Friday 27 July 2012

Thank you dad

So I may have mentioned that I felt more than slightly flat at the end of IM UK.

Well, my dad was at home, looking after the TOTKat house and kitties and, unbeknown to us, had decked the house...

We were greeted with bunting, balloons and banners...

A lovely bunch of sunflowers from my mum too.  More than that... hidden in oh so many places around the house were/are/still are lots of little shiny "CONGRATULATIONS".  The more I found, the more I found a smile on my face.

I'm still not there yet, but it really made a difference.  I feel better.  Definitely.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Stats from IMUK

Heart rate (I left the watch on for a couple of minutes at the end before I remembered to turn it off):-

Run stats:-

Bike stats:-

Bike course profile:-

Bike course temperature profile - peaks at 27C:-

Monday 23 July 2012

Ironman UK 2012 - race report

(photos, stats and links to follow)

3am. The alarm was supposed to go off, but I was already awake by 5 minutes having got to sleep some time after 11pm.  Hot and noisy hotel room, but not too bad at all as race nights go.  As it's an Ironman race, all the transition stuff is packed, racked and no need to worry about it on race morning.  We just needed to get to the start, put water bottles and tool kits on the bikes and get into our wetsuits. Bolton's split transition areas makes for quite a bitty feel and no festival atmosphere around the tiny expo and setup at the race start.

So, the ambience was a bit odd, but Paul Kaye and Emma Jenkinson were doing a great job in geeing up the supporters and athletes.  Me, I felt calm.  No nerves.  It felt weird, but not in an unsettling way.  Despite a really long day ahead, I felt oddly blank and muted.

The swim start was called and we filed down into the practically tropical 18C water to bimble over to the starting line.  The water was silty and murky; visibility practically zero you could see very light coloured things once they were 3-4 inches from your face.  That made for fun not getting kicked in the face throughout the swim and in fact that's exactly what happened.  The entirety of the first leg to the first turning buoy, someone was on my toes.  Not just tapping them, but scratching and grabbing at them.  I got angrier and angrier until the first buoy, at which point the kicks in the ear, neck and chest as the washing machine cranked right up to maximum and everyone converged at the point.  And it didn't get a lot better after that - I had my goggles knocked off with a fist, got a dead leg from an elbow in the calf, winded with a kick in the chest, elbows in the head, shoulders and back of the neck as well.  By far the harshest race swim I've experienced and at one point I was so pissed off with two guys who closed in on either side of me from behind, squeezed closer and simultaneously hit me in the head on each side that I stopped and swore really loudly at them to get their own water.

The shore run between the two laps was over marshily wet, muddy grass, but not too bad then back in for a second go at the water punch up. Exiting for the end of the swim wasn't much less violent than the swim itself with lots of people desperate for an extra few seconds in a race that if they're putting in swim times similar to mine, they're unlikely to be competing for a Kona slot (not -quite- true as my swim isn't all that bad).  Up the grass runway into transition, listening to Paul egging the omelette about swim times being so good that people leaving the water now must have trained with at least three swims a week of 3.5-4km per swim.  Hmm... Not quite!  He does do a good job of bigging up the effort and achievement though, god love him!

Transition... Well, it wasn't all that slick.  Just under 11 minutes of faff, it turns out.  To be fair, I'd rather be comfortable for 180km on the bike than a whole lot faster in transition, but I'm sure I can do better than that.  Wetsuit off, muddy feet cleaned off, bike socks on, energy bar wrappers opened and put back into my cycling top.  Top on, shoes on then helmet and clip-clopping out to find my bike.  Or I would have done were it not muddy grass in transition.  Bike was easy to find, given the very useful permanent, high race number for the Ultimate Challenge series. The speed bumps out of T1 are known for launching drinks bottles out of their holders and on the second bump I was no exception with my aero-bar mounted cage vibrating on its sling and dropping the bottle into the grass verge.  Thanks to the pre-race thinking session on "what if..." I stuck to my plan of picking up the bottle and not letting it lie where it was.  My plan was to have two bottles so I stuck to it.

The spur up to the laps of the bike course was flat, fast and I was happy to get down onto the aero-bars early and for all of it.  The first little bit I was really very worried as my gears were being tricky, not engaging well and three of the cassette rings resulted in loud clicking noises when using those gears.  Clearly they were not well adjusted when I changed the wheels over from my road bike and got a bit worse when I did that.  I thought I'd spend the next 8 hours pissed off and stressy over it, but it didn't get that bad.  I felt great and came to the first aid station, picked up a fresh bottle and then worried that I'd not had all of the first 750ml bottle.  My nutrition plan was 1 gel, half an energy bar and 1 bottle of Gatorade per hour.  1x 500ml Bottle.  The nuance was lost on me until a bit later on.

