Friday, 1 November 2013

Going Ultra?!!

Oh hello..........

It's been a while, in fact a whole season has passed since I last posted anything. So what's been happening?

Well after my last post Taunton Marathon turned out to be the disaster I forecast with my wonky injury causing me to bail out after just one of the two laps. Since then though things really haven't gone too badly at all, although over 6 months later and I've still hardly swam, or biked! It's fair to say that as far as Triathlon goes this has been an off-season. Having said that I'd look pretty impressive if I were to send a 2013 race CV out, my win/loss ratio has probably been my best ever, although that's no doubt down to the small amount of races that I've done and the kind of races that I've done.

So a quick recap of goings on since my Taunton DNF...........

Outlaw Half IM Tri - This was always going to be 'interesting' to say the least. I'd only entered after we'd had an invite to Shelly's brother's wedding the day before (thank you Google). A wedding where I might have been ever so slightly the worse for wear. Ok, I'll be honest - I don't drink often and when I do drink I don't drink a lot. Although I wasn't exactly falling over things and throwing up in corners I was (for me) absolutely steaming and leaving a party past midnight, singing while I walked up the road clutching a pink inflatable Saxophone is a state I haven't been in for a good while. Still we managed to get up at 4am and make the 4mile trip to the race venue without incident.
Of course I nearly didn't make the start and was seemingly only saved by a clubmate tapping me on the shoulder with 10mins to go and telling me I should probably stop staring at my bike and get changed - ooops! Somehow I managed to get my act together and actually had a pretty awesome swim with the 12th fastest time of over 1,000 finishers. That's where the good news stops however, the lack of bike/run training along with my 'very' fragile condition meant that the bike and run soon had me going backwards through the field, even if I did get plenty of love on the course for running round with my newly acquired inflatable instrument.
What do you mean I'm drunk during a half Ironman?
Burnham-on-Sea Sprint Tri - One of my favourite races and falling just a week after Outlaw Half I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence ahead of this. I mostly head down to Burnham for the social though, it's halfway between home and the parents so we always meet up and having been around the Tri scene for far too long there's an endless supply of old Tri friends to catch up with and chew the cud.......... Ok, so enough of the chit chat, I managed to make myself look like a total knob here by telling everybody that would listen how I was unfit, injured, tired, recovering etc etc etc and then I went and won. Oooops again!! Admittedly I was slower than last year, but you can only beat the people that turn up and a win is a win :-D
A rare outing for the bike this year
North Devon Marathon - This was a bit of a risky one... I was running reasonably well but hadn't really done any long stuff. There was also lots of talk surrounding a new 50km race along the coast path opposite, could I stretch to racing that far? I promised to wait and see how the Marathon went first!
I started with a plan to keep a nice low HR for the easier first half but it all went a little pear shaped when I found myself amongst a group of leaders within the first mile. Soon after that I was running solo and of course I spent the rest of the run pushing harder than I wanted to and constantly looking over my shoulder not knowing where 2nd place was. At half way I got a time split of 2mins which is nothing once you start suffering. I seemed to run on the edge of blowing up for ages,  It turned out that 2nd place was 13mins behind by the end, looks like the 50km entry was going in then!! Win number 2! :-)
Half way drink stop - idiot!
Burnham-on-Sea Standard Dist Tri - Back on my favourite stomping ground just a week after the Marathon I wasn't feeling hugely confident, but was wary of reeling out 'too many' of the excuses again (I'd learned from the Sprint). Good job really!!
After a back and forth swim where I took the lead several times only to hand it back several times as I swam off course I exited the water a close 2nd. From T1 I was never headed as I hammered (for me) the bike as much as somebody who's hardly ridden their bike could and then dug in on the run trying to fight off the post bike quad cramps. As with the Sprint Tri I was down on my previous time, but if nobody quicker turns up then it doesn't really matter. Win number 3! :-D

After the last Burnham race (July 7th) there was a big break in racing activity. Amazingly that's my Triathlon racing finished with for the season. 3 races, 1 alcohol fuelled, 2 wins. A 66% win rate, never have I had such a successful season, never have I had a season so small though!
By now Bideford 50k had been entered, it was due to be on the 7th September and for some reason I'd decided that as a lot of 'WeirdyBeardy' folks run Ultra's then I'd join the party and NOT shave until race day. Little did I know how much talk would revolve around the 'facial fuzz', especially when the race got postponed until the 12th October which meant another 5 weeks of growth for Shelly to put up with (a week of it while we were on holiday!).
Did I mention holiday?!! Oh yes, we both had time to take off work and with no crazy Ironman exploits  this year we booked ourselves into a little cottage in the Lake District. The Lake District is a long way from Devon though and it seemed rude not to find a little race somewhere to break up the journey. Step forward the JW Ultra!!!

