Monday, 22 December 2008

Its all about the bike

So training has officially started in earnest. I've opened up a new xcel spreadsheet and logged in some key events on the way to Lanzarote. I am now almost running without niggles and managed to swim 4 times last week. The winter solstice is gone and I have plans. Key in all of this is as ever the bike training.

At lanzarote last year I felt disappointed with my bike (6hrs) and even IM austria at 5.04 was not quite what i hoped for (sub 5) so what are my plans to go faster. Looking at last year I think I peaked a bit early for Lanza on the bike, this year I plan to keep going large up to 20 days out. I also did not do many 5hr+ rides and this year aim to remedy this (but this means an even earlier start to fulfil family commitment to be home by midday). To help I am considering doing the tour of flanders but its proximity to Lisbon half IM in April is not gonna sit to happily with family commitments. Failing that I think a few more reps of Box Hill will probably do it.

My key weapon this year however is to get a bigger power base under me to try and improve the climbing. To this end I have started on my own pyramid sessions (actually they are more blocky than pyramid but hey). I start with a 30 min TT on my imagic and take the average power out put for this (currently about 270 watts on the imagic- not sure how accuate this is).

Using this is my base I then undertake the following sessions (every 5-7 days)

Warm up 4 mins pedalling then (3 x 1min high cadence 110+ at max power then 2 min recovery) then I do

Week 1 3 x 12 mins 270 watts with 2 min recovery between each set
Week 2 3 x 15 mins 270W
Week 3 5 x 10 mins 270W
Week 4 2 x 20 mins 270W
Week 5 CP30 (30 min tt based on weeks 1 -4)
then go back to week 1 on new wattage.

What I learn is that
a) my first tt is always way under what I can actually do
b) the first set often is the hardest
c) the jump from 3x12 to 3x15 is the worst
Using the imagic I can look historically at performance although calibration is an issue. Each step is designed to be doable, just! Last year I did this for dec jan and feb but then started riding outside all the time and lost this session. This year it is gonna stay all the way to taper time- I hope it will give the extra top end power and stickability for climbing... yeah I know you can go and climb hills but none of those round here last 12 mins or greater. Climbing at steady state is a power based issue and one I need to learn better, perhaps I should angle my turbo too!

Last year I saw a good 15% improvement in power for the CP 30 teast across 2 cycles, so this year I plan to do 4 cycles should make for 30% improvement ;-)

Friday, 14 November 2008

We all need Friends

It is with great sadness that I realise two of my most motivational training partners and friends are about to embark on a journey that will take them out of my sphere perhaps indefinitely. Steve and Jo are both hardcore IMers who introduced me to the concept of early morning training on a weekday (like 0400hrs and earlier) and in whos company I have had the pleasure of whiling away many an hour circumnavigating regents park (somewhere around 1500 laps I would guess).

I must say I am distinctly jealous of their plans including a visit to New Zealand and a chance to do another epic camp. The idea of setting out on a cold winters morning to go around on my own does not appeal but hopefully some of the newcomers will stick around a bit when the season kicks in.

My training is currently all about the bike. I am riding a steady 75 miler every weeekend and trying to start pulling it together. I start to feel quite excited about the prospects of another hard build and maintain endless positivity towards the whole process. the only issue at present is swimming since my beloved lido is beset by darkness and therefore closed more often than not when I want to use it.

More regular posting to follow as i develop a theme for this years training...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

More more more

I dunno what it is about IM events but the more I do the more I wanna do. Once you have done one you go one of two ways I reckon. Either you back off and go back to something less time consuming or you want more. (But sometimes you have to call it quits, peel off the dodgy lycra and curl up with a pizza and dvd because that's more fun. edit by Mrs runtilyoudrop). Is it the overdose of endorphins that some of us become addicted to? Is it the order and demands of a tough training schedule that brings discipline to our daily life? Maybe its just having an excuse to buy some new kit, on the subject of which the assos 3 layer winter glove system is comfortably the best I have yet encountered if a bit pricey.

Point is I have already committed next year to 2 IM races and sit here contemplating entering Norseman an event that sits out there lurking desperately waiting for me to do it!! On the same level there is the New Zealand Coast to Coast, IM Japan, IM Brazil, Elbaman.......

... is this an illness, an addiction perhaps or just a passing phase?

Well who cares. After 3 weeks nursing a dodgy achilles the running has recommenced, swimming is starting to feel like something I like rather than a chore and I spent 5 hours out on my bike on sunday morning in the continuos rain and absolutely loved it. The hunger is back and I want more power!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Feck Achilles

September has been distinctly challenging. Work, family and trying to run everyday have left me worn out. The goal of running every day through September was worthy but not achieved. I managed 27 out of 30 days. The desire to start putting in the long runs led to the day after a long run when I found myself trying to run around Victoria Park on legs that felt like wooden stumps. The consequence of this was due to my stubborness I did not stop and walk but ran on and paid the following day when my achilles flared up.

