Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Starting Over

Training has not progressed in the last 3 weeks and I have logged my lowest hours of training in a 4 week period since about 2003! As a consequence I am now a full 7 kg heavier than prerace for IMCH in August.

I managed to strain a back muscle as a consequence of jumping back into the saddle, both literally and metaphorically, a bit too fast. This left me literally unable to train since running, swimming and cycling were just not possible. This was interesting as I watched my fitness decline still further and I had untold reserves of time to ponder in... except obviously work, family and sleep rapidly expanded to fill the vacuum leaving me wondering where on earth I plan on doing any training.

That aside I did reflect on what must now be declared a pattern of injury come autumn time. I think this reflects my pattern of autumn training which hitherto has been very goal orientated ie I will try and run faster longer etc and has not neccessarily been based on recuperation or consolidation. With that in mind I am hoping to focus on getting some strength back and may even join a gym for a few months to do a som core work and to mix up my sessions a bit. I hope this will then see me back and ready to train hard in the New Year......

written 2 weeks ago

Sunday, 18 October 2009

My standard week

well done to all those people who did IM Kona. Boy do i wonna go there!

Since my training is a bit awry at the moment I thought I would review what I aim to do in a standard week.


Rest day with option for extra swim or run p.m. if not too tired after days work


45 min bike into work and 45 bike home then a 2hr block (usually long run)


a.m. swim if pool open (no lights in winter)

p.m. 1 hr run whilst me children do their swimming club


a.m. 2-3 hr bike including interval sessions

currently modified to be 2 hr run then 40 min hill session


swim if possible (sometimes late at work so pool closed)



swim in summer


second long run if possible(1-2.5 hrs depending on where I am in training)


4-6 hr bike

1hr swim
1hr run

In general i usually miss one of the 3 swims and one of the runs depending on what is happening at work. this means I have to be flexible and keep reworking my schedules.

This generally works well and meshes with all my other roles and time commitments. By keeping to the same strict routine I can achieve a regular 12 hr week of training with potential to increase this at peak times. It does not however lend itself easily to changing up sessions especially in winter when it comes to getting the extra swimming in unless I find a new venue for swimming which would come at a time cost per swim. This time could theoretically be out to better use elsewhere in my training week should I have the necessary discipline, experience tells me this is unlikely.

In general I try to rotate through 3 swimming sessions (steady state swim say 45-60mins non stop, long intervals say 10 x 200 as main set, and short speed work including 3 x 4 x 100 on long rests). In winter I am usually less discipline with my swimming and try and do differen sets to keep the interest up).

Running has been done for the last year at goal race pace for IM e.g. 8 min/miles for most of it. Speedwork seems to leave me injured, see current 2 week gap in run training following first 10km for a year!

Bike is done again a lot harder most of the time than those I occasionally train with. If I have a 4 hr ride I will do it pretty much at a pace that is the wrong side of comfortable. And that is basically what I have done for the last 2 years with a few modifications.

The big question is can I do it any better. Well I am sure with more time I could do more but that is not an option. Perhaps I could do more focus each week on different disciplines but again I am not sure that would do more for my training.

Looking back my best running has been achieved after a winter of consistent running and my best bike was this summer and came from a good base but then a few key sessions prior to IMCH (which were IM lanza, a few 100 mile rides where I just felt good and some solid thurs morning rides). I have yet to achieve a best swim!

In general it takes about 8 weeks to get me into the groove, once there I can start to ramp up the hours a bit. However being a fulltime dad and doctor there are limits to the fatigue my work and family can put up with. I probably use my perceived fatigue, especially when it comes to days when I lose any desire to train, as an indicator of where my training limits lie.

Now I think if it get it right, hold the weeks together without injury, then a full 16-20 week build up to IMDE should see me going faster than ever.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Enjoy the training

I must say that I have really enjoyed the training this week. Not sure why really. The running is going ok and enjoyed a steady 10KM today in 41.30- would have been a bit faster if I had not got cramp in my right hamstring as I kicked for home in the last K only to find it tighten up. Instead of a last K in sub 4mins it took 4.30 which rather took the shine of things. However since this was on the back of a hard 5 hr bike ride yesterday I hope there is more speed to come.

Part of the fun this week has come from changing around some of my routine a bit and particularly good was a session of hill repeats on Parliament Hill in Hampstead. Each breathless climb was rewarded by the most fantastic views across London before dropping down again to repeat the exercise. This is going to stay in the programme for at least the next eight weeks. I think it is pretty good for building leg strength and should also help me to get up onto my toes a bit more- which I is probably a good thing. Sadly I got yet another rejection from the London Marathon (a total of 5 in 7 years) so more motivation for a good run at Luton.

Not much to add really. A big shout to all those in Kona and hope that your days go well.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Still running

I am please to report that I have managed an entire week of running without incurring any significant injuries. A total mileage of 38 miles in the week sees me at a level I have not managed for nearly 18 months ( when in IM training mode in my heaviest weeks I may get to 40 odd miles but rarely more!). Since I am on a run focus it is interesting to see how much quicker I recover and how much less fatigue I feel.

I am back on the bike from this weekend as I believe you have to keep the long rides going winter, spring, summer or autumn, to misquote a song :-)

so now starting to try and pick a way to train for Luton Marathon. As ever sustainablity would seem to be the key. I am currently trying to get up to 2 x 2hr runs a week, with at least 2 other runs a week. The idea of running a marathon every week is frankly not sustainable (at the moment) as I just dont have that sort of (muscular) running endurance, nor indeed the time in my life to fit another 4 hr session in without sacrificing my weekend bike.

If and when I get to back up a few solid 50 mile weeks it might then be something I consider (so the end of October maybe). That would still leave me short of the miles I would like to get in by Luton to start contemplating a sub 3 but I would hope I could run a 3.14 in a controlled fashion.