JW Ultra - This was thrown into the the mix very late on. When we arranged the holiday the run was already full so I put my name on the waiting list to see if any cancellations came up and one did, but not until the weekend before. So there was no real preparing, training, tapering etc (as if I ever do that), just rock up and see how things go. From Stratford-on-Avon to Bournville along the canal towpath, easy peasy...... Hmmm......

This was a little different because there was also a 3x10mile relay event which meant folks went scampering off at a hectic pace quite early and there was no way of me knowing which were relay and which solo. I started steady and soon people started to come back to me until after 3-4 miles everything settled down and I ran along in my own little world with a group of 3 about 30secs behind me and a couple about 1min ahead. About 8miles in I caught the couple running ahead and it turned out that one was a relay runner happy to set the pace and the other was (we thought) leading in the Ultra - I settled in behind.
At the checkpoint the relay team's new runner set off like a scalded cat and the two of us running the 30 settled in and ran side by side until 18miles where we ran up quite a steep grouping of canal locks and I seemed to get a small gap. That gap stayed the same for about a mile until when I checked on one of the many canal crossings and suddenly there was nobody there. I would say the rest was easy, but true to form I didn't eat or drink anywhere near enough during the race and promptly blew to pieces around 25miles. Suddenly I was a full minute/mile slower than the pace I'd just been cruising along at and I was holding on for dear life. I managed to keep things together until a relay runner caught me and told me 2nd place was about 8mins behind. That seemed to be my body's sign to back right off and there was nothing I could do to coax it back, which wasn't such a bad thing because I needed my legs for the week of Lake District walking that was to follow.
Most random goodie bag ever!
Aha, I almost forgot............ a few weeks before the JWUltra I found a sneaky Marathon to do, although of course it wasn't a nice 'easy' flat Marathon. Cheddar Gorge Marathon was all off road and as hilly as they come. To make things a little more interesting it hammered it down with rain overnight to make things a little more than slippery in places. As is my way I took several pairs of shoes with me and ended up running in a pair that were totally inadequate for the course - of course that's my excuse anyway. For once I did however manage to stick to my HR plan. Letting the speedsters charge off and then catching the slower Half Marathon runners (who'd set off 10mins ahead) meant a few bottlenecks on the early stages of the course where things were very tight. This was great for the pacing plan however as it meant there was no chance to go catch the leaders and I could just focus on my race...
To be honest I really didn't enjoy it much and I very nearly pulled the plug after the first lap, mostly because I just didn't want to slip and injure myself ahead of the upcoming Ultra's. I carried on though and as often happens when you pace things sensibly the leaders came back to me - well most of them did. After going through 13.1miles sat just outside the top 10 I caught people who'd blown up one by one and ended up in 2nd place. Happy Days :-D The winner was still 20mins ahead of me though, a racing whippet who'd run 2:30 at London Marathon this year and had seemingly cruised along with the other leaders for the first 6 miles before dropping them all like a stone. Still, the hairy homeless looking man was a surprise runner up and 20mins below the old course record too!

Ok, we're nearly done catching up - I think!

Onto Bideford Bay 50k! As much of a target race as I've had this year.....
Intended to be my first ever Ultra until the postponement this race featured me being as prepared as I ever get. Of course by 'prepared' I mean I had a faint idea of the pace/HR I wanted to run (which I ignored) and a faint idea of the food/drink strategy I wanted to take (which I ignored). The one thing I did have in my favour though was that I'd run the more technical parts of the course quite a lot and that is always a good thing (although I still went wrong - twice!).
Team Beard at the start of Bideford Bay 50k
Because there's so much catching up to do in this blog I'll keep the whole race report stuff to a minimum, but if you're want more in depth tails of what it's like to run 32 miles of North Devon Coastline it's well worth a visit to David'sPaul's and Ben's race reports. They're all worth a bit of your time!
After the short drive to the Start (love local races) and registration I had my normal toilet visit about 2mins before the kick of and promptly walked outside just as the race was starting. With the first two miles on roads and mostly downhill this was no problem though and I eased my way through the runners until very quickly (far too quickly) I could see nobody ahead. Surely somebody must have gone blasting off the front I asked - it seemed not! - within half a mile I'd moved from last to first and of course from there all the pre race 'take it real steady' plans seemed to struggle. I have to be honest, the beginning was a nightmare! We'd been told that we had to run all the way down to Hartland Point "because it was pretty" rather than simply turning onto the coast path, but when I got down to the car park at the bottom there was nothing there! No signs, no marshall, no indication at all of where we were to go. There was a trail up hill just before the car park, were we supposed to turn up there or maybe go all the way to the viewing point? I had no idea!! I stood around for a while until another runner caught me up and then we decided to run back up the zigzag road, as much as anything else so that we could warn other runners there was no indication of what to do next when they got there.

From then on it was all pretty simple, you followed the coast path!! Occasionally the coastal signs weren't too clear about whether you were heading out to a dead end viewing point or still on the coast path, a bit of local knowledge here helped me out though so it was all fine. The plan to keep my HR below 150bpm went a little pear shaped, but then when you're climbing 4,000ft in the first 20miles it's always going to be a struggle so I didn't worry about it too much. I felt pretty comfortable and so just plodded along in my own little world and not having the slightest clue what was going on behind me and how close the competition was.

