Monday, April 25, 2016

Stockton Duathlon Race Report - The power of pacing

I haven’t really prepared for Stockton.  I have looked on it as a fun race.  Training for Lisbon.  Race training.

But on Saturday night I thought I might as well at least make it count for something – good practice.  It was rather too late but I dug out my laptop and looked up my times for last year.  Then I worked out my average speeds on run and bike and calculated what it would take me to get a PB.

I remember I ran too fast on the first run trying to keep up with Ruth Marsden on the first lap – which I did but then things went awry on the second lap.  So I set myself a target that was somewhere between going a teeny bit slower on the first run (55:08 instead of 54:59) and going a bit faster on the second run (27:30 instead of 29).

The bike speed, I just wanted to get up.  Now I know the course, I suspected I could manage 18 miles an hour instead of 16.5mph and still achieve the second run speed.

When the gun went off on a sunny but cold day, I regretted starting so far back as quite a few seconds ticked by before I ran under the start banner.  I checked my new Garmin a few times as I ran along.  The 8 miles an hour seemed a bit high as it all seemed too easy but quick mental arithmetic told me that I was measuring miles per hour and not km per hour so I reined myself in a bit and slowed down.  People passed me but I was confident that they were blowing and I would catch them later.

I checked my watch a few times.  Holding to 6.8mph was proving to be difficult.  7.1mph felt much easier and safer.  6.8 felt far too slow.  Half marathon pace, maybe but not 10km pace.  I decided to make hay while the sun was shining and did what felt right.  By the time we reached the Tees barrage I was starting to tire and my heart rate alarm was going off – I was exiting zone 4 and going anaerobic so I slowed the pace and sure enough, settled in to 6.8 mph.  We had turned into the head wind.  I relaxed a little and let my systems do what they wanted.  I caught myself slowing to 6.6mph a few times but I wasn’t getting passed any more.  So I kept going – sometimes reaching 7, mostly I sat at 6.8 quite comfortably.  The second lap was upon us.

This time I was ready for the Tees Barrage slump to 6.8 but we rounded the carpark then up to the flats and as a lady from Knutsford Tri passed, I jumped on behind her.  She was running at 7.1 mph but I’d rather go a bit faster with a lead-out than slower into a head-wind.  I let her speed up over the bridge and down the ramp because I hoped I’d see her later.

Sure enough I passed her on the first climb of the bike.  By the second loop, my speedo was saying 16.5mph.  By the time I reached the end of the lap it read 17mph.  When I finished lap 2, the average was sitting consistently at 18.4mph.  Despite telling myself I could relax at this pace, the constant presence of TSK (3 to 6 times on each lap) meant I was sprinting by all the time – with the occasional break for banter, mostly about the impressive kit in the Triathlon Ireland camp.  That said, my own tri suit was perfectly comfortable though I worry for normal women if I’m thinking the small size is a little on the baggy side.

At lap 5, my speedo was reading 19.9miles.  I was slightly confused by the race instructions which said, “by mile 20 you know you’re on your last lap” and had to check with Andrew and another competitor to tell whether to carry on going or not.  The sudden disappearance of other competitors was, as before, stark and made me realise how slow my running is for competitive level.

I slithered back onto the run – actually remembering to remove all excess clothing this time and set about passing all the people who had run too fast earlier or who had not had enough to drink on the bike – most of them suffering extreme cramps and having to stop.  I did my best to advise them to consume the gels in their pockets and walk it out so as not to get cold.  I gained maybe two places.

Crossing the Tees Barrage Lock gate for the last time.
  Kept checking my watch – a good steady 6.8 mph around the Barrage, with a slight slow into that head wind.  There was no handy lady from Knutsford Tri this time.  I just had to brave it myself but I was catching people so it was fun.  Someone ran by at high speed – I just hope she was in a relay!  The raised curb we all kept pointing out to eachother had claimed its victim for the day - a shower of blood spray in the dirt demonstrating how not to do it.  I was happy to see the victim had continued to the finish line – little drips of blood along the route charting their progress.

