Thursday 31 May 2012

Recovery/adaptation week

This week is an adaptation week.  When my body gets to think about all the stuff I've asked it to do over the previous 3 weeks and make some changes to reflect that.  Well, not really, but that's the approximation.  It means that the amount of training this week is significantly reduced and I get two whole days of rest!  It's also meant no running from Monday to Friday, instead of the two work-day runs I've started to get used to and really quite enjoy (er, OK, who is this person and what have they done with the real me?).

 The view of Coach Rich is that we'll get better return on investment if I don't race Thames Turbo this coming Monday and train through the bank holiday weekend quite hard.  It's a hard decision in one way for me as I'm obsessive in collecting sets and this means I don't get to collect the set of 4 Thames Turbo races this year.  It also means no benchmark.  But in other ways it's an irrelevant benchmark this year and I am far better off following the plan to get some quite challenging sessions in over the weekend.  I'll end up with a really tough brick session on Tuesday of a 4.5 hour hilly bike ride, followed by a 90 minute run.  After having done my longest training run three days beforehand, a lap of the IM UK bike course and run course a couple of days before, and another 2 hour ride and 2.5km swim the day before it.  I'll be knackered and that's the whole idea.  FUN!

Sunday 27 May 2012


I'm really very pleased with the technical improvements I've been making on the bike and run over the last 3 weeks.  Now, I can reliably drink on the bike, in the saddle, sometimes even while pedalling, and from either bottle rack.  I can eat too.  This is going to be invaluable for the longer races this year.  Running-wise, I'm starting to get to grips with pacing.  I'm still not anywhere near there yet, but generally more aware of paces and how they feel.  There are doubts in my mind whether I'd be able to stop relying on a GPS enabled watch to really get it right in a race, but we'll see.

This weekend's training has been tough in the heat.  Can it be a bit less hot in 3 weekends time please?

Saturday was a long bike and a brick run.  I intended to do about 03:30 on the bike, pick up some running shoes back at home, then cycle another 30 minutes to Prologue bikes to drop my bike off for a service before next weekend's Bolton familiarisation weekend (and UK 70.3 not long after that).  Then run back home for 40 minutes or so as a brick run.

The ride was my old familiar 3 Surrey hills, 2 of which I formed part of two of the intervals in the main set to hit 65rpm for 10 minutes for some over-gearing work.  It was *HOT* and *WINDY* and for the first time I did the route without stopping at all.  Thankfully, the traffic down to Sheen to the bike shop wasn't as horrible as last time I went that way, but when I got to Prologue, it was shut!  A one-off they say, so I went a few doors down to Pearsons and appealed to them to help.  Come Friday I should have a bike that doesn't creak in random places. 

I started the run home and, in case I'd not already said, it was really very hot.  I struggled to keep pace up at all.  Also, I forgot to turn on my Garmin for the first minute or so - another sign that I'm mentally quite tired as I've been making a lot of mistakes and getting mixed up in the last few complicated training sessions.  Intended that the 1st km was easy, but then I just couldn't increase the pace at all after that. The little undulating hills didn't help for sure.

I stopped running after the planned 40 minutes and walked the next 15 minutes to Paul in the village.  As I was craving "real food" after the bars, sports drinks and gels, I bought and pretty much inhaled a chicken baguette (can't remember the last time I had a baguette!) on the way home from there.

Today was a recovery run with some "pick ups" in there (30s sections of increased pace to get the feel without the fatigue of a fast run).  I went back up to the common to run in the trees to get as much shade as possible.  And yes, I'm definitely quite fatigued in the brain.  As I headed into a trail section from the main gravel/soil track, I tripped over a tree root and didn't realise I was falling until I hit the ground.  Covered in dusty mud and a bit scraped for the rest of the run, I really had to concentrate hard on not letting that happen again.

