Tuesday, 27 December 2011

50 runs in 50 days

On Xmas day I completed my 50th run of 50 minutes in 50 days (give or take). This saw me run just under 500kms in the same time period with a weekly average running time of 6hrs and 20 minutes. This is the most running I have sustained, the only other times I have run 6 hrs or more have been in the peak weeks of ironman training or in the build up to a marathon.

Then I got to thinking. 6 hrs a week is probably not much for a club runner, but I found it tough. I guess to train like a runner is every bit as hard as a triathlete and I am not sure I could cope without the variety. I was still cross training with a couple of swims a week and an average of 4-5 hrs of bike a week but that still equates to quite a doable weekly training volume of 12 hrs or so a week. Yet after a couple of weeks I was tired all the time. I found that whenever I did some sustained efforts whether running swimming or cycling the next few days of running were really tough. No big surprise but this did highlight the effects of intensity when doing constant training. Towards the last week I was focused mostly on just completing the task and found motivation to do anything else almost completely absent.

So the big question is whether this has done me any good? My cycling and swimming have been held back and with still more focus to come with running until the end of March I dont know. The next part is to work out how to train to run 3 marathons in 3 days while also building my bike volume. I have a few events planned bu worry that 12 weeks is not long enough to build the long distance endurance. We shall see.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The athlete's heart

As I lay in bed the other night I was more aware of my heart beat than normal. All athletes should at some point start learning to listen to their body as it talks to us in many ways. Muscle soreness tells us we have done a harder session or used muscles in ways we are not use to. Muscle pains warn us of impending, or if ignored announce, new injuries. Tiredness tells us we need rest and fever suggests we have some form of infective illness. Part of the monitoring process should include checking your resting pulse from time to time, ideally when you awake as this can warn you about whether your cold is more significant or whether your tiredness is perhaps starting to overreach your fitness.

What about if you are lying there and you become aware that your pulse is skipping beats or has become irregular? Should we be worried? What should we do? Well as I lay there I could feel a strong beat every third or fourth beat and then when I felt my pulse it was occasionally irregular. So I woke my wife up, she happens to be a doctor, and got her to check it and sure enough it was irregular. Half an hour later I had decided either I had some fatal heart arrhythmia or I had athlete's heart syndrome.

So what is "athlete's heart syndrome" (AHS) and what should you do about it? T

The most important distinction of AHS is that it is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning you have to exclude more significant causes of heart problems, and that it is essentially benign, meaning that it is not associated with ill health or indeed sudden death which is pretty reassuring.

So what are the symptoms of athlete's heart syndrome?

Often there are no symptoms but features would include a slow heart rate (the bradycardia of fitness which most endurance athletes are aware of) such as exhibited by TdF cyclist Miguel Indurain who had a resting heart rate of 29 (which is definitely pathological in a non athlete). Other features might include occasional ectopic heart beats, leading to a slightly irregular pulse, but otherwise there is little else.

Where the problem comes is when you have either an ECG (electronic tracing of your heart rhythm, or an echocardiogram of you heart- an ultrasound scan of your heart which can look at how your heart functions).

What should you do if you have an irregular heart beat or other "unusual symptoms"?

1. See your doctor and get some tests

Firstly you should see you doctor and explain your symptoms: they should arrange some blood tests and a ECG. The blood tests are to exclude biochemical abnormalities such as a low a plasma potassium level, and other things that can cause problems such as an overactive thyroid which can cause arrythmias. They should also enquire about risks factors for arrythmias such as excess caffeine, alcohol, recreational drugs and fatigue all of which can induce abnormal heart rhythms. If you have had arrythmias then you should also have a 24 hr ECG and an echocardiogram.

2. The ECG, 24hr ECG and Echocardiogram

The ECG should be able to identify if you have a pathological heart rhythm, but here it gets difficult. Just like Miguel's heart rate being too slow for the untrained, fit people may have findings on their ECG that would be abnormal in an untrained person. So there is a grey area, and what if you only get the arrhythmia occasionally? If there is still concern then you can have a 24 hr ECG which essentially means having your heart monitored for 24 hrs and an echocardiogram to assess your heart function. The 24 hr ECG should identify if you have a significant risk of heart arrythmias but again should be interpreted with caution since some arrythmias are normal in the fit hea

3. What is a fit heart, why does it cause problems interpreting tests and who should I see?

As we train (say more than an hour a day) our heart gets fitter, which means amongst other things the muscle of our heart gets bigger. This occurs especially in the bit that does the most work, the left ventricle or LV for short. When the heart muscle gets bigger it becomes more efficient at pumping blood and is one of the reasons why at rest our heart rate becomes slower, as with each heart beat we can pump more blood around our body. Enlargement of our LV can be pathological and his is one of the key causes of sudden death and is therefore a cause for concern when it is seen on an ECHO study of you heart. It is very unlikely that an athlete who has been training for more than a year at a high level will have a pathological cause of LV enlargement. Where concern arises there are some subtle differences in the pattern of the echo changes between the fit heart and the abnormal heart, and perhaps the ultimate test is to detrain for a period of 1-3 months in which case if it is an athletic heart the LV enlargement should reverse. Where this does not occur it may be pathological (the condition is called HOCM) and would need further tests.