On the last approach to the millennium bridge I could hear the runner behind gaining on me – puffing along.  I had to wave good bye to the 6.8 mph pace and let 7.1mph take over.  It was still comfortable and I would keep it up for as long as possible.  My inner Dark Peaker strode out over the bridge and ran an effective descent of the ramp.  It was a flat roady course but I was going to make the most of the one hill that was available.  I dropped the guy behind and made gains on the guy in front – a tall chap dressed all in black who had run away from me whilst I stuck to 6.8mph on the first run.

Just the straight to the finish line to do now and I strode out behind him, totally focused on running stride for stride.  When to go past?  Oh When to go???

I wasn’t sure I could stay with him.  He probably knew I was there, I was panting like the proverbial steam train by now. 

I could see TSK in the corner of my vision.  He knew not to shout, I didn’t even have to put a finger to my lips but gave him a half-wave as I ran past.  With the guy in black beyond TSK he did his, “Go get ‘em” dance as if to say, “GO! Break now! Bring it home” but I really wasn’t sure I could stick with this guy – never mind beat him in a sprint. 

It was weird.  I knew I couldn’t keep up with him doing the 5k pace – he was going to drop me.  I only had one option – sprint from there and hope it stuck. 

I completely changed my running style.  Midfoot striking went out of the window.  Relaxed went out of the window.  These gangly arms and legs did what they were probably built for – power and covering long distances. 

What can I say, I went.  It stuck.  He was 2 seconds behind me.

We shook hands.  I credited him with my PB (even though it wasn’t true).  It was his first race – so the best kind of PB.

Run 1: 53:55 (10km) 6.9mph
T1: 1:33
Bike: 1:16:21 (40km) 19.6mph
T2: 1:31
Run 2: 25:28 (5km) 7.4mph - unknown for me to go faster on the second run.  This is the power of pacing.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weeks 10, 11, 12 - some time away from blogging

Despite my best efforts, the "All of the things" post did actually do me some damage - OR - it made such a big impact on me because I was already brewing for a cold at the time.

By Sunday evening I was sniffling and on my rest day at work on Monday, I had real, proper throat tickles.  On Tuesday I rang in sick and didn't go back to work until Thursday and even then, only at 60% capacity.  I did no training until the weekend when we went down to see the In-Laws in Guildford.

On Saturday morning I hauled myself down to the pool (doesn't open 'till 9!!!) and swam with the fast, mean people.  Never been so clobbered in my life.  What a bunch of arrogant cocks! And that was just the women!  I will try not to make that mistake again - though I will probably have to.

My swim was followed by lunch and a 65 mile ride.  Whilst I had plotted myself a great route with the hills at the begining and rolling countryside at the end, the logistics of getting out of Guildford evaded me and I ended up doing the route in reverse, with a 2 mile long climb which was sustainably above 20% for 1/3 mile.  I thought my lungs were going to explode!

I got home to instructions as to what was happening for dinner.  I surprised everyone by heading out on a brick run.  It was only 15 minutes but by the time I got back I had catching up to do.  "Showered and changed and ready to present to the family"... or, "sitting in the shower for 5 minutes wondering how the hell I am going to stay awake" - that's more like it.  It's a good job my Rodgers family are scintillating company and understanding.  That's all I'll say.  We were safely tucked up in bed by 10pm.

Everyone else went out for a birthday walk.  I took to the trails around Guildford.  Not sure what it is about this place but I ran around the course backwards before looking at my watch to find I was 4 miles short of the easy 10 mile route I had planned.  Clearly I planned a 10 k route instead.  Oh well.  Charting that one off to bad planning, I drove TSK back to Sheffield as he was picking up the cold I had passed onto him.

Thankfully in week 11, I managed to get back to it.  Swimming on Monday to make up for missing some training on Sunday with a delayed rest day again.  Swim ride on Wednesday, cramming everything into a more-than-comfortable-looking carradice camper saddle bag.

I managed 10 miles of beautiful running in Brisnworth on my lunch break to switch for that shortened run in Guildford then wobbled into Acellerate sports later in the afternoon for a beating by the physio.  I realise how much I've missed this and vowed to keep it up, booking myself another session in two weeks time.