Up and onto the loop and Sheephouse lane turning was lined with loads of supporters with cow bells, clappers, bangers and a lot of love.  The route to the finish line to the right was blocked off, the pros wouldn't be coming through for a while yet.  Starting up the lane of the hill, lots of smiles came as the chalk on the road had some great slogans and messages, including a "GO WIGGO!" and various others.   A hand-painted sign with "what would Voigt say?" and then "SHUT UP LEGS" were great.

Sheephouse Lane (the hill) was eaten up by my lovely TT bike.  I passed quite a few people up the hill and a good few more after the false summit, then whooshing down the swooping, sweeping curves of the long descent into a villagey bit where there was a sharpish bend, a blue "POLICE SLOW" sign and a copper waving to slow down.  I thought there was a dangerous bend or drop, but it turned out to be a crash where some poor guy had a car turn straight into him as he was finishing the descent.  He was sitting up and talking, but covered in a blanket and being tended to by an ambulance full of paramedics.  Yes, this was a closed roads race, but local access carries on.

I was soon passed by Kate Stannett's friend from Ipswitch Tri club, Jayne, doing her first Ironman too, but clearly a lot faster than me (and in the same age category as me too!).  She said hi, introduced herself and we parted ways as she sped off ahead to a great finish time.  Good work! The next aid station, I decided to change my pick up tactics and only carry one bottle as the aid stations were roughly an hour apart at my pace. So I didn't need to carry an extra 750g weight up that hill the next two times.  Not sure whether that wasn't more than cancelled out by coming to a stop at each aid station to take a bottle.  Hopefully I'll get even better with bike handling so at the next race I can take a bottle on the move.  180km of race certainly got me a lot more confident on that bike - eating and drinking with confidence now on the move.

I think it was on my first lap of the bike that I was passed at great speed. Fraser Cartmell and the TV crew, shortly followed by the guy who won the race in the end... My God, he was shifting and I shouted after him "GO Fraser!".  Not sure he would have heard really.  About 10 minutes later another pro came through, followed by Sam Baxter!  Sam came in 5th overall in the end and that was including the pros.  Man alive he had a good race!  He was in front of Simon Oliver, the Welsh pro, by quite some margin at that point in the race.  Way to go Sam :o) For me, my backside was getting sorer and sorer, it was really very windy for all of the laps of the bike loops (TT bike was absolutely the right choice there) once I'd got off the long spur up to the loops, and I was starting to get mentally tired of cycling by about the 6 hour mark.  I stopped for a wee twice and for fresh bottles 5 times (missing the first and last aid stations due to mental screw-up around 500 vs 750ml bottles).  Worse than the mental tiredness was that I had stuck to my nutrition plan really well and had 4 energy bars, 6 gels and 6x 500ml Gatorade and was really REALLY sick of energy bars by that point.  I forced down one more bar, the last two gels and another litre of Gatorade but couldn't manage the energy bar.  The thought of it was making me gag.  I knew I had a peanut butter and Nutella bagel in T2 that would cover the deficit of that bar, so didn't push it.  I think I did pretty well with the plan, especially with the last two Gatorade bottles being so sticky it was incredibly difficult to get them out of the rack to drink.  Really quite a struggle!

The last 60 minutes of the bike was hard.  I felt fine, but sleepy.  I kept finding I'd stopped pedalling and was free-wheeling and had to remember to pedal some more.  I was up on the base bars a lot more, less aerodynamic, but less tiring on my aching neck.  I did get down on the bars a few more times to overtake a few more people on the last fast stretch, but it was getting unsafe with how heavy my head was and I couldn't look forward in that position any more.  Half an hour of that and I was passed by two giants who expressed it quite well "come on lass, let's get off these f*****g bikes!".  Yeah.  My arse had well and truly had quite enough of sitting on that seat. The final time of hitting the lap split junction and all the supporters had buggered off!  No cow bell and clappers for me.

