Thursday, 28 May 2009

Barcelona Race Report

I arrived in Calella on Friday night at about 8pm, in time for some dinner, a quick stroll though town and then put the bike back together.

Calella was nice enough, it was a strange mix of elderly types and triathletes, the Euro rate at the moment made it seem pretty expensive but I was happy with the location of the hotel, being only 5 minutes from transition.

The bike went back together with out any major mishaps, the retaining screws that keep the back wheel away from the frame had moved during flight so when I first put the wheel on it was all wonky which worried me a it but after a little bit of faffing, that went back on ok.

Saturday was a fairly busy day, I went out for a 20 min easy run (stomach did not feel great) and then a 30 min spin on the bike over the first part of the course. Roads were super smooth but I came across more rolling hills than I had expected. I then had some breakfast and went to register, all well organised. Popped back to the hotel to grab my wetsuit and then went for a quick dip to make sure it still fitted ok! No trouble there, water was a nice temperature and fairly clear, some decent sized waves though, not too choppy, more large rolling waves.

After the swim I went back to the hotel to relax for a bit, watched the F1 qualifying and sorted out my bags, then off to the race briefing before taking the bike into transition. The last act for the day was to pick Erika up from the airport. her flight was on time so I was back in bed by just after 11pm.

Race Day Being only 5 minutes from transition and having bike and bags already racked, I did not need to get up too early. Alarm went off at 5am and I grabbed some breakfast at the hotel which they had put on early for the triathletes. Pumped up bike tyres and did final check of bags and a walk though of transition and was feeling ready. There weren't many portaloos so I decided to walk back to the hotel to use the facilities which was nice to be able to do rather than have to que up!

I then headed back to the beach, wetsuit on and a quick dip before lining up in the start pens. Looking out at the swim course I knew that navigating was going to be tough, there are a number of markers that are always in the water for boating etc and the race buoys were pretty small and with the waves similar to the day before I was apprehensive.

I was in the second wave (out of 4) so it was soon time for us to start. I moved to the right of the pack to get some clearer water so swam an outside line around the first marker which was 250m straight out. This was the only bit of certain navigation I had for the next 30 minutes!! I could not see any other markers but was able to use the sun to make sure that I was heading in generally the right direction, I finally saw the final turning buoy and was probably 100m further out to sea that I should have been but was at least still on the course. I made the turn and the next and was then trying to relax into the swimming on the section back along the coast, although I was finding this difficult to do whilst constantly worrying about whether I was heading in the right direction. At this point my timing chip also decided to fall off, luckily I felt it come undone and grabbed it just before it sank, tucked it in the arm of my wetsuit and carried on.

Finally saw the final turning buoy and then with the crowds on the beach it was easy to find the finishing area. My goal was for about a 33 minute swim, however I definitely swam further than 1.9km so was not too worried about a time of 37.15. Run up and over the timing mat with my arm on the floor to make sure that my time got recorded and then grabbed my bag and went into T1.

This is the first time I have done 'Ironman style' transitions where you have to grab your bag of stuff and go through a changing tent rather than having it all next to your bike, and although they felt slow, nothing went wrong. I put the timing chip back on my ankle and went out to get my bike, T1 3.58.

The first couple of km of the bike are a bit twisty and narrow until you get up onto the main road, there are also some speed humps on the first part which gave me my next problem of the day. The bit of mesh that stops your drink from coming out of the handlebar mounted water bottle launched itself out of the bottle on the first speed hump, as did most of the contents of the bottle, lesson learned for next time, make sure that thing is wedged in better! This was a bit of a pain for the rest of the race as if I put more than half a bottle of liquid into it as soon as I hit any sort of bump it would cover me and the bike in sticky sports drink, not nice!

Once onto the main road the ride was great, road surface was super smooth and I felt good. My aim was to keep my HR to about 145 and never let it go above 153 on any hills. With a tailwind for the first section I soon got in under control and was flying along, I love that bike with the race wheels on and a smooth road! The first 25 km flew by and we were soon on to the inland section which was a very slight climb up for about a 10km stretch. This cannot really be described as a hill and with a favourable wind I got up there with no trouble, only slight drama was running over a water bottle that the guy in front of me dropped at an aid station but luckily I stayed upright.