I'd told so many people that the best way to run this race was to cruise the first 20miles and keep something in the tank for the last section where the terrain was flatter, So of course I blew to pieces at 22miles - kind of - although I felt pretty good my quads started twinging and then cramping and suddenly I was in all sorts of trouble. I managed to hobble on (mostly swearing at myself) and for the last two miles I was not a happy man to be around, especially when 31miles showed on my Garmin and I knew I was nowhere near the Finish!!! Finally I limped along the river and across the Finish Line in 4:52, a long way off the 4:30 I thought was possible but very happy as I'd not been caught and happier still as Shelly bought me a Hockings Ice Cream almost immediately :-D.
It later turned out that of the two litres of drink I was carrying in my camelback I'd only actually drank 500ml - or less as it was dripping water for the whole run. If I'm EVER going to look at running further I'm really going to have to sort this nutrition thing out!!!!!!
Reporter and dog fighting over my post 50k ice-cream
So that was it. The end of the running season and a full two weeks off running - and well deserved it would be too - at least it would have been if I hadn't decided to rock up to the Exmoor Stagger the following weekend! 16miles of trails from the sea level of Minehead to Dunkery Beacon (the highest point on Exmoor) and back. Simple eh?!!!

Well it was kinda simple, or it may have been one race too far.. I drove over the morning after a big party and didn't really have any expectations other than to give the legs a bit of a stretch out after the 50k. With that in mind I opted to trial my New Balance 110's knowing that it didn't matter too much if they had zero grip - not my best move as it turned out.
I set off towards the back of the field and slowly moved my way forwards as we set about the early climbs. Soon I was on the main ascent to Dunkery, a rocky and stone strewn path that the new shoes really didn't like - or maybe it was my legs that didn't like the shoes on the surface. The shoes are very minimal-ish which meant that whenever I landed funny on a rock my ankle/achilles would take a bit of a pounding. I landed very wrong at one point and had to stop and check things out - bad times! I cracked on up to the top though focussing more on where I was putting my feet than the pace I was running.
Once over the top there was a section clearly signed as "slippery and steep", knowing my shoes were not blessed with much grip on the real slippery stuff I took things very gently. It wasn't gentle enough though and next thing I knew I was crashing to the ground like a sack of spuds, smashing my hip onto some rocks in the process. Yup, it frikkin hurt!!!

I jumped up, yelling to the onrushing marshal that I was fine (while not knowing if I actually was) before limping off down the hill feeling less than comfortable........ Next time I'll wear my Walsh's!!!!!!
The pain is only just starting to subside a little - 2 weeks later - so I'm pretty sure I managed a healthy bit of bone bruising. Got a horrible feeling the achilles aches won't be disappearing quite so easily :-/
After a tentative mile I decided to ignore the aches and got back into my rhythm and I even managed to catch and pass a few folks along the way. Somehow I'd managed to drag myself into the top 10 and even picked up the prize for 2nd M40............ Unlike some folks though I'm not going to go telling the World how great I am and pretend an Age Group prize is up there with an overall win (people really do tend to exaggerate these placings), the fact is that I was 15mins behind the winner, slower than the winner of the Age Group above me ............ and yes, I got 'CHICKED' too!!!

So that's it, a season of racing caught up with in one foul swoop. I'm still putting some run miles in and achilles permitting the next fun day out will be Cornish Marathon in two weeks time. If you're all really unlucky that might even get a write up of it's own and as this thing has already dragged on forever I won't tell you about how I've just made my little Sister run some of North Devon's juicy scenery on her week holidaying down here. Enough it seems is enough..................... and even two weeks after I started writing this post I still haven't biked or swam, so nothing has changed there ;-)

Seeeeee Ya.
The beard. It had to go!! :'(

Sunday, 31 March 2013

More stuff about nothing

Ahh here we go again. Another blog post, another month and still very little to report. April is around the corner though (although the weather is still firmly stuck in February) so things are about to get more active whether I'm ready for them or not - Starting with next week!

I've finally started losing a few lbs and am now only a 3lb or so heavier than I was this time last year, it's dropping slowly so I'm not too concerned about that. Not quite the Fat Bastard that I was last month. Training is a totally different thing though with swimming being missed most Friday's due to other commitments and biking (whatever that is) almost totally missing from the training log. Running has plodded along ok, although I seemed to have changed from the man who never gets injured to the man who's always carrying some form of injury.

Last post I made mention of a knee injury which thankfully has cleared up without any problems. Only thing is, it's been replaced by a calf problem which seems to have appeared from nowhere. As it's the same leg as my knee problem I can only presume it's some sort of over compensation issue which has shown it's ugly face. Annoyingly though it doesn't seem to be getting any better (or worse) no matter what I do. I've rested it with no effect and run on it with no after effects although I must look quite funny running uphill with one foot running on my toes and the other forced into the most blatant heel strike going. Even with all that going on I'm pretty confident it'll get around next weekend's Taunton Marathon ok, even though it might not be my best performance - As it's a two lap course I will have the (unlikely) option of bailing out half way if there's a problem.