T2 had bike catchers and a very odd atmosphere.  At that point in the race the athletes are a lot more strung out and transition is less busy than T1.  There were only a few benches and some other, quite surly athletes as well as the usual jovial ones.  I was glad we'd slapped on some single application sports sun cream before the race as it had been very sunny on the bike and I was a bit coloured even with the sun cream on.  I'd packed more of the same stuff for T2 and this time it was factor 30 as the sun was predicted for late afternoon.  As it was, it came early. I spent ridiculously long in T2, eating my bagel, changing socks, having a wee in a proper loo and... I'm not exactly sure really.  Anyway, I filled my run bottle at the first aid station with more Gatorade as per the plan, but I felt really very very sick from the energy bars and gels earlier.  Coach Rich's race strategy notes said that If I felt sick, I needed a higher water to nutrition ratio.  On the bike I just couldn't have managed that, but on the run I decided to make it through 500ml more Gatorade and then switch to water.  That really worked and over the course of the 5 and a bit hours of the marathon, I slowly felt less and less like I was going to throw up.  The last hour of the bike was pretty hideous in that respect.  It was odd, my body felt strong, it was my mind that was tired and I felt really vomitous and that persisted into the run.

I started the run feeling strong, sick in my belly and like I just wanted to go to bed soon please.  It was hot, sunny and I'd been up for 12 hours, 9.5 of which were racing.  Thankfully there was a shady, tree-lined run for the first portion and I kept to the shady side of the street as much of possible until we got to the path down by the stream.  It was nice along that stretch and the lack of shade was traded off by people in the gardens that backed onto the stream having barbecues, beers and cheering us as we trotted slowly on.

The weird thing about the run overall was that my heart rate was quite low and I could have pushed harder, by quite a bit, but my head had all the safety controls in place - this isn't the end, there are two more races to get through (and this is why I still feel weird about this Ironman instead of ecstaticly happy) - so my pace stayed right where it was.  I was well-fuelled, well managed in terms of effort through swim and bike, so there was plenty available to put in a quicker run than I was. At the top of the spur, the route turned left.  I was expecting right so that threw me off straight away.  I chugged through most of the Gatorade and by the first aid station was ready enough to refill with water once per lap thereafter.  Cadets were happy to fill up my bottle with cool cool water.  And the best bit was... Ritz crackers!  Yes!  Something salty!  My God they tasted good!

I passed MrTOTKat a couple of times and Matthew Pritchard, who was looking not in great shape at all.  A few other notable faces to remember for each lap as they passed and I got band envy even before I had any on my arm - the elasticated bands you get at the completion of each run lap to indicate how many you've done.  So, the run was up the spur, round the left end, down to the right end, past the finish line and a bit further, back to where the spur joins where you get a coloured band: yellow, pink then green.  This confused me a lot and I was convinced that it meant that I had to run up the hill past the finish spur 4 times, not 3.  I was not happy about that at all.

As the run progressed, my pace stayed roughly constant.  The numbers look odd on the GPS as there are a few aid stops to fill with water and a couple to wee as well.  The over-arching, growing feeling in my head was the urge to sleep.  I really wanted just to sleep please.  The counter-balance was the receding nausea.  I was getting more angry about the winding bit around the finish line around the shops of Bolton town centre - it felt pointlessly punishing.  Finally... I had three bands and was allowed to peel off left down the finishing chute.  The light was dimming as it was approaching 9pm (sunset around 21:25) and I'd taken my sunglasses off finally, though I was worried I'd start crying as I crossed the line it turned out I needn't have as it took a couple of minutes afterwards for that.  As I rounded the corner onto the red carpet, Emma called out my name as an Ultimate athlete and before I knew it, I was high fiving all the way down the red carpet and over the line.  I was an Ironman.  Emma told me so.  I was smiling and waving until I got out of view (so I thought) and before the finish line photographer wanted to take his photo of me with my medal.  I did not feel great at all.  I hadn't heard Emma telling me I was an Ironman, or maybe I had.  I just wanted to sleep or be sick or both.  But I grinned dutifully for the photo and head into the finisher's tent.  Where I sat down on the first free chair I could find and was quiet for a minute or two until a volunteer brought me a slice of the promised pizza.

I took a desperate mouthful and it felt wrong.  Someone brought me an empty box.  I wanted to throw up.  I spat out the remains of the second mouthful and lost the first one in almost exactly the state it had gone in.  I really really wanted to sleep and be sick and die and make it all stop.