 Anyway, I really enjoyed the strides/pick ups, which I started to do after 30 minutes of warm up and then roughly every 5 minutes after that for the next hour and 15 minutes or so, then had to knock it on the head coming back down through town as there were a lot of people on the street.  My Camelbak run belt is probably the best running purchase I've made this year (last year was the emergency baseball cap I bought at the Virgin London Triathlon and it meant that I could have a bottle of iced water (fill to 4/5 full of cold water, then top up with an entire tray of ice cubes - OK, they rattle a lot when you're running, but it's well worth it for the chilling effect) with me today and yesterday.  Today I was pretty disciplined with hydration and sipped every km and refilled about 200ml from the public fountain to get me to the end.

I'm glad I've got these sessions in the bank but oh-boy was it a tough end to the week!  (And I hope to tidy up that last core strength session today, so I'm not totally remiss on that front.)

Sunday 20 May 2012

Ow (but it's still good!)

Had a "fun" run session today.  01:50 planned with 30 minutes warm up, 15 minutes at half-marathon pace, 3 minutes recovery, 15 minutes at half-marathon pace and then jog down for 45ish minutes.

So, I jogged up to the common; there's a known 15ish minute circuit I could use and it takes about 30 minutes to get there.  Perfect!  There were a few frustrations around Garmin having a fit with pacing and being a bit random in the trees, but it settled and the pacing was pretty consistent throughout and I hit my half-marathon pace nicely, but over-cooked the recovery and jog down a bit.  Still some learning to do on that for sure.

At the start of the jog down, I hit a really muddy bridleway that was peppered with horse crap.  There was a moment where I pitched into some nasty brambles, tried to jump through to save myself but ended up sliced up on my legs.  I carried on for the last 40 minutes or so, thinking it was probably just a couple of tiny prickles, and it stung a bit, but when I got home...

And these are the thorns I pulled out of the wounds...

Looks a bit less bad cleaned up, but sore nonetheless.

The other leg wasn't so bad as the thorns hit lower down and on the front of my leg where I had long socks on.

So I'll be in shorts for the rest of today while those close up and scab over properly.  But I was proud that I achieved the goals of today's sessions and didn't stop and have a moment when I got injured (and that it wasn't serious at all - to be fair there were a lot of trees I could have ended up head-first into rather than just sliced by some brambles).  Good run!

Saturday 19 May 2012

This feels good!

I'm really enjoying my new training programme.  It's tough to fit it all in, but I'm learning a lot, getting even fitter and picking up some better bike skills too.

Two training sessions a day 6 days a week is really hard to fit in with work continuing to dominate 12 hours a day (2 hours commuting, 10 hours or more in the office).  Sometimes I shift a session (e.g. I did Thursday's swim on Wednesday as I had a scheduled session with coachJez to check up on technique) and sometimes I miss a core strength session but I'm packing in way more hours than previously and they're more quality hours than before:-

Red = missed, significantly too short or significantly too long; Yellow = appreciably too short or too long; Green = on target; Grey = unscheduled; pale colours are in the future.
Today was hill reps of Box Hill - the only hill I know which even vaguely fit the bill that my coach asked for for the hill reps.  Six times up the main bit of it, while there was an event going on which gave me the opportunity to pass quite a few people even though I was taking it relatively easy up the hill.

Pointy! (950m climbing in total)

Looks like a scribble because there are 6 traces - 6 reps - fun!
This was followed by a negative split run - 16mins out, 14mins back - to focus on pacing and not going too quickly off the bike.  I think I went out a bit too hard, which meant that the reverse route was even tougher, but I just about managed 16:00 out and 14:18 back (over 5.48km).  Given the fact that I'm very inexperienced at pacing, I'm pretty pleased with that.

More wins today - drinking while cycling uphill, eating 4 High5 gels and a Clif bar in the saddle.  Very positive stuff.  Feeling good.  Looking forward in a couple of weeks to a good long chat about the first race itself - race plan and strategy, tactics, putting it all together, nutrition and hydration etc.  I'm actually starting to get excited about UK 70.3 though still nigh on terrified of UK IM a few weeks after that.

Monday 14 May 2012

Turns out not.