As the pic below shows I'm really not joking when I say my biking has come to a bit of a standstill, I'm soon to find out just how much of a standstill as the annual In-Club tri is just two weeks away. Last year I was fairly fit and I think it's fair to say I won with a 'substantial' margin, this year I fear I may be on the receiving end of a bit of a trouncing myself!! It's no surprise that a few of my clubmates are pushing for a bike ride that's a little longer than the norm........
I'm half tempted to rock up at the race with my old hybrid bike (the shopper) and take a little of the pressure off. On the other hand though it may do me good to have a bit of a hammering, it might just be the knock I need to get me into gear for the upcoming season. Not forgetting of course that I've got a Half Ironman distance race in just two months from now.

So that's about it, there's not a lot to report. Training is slack, I'm carrying a bit of a niggle and I've got races(???) on the horizon. What more can there be? I'll try to post after Taunton next week, unless I have a disaster in which case I'll probably just get drunk instead. I need to start getting some bike miles in soon, maybe even tomorrow............... although it is April Fools day so I'll let you make your own minds up about that :-D

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Fresh Start (sort of)

Ahhhhh, I knew I'd got a blog hiding around here somewhere. Now where did I put that duster?

It's been a while, more than a while in fact and to be honest there's still not a lot to report. Training starts NOW!........... I hope.

So....... my Birthday came and went, Christmas came and went too. I've got a pretty new Garmin and other goodies to play with, so now I just need to get back in training.

I think I can finally say that after 6 months my bike crash injuries are pretty well sorted. I can still feel it pull occasionally when I'm walking the pup and she charges off trying to yank the lead out of my hands, but that's about all. I'm 6lbs heavier than I was at this time last year and that (along with my general fitness) is showing in my run times. My training is well down too, by the end of February last year I'd done 100hrs, I'm currently sat on 33.5hrs for 2013. Most of this deficit is down to my massive lack of cycling, just 4h10m this year compared to 57hrs in the first two months of 2012. In fact I've only sat in the saddle NINE times since Ironman Hawaii which was NINETEEN WEEKS AGO! I suspect that I might need to improve on that a little. Combine that with the lack of training since my crash and it's been a very barren 6 months

Sooo, on to racing!! We've now got a ParkRun here, it's great fun although my times have just been enforcing the 'fat and unfit' diagnosis. I ran Braunton 10 and was 3mins slower than last year, it seemed everybody was well off the pace though due to the mental headwinds on the return section. Then just last week I raced and won (other than a relay team) Taunton Aquathlon. Yes, that's right I won............. BUT........... the win really just disguised the fact that after running REALLY hard I was still a minute slower than last year when I ran really tired after training 5hrs the day before. Had any of the people who beat me last year turned up (and maybe some that I beat) then I'd have been well down the field. You can only beat the people that turn up though and I'm more than happy to claim a win in February :-D

Since Taunton I've taken a full week off training because of a three week old knee injury that happened when I was running off road and twisted it slipping in the mud. It's not a major issue but it is annoying and I've decided work annoys it more than running does so I'm back on it from tomorrow. In fact I'm considering tomorrow to be the start of my athletic year. I need to get myself moving again, I need to lose some weight and I really need to remember what my bike is. Thankfully my swimming hasn't suffered too much in my slack half year, my running has and I'm dreading finding out how much bike fitness I've lost. It'll be 'fun' finding out I guess.

Onto the future!! Well my next 'race' (outside of Parkrun) is Taunton Marathon in just 6 weeks time. I'd love to say I'm going to avenge the 3:00:00 Finish of last year by knocking out a 2:xx:xx this year, but I'm a realist and it's not going to happen. On previous form and IF I manage to get a few solid distance runs in then a solid 3:15 will be very nice thank you very much. Then I've got another 8 weeks where I really need to find those bike legs because Shelly's brother is getting married............ the problem is he's getting married far to close to the venue of the Outlaw Half for me not to enter it and have a play. Of course I won't be expecting miracles, a half Iron distance Triathlon will be enough on it's own after being at a wedding all of the previous day, it'd be nice if I was confident enough that I'd got the mileage in my legs to get round in one piece though. It'll no doubt be fun (torture) though and I'm actually quite looking forward to it........

Now where did I put that bowl of celery soup, fatty???

Friday, 30 November 2012

Lazy Dayz

Hello. Good Evening. Welcome. To nothing much! (Carter USM - 1992) ........... always reminds me of Kevin and Perry!!

That about sums up my training in the 7 weeks since Ironman. Tomorrow is the 1st December though and my expanding waist line says I need to get back to some training. I've still no idea what I'm training for though, there is nothing on the horizon outside of a few very vague possibilities.