4. Should I be worried?

Sudden death in training athletes is very rare. Pathological findings are most common in those with less than a year of athletic training under their belt. In the older mid life crisis athlete (typically late thirties early forties with a history of little previous exercise and general poor lifestyle e.g. smoker etc) it is usually due to coronary artery disease resulting in a "heart attack". If you are this person and get chest discomfort on exercise you need to get a check up. In the younger athlete new to regular training
it is nearly always HOCM or occasionally a pathological heart rhythm. A family history may exist in which case you should have a screening test but unfortunately in some the first they know of it can be too late.

Happily for me my heart studies were completely normal, for an athletes heart, so I can continue training.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


bel·lig·er·ence   /bəˈlɪdʒərəns/ [buh-lij-er-uhns]


1. a warlike or aggressively hostile nature, condition, or attitude.

2. an act of carrying on war; warfare.
So I started running everyday on Nov 1st. The goal is to run everyday for an average run of 50 minutes and to try and get to 50 days (Xmas more or less). The rationale behind it is that it will make me a better runner by building the resilience and strength to then carry me through a more challenging programme of some form of ultra training in the build up to the Jurassic coastal challenge.
Now I am a strong believer in repetition and have had read about and spoken with several who have done this sort of thing in the past. When you think of what Eddie Izzard achieved in running 43 marathons in 51 days this should be a doodle for a multi ironman finisher right! Well firstly I had been recovering from a slight calf niggle, then there was a significant event which curtailed running for a day so 2 days lost in the first week. Not good and even with the unplanned rests I was finding the backing up of day to day runs pretty tough. Alongside this was a slightly reduced training schedule but still 3 bike sessions and 2 swims a week. I started "Zombie" running. This is how I would describe the running when you are tired and really feel like anything other than running but know you are committed to trying to reach your goal. Shoes slapping the pavement (no barefoot runner me!) listening to podcasts of IM talk and Radio 4 I get the run done.
The problem is days where I only have a single slot to get some training done (such as Thursday when I usually ride) and so the running takes primacy. Long days of work mean that recently I have had to run at 0530 which is really tough- my body does not like it and takes ages to wake up and start functioning. Stiff joints suggest I am ageing and at some point you start to really question the why! A few days in New York was a good break in the routine and a new arena to run in. Jet lag meant I was awake good and early and found myself running round central park with an amazingly large number of fellow runners, who I had to race obviously.
Which leads to the point of this which is managing the fatigue. With the constant stress of a daily running each additional session is reflected in the following days run. The hardest days are those after a long bike session, or when you push a bit hard (such as beating the American joggers in Central Park) the day before.At 35-40 miles a week this is almost as much running a week as I ever do but somehow feels harder than when I have longer runs but with days off. I am now running against myself, the belligerence to complete the task fights with my more cerebral voice that says there are probably better ways to get the same training effect, but now I don't care. I will be the runner that does the task, I will run at any time day or night to get the job done and I will be tired!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Hard work

Went for a gentle 4 hr ride today. It was hard work. As someone who feels I should be able to ride for 4 hrs without much fuss it came as a surprise as I started to find in the last hour that I had become one paced (slow) and tired. I recognised that I had done some reasonable training in the week and some fatigue had developed: I know I have not done many long rides in the last 6 weeks with one thing and another: and yet still I expected to be able to ride better than I did.

This self image reminds me that it is hard work that enables me to be the person I imagine. It is not some divine innate genetic makeup, it is not anymore the youth, and it is not a consequence of opportunity to train. This hard work AKA training is achieved by doing the sessions in spite of myself. Trying not to lie in on a Thursday morning because it sounds like it is raining outside and the ride will be wet and cold and dark! Not expecting myself to be able to just swim faster because I should do by now, I have had enough practice, but to remember it is the consecutive sessions that make me faster, not the single session.

Running is where I believe I have most to gain in my drive to become a more complete Ironman. With my goal to qualify for Kona next year I felt that I really need a strong focus to put down some big base running numbers. I attribute this years IM mara PB to a number of things including a greater amount of running!! I dont think this game is rocket science. With this in mind I plan to take on the Jurassic Coastal Challenge which is 3 hilly marathons in 3 days running along the coastline of my youth between Poole And Weymouth and beyond. The challenge will be to try and complete this within myself so to speak.. probably a big ask but without this strategy I might well blow a large hole in any IM training planned through April and May.

The plan is to try some everyday running (just as soon as my calf injury clears up). I plan to try and string together a minimum 6 runs a week through November and December. 30 mins will be enough to qualify as a run but an overall average to exceed 40 minutes a day (which at 4 hrs a week is close to what I can sustain based on previous years). The idea is to build in straightforward resilience to injury (although this could be a good way into injury!) so it looks like my alarm clock is going to be a bit earlier and I think i could do with a new headlamp.