Saw the leaders coming back down the hill, looked like the guy n front was making his move as he was hammering himself!! I got to the turning point at 35km in about an hour which included the uphill section, although at this point I was expecting the final 35km back to Calella to be into the wind so I was keeping my expectations in check. Back down the 'hill' with a few twisty parts and a couple of steep speed humps and onto the coast road again, this time into a slight headwind for the 10km to the turning point in El Masnou. This was where the Tour De France style packs started to form. I've never seen anything like it in the two years I have been doing triathlon, it was shameful stuff, packs of 100 or so riders making no effort to abide by the rules. As the packs came past me I would sit up and let them go, the problem was that into the wind, once I got back to my HR target I caught them back up. I decided to put in a bit of an effort to get past them and abused them all as I went by!

I got to the turn around at 56km feeling good, this part id pretty much dead flat so I was in a nice rhythm. A couple of packs came back past me on this section, more abuse from me, particularly to the Brit in the Thames Turbo kit that I had seen in the middle of the pack both times, at least I knew that he would understand my ranting, I wish I knew the Spanish for 'Cheat!'!!

There were marshalls on the course trying to break up the groups but they had no real affect. I tried not to let it worry me, although when you see 250 people overtake you who are all blatantly cheating it is a little but frustrating! The last 20km or so were into a bit of a headwind but nothing too bad and my legs felt fine over the little rollers back into Calella. Jumped off the bike for a 2.33.44 bike split, average HR 146 and felt great.

T2 was uneventful, 3.30.
Crossed the run start line and immediately used the loo! The course does a mini loop to the south (about 3km in total) before coming back past transition and then heading up the coast to the north east. I saw Erika as I came back through past transition and wasn't feeling great, my stomach wasn't too happy but I was holding my chosen HR. As I left T2, I had 1.41 to break 5 hours, I knew that this was going to be beyond me but had hoped to be able to run 1.45ish. The first distance marker I saw was at 10km and I was well off the pace. I had hoped to be able to pick it up in the 2nd half but this was not happening and I was fighting just to hold the same HR. I was slowing through the aid stations to make sure that I was taking on plenty of nutrition but it was pretty hot out there. The run back was tough, I could feel my pace dropping but tried to keep plugging away. Finally got back to Calella and turned off for the run through town, this was good with lots of supports and noise, and also some nice shaded streets. The final km is up hill and it just gets steeper and steeper, initially I thought that this was a nasty way to finish the course, but the crowds were huge and it was like the Tour de France with the crowd parting as you ran though them, epic stuff.
The guy in front of me started to walk and the crown exploded with noise to try and get him going again, it was pretty cool! I just about managed to keep running and was pleased to hit the flat running track for the last couple of hundred meters to the finish to come in on 5.17.17, a run split of 1.58.51.
Somehow Erika had managed to miss me coming up the hill and with family not able to get into the centre of the athletics track where the finishers were it took me 20 minutes or so to find her which was a shame. I was really disappointed with the run time but still pleased with a pb and proud to have completed the race. As always I try and analyse the race and learn from it for next time, there were a few things that I think contributed to the below par run
1. Bad stomach in the week leading up to the race - not much I can do about this
2. I need to make sure I keep track of fluid intake on the bike. I was drinking plenty but cannot say how much so this could have been a factor for the poor run.
3. All of my training has been based upon the Ironman, I have not ridden an HIM paced ride with a run off it so maybe I was expecting too much. My last HIM I definitely went too hard on the bike but I don't think I did this time, my HR was well controlled and I felt fine coming off the bike (much different to last time!!)
4. The heat was a real factor - this was one of the reasons for going away to do the warm up race, I plan to do my long runs for the next few weeks during the hottest part of the day rather than early morning to try and help me get used to this. All in all, I enjoyed the experience, definitely didn't go exactly to plan but I still have 6 weeks before the A race.
It turns out that the disqualified more than 250 competitors for the drafting on the bike which I think is a good effort by the race organiser. Here are a couple of pictures:

Friday, 22 May 2009

All packed for Barcelona

I'm flying out to Barcelona today and whilst the bike box turned up without any trouble, my other preparation this week has not really been ideal. My stomach has decided that it is not very happy so I've had to miss a few sessions this week which was not what I wanted but there you go.