Full results published and, er, well, it's a weird race.  Only 26 women out of 174 finishers.  I was 13th, so slap bang in the middle of the field, 4th in my age category (out of 8 overall), the first two women were in the 55-59 age category and finished in roughly the same time as Mr TOTKat, and in the top 5 women, 3 were over 50!  I beat both of the 34-39 competitors and would have been 11th, 10th or even 9th woman if it weren't for the weird stuff that happened at the end of the bike leg (though still 4th in my category).
  • 7th fastest female in the swim
  • 15th fastest female in the 800m run to transition
  • 14th fastest female on the bike (though should have been about 10th)
  • 14th fastest female on the run - which given everything else I'm pretty pleased with
Given that I'd had at 3.5 hour bike ride the day before (and a 400m TT in the pool), plus the head-mess at the end of the bike leg that resulted in a thoroughly defeated and "why bother" feeling for a good chunk of the run, I think that wasn't a bad show at all.

I learned a few things:-
  • I can drink in the saddle and eat gels (taping them to the top tube really is a good idea)
  • Remember to actually start the bike computer so it doesn't auto-turn off after the first 10 minutes cycling while flying down a hill
  • With a totally new course, make sure I really pay attention and understand the route and how many laps of each bit there are (tiny loop plus big loop = 2 laps in this course's parlance)
  • Ignore the PA system unless you're actually crossing the finish line
  • Focus on swimming in a straight line more
  • I must not expect a good position or time when I've just put in the heaviest training week of my life - too much mental pressure on myself
  • More focus on nutrition is needed - I think I was bonking towards the end of the run
  • Cycling cadence of around 90 is really a good thing
 I'm still crapping myself about Wimbleball and more so for Bolton now.  I need to spend more time talking through that with Rich.

Sunday 13 May 2012

That might have been quite good

Stowe Olympic Triathlon.  Long story short:-
  • Swim felt good (could have given it a lot more)
  • I got confused when I was overtaken near the end of bike by the woman I saw at the start who looked -fast-
  • Bike course was tough and windy, but not -really- tough (could probably have given that a little bit more)
  • I overtook a couple of guys on the bike
  • I got more confused at the end of the bike when I heard over the PA "We'll see the first Olympic distance athletes in about 10 minutes" - I thought I'd screwed up the bike route, went to find marshals, chatted for 2-3 minutes and then decided to go and run anyway even though I'd probably be DQd
  • I couldn't find my place in transition because A. someone had racked over my stuff and B. my running shoes were so soaked (from the 800m run up from the swim end to transition and the fact that some bastard had dumped his soaking wetsuit on top of them) I didn't recognise them
  • I realised on the run that the guy on the PA had meant the first -runners- would be -finishing- in 10 minutes and then kept an eye out for a marshal to say "please don't DQ me, I was confused and I -did- to the bike course right".  Didn't find a marshal until the finish.
  • Run course was tough - mixed terrain, hills and one very steep descent
  • One woman overtook me on the run and I was told "you're third woman" - !!!
  • One more woman overtook me on the run... game over for a podium
  • However - provisionally 1st in my age category and possibly 4th woman overall 
(EDIT:- looks like the results overall actually aren't going to be that good as the ones we have so far  really must only over the wave we were racing in)

T1 = swim, 800m run AND T1
Also... just put in the biggest number of hours sport in a week ever at 13 hours and 50 minutes:-

Ignore the distances as they don't include the races

Saturday 12 May 2012


I have a new coach.  And I think the chemistry/cultural fit is a hell of a lot better.  Where coachJez did a great job with my swim technique, the rest was very much lacking and not working.  So, having really got on with the guys from at the Wimbleball (UK 70.3) familiarisation weekend, I decided to take the plunge and move to being coached by one of their coaches.  I was lucky enough to be able to get a place working with Richard Jones, head coach at and not only a very well qualified coach, but a very experienced and talented triathlete himself.

The first few weeks of training programme look pretty intimidating, to be honest, but there's a lot of work to do and not very long to do it in.  A lot of the initial sessions are about getting me to understand pacing at all and setting some good habits and basics in place that are simply missing at the moment.  The first swim session on the programme looked horribly complicated but ohgod was it so much fun to do!  I really enjoyed it and it wasn't as complicated as it looked.  The run and bike sessions have been similarly fun and mentally stimulating as well as helping to get a good base muscular feel for cadence and pace.

Noisy graph, but it shows a nice average of around 92rpm.  Good start!