We will see how strong my appetite for this hard work is, I still plan to ride and swim so will need to be conservative in my efforts across the week. I hope that by the end of December I will be running strong and ready then to move into some more extensive run training to get me ready for a 3 day ultradistance endurance challenge.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Detraining, weight gains, life gains

6 months of focussed training towards my season goals and I had reached a point where I needed rest. My year is split in two. I allow six months where Ironman takes shall we say a higher precedence in my scheduling and then six months where I push it further back and focus on the rest of my life. Summer holidays are my time to focus on my family and as a consequence training is allowed to be completely random and non focussed. This meant I ran about 3 times a week across the month of August in a variety of scenic and invariably hilly locations, such as the bay in Brittany pictured above. Cycling was almost largely limited to slow pootling about at the pace of a fit 9 year old and swimming was mostly surfing and bodyboarding.

At the end of IMUK I weighed 76kg. This increased to 78 kg when I rehydrated. By the end of August after some serious quality  barbecues supplemented by red wine I had boosted my weight to 83.6 kg. Healthwise this is probably my ideal weight. I know when I train the weight will move again but feel that below 80 kg I become susceptible to colds and general illness. The month off was clearly necessary to put my body back together after a punishing schedule of races and working but the payback when I went round Regents Park with the Rouleurs was to be spat out the back afer 4 laps of tempo riding and swimming felt more like controlled drowning.

Experience however is a wonderful thing. With the return of school and work schedules comes the more regular training slots and sessions with London Fields Tri. I know that slowly the muscles will get acclimatised again and the specific fitness will recover. That said I am in no rush to do anything other than keep ticking over. I have started back doing weights to build a bit of muscle mass as a buffer against age and injury, and after much decision have decided this autumn I will mostly be doing cyclcross (of which more later!).

Next years goal is simple. I plan to try and qualify for Kona.

Monday, 1 August 2011


Short report 10:15;19 12th 40-44AG

I will start this by saying how much I enjoyed the UK Ironman race and how much I rate the course which was a big surprise to me! My previous experience of TRIUK the old organisers was abysmal. Their approach to everything seemed wrong and their finished product was often poor. That said there is a lot the new race organisers need to improve on but the swim bike and run courses were all great. Most credit must go to the people of Bolton who really seemed to take the race to their hearts as the support out on the run course was fantastic and their encouragement seemed so genuine. I think the race should stay in Bolton but they need to work on the athlete experience pre and post race.

So to race day. I was feeling a bit rough still with the tail end of a viral infection and was wondering how it was going to go. I got out into the lake early as I was worried about there being a crowd at the start line. I need not have been, there was plenty of room and compared to the start of the HIMUK it was positively gentile. The water was nice and warm, and off we went. I took the first 200m a lot easier than at Austria, which was possible as there was much less crowding. At the first turn at about 700m I found the feet of someone who could swim straight and just a bit faster than me. Perfect, I then drafted him for the next lap. He pulled me past several groups although I finally lost his feet at a turn and could not get back. No worries I felt strong and cruised the last 800m in without a clue what time I had done.

SWIM 56;41 (so it the swim distance was short!!!) 15th AG 91 overall

Out onto the bike. As per plan I started quite steadily. This still saw me flying past any number of good swimmers (that is anyone faster then me in the water). To begin with it was all reasonably flat, although road surfaces were poor so I rode the white line with some effect. The route takes you north up towards the 34 mile circuit that you repeat 3 times to make the bulk of the course. Soon I started going up, past a feed station a quick decent and thanks to WIGANERS guide to the route new I must be about to start the sheep house lane climb. It was not so bad and easily done first time round in the saddle with a 39x26 gear. The next part of the loop was downhillish and flatish. This saw me catch up with Jo 4th female before I pushed hard on another flattish section which saw me catch the third female pro. I was then surprised by a lot more steady rises where I soon lost the 3rd pro. None were really too hilly but nothing was too flat either. This and quite a lot of twists and turns made for hard work on the bike. Still as I finished the first lap and repeated the climb of sheep house lane I was feeling strong. Unlike Austria there were no big bunches and I spent most of the time riding on my own.

The second lap followed the same pattern as the first: fast on the flat section after sheep hill and then surprised, you would think I would learn, at the long drag in the second half. I was however hot and conscious that my nutrition was not as good as it could be and I had backache. This is usually because I have not spent enough time in the saddle or my blood sugar is low. The truth is I think I was going a bit too hard so my HR was too high and hence my gut was not tolerating the food as well as I would hope. The third time up sheep hill I was out of the saddle and no longer had a choice over my cadence. I was not able to push quite so hard on the next flat section and was caught by a line of 3 others. I kept with them but started to feel tired, my legs were dull and would not respond to my commands for more power without a large amount of effort. At the end of the third lap I had 112 miles on the clock and expected a quick arrival at T2. Sadly for me there were still a few more miles which hurt more then they should. Finally of the bike, a quick change and I was out onto the run.

BIKE 5:40;57 (114 miles?) 6th AG 48th overall

Another quick change and Iwas out on the run. I had driven this bit in a car the day before and new the first 3 miles were essentially downhill. My legs felt dreadful. At Austria I had run the first mile in under 7 minutes and then settled into a 7.45 min miles for the next 16 miles or so. This time the first mile was only just under 8 mins and that was downhill. Usually it takes me 3 or so miles before I know how the IM marathon is going to be. This is because that is how long roughly it takes to forget I have just cycled 112 miles and focus on how far exactly I have to run! 3 miles in and I still felt rubbish. Every 2-3 minutes I would here the flop flop of trainers as another good runner (anyone faster than me!) slowly gained and then passed me. I had been passed by over ten in the first 5 miles.