I did do a 10 Mile bike timetrial this week. This is the first one I have ever done so wasn't really sure what to expect. Weather was fine and there were over 40 competitors each going off at 1 minute intervals. I was number 38 so had a bit of a wait until I got underway. There were some serious bikers out there doing this, lots of disk wheels and pointy helmets so I knew that they were going to be fast!

The course is pretty tough, the first 4 miles or so are uphill so I set off with the intention of pretty much giving it 100% to the top of the hill and then just try and hold on and pedal hard on the way back down, the course comes back past where you started, down a bit more of a hill before a sharp left turn and then a flatish last mile to the finish.

I certainly gave it 100% up the hill, this was a new form of pain!! When I had some testing done when I was out in Australia, I'm fairly sure that they calculated my max HR on the bike at 184, turns out that it is higher than that as I hit 187 on the last climb to the top of the hill!

It was good fun coming back down, I was in my top gear and pushing hard, I managed to keep the HR high for most of the down hill although there was one part where I couldn't pedal fast enough, speedo had me maxing out at 72 km/h. I then took the sharp left turn pretty conservatively and tried to smash the last couple of minutes on the flat. I was pleased with my time of 24.35, average speed of about 39 km/h (24.7mph).

I was the 19th fastest time of the evening, out of 42 finishers, fastest time for the day was 21.15.

Yesterday evening was spent trying to pack all my stuff for the weekend, there is so much that you need to take it is crazy! I think I am pretty much done now though, we're heading to the airport at about 11am to give me plenty of time to sort out getting the bike box checked in. Erika flies out tomorrow night after her sports massage exams.

My stomach troubles are still with me so I'm hoping that clears up before Sunday otherwise the race will not be much fun!

I have my race planned out with heart rate zones that I will aim to stick to during each section, hopefully that should result in me being able to run strong. I'm confident of a new pb and would like to get close to the 5 hour mark, I think it is unlikely that I will go under that but we'll have to see how it goes, lots of things can happen on race day. The weather forecast looks pretty good, 23 degrees and sunny on Sunday. Will report back after the race.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Recovery / Taper Week

This week is an easier week following 3 big ones. Also gives me a nice chance to make sure the batteries are well charged ahead of the Half Ironman in Barcelona on the weekend.

The weekend just gone went pretty well training wise, the weather was not all that nice, the first 3 hours of the ride on Saturday gave me wet roads and the odd heavy shower but luckily later in the day things dried up a bit, it was very windy though. I misjudged the direction of the wind a bit though, thought I had a strong tail wind on the way out so rode for a little more than half the time expecting to be blown home much faster. That didn't really happen so I ended up with a 6 hour 13 minute ride and 174km. Headed out for my hours run with no major problems, felt ok but was pleased to get home and sit down!

Sunday started with my usual 90 min ride to be followed by a 2 hour 50 min run. As I set off for the ride is was dry but within 10 minutes it was starting to rain, after about an hour it was torrential and not much fun! I was back to within about 5km of home only to find the road blocked by the police due to a burst gas main, luckily the policeman took pity on me and let me through, there was very little chance of me causing any sort of spark, I looked like I had been swimming!

Started the run in the rain but it cleared up after 30 minutes or so, meaning that I was then a bit overdressed so the rest of the run was a bit warm! Having learned from previous runs, I gave myself 3 minutes longer to run home than on the way out (its uphill) and made it back with 30 seconds to spare, about 30.5km (19 miles) covered.

I was pretty much done in after that. I've started to realise that I can be a little bit miserable when I get back from the weekend training sessions as I am so tired (to be honest I think I am tired most of the time), and I doubt that I am too much fun to live with, so will be making a bit more of an effort from now on.

I'm looking forward to a weekend away in Barcelona. I fly out on Friday afternoon with Erika joining me on Saturday night as she is sitting her exams for the sports massage course that she has been taking. Race is on Sunday and I've been doing my homework on the course. It all looks pretty good, the bike and run both stick to the coast for most of the route so it should be fairly flat, will be interesting to see what sort of wind there will be as that could play a pretty big part in the speed of the bike course.