Trying to stick to the rule of no more than a 10% increase a week I may have taken a slight liberty but thought my background training would help. The bruised heels and flaming achilles I sit here with right now speak otherwise. Do I stop and sit it out or do I stretch, do my heel raises and carry on? I have never found that rest got rid of my AT so I run on and use some brufen.. the running is considerably less enjoyable though.

So it seems that I cannot run every day or at least not yet and perhaps it has been quite a while since I did any serious training (I guess August was mostly rest!!)

I am still trying to rationalise the voice that says I should stay in bed, drink more beer and hey just kick back for a bit. It all sounds tempting but I have a goal to achieve and I am going after it. October will see some interesting running and a gradual build back up to cycling every Sunday at least 4hrs. The programme begins in earnest after I have recovered from Luton marathon (2weeks without running but a kick start to the swimming)so that is December.

Need to get the buzz back first though.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Its called the Maff, The Monster Maff

Everybodys talking bout the new sensation, come on baby do the Maffetone. Better than slice bread and twice as good for you. The answer to all your training woes and soon we will all be able to race like Mark Allen.

At least thats what it says on the tin. Essentially the maff strikes me as doing a controlled period of base training whilst undertaking an objective test of whether your training is working every 4 weeks or so. The key point is that at no time do you go into the threshold zone and above, or level 3 and above, or Borg >13 or >5 if you like new Borg!, or whatever other measure of exercise level you wanna use. The point, I think, is that this allows maximal training effect with minimal downside of injury and so on. The question is who is it most likely to work best for.

If you are an elite top-end AGer the reality is you probably train too hard too much of the time (at least thats what the Maffia will have you believe). By allowing a period of base where the body recovers and probably develops that all important aerobic base, you are then in a position to build on this with your natural talent and top end speedwork (like Mark Allen). If you are a middling time limited AGer is this gonna work to get the speed up come the new season?

More and more I feel that a genetic component is huge part of this and to some degree no matter how hard you train if you aint got it you aint ever gonna have it, and a naturally high VO2 Max is always gonna be an advantage. In addition I also think that response to training is also hugely variable (and firmly based in our gene pool) and there is lots of evidence out there to support this but most importantly I think IM also has a huge component of self determination.
Nietzsche's "will to power", the idea behind superman and the belief that the only thing that holds us back from superhuman efforts is our psyche, is another way of describing this. In other words personal belief will get you a long way in IM racing. Would also make a dead cool race nutrition brand.
If I did not think this, then the idea that my genetic limitations may never allow me to achieve my goals would lead to rapid disillusion.

But back to me and the Maff. I am gonna try it, sort of. Being a bit of an iconoclast I could never do it in the fully prescribed way. For a start the method of choosing you HR limit is pretty random, take 180 subtract your age add 5 for good behaviour and so on. Not terribly scientific whether empirical or metric. But I am gonna do all my runs at a HR of less than 145, except for the 10KM on the first sunday of every month and after 10 weeks I think I might start to sneak in a bit of speedwork if things are going well.

My target is to get up to 8 hrs running a week by early October which will be 2 hrs more than I have ever averaged before. This should be around 60 miles a week. To facilitate this I am backing of on the bike riding to max 6 hrs a week and swimming 2 x weekly. This should put the volume in place to see me through my first marathon which will be hilly (Snowdon Marathon) on Oct 25th. I aim to run this at training pace so somewhere around 8 min miles with the idea that I can recover quickly to get back in training. I will not race but use this as a key session in my build to the second marathon in Luton. If the plan works then I should then have 1 week recovery and a 4 week build including some speed sessions followed by a 2 week taper.

All being well I should be able to run a solid 3.10 marathon and possibly faster. The leap of faith required is 1. to avoid injury. I am ramping up the hours quite quickly but think I should have the base to tolerate this so long as I stick to the Maff. I will need to exert caution around the 10km races since these have caused me trouble in the past. 2. If I can get the hours in will they enough give me the endurance to maintain a faster pace come race day. 3. Will introducing a 4 week set of speedwork be enough since I intend to go quite easy even at that stage to avoid injury.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

End of the year 2008

Sadly my tri exploits have come to an end for 2008 as a recurrent calf strain has reared it's ugly head and reduced my running to a slow shamble. Have not quite got it back together since IM Austria and wont to get a focus on moving towards 2009 which means recovering from this years racing and starting to build towards next year. With 2009 being my 5th year of triathlon I think I might be starting to learn about what does and does not work for my body. The key challenge is putting it all together and sticking to the plan.

So my aims are 1. to minimise time lost to injury (as follows) 2. to prolong the base until end of March 3. to do all running following the Maffetone method 4. to follow my own schedule of weekly turbo sessions to build my threshold power 5. to swim 15000m a week for the 12 weeks from feb through to april.

