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.