Which still leaves me thinking about a sub 3! I guess it will depend on progress by Luton, but if I get there in good condition then I will be looking for another marathon in february- any ideas?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Been a while but life has been demanding and for the time being the old work thing has to take a bit of precedence. That said I managed to knock out a 3.33 marathon at the 3 to go marathon on sat 12th sept which was pretty good considering the complete lack of significant running between my last IM and the race. The race was great and one I can strongly recommend as a good day out (a slightly odd statement for anyone who does not have a strong background of endurance training I guess). I set out to run 8 min miles and was pretty much bang on for the whole race except the last 3 miles when my legs stiffened up (lack of training). I also ran out of things to eat at about mile 18 which may have been a factor. My plan is to try and run a marathon or equivalent distance once a month through the winter (injuries etc permitting). So the next one will be in October, possibly a lumpy one in Surrey hills failing that a homemade tour of all the major london parks.

Other goals for winter training are to see if I can manage a 200m non-stop butterfly, which gives swimming a slightly different angle. In addition I will try and do more swimming strength work all of which is designed to keep me motivated across the winter.

Cycling will be left to be done as and when I feel. In general I shall aim to stick with a 4 hr ride most weekends to keep things going but as I plan to work on running and therefore I am going to avoid any heavy bike work.

It seems likely that next year will be the last season for IM racing for a while since the time commitments are starting to impinge on the other world. I think I may well focus on a single discipline for a year or two and perhaps try and do some other endurance challenges like cycling to somwhere far away, doing a mountain marathon or swimming something challenging.

In the meant time I'll just keep plugging away at this autumns goals.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

To do two or not to (do) ((2)) ?

July 1st this year I logged on early to get a space for IM Germany. This was going to be my A race for next year. I was still toying with the idea of doing IM Lanza for the third time but decided that maybe a family holiday at easter would be better way to spend a week in Lanza and the date this year for some reason is no longer in synch with the school summer half terms (but this may not be insurmountable).

Then I raced IM Switzerland and found a course I liked, unlike TomW, particularly the run which is heavily shaded and has plenty to keep the mind alert. Even better they changed the date to the 1st August bang in the middle of school hols.

So now the dilemma. I feel I have done well racing back to back IMs with a 6/7 week gap but I am less confident about the 4 weeks. With 6 weeks I have managed to put in some top sessions in weeks 4/5 and have felt this has really boosted my second IM (especially the hard 100 milers) but I am less sure about the 4 weeks.

I know some such as Russ have done very well but I think this has been off a much bigger background training volume than I can achieve. I dont know yet whether I "train on" after my first IM race, to steal a phrase from horse racing, and if so whether this will work across a shorter distance. Ah well, I guess there is an easy way to find out!! Hotel booked for Frankfurt, hotel booked for Zurich, looks like IM 6 and IM 7 are on the way.

Back to the training. Needless to say running has been hampered by calf strain. rested up for the Dextro race at weekend and felt it go as I ran towards T1 out of the swim (new Oly p.b. of 24.06) had a good bike but not that fast (1.07-I have done very little by way of training since July14th) and managed about 800m of run before I packed it in.

So now a period of rehab, slow running... and then a little matter of the 26.2 miles on sept 12th. I know its probably not sensible but sometimes I just cant help myself... promise to self, take a taxi cab number and remember to run slowly.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Owls and stuff

Been back from hols for 7 days and it is clear I need more of them. My daughters and I had a fantastic time camping in France. The highlight was on a campsite in the Il de Re near La Rochelle. After a hard day of lying on the beach, eating oysters and steak, and lying on the beach again I found sleeping a real pleasure. On the second night there we were awoken by the blood curdling screech of a psychotic axe murderer, or a small owl depending on whether you were inside or outside the tent. Said owl was sat in the tree above our tent emitting its blood curdling noise to which there was a reply by his mate from the other side of the campsite... after a while it was no longer funny as we all stood outside our tent beneath the tree where the owl was doing its thing.

I shone our biggest torch on full beam and gave the owl a full on disco strobe effect. The owl started to jig from side to side "doing a Micheal Jackson" as my youngest put it, bobbing and weaving its head from side to side... but still giving it large with the terrible noise. It was one of the funniest things my daughters and I had ever seen. Each time we flashed the owl with the light it did some more bobbing.
Eventually when we stopped laughing and as the owl still showed no sign of going I threw a tent peg at it...well in the vicinity, the screeching stopped but there was aloud clanking as the peg fell onto the roof of the caravan next door! Back inside the tent we hid and giggled awaiting the shouts of an angry man from the caravan.. It never happened and eventually we giggled back to sleep.
Suffice to say that training was not a priority across the week although I did manage a beautiful 16km run around a lake with my 22 year old nephew ( he went out fast but blew at about 12 km- who says I am competitive) and a fantastic ride around the lake the day after on my MTB.
Back home and I have decided to try and swim every day in the build up to the dextro tri this weekend. Last week saw me put in 7 swims in 8 days (some kind of record I am sure) recording nearly 20KM. i wonder how the swim will go? As posted last time I am trying to mix and match my run training... so after the 4x 400m speed set and tried a tempo run friday and had to stop due to cramp in a hamstring! Sunday run had to be aborted as said strain had not ye settled.

Sadly the bike to has been somewhat neglected.. even the turbo session I tried did not seem to work since when I tried to push my willing was not there and I climbed of disconsolate. But hey you cant have it all and if the running and biking have to slide for a bit then so be it.. frankly I would much rather another week of screeching owls and french campsites.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Faster and Longer and Shorter and Slower or Something

So there goes another season of Ironmannery. I guess I should review the season's progress and stuff like that but I can do that another day. For now I plan to focus on my goals for the next few months which are essentially running.