To help me get my bike training on target I plan to train by power from February so will be visiting to hire a power meter for the build up to Lanzarote. I am also entertaining the introduction of a new bike to the household since the cost of upgrading my soloist with new aerobars and bits is about the same cost as a new P2C dura ace courtesy of R&A bikes (well not quite the same cost) and I deserve a 40th birthday present.
Finally I am going to have another go at 100 days of sit ups. The idea is to achieve a minimum of 40 situps and 20 pressups every day for 100 days. Should be easy but does not seem to be. that said it gets easier and after about 14 days you start to get mission creep. Last year I managed 41 days- we shall see.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Being Dad

Ironman is all about the work/life/family/triathlon balance for your average soon to be fortysomething Age Grouper.

My children are still malleable enough to accept that daddy trains and does stuff and that this is 'important' to him, my partner however is far more acutely aware of the balance and the variations thereof. Hence the necessity for early morning training and the need to be able to shrug of the fatigue from a 6 hr ride and take the family out for an afternoon of fun. like all things it has to be worked out but it helps if you can take time out from training, even if what this really means is talking about it less and accepting a few missed sessions. Summer holidays provide significant challenges to a training programme and the balance when there are two working parents and 7 weeks before term starts. This combined with going away to foreign lands for your hols leads to a more flexible approach to training.

To which end I found myself running up an alpine mountain with 2 special forces trained fortysomethings (retired, and if I told you their names they would have to kill me :-) ) used to such alpine pursuits. Whilst I was doing this my children were swimming in a lake on the other side of a mountain. I let my two mates have their fun on the way up and then punished them by runninng down the other side. We did about 2000m ascent, 2500m descent and covered in the region of 18 miles in 5 hours, and as it was a holiday we had two beers along the way by way of refuelling. Nutrition being the fourth discipline of triathlon we then ate an enoromous meal with plenty of wine whilst the kids ran around and watched the firework specially laid on for us (and the other 40,000 people alongside the lake).

Apart from this I admired the people cycling up the mountains and wished I had brought a bike with me (alas it was not to be). Instead I did a Via Ferrata 350 m of vertiginous ascent hanging of the side of the mountain. I think it was payback for running down the mountain.

For my third and final session of training I took the dog for a run. Said dog has different ideas on running and after 10 minutes decided we had gone far enough and wanted to return home. After a further 5 minutes of cajolling the dog won over and we turned at which point the dog finally started running properly racing me back home. Strangely enough after 30 mins of running I felt like a rest too.

Too fill in the work life family balance I spent the rest of the time doing dad things, like letting my kids fly down a zip wire, quad biking and trampolining. All in all being dad is more important than everything else, but like many others I choose to be a dad who does ironman and I hope they see it as something positive. too which end next week I am back on the programme.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Baby I got the Blues

Came back to earth with a crash. Got off the airplane at 6.00 p.m. on thursday week ago and was called in to work at 7.00pm. Life goes on and the willing suspension of all things non-ironman has to come to an end at some point. Looks like next year is lining up to be a cracker though. Have confirmed 2 ironmans (?sp) or should it be ironmen, 2 marathons and a weeks training holiday. Who says it is obsessive.

Feeling a lot more worn than after IM Lanza earlier this year and feel in need of some proper rest. Allowing the sessions to be done how and when I feel which mostly means short and low intensity. That said did my hardest bike session this year which was 3 mins flat out 3 mins recovery repeat x 10. This was a hard core high intensity session done with 5 others which wrecked my legs for a few days. I am focused on the London then the Vit but only in as much as I reckon I should use my fitness to put in a few races. Deep down I am already brooding over how to get the 3 mins on the swim, the 10 mins on the bike and the 10 mins on the run. To the swim I will devote an extra hour a week, to the bike I will put on more power using the turbo and go back to more hardcore Sunday rides and the run I will let take care of itself (with a winter focus on marathon running).

I figure that with me going up to 40-44 and a good day I could track down that elusive Hawaii slot. Although maybe the hills at IMCH will not be ideal going for me. Back to the day job.......

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Yeah Baby!

So do I feel a better person now? 2 days ago I raced my first sub 10 ironman. Against a backdrop of clouds and mountains and amidst some thunder storms I had a pretty good day all round. I have really enjoyed coming back to austria for the second time and there is definitely something quite soothing about returning to an IM course. I arrived 3 days before race day with plenty of time to settle in and avoid too much pre race stress. Shared a room with Declan for 2 days which was good company in the hotel porker (porcia) which I cannot recommend unless you like early 80s marble and chintz. Did the usual expo stuff and got the bike checked over on thursday. Friday had a good morning swim with a nice bunch of tritalkers thanks to Jevon and reminded myself why this is the best swimming venue I have been to so far. Friday I chilled out completely after a drive around the course to reacuaint the brain with the route. By saturday I was feeling good and had a nice calm to myself. I swapped hotels and then picked up the family from the airport. A quiet family supper then early to bed.