My bike box arrived this morning which is good, at least I have something to take the bike over in now! The only bit of preparation fro this race that has been lacking is some open water swimming. I haven't had the chance to do any yet but will have an easy swim on Saturday morning in Barcelona. We used to swim regularly in the wetsuits in Melbourne so I have had plenty of time in mine so am not expecting any major problems.

After the race we are spending a couple of days in Barcelona which should be good, it's one of the cities that I've always wanted to go to, I had hoped to get to a football match but they had to move is from the Sunday night to Saturday night due to the Champions league final on the following Wednesday so it doesn't work for me. I'll hopefully try and do a stadium tour while we are there though.

The aim for the race is to get as close to 5 hours as possible, pb is currently 5.25.39.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Four to go...

I've just been sorting my stuff out ahead of tomorrows long ride (6 hours) and realised that I only have 4 big training weekends left to get through. Whilst I do enjoy the training, there is no denying that the program I have taken on is pretty challenging ad I'll be pleased to get to he point where I start to taper (although this will still involve plenty of exercise).

Next weekend is a recovery week with the half ironman on the weekend and then after that I have 3 more big weekends before the volume will start to drop. The weather forecast is not great for tomorrow but could be worse, looks like I am going to be in for a few showers.

The time trial that I was due to do this week was called off due to the weather, there was too much fog at the top of Wrotham hill, and whilst they were probably being overly cautious, I can understand why as the riders would have been up to 60 or 70 kn/h coming back down the hill so you want the cars to be able to see you clearly rather than emerging out of the fog. I may be able to get to it next week but I'll see how I go.

Starting to feel more organised for Barcelona now, although I am still waiting for my new bike box to arrive. That should be sent out on Monday, but I think I have almost everything else sorted, flights accommodation and car hire are all in place, I'm looking forward to getting out there and racing, as well as spending a couple of days in Barcelona with Erika afterwards.

Off to eat a huge dinner in preparation for tomorrow's 7 hour effort!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Solid running

I was please to get through my long run on Sunday without too much trouble. I took the 90 min ride beforehand very easy and made sure that I was well hydrated before I started.

Felt a million times better than last week but still kept the pace fairly gentle on the way out, as much as I would have liked to get home in the same time that I ran out for, the uphill run home always gets the better of me and I tend to lose about 2-3 minutes over the last half an hour when it all gets tough. That meant that my run was 2hours 43 minutes and I covered approximately 29.5km.

That was pretty much the end of my biggest week so far, although Erika was on her sports massage course this weekend and my Mum was doing dinner for us so I also rode the 35km over to her house in the afternoon, I thought this would be hell for my legs but they weren't actually too bad. Rewarded myself with plenty of food!!

This week is another big week before a recovery/taper week next week in the run up to Barcelona.

I'm planning to do a 10 mile cycling time trial on Wednesday evening, work and weather permitting. This will be something of a change to my usual slow and steady training but will make a nice change and gives me an excuse to put the race wheels on my bike and check that everything is in order for Barcelona. This is an organised event run by a local cycling club each week, the course is a challenging one with the first 4 miles being uphill but then it comes back down the same hill so should be pretty fast (assuming that my legs haven't exploded on the way up). I'm actually really looking forward to it but hope that the weather plays along as the forecast is not great at the moment and I'm not going to do it in the wet.

The 'May Challenge' is coming along well, I'm nicely on track to beat all of my previous totals, I still need to do the following in the rest of the month:

Swim - 15.6km, Bike 551km, Run 124.8km

Other than that things seem pretty organised, I have ordered a bike box for transporting it to the races, that should be delivered either late this week or next week, flights and accommodation in Spain are all sorted.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

First 100 mile ride (nearly!!)

Long ride session today went well, I went out for 5.5 hours, and although it was pretty cold for the first few hours, I had a good ride and almost hit the 100 mile mark (actually did 159.7km = 99.8 miles). I then did a 1 hour run off the bike which was fine, no real issues, I think my body was pleased to be doing something other than riding the bike!!

