The day is done but the journey continues

img-20160925-wa0002The 25th September 2016 will stay with me until my memories as a whole begin to leave me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a big build up to an event. There have been huge events, but they often come to pass much quicker, so less time to dwell on what will be.

It’s fair to say that (spoiler alert) as I crossed the line, the sense of pride hit me hard. Was very strange. I was so proud of what I’d done but I think I was disappointed that the fanfare in my head was all there was. It left me a bit flat but not. Maybe I’m just an odd chap. It doesn’t take away the overall feeling of the day and by extension, this whole year.

Moving on from my being a tad dramatic and let’s start a few days before the race, with an email from VoTwo (the organisers) bringing a bit of a crap surprise. It stated that due to Dorney lake containing high levels of Blue-green algae the swim would have to be moved to Bray. No bad thing I thought as it’s where I’ve been practicing, but continued to read and it put me in a bad mood.

The event would go as such:

1 – Head to registration and transition as per normal.

2 – From there, cycle 2.5km to the top of the lake and park up your bike. Take your wetsuit etc with you.

3 – Walk the 1.5km to Bray Lake and when you reach there, get suited and swim straight away.

4 – Upon finishing the swim the time stops. Walk back the 1.5km to your bike.

5 – Cycle back to transition, get ready and continue the race from there. T1 would not be timed.

When I had finished this I started looking towards doing a different tri the following weekend. For all the build up over the course of those 9 months I would not be getting the full triathlon experience. I had a sprint distance lined up for the following weekend, but thankfully, the day prior to the race, another mail came through stating it was now well below safe levels and plan A was back on.

It was at this point I could not wait to get started.

The morning of the race and I was pretty relaxed, so got my stuff ready in plenty of time (although I forgot my race belt) and headed over to Dorney 2 hours before our wave was due to go.

Just after registering, I saw a friend from school who it turned out was doing the same race as Paul and I, which just helped to make the whole thing that bit better.

With the bike racked and everything in place, it was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the start to receive our race briefing. I’ll be completely honest, I have no real clue what the guy said in hindsight, which isn’t great, but I’m here to tell the tale, so I didn’t do anything too untoward. I’ll pay attention next time. Possibly.

After that it was into the water to get ready for the start. I stayed toward the back of the pack just so I wouldn’t be getting passed left and right at the start which I knew could cause me to panic a bit, so thought it best to avoid that. Then we were off.

I kept the pace very steady, probably erring on the side of sluggish but I wasn’t bothered by this. Had gone into the race with the plan of just being as relaxed on the swim as I could to get it done and then go hunting on the bike and run. I did find sighting in the early part quite difficult as Dorney lake has a lot of buoys due to the rowing lanes and with all the chop ahead of me. Fortunately on the first half of the swim I stayed relatively straight and took the turn at the buoy quite wide so as to avoid anyone swimming over me.

Despite the wind now being behind me a bit, I was starting to struggle and my rhythm fell away, which meant that I was not swimming quite as straight as I was in the first half. I kept going, just keeping my arms turning over (was half front crawl, half doggy paddle at this point) and I eventually found myself at the ramp.

I’ve read a lot about people feeling dizzy when getting out of the swim, but I’d kicked more in the last 50 metres to try and avoid this. It had worked quite well and wasn’t out of sorts at all, managing to jog over to my bike whilst getting the wetsuit undone and half down. I struggled a bit to get it totally off but this didn’t bother me. Got my helmet and my bike shoes on and trotted over to the mount line. I felt a bit off at this point and it took me what seemed like an age to get on the bike and clip in, but eventually I did. It was time to go hunting.20160829_1325501

I have to admit at this point that I feel a bit guilty not doing the tri on the trusty Dolan, but the new (well, 2nd hand from ebay), bargain of a race bike came into it’s own and I was flying in next to no time and feeling super comfortable.

The hunting down of people wasn’t quite as dramatic I had made out it would be prior. It turned out I wasn’t that far behind a lot of people after the swim and most people were just doing the tri as a challenge. I can appreciate that 100%, but I still bloody loved overtaking what must have been the better part of 25 people over the 10km course. The BMC was just immense and although only getting it a few weeks before the event, I was able to stay on the aero bars the whole time, minus the sharp turns.