Today's bike ride was a very positive and confidence boosting.  I managed to keep to the cadence target set and got myself into a great position with some bike handling skills that I've been worried about so far - I can now actually take a drink in the saddle almost easily!  I managed it 9 times over the ride as well as getting on and off the clip-on tri-bars in the sections less busy with traffic.  It sounds silly and trivial, but I've struggled with it to date and I think a combination of a huge confidence boost plus a steady cadence has tipped me over the sticking point from where I couldn't manage to do it to being a lot more comfortable with it.

After today's ride, I feel absolutely fabulous.  Full of confidence and the joys of spring.  I guess the sunshine helped as well as the successful ride.  Raaaar!

Monday 7 May 2012

PB again - and some big scalps

Thames Turbo race two happened.

The Thames Turbo sprint race series is the reason I've done more than one triathlon ever.  It's really well run and organised, very very friendly and welcoming to those who are new to the sport, safe, well-marked, well-marshalled and given the standing of the triathlon club itself does tend to attract some pretty nippy triathletes too so there's a challenge.  I first thought I might want to try triathlon in 2010 and went looking for a 'civilised' sprint distance one - having heard all the horror stories about open water mass starts, I wanted one that was in a pool!  I ended up entering all 4 of the sprint series in 2010 (yes, we're a bit 'all or nothing' in our house) and sadly ended up missing the first one due to breaking my coccyx while skiing earlier in the year.  So, I shivered in the freezing cold and cheered Mr TOTKat around for the first one and then froze myself to bits and got the transitions between each discipline awfully wrong in the second and third ones, improving bit by bit through each one through the year.

I enjoyed it, kinda liked it, wasn't that great at it, but wanted to get better so entered more in 2011 - all 4 Thames Turbo races and then some others... Blenheim, then the Virgin London one (Olympic distance) and having enjoyed that one, also entered the HSBC one...  anyway, I digress.  The Thames Turbo races really got me fired up and were proving a good benchmark course, with some people we started to get to know online through them as well as to say hi to at races.

And, well, although I'm having a bit of a broken brain at the moment, I logically know that this race was pretty bloody good.

This time, there were three waves.  Seeded by overall race time into waves, then by 400m swim time within the waves, all of the athletes are sorted and allotted a start position and bib number.  Usually, I'm in the first wave (being slower than 01:20:00) and near the start of the wave (being sort-of-quickish in the swim).  This time, I was in the second of the three waves.

The first wave started off and plopped into the steaming water of Hampton Pool in 6C outside temperature as the sun started to come out and turn up the thermostat.  As the pool filled up, athlete by athlete 15s apart, there was a bit of congestion as the sometimes optimistic 400m estimated swim times people had declared proved to be just that... a bit optimistic from some but not others.  As the first wave completed, the marshals left a large gap in the swim starts to allow the first wave to almost clear the pool before starting the next wave.  I was up in this wave so off came the 4x layers of tops, tracksuit bottoms, skiing socks and trainers and I paddled in the baby pool for a while before body marking and then my turn was up to get in and get on with it.

I made it about 6 lengths before 2 people wanted to overtake me at once, so I stopped at the end of the pool to wait for them to pass but everyone got very English and I ended up having to say "go on then!" before dropping onto the toes of the second one and then overtake someone else that length myself.

The swim felt... meh.  I knew I'd lost time waiting for the two guys to pass and one of them was Mr 196 who I'd chatted to in the line to start.  T1 and I had a long trot to the opposite end from the Swim In to where my bike was racked next to the Bike Out - handy as that meant I had a shorter run in my cleats before the bike mount line.  I've not yet tried the trick where you attach your shoes to the bike with elastic bands as my bike handling skills aren't that good (or at least I don't have the confidence) that I can reach down and do up my shoes while cycling.  Hopping onto my bike in the mount area, I took a few turns of the pedals to get going and down to the junction with the first turn.  As soon as I was through that turn I got down onto the aero bars.  This is still very new for me and I find the bike incredibly twitchy when down on the bars but it's a lot easier with race head on than when not.  The tough bit is getting on and off the bars, once I'm on them I'm fine and that's why I got Stormtrooper (so I can change gear down on the bars rather than faffing on and off them).