Around this time last year I tried a bit of running (50 mins or more) for every day of september, as part of a planned build up to Luton Mara. I managed 29 runs in september and on the 30th ignored my body which was telling me I had had enough and followed the macho voice in my brain which said go for the last run to complete the goal. Result was me pulling up after 20 mins of running on stumps with a trashed calf muscle and my running suffered for most of this year as a consequence. So I learnt, yet again, to listen to my body and not the little voice in my head.

This year I want to learn to run faster. I plan to try and do some 10km style training while also building towards Luton Marathon. Goals are very simple, a sub 40 10km and a sub 3.15 mara. The first stages towards this include some fast work in the next 13 days before I do the London Dextro energy Tri. Can I start getting some fast twitch fibres back on line in that time? I will find out.

Once that is done I will start on some regular short interval work coupled with weight training and some plyometric type stuff. Obviously I will need to keep some long runs to keep me on track for a marathon and will enhance this by mixing in some hill sessions. The plan is to keep the running mixed and challenging whilst of course listening to my body and not the little voice in my head saying I could just do a bit more. Swimming will be done for recovery, bike will be maintained but running will be the focus. I will try and put up some planned sessions over the next few weeks and would welcome any advice on top sessions to improve my 10km speed (and no I am not doing a Maffetone- I want to feel fast rather than believe that at some far of point in the future I might be fast).
So thats clear then!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

That felt good- IM Switzerland race

Short report

Swim 1.04.47

T1 2.04

Bike 5.04.37

T2 1.30.1

Run 3.39.55

Total 9.52.56

Long report

Usual prerace nerves exacerbated by feeling very unwell on Monday and Tuesday such that on Monday I had to leave work early and spent most of Tuesday sleeping. Not sure what it was but will call it a tummy bug.

By weds I was feeling better and did a run in the evening. When I got to Switzerland via London city airport (gotta be the best place to fly from, no queues no hassle) I had enough time to book in and build my bike before joining a supervised romp around the bike course. That was a real blast. I went way to fast for the first 30 km hanging onto the heels of a big German engine chatting with Jon Hotchkiss who was venturing into IM for the first time but clearly has a lot of talent in the faster stuff. We then headed into the hills which were none to bad before charging down some real fast descents. I binned the ride at about 80km foregoing the pleasure of heartbreak hill until raceday. It was by far the hardest session I have yet done in a race week and left my legs buzzing a bit!!

Friday I managed a swim and met up with another Jon who I first met in at the start of Lanzarote in 2008, 2nd time at London Oly and this was our third meeting. We had a cool swim out into Lake Zurich and generally enjoyed the vibe of bobbing up and down in a water in the middle of some great backdrops. Saturday I focused on being as laid back as possible except for a tiny jog and a small ride down to transition. To be honest I still did not feel great unlike my prerace health before Lanza where I had felt fantastic.

Raceday and I had slept well but was still not sure how I thought it was going to go. I was worried being ill might affect the latter stages of the race and my lack of appetite may have affected my energy stores. Time telescoped and there we all were waiting for the off drifting past the start line. Eventually as is often the way in mass water starts someone at the front had enough and bolted for the open water end everybody charged after... there was no gun or signal!!!

Head down I was going well, rounded the first buoy, started hitting my stroke and felt like I was swimming well and gently passing up through the field. As we closed in on the second buoy the field tightened but there was only a bit of argy bargy, as I came out of the water to sight I could not really see in the distance so relied on what is a normally a good sense of direction but on Sunday was clearly broken. Next time I look up I am headed towards the apocalypse, well about a 1000 swimmers all coming directly towards me. I must have turned 180 degrees and was heading back where I came from. Now totally confused I spied an amused canoeist who gently showed me the way I should be heading. The rest of the swim followed with minimal mishap but my mojo was clearly blown and I struggled thereafter to find a rhythm and could not shake the nagging doubt that I was constantly headed back into more mayhem.

Finally out of the water at T1 I was surprised to find it raining slightly. Soon I was hammering out onto the bike course. I had already decided as soon as was feasible that I was gonna put the power down hard. I know it is not what the books say but 30 km on the flat is what I am made for! Sure there was some big bunches gathering but a strong headwind meant that even at a race legal 10 m you still got a big benefit from those in front making it much harder to get off the front of these packs, but on the first lap that is exactly what I did. A few rumbling discwheels came past but mostly it was me doing the overtaking. Into the hills on the first leg and I felt solid if not great. There are a few long drags then some great fast swooping downhills which I really enjoyed. A bit of light rain made me a bit tentative on the corners but otherwise it was all good. At about 70km you come back to the lake before heading round to "heartbreak hill" this is a short sharp climb quite close to the race venue and is stacked with spectators who crowd in close and give you a great lift. I was passed by several going up the hill but i had plans. On the descent I started to crank it up again and started blasting past a few riders as we hit the lakeside again for another 35km speedfest.

The second bike leg I felt strong. A headwind along the flat and a failure of the commissars to punish anyone meant that drafting was rife. I got caught by many I had already overtaken after about 10 km of the second lap. Even sitting 10m of the back (ie draft legal) there was a huge advantage as they blocked the headwind by riding 3 and 4 abreast and the same deep! Twice I tried to get of the front but with a large chasing pack they kept coming back. After the second time I chose to stay draft legal behind the pack and bide my time. With about 5 km before the turn off I jumped off the front and put in a hard effort, this worked in the pack behind spread out considerably and also meant I got to the next feed station with only a few others in close company. There was then a moderate hill where I was passed by most of the freshish riders who clearly had benefited from their draft behind me. I recovered quickly though and was sonn pushing past again. The next 30 km were amongst the best I have felt when racing IM. I dont remember many passing me but felt like I was slowly working my way through the field. I think some of this was an illusion but nonetheless I was able to hold a good pace. Soon I was back to the lake and the flat before heartbreak for the second time, this time I started slower but gradually built up pace knowing the climb and responding to the disco beats being played, I am always a sucker to a good tune, and again came flying of the top and back towards transition.

