Tuesday 27 August 2013

I wish I knew (Race Report: Thames Turbo Sprint #4 2013)

Bank holiday Monday.  Thames Turbo Sprint Tri day!

Vicky Gill - Ladies Winner and setting a new course record
Usual 04:30 alarm; up, brekkie and off to park and register by 05:45.  This race, I was in the 4th wave of starters and quite far down that wave for start time.  [Start time at these races is seeded by overall estimated completion time, wave 1 being slowest, 4 fastest; then by estimated 400m swim time, fastest first in the pool.]  So from registration time, I had a 2 hour wait before getting into the pool to start.  Thankfully there were some nice people around to chat to, both competitors and spectators (thanks Rowe family, @abradypus, Danny), so the 2 hours passed relatively quickly.

I had my usual "I don't feel like this; I don' wanna get in the pool" minor funk before getting in and getting on with it.  My swim was pretty average and uneventful and for all my whining that I hadn't re-set my estimated swim time to something sensible, I was in a perfect spot in the swim - the guy in front never showed me his feet and the guy behind never got close.  I popped out of the pool, trotted into transition to my bike, which was nicely racked towards the end of a rack.

Shoes on, number belt clipped on - ARGH! IT'S SO LOOSE! - I tried to adjust it but the little loops that hold the loose ends were jammed into the plastic buckles and stopping me from getting it any tighter.  I tried a few times, managed to get it a little tighter, enough that it wouldn't just flap around on the bike, and then gave up.  Helmet and glasses on. Trot out to the bike mount line at the pedestrian crossing.  More errors!  I skidded about a bit trying to clip in my shoes and then was in a silly low gear as I spun up the wheels on the spur down to the main road.  I decided not to get down on the bars for that part as the traffic can be unpredictable there and I just spun out at a high cadence all the way to the junction before turning out onto the main part of the course, getting down on the bars and then getting into a better gear.

It was time to put some effort in, so off I went.  Slowing slightly for the roundabout at the short-end turn point, I started to wind it back up again for the run back down to the church and on to the flight of mini roundabouts in the villages.  Argh again!  There's a right-hand turn at a narrow point in the first village where there are often vehicles turning right.  Coming up to that junction was a very slow cyclist, with a bus stuck behind it, which also wanted to turn right.  No way to over or under-take the bus as there was no room and it was turning right, I had no option but to ease off the pedals and wait for the bus to turn right.  Argh!  It had to wait for 2-3 cars to go past on the other side of the road before turning!  Never mind; on with it down to the left at the traffic lights.  No further incidents on the bike, strong, confident cycling down to the far end roundabout turn and then back, into a reasonably fierce head-wind.  I was over-taken by one, two, then three men on squashy bikes with whooshy wheels, but the third one (511) was only just pulling away.  He might be catchable!  A peloton of bank holiday cyclists went past me and interjected between me and race number 511.  They sat there for a bit, pulling away from me very very slightly and then eventually overtook 511.  Who then eased off!  Catchable!  So catchable, I eased off too.  Bah!

I caught him just as we eased into the bike finish funnel and then off to the non-compete zone back to T2.  We had a bit of a chat and I said I'd been hoping to go sub-40 minutes on the bike that day, but the wind and the bus had certainly put paid to that.  Oh well!

Back to T2, bike racked nicely in a huge gap where the people around me hadn't got back yet.  Shoe swap, helmet off, sun-visor on and off to the run out from T2.

And I felt -GOOD-.  Really really good.

Trying to run through the stitch, but not doing well
(Thanks to David Rowe for the photo)
Trotted down the road to the park entrance, being overtaken by 3 people who were quite nippy.  Into the park, up to the first km marker and then... oh dear god, the worst stitch known to humanity hit my right side.  I slowed to a walk and stopped.  Tried to breathe it out but it wasn't going, so started walking and trying to massage the muscles.  This was not good at all.  It just wouldn't shift and then eased a little, so I started to run again, legs feeling absolutely great, but the stitch sharpened again.  I passed Mr TOTKat and @abradypus at the water station and quite vocally explained my predicament as I passed them.  It went on; run, walk, run, walk for the next 2km up to the corner which was just under 2km to go.  I don't know if it was Rob telling me "just under 2km to go" that made the magic happen, but the stitch went away completely and I started to run properly again.  It just felt so good in the legs and lungs I really wish that stitch hadn't happened.  I motored on in to the finish line and stopped my watch.  01:21:27 - I'd started it early in the pool and it included the non-compete zone between bike and T2 so I had no idea what my overall time was.  I really wanted to beat 40 minutes on the bike and really wanted to beat my previous PB of 01:16:14, but was pretty sure I hadn't.

After a chat with Liz Pinches and Richie Thorpe, @abradypusMr TOTKat and I ambled back to the pool for some tea and a bacon roll.  I went to print my results while Mr TOTKat scored tea and food up in the cafe.  And there we go.  I smashed my bike PB, by 3 minutes, despite the bus and the wind.  And I beat my overall PB by just under a minute too, despite the awful run and average swim.  3rd in AG, which is OK I suppose.  7th woman on the bike overall, which is OK I suppose.