Well ironman is not meant to be easy. So I knuckled down, banished the demons and put my race face on. The run route into Bolton town centre was great. The crowd support was huge and the run was hilly. Did I mention that? After a run from T2 down to Bolton town centre we then did 3 x 6 mile loops (only they were a bit shorter than that). Half the loop was positively up hill and half was down hill. My uphill miles took about 40 secs longer than my downhill ones!!

Great support from some trilondoners Lotte and Andy in particular helped me through some of the darker patches. Using all the tricks to keep the mind focused on short term goals, positive thinking and the desire to just get the thing done I was soon running down the hill for the last time. My maths had me a bit suspicious for the finish time since I reckoned to be running just under 9 min/mile but the finish seemed to come at least 15 mins early! My run had let me down.

RUN 3:32;51 12th AG 71 overall

TOTAL 10:15;19
I needed to run 10 mins quicker to get a slot for Kona. Coulda woulda shoulda.

There is always next time.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The best laid plans and of mice and men..

.. Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain.

Just about sums up where I am heading into Ironman UK. A cold took hold last weds and by Saturday I was under its spell. I forced myself out for a 40 min run and then retired hurt for the next 2 days to the sofa. Plans to keep the training rolling were shelved. Out of 7 days I drew 4 blanks and those day I did train were pretty useless. The last two days have seen a recovery and I have done a few simple sessions to try and kickstart my body.

So what for the race. With the virus clearing I think I might run into some form but I am not certain of this. I think degree of conservatism in this race is called for. Unlike IMA I am not chasing any PBs (besides it is not the race for this). I also think I cannot afford to throw myself into the race and hang on, At probably an hour longer I need to think more about racing and nutrition. With this in mind I will start out conservatively on the bike and look to build into the laps. Riding without having seen the course before I will aim to be smooth rather than hurried on the first lap. I will wait til the third lap to see if I can push and hope to finish having completed my nutrition goals and with enough in the tank to run a solid 3:30 marathon.

Times here look slow, IM lanza slow which means I should expect to add at least an hour to my IMA time so my goal is to go 10:30, anything more will be a bonus.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


So I am roughly halfway between IM Austria and IM Bolton. After exceeding all my expectations at Klagenfurt I have found the motivation to go on towards Bolton with a bit of confidence in my step. I have managed to gently ease my way back into training post Klagenfurt with some gentle swims and bike rides and now 2 runs. The fatigue seems to be easing and my legs are coming back.

Having read around doing Ironmans only 4 weeks apart and having done ironman races 6 weeks apart on two occasions I have clear ideas around how I want to approach this period. Given that I am a the subject of my own training trial I thought I should go with my hunches which is as follows.

Week 1 saw me do 4 and a half hours of exercise capped at a HR of 130 (in fact anything that felt like exertion). This week I have started to build my workload and plan some specific sets including hill sessions on the bike and some speed work on the runs (since I figure I can bank on the endurance from the ironman marathon just done). Next week should see me hit a build week of around 18 hrs (from Sunday to Friday) and then I will be into a short one week taper.

Will it work? I dont know but I feel confident for having a plan, I will listen to my body and the fatigue that is inevitably there and we will see what happens. The balance between fitness and fatigue will be different for the next race and I will be trading a bit more fatigue against a bit more fitness. If I get it right then I think this could be my best performance if I get it wrong then I will learn from this and try something different next time. Lets go Bolton.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sleepless in Klagenfurt- a race report

It is 3.30 in the morning Monday about 13 hrs after finishing IM Austria here in Klagenfurt. My legs are extremely sore and I have got sunburn in some interesting places in spite of using my reliable (sic?) P20 sun protection. Unable to sleep I have plenty of time to share my race experience from yesterday.

The build up to the race has been pretty solid. A bike crash about 5 weeks ago was a slight hiatus which saw a few weeks where training was uncomfortable due to a cracked rib or two but otherwise the buld has been good. Two weeks back I did UK 70.3 which is a tough course and saw me worried about recovering in time for this race... but by the beginning of last week with a short taper I started to feel good.

Race day had all the usual shennanigans including the never ending queues for a toilet in the hour before race start. Into the water went 2800 racers and as ever there was no way they could hold the athletes back and with a boom of the cannon (well maybe cause i could not here it) we were off.

I had decided to go in the middle and fight for my space and try and get pulled along in the melee. I guess it worked. at the first turn (after about1.2 km) thee was a massive squeeze as we all converged on a buoy and I was literall lifted out the water!! Better up then down I thought. You then swim across and then back up a canal. Sighting was tricky and I guess I veered all over the place. The last km is up a canal which is always fun and finally I was sprinting for the swim exit.

SWIM 59.54 a new pb.

