cap off a great and truly memorable cycling journey!
Summary Data by Day
Here’s a short video, I hope you enjoy it!
THANK YOU to all the friends, family and colleagues that generously donated to LEJOG-Crisis, £882.55 was raised for CRISIS. Each donation and comment spurred me on more than I could have imagined.
Tick tock. The passage of time means that as the new year dawns numerous races have been entered, flights have been booked, a winter base is hopefully being built, and dreams have been built on winter cycling holidays and endless chats over Spanish lattes and leche leches (seriously – try one of these in Lanzarote. Amazing).
So here are my reflections on my 2013 and aspirations and pre-season musings for 2014. Feel free to abuse/heckle/doubt/praise/laugh as appropriate. All comments welcome.
The Good: The entire first half of the year, 1.21 half marathon, 2.55 Ballbuster, 9.30 Ironman South Africa, qualifying for the GB age group team at Hyde Park worlds, pretty much anything on a bike, winning Thorpe Sprint, winning Bananaman team TT with Sam and Jim, riding a bike round London in the world champs like I stole it, crossing an Ironman finish line with a friend (twice), training and racing with Black Line Londoners, testing my limits, racing in Budgy Smugglers.
The Bad: Most of the second half of the year, blowing up at 30k on the run at Ironman UK, walking in a race for the first time, injuring my foot in winning Thorpe Sprint, most of my running off the bike, finding out where my limits are a little too often, missing a Kona slot by one place, racing in Budgy Smugglers.
The Ugly: Stomach shutdown at Ironman 70.3 UK and spending most of the run in the bushes… whilst racing in Budgy Smugglers.
What will change: Lots…working with a proven coach to improve my run technique, track sessions, lots of core/glutes/leg strength work, easier easy sessions, harder hard sessions, swim squad, big gear bike work, less volume chasing, understanding my training data better with the help of Training Peaks geekery, more balance in my diet alongside the easier easy sessions to help build a fat burning machine, more sleep, and more diligence in planning the year’s training and racing to peak only at the right times. Oh, and coffee. I’ve started drinking coffee. Truly life changing.
What won’t change: Testing my limits in races, using my bike strength in races, having fun training and racing with Black Line Londoners and other Lycra-clad friends, keeping the Spanish economy afloat with numerous training holidays (Lanzarote and Andalucia already ticked off since the end of last year) and unnecessary purchases of expensive objects made of carbon fibre.
What I’d like to happen:Get better,be as good to the finish line as I have been to T2, cross the finish line of an Ironman alone (for once), watch Kona unfold from the race course rather than the sofa and for the Budgy Smugglers to get left in the drawer.
See you at the races. First up for me and a number of the Black Line London gang, is Ironman South Africa on 6 April. Let’s see if I can ride for show and run for dough.
Here is a list of suggested Christmas gifts for triathletes. By which I mean “things you can suggest friends and family get you for Christmas. By which I mean “cool stuff you could get yourself and kiddie on Santa brought them”.
I learned the hard way recently that a good mini pump is something you should have in your back pocket. Not having one might save 0.04 of a second up Box Hill, having one might save you a long walk to the train.
It’s hard to see past the engineering beauty of Lezyne who have a broad range to suit various pocket depths.
Full disclosure: We have a massive bias towards all things Vulpine, but that’s because they are great products from great people at a great young British start up. Their socks are definitely in the gift giving price bracket, but if its’ someone you really love their merino T shirts are great and if it’s someone you really really love, so are their Harrington jackets.
Hands down the best tool to plan, record and analyse training with a range of option from a free basic account (cheapskate!) or 1, 3,6 6 and 12 month premium subscription. Or, you could use the code Paul13 to get 2 weeks free premium for yourself you loved one.
If you are like some of us, you’ve been hitting the trails on the mountain bike recently and this little guy will help reduce incidents of horse shit flinging onto your facial region. Which is definitely a win. At less that £10 (time of writing, on sale for £4.50!!) and weighing about the same as a Unicorn’s eyelash, it’s a not brainer and a perfect “I feel a bit obligated, but don’t really like you more than a fiver” sort of gift.
The quest for warm fingers has been a long and arduous one, but these guys are by far the best gloves I’ve ever had. I even made a quick video on the topic and they are great for running as well as the bike. Turns out these merino cats have got a good thing going on.