On Friday I was booked in to go to Brighton - a perfect excuse for a rest day.  I arrived late, chatted, didn't calm down and then stayed awake until around 1 am getting my Garmin routes (so carefully planned) onto my phone as I'd completely forgotten to bring my Garmin with me.  Quite frankly I'm in such a place that it's a wonder that I remembered to bring my bike with me.

I was conscious of needing a swim but am so tired of watching tiles slide by that I jumped on the excuse of there being no decent swimming facilities in Brighton (except the sea of course) and decided to focus on cycling and running for the weekend.  It was pretty close to cold all weekend so the sea wasn't appealing and the cycling was, quite frankly cold enough.

It was beautiful though.  I cranked my way through 65 miles of country lanes and the occasional steep but nothing serious.  Not even Ditchling Beacon which I climbed in no time compared to the previous time I rode it on a touring bike.  I returned home, changed into running shoes and wobbled around a 20 minute brick run.  Unsatisfied with suburban jogging, I made my way onto the cliff tops before slithering down the chalk surface in my road shoes and falling into the house for a shower.  At least this time I wasn't on my knees and popped over to Vicki's for pre-race dinner, advice, encouragement and hugs before her bold attempt at the Brighton Marathon.

Marathon day was perfect for me.  I saw most people start, including Vicki and then headed over to cheer for her on my way back to the house I was staying in.  There, I got changed, had second breakfast, packed a rucsac and set off running to see the marathon at various points.  I was trying to see Laura Campbell but failed but did manage to catch Vicki at many points no thanks to the tracker which was struggling with my phone, or android, or something... Thankfully, Mr P was sending me regular text messages to tell me where they were and how long ago she had passed and I responded with rather inaccurate data on where I was so he could let her know where she would see me.

I jogged or ran between spectator spots.  Chatted to other cheerers, helped people track their athletes, talked to previous marathon runners and encouraged people - most memorably the blind runner who gave me an extreme grin and the rhino's who were all very appreciative of a cheer and Dave and his monkey. I helped people stretched and offered water or snacks to those who were struggling.  Most importantly I kicked their arses and got them moving again.

I waited patiently at mile 23 point something, my wares (Vicki's wares) spread out on the grass for her to choose her poison when she arrived.  She wanted food so tucked into a Torq bar and also salty energy drink as the race organisation had run out.  I had some concentrate stuff in my bag so I ran with her until we found a source of water then I mixed the stuff and we set off towards the finish with that.  We walked / run the next 2.6 miles together.  Me talking away randomly about how the day had been and who I had talked to and what I was going to do next.  She ran, and walked, and tried to make excuses about running but then naturally started leaning forwards to run again so we did for a bit until the cramp started so we walked for a bit and we ticked off a few people and a few people passed us but we didn't care.

I tried to dodge photographers as I wasn't racing.  Loads of people were cheering for Vicki in her named Altzheimers Society vest and cheering for Vicki's mate.  Eventually those people were too many as we neared the finish line so I smacked her on the bum to finish then ducked under the fence and left her to it to reign in the accolades and encouragement and finish the thing on her own.  Lucy saw her finish as did Mr P and sissy and her dad.

I walked through to the meeting area - through all the people - and gave my friend my coat whilst I struggled into the PJ bottoms I had brought to wear if it got cold.  Once the family was together we ate Indian and Vietnamese food on the beach on wooden benches then headed into town to find, first beer, then a coffee shop and then to just get a taxi back to the house.  I left them to it and walked home.

I had a lovely meal with Lucy's family who are all delightful and had a damn good chat about anatomy and Lucy left me with some good advice for keeping my legs healthy and trying to get rid of a tightness in my hamstring that's been bothering me for some time.  Let's just say it's in the kind of place that physios don't really want to get too intimate with and that's difficult to treat on your own.  I walked away at 9pm with a free tennis ball and drove into week 12 in my car, starting with an appointment in Berkshire - convenient!

The meeting was an all-day affair so I'd booked to stay overnight.  However, a colleague needed a lift home and, as he's an OK person to spend time with, I used the excuse to cancel my hotel room and make it back to my home, husband and training a day early.  So only one rest day then.