Raceday arrives and no traumas although rain looks likely, what do I care at least half my winter rides are done in the rain and I love it. Soon we are standing at the edge of the water and I decide on the right side this time with Jevon and Declan behind me for company:-). I know the drill this year as well, when they say enter the water that essentially means we are off and so it goes. I had a fairly steady swim, always keeping myself in control. Probably could have gone faster as when we got to the canal section (the last 800m) I was able to speed up and start picking of those ahead of me like pacman racing along a maze. Straight through T1 but had a major calf cramp as I pulled on my shoe then out onto the bike. The start was the usual high speed stuff and I was one of them! I had thought I would have a go at doing a sub 5 bike split to see if could at least recover my cycling mojo after Lanzarote. We had rain on the first lap. On the flat and some of the downhills I was a match for anyone, only on the hills was my form somewhat lacklustre, on the first pass of the Rupi climb I found myself going backwards but settled for a steady spin up the hill without going into the red at all. Over the hill and I was flying and soon went past the trunaround in 2.28 and some seconds, a sub 5 could be on I thought. Soon after I was passed by the first of 3 significant peletons of riders. I fully understand the concept of pacing of another rider but some of my continental friends especially the more italian names like alfonso seemed to think that the 10m rule means you all have to be within 10m of the lead bike (all of you!) any way they seemed pretty skilled in group riding so I dont think they were unsafe.

I felt pretty tired around 130-140 km but managed to keep my focus. Second time up the Rupi was much the same as the first but as I came of the top I decided I would hammer it home. I wound up my legs and went hard, there are a few rises where I would spin for a bit but soon as we were back on the rolling stuff (most of the last 30 km is downhill) I was back on the gas and it felt good as I cruised past some of the "bunches " of riders giving them a bit of abuse and daring them to chase me, some did but most did not.

Hit T2 at 5.04 something so dropped around 7-8 mins on my second bike leg. I definitely had a bit of lactate (or whatever) in my legs and was soon out on the run feeling a bit heavy and regretting my 40 minutes of lunacy in the last hour of the bike. For the first 30 mins I was not a happy man. First km that I timed myself on (from 2-3 I think) had me at 6min/km. I thought this was going to be lanza all over again, my legs were dead and I was making a deal with myself that if I took over 4 hrs on the run then my IM days were over (hey I was tired and emotional). I decided to HTFU and get a rhythm going. Next splits I did was for 3km and showed 15:20, suddenly my whole race changed, I discarded the previous split did some maths and realised if I could hold this I would do a 3.35-3.40 mara (my personal gold medal run time).

Suddenly I was on again. Knowing my usual run form I also expected it to get easier at least for a bit, and as I set out on the second quarter it did. This time I had a plan, when the running feels easy, eat a la Fink. So I was doing a gel every other feed station and "ezo" energy drink plus the odd bit of banana. Sure the food made me feel a bit sick but by pushing on I was banking my nutrition for the seond half (that was my plan anyhow) and keeping my splits on goal. At 21km ther was a race clock running and I think it showed me with about 1.55 to spare for a sub 10 but I cannot be sure. The third section was tough, as ever, but I was now catching and passing more than being caught and even able to track a few faster runners for a km to try and keep my pace up. I also elected to walk alternate feed stations to get a proper drink. When I got to the last 6 km I did some bad maths on the clock and thought I had only 35 mins to do the last 6 which was gonna be tough. I asked myself how much I wanted it and how much pain could I take. The answers came back as 1. Lots and 2. More.

I had been running with a group for about 3 km and decided it was time to push, and they dropped away, I also decided I would push fast through the feed stations. Counting down the kms there was again a rogue 6 min km but this was then followed by a 4.52 so I felt better but carried on pushing. When I got to the race clock about 1.4 km from the finish I was amazed to see it on 9.4something, my maths was wrong I had the sub 10 in the bag. I eased off but the realisation that the pain was the same whatever speed meant I picked it up for the last km. I was trying to find my family but could not see them. Finally approaching the chute I did not want a repeat of last year, I looked overtook the guy in front and stretched a bit to make sure there was a gap and into the chute, my name got called and I had done it 9.53 and some.

My next thought was where could I have found those 3 minutes.......

Todays thought is where can I find those 23 minutes .. see you out there.

p.s. Melly I love you.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

So here we go again. Another ironman looms up and I feel different about this one. Strangely confident in my ability to complete but also perhaps a touch indifferent to the time it will take me. Having followed Tom and Helen through their year of training towards a tough goal I recongnise that sometimes completing is enough and times dont need to matter. Having read one of my thursday morning training partner's race report on the other hand I vicariously live the thrill of a successful racer. So what is this race to me I ask and why do I leave my house in total chaos with polish builders who do not entirely inspire confidence even if I could speak their language! (if I am lucky on my return i may have a wood floor like the one opposite).

This race will be one to enjoy, to celebrate and to find out what another year of this life has done to me. It should confirm my decisions to put my health and mental wellbeing as a priority. It also marks the end of an era as I move into the world of veterans of the fortysomethings. Does this mean I can sit back a bit- somehow I doubt that. Does this mean I can race faster slower or differently again probably not. As I look ahead I like to see someone who becomes more accepting of their own failings as well as more tolerant of those in others but also someone who is that bit more enlightened and who can learn how to go faster... because I am not sure my knees will hold out long enough to get a 75-79AG qualifier slot for Kona

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Doing things right

This is a picture of Aneurin Bevin, Founder of the NHS (60 years this week). I thought I would look at how my work practices and training for an ironman are similar and how they inform each other.