Not a bad day, not the best day, but I'm thinking Zell Am See may well turn out interestingly.  Hopefully I'll've got all the crappy luck out of the way and no more stitches!

I really really wish I'd not had that stitch; I wish I knew what the run could have been.  I'm thinking it could have been around 25 minutes, but I'll never know.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Slightly overwhelmed

(if that's possible)

4 weekends; 4 races.  Sprint, 70.3, Olympic, Sprint.  And I really really care about the first two.  Thing is, I'm going to have my ass handed to me at both.  The field at Thames Turbo race 4 looks like it's gonna be a good-un.  And the Austrians and Germans are pretty dominating for the 70.3 the following Sunday.

I really wanted to do well, but I don't think I'll place very highly at either.   Plus, I do need to be careful at Thames Turbo due to the local traffic and starting so late.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

The last of the big weeks in 2013

Last week was, on paper, the last of the big training weeks this year.  The message from my coach was "get your head down and get through it".  So.  I did.  And, come Sunday's 3.5 hour bike ride I was knackered.  My hamstrings were already battered from still being unused to the new set-up on the Fuji and having put in a lot of miles of bike work in the last fortnight from Ride London 100 onwards; 100 miles that day, a few gym bike sessions during the week and a ride home, then a 65km ride from Winchester to Bagshot, some more quality gym bike sessions in the week, then a 3 hour ride on Saturday.  Sunday, I headed out for my usual 3 Hills route in Surrey with quite some fatigue, but it felt OK.  I wound it up gently at the start and then hit Hungry Hill Lane with less horror than usual at the terrible road surface, ground up Staple Lane in my second fastest recorded time, followed by the same performance up Crocknorth and then PBd chunks up to Box Hill and some of the segments up the hill and then all the way home from there.  Even fatigued and with hamstrings on fire, the grind seemed less difficult up the hills and I felt able to push through the discomfort and tiredness with more than usual ease.  This is exactly how I felt in the latter stages of Ride London; tired but with plenty of power and drive left.

On paper, this has been the most successful (unsupervised) training week since Galway last year... only one missed swim:-

The bike work is really paying off and it's making me a little excited for Zell Am See.  In my head, I'm starting to believe that I might be able to do something good at that race.  I should be able to and I'm starting to believe that my body can do stuff when I tell it to.

This week, I have a couple of runs (one sharp one, one recovery) a couple of bike (one sharp, one cadence work), two swims (one sharp, one endurance) and that's it.  Then it's 4 races in 4 weeks; sprint, 70.3, Olympic, sprint.

FUN!  (gotta get race plans set in my head that aren't just "SMASH IT!1!!}#&*^]!]@1@J+ZZ!" )

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Hard week!

Being quite inexperienced at proper training, I haven't got a good grasp of what a hard week is.  Last week was one of them, though I didn't really notice at the time.

Still quite fatigued from RideLondon 100, I had one normal rest day then back into the swing of things with a peppy hour or running intervals, then a bit of a hiccup with a day when I just couldn't fit anything in.  Thursday had an hour of bike intervals on the gym bike, then another set of intervals on the road to get my bike back home from Mr TOTKat's office after RideLondon.  Friday, more bike intervals, even harder ones this time.  Friday, we packed up the car and headed off into Surrey for a weekend away.  Saturday was a bike trip to Farnborough station to catch the train to Winchester for parkrun then riding all the way back up the A30 (route planning fail early on in the ride) to the hotel, along a fairly rolling terrain and with intent to get back at a reasonable pace.  I was whacked!  We stopped for a tea and some fuel half way back (only 65km ride!) and mashed the rest of the way, giving me a few Strava KOMs on the way.

The plan was to have afternoon tea, a nap, then a swim before dinner.  And we did have a fabulous afternoon tea, but were running late enough that the nap was only 10 minutes long before I had to go for a scary looking swim set that included butterfly in the warm up!

This resulted in a bit of a failed swim... I cut out a chunk as I was supposed to be doing descending sets after a substantial warm up and I was simply knackered.  So I did about 3/4 of the session and called it a day.  Just about enough time to get showered and changed for dinner.

Sunday morning had a hard run set planned.  A really nice warm up and then progressively faster and shorter multiples of 400m laps of the rugby pitch (which was de-turfed and being rotavated at the time).  Through lack of familiarity with using the lap function on my Garmin, I made a bit of a hash of it, but still I managed to mash through the session despite feeling like spewing after the first 1600m interval and not wanting to carry on.  10km warm-up plus intervals later, I was done; a sweaty heaving mess, but done.  Time to get back to the room, shower and have breakfast.  Letting the gorgeous breakfast go down a bit, we packed up and checked out before going to The Spa again for another swim.

50m into the warm up, my arms were saying uncouth things to me about what I was asking of them.  This particular session included 8x25m butterfly in the warm up.  I've not done butterfly since I was about 9 or 10 years old and I wasn't any good at it then.  I wasn't convinced I'd be able to get my arms out of the water and that I'd look like a total idiot.  Turns out I can do it for a couple of lengths at a time!  Anyway, given how tired I was from back-loading the hard training to the tail end of the week and not really recovering much from some pedal mashing at RideLondon for a few hours, I called it a day before really getting into the main set of the swim and we sat beside the outdoor pool in the sun for a bit to dry off and have a drink.