I've ridden further tan 160km on a number of occasions in the past but never on my own and this is certainly much harder than riding long distances with a group. My pace is ok, averaged almost 29km/h with my heart rate well under control.

Only a couple of minor issues that I had to deal with, another water bottle full of sports drink was ejected onto the roads of Kent and squashed, this is a bit annoying but not much I can do about it as for these long rides I have to take out large bottles in the behind the saddle cages, in the actual race if this happens there will be an aid station within 20km so I can just get more, is a bit of a pain that I keep wasting bottles though!

I also had a bad spell after about 4 hours, when it felt like someone had turned the power supply to my legs off, managed to come out the other side and actually felt quite strong at the end.

I haven't managed to put a good long run in the day after my long ride for quite a while so am hopping that tomorrow goes ok, am doing my usual 90 min easy ride and then have a 2 hour 40 min run planned. Going to take 1.5l of sports drink out this time as well as some gels so hopefully I can keep my body fuelled better than last week.

Out for a curry tonight, not sure that is the best pre-training nutrition but I'll make sure I eat lots of rice!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Welling Half Ironman - Take 2

I had a day's holiday from work today to do the 2nd of my 3 planned half ironman race simulations. I was hoping to do exactly the same as last time although this option was taken away when I looked at the swimming pool opening times and was somewhat annoyed to see that you are only allowed to swim in the mornings if you are over 60! Not particularly helpful for me.

Found another local pool that was not quite so ageist but being a bit further away decided that I would swim, drive home and then do the bike and a full 21.1km run rather than split in 2 like last time.

Swimming pool was actually much better that they one I have used before, they had 3 lanes roped off and each was nice and wide, I started as the pool opened so there were only 2 other people in the lane and it was easy to overtake so I had an uninterrupted swim, completed the 1.9km in 36.03 without too much bother. I'm quite happy with my swimming at the moment, I swam 36 minutes in Geelong last year and I know that I am faster in the open water with a wetsuit on so doing that sort of time in the pool is a good sign. We also did a split 1500m at the squad session on Tuesday (500, 400, 300, 200, 100 with various different efforts during each set and approx 30 seconds rest in between each block) I did this in 25.30 (excluding the rests), given that my best 1,500m race time is about 29 minutes, I've clearly made some progress.

Anyway, back to today, despite the drive home from the pool, I was out on the bike within 20 minutes of finishing the swim, same course as last time although a bit more traffic to contend with and this time the wind was more of a problem for the second half of the ride. My nutrition plans had to be changed half way round when having just finished one of my bottles of sports drink, the other one was ejected from the seat mounted bottle holder courtesy of a huge pothole. I did stop to see if I could recover it only to see it obliterated by a couple of trucks and a few cars!! SO with no liquid left I didn't really want to eat much more as I need to be able to wash it down with something otherwise stomach troubles are never far away. Apart from that the ride was ok, time was not great but with plenty of traffic etc I'm not too worried, total time was 3.08.57.

I was pretty thirsty when I got home so chucked some water in and took a gel, put the running stuff on, this time with a camelback full of 1.5l of sports rink and 4 gels in my pockets and set out for the run. Run was ok, I kept my HR on track for the first 45 minutes or so but then probably let it go a bit higher than I should of and as a result faded a bit towards the end, although the run home was uphill and into the wind so probably not quite as bad as the time would suggest, Half marathon (ish) completed in 1.56.56 so an overall time of about 5.40 is similar to last time.

Didn't feel too bad afterwards, obviously tired but recovered pretty well after some food and a shower. I'm still not 100% happy with my nutrition, so will keep making changes until it feel right.

Back into my normal training for the rest of the week with a long swim tomorrow and then an easier day on Friday before another big weekend. I expect I will get close to the 100 mile mark on my ride on Saturday which is always a nice milestone.

Have been enjoying watching the cricket for the rest of today and have the champions league semi-final tonight to watch so my legs are getting a good rest!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

2 months to go

Today marks the 2 months to go point and my training is really starting to get challenging. This weekend was really tough but I managed to survive and feel like I learnt a few things which is good.