I’ve recently been turned on to Fusion kit after our two Kona hero’s Paul and Nico sported it on the big island and raved about it. It’s not the cheapest, but competitive and wins hands down on quality over the best of the rest. A wide range to choose from, I nominated this piece to go on the list because it’s perfect for the gym whether you are hitting the weights or the treadmill, and you are there a lot this winter, right……
Music is one of life’s most amazing facets. I listen to a LOT of music. And a good deal of that listening is done when I’m on the turbo, out for long runs or vey occasionally on traffic free roads, which means a decent set of headphones are important to me. And I’m sure to you to, so hopefully this Monster iSport Headphones review will help you navigate the busy headphone market landscape!
It’s been a bit of a search to try and find the perfect set, and while my current Power Beats Sports by Dre over-ears are the best I’ve found to date, I’m not sure I could say they are perfect for me.
So I was excited to try the Monster iSport, which carry the bold tagline “The Athletes Headphone”. There are 2 unique selling pointa to these. Firstly, you can apparently put them in the washing machine. While I’m not sure I will ever need to do that, it does give me confidence that these are truly sweat proof – a claim made by some brands I’ve owned in the past that turned out not to be true.
Secondly, they are not traditional ‘bud’ in-ears but have a clip that holds them snug in the inner shell of your ear – Monster called this ‘SportsClip’.
First impression is that the packaging is classy – I immediately feel like I’m about to use a high end product. Then there is the slightly daunting bag of various sized SportsCLip and ear buds of which I thought “I cannae really be bothered with that….”. But actually, swapping bits over takes only a few seconds – they easily click on and off – so in less than 2 minutes of trial and error I felt like I had the right sizes (XL, since you ask – I’ve got big lugs!).
First listen to music was impressive – great bass and clarity although for disclosure, I’m not a massive audiophile. So far so good. But the real test would be using them during training.
SO offI went on my bike to my local Richmond Park. At this point I will stress that I dont listen music when I’m on the bike in traffic. That, kids, would be..? DANGEROUS! Luckily, Richmond park with it’s bike friendly hills is closed to traffic early in the morning so I was able to test these on traffic free roads.
And I was impressed! The snug fit stayed throughout my whole ride and on the fast downhills almost all of the wind-rush noise was eliminated, which is exactly what I’ve been searching for in a pair of headphones.
Next up was a run, which I thought would test the fit a bit more robustly. And after 90 sweaty minutes, they were still exactly in place.
At this price (£129) you would expect talk control as standard and the iSPorts have that covered. My previous experience of talk control has been that it’s often a weak point but both volume control and talk have been faultless so far. Just don’t call me then I’m onthe bike…
Overall, while these are quite expensive, they are competitive in the high end market and by far the best sports headphones I’ve ever owned. I just have to try not to lose them now.
I’ve been searching for a winter cycling glove that I could really rave about for years. It needed to be the right balance of warm in cold weather but not too hot in milder weather, not too bulky, and not breaking the bank. I had come to the conclusion that this gloves of gloves did not exist. Until that is, friend of Black Line London and Freespeed team member Stuart Anderson recommended these DeFeet merino wool Dura gloves.
The De Feet merino wool Dura glove ticks all the boxes. I’ve riden in 0/-1 degrees in these and my hands have remained toasty warm, even when wet. They are thin enough to be able to eat in and to put in a jersey pocket neatly and at around £15 they are excellently priced. I also use them to run in, and even when all other extremities get nipped, my hands are always warm.
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.
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.
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, 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.
It’s time of the year when you might be spending a few hours on the turbo trainer.
Here are 3 great You Tube video’s to watch on the turbo that will help pass the time and inspire while you rack up the hours.
I’m currently 3 books and 2 documentaries into the story of the unbelievable and explosive 1988 men’s Olympic 100m final. Remembered for Ben Johnson’s drug test fail immediately after the race, there is a much, much more detailed back story that stretches back 10 years from the race and blows the lid off athletics at that time.
Chris Boardman – The Final Hour
The story of Chris Boardman’s attempt (in his last event as a pro rider) to set a new 1 hour record. Be warned, there are points in this documentary where your watts will creep up, so beware.
Iron War 1987 Dave Scott v Mark Allen
IRON WAR!!!! That is all.
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.
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.
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