On Tuesday I had to confront the horror of white tiles again and the prospect of catching up on that 3km swim... until I realised it was Tuesday and the summer and therefore, Open Water Swimming!  Woo hoo.  Super excited.

I brought all the layers - because I do.  This year I'm wearing a shorty wetsuit (thin, shorts, no sleeves) underneath my main wetsuit to add a layer.  I'm also still wearing a fleece surf vest and have invested in new gloves.

Fully kitted out for the cold, I enjoyed it.  The new gloves werent' to heavy as they kept the water out well and the bootees did their job.  The new under-suit seemed to improve things.  I was only expecting to do one big loop but managed a short loop too.  I also got out in a reasonable condition too so went for a run around the lake which turned into two loops.  All in all, it worked out very nicely.  In theory, if cold water swimming is worth twice the pool distance then I made it count.

Wednesday got me into work on my bike and it was so nice when I left the office that it quickly became a 20 mile detour home.  Some good distance training towards the ironman and I also had a bit of a blat to get some speed miles in for Lisbon.

Thursday turned into a rest day.  One of those where I packed the car in the morning for swimming and running and then just brought everything home again.  It wasn't that I didn't feel like it but work just wasn't going to let me get out.

On Friday I made my own time by running to work.  I think arriving at 10:30 is acceptable when you've been in until 7:30 the night before.  Unfortunately I forgot my insoles (I was trialling running without but meant to bring them to add when/if needed) and so it became a bit of a slow painful 8 mile run which made my knee horribly clicky in the evening.  No pain but I just had the impression I was walking upstairs with a bag of bolts in my trousers.  I've destroyed two pairs of shoes this year by running with my rather chunky orthotics in my shoes.  They lift my feet (good) and make my heel bone rub on the fabric at the heel causing it to rupture and give me blisters.  The shoes are ruined within 40 miles.  I need to see Colin again and get some new new feet because this path of destruction can not go on.

This morning the clicking carried on but I had a new Garmin to play with so I had to get out and do something.  I'm racing at Stockton tomorrow so I took my tt bike out for a potter in the Peak.  25 miles today & 25 miles tomorrow is on the cards (making up the 50 mile ride in my training plan).  The fact that this is supposed to be an easy week in the plan will be done-for by the racing malarkey tomorrow but so be it.  Maybe I can't have everything but I can try.  Cakey eaty.

I'm almost running my distance tomorrow (albeit with a bike ride in the middle) and the "almost", again will be negated by the racey part.

I've had a super-cold bike ride which is, at the moment, giving me all the excuses I need not to go swimming again.  I've chores to do including modifying the bike before tomorrow and fixing the brakes on my 'cross bike before I forget and kill myself.  The race tomorrow is a duathlon.  I have 5 weeks to fix a fast swim and 8 weeks to sort out the long swim - all of which is going to be helped by warmer water temperatures as the time goes on.  If it sounds like I'm justifying laziness to myself you're right - this is, after all, supposed to be a rest week... and I might just go and sit on a tennis ball again.

We went to the cinema on Friday evening - because this is the kind of thing you suddenly find that you're able to do on a Friday when you're on a rest week.  Since we went straight from work, we had 90 minutes to kill with a pint and some cake and some adult conversation in the bar before our film.

We went through the 8 weeks that are left of the ironman training plan.  I'd say that I can't believe I'm half way there but TBH I feel like it's taken forever already but at the same time I actually feel like I'm more than half way there so that is at least something.

All the short, fast races I have entered before Lisbon can be switched to fall onto "easy weeks" of the plan.  Whilst this isn't brilliant since racing isn't easy, it does mean that my volume is naturally reduced in line with the plan.  So that's a good start.  It also means I won't mind missing the occasional session to make it an easy week because that all contributes towards better race performance.  I also keep reminding myself that the speed sessions are almost as good at maintaining distance as the distance sessions - from what I learnt last year.

What's great is that after Lisbon is complete, I'm straight into taper for Ironman.  So as long as I'm still doing the high mileage (with little racey things as rests in between), I think it will come together reasonably well.  I'll be doing 4k swims and 10 mile runs in my sleep.