Soon I was back in for T2 and a quick change out onto the run. A quick systems check and apart from a stiff back I felt good. In the first K I was caught by a tall 50ish y.o. german wearing a kona hat. I decided to track him as his pace felt about right.. and I did a whole lap on his shoulder! He did not want to talk and I was happy to let him sort the pace out and just focus on staying with him! As the run progressed I felt good going into the second lap and worked out that with stead progress I should be able to do another sub 10 which is always good motivation! The second lap went well, once I had discovered the energy drink gave me stomach cramps (like clockwork about 60 secs after drinking it) so I changed to gels and water and the digestion issues seemed to ease, or maybe I was slowing ;0.

The third lap as ever was tough, my thighs tightened up so I changed to a high cadence short stride which at least kept me going. The battle this time was easier though and for the first time since I have started racing IM 26 miles did not seem to far. Mentally this was a great breakthrough and before I knew it I was onto the last lap. My stride eased up a bit and i found running easier for a while. Funnily it was when I realised I had about 35 minutes for the last 4.5K to go sub 10 that the pain came back. Still I kept going by visualising my normal 10 km run around Victoria Park and knowing I run that very week and imagining that was where i was. The last turnaround is about 3 km away from the finish and at this point I felt strong enough to push for home. I focused on an upright body and a good stride and.. it worked. I picked up at least 6 places in the last leg and went flying back towards the finish. I was very surprised to see the time on 9.52.5... so went hard down the shute to make sure it stayed a 9.52 (last year I did 9.53 at IM Austria).

Race done and I felt good. Big shout to Tom W and Helen T and to Jon doing his second IM.

I have found my race and with a 9.37 seeing me to Kona I think I might be back and hunting next year (59 min swim, 5hr bike, 3hr 29 run and I should have a chance for Hawaii!!). There again I said something the same last year and have not made the jump yet... but I think this time I might be able to do it.

See you out there somewhere.

Friday, 10 July 2009

"Once more unto the breech...

This is the line up for the start of the first multisport event of the middle ages. This involved running climbing then fighting. The guy being played by larry olivier was the race director who can be seen here getting ready to set of the of the pros in shiny hats in the foreground. The hatless AGers can be seen in the background behind the stockade. As seems to be the fashion these days they will be held back for a few minutes to let the Pros have a clear field so to speak. The tents in the background are part of the event expo with the familiar sponsors flags, Then as now they sold bits of flashy kit that the anxious competitors would purchase even though they did nopt need them. You know the stuff, portable sword sharpeners, spare lightweight shields, carbon fibre lances and so on.
The full and highly motivating quote from Wil Shakspyr goes a bit like this*(see at the end of post).The call to arms is where I feel I am on the cusp of IM Switzerland. If I can gather up the motivation and get a bit of luck, mojo whatever I think I could race well this sunday. The no taper taper was pushed yesterday when I followed the group bike tour. Following a large german and Jonathan Hotchkiss at around my racepace for 70km was great fun but maybe a bit unwise, we shall see. Still the racebuild here in Zurich seems good and the weather is gonna match it. Just hope I can find my sinews stiffened enough to see me home strongly.
*Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Am I better for doing IM?

Is this heresy? Last Sunday I was suffering from motivation issues since having got up early to do a long ride I was faced with a Deluge of biblical proportions outside combined with thunder and lightning made seek shelter on the sofa with a scared cat for company. The option to get on the turbo at that time would have meant waking the household which is probably a bit unfair at 6.30 so I elected to wait and read a bit. Children stumbled downstairs at 7 and we spent an enjoyable half hour just chatting and watching rubbish on the tv. Eventually at 7.45 I thought it not unreasonable to start up on the turbo since my wife is usually getting up at this point. Sure enough the rain stopped and outside was looking better but at this point I was committed to 150 mins of turbo hell.

As the house sprung into life around me kids and cats wandering in and out of the spare room where I was spinning away and time passing incredibly slowly as it always seems to on a turbo I got to wondering whether the life as an Ironman was still a force for good. A recurring theme at ironman races where I meet with other racing dads is that its the wives who suffer. Is it fair me shooting out the house every sunday even if I am back by 12. Do my children understand why I need to go out for a 2hr run on Friday evenings and does the time I take out of the family through chasing my personal goals compensate by enabling me to have a better balance through the rest of my week?

Undoubtedly through being fitter I have more ability to cope with the stresses of general life. But training for Ironman actually involves a lot of time trashing your fitness through further cycles of training and can leave you feeling a bit ratty some times. I guess this is however no more than I get anyway and in fact I feel more calm since IM than in my preIM days and I often find the process of training helps me to work out the day to day stresses of life.

With less than 3 weeks to go to IM swissroll I am feeling solid but nothing spectacular. I have a traditional midnight 100 miler (38 laps of Regents Park) to be knocked off and a few more runs then a whole year before I do another IM

Sunday, 31 May 2009


So that was lanzarote. One year of training later and I raced nearly identically in every aspect to last year. Except that at nearly every step I felt fitter and stronger, even when I felt tired and slow out on the marathon course. I guess I had a choice of finding perhaps 5 minutes more out on the run but once I felt a sub 11 was beyond me I was not to bothered about the time and started to enjoy myself!

So to the swim start. This was my roughest of 4 IM swims. I got kicked punched blocked and generally chucked around. I think last year was just a lucky swim. As a consequence I was quicker in my second lap and had the joy of overtaking numerous others as I came back against the tide on the second lap. I am not sure why the swim was so rough this year but I was struggling to swim straight and found myself close to the bouys which was probably the cause of all the grief.