These last 10 days have been dominated by work with a a sequence of days on call (I lead a team of doctors delivering acute care for patients in a hospital) and a subsequent large patient workload which increases the demands on my weekly schedule (but luckily coincides with a reduction in hours of training- not bad on the planning front that). In addition I have been filling out paperwork to justify my pay and hopefully get me more; the key to this is a process called clinical governance which is essentially a philosphy of healthcare geared at doing things right.

Most people are clear what they want from a doctor; they want him to be polite and caring, knowledgeable, empathic, highly skilled dutiful and so on but above all have good results so they get better, especially when it comes to surgery. It is quite easy to appear to be all these things whilst actually not delivering the care patients need and likewise it is possible to exhibit none of these characteristics, at least to the incidental observer whilst actually delivering the highest quality care. The problem is how you determine whether a doctor has the desirable qualities. The process of CG if done correctly requires honest self appraisal, monitoring of you delivery of care across the year from many different perspectives (e.g. patients, colleagues, community etc) and participation in all the aspects that govern this such as audit of outcomes, attendance of meetings, further education all culminating in an annual status report where you go through the years work with a colleague summarise what was achieved and then set the goals for the coming year.

And it struck me that the parallels with training for ironman are all there. Successful racing starts with an honest appraisal of where you are starting from. It then requires the development of regular habits that if done correctly over a period of time will gradually reward you with improving performances. You need to perform regular assessments along the way (such as the odd time trial or race), and when you make mistakes look at what went wrong and learn lessons from it- and hopefully avoid making the same mistake next time. Overall you need to be honest with yourself about what you are doing and whether you are meeting your targets. It is this honesty that comes from racing at ironman: when you step out there it is easy for everyone to see how well you have performed. In my work this process is a lot less transparent but the ideals remain with me.

As I face my annual ironman appraisal by returning to IMA I wonder how honest have I been with my training this year: I felt my biking was going to be much better this year than last but IM Lanzarote was not terribly encouraging. If I dont meet my goals will I be discouraged- no I will respond by using the knowledge from this year to drive me forwards next year to try and get better both as an ironman and as a doctor.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Define "crazy"

Last week was another solid block of training but hampered somewhat by work and reality. The reality being that sometimes we get tired and need a bit of a rest. The highlight of the week had to be the midnight 100 miler.

A key session in my weekly training is an early morning ride on thursdays spent circling a traffic free Regents Park. By starting (relatively) early I can get a 3 hr bike ride followed by a full english breakfast and be in for work by 9.30. The motivating factor is that there is usually company with Steve often there from 4 or earlier and Kevin who does odd shiftwork often there even earlier. It works a bit like a drop in cycling social club with others joining as the morning progresses so that by 6.30 there can be as many as 8-10 cyclists flying round the park. Various sessions are undertaken though it sometimes descends into an ever faster group ride.

Last year at this time I arrived to find Steve and Jo there good and early and decidedly tired looking. Then they dissappeared which is unusual as they normally do breakfast. It transpired they had decided to skip sleep the night before and had gone pretty much straight from an evening swimming session to go round and round the park with the aim of doing 100 miles to celebrate the summer solstice or to build for IM Switzerland, hence they were very tired looking.

Wind forward six months and we thought a winter solstice bike ride would be a good idea. 100 miles done on the coldest night of last winter in London (Temp as low as -7 C) was a true challenge. Water bottles were frozen after 45 minutes and the cold just made any speed impossible. It was done though in around 7.5hrs and chalked as a mental toughening exercise.

Now back to last week, I wanted a crack at 100 miles in 5 hrs and Steve was a willing partner in spite of a massive week of training at epic camp the week before. We started at 1 and were going well after a gentle start and at 65 miles were on target for the 5 hrs. Then the wheels came off with steve imploding as his previous weeks training took its not to suprising toll. I pushed on but by this stage with the speed around 19.8 and not able to find any more diesel I was happy to just complete aided by Kevin who's rear wheel I sucked for a good 45 minutes.
So is this crazy behaviour or is it just different behaviour. Personally I really enjoy the challenge of doing these sessions which stand out of their own right and enable me to challenge myself. To most the idea of getting up to cycle round a closed park 38 times in the name of fun is a fairly straightforward definition of crazy. So this week I wont get up til 04:00 hrs and will only do 70 miles cause that is normal!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Putting in the hours

This year I have been coaching myself which is fun and a big learning experience. Part of the trouble with having a coach is that I can have unpredictable work hours whereby I may be called in to work in the middle of the night or at a weekend and this then plays havoc with any fixed training plan. I also find the stress from some days in the office can magnify feelings of fatigue and I might skip the odd session at the end of a long day.. sad really because once I get out there I feel so much better!

Following on form IM lanzarote with another race in 7 weeks has been interesting. I allowed 1 week of almost complete rest but was at club lesanta so did some pilates, stretching and a bit of swimming. By day 5 post race I was ready for a very gentle 1 hr ride.