So I walk away from week 12 with a strong confidence that I will finish this Iron distance, put in a reasonable show at Lisbon and survive the whole thing.  I hope I don't have to eat my words.

I had to pull out of the Slateman savage (given that it was the week before Lisbon) but have replaced it with entry to the Legend Half from Plas-y-Brenin.  Whether this is wise, or foolish is beyond me but it was better than letting an entry go to waste.  It's in July after all the A-list races are gone.  I'll enjoy it I hope but it's not too important to me.  If anything, it's a good excuse to keep training - if at a reduced volume.  I'm kind of looking forward to that race the most because there's no pressure.  Maybe I should take something from that.

For now though, my focus is on sitting on the sofa with my feet up, debating packing something for tomorrow's race and reshuffling the plan to fit.  All of this with a cat on my knee.  Get me and my multi-tasking.  It's good to know some things are eminently achievable.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lest we forget

I am lucky enough not to know too much about the work that Altzheimer's Society do but I imagine that a lot of their work goes into helping to understand good care and helping carers to cope better with their relatives when Alzheimer's disease strikes.

Nothing, to me better explains this than a conversation I overheard in a cafe in Hawkeshead when I was last in the lakes.  I will tell it in the first-party voice to avoid complicating it with, "he said she said".  It is not my story but that of the cafe owner who, for background, had moved her mother into a home where the staff were helping her come to terms with her mother's care arrangements.  They described it to her as, "we are helping you with your mother's care".  They had also been explaining that they should let their mother live in the particular era that she thinks she is in, regardless of when it is. They explained, it was easier than to try to persuade her she was wrong and to explain away years of questions that would arise.  Bob is the story-teller's father.

She became agitated one day and said to me, "do you suppose Bob will ever ask me to marry him?"

"I'm sure he will", I responded.

"I mean, we've been together for 10 years.  You'd think he would ask me to marry him by now".

"He will, you just have to be patient".

"I mean, it's not like we have any children together,"

My brother and I held our breath and looked on, astonished.  Was this it?  Had she finally reached the point when she didn't know who we were any more?

She saw the alarm in our eyes, smiled, reached out for my hand, and with a comforting smile said, "except for you two of course".


It's a horrible disease but I like to think this is a beautiful story.

My friend has raised over £1800 for Alzheimers UK so someone else gets the care or the training or the help they need.  I'm oh so very proud of her.  This will make her cry but I'm not sorry.  At least I won't if someone else donates.

Last plug (from me anyway).

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Week 9 - Back at the party...

Week 9, for me, started with the end of week 8.  We travelled back from the soggy kielder on Sunday so had a rest day which meant I had (Easter and therefore holiday) Monday to train so I decided to complete the swim that I had missed at the weekend through lack of opportunity and to get the first session of Tuesday out of the way to pave the way for an easier week.

It was Ponds Forge for me as my own pool was closed on the BH.  I thankfully trawled through 80 lengths of a 25m lane which seemed incredibly short compared to the 33m pool I have been consistently swimming in for the last 4 months.

It was still chuffing cold outside when I got home so I jumped on the turbo for my first ride of week 9 - a 55 minute bike with the last 20 minutes in zone 3 heart rate with a 10 minute run afterwards.  Poor math led to that being the last 25 minutes in zone 3, at which point I remembered about the 10 minute run.  The last 5 minutes were spent planning my exit from the house in the best transition possible without a resulting injury from falling over anything or stepping out of a heated kitchen into cold air wearing nothing but cycling shorts, a sports bra and a vest.

I spied my shoes, added the tee I'd been wearing in Kielder that was sitting by the washing machine waiting to be laundered, grabbed my keys out of the door as I threw on a wind proof and pulled a cycling cap over my head.

With the windproof jacket, I warmed up reasonably quickly although had to reign myself in after 10 minutes to get my heart rate below zone 4.8.

It felt so good to be running, I got carried away and 10 minutes became 20 with the walk up the Mur du Rivelin just to cool down.  Cue walking about the house beaming like I own Ironman!

Back to the humdrum of the working week with a rest day then.  Well, I had got my first training session out of the way before that.

