30 weeks to go…

Time to dust off this blog. Over two years since the last post…

However I have good reason in that this week I’ve started my training leading up to Ironman Barcelona on 4th October 2015. For those that don’t know an Ironman is:

  • 2.4 miles of swimming (in this case a sea swim)
  • 112 miles cycling
  • A regular sized marathon of running

All one after the other. The time cut off is 17 hours but at the moment I am optimistic and hoping to sneak in just under 12 hours. The motivation for doing it is no more than that I’ve really got into triathlon over the past couple of years, and I turn 40 in November, so why not?

I’m following a well known Don Fink training plan (the Competitive one from Be Iron Fit) that sees me swim, bike and run in increasing volume over the next thirty weeks. For context I’m a pretty decent swimmer having competed as a kid, have been doing a fair amount of cycling over the past five years but running is my weak point. At the height of my training I’ll be spending over 20 hours per week training on top of work and life! In fact it looks like this:

fink_time

 

The two dips in volume are mini-tapers for my intermediate races:

Then it is into the peak phase before a taper down to the event itself.

I’m aiming to document regular updates on the training on this blog, but all the sessions will also be logged to my Strava account.

Finally, a few people have asked if I am doing this for a charity. The answer is no as this will be enough of a challenge without the pressure of reaching a target. However if you would like to make a donation then I’d love it to go to Debra.

 

Bedford Autumn Sprint Tri

After the HSV September Sprint Triathlon I was bitten by the bug and very keen to do more. Unfortunately this is the time of year when the Triathlon season winds down, but I did register for this event in Bedford. I went to school there for years and have swum in the pool the event used countless times so it seemed like a great opportunity to fit in a final event for the year.

Since the HSV tri I’d done one cycling sportive and some club rides, run once at the St. Albans Park Run (getting under 24 minutes for the first time) and gone along to the City of St. Albans Masters swimming training once (something I’m joining up to, but will probably blog about that later.) None of that can be considered focussed training, so my goal for this event was to simply make some improvement on all three disciplines.

On the drive up it was cold and very foggy. I arrived for the briefing at 7am, but my swim start wasn’t scheduled until 8:45. I’d put in an estimated 400m time of 6:30-7 minutes this time to try and ensure I wasn’t held up much. This gave me plenty of time to get set up in transition and to watch the three hundred or so people before me do the swim. I also did a small warm up in the dive pool.

The swim itself went well and I clocked 7:34 which included getting into the pool and a longer exit to the timing mat at the start of transition so I reckon I was faster in the actual swim than last time around. I had a pretty clear run, only getting held up once, and could tumble turn on all but one turn. The only problem was on the final length where my silicon swim cap started coming off. I had to take it off and hold it for half the length, which slowed me down.

On the swim, cap starting to come off!

T1 was a bit of a nightmare. It was noticeably colder than the last event, so dripping wet in a tri-suit I chilled quickly. I also didn’t use a towel on my head so my cycling glasses steamed up immediately leading to some faffing about. They remained condensed for much of the bike ride as the air was so misty. I didn’t choose to put on socks this time which paid off and didn’t cause any issues. I was out of T1 in 1:40.

The bike ride was 4km longer than the last event so I was looking simply to achieve a higher average speed. This time I had my Garmin on the bike which helped a lot. The course was more undulating but still pretty quick and I was passing a lot of people. I ended up averaging 19.5mph for a time of 47:02.

T2 was quite slow at 1:32 as I was cold and struggled with swapping shoes. The run itself was two and a half laps on a tarmac path around the park and flat as a pancake. I felt pretty good throughout but again probably could have pushed more here. That will come with simply doing more running training. I had a strong finish though and clocked 24:25, so only 30 seconds off my 5k PB.

Overall I finished in 1:22:18 for 112th out of 351 finishers, and came 12th out of 42 in the Male 35-39 age group. Looking at the individual segments I was 68th overall in the swim, 89th in the cycle and 238th in the run! It is obvious where the biggest gain can be achieved and if I can improve my running then I should be able to jump up the results quite a bit. Only one person above me ran slower.

Most of all though it confirmed that I have the triathlon bug. The plan now is to continue some work on all three disciplines over the winter and aim to make more of the season next year, including the goal of stepping up to an Olympic distance event. I have a longer term goal that I’m thinking about, but I’m not ready to commit to that publicly yet!

HSV September 2012 Sprint Triathlon

As is obvious from this blog, I do a bit of cycling. This year I started doing my club time trial, and this led me to think about what other competitive ways I could find to stretch myself. As a kid I swam competitively at school and club level so the combination of swimming and cycling offered by a triathlon was appealing. The only problem is that I don’t have any fondness for running.

The solution was to find and enter a locally run sprint triathlon, in the form of the HSV September Triathlon, held at the Herts Sports Village just down the road. The definition of a sprint isn’t strict, and this one involved a 400m pool swim, 20k bike section and a 5k run. I reckoned I’d be able to cope with 5k.

I had a couple of months before entering and the event itself. Despite good intentions my training didn’t extend beyond one pool session and a single outing at the St. Albans Park Run, just to make sure I could actually run 5k!