Out of the sea and on to the bike. Last year I went off like a bat out of hell. This year I felt much more evenly paced and generally enjoyed most of the bike. My key mistake was to believe the Km markers which were completely out. I guess I wanted to believe them too! (they were well short and at half way showed me headed for a 5.30-40 split time when in reality the 170 km matker came with about 25 km still to go instead of the 10 it should have been.) This lead to me virtually sprinting the last 5 km in a desperate bid to get under 6hrs (and I failed.. tho' not on my bike computer). Could I have gone faster? probably. Could I have gone significantly faster? I doubt it. So there must be a lesson there somewhere.

Out onto the run and I really struggled to get my HR down. Accroding to my HR monitor it was stuck at 170. Either my HR monitor is bust or I have a problem... I think the HR data is out of wack. But I still took a while to get going, and as I wrote in the intro could perhaps have found a bit of pace as the run went on but not more than 5 minutes max.

A week on I can honestly say I really enjoyed the race, perhaps most of all down to the fab support from tri londoners both in the race (Jo, Marc and Alex) and from the sides (especially Steven and later in the day team Sayer).

I need to think a bit more about what I have learnt in this cycle of training but now its time to start focusing ahead to this years "A" race- Ironman Switzerland

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

My aching heart

Feeling as I do at the moment which is to say as fit as a fiddle and happy as I can remember I thought it worthwhile to look ahead at what to expect post raceday and specifically at some of the science on what racing an ironman does to your body.

Obsessed as I am I recognise the impact an ironman race has on my body in the days after. Lets face it you cant help but notice as you struggle down the stairs (and if you dont know what I mean are you sure your racing hard enough?).

There is quite a lot of evidence that, at least in the short term IM has a potentially quite serious impact on your health and hence the very serious advice that you should not race if you have a bad cold. Some colds are caused by viruses that can cause myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and this is something you really want to avoid. It also reflects the stress doing this event can put your body under thereby making you susceptible to the risk of serious harm from a virus you would normally shrug of after a few days.

So what is the evidence for harm following an IM race. There are two principle effects. The first is that an Ironman reduces the function of your neutrophils (so called white cells that help fight acute infections) and at the same time is associated with quite a marked inflammatory response as part of your immune function response. This inflammatory reaction is what classically happens when we get a serious injury, have an operation or have some other stress put on the body (and can be induced by heat stroke, alcohol poisoning and may other things). The effects of this can be to cause tissue swelling (odema) and pain. It almost certainly occurs in response to the micro trauma associated with 10 odd hours of continuos exercise and the muscle damage associated with this exercise. It will probably be exacerbated by dehydration, heat stress and getting you nutrition so wrong you race prolonged on empty and hence catabolise your muscle a bit more than is strictly necessary. There is alot of science to suggest this state can last up to and beyond 2 weeks post race.

The other principle effects are on your heart. Tests that are typically used to determine whether someone is having a heart attack work by detecting enzymes and proteins released into the blood stream from damaged heart muscle cells. Perhaps the most common of these tests is a test for Troponin T a protein found specifically in cardiac muscle. While it can be raised as a consequnece of other things it is typically raised in response to damage to heart muscle cells. Worryingly this is found to be raised in nearly all IM finishers and when present in what are termed clinically significant levels are usually associated with significant abnormalities of heart function when studied using an echocardiogram. In fact nearly all IM finishers demonstrate some mild impairment of heart function in the first 24 hrs post race. The significance of all of this is not clear. Troponin T levels can also be raised in association with muscle injury and perhaps this is the cause but this would not explain the abnormal heart function.

On a happier note we are no more likely to have knee problems than a non Ironman age matched population.

So in summary ironman takes a toll on your body but this is largely recovered from by 3 weeks. To reduce this train well, race well and recover well.

Finally we will also live longer and find the path to secret super powers foregone by our mortal colleagues.

(sorry but I made that last bit up)

Monday, 4 May 2009

Where did I get to?

I thought the proximity of a taper would be a good time to review my goals from last autumn against reality and try and get my excuses in early!

Back in August I set some big swimming goals of doing 15000m feb through March (current average is 8000m). I was gonna avoid injury (managed to have a total of 7 weeks of no running between now and then) and was gonna get a power meter for the bike (failure due to sales issues!). Along the way I have ditched 3 running events (snowdon marathon, luton marathon and brentwood half) and have lost 4 regular training partners to slipped disks and broken wrists, and prolonged sabbaticals!

In spite of this I feel in a good place and have enjoyed my training more than I can remember. The crucial point this year is when I feel that grey fatigue I either bin or shorten the session. I still dont know if this is good or bad. Sure there are days when we just dont feel like getting out there but equally endurance training does require a degree of pushing on through if the gains are to be maximised.

Yesterday I knocked out a solid 6hr 106 mile solo ride taking in all the hills I could find so I guess the bike is there or there abouts. Running is slightly backwards and swimming is where it is.

For me there is still a few key sessions to fit in including a solid 70 mile mid week bike ride and a set of 3 x 2-2.5 hr runs in the next week before the taper starts with 11 days to go.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

B minus

The picture is the Barcelos cockerel famous to portuguese legend and Nandos!

So back from Lisbon and I am not entirely sure what I have learnt (except for the cockerel legend). Overall I kinda did what I set out to do but somehow it was not entirely satisfactory. The swim was a solid 30 mins (and a second) so just above my target but pretty much where I want to be. It was quite a feisty affair with 600 in a mass start with a turn at 300m. The field appeared to me quite talented with a significant number using this event like me as a warm up to Lanzarote.