Transition this year was a 400m run away. Smoothly through transition and I was off. I settled into a groove and rode within myself. I know this course well it being my third time here and new to save my efforts for the second half. plenty of bikes whizzing past but I was happy with my pace. There was an additonal 400m stretch with a dead turn to account for the new sited transition. The first time round this I managed to overcook it and ended up in the soft verge and then the ditch. No harm done but for some dented pride and a valuable 30 seconds or so. I laughed and a fellow Brit said it looked really funny but promised to keep it to himself.

the only other experience form the first lap of note was having an improptu shower from Mario some t@sser who thought it woud be Ok to empty his bladder on a downhill with me only about 20 metres behind. I shared a few anglosaxon words with him!

Second lap and I was ready to work. With a headwind and it being quite flat there was quite a bit of bunching. that said I worked farily in a paceline and more often than not was pushing past at the front. There was some blatant drafting going on and unlike others I saw a number of racers get time penalties given. The second lap I managed to get round the corner without mishap. I had this pleasant period where on mostt of the steady up hill sections (as opposed to the sharper climbs) I was picking of riders constantly. This was a new experience for me in Iroman (and one I like!) although the bunches would then come back to you on the gentle downhills that followed.

I faded a bit in the last 20 km but concentrated on tapping out a steady rhythm and was soon back into T2. I had no idea what my bike split was as my computer had failed.. which probably helped as I had no real conception of how fast I had gone!

BIKE 4.53.22

and out onto the run. My first mile split was a sub 7! I also had a massive stitch which lasted about 3 miles and I think is related to my bike crash as it was on the same side. For the first 30 mins theere were a number of runners who went steaming past, which is normal for me, but after a while they stopped. I was now doing some solid 7.40 splits which felt good and my body was telling me to go faster. My brain said you have never sustained this sort of pace and if you think you can go faster then wait til mile 20! So I settled in and tried to keep it consistent. At about mile ten I saw Steven coming in the opposite direction. Now Steven is much faster than me and I assumed he must have had a mechanical on his bike or something as I had never been this close (and still had no idea how fast I was going). At this point I though a sub 9.50 was about wher I was at!

By halfway I was catching and passing plenty including some who had gone off to fast. This a new experience for me in an ironman! The pain was starting to turn up a notch but I focused on getting the gels down and drinking. Mile 17 and bang my righ hamstring cramped like I had been shot. No reason why, it just did. I spent about a minute stretching and trying to run. I could not, I stretched again and watched as all the racers I had overtaken went past. I started walking, then stretched then walked. A gentle jog broke out. The niggle was there but I was able to keep going. I paced myself of a slower runner for about half a mile, then he felt too slow. I started to push again, no more hamster niggles. My legs started to feel stiff and tired but I only had a quarter of the run left to do.

At the last trunaround I had the pleasure of passing the incontinent Mario, which I enjoyed greatly. By the last 2km I was done, the wheels came off and even though it was only 2km I had nothing left. This was a new experience as nearly always in the past I have always been able to dig out a bit of a grandstand finish! I think I was passed by about 10 others in the last 2K!!

I ran along the front before the turn into the finishers chute. My name was called out. Then I saw the time. The only thing I could think was it was wrong!!

RUN 3.24.05

RACETIME 9.24.55

Unreal. I had done PBs for every stage. My bike was 10 mins faster than ever before and my run a full 15 minute PB!

Any other year that would see me at Kona. This year you will need to be around 9 hrs dead to get a slot. The 40-44 was also as fast as the 35-39s. Why does my generation race so fast?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Known Knowns

So pretty much my training is done. A few more sessions and a race next week and then taper and it will be showtime.

This year I have learnt some more things about myself and my training. I know that it would be hard to get any more training done in my current lifestyle. The tolerance of my family and friends is matched by my stubborn persistence to do the training, but I have found my limit to time and reserves for IM training. I have learnt that probably early season weight training and a big winter running base seem to reduce my propensity to injury. I have learnt that less intensity earlier in the year allows me to manage more later. I have learnt that I can win a race but that this does not motivate me (well maybe a little),

I have enjoyed the company of others in training which helps reduce my "blind" areas but perhaps this is the area for greatest potential. Do we ever take enough notice of what others say. Is this rectified by having a coach? I am starting to see the value of letting others see more of me, the so called hidden areas. Doing IM is not always comprehensible to others and trying to explain the perceived benefits to others makes one evaluate the benefits that you get yourself. Finally remains the unknown unknowns. And I don't know what they are.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Twist or stick?

Time comes as we get to the pointy part of the season, as the ironman race looms large, where we have to start deciding how much more fitness we can get out of the remaining time, and how much risk of injury and illness that final push may carry.

Put simply, and to plagiarise as ever, you've trained to train, your now trained to race an you wonder whether you might just be able to get that bit extra in the last few weeks to train to win (whatever your win might be!)

I know my body pretty well and have no doubts that the weeks 6-3 prerace are where I can make some real differences, but some for good and some for bad. Put simply my goals are to max my running volume, see my bike load climb and sustain or increase my swimming. Much like everyone else then... but with the increased training load comes stress, both the physical from the training itself but also from maintaining the rest of my life as a partner, parent and worker. So after two great days at the Tour of Wessex I bailed on the final day. This was probably necessary as it allowed a faster recovery to get back to the rest of my training programme, and enabled me to be back with my family a day early which was a real pleasure. That said I was still carrying the aches and pains of my bikecrash and was not sure I was on track to meet my goals. Nearly 16 hrs of training in the next 6 days saw me overcome the painful ribs and log some solid running. By Sunday night I was tired, had a sore calf and a bit of a sore throat. Today is a rest day.