Votwo Eton Dorney Tri – 25.9.16 – www.votwo.co.uk
Aero position could do with tweaking

Although there was a fair wind on the day, the training as well as the more aero bike really helped me to barely notice it and maintained a pace that, in hindsight, I could have upped a bit. It wasn’t too big a problem as I felt felt as though I didn’t want to get to the run and be totally blowing up. As with Ardingly though, I did start to feel cramp in my calves when I came to dismount.

I jumped off the bike on the mount line, but struggled to unclip from one of the pedals and almost stacked. Managed to avoid that and trotted over to my racking position. Racked the bike, whipped off the shoes and helmet, took on some liquid to try and help stave off the impending cramp in both legs. Then struggled to get one of my shoes on, so lost a couple of places. Finally managed to get sorted and set off on the run, both calves feeling terrible.

This really annoyed me because my running has been so good recently that I felt I could have smashed the run. I passed 3 people in the first 250 metres, but took until about 500 metres in for my legs to feel a bit better. I passed another 2 people before the turn and saw that the next person was a good 200+ metres ahead of me when I did the switch back.

Votwo Eton Dorney Tri – 25.9.16 – www.votwo.co.uk

I kept my pace fairly steady, thinking they were a bit too far in front for me to get, but things finally started clicking with just under 1km to go and I began reeling them in. I passed her (yes, this was mixed age and gender wave), but with about 100 metres to go, I heard people yelling at her to take the place back before the line and before I knew it, she was on my shoulder and running hard. Thankfully, with my legs having come back to me, I managed to put the hammer down and sprinted away from her. It killed me but was totally worth it. Looking at the results later, it turned out she had the fastest swim of the entire wave, so was certainly no slouch.

And so, the results, which you can see below. Finishing 15th out of 52 finishers was better than I ever thought was possible in the first race. Paul utterly smashed it, coming in 5th. So happy for him.

results

My swim bought me out in 46th of the 54 that completed the swim, which I was oddly proud of, I genuinely thought I would be dead last.

Even better though is having the 2nd fastest 10km bike split (although I really wanted to get into the 16 minute zone for the bike) and also the 4th quickest 2.5km run, hitting my target of sub 10 minutes and that is with bad legs. Needless to say, it’s obvious where I need to focus a lot of effort over the winter, especially given my sprint finish chum was done with her swim in less than half the time I was.

As mentioned right at the start, I am so proud of myself for this and I’ve definitely caught the bug to do more. So I shall be boring those around me with this for the foreseeable future.

What’s next? A solid winter of training. I’ve had a couple of easy weeks since the race and now looking to get back into the swing of things, focusing more on speed for each of the disciplines, which will likely mean getting back to Crossfit to get some more strength and conditioning work.

The plans for next season are to start with a sprint tri, get the half marathon done, do a couple of Time Trials and then hopefully finish the season doing a standard distance race. No definite races booked yet. Plus, already got a race planned for 2017 that is Half Iron distance in another country. Really excited about the prospect of that but a long way to go.

I shall keep the blog updated from time to time, but I have to say thank you all for reading this and for the support. All the comments have been great and the advice given, very much appreciated.

Will sign off, for now, with a picture of this guy, who does always push me to improve.img-20160928-wa0008

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It’s getting close now

So, it is now a mere 6 weeks until the day this has all been building to, and I can’t believe how quickly it has come around. Seriously though, where the heck has this year disappeared to?
It has been a very long time since I last posted following the Ardingly Duathlon, due to the last couple of months being chaotic and all change as mentioned before.

For a few weeks, following the switch of job and the move back to Reading, the training was not going brilliantly. My swimming definitely suffered the most, but felt like I was just maintaining my fitness rather than improving upon it.

Over the past month though I’ve really felt the progress and even the swimming has come along nicely.

As it is very fresh in my mind, I’ll discuss the swimming first up. I’ve not been able to get into the pool as often as I did back when I was in Bristol due to how busy I am with work. I’ve gotten back into going at least a couple of times a week though and have finally had my first open water swims. The first of those was at the Triathlon Centre in Bristol, which is a man made lake that is as deep as a pool, so perfect place to start for me. I managed 600m in total but it did include a few stops as I was really fatiguing.