Chatting through the week with my coach on Monday night (rest day!) he did say that this week might look innocuous on paper, but after last week I would still be tired and there are a few tough sessions in there that will really add up.  The whole plan was to tire me out and pile on the fatigue some more this week to get me used to pushing hard while I feel fatigued.  Well, I can say with certainty that it's working 'cause this morning's swim times were terrible!


Monday 5 August 2013

Event Report: Ride London 100 2013

It's been all go for the last few weekends and this weekend was no exception; more excitingly it was the inaugural Ride London 100 event and the longest ride for me since crashing my bike last year on 2nd September, by 100%.

I've been training for 70.3 Austria in September this year and that has meant no rides longer than about 3.5 hours since I've got back on my bike early this year.  80km max, I think, though I'd have to look at some of the ones in Spain to be certain.  Ride London 100 is 100 miles... 160km.  So I was apprehensive to day the least.

Mr TOTKat and I agreed we'd take it gently, enjoy the day out and see how we felt.  So we planned the logistics of the days around it, I got stressy about it all and he figured it out sensibly.  I think I was  just so focused on fear of the distance, the second longest ride of my life to date after Ironman UK last year and that was not a lot of fun at all at the time.  But with it all figured out and no pressure on the day and days around it, we headed into the weekend relatively calm and prepared.

4am on Sunday and the alarm went off... having spent the night in a very humid, cheap hotel room nearing to the finish, we hadn't had a lot of sleep when we were dragged to consciousness by the familiar sound of ducks quacking.  Brekkie was posh instant porridge with California Raisins stirred in and a black coffee before we turned all the bike lights on and headed out to the road to ride to the Olympic Park for the start.

The route got thicker and thicker with riders until we reached the park to drop off bags, find people and filter into the pens for the start.  The plan never was to try to hang on to the rest of the Freespeed guys as they really are a lot faster than us and had different plans for the day than we did.  The start was announced and we rolled off out onto the course shortly after dawn onto the most fantastic course imaginable.  Like the London Triathlon weekend, London's closed roads were absolutely dreamy to ride on and I quickly got caught up in turning on some speed after the first few tens of km. And by the first hub, I was starting to think that perhaps I was going too hard.

We stopped at the first hub, situated in Hampton Court Palace, and had a nice cup of tea with some salty crunchy Sunbites having crunched through a Clif bar at the first toilet break.  We spent quite some time there and when we started off again I really did start to have some fun.

I latched onto the back of one of the passing pelotons and hung on for a while, dropping Mr TOTKat quite a bit.  I eventually came to my senses and dropped off the back of the group and waited for him to catch me up.  Then coming up into the second hub, which I thought was at the top of Leith Hill, I was preparing for a mean old hill that never came.  We stopped in the hub there for a very long time indeed.  Had tea and bacon rolls and chatted about quite a lot.  I think we were there for a good 40 minutes before deciding that we really ought to be getting on or we'd be out all day.


Then Leith Hill actually happened.  Mmm, that was fun.  I wouldn't mind giving it a go again when it's not covered in a bajillion other cyclists.  As it was, it was quite narrow and a bit tricky to get up as I really only have one climbing speed and if people are slower than that and in front of me taking up the width of the road, I have problems.  I did manage to find a route through with a chatty woman who helped keep my mind focused on getting up in one piece and not getting off to walk when I realised I was incredibly hot, really quite spectacularly hot indeed, so much so that my sunglasses steamed up even in the heat of the day.

With the one hill I was worried about over with, and Box Hill come and gone with a stop for a last tea and a shared treacle tart, there was one more loo break required at a small station before the third hub and some aid from the St John Ambulance chaps for my elbow which was getting very sore and not supporting me very well any more.  I iced it for 15 minutes at that aid station along with my wrist as well and we saw that there were reports of pretty awesome medals at the finish line, so we decided to get a move on and get to the end without any more mucking about.

Starting off at a reasonable pace and then winding it up more and more, I dropped Mr TOTKat pretty convincingly again - he was actually impressed and there was no latching on to big groups this time, just really really enjoying riding and swooping around roundabouts on the wrong side of the road; I had a whale of a time!  We swept through Kingston's one way system backwards and onwards on our normal route home from there, which was a lovely surprise and meant the little rise out over the A3 wasn't a surprise and then through Wimbledon, up the hill and all in our stride while many very tired people got off and walked.

Invigorated by that last part of the route and knowing there was less than 10km to go, it was time to enjoy the course back into town and then up The Mall to the finish line, arm in arm.

Ride London 100 was a fabulous experience. We absolutely loved it!  So well organised and smooth with no hitches or real stress on the day.  I think we failed to find the festival at the end in Green Park, but otherwise the atmosphere was truly lovely and at no point was anyone difficult, aggressive, short with other riders in any way and the St John Ambulance guys reported being pretty much bored all day; perfect!  We even saw Boris a few times 'cause we spent so long at the hubs :o)

Bring it on again in 2014!