A leisurely transition and the out on the bike a 4 lap course. My plan was to go steady on the first and then push hard on laps 2 and 3 then hold on for the 4th. This worked well; I had a familiar dead leg feeling out of the swim but allowed them to slowly tune up to speed. The bike was essentially an out and back with a 1 mile hill just before turn around. We had a whole section of motorway closed off for us which was fantastic, but there was a strong headwind on the way out which was less good. It did make for a fantastic return leg with speeds topping 42 mph, and in general was good practice in holding a tight aero position for a sustained block of time. I was disappointed to clock what I thought was a slow 2.37 for the bike leg but the whole field was at least 10-12 minutes slower than last year which again puts me about where I felt I should be. I did however start to fade of the pace a bit in the last lap with a few I had passed in lap 3 clawing me back and then riding away from me. I felt that I had may be a bit more power to squeeze but it was not easy and settled on maintaining a steady rhythm through the last leg.

Finally out onto the run. I wrote the plan was to run steady 8 min miles as per goal IM pace. Fact was I had only one pace and that was to keep going. I think/hope it was down to a lot of running in the last 10 days and the deliberate non taper for this race (OK so I had a rest on friday but trained as normal the rest of the week) otherwise I think I could be in trouble come May 22nd. I got progressively slower on the 4 laps and was struggling a bit on the last. Still I posted a 1.43 which was worse than anyone who finished above me (so yes I did go backwards through the field on the run quite spectacularly) but was pretty much my target time (even if it was probably on 20.5 km).
I guess I learned I am still an aspirational AGer with no discernible talent but a lot of enthusiasm and that the breakthrough to elite superstardom will have to wait another week, lifetime or dimension.

As for the race itself. I think it is fab. The wind aside it is pretty well organised, a good strong field, fantastic venue found myself good accommodation and for a capital city relatively cheap. I think I may well be there next year if I am not doing London Marathon (or perhaps even the lisbon marathon which was the weekend before!)

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Tuning up

As I start to focus down on the first race of the year, a nice little tune up race in Lisbon I have started to think about where there might be any little hidden benefits that might make me race quicker without expending more effort training.

Some new kit has been purchased including a new wetsuit, since my 4 yr old xterra suit now has more holes than augusta golf course. This I tried out yesterday and due to the upside down zip had to ask random bloke to secure me inside said suit. Once done I positively flew up and down the pool finishing my set with 10x100 coming in on 1.25 for EVERY length. I have also got some lovely new carbon easton attack aerobars which definitely make me feel quicker and some shiny new silver bike shoes (ditto).

Kit aside and without unearthing some magic new training programme, where are the other gains to be made. Certainly nutrition is a key factor as is getting adequate rest in the peak training stages. I am not sure what significant gains are to be had there but will continue to get to bed early and to take afternoon powernaps where possible. I have decided to use some torq recovery drinks for replenishing the energy stores after long/hard sessions (cheers stef)but again what are the margins for performance enhancement?

Perhaps one of the key factors to enhance race day performance is keeping calm in the build up and during the race itself. I guess some of this is a given in terms of your natural temperament and clearly some can be developed through practice races. I find the prerace build up can sometimes be like the period before an exam when fellow contestants boast either about how much or how little the have done and seek assurance from you that you have done more or less than they have. People who engage in this sort of stuff are often to be found doing one last "session" the day before the race and frankly good luck to them.

Having avoided other peoples' ego trips in general I love the prerace day or two as at is often the first time in several weeks I can be alone and can really turn off my brain and body (assuming my family are not with me). The luxury of an afternoon nap and time to read, fiddle with the bike, watch a few dvds is all part of my prerace taper. The other big step is building a positive state of mind. No matter what you have done up to the 2 days before raceday, a good or bad build up, the last 48 hrs are for being positive and developing a frame of mind to see you through to the finish line. Quite how you do this I guess is up to you. Personally I use a lot of positive mental imaging, and allow my own natural self assurance ;-) to build me up to the race.

So for the race I would like to see a sub 30 swim, a 2.25-2.30 bike and then I will aim to run 8 min miles and no faster (which should see me going gloriously backwards through the field). I have to remember this is a practice race and not the main event (which my take some in race discussion with my ego)

Sunday, 5 April 2009

There is gold in them hills

I spent the last month hanging out for a long awaited weeks holiday in Majorca. Back at the planning stage it was either Majorca or Lanzarote and when we looked at it in darkest December Majorca seemed the better choice. We already had a week in Lanzarote at the IM so a change of venue seemed the thing and the weather looked OK and the facilities for my own spring training seemed good. Sadly the week of sun they had before we got there stopped the day we arrived, dark clouds moved in and it rained for 6 days straight, pretty much without a discernible break. The first we saw of the sun again was as we got into the car to head back to the airport!

But we had a great time. The villa was fab and got on a special "recession offer" complete with freezing pool which my kids enjoyed in spite of the rain. We stayed near Pollenca in the hills to the northeast of the island. We enjoyed good food, long walks, lots of swimming in a brand new and empty heated 25m pool, the odd bottle or two of red wine and a few runs across the hills with my missus. In addition I got to explore a few of them there hills.

I have cycled a few thousand miles since I started triathlon, but have only ever taken my bike overseas to race. Majorca afforded me the first chance to try out some long hills and this was an eyeopener. Majorca was absolutely full of cyclists, a bit like Richmond Park at 11 on a sunday morning only bigger. I tried out a few hilly rides before negotiating a day away from the rest of the family for a 6 hr ride (ish) where I took in a few 500m climbs and then another 900m climb at an average of 6% incline. And now I understand about hills.

The necessity to keep going at a steady heart rate and the relentless nature of the climb forces you to develop or build your muscular endurance which is surely the key to a good IM bike ride. Each climb is followed by a downhill recovery and then repeat. No number of Boxhill repeats can mimic this. An equivalent sustained effort on the flat can be done but sees you travelling further and faster and is harder to keep steady since at speed minor variations in incline etc have significant impact on you effort levels. Also when you finish your long climb you are at the top of the hill and that is always a good feeling.