Of course with the lack of training has come a lack of blog posting, but that's nothing new this year really. I did think about stirring up some controversy and writing some posts that explained my views on a bundle of subjects, but the truth is I really can't be bothered to argue the toss with people who disagree with me and there would be plenty (if anybody actually read the guff I wrote).

So what's the plan for 2013? Who knows!! I managed to make it past November 4th without entering Ironman Florida and if I'm honest I had no wish to hit the button and enter, I feel quite happy about calling it a day with Ironman after Kona. I need to get run fit because I fancy returning to a couple of Marathons next year, I missed my traditional Cornish Marathon season closer which I was gutted about. I'm never fit when I go there, just force myself round on what remains of Ironman fitness, but this year I seriously doubt I'd have even been able to finish.

Shelly's brother is getting married next year, it just happens to be in Nottingham the day before the Outlaw Middle Distance Tri. I've put in for the Monday off work and Outlaw have just opened up for another 200 entries, it may be that entries are full by the time I know though so that'll be in the lap of the gods. Who knows if I'd be in any shape to complete a half the day after a wedding anyway, it's rude not to look into it though ;-).

Outside of that everything is up in the air. I keep threatening to do some Ultra Distance runs but I'm not sure I'll ever be dedicated to put in the training mileage for that, especially when I have to swim and bike too. Ultra's and Sprint Tri's, what a combination that would make! I'm sure the season will pan out somehow, even if I just do a load of the small local races I enjoy so much it'll make for a full calender.

One last little thought......... The Olympic/Sprint Triathlon World Championships are coming to London next year. No I won't be making any attempt to qualify for them #NoInterest! Just in case you were wondering :-D

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Done and Dusted. No More!