A week later and my first real test, a proper open water swim at Bray Lake near Windsor. No touching the bottom during the swim lay ahead of me, and knowing this terrified me. To the extent that I managed to swim only 200m but struggled through every single metre of it. I was panicked so much that my heart rate was just through the roof, even before I started to swim. I came away very disheartened and knowing the Tri was only 7 weeks away, was questioning the whole thing. I don’t like to shy away from a challenge, especially one I’ve been building up to for so long and have been vocal about on here and to everyone I know.

Fast forward another week and it was the day of me doing the London Rat Race. This is an obstacle course run, with a lot of items ending up with you in the water by the Excel. The first obstacle was a pretty high up water slide which had a kicker at the end, then about an 8foot drop into the water. As expected, I was a bit scared when sat up top ready to go but I didn’t hesitate and away I went. Fortunately, because of the mandatory buoyancy vests for each water obstacle, it meant I was only submerged for a second. Once I popped up and realised I had nothing to worry about, I relaxed and actually looked forward to the other ones that ended up in the drink. The final one that involved being in the water was a 20foot jump off a plank into the water below. Before the event, this was, again, terrifying but in the run toward it, I realised I was actually quite excited about it. I did the jump and at no moment did I panic. I loved the whole thing.

You’re probably thinking ‘that’s all well and good, but get to the point idiot’. Fine.

Paul and I went to Bray the day after Rat Race and the fear I had the week prior was all but gone. I had moments of slight panic when I breathed in some water, but each time was only for a second before I calmed myself down and tried to get back into my rhythm. I managed just over 400m in total over 2 stints, with no pauses. It could not have been a bigger contrast to 7 days prior. I genuinely enjoyed it.

I now know, I can do the Tri next month. It’s a great feeling. I just need to become even stronger, and hopefully faster on that swim leg.

Running and cycling are now progressing nicely. I’ve signed up to do Reading Half Marathon next year and last weekend I managed over that distance on a morning run from Sonning to Marlow. Which was a PB in terms of distance by around 10km. Gives me a fairly large amount of confidence. Just need to do more speed work so that 2.5km next month in the Tri will be a swift one.

Now to the cycling. Which, again, has come along quite a lot this year now I look back. The speed at which I think I can maintain without burning out has gone up quite a bit, as has my overall fitness. This is helped by the setup I now have on the trusty old Dolan, but also making sure I am on a bike in some form at least twice a week.

Really excited now for the final 6 weeks of prep and hope I can once again surprise myself on race day and look back on the 9 months prior with pride and look forward to taking on the next challenges.
 

What a lovely weekend…….and event.


Not a bad setting for a race eh? That is the grounds of Ardingly College (not Ardingley as I’ve annoyingly put in all my other posts). The run took place around here, including through the trees on the left and Pauls Sprint Tri started in the reservoir in the top right.
I digress. I’m sure you’re all waiting with baited breath as to how I got on and the answer is………really quite well, considering the content of my previous post. Taking all that into account and also getting about 1 hour of sleep the night before (avoid the Europa Hotel Gatwick if you want to actually sleep), I am really happy with how things went.

In the week leading up to the race, Paul and I watched a video of the 24km bike course waiting for us on Sunday morning. It looked tough and with a lot of hills, it could not have been further from my introduction to all this at Eton Dorney. Nerves set in a bit at this point. Just to top it all off, the weather looked as though it was going to be unsettled when checking 5 days before. Superb.

Morning of the race, dragged ourselves out of our beds at 4:45 to get the bikes loaded up and drive to the venue for Paul to register and get set up before his initial race briefing at 6am. Thankfully the day was sunny with just a bit of wind. With Pauls start being at 7:15 and mine not being until 9:45, it meant that I could watch all of his race. When I say all, the moments he passed me during each discipline or in transition that is. He crushed the race, took 2 minutes off his previous 750m swim PB, seemed to blitz the bike and then manage a 24 minute 5k on a course that was very tough. Spoke to Paul afterward and he gave me an idea of what to expect:
1 – First third of the bike is pretty much a constant climb
2 – The last 500m or so of the run lap (5k was two laps) is off road and all up hill.

I am not a fan of going up hills when running or cycling…….or at any time come to think of it.