Long story short, I overtook a lot of people on the bike and got properly overtaken by only one person that made it stick.  Mr TOTKat!  Mr 196 overtook and got overtaken by me 3-4 times and I won out in the end (he was faster in the swim by 23s and in the run by 3 minutes, so roundly beat me overall).  Mr TOTKat and I had a bit of a chat in the non-compete zone back from the end of the bike to transition, which was nice.  T2 was a little bit slow in that I nearly fell over a couple of times.  Then the run, which I was a bit apprehensive about due to the awful stitch I got last time.  I trotted out with a high cadence and just hoped the stitch wouldn't come.  As ever, the marshals and the kids that help, were supportive and encouraging which is always nice on the last leg and I managed to run through most of the stitch that did come, only slowing to a walk for 4-5 paces to breathe through it and carry on.

The final km of the run, I cranked it up a notch and my legs felt completely fine, but my guts didn't (as is usual when I'm going reasonably quickly for me).  Down to the path for the final stretch and opened it up a bit more, to the final bend and the last 100m sprinting past a couple of ladies to throw myself over the line and collapse onto the grass.  I stopped my watch and looked at it - 01:22:14 including the non-compete zone!  Even if I'd spent only 5 minutes in the dead time I'd've smashed my previous time!  Very very happy and I said thanks to Mr 196 for the chase in the bike leg and we headed back to transition to get warm clothes, a cup of tea, cake and our results.

I scampered (er!) up the stairs to the results gazebo on the cafe terrace and printed out Mr TOTKat's first.  Then tried to print mine and the paper got stuck, so I ejected the roll and the stuck bit of paper and tried again.  Oops!  The PC said it'd lost network and thereafter stopped printing anyone's splits.  Er, I hope it wasn't because I'd opened the printer (it can't have been, srsly).  So I didn't have any idea what my splits were until later on when the results were up on the timing site:-
  • 3rd in VW40-44
  • 3rd in F40-49
  • 2nd bike split in VW40-44
  • 2nd swim split in VW40-44
  • (11th run split in VW-40-44!)
  • 12th of 131 women on the bike
  • 17th of 131 women overall
  • 21st of 131 women in the swim
  • (let's not talk about 58th of 131 women in the run *cough*)
  • I beat Helen Smith (VW40-44) on the bike (17th in the ITU World Champs in 2010, 20th in the ITU Long Distance World Champs in 2011)
  • I beat Clare Cunningham (SW35-39) on the bike (Paratriathlete - 2nd in ITU World Champs in 2011 and 2010, 1st in 2009 and many more)

 I think I'm pleased with my bike performance, but I know there's more to give there.  And there's _definitely_ more to give in the run!

So, thank you Thames Turbo for firing up my passion for triathlon and giving me a safe, inclusive, well-run set of races to take part in.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Second race of the season and my new TT bike

It's upon us already; the second race of the season.  And like the first one it's going to be cold and potentially wet too!  It's going to be an even earlier start than last time as transition closes at 06:15 on Monday (the race director will be on site from 04:30!!)

I'm a bit excited, but not so excited that I'm even thinking about racing on my new baby when I've only just picked him up:-

I call him "Stormtrooper" (thanks to the new chap at Triathlon Zone for putting that idea into my head :o))

I'll be racing on my usual Fuji Team Pro Special Edition now that the guys at Prologue Bikes have made it feel right again.  I had it in for a full service at Evans a couple of weeks ago and it came back with a rattle at the back end, which we thought we'd fixed after taking the cassette apart and putting it back together again, but the rattle came back.  One of the guys at the Wimbleball familiarisation weekend we went to, one Sam Baxter, recommended a shop in Sheen so I went and found it this morning.  Turns out they're really nice guys.  They stripped down the cassette again, found that two spacers were missing (one that came with the wheel and one that came with the cassette), replaced them, adjusted the slightly out of whack back wheel, the rear and front derailleurs and didn't charge me a penny!  All rattling has stopped and I feel confident throwing the bike around the road again.  Much much happier about racing on it on Monday now!