I was quite pleased with a time of just over 24 minutes, but had no idea if I’d be able to do that after the swim and bike. I’d read about brick sessions when for instance you start a run straight after a session on the bike, but I decided for this first attempt to just go along and firstly see if I liked it and secondly set an un-trained base level from which I could improve.

The one thing I did do was purchase a minimum of tri-specific gear, in this case:

  • A one-piece tri-suit used for all three disciplines. Made from quick drying technical fabric and including a thin chamois for the bike leg. It saves any need for clothing changes in transition.
  • A race belt that allows you to quickly put on your race number for the cycle, where it has to be visible from the back, and to flip it around for the run when it needs to be visible from the front, again saving time and complexity in transition.
  • Elasticated laces for my running shoes. These speed up the second transition, do not come undone, and don’t require much dexterity to do up (important if your hands are cold!)

On the day myself and friends Paul and Fiona left the house at stupid o’clock to get to the sports village, get registered and set up in transition for the briefing at 6:15am. On entering I’d been asked for an estimated time for the 400m swim and this decided the starting order. I’d pessimistically put ten minutes (I’d be gutted if it took that long) as it seems did a lot of other people. I’d be starting in 113th place out of the 239 entrants present.

Whilst waiting for my start it was apparent that the swimmers in front of me would be holding me up. The swim was organised so that you do two lengths in each lane before ducking under the ropes into the next. Thus, you start on one side of the pool and exit on the other into T1. When my time came I caught the guy in front within the first length, giving him a tap on the feet to let him know I was there (harder to do than it sounds!) As per the briefing he let me pass at the end of the length. This continued throughout and I passed about ten people, only being able to get proper tumble turns in on about half of the lengths that didn’t involve a lane change. I concentrated on not using my legs for anything more than stability in order to save them for the later segments and on keeping a comfortable pace. I completed the 400m in 7 minutes 24 seconds. Given a clearer run I might have got just under the 7 minute mark without needing to go all out.

Out of the pool I headed into transition and my bike. Again, other than thinking a bit about the order I’d do things in I’d done no transition training so it was a case of on with socks and cycling shoes (I chose to wear socks as I’d never cycled with wet unclothed feet before and now was not the time to try) sunglasses, race belt and helment, then grab the bike and head out. T1 took 1 minute 35 seconds.

There was a bit of a run from the T1 exit to the mount point but soon enough I was on the bike and heading out onto roads I know very well (the halfway point was at the end of my road!) In theory the bike is my strongest segment, but with hindsight I under-paced myself in fear of the run leg. I completed the basically flat 20km in 40 minutes 59 seconds which, not withstanding the 2x 200m or so of running from transition to mount/dismount point was quite slow, at an average of around 18mph. To put that in perspective, two days before I’d ridden 50 miles at 19mph average, and in my 10 mile TT personal best I’d averaged 20.6mph on a much hillier course. In hindsight one factor was that in order to save time in transition I’d opted not to use my Garmin so had no speed or heart-rate data with which to pace myself properly. It was also the case that I simply didn’t know how much to conserve so was probably conservative in riding a higher than normal cadence in a lower than normal gear to keep my legs fresh.

On the bike leg. Tri-suits are not a fashion statement!

On completion of the bike leg however I had passed lots of people who started before me and had been passed by only one with higher start numbers. T2 was much simpler – rack the bike, take off helmet and cycle shoes, flip round belt and put on running shoes (the elasticated laces worked very well here) and I was out in 1 minute 10 seconds onto the run course.

The run consisted of four laps of the sports village. After each lap we were given a rubber band. Three bands and you knew you were on the final lap. I set off at a pace I felt I could keep up for the entirety. I didn’t get any particular weird feeling coming off the bike onto the run, which again suggests I’d held too much back. Aerobically I felt ok, and in so far as I could ever enjoy running, it was all fine. However I resisted picking up the pace until the final 500m or so and finished the run in 25 minutes 17 seconds, over a minute down on my Park Run outing. At the finish I felt fine, and really knew that I could have left more out on the course.

The net result was an overall time of 1 hour 16 minutes and 22 seconds which saw me finish 74th out of 239 starters, and 9th out of 35 in the Male 35-39 group. Overall this was really pleasing given if asked I’d have said I was aiming to get under 90 minutes. What’s more important is that I absolutely loved the whole experience, so much so that I am already signed up for my next one in October, have arranged to go along to my local masters swimming club training and will be hitting the Park Run a lot more often!

From looking at the results, it is obvious (and expected) that the run is where I have most room for improvement. However encouragingly I think there is time to be shaved in all areas so I’m really looking forward to having another go, armed with a better idea of how to approach it.

Finally, a word about the event organisation. It was simply brilliant. The timing setup was very impressive, with the ability to get a print-out of your time/splits as soon as you had finished. The marshalls were friendly, encouraging and plentiful, the cycle route very well signed and basically everything ran like clockwork. Congratulations to everybody involved in putting it on. I look forward to the next one in May!