We’re near the end of the stay here in Hawaii, race day was 3 days ago (it was when I started writing this anyway!) and I’ve had a lot of time to mull over the happenings out there. I’ve got mixed feelings about race day, the time of course disappoints me but not as much as it did on the day. This post will be a lot different to the one you’d have got on the evening of the race or even the day after, or probably even tomorrow.So on the morning of the race there was a plan in my head, a plan that I thought could possibly have me beating my 2010 time and maybe even dipping below that magical 10hr mark. Because of my post crash fitness issues I was fully prepared to ease off the gas on the swim & bike but I believed there was a small chance that might leave me with the legs to get around my run/walk at the pace needed to hit my early goals. I had upper limits too though, I didn’t want to finish in the dark, I didn’t want this to be my slowest Ironman time and I didn’t want to be over 11hrs (DNF’ing was not an option here).
THE SWIM – 1:06:33
My swims during race week had felt more comfortable every day, although they’d been short I’d almost got to the point where there was no pain at all (maybe swimming helps). Because of this temptation had started to get the better of me and initially I got in straight into the melee when I swam out to the start line. Remembering it was a long race and how easy it might be to re-injure myself quickly I saw sense and as promised I swam out to the left until 99.9% of the field were on my right hand side. We were so far away I didn’t even hear the start cannon go off, I just noticed everybody start swimming and joined in. Physically everything went as well as I could possibly have hoped. I started steady and eased myself along looking at the main field to my right to sight rather that the buoys. Occasionally I’d either catch up with a group or find myself leading a group where someone had to climb all over my legs rather than just follow - which I’d have been fine with. Because my pace was so easy though I’d just push on a little if things got messy and scoot off the front of the pack. The turnaround (at 33mins) and return trip were also as trouble free as I could have hoped for and although and as a result I was out of the water in 66mins, comfortably inside the 70mins I was expecting.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the full tale of the swim though and was the first (sort of) of many small novice mistakes that I made during the day. With my previous Ironman stomach issues I’d opted to race wearing a two piece suit, but swimming long it it was something I hadn’t been able to try out since my training took a hit. Within 20mins I could feel the seams cutting into my neck and underarms and for the next 45mins I swam in increasing pain wondering how I was going to get through the bike and more importantly the run if I was getting chaffing issues this early. The chaffing issue had crossed my mind pre race and I’d intended to drop my bike jersey in my T1 bag ‘just in case’, of course I forgot all about it. How I was wishing it was sitting there waiting for me now!
T1 – 5:53
I was in no rush to get transition out of the way and walked the full length of the transition area ignoring the carnage around me as people rushed around like lunatics. I grabbed my bag put my shoes on then smothered my swimming friction burns with a couple of handfuls of Vaseline and a marshal smothered me with sunblock. Then I had a steady stroll out and around the transition area to my bike before sauntering out to the mount line.
THE BIKE – 6:06:54
This was where the make or break section. Of course it started with a normal novice error (if you look at the bike pics you might spot it) which thankfully wasn’t ‘too’ huge a problem. Riding 100+ miles was a big unknown after my big training disruption so easy, easy, easy was the rule of the day. A 30mile ride midweek where I’d almost keeled over in the heat was enough to destroy any false confidence I had, this was the way it ‘had’ to be. I cruised around the first section letting all the big bike monsters smash their way up the hill ahead of me. On the way down I noticed another small issue as Vaseline makes for very slippery hands on carbon bars, this was to cause issues descending and changing gears all ride (but none that make any difference). By the time I hit the Queen K I was already aware of a problem, for all my cruising and taking things easy I was struggling with the heat and didn’t feel like there was much more to give – I’d only just started!! All the way out to Hawi I kept spinning the pedals. I ate, I drank, I did anything I could in the hope that my body was just messing with me. I cruised up the climb to Hawi letting more and more people pass me and then something happened, we went downhill! The winds had picked up in impressive fashion as I started the descent from Hawi and lots of people seem to struggle with that. I didn’t really struggle in 2010 (when it was worse) and I didn’t struggle here. For the first time in the race I was the one doing the passing. Infact on the whole Hawi descent only two people passed me and they were both just re-taking a position I’d taken earlier on the windier sections.
I started thinking I was back in the game, maybe now was my time to push on and make up time, on the return trip along the Queen K was where I’d come into my own and my race would start……….. eeerrrrm nope!!! We hit the Queen K and the winds had turned, the last section of it on the way out had been tough into a headwind but now we had a headwind home. ALL the way home. It was dire, draining and depressing, I’d hardly worked all bike ride yet I felt like I’d got nothing left, as if I’d worked really hard and ridden myself to a standstill.
About 30miles from home I saw a stranded cyclist with a flat, I stopped (it gave me an excuse and helped him out with my can of ‘Pit Stop’ and a gas canister. He was from South African and had had 3 months off work to go and train in the USA with the intention of winning his Age Group here. At least my day wasn’t going as bad as his!! The rest of the ride was just a slog as I caught and passed a few folks who’d blown up but got passed by several who were flying. Most people here weren’t here to mess around, they were here to race hard!
T2 – 10:42Finally off the bike and the first sign of my post crash injuries hit home. Not the back muscles I was expecting though, this was the hip I bounced along the road on that swelled to twice it’s normal size. It never caused me any issues when I was moving but hell did it want to straighten up once I was done. Another long steady walk/hobble through Transition was on the cards, along with a few photo stops ;-). I sat down in T2 put socks and shoes on then had an Austin Powers pee (my only toilet stop of the day) before loading myself up with Vaseline and sunblock and heading out again.
THE RUN – 4:22:08
By the time I hit the run my hip pain had disappeared so I set out nice and steady, determined to stick to my predetermined 4:1 run:walk plan. Earlier training in the week had suggested that this was an easily achievable goal whereas I knew I hadn’t got the fitness to ‘run’ very far. My Marathon pb is actually a run/walk so I have no issues getting things done this way and I’m perfectly comfortable with it. The main aim is ‘still’ not to go blazing off to hard though, patience is everything.
After my awful bike split I was wondering if the lack of effort/pace/power might actually have been setting me up for a good final leg and on the way out along Ali’i drive things were looking good. Our apartment was a mile into the run course and when I got there Shelly was outside cheering, she was yards past an Aid Station which I walked though so I stopped for a minute or so to moan about how things were going and bitch about the stupid race day errors I’d made (she’s used to it!!). Then I was off again wondering if I’d regret that stop later if I went on to crush my Marathon section (some hope). By the time I got to the top of Ali’i Drive there were already some desperate sights as people totally imploded, there would be none of that for me today!! And then ‘IT’ happened – BOOM!!! – after cruising through 6miles in 50mins (including 2-3mins with Shelly) I suddenly exploded. I could hardly move my legs, I felt light headed, I suddenly couldn’t even jog my 4mins let alone run it. All of a sudden, from nowhere, I was in big trouble and I’d still got 20miles to go – Ah Hell! I’m pretty sure that I literally stumbled into the next aid station where I grabbed almost everything they were offering, extra gels, pretzels, Powerbar drink, Coke, banana, orange I grabbed some of everything and forced it down my throat – then I went back for more water because the pretzel & gel combo tasted bloody awful. I walked and shuffled then walked and shuffled, a 13min mile at mile 7 = Bad Times!! Here I was again suffering on the run and just wanting to stop, I’d still got to get past Shelly again where it’d be so easy to just walk into the apartment, I’d got to get within 400m of the race HQ where I could just hand my chip in and give it up as a VERY bad job. Obviously Shelly wouldn’t be letting me walk into the apartment easily though!!
Stupid things is that if it wasn’t for damn social media I’d probably have stopped, maybe just maybe the fact it was Kona might have dragged me round but knowing how many folks were probably staying up until silly o’clock or had their alarms set for a stupid early time on a Sunday morning to see how I was getting on meant I couldn’t. Damn you lot and you’re bloody virtual peer pressure :-D. So I plodded on! I saw Shelly again – enthusiastic as ever – told her I felt shite and she was in for a long wait if I didn’t pick up soon. Forget 10hrs, forget 11hrs if I was lucky I might get back inside 12! Shit, I was going to finish in the dark!!!! Then I repeated my previous mobile buffet antics at the aid station next to her before I was stumbling on my way again. I was moving though and moving a little easier then I walked every step of Palani Climb, it seemed to take forever but it was actually in my plan for the run, just 1/3 of a mile but there seemed no point trashing my legs trying to run it when they’d got so much left to do. I took advantage of the walk and again crammed my face full of food at the aid station there. Now I was on the Queen K and I was moving again I was moving slowly but the run/walk plan was back in action and things seemed to be improving a little. I carried on my eat eat eat plan until the Half Marathon mark where I pulled over to the sign retching, I wasn’t sick though so took that as I good sign that I’d eaten enough and a few stations of just water to help things go down were probably advisable. From here it was good patch after bad patch, I kept checking my watch to see how things were going I’d resigned myself to this being my slowest ever Ironman but I badly ‘needed’ to get that time under 12hrs.
I did have a massive low at the turnaround of the Energy Lab (18miles) when I glanced at my watch and it showed my Finish Time from 2010, but that was in the past there was nothing I could do about it, today was very different. Then as I returned to the Queen K I started feeling a little fresher, I kept run/walking & kept drinking, I even started to recognise some people coming back to me that had passed me earlier. I was beginning to get encouraged and as darkness fell the heat lost its edge too I hit 23 miles and thought it’s time to run, it’s only 5k anybody can run 5k, 5k is like a warm up or the little blast at the end of a Sprint Tri, 5k is nothing! Then at 24.5miles I exploded again – idiot!!! I went so bad that I even had to walk down Palani Hill, I thought I was going to end up walking all the way to the Finish Line but I had a serious word with myself and forced myself to at least run that last half a mile just stopping long enough to grab the Devon Flag and Kona Bear off Shelly before doing a little jig over the line.
So that’s it. Game Over. No more Ironman. I’m happy with my lot. It’s a pity the last race was such a poor performance all round but after the crash it’s really what I expected to happen. Sure I hoped that my body would have held on to more fitness than it had and I even held out secret hopes that a more cautious approach to the race might actually pay big dividends and make it my best day ever, it wasn’t to be though. Bring on the Sprint & Olympic season next year.
For now it’s a month of chilling and trying to get this damn back muscle right. There may be a little bit of bike/running if the weather is nice but I’m in no rush to get anything done until the New Year, then I need to remember how to be fast rather than steady. Fingers crossed I’ll do a better job of that.
Swim - 1:06:33
T1 - 5:53
Bike - 6:06:54
T2 - 10:42
Run - 4:22:08
Total - 11:52:10