On return to the UK (so 1 week after IM lanza) I managed a steady 4.5 hr ride and felt surprised by how little fatigue I had.

The last week or so of training looks like this.

Saturday 1hr turbo bike warm up (230 watts) 2hr run (8 min mile or so)

Sunday 5 hr bike session

Monday 1 hr swim (400m, 10 x 200, 6 x100m)

Tuesday 1hr bike to work (series of 1 mile hard efforts with breaks at traffic lights), 1 hr bike home steady then 1hr 30 mins (8min mile) run

Wednesday 1 hr swim (400m, 4 x 800m)

Thursday 2.5 hr bike including 2 x30 mins hard (and 2 punctures) then 50 min run (8 min mile) later did 1hr swim (40 mins steady then 4 x 100, 8 x 50)

Friday 2 hr 15 min run (8 min miles)
Saturday 1hr 30 min turbo (incl 6 x5 mins LT) and 50 min run straight off

Sunday 5hr bike and 45 min run
Reading what some friends of my have done at Epic training camp reminds me that the limits may be a lot further away than I think. With a solid 2 year training history of maybe 14 hrs a week I should be able to manage a 2 week spike in hours so long a I am careful on the intensity and get enough rest and eat well. So next week will be a repeat of this one with an extra 100 mile ride on Thursday when I will ride through the night (for a laugh) then sleep through work and pushing out one of the long run to 2.5 hrs.

Will all this work- I have no idea but it is fun learning what stick I can cope with. Setting goals for IMA they are one of three a) 5hr bike split or b) sub 10 or c) sub 3.45 marathon.
I am sure I can do one of these!!!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Selfish or focused?

One of the appeals to many in undertaking an IM is that the events are largely under your own control. As all those who make the journey realise it will put you into conflict with those around you if you allow it too- and as you start to change it is sometimes difficult for those around you to adapt to this change.

How do we offset this focus on our own goals, should we worry about this and where does it end?

Personally I find that the advantages of training include the obvious like being fitter, the collateral benefits such as significant reduction in alcohol intake and the organisational benefits I have touched on before. It is still though a big step to deny my family my presence, or perhaps not (;-), as I set out early on a Sunday for a long ride. Even if I am back by 11 the morning is gone and after 5 hrs riding I am not the most energetic! I would argue though that on my return I am ready to focus on my family and I feel all the better for having been out and done the work.

The question still remains though as to what value we can attribute to our obsession and whether there are ways in which we can give back on the time invested in training, beyond the personal hoped for longevity and sense of well being.

One aspect which I would like to try and focus upon is how we can use our obsession to support others. The fringe benefits of encouraging others to pursue physical fitness both within our families and our workplace are well recognised but sadly these effects are small.

Living as I do in a mixed ethnicity multicultural inner city area with the associated socioeconomically deprived I have started to wonder if there is a way of harnessing the immense energy, skills and wealth of you average ironman to help the local community. Do we have a responsibility through our advantage and ability to help those around us to achieve some of their potential too? And if so how do we do it?

Does this mean I am going to start a hackney youth tri club?? Well I do not think I am the individual to do this. But could I support an aspiring youth athlete and help them to achieve some of their goals? Probably.

On a personal level I am now able to run, which is a blessed relief. I also recognise the pattern of injury that goes back to 2005 and is essentially down to tight hamstrings (I think). So I am back on a programme of post exercise stretching which I am sure will be a force for good as I head towards IM Austria.

Friday, 30 May 2008

reality bites


Swim1.02 T1 5.21 Bike 6.00 T2 6.36 Run 3.56 Finish 11.10.57

Somewhere in my dream world I thought I could train for an ironman and not do too much pain. Have read the bible (friel) and it seems to suggest that this might be the case but Saturdays race suggests otherwise. Whilst my prep had not been perfect I was confident of a good bike split at IM Lanzarote. My result was not what I wanted. No breakthrough performance here. A solid race with no dramas and a run that was as good as I could have hoped for but no top 100 bike split which was my aim.

Looking for reasons it is hard to identify just one thing. Maybe I did not train hard enough, maybe I did not train long enough. Reading this made me think about my diet. Maybe it is finally time to confront my inner tweenie and stop eating all the sugar I still crave so badly in order that I become a better fat burner.

Not one to look back and remembering I am in it to be positive, I learnt I love the race, I learnt my wife is a top supporter and I learnt that for me it is enough to just be in it and that there is a lot to share with your fellow athletes as you push through the latter stages of the race.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The necessary obsession.

Todays title lifted from gordo lifted from someone else. Thought about it as I was writing a detailed race plan to cover the build up and every aspect of raceday that I could think about.