Now, it was my turn and I was just looking forward to getting started  having been there for 4 hours already.
Ardingly1
With the first run I just took my time to get into my rhythm, starting at the back and just easing into it. I didn’t want to destroy my calf or get out of puff too early on following the recent illness. It worked well, I got into the middle of the group after the first lap and took another 2 people on the 2nd. Somehow I managed to get within 40 seconds of my 5k pb at 23:09. The final climb killed me, so my transition was exceedingly slow, over 2 minutes to allow me to get liquids on board etc.

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Apologies for chest rug. Photo by Ginger Images

Next came the ride and Paul did not lie, it was constant climbing with only 2 small downhill sections for the first 10k. It was tough going but kept the legs pumping away just to keep moving. There were some horrible climbs, a mixture of long slogs and short bursts, including 1 that was only about 8 metres long, but it was like hitting a wall. To the extent they warn you in the briefing to go to your lowest gear, and they were not lying.

The ride was hard graft and also a mental challenge as I was out on my own for pretty much all of it, just picking off a few stragglers from the Super Sprint Tri that went before us. Got the 24km done in 48:37, jumped off my bike and trotted into transition 2. Again, took my time as I felt my right leg cramp a bit on the ride, so was in no rush.
Set out on the second run and I felt slow but was just patient with it,

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Photo by Ginger Images

I knew after the first 400m my legs would come back to me and I could get into a rhythm. Was keeping a steady pace until that uphill section ,where I was going barely faster than walking pace, but with everyone else in front of me actually walking, I was determined to keep running, knowing that it was just the one lap and I’d be done soon.

Finished the second run in 12:48, which in hindsight I am quite chuffed with given how fatigued I was and how much that last section hurt.
It meant my total time overall was 1:29:43 which was just under the 1:30:00 target I set myself before even knowing how challenging the course was. So yeah, pretty pleased with it. The running has come along slightly since the first race but the bike, even with the climbs, felt a lot stronger despite it being over double the distance.

Going forward? I am in the midst of a week off from training to allow me to recover, pack up my flat and celebrate my dad’s 60th Birthday in Edinburgh. Then it will be back to training whilst trying to get up to speed in the new job.

All in all, exciting times lay ahead and I can’t wait to take on the new challenges.

As always, got to thank everyone for their support and, as always, especially Paul for signing up to do a race at the same event so I wasn’t there on my lonesome.

 

9 days until the next race

scenery

With a mere 9 days before my next event, I thought it’d be a good time to give an update. It has been a crazy last month or so.

Training was going very well, feeling strong on the run and the cycling was getting better, maybe not at the rate I would like but these things happen. I was then hit by some nasty shin splints when out on a long run one Saturday in April. It meant no running for two weeks but still managed to keep up in the rest of my training, so my fitness didn’t drop too much.

Then, more obstacles, got hit by an illness that has just left my respiratory system in bits and is only now returning to a normal state.

Mix that in with a long stag do, a wedding and other various social callings and it has not been the most restrained last month or so. I’ve also been offered a job which will mean moving back to Reading from Bristol, which has caused a bit of stress too.

All in all, not the ideal build up to the next event, but I feel now that I am at a level that is beyond where I was on the last Duathlon. Which at this stage is about all I can hope for. I will still go out and try and absolutely hammer it as I’ve a long gap until the next scheduled race.

I have been getting out on my bike more consistently of late, getting in a long ride most weekends, even when being ill. The main picture is froBike picm near Wooten under Edge but reminded me more of Italy. Lovely place to ride, but the hills and headwind took some of the shine from it. Been playing around with the bike set-up recently also. As you can see in the pics, I put on some tri bars but have decided that just being on the drops is more comfortable and quick at the moment, so they’ll be off for Ardingley.

Away from the Duathlon side of things, swimming has been coming along quite nicely. I am still primarily swimming with the buoy, but getting in a few kick sets and some sprints without the buoy. I will be sorting a wetsuit in the coming month or two and the try my first open water swim. Very daunting as you can imagine but think I’ll surprise myself.

Anyway, I’ll keep brief ahead of the report to come next Sunday.

Oh, and if anyone knows of any running clubs in Reading or Chiswick area that do track sessions, please let me know. Want to find a replacement for B&W Athletics that I currently train with. Cheers