Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hever Castle Olympic distance

This was to be my first ever race at this distance, me and my coach decided that as Vegas didn't go as planned my legs hadn't had a hammering so this would be a chance see how I'm performing.

The race started on a cold foggy morning with water temps some 10Degs cooler than Vegas this was a shock to my system !!
The swim although cold and quite weedy seemed to go well and I was out the water and into T1 in under 28 minutes, there is quite a run uphill on wet grass (anybody who's been to Wimbleball will understand).

I exited T1 in a very quick time and was feeling ready to ride at Threshold for the 40km bike course, over the course of the season I've been under going testing and my threshold has been steadily climbing.

The Hever bike course is 2 laps which are far from flat and quite technical which makes it quite slow and not ideal for TT bikes, because this was a C race for me I opted for the full Time trial bike with disc and deep section front wheel, my coach prefers me to always train in the race position.

Over the Olympic distance I felt that I was at a disadvantage riding a heavy TT bike on a technical hilly course.

Although the uphills were tough the downhills and flat sections were fast, towards the end of the second lap I had managed to catch the wave in front of me. I entered T2 first in my wave, with a bike time of 1-10. A fast transition wasn't on the cards today as I opted to change into trial shoes to head out on the run.

The run heads out again around the castle grounds so the surfaces were mainly mud, gravel and fields which made for a challenging two lap course.

On the run I passed a number of athletes but as with any split start race it is difficult to know your position until the end! Run split was 42 minutes.

Upon crossing the line my girlfriend informed me I had no split times recorded so needed to keep hold of the timing chip for the organisers to investigate - not what you want to hear after two and a half hours of hard racing!

After some choice words with the timing people it was established the wrong chip had been given to me at the registration. Lesson learned, always check to see if there is a number on the chip and that it matches your race number!

Luckily Sarah was distracted at swim exit and didn't see me come out, so went to check in the timing tent... Otherwise times would have been thrown into the mass pot at the finish line.

All in all in it was a good local race and I finished in a time of 2-25 which was enough for seventh place overall. I was happy with this position as the top athletes were pros at this distance.

Thanks to all my sponsors for making this another great race:

Tony at A1 Multisport, Gary at Solo Supplements, Niccy at ProHealth, Charlie at Bonk Clothing, Tony at Larkfield Cycles, Tim at Compressport and of course my coach Ben Ward.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vegas 70.3 World Championships

Firstly sorry for my lack of blogging, the race prep and recovery has got the better of me over these past few weeks!

Where to start, it seems such a long time ago and so many things have passed since the day I swum, rode and run with some of the best Ironmen in the world.

As you may know 2012 was my first full year in triathlon and I decided to do it properly by giving up my work and committing 100% to the sport.

This commitment has paid off for me, although I've been plagued with injuries I've managed to race and finish two of the hardest 70.3 events in the world.

Vegas begun for me on the 1st of September when my Virgin flight left London Gatwick heading for Mccaren Int airport. (In fact it didn't start then it started the day I got a qualification slot at Wimbleball on the 17th June).

Since that day I've spent every day except Wednesdays which is my rest day, swimming biking and running in preparation for the world champs.

I'm not afraid to say its been one of the hardest few months of my life, far harder than anything I ever experienced before.... that was until race day!

So, I landed in Vegas and cleared customs in a pleasant amount of time, I left the baggage claim with my bike and kit all in one piece and headed for the door. I was greeted by Ken Glah from Endurance sports travels who along with another lady took us the short drive to our hotel.

Upon arriving at the hotel and leaving the shuttle I realised how hot this place was, and trust me its warm. Spending the next few days acclimatizing and doing a few recce of the course was invaluable. The week came and went without too many dramas, except a few mechanical issues with my bike which I soon fixed with some help.

The day before the race was spent registering and racking my bike and run kit in various locations because the race had separate T1 and T2, making it abit of an athlete's nightmare. After getting it all sorted, Sarah and I headed to a local restaurant and had a nice pasta lunch (so I thought), then back to the hotel to relax and mentally prepare for what was going to be the biggest race of my life.

Race morning begun quite early around 4am, if I remember rightly, it was up, shower and breakfast which is my tried and tested from home - porridge and honey with half a banana.

We headed for transition to load the bike with cold water and give it a final check, it was still dark in transition the sun had yet to rise, so it was still very cool, we had about an hours wait until my start time at 6-50am.

The first waves to start were male and female pro's at 6am this made for some tense waiting around and warming up, as you know Vegas is a non wetsuit swim and me being a non swimmer this played on my mind from the day I qualified.

6-50am was fast approaching and the sun had risen enough to show that today wasn’t going to be warm like we all thought it was going to be HOT around 50 deg's to be precise.