So what is this necessary obsesssion? well it refers to what is needed to succeed at long distance tri. An ability to let it overcome all sorts of other considerations to the point where it can be overwhelming. Looking back at the last 6 months to the man in the street my behaviour is beyond the obsessive. But to an aspirational age grouper it is probably about par for the course and we would share this obsession. To my partner it is just about tolerable given the clear sense of wellbeing that I get from my training.
I think human beings are hard wired for this sort of thing. It is what makes our brains such an amazing tool and enables us to overcome all sorts of complex problems and keep trying until we find a way through which for you proto human being must have given us a considerable survial edge.

Coming to IM racing I find it mimics my career in many ways. Long periods of training to perform a complex task (operations), learning all the little bits that when put together make for a smooth and successful performance. When repeated over time some of these bits become almost ingrained patterns of behaviour (at work) and I try and bring this to my racing. Performing on the day to the best of my available abilities is all I can hope for. But I would not settle for anything less either, so anything else that I can control come raceday I will.

So when it comes to my raceplan how many Co2 cannisters should I carry come raceday? The obsessive can find reasons for at least 5 cannisters. The truly focused might go without. I take 3!
5 days to go. Thanks Jev for the support. The mara is gonna be a mystery but the swim and bike are a cert for a good time.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Dealing with adversity

So after 6 months of hard training, was at the best I have ever been then my running goes of the rails with a calf injury. Not sure why as it was a low volume running week but may have been the accumulation of fatigue with too much top end work. Not run for 10 days and starting to wonder what will happen come race day.

So how do I deal with it?

Look at the positives. The swimming and the running are the best they have ever been. Swimming marginally so but the biking feels great, which makes for a good first 7 hours or so of the race.

Accept what is done is done. There is nothing I can do now that will change what has happened and I should recognise that I have learnt something about my training and try to avoid the same scenario next time. With acceptance then comes the ability to try and look for solutions and ways of rationalising what has happened. It is important to examine what lead to the failure so that I do not repeat the same mistakes (injuries are failures of training in the same way that accidents are never the result of divine fate but the result of a number of smaller incidents that were potentially avoidable).

So what for Lanzarote? Firstly got to remember I do this for fun and if I am risking serious injury come run time then it may be a long walk or DNF. Secondly focus on nailing the swim and the bike and seeing how good I can feel as I head out for the run. Third believe that come race day it will be OK, I have done lots of run training, I will have had a long run taper, it will work. Strong mental visualisation of success and easy running are important to me in my preparation. I do the same for work and it seems to benefit me by finding the extra edge in race performance.

Finally remember that it will be a great place for a holiday with the rest of my family, and that there is always next year.

Monday, 5 May 2008

five pound swimming pool hustle

This last week after near 300 miles of bike in the week before I focused on swimming and put in 4 sessions for a total of 14,000m. This has had repercussions, like I got cramp in my calf when only 10km into my long run on friday but also benefits.

The clear benefits are in this series of 3x (5x100m of 20,15,10 and 5 sec) Ok I was in a wetsuit but the times 1.22,1.20,1.25,1.24,1.25,1.24,1.25,1.28,1.24,1.26 etc are all under 1.30. This is the first time I have managed sub 1.30s more than 5 x in a row so I was well chuffed and happy that a sub 1 hr should be in the bag (allowing for waves and general idiocy on my behalf). The flip side of this was that the pool was busy with 2 lanes out of action so a lot of fastish swimmers crammed into half the space of normal.. and I loved it. In doing so I must of crossed a few other swimmers and generally been a bit irritating to some of the others in the lane... so maybe not such a good thing, but when you are on fire it seems to conquer all other considerations.

Now to the hustle. My youngest was challenged by the pool attendant to do the swim test (again... for the 6th time in 2 years). I said she could swim to the end of the pool and back no problem. The pool attendant looks her up and down and says no chance. I said you wonna bet he said £5.

2mins 50 secs and 100metres later we were £5 to the good, so there are benefits from taking them to all those swimming lessons. And a well happy daughter to boot.

I just hope that now London has a new Mayor we are notgoing to see drastic cuts in the funding of facilities like the local pool.

Otherwise things are looking good. Made a rash boast that april would see me over a 1000 bike miles, but reality kicked in and got to 800 something. If you want to read about someone who really puts the miles down read this.

19 days to go to Lanza, currently doing some skin training in the sun. Looks like no running for a week though as calf is worse than I first thought, ran for 10 mins and it shut me down and I had to walk home.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Its gonna be a hot one

Well not so sure about being a better person through ironman but I am definitely a happier one. Did my 48 hr sojourn to lanzarote and discovered it is a) very hilly b) very windy and c) very hot. Spent best part of weds doing 100 odd miles around the island followed by a 30 min run off the bike and then finally a 30 min swim in a lagoon near club lesanta. A solid days work with Declan who plans to claim be the fastest irish ironman sometime this year and who gave me a good working over on the bike.

Learnt about the joys of getting a speed wobble at 40+mph (I touched my breaks and the world went wobbly as I hurtled down a hill). In the time it took me to stop after crossing the white line twice and avoiding two almost certainly fatal collisions (through no skill or effort on my behalf- it was all I could do to hang on) I thought about several important things. I realised how much my two children and wife mean to me and what a stupid way to die having a bike crash would be; I realised I am not quite so tough as I thought and would pay a lot to avoid a repeat of that situation and I realised how I really should have tightened up my front skewer a bit more when I put the wheel back on.