So now I have to decide how hard to push this week. The plan says more of the same but the body feels tired and a bit worn. But that's how it is meant to be isn't it? Surely the peak block of training should see you close to your limit but not beyond, so that you can gather up all your fitness gains, shed a bit of fatigue in your taper and go out and smash it. I have done enough IM to know now that so long as I dont crack I should be able to make those goals, but run a risk of getting overcooked!

Twist or stick... I still have enough time to push the envelope a bit more, but will look for signs of real deterioration. If I have two sessions in a row where I feel I cant hit my own goals I will rest 48 hrs and then try again. If the sore throat develops then the same rules apply. If however I can hold it together then I have 12 more days before HIMUK to put those finishing touches towards a PB at IMA.... Oh yeah it is also about this stage in training when we start getting unrealistic ideas about how fast we are gonna go come raceday.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


This is where you end up after a long ride and a sudden change of plan! Cycling is inherently dangerous!!

This accident resulted in a broken collarbone and a some pain, an enforced rest from raining and no little annoyance. But it could have been worse.

I have also suffered this week after a freak accident whch saw me hit a 2 inch block of wood in the road that punctured both tires and through me to the ground at about 20 mph. It hurt and I have the road rash and bruised ribs to show for it. I also get to share in the frustration of not being able to complete my training goals, cycling seems OK but swimming and running are out... good job I am dong a 350 mile cyclosportive over the weekend so I hope to be back running and swimming by next week.

So what are the risks in cycling and what can we do about it. It starts with setting out with the correct equipment. Make sure you bike works, the brakes are in good condition and you tires or OK. Make sure you have the appropriate clothing, especially cycling gloves and a helmet. Your hands will save the rest of you from significant injury but dont grind out the palms of your hands, cycling gloves have padding where they do for a reason (and it is not really to make your griip easier- its to cushion your hands in a fall onto your outstretched palm). As my hands are my livelihood I try to wear gloves even in a race.

The evidence for helmets is overwhelming if you view it correctly, There is a population study from australia that suggested that the wearing of helmets discouraged people from cycling and as a consequence there was a net reduction in total health benefit from cycling. It did not show as is frequently quoted that wearing of helmets themselves does anything other than reduce risk of serious head injury. Helmets save lives so you would be a fool not to use one.

The remaining risks are down to how you cycle and how you interact with other road users. As a lifelong rider in a busy city I can be pretty assertive in the way I ride which ensures visibility (good) but can lead to conflict (bad) but most city road users develop some degree of acceptance (probably related to the frequency of traffic lights) of each other. Country side road users seem to regard cyclists as more of a nuisance and often seem to be in more of a hurry. Any feedback to them of their inconsiderate driving is limited by the lack of aforementioned traffic lights. So we you need to learn where the roads are safe, how to avoid hotspots and how to reduce conflict. After 42 years I am slowly getting more mellow (OK hard to believe) but I do now try to smile and adopt a positive attitude in my response to other road users.

Finally speed increases risk. Take care especially on fast descents when you are tired... which brings us neatly back to the start of this post

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

oops I won something (well sort of)

Sunday saw me take on the Marshman Middle Distance Triathlon based down in the Romney Marshes around Lydd in Kent. Set up as a staging event for those doing a summer IM it is almost exactly 8 weeks before IMA which is ideal if you follow the Friel 30 week IM plan (not that I do). Still it is a good event and a perfect run out to see how my training is going. I did it last year and it was a bit basic and more like an old school race and none to bad for that.

So i rocked up at 06:00 to register and found that my race registration had gone missing..... seems like I forgot to do it! No worries they had a few late withdrawals and I was given a slot in the third wave of the race.

The Race Director had heated the water in the watersports lake to a balmy 17 degrees compared to the chilly 12 of last year, and with minimal fuss we were off. I sprinted the first 20 strokes as normal expecting a bit of bumping but soon realised that the groups had been seeded (effectively) by swim time. So for the first time ever I lead the swim!! After about 600m I started catching some slower swimmers from the group ahead (who perhaps had been more aspirational in the expected swim times). The swim went steady and in the final third I started to catch up with the middle of the pack of the field ahead. Most of them seemed a bit surprised to have me cruising past but it gave me great motivation in the last few 100 metres; Time was 31.06 (32) slower than last year but I think the swim was longer.

T1 was a mess, I was not at all prepared and it showed. Mind you I felt calm and when I realised i had lost my racing chip I spent a good minute looking for and finding it among the mess of my wetsuit.

Out onto the Bike which is Flat Fast and Windy. I was soon passing riders at regular intervals and reeling them all in. I was not passed the whole ride and picked up a few pacers who hung onto me with varying degrees of success. I felt strong most of the way but lacked a bit in the the third quarter of the bike, but picked up in the last quarter. Time was 2.29.41 (17) new pb.

