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!