So my advice for those who want to improve their training is to move to the nearest 1000m steady climb and train on it. Failing that I have always maintained that East Anglia is too flat so perhaps they could build us a mountain there to train on there!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Push On or Hold Back

As the build phase of training starts to kick in I am feeling surprisingly good. Two consecutive weeks of 17hrs training and no injuries to report. This being my 4th IM build up I am use to this feeling and the temptations that come with it. The challenge is to know when to push just that little bit more and when to hold back. The Lore of Running has some interesting things to say but the bit I found most applicable is that if you feel tired and fatigued climbing two sets of stairs then it is time to back off a bit! To the non IMer this may be obvious but it is amazing how much you can tolerate in day to day life as you ramp up the hours.

Most of you will be familiar with the valley of fatigue as shown in the diagram. The idea is that progressive cycles of increasing load (grey columns) ultimately result in better fitness levels (blue). The evidence for this is marginal especially for athletes who are time limited since it can be a challenge to fit these variable hour patterns into a working career. What I think is clear though is that at a certain volume you get to a state where the training is not working any more and the fatigue starts to prohibit recovery and performance in subsequent sessions. At this point you need a break (so say the experts). Again this will depend on lots of variables like how hard and how long the sessions you do are. However there is also the real world which does not always follow the set plan. If after 2 weeks you are feeling shot then surely it is time to take a rest, if you are feeling great then should you push on for another week of training and perhaps more intensity... and that is the real fun in IM training.
Knowing where the edge is between too much and just enough takes experience and practice. The "wise" advice is that it is better to turn up undertrained than overtrained. This is advice I would agree with for those new to IM since there is a whole learning process to go through but for those slightly longer in the tooth you have got to be prepared to experiment to find that balance. Last year I felt similar at this point in my training leading up to IM lanza, in fact if anything I felt stronger on the bike and was running faster. This year however I am trying to bring my bike to a peak a bit later (I think my biking was better about 4 weeks pre lanza than it was come race day) and I am focusing on more time and less intensity on the running, only putting in any sort of speed work in the running n the last 4 weeks. Finally doing a second IM 6 weeks after the first showed me that perhaps I am better of a short taper so this year my last big volume weekend will extend up to 13 days prerace.
Hopefully the next post will tell how good this plan is.. otherwise I will have learnt a bit more about how to do it the wrong way.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Happy when I am running

So the last few weeks have been difficult. Training has been hampered by a calf muscle that goes into cramp after a few miles running and if I continue leaves me unable to run for a few days and then the cycle repeats. Easy, you say, dont run for a bit then start back gently, get a massage etc. Did that same thing happened. Frustration starts to creep in and a fear that I will never be able to run more than 4 miles again

Look back through my training logs and I see a pattern emerging, bike volume goes up, calf injury occurs and running volume comes down. Found this out in 2005 (my first season of tri) and the nice sports physio said my hamstrings and calf muscles were shortening and I needed too do regular stretches...... so it only took me 4 weeks to recognise the cycle and make the diagnosis and institute the corrective treatment (stretching - lots). If I was this bad in my day job there would be a lot of very unhappy patients out there . Such is the limits of self coaching but at least now I feel I have regained control of the situation.

This echoes the comments of Steve who has a tough time with an injury out of the blue these last few weeks which has taken him out training for a while. Personally I find the impact of injury psychologically hard to deal with. When an injury occurs and you find your training slipping back all the commitment so far seems wasted and the motivation to make more commitments to training starts to wain as your inner voice starts to ask what is the point of getting faster or working harder on the swim and bike if you are not going to be able to run at the end of it. This happened somewhat last year when I got a similar injury 22 days out from IM Lanza and I think may have contributed to a relatively poor race. The challenge is to focus on your rehab and maintain a positive outlook but this is often difficult when you face an all or nothing scenario: basically your season is about racing as well as you can at the IM race and not even being able to start would be a complete disaster for most (the exception being those who race multiple IMs). Luckily last year I learnt that you can bounce back from one race to the next so even if I were to DNS Lanzarote I would still have Im Swissroll to aim at.

But none of this matters, I have started stretching, and I am running again. A week off serious training with a bit of manflu probably helped me recover some form and yesterday I ran 6 miles steady with no problems and today I feel GREAT. So the stretching is back in, the running volume will head up again (yeah, I know like watch the volume and intensity) and I will run a sub 3.40 at Lanzarote, or I wont but at least now I feel that might be possible!!

Monday, 23 February 2009

What is the bigger picture? Macro- Meso- Microcycle

So I reckon that if I swim at least 15000m a week for 8 weeks, cycle 250 miles for same and run about 50 miles a week in the build phase of my ironman prep (weeks 13-5) then I should be on for Kona or there abouts (see older post somewhere). Problem is that represents 26 hours+ training a week never mind the getting dressed undressed washed prepped etc. Add to that some recovery time and we are talking in the region of 40 hours a week.

Devoted as I am to my goals I could not do this whilst maintaining a career, family and marriage and whilst to some it would appear that these are not limiters I do Ironman to add quality to my life and not to take away (macrocycle or big picture). To maximise my benefit from the training I do it is probable that I have a tendency to go a bit harder than is ideal in an effort to get more, but maybe this helps me to do just that.

I do know that I can nail about 17-20 hrs training in a working week when I have everything on song (the mesocycle). This requires all the usual planning and a clear limit to the timescale over which this will occur (about 4-5 weeks), otherwise the rest of the life starts to build up and things start to get in the way. I have also become much more disciplined in my response to niggles and injuries and I will readily not do a session if I think injury is a likelihood (although this last Autumn would suggest otherwise).