T2 was a bit more successful but still managed to lose about 200 yds on a Belgian guy who had been pacing with me during the bike... annoying and again I think I was a bit dazed but none to bad really.

Out on the run I had my Belgian mate to chase down, and was motivated by his comment as he passed me in transition, "Now we see how well you can run".

It took me about a mile and a half to close the 200 yards, my HR was way up but my runs always start so no surprise there. when I caught up with this guy I had a quick chat, noted his Im gear and established we are both doing IMA this year. After a minute or so I started to chase the next runner and so on. It felt too easy but I had the speed and I was not gonna waste it.

The only person in the race to pass me came by at mile 10, he went on to run a 1.27 HM but I hung with him for a mile or so then backed of cause it was hurting too much. I told myself that if this was my A race I could have stayed with him for the last 3 miles, not sure it was true but this was not the day to use up those mental reserves.. and probably I went a it far into the red as the run was quite hard for the last mile or so but my pace did not drop dramatically.

I finished by passing one more runner with 200 metres to go. Time was 1.33.22 (new pb) for the run and a finish of 4.39.36 also a new pb. Confident I had at least 2 minutes to shave of my transitions (and clearly something to focus on) all in all a very satisfying day out. Overall I was 19th and first Veteran home (over 40 and first in my AG.

Nex event will help to sort out my bike which will see me doing the Tour of Wessex whilst I boost my run volume to try and keep the speed for the more challenging IM marathons to come.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

A good days training

Me doing the London Fields 5k Swimathon

After reading an article by Dave Scott in this months 220 magazine I got to thinking about how many sessions a week I do where I come out feeling like I achieved my goals and felt good in the process. Some of the training I do is to get the session done... I strongly believe in consistently repeating the same weeks sessions until they start to feel easy at which point volume or intensity are increased. My tightly scheduled week means I know what I am doing when and what my goal is. Most of my sessions are tailored to fit in the long run and bike each week. After the 5K swimathon (1hr 20mins) which I did three weeks ago I have now also made a commitment to a long swim (>4KM) every week.

So this year I have reduced some of the length of my non endurance sessions and put a greater focus on quality in each session. So far it seems to be working. But it is challenging. It seems to be much easier just to get in the pool and knock out 3km than it is to do a set of drills, main set etc. Like wise cycling where for each session I have always figured more is better, but am now starting to focus on more specific sets in each session.

So yesterday I had a new wetsuit to try out. A zone 3 aspire swimsuit to replace my blueseventy helix which I don't think ever fitted me properly. It went on nicely but does seem a bit thin. Once in the water though I was more than happy. I proceeded to do my quality endurance set of the week which was a warm up and drills followed by 30 x 100 of 1:50. The goal is to keep the 100s consistent with a rest of 15-20 secs. I have been building this up and aim to be doing 40x 100 ny peak week. Funny things started to happen. Firstly I kept coming in on 1.25-1.28 which is about 5 secs faster than I expected (even with a wetsuit) secondly I got faster as I went on. With 18 reps done I decided to up the ante and did the next 12 of 1.45 coming in each time on 1.25 and putting in a final dig of 1.18 for the last 100.

Put simply that is the best swimming I have ever done! Which considered it is off the back of 2 x 20 hr weeks of training (pretty much my limit) suggests am I in good form. Or maybe this wetsuit gives me superpowers! Which of course gives me something else to worry about... can I keep the form and will my superpowers disappear?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Training in the Gaps

One of the problems with training for an Ironman is having to work in the gaps in between training sessions. I am sure there are plenty out there who at my age (42years as you ask) have completed part 1 and 2 of their life plan through some successful business enterprise which they have managed to achieve alongside rearing a family. I imagine these guys who now have to commit a few days a week to keeping business ticking over and have the luxury to devote several days a week to focused training.

I know of several people who are out there "living the dream". This can take various guises. Some sell up and take to the road in a hope of achieving elite athlete status, some just want to give it their best shot and decide to take a few years as out of the mainstream, and some try to make it a new business venture combining their passion with coaching and training to create an all round triathlon lifestyle. For those of us who seek to augment their life through ironman these options may be a step to far, and besides I quite like my life the way it is. The challenge is as ever to find the gaps to train in.

This saw me getting up at 6 on sunday to then cycle my bike into work where I had a few patients to see. I then cycled in an arc keeping within 30 mins or so of work in case I had to respond to an emergency calling me back into work. I focused on doing some hill reps where I worked hard on each steady climb. After a few hours of this I then headed back pushing hard on the bike in time for lunch at my mother in laws, to celebrate mothers day. This was a relaxed affair with good food and cake. After about an hour stop I was back on the bike setting off towards home and threw in a few laps or Regents Park to bring my ride time up to the allotted 5+hours. I found that my energy levels remained good in spite of the stop start nature of the ride. Once home a few domestic chores were sorted before I took my children to their swimming lessons, and combined this with a 45 min HR capped run and about 20 mins stretching before watching the last half hour of their lesson to show them some support.

Finally I got home cooked supper and slumped onto the sofa at about 8.15 to watch Robin Hood with the kids before bedtime.