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hello from Hawaiiiiiiiiiiii

Hello! Remember me? It’s been a while.

Hello from Kona, the home of Ironman Hawaii. I’m sat here, it’s 2am and wide awake – thank you jetlag – so I thought I’d do a quick blog update. Now I just need to figure how I get 3 months of happenings into a post short enough to send any reader over the edge. I’ll try to keep to the basics……..

I’ve been injured!

Is that enough? Ok! Back at the beginning of August I had a bike crash. Rolling down a hill sat behind a couple of cars at around 30mph I hit a pothole. Next thing I remember was waking up on the floor with people looking down at me. An ambulance ride and a couple of hours in the hospital followed where they proceeded to do nothing but give me a course of pain killers and tell me to have a couple of days off work due to concussion.  It hurt like hell but stupidly I went back to work on the Wednesday (no play, no pay) after which I was so bad I ended up back in A&E thinking I must have broken my ribs. Apparently I hadn’t - although they still couldn’t be bothered to x-ray and be sure – they said I’d pulled/strained/ripped the Intercostal Muscle in my back – whatever that is! I had the rest of the week off work, but still foolishly tried to run through the pain, then when I got in the pool and only lasted 12 lengths I knew I was in trouble.
Thank you to Google for telling me everything about the Intercostal muscle that the Dr’s didn’t. They didn’t tell me that it wasn’t a pain you could work through, nor did they tell me that every twist, turn, stretch, lift was just ripping it more. It turns out that pretty much any movement you do goes through your Intercostals and I was in a whole heap of trouble. There were other issues, like 6 weeks of headaches and a left leg that doubled in size due to swelling, but they're mostly sorted now.
In total I ended up off work for 6 weeks and still probably went back quicker than I really should have. Of course I also tried to keep at least some of my Ironman fitness by doing some very steady rides & run/walks, I’m not sure how much they helped although keeping them steady was easy because once I started breathing heavy it was agony. Most annoying was my having to miss races I’d entered. Ilfracombe Tri came and went with me looking like a spare part as I tried to help out while not actually being able to do a lot, then Burnham-O-Sea Standard Distance Tri where I stayed at home unable to go defend my title from last year. I’d planned Burnham to be a real hard pre Ironman blast to see where my fitness was – it was nowhere!