It was now my time to put all the race nerves behind me and enter lake Las Vegas and prepare for my swim...

BANG! The gun went and the washing machine effect soon started, I was swimming with all the other guys in my age group so I was surrounded by some very fast and strong swimmers.

The swim begun well, I kept focused and did what I had to do, at the first turnaround buoy I had a glance at my Garmin 910 which informed me I'd swum the first half in 14 minutes, which, without a wetsuit is a time I could only of dreamend of.

This was a very welcoming sight, me feeling great and being about three minutes faster than I'd usually swim. No sooner had I turned the 2nd buoy I felt a foot connect with my wrist and something felt wrong, as I glanced up I soon realised the watch had been kicked and the pins had broken. I momentarily paused and considered stopping and looking for the watch but visibility was down to just inches.

This put a massive mental strain on me for the rest of the swim, wondering how I could pace the bike and run sections. I had to remove this from my head and remember there was still 4-30 hours of racing left to be done, so I continued with my swim which went ok until it was time to exit.

The exit ramp was a 90 deg left turn and the width of a footpath, and as you can imagine lots of tired swimmers soon caused congestion... As I was exiting I noticed I had caught some athletes who where in the two waves before me, this was encouraging until I realised it was because there was a huge bottle neck and people were backing up and struggling to exit the swim.

Upon exiting the water it was a 500 mtr run on grass and tarmac around to T1, by this time the sun was blazing and it was clear how hard this bike was going to be.

Transition went very smoothly and there was no issues which is always nice, I climbed the hill out of transition and mounted my bike.

The first mile is all uphill heading out of the valley and it certainly got me breathing, I was riding on power so I knew I had to keep below my threshold or my ride would be over before it had begun.

I kept within my power figures and got my head down and enjoyed the first 30 minutes of the bike, it was amazing scenery out in the desert, the course although not hugely hilly, certainly managed to sap the legs and by the turnaround point I could see why they held the world champs here.

About 50 miles into the bike leg we headed back into Henderson but before arriving at T2 there was numerous left and right turns which made me realise how hard I'd been pushing as every junction became more and more difficult to pull away from.

I arrived it T2 in 2-41 which I was very pleased with considering how hot it was and how hard the hills and wind are in the desert.

I exited T2 in around 2 minutes and headed out onto the three loop, three lap run course which consisted of nine hills.

As soon as I got on my feet I realised something was wrong there was no speed whatsoever in my legs and the harder I pushed the worse I felt. I tried to gauge my pace at approx 4-15 M/Km  but as the flat turned into a hill I realised that this was going to be a battle to the finish not a race.

With every step I took the pains inside my stomach grew and grew until I was forced into a fast walk  and tried to stretch it off, the pain eased but instantly reappeared when I tried to run. (Maybe my pasta choice came back to haunt me!)

The stomach was going into shutdown mode as the blood was needed elsewhere to try and cool my body, I made an effort to run/jog to the first aid station and then decided it was time to cool myself down and get some vital fluids on board and maybe a gel. This approach seemed to work all the time I was walking I could consume fluid and felt ok but as I neared the end of the aid station and it was time to run the pain was back.

I had to make the call do I go hard and go home with  DNF or do I run/walk the next 20 km and finish the race.

I knew in my head the only answer was to finish and so I began the run/jog approach to each and every aid station, as I was finishing my 2nd lap I caught sight of the finish line and did some quick calculations and realised exactly how slow I was running. At this pace I was on for a 2-05 half marathon which for me is very poor, I usually run between a 1-25 and 1-35 off the bike depending on the course.

This was a huge mental blow for me to get this close to finishing my first 70.3 world champs and failing on the run, I took the final lap with caution and then decided to make one last push for the finish line, I came down the finish shute and crossed the line in 2 hours exactly, this was to be the slowest 21km I've ever run, giving me a total finish time of 5 hours and 25 minutes.

Although things didn't go to plan, I've taken time to reflect on this and realised that bad races can be so valuable. It may not have been a great time or the time I had hoped for, but after my first year taking in seriously, getting to the start line in Vegas has been a great achievement.

Its been the most expensive but also my most valuable race to date there’s been many lessons learnt and even five weeks on I still wake in the middle of the night looking for answers to a question thats been on my mind.

The season is almost over for me (one cheeky duathlon that I got 2nd last year still to do) and its time to analyse the data from the whole year and start to build a picture of what works and what doesn't for me.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog up until now, there's bigger and better things planned for next season so keep watching this space...

Club swim focusing on 50's by triathletejon at Garmin Connect - Details

Club swim by triathletejon at Garmin Connect - Details