Saturday's ride was good, I made an early start, getting out the door by 6am so it was nice and quiet on the roads. I decided to take a route that meant a lot of the ride was on the A21 towards Hastings, a dual carriageway at some points but I was keen to try and get some uninterrupted riding with less junctions and better road surfaces which worked quite well, I got home n just over 5 hours with 145km covered, a quick change at home and I then headed out for my one hour run. I started this at a nice easy pace and managed to plod along ok, legs didn't feel too bad, pace was certainly not high but I had never intended it to be.

Sunday's plan was a 90 min easy ride followed by a 2.5 hour run, the ride was fine, a bit windy on the way home but no major problems, quick change and out for my run, I took a camelback filled with water and 3 gels for the run which would normally be plenty. My plan was to take 1 gel after 1 hour, the next after 1hour40 and the last one just after the 2 hour mark. These plans changed pretty rapidly when after only about 15 minutes, I was feeling awful. My legs felt like they had nothing in them and as such I could not get my HR up to where I would have liked it to be so with over 2 hours of running still to go, I decided to revert to a damage limitation type of strategy. I therefore took one of my gels after 20 minutes and that helped for a little while but I was then into the cycle of being slightly lifted after each gel and then feeling this slowly wear off over the next 20-30 minutes and then feeling terrible again! As I only had 3 gels I had to just try and battle through the terrible parts and try and keep going. I am fully expecting to feel like this on the actual day so in a way it was probably pretty good practice, although in hindsight I think I need to start taking out a sports drink rather than simply water, at least during the race there will be an aid station every 2km or so where I can properly re-fuel if I need to.

As you can probably imagine, the next 2 hours of the run were not a whole heap of fun and I was pretty happy to get home in one piece. Hopefully some lessons learned for next time though, and was also encouraging that I still managed to cover 27km even though I felt like death for most of it, had the run gone really well I would have expected to cover something like 29km so it was not the end of the world.

I have booked this Wednesday off work and am planning to do my 2nd Half Ironman simulation. The weather forecast looks ok so I am expecting this to go ahead. I'm going to follow the same format as last time, which means braving the public swimming pool again which will no doubt drive me mental!! I'm going to try a few tweaks to my nutrition strategy as I felt a bit bloated on the bike this Saturday.

This session will be done at my planned Ironman pace which I think I have worked out in my head, and only 2 and a half weeks out from Barcelona will also give me a bit more practice stringing all three sports together. The only other thing I need to sort out before then is getting some open water swimming in, I had hoped to do this yesterday but ran out of time and was feeling pretty beaten up after the weekend so I will try and work out a time to get down to the lake to get used to my wetsuit again.

Friday, 1 May 2009

The May Challenge

So with April now out of the way, the training is going to move to a new level. Due to the 2.5 week holiday, Aprils training totals were relatively low:

Swim - 14.9km (9.3 miles) - 5 hours 34 mins
Bike - 459km (286.9 miles) - 17 hours 3 mins
Run - 137.2km (85.8 miles) - 11 hours 47 mins

Total - 34 hours 25 minutes

I've had a good week so far, after having a nice rest on holiday, my legs were complaining a bit with the 55km that I ran over the first 3 days of this week but although there is always an element of having tired legs with this sort of training, I'm not feeling too bad.

May was always going to be my biggest training month of the year, as I get to the last couple of weeks of June I will start to reduce the volume to prepare for the race so I decided to set myself a challenge in May. I want to have my biggest month in each sport, based upon the training log that I have which goes back to the start of 2008, the most I have done in each sport is as follows:

Swim - 26.3km (Sept 08)
Bike - 1170.3km (Jan 09)
Run - 265.7km (Oct 08)

When I started working towards this race I spent 3 week blocks concentrating on one particular sport which is why the biggest weeks for each one were some months ago.

My intention is to do this through consistent training rather than mega sessions, although obviously the big weekends that I have planned over the next few weeks will help. I am also taking a day off work next week to do another half ironman simulation so that will help with the numbers.

Have a 5 hour ride followed by a 1 hour run planned for Saturday and then Sunday will be my long run (2.5 hours) with an easy 90 minutes on the bike beforehand. Being a public holiday on Monday I am hoping to get my first open water swim of the season in as I'm reliably informed that the lake is now about 14 degrees so should be just about bearable!