Advice as to how to get out of a speed wobble appears to be as follows.

1. Accelerate out of it- so I am doing 40mph all over the road and I commit to going faster....
2. Grab hold of the cross tube to dampen the vibration.. so I let go of a bucking bronco and try and get hold of the tube, by which time I have wiped out big time.
3. you'll like this.. do a bunny hop... at 40 mph FFS
4. try cadence braking... my bake does not come with ABS

or my solution hold on for grim death, pull on brakes as much as you can and shout loudly " am not going to f34king crash and die today thankyou god.

That aside Lanza was great even the 10 km run (1 lap of the course at race time 2p.m.) in 31 degrees of heat and wind. So I am working on how to stay cool in the heat, which is why I have added a picture of Torbjorn Sindballe in his hot weather gear!!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Organisational chaos

Never having been a A plus student in the organisational league I tend to structure my life in a way that minimises the need for being too organised. That is not to say that I don't plan things and that I don't make lists and the like. It is just that I usually lose the list and change my plans so neither are desperately helpful.

Triathlon and in particular Ironman impose the demands of organisation upon me by matching my desire to achieve with a recognition that it needs focus, planning and assessment of where I am going with it all. Through Ironman I have become someone who (nearly) always makes a packed lunch, who knows what they are doing a week next Thursday and who can have frank discussions with themself about how things are going both in and out of training. Equally I now have tremendous indifference to the car I drive, the latest trends and so on.... unless of course we are talking about carbon fibre bikes or the latest swim suits.

So this Tuesday I am flying to Lanzarote for a 48 hr training camp. This has required some organisation staring with a prolonged campaign to persuade my partner of the benefits of said camp which I will be on my own for. In 2 days I hope to cycle the Im lanza course 1.5 times. Swim in the sea twice and manage 2 runs. How do I plan what to take.. write a list and then carefully assemble everything in to my bike box. No. I start by dissembling my bike, as I do this I start to collect things I think I will probably need, gradually box gets fuller. When I can no longer close it I take the odd bit out and then seal it shut. Should work.

So does this make me a better person. I doubt it, but I am more aware of how my desires impact upon those around me, and the need to have other things under control while I pursue my hobby. I am better at committing to what I will and will not do and prioritise all things. The issue that remains is always how highly you prioritise your training especially the long runs and rides which are demanding mentally physically and temporally and therefor have the biggest impact on life outside IM.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Fitting it all in

One of the biggest challenges to a working father is finding the time to fit the training in without alienating yourself from family, friends and work. Sometimes it runs on a knife edge and the stress can start to effect all things. Achieving the balance requires planning, flexibility good time management and motivation.

Ironfit by Don Fink gives some inspiration (but not much). Fitting a 20 hr training week into a 50 hr working week and still being there to pick kids up from school and taking them to swimming, generally be dad and be a support to my partner requires a lot of Juggling. Luckily the nature of my work enables some flexibility as I am to some degree my own boss. A fixed and fairly rigid schedule outside of work and maximising the use of early starts is the main key for me. The last part is an endlessly tolerant partner who reminds me of the necessity to participate rather then just be present for the family (although sometimes I can only just about manage being present) and who will challenge my need to train when it encroaches too much on the rest of the activities.

To this end I am early to bed and early to rise. An hour run is often snuck in before the family gets up on a weekday. A regular 3 hour ride on thursday morning, starting at 04:30 is another key session. My long ride at a weekend is always done by 12 on a sunday and saturdays as often kept free from any peak time training (so again I get up early and I am often back by 9 having done a 2.5hr brick session).

Funnily I often feel I have more time than I used to. I always make a pack lunch to ensure I have what I want to eat when I want to eat it and do not waste time queuing to get it. I organise my work diary to maximise effectiveness at work and to eliminate dead time and avoid taking on projects that do not have clearly defined endpoints or outcome measures. Finally I still watch tv but not as much (I was once a full blown couch potato) and usually only watch specific programmes that I have recorded.

More and more I try to make my training part of my lifestyle, such that it no longer feels odd to excuse myself from company to go and do a 1 hour run (like when visiting friends) and then pick up where we left off.

Mind you we all need a rest sometimes and I look forward to tapering in 4 weeks.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Where it began

So I thought I would have my own space to work out why I do ironman and how it can make me a better person.

I have been doing triathlon since 2005. This followed a painful first london marathon in 2004 after which I swore I would never do anything like it again. My training prior to this had been a decade of sleep deprivation as a junior doctor, at least 20 cigs a day and the very occasional game of 5-a-side which was largely undertaken at a walk.

From my first sprint triathlon at Blenheim 2005 to Ironman Austria 2007 was a fairly seemless progression up the endurance scale. Having got there I found an event I wanted to do again and learnt some hard facts along the way. Not least I was suprised on the impact for good (mostly) that doing triathlon has been and how I hope it continues to do so.