I was desperately disappointed.  My emotions had been switched off since the day before and everything of the day had built up to a head.  I sat some more and sobbed loudly for a good ten minutes.  Proper, shaking, snotty sobbing.  I felt utterly robbed.  When I should have been on top of the world for completing my first Ironman, I couldn't feel it because it's not the end.  Only half the job is done.  There are two more races to go and Wales is hilly.  Collecting myself a bit, I got up and went out of the tent to find out where MrTOTKat was.  He'd finished an hour and 40 minutes before me.  It was all a bit confusing and I sat down outside for a bit, still really very down. MrTOTKat arrived and I found Kate Stannett waiting for her massage so I chatted a bit, then went and got some potato wedges as I was still desperately hungry for salty carbs.  Thankfully those stayed down.   And then some pizza and after a massage another couple of slices of pizza and humanity was being restored.

I don't know what to think right now.  A lot of lessons learned.  Perfect technical execution of the nutrition plan, but I need to find a way to avoid feeling so sick for 1/3 of the bike and all of the run trying to recover from that.  I got a lot more used to my TT bike over the 180km and I'd like to investigate a better/more comfortable saddle to avoid the soft-tissue damage as much as possible.  I'm sore in the quads and my knees are stiff, but nothing worrying.  My toes are tender and my feet ache - perhaps slightly bigger trainers for this sort of temperature and a long run in future.

Yes.  I am an Ironman.  But it hasn't sunk in.  My own brain has sabotaged the celebration.  I am not allowed to be happy because the journey isn't over yet.  Any sane person would be celebrating the achievement but I won't until I get to the end of the Ultimate Challenge, or I fail before that happens.  It may be through no fault of my own that I fail, like Russell Cox who crashed out of UK 70.3 with a quite spectacular mechanical failure of the rear mech shearing off his bike and almost through the chain stay.  It won't be through lack of training, fitness or even last minute preparation.  But it could still happen.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Final preparation

4 days to go and the taper is in full force.  A short spin on the bike yesterday, a little jog with short sprints/strides today, reasonable swim tomorrow and that's pretty much it apart from turning over my legs for 15 minutes on Saturday morning before breakfast to make sure they still work.

Race preparation is less good.  I've had to make a lot of changes to my bike, having decided to run the TT bike and not use the deep-section wheels with tubular tyres due to the risk of puncture and not being able to deal with that in a race.  This means I've changed wheels, moved the cassette over between the Planet X tubulars and the Mavic clinchers and changed the brake blocks.  All things Ive never done before, so who knows if I've made some stupid mistake there.  It seems fine, but there's no time to really test it.

I've got my check-list of things I need to take/pack and I have my theoretical race nutrition strategy and pacing strategy (for the run quite well defined, less so for swim and bike that'll be more on feel), but there's vanishingly little time to set things out, think the race and weekend through and pack. Work is busy enough that there's no time in a working day to deal with this stuff, so I've managed to get Thursday afternoon off which will help, but still... too much to thnk about and no time to do the thinking.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Up, down and pfffft!

Out for a short pootle today to try out my new reclining bottle rack on the aero bars and it started with some traffic, a contra-flow and not feeling too bad at all.  My Planet X Stealth Pro TT bike started to feel really rather exciting to ride.

The usual 3 Hills 80km route was going really well, the first hill got eaten up more easily than ever and I was down on the bars zipping through villages and lanes, feeling powerful when as I was going through the woods I hit some debris.  I thought I had a leaf caught in my wheels - there was a PFFF PFFF Pfff Pfff pfff pfff pf sound, like dry leaf stuck in a spoke slowly disintegrating.  Then FDDD FDDD FDDD FDDD from the rear wheel and I pulled over straight away.  Puncture.  The tyre was flat as a pancake and I was about 3km out from the next sharp hill and on a narrow, fast road with no pavements or grass verge.

And no mobile signal.  I walked a bit, found some patchy signal and left a voicemail for MrTOTKat who I was supposed to be meeting at the top of the 3rd hill for a cup of tea and who'd given me a 15 minute head start.  Just as I got off the phone, I heard the distinctive sound of the Jet wheels he just fitted and he sped past me... I shouted and shouted, but he didn't hear me at all and probably hadn't seen me in the shady woods.

I walked on, stopping in a car park to see if I could call again and try to use the "Pit Stop" canister, which fills the tyre with sealant and compressed air.  The bugger was that instead of pumping into the tyre, it squirted out of the sides of the rubber nozzle.  No mobile signal and a completely un-ridable bike.  So I ended up walking up Crocknorth hill and beyond until I got some good signal, left another voicemail.  And then MrTOTKat called back.  To cut a long and boring story short, I got cold, ended up walking another 2km,  had a chat with some lovely cyclists who gave me a Fudge to eat - which was most welcome at the time - and got picked up just over 2 hours after I'd had my puncture.