This might give 6-8 weeks of 10 hrs cycling 5 hrs running and 3hrs swimming which aint too be sniffed at(microcycle). Add a week or two where I push the limits a bit and who knows what I might achieve but I still think a breakthrough for me will come in my fifties (thats probably extending the definition of macrocycle a bit far) when my kids are at Uni and my life may be simpler.

So what I am trying to say in a long winded way is that I am starting to accept that the limits in my performance will be due to external limiters (time) but in reality it is the internal limiters that ultimately count: I like my life, family and career too much to let the necessary obsession overwhelm me. The problem is this gives me an excuse to accept a "lesser" performance because I did not have the time to do the training I would have liked, and this can be demotivating....
So I need to put up a goal. That will be 10 hrs 45 mins for Lanza including a sub 1 hour swim and a sub 6 hr bike (see last years results)... that should do for the motivation.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Getting whupped by the young 'uns

So yesterday I did the Hell of Ashdown which was essentially a 62 mile sportif over all the hills they could find in and around the Ashdown forest in Kent and Sussex. I new it was gonna be cold and bottled out of riding there and back as well as the ride itself and settled on a plan to go hard as I could.

Just after I started a trio charged past me and up the first hill. I chased hard and caught up on the descent when we all slowed due to the ice here and there on the road. A bunch of 5 me included proceeded to run along at a good lick. The first few climbs I managed to hang on but with the successive hills the youth soon started to gap me on the climb and I had to work to catch up each time.

After a water stop I set out on my own into a strong headwind. All was going well and I had a nice rhythm going and was gently passing cylists and apart from 2 keen club cyclist pacing each other was not myself being passed. Then 2 things happened: firstly Ollie another trilondoner said hello as we waited for the only set of lights in the day to change before vanishing up the hill without a back ward glance, then we got caught in a blizzard. My mojo went completely and I decided a safe roll in was the best way to cover the last 15 miles (which turned out to be 6!) and with only 4 miles to go I blew a rear tire and had to change it in the sub zero. Following other bike tracks through the snow is a novel way to navigate through a cycling event but worked OK

At the end I felt a bit dejected because I thought my bike was going strong but all is not lost. Firstly Ollie ripped the legs of everyone there that day to post the fastest time of anyone secondly, well i did not do too bad all things considered.

What have I learned. I think it is time to use a bit of bike competition to get me going that bit harder on the bike rides.... so its time to find a new partner or two!! Also I reaffirmed the knowledge that bikes and snow dont mix.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

beam me up scotty

Power is the way forwards. As a keen ironmanner but neccessarily limited by time due to the other stuff like wife, children, work house refurbishment etc I have to maximise my training efficiency. While I would love to spend my weekends knocking out century rides sat and sun there is a fair chance I might find the keys to the house changed if I did this repeatedly. the alternative apart from previously mentioned time management techniques is to maximise the benefits of each session hence my recent post about using my turbo.

The next step is to maximise the benefit of the long rides and other sessions. To do this I plan to start using a powermeter to try and get used to working in the right power zones and ultimately to race according to power. Will this improve my overall racing? I do hope so.

So I have emailied powercylemeters.com and will hopefully be learning the wonmderful things that power can do for me. This I hope will be money better spent than a new bike (which is kyboshed due to the pound weakness anyway).

Did a solid weeks training of

Monday rest

Tuesday 2hr bike(30miles) commute 4000m swim(10x400) 75 min turbo threshold set

Wednesday 6 mile run

Thursday 2 hr turbo

Friday 1hr swim (speedwork) 6mile run tempo

Saturday 85 mile bike steady

Sunday 45 min continuos swim 2hr (15 mile) run

for about 17hrs training.(which is about one third of what steve did!)

Next week is a bit less but have the Hell of Ashdown at the end to put some spice into it.

And I feel good.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Hard work and drinking

It is time to start getting stuck in, weather permitting to the hard work that will see me through to Lanza in May. As was the case last year I am currently firing on all cyclinders if a bit gently and under distance for the running. The ice cold weather has made cycling somewhat hazardous and christmas also had some effect on regular training. Nonetheless I feel good about the prospects and have decided to go the month without any alcohol (well except for the first 3 days!!!!).

The aspects of alcohol and training are quite interesting to me. Clearly large volumes of alcohol and good training are not easy bed fellows though I have always found a 2 hr run one of the most effective cures for a bad hangover (once you can overcome the nausea and headache and provided you have large quantities of ribena - the perfect sugary rehydration fluid). The most significant impact of excess alcohol are, I think, the dehydration and the fatigue. Fatigue because the only times I stay up the wrong side of midnight these days are if I am raising hell (or more perhaps more accurately spilling curry into my lap after a night reminiscing about the good old days) or I am working. This fatigue makes successful training the following day unlikely (2 hr runs not withstanding) and eats into free time that could otherwise be put to different use.

Of more interest is the value of alcohol when used in moderation alongside a regular training programme. Does a glass of wine a day really have a dramatic effect on training? Is there any reason why it should impair our benefits from regular training. There is lots written about how harnful alcohol can be but almost none of this refers to moderate or low intake of booze and there has been little research into this. anecdotally the tour de France competitors used to drink heavily during the race. They were almost certainly using the anaesthetic effects of alcohol to help them overcome the pain of extreme fatigue and it is quite a good source of calories too!

Clearly I argue from the basis that a little of what you like is not gonna be to bad for you (is it?). Hence my normal training week consumption of a glass of wine or two on most nights, but I hasten to add not proceeding on to the rest of the bottle which used to be the case. If I abandoned all booze whilst on my training programme, say for the next 20 weeks, would I get fitter? I am not sure but I feel the quality of my life would be lessened so I shall resume a glass or two of wine with my supper from february.
Til next time
Oh and by the way if anyone wants to know what to get me for my birthday, or any other occasion, a bottle of the above would be fine.