SO Wednesday, a swim in the morning, peppered with 66m sprint sets and another run this time.  6 miles to be done on a 4.5 mile circuit which I extended with a half mile out-and-back-loop at each end of the canal section.  It's really nice being on the canal and I was in shorts and teeshirt - a stark contrast to the day before.

Thursday I was allowed back on the bike for 50 whole minutes. My sprint sets came from trying to chase down the bastard who drove his car into my handlebars. But the bike is the easiest thing to park at the hairdresser's place before heading to the police station to report a dangerous driver.

Friday then, had to be run swim day again with a mean set of 8 x 234m sprints on the swim and 8 x 2minute sprints on the run. Of course in both cases I went off too fast on the first one and had to abort and carry on to do it again at the end.

My run was amazing. Back to the office 7 minutes early to finish my session i took a turn through Tinsley and back.  I trotted up the road at the end of my 45 minutes and found my 10k time waiting for me on my watch. 57 minutes. Not bad since I jogged the last bit.

So to Saturday and the most horrible spring day where I sent TSK off into town whilst I braved the pool 2 days in a row.  I was horrified on reading the plan that I needed to swim 2.4km. Better give it a go.

With the assistance of the bipper set to 57 strokes per minute I just about managed through 22 lengths without losing the will to carry on but then it was gone. I did drowning puppy impressions until I could stand it no longer then had a chat with myself and a dose of 1/2 done,... etc. Etc. Before I knew it there were only 20 left, 10 touchdowns at the shallow end... then 5 and then I was done and I did 2 more in case of those 2 lanes when I switched to breast stroke because, y'know, you don't swim all that way just to pull up short.

TSK went for a ride in the afternoon so he missed the massive panic attack that occurred when I checked my e-mail to find a message from the team manager at British Triathlon asking me to enter the European Championships for Standard distance tri in Lisbon in May.

I started my research.

TSK came home while I was on the loo having a long hard think. When I told him the news he asked, "why are you taking a shit, why are you not on line booking your place?"

By midnight I was registered, had booked my flight, hotel, hire car and attempted to order my new tri suit but then that wasn't working.

I was in bed at 1am. Despite my swim I was finding it hard to sleep.The excitement was overwhelming,up there with pre ironman nervous anticipation of the day and the end of all that hard work. The angst of knowing you might just realise your dream and finish. But this was different. All the hard work went into this project last year. I put it to bed as a pipe dream, maybe one to be resurrected next year, I never thought it would fly. I guess I shouldn't have stopped believing.

I fell asleep in a pile of hands and yoga breath. At 2am I got up to make sure I had received the acknowledgement of my entry. After paying all that money on the travel, I would be devastated if I hadn't actually registered in time (registration closed at 8am Sunday). I slept badly until 5am. My usual late night I-am-away-with-work let's get up early and go for a run time. At which point I forgot everything and went back to a deep uninterrupted sleep for 4 more hours.

The rest of week 9 is covered in my next post. Except this thought: that I am just less than half way through the journey of 2016. I am tired. I am also doing pretty well. It scares me on both levels but the longer this ironman journey goes on this year, the more I am enjoying it. Last year I enjoyed fast but I also missed my long runs, the hours in the Peak on the bike.

Lisbon is going to change things but one thing is for sure, I am going to try not to let it change things too much.

All of the things

All flavours of hell have gone down today. I set off for a 55mile ride and did intervals on the flat sections like I was out for a 25mile time trial. I finished at 60 miles all spent and crippled and not sure if I could walk, never mind run the last session of the week, a 12 mile run.

I started off with a plan to do the valley's base only but was enjoying it so much I made it to 5 miles and Wyming Brook.

From there it was amazingly beautiful. There were so few people and I just melded into the woods. Startled a tawny owl. Watched the sun slide behind the hill into the earth, drank from streams, washed my face, walked the tree roots, flowed through the trees. Much as I loved being alone, everyone that I saw was so happy in the evening birdsong.

I know not what damage I might have done to myself as I walked in the door and dropped to my knees under the dining table. The bad odour was not just me. The cat eyed me suspiciously as she tried to finish her dinner.

I might not have followed the instructions for ironman yet again today but quite frankly I don't care.

That was one hell of a day.