So now I’m here, in Kona and ready to …………… get round the course, but nothing much more!
The Swim – This is now actually one of my biggest worries. I’ve only been in the water 4 times since the crash and the stretching forward (over your head) that’s required in front crawl REALLY pulls on my back. More than this it always feels super weak and as if one good clash of arms could cause some proper damage. With Kona 2010 being my 2nd worst swim ever (after the legendary 2004 Perranporth Tri swim) when I seemed to be in a 3.8km fight I’ve a plan of action for the first time ever. At the Start of the swim I’ll be as far to the left as it’s possible to be! This should be a good move because when I can maintain a nice steady stroke I’m still able to swim at a decent speed, my thinking being that nobody that can swim at my pace will be daft enough to position themselves so far off the racing line. Hopefully this will mean that I’ll find clear water pretty quickly and shouldn’t run into much ‘traffic’ until half way when I have to round the turn buoy to come back. Of course this plan has down sides like that it’ll immediately be a longer swim, mostly in my notoriously bad navigation which will probably see me heading for shore and being corrected by kayakers on more than one occasion. When I do sight it’ll probably mean breathing to my right wich as well as being my ‘wrong side’ does tend to pull on my back a little more. There will be no swim heroics! The original plan was to beat my 2010 time of 1:02 and aim to get under the hour, now I’m hoping a sub 1:10 is possible with the minimum of discomfort and fighting.
T1 will be what it is. There will be no rush, this is an Ironman not a Sprint and it’s the World Champs, I’m hardly likely to be pushing for an Age Group placing!
The Bike – I discovered on yesterdays test ride that my biking pulls my back more than I realised. The secret is to keep as still as humanly possible and it’ll all be good. I also know that I’m not in shape to go out hammering things. I also discovered that my HR goes through the roof in this heat so if I’m going to keep it to its planned level I’m going to have to back off. No repeat of Florida’s hammer-fest  here, just nice steady pacing and spinning the climbs as much as I can. I’m actually kind of regretting not getting a 11-28 cassette on so that I could make the climb to Hawi a little easier on the legs. Standing up on the pedals pulls my back – standing up is BAD!! In 2010 I rode 5:28 but I blew to pieces at 80miles. I’d like to think that if I pace things properly I might still get quite close to that 5:30 mark although if it takes 6:00 and I hit T2 feeling fresh (as fresh as I can in 30C+ temps) I’ll be happy enough. No back/quad/hip issues is the target, I’ve been having issues with all three since the crash.
T2, like T1 will be steady. I’ll be lubing up my toes and any potential blister hot spots with lube and putting some socks on. Then I’ll be taking advantage of any sun block applications because I’m going to need all I can get ahead of the last section. Might even pop in a toilet stop while I’m there. Don’t expect this to be quick!!
The Run – Heck, who knows?!!! It’s an ironman in stupid hot conditions, anything could happen. One thing’s for sure I won’t be running it. The injuries have had me doing a whole lot of run/walk sessions and I haven’t gone over 10miles in the last 3 months, yesterdays 4 miler also told me running in these temperatures is a killer. So there are 3 possible options :-
The Amazing Day will see me running between every aid station, where I’ll take a full minute to walk, while eating and drinking as much as possible. Run Time – Anywhere between 3:15 & 3:45 (I’d like to go quicker than last time)
The Good Day will have me doing a 4:1min run/walk where the 4mins will come early (or maybe late) if there’s an aid station in the immediate vicinity where I can fill my face. Run Time – Somewhere between 3:30 & 4hrs (Pleeeeeease!!!)
The Bad Day will involve the patented Ironman Shuffle and lots of walking as I use whatever I can to get round. Once I’m at this place the time won’t matter, I’ll stop to chat at the feed stations if it eases the suffering a little – although the sooner you get to the Finish the sooner the pain stops! Run Time – Who knows! I ‘WILL NOT’ drop out so it could be a long walk. My personal worst is 4:59:45, I’d like to keep that sub 5hrs record going if I can.

So that’s it! After my last 7-8 attempts to write a blog post have fallen flat I’ve actually ‘sort of’ done one. All that’s left to do now is get a few more panic training sessions done. Consume some local food and drink and get Saturday done and dusted. I’m quite enjoying this injury ravaged Kona, it’s taken a bit of the pressure off. Race expectations are such an unknown that there I’m quite happy to go eat and drink whatever I fancy. Not that I’ve ever been a super serious ‘my body is my temple’ athlete, but I’m even less so now. This is Kona, it’s the Big Dance! On my best day I’m not going to win anything, this year I’m going to be the pasty white/sunburnt, hairy athlete with the muffin top who’s looking to take down some bronzed, waxed Adonis like athletes. There’s around 1500 of them here to work through, it’s going to be a blast :-D
PS – If by some miracle anybody reading this has missed it. I had a two page feature in 220Triathlon this month – that puts a bit of the pressure back on!! – and they’re planning a post race follow up. You can find it HERE if you don’t mind it putting you off your lunch ;-)