Sunday, 30 October 2011

5 Weeks to go...

My lack of updates to the blog recently tells a story of its own. I quite like to try and keep a fairly regular log of what has been going on but with the work/training/life balancing act it has been pretty difficult recently. 

With 5 weeks to go until Busselton, the training is now well and truly into the ‘money’ sessions! I’ve had a bit of a reminder over past weeks that Ironman is hard (I know that is stating the obvious).

Having three finisher medals under my belt, the fear of not knowing if I can make it to the finish line is not there anymore, so whilst I don’t think I am complacent, sometimes you do forget the scale of the task at hand. This was made quite clear about 125k into a 195km ride the other week when the wheels somewhat fell off!

That knocked the confidence a little and I am still really waiting to feel my bike legs properly arrive but on the plus side, the running and swimming seem to be going pretty well.

In terms of volume of training I’m doing similar amounts to what I have done before, but feel like the quality of the sessions is probably a little higher and more focussed, particularly on the bike.

Sessions at the velodrome help this, no cars, trucks or junctions to worry about, and whilst riding around in 300m circles for an hour at a time is not all that exciting, you can safely have some music in your ears and hammer your way around the track, whilst giving and receiving plenty of friendly banter on the way.

Here’s an example, a session at the track last Wednesday, you can see how riding on the velodrome allows me to control the HR and hit a really specific target workout (this ride includes the ride to the velodrome and then into work)

Swimming is continuing to go well, since joining the squad I have gone from essentially non-swimming (had swum less than 50km in the first 5 months of the year) to over 200km in the last 5 months. I have definitely got faster but I think the real gains will come from the level of effort required to get through the 3.8k swim on race day.

Running is going ok, due to the training volume at the moment I always have to be careful not to push too far and blow myself to pieces yet know how important the key run sessions are. The biggest milestone recently was my ‘over-distance’ run. 3 hours scheduled (after a 1 hour ride) and relatively speaking this went without too much incident, 36.7km covered on a slightly undulating course (in the pouring rain) – nutrition seemed to work well. I was briefly tempted to knock over another 5.5km to clock up a training marathon but didn’t think that was going to help in the long term!!

In other news, after trying yet again to nail down my bike fit, I decided to take relatively drastic action and change bike frames. A slightly calculated gamble this close to the race but one that I hope will pay off. Initial signs are good, still need to find my ideal saddle but so far I feel much more solid on the bike. It looks pretty cool too, although have already established that a white bike instantly looks dirty whenever you ride it!!

Finally amongst all that I also managed to take my Level 1 triathlon coaching course last weekend, had some interesting sessions over the two days, and definitely something I’m keen on doing a little more of. 

A quick summary of this week’s training, have been on the brink of some serious fatigue all week but after a nice afternoon sleep today, feeling a bit better and ready to attack next week!:

Swim – 12.9km 
Bike – 272km
Run – 73km

Total time – 20 hours 4 mins 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Ironman World Championships 2011

Next weekend marks the pinnacle of this crazy sport that I take part in, with the World Championships raced in Hawaii.

Since I’ve been involved with triathlon over the last few years, this is always an event that I look forward to watching. The live online coverage is pretty good and seeing what the pros are capable of is pretty amazing. 

This year promises to be a great race, with no clear favourite in the mens race and a few question marks over the womens field. This year is also the first time that I know a few of the age groupers who have qualified and will be racing. So thought it would be good to put down my predictions for the big race, and also comment on a few of the people who keep contributing towards inspiring me to trying to continually improve my own racing. I’m still a long way from the standard required to qualify for ‘the big dance’ and having been on holiday to Hawaii, not sure I ever actually want to race in that heat and humidity!!

This clip is from 2008 and was one of those that inspired me before my first Ironman, love the shot of the bike charging through the lava fields 

My top tips:

Pro Men
1. Craig Alexander – I was lucky enough to spend a training day with ‘Crowie’ last year as part of the 3Fest event. Such a nice guy who was more than willing to offer advice opinions on training and racing, even to an age-group ‘hack’ like me!! His passion for the sport was great to see. On top of being a nice guy (as sadly that won’t win you the title), a 1.11 run split at the 70.3 world championships a few weeks ago tells me this guy is in some serious form. I think he’ll be closer to the action off the bike this year and run a course record for the win!