So.  I've changed the wheels for my Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels and fitted the right cassette back on the rear.  Just need to change the brake blocks for ones I know will work on aluminum braking surface and I'm good to go.  I am using the TT bike.  I am OK eating and drinking on the move on it.  I'm peed off about getting a puncture, but I got a 2 hour ride in and I got a really good feeling from the TT bike.

One more decision made and set for next weekend.  Hopefully I can get bits and bobs done each evening this week as we've not got Thursday off to prepare and pack this time.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Doing stupid things

Yay.  I'm officially stupid.

I'm managing to find really scary things to read in the final week into Bolton... what an idiot.

Here's an extract from a quite distressing article in Triathlete Europe online:-

"The final stretch.
If you’ve ever completed an Ironman, you know that the last few miles of the marathon are a unique experience that is only hinted at by the experience of running the last few miles of a regular marathon. Your body is so impaired from the beating it has taken over the course of the day, it’s almost funny. The simple act of lifting your foot off the ground to take the next stride feels akin to performing a heavy squat with a weighted barbell on your back. Research from the National Institute of Sport and Physical Education in Paris confirms that the energy cost of running at the end of a triathlon is significantly greater than that of running at the same speed without swimming and cycling beforehand. And that’s an Olympic-distance triathlon.

There are probably multiple causes of the “weightlifting” effect of an Ironman marathon’s closing miles. Stride form is measurably different at the end of a triathlon run than it is in the same athletes in an independent run. The stride changes that increase the energy cost of running at the end of a triathlon are themselves caused in part by local fatigue in specific muscles, which necessitates a change in form in much the same way you might start running with a locked right knee to protect a suddenly cramping right calf muscle. It’s neither efficient nor pretty, but it sure beats the alternative."

It's not even hinted at in the 70.3 distance.  None of this came to light. Yes it wasn't a walk in the park, but it was nothing even remotely like this.  After a good bottle of water and a hog roast bap after Wimbleball, I actually felt OK - sure I couldn't have jogged for the bus afterwards, but not crushed.  And there were only a couple of tough moments in the race itself, one on the start of the 2nd lap of the bike and a little bit of tribulation on the run when I clearly had underfuelled on the bike earlier.  But not the crushing feeling that I might not be able to go on or finish.  Nothing like it.

It's the not knowing that's hard at this point and scaring myself with this sort of article is just stupid.

Thursday 12 July 2012



I have to run a marathon in 10 days time.

After 3.8km swim and 180km bike.

And I've never run further than 28km in one run.


(coach Rich says it's fine and I trust him, but I've not done this before...)

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Sleep. That'd be nice.

Work busy.  Home busy.  Sleep suffering most.  Last three days more intense than usual.

11 days to race day and I've not decided on which bike to ride yet.  I'm tired.  Really tired.  And no time as yet to do any race thinking or prep.


Tuesday 10 July 2012

Crunchy Spelt Bran Flakes

Sharpham Park are continuing in their crusade to bring Spelt to the masses in an accessible and tasty way.  This time in the form of a crunchy breakfast cereal:- Crunchy Spelt Bran Flakes (with dates and walnuts).

It's really blimmin' lovely.  Very VERY crunchy.  Firm, nutty bite to the teeth but with disappointingly little fruit and nut in the mix.  The flakes themselves are much thicker than usual cereal flakes and that makes them quite special.  A "proper" portion of 40g is not a disappointing puddle in the bottom of the breakfast bowl, compared with the same weight in muesli and with the thick, highly crunchy flakes this is a great little bowl for breakfast.  The dates, when you find them, are a bit too hard and take some chewing to soften them up.  Walnuts are few and far between too, so you're lucky to get more than one chunk in a bowl.  The taste is what you'd expect from a high percentage spelt product (40% wholegrain spelt and an extra 14% spelt bran) and that means a strong, nutty flavour that shines through any milk you add - whether it's dairy, soy, coconut or something else.  But they still need a bit more fruit and nut than is in the box.

Overall, I really like this cereal.  The texture and taste is a lot better than conventional Bran Flakes and I can add raisins if I want a bit more fruit in there.  Would I buy it if Ocado or Abel & Cole sold it?  Yep.

I found a bit of date!
Sainsburys are selling them though.  So, you can get them directly from Sharpham Park or in Sainsburys.