That was a fairly extreme way of getting a long ride in but it worked. Some days it does not and that can be frustrating. Would I like to have a day off a week to train in? Sure I would but I cannot justify it against the other demands so I just need to keep training in the gaps whilst I enjoy the challenges of work and the love of my family.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Planning the season

2011 looms large and I am going to try a few things differently. Specifically I am going to race a bit more to se if this gets me faster. I plan to use the races to build up my speed and hopefully will see me setting some new PBs.

So my season goes
1oth April Dragonslayer Duathlon
8th May Marshman HIM
28-30th May Tour of Wessex (3days x100miles+)
19th June UK HIM (wimbleball)
3rd July Ironman Austria
31st July Ironman UK

then I will see if I have any desire t race again.

The plan sees a race every 3-4 weeks but each has a role.

The duathlon is really just a run out for my new tri club London Fields Triathlon. I thought about it last year and regretted not registering. It is a challenging race as the bike is 20 laps around Hog Hill race circuit which has a mean little hill every lap. The aim here is to generate some hard bike speed (and a bit of running as an added bonus).

Next comes the Marshman which is a nice flat course and a chance to see where my training is. It will be a controlled race but it will definitely be a race and not an expensive training session. I hope to see a steady bike split sub 2.30 and then a low 1.3* 21 km run.

Next comes the ToW. This year I will try not to dig such a large hole on the first day. The training effect I am after is to develop some serious muscular endurance, the hills will do that, but recognise it usually takes a 4 day reccovery slot after before my training can start up as anything more than recovery.

Once recovered I will have two weeks of peak training culminating in HIMUK and here I am not too sure. I will be exactly 2 weeks before IMa and as such is quite close if I have a bad day and it is not really a course on which you can ever take it easy. the run especially is quite tough. I am hoping that my fitness at this stage will see me having a solid race but may even consider a run walk strategy for the run to avoid trashing my legs oo much. The next two weeks will be a taper/transition hoping to get me to IMA in a race ready state. I think my revoery from HIMUK should see me just peaking at IMA so long as the fatigue I have built up can be shed in the last 14 days.

I know IMA well and it is a course that suits me as long as the sun dont shine too much.

4 weeks later and I will set of for IMUK. The plan for this will be to train through with 3 weeks of steady work (OK some recovery but back on the bike for a long slow) ride the following sunday) and see how I go. I have raced IMs 6 weeks apart and felt great. Not sure how this will go....

.. but I like the plan.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Honesty and Process

I am currently reading an excellent book by a surgeon, Atul Gawande, called complications in which he talks specifically about how and why complications occur in medicine but also calls extensively upon evidence from other areas of society in particular industrial processes and aviation.

Clearly if you are responsible for the safety of others, such as the CEO of an airline you want to know you pilots and planes are as safe as they can be and that you are going to "minimise" the risk of any "incidents". Airplane crashes cost lives and business, and as a consequence the aviation industry has some of the most complete process analysis of risk and an understanding of how to minimise this risk. The weak link in this is usually human beings. Protocols are no good if they are not read, taught, understood and applied. Human beings may also do all of these things but unlike a computer may decide to ignore them, forget them or remember them incorrectly.

The challenge in medicine is that the range of variables you have to account for are far greater than those that affect the aviation industry, but even where there are well defined protocols and limited variables, Doctors will often go with their gut instinct when making a diagnosis. Now your gut instinct may well be quite good as it generally represents your subconscious brain representing your experience and knowledge from previous similar situations. However the evidence suggests that where we vary dramatically from standard diagnostic protocols we are more often wrong than right. In other words we should go less with hunches and more with evidence- and computers give us that evidence. Computers diagnose heart attacks on an ECG more effectively than humans- fact. Computers (when fed with the right data) are more accurate at diagnosing appendicitis than humans- fact.

So why is it that humans often continue to go on with a pattern or process that if they viewed the evidence more carefully they would realise is the wrong decision? This has something to do with what drives human behaviour. Anthropologists would have us believe that whilst many of us are happy to go with the flow or follow process it is the rebels amongst us who choose to do things differently that are exhibiting the human traits that have made us the most successful* species on the planet. It is the rebels that take risks that can find new advantages in the ecology thus increasing their likelihood of procreation and survival (before we all got sophisticated and started wearing Lycra).

However as we start to get a greater and greater grip understanding of the science of a whole range of situations the advantages of the "rebels" start to be lost to those who are most adept at understanding and applying the science.

So finally we get to triathlon. It has to be said that most of the knowledge of training and exercise is based upon very poor science. If you want to know whether training regime a or b is better you need to get a large number of similar talented triathletes. Get them all to train strictly to either of the two regimes and then test them all in an equivalent valid test at the end of the raining process. Given everything we know about what affects performance including periodicity, diet, general health, weather and god knows what else the trial would have to include hundreds in each training regime to give us reliable evidence. so currently a lot of training is not based around science but about "gut feeling and experience" based on a coaches previous observation of the effect of training and their outcomes.

This is still a long way from the optimum but you can see how the "science" is starting to creep in such as in this post on the EC post how the scientific knowledge can be used to predict a certain level of expectation. So lets here it for the barefoot funning.... the science suggests that it is a quick root to injury for many and there is no evidence it helps you to run faster. But is that the point?