A final note on Crowie – he’s not the biggest guy but standing next to him is pretty intimidating – the guy looks like a thoroughbred racehorse!

2. Andreas Raelert – don’t need to say much more than this guy was 3rd in 2009, 2nd in 2010 and set a new Iron distance world record at challenge Roth with a 7.41.33 (which is just stupid fast!). Also a shame his brother Michael did not make it to the start due to injury, the ex 70.3 world champ would have made for an interesting race as K-Swiss had put up $1m for the brothers to go 1-2!)

3. Marino Vanhoenacker -  My first experience of Ironman racing in Austria left be blown away when I saw this guy coming the towards me on the bike course, it was like he had an engine on his bike he was going that fast!! Showed last year that he is not just fast in Austria with 3rd place in Kona. He went 7.45 in Austria this year and held the world record time for a week before Raelet took it off him.  

Dark horses – Pete Jacobs (fastest run split last year and much improved bike splits this year will be close to the front out of the swim), Tim O’Donnell, Joe Gambles, Chris Lieto (love the way this guy races – expect to see him in to T2 first)

Pro Women
1. Chrissie Wellington – If Ironman wasn’t such a niche sport, I’m convinced that Chrissie would be widly regarded as the greatest athlete on the planet. She has re-defined the sport for women and blown away reality with her performances. I wouldn’t want to be a pro-male watching Chrissie smoke past me on the run. The only doubt comes from a recent bike crash (see photo!) but if anything I think that this will only serve to help her focus the mind, still unbeaten at Ironman racing and looks to have improved her run this year in the face of other stepping up their game in this area.

2. Mirinda Carfrae – The first time I ever came across ‘Rinny’ was during my first half Ironman race in 2008, I was just starting the run and this tiny little woman came blasting past me like Usain Bolt! (she was on her third and final lap on her way to the win), I didn’t see anyone, male or female going quicker than that all day. Defending champion  and run course record holder, I just don’t think she has the bike legs to be close enough to Chrissie but will be guaranteed to be charging through the run course.

3. Julie Dibens – Author or some excellent Twitter banter with Rinny, I’m interested to see if she can stick with Chrissie on the bike, a quality swim-biker she just doesn’t seem to have got the formula for a great run sorted yet but I’m convinced it will happen sooner or later. I expect Rinny will have the upper hand but may take until later in the run this year to win their own little battle.

Others – Mary Beth Ellis (3 Ironman wins over an 8 week period this year), Caroline Steffen (consistent performer all year), Catriona Morrison (people assume the Scot will wilt in the heat but I think otherwise!)

Age-Groupers I’ll be following:

Xavier Coppock - One of the XOSIZE athletes, this guy is one hell of an athlete, the training volume he has been taking on is mind-blowing, no danger of being under-done! Xav went 9.06 in Busselton last year to qualify and I hope he has an awesome day. A nice guy and if someone puts a few corona’s on the final few aid stations, I’m sure that’ll help spur him on!

Kristy Hallett – One of the MTC crowd that I have got to know as I’ve been training with the squad over the last 5 months. Kristy’s work ethic is amazing and it is no surprise that she gets the results that she does. One of those athletes that always seems to be smiling a 3rd place overall at 70.3 Yepoon shows how good she is.

Jo Coombe – Another MTC’er and one of the friendliest and most welcoming people at the squad. Jo wears her heart on her sleeve and has been known to be on fire and then lose it at least 3 or 4 times in a training session ;-) She qualified for Hawaii with a sensational race at Ironman France (10.35 for 2nd in Age group) and has had to get herself back into top shape only 12 weeks after that race. Another incredibly dedicated athlete who deserves to have a great day in Kona.

Sean Foster - Having decided to try something different for Ironman attempt number 4 I joined Sean’s Fluid Movements squad back in May. As an athlete Sean has done it all, having raced Hawaii twice as a pro as well as numerous top 10 Ironman finishes. I’ve benefitted greatly from the experience he has and looking forward to seeing how this transmits into my own performance in December. I know I’ll benefit from the fact that he has just put himself through his own training program and wish him all the best for race day!

So they are my predictions, wanted to get them down in case I happen to be right, they I can look back and say “I told you so” – if I am wrong I can just delete this post!!

My own training is ticking along pretty well, feeling re-energised after a rest day today and looking forward to attacking the next 9 weeks!! Am aiming to keep this a little more updated as I get closer to race day.