Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Last week needs a mention

Last week was the week I suddenly decided I should do something different with my life.  I needed to get out of the habit of working too late again and start training for Alpe d'Huez before I ran out of time.  Unfortunately someone invited me for an interview on Wednesday so I had to prepare for it, look like I was still doing my job and actually do it.  It meant I didn't get in my second swim of the week and I still didn't get to do a mid week long ride.

On the other hand, I did manage a 13km lunchtime run including new explorations into Rotherham and I added in a second short run just to stay on my toes the day after along with two morning yoga sessions.  One of those made me miss a planned meeting but I was only going to save face anyway.

So I had to make up for it at the weekend, except I was going to my nephew's 18th Birthday party and had to drive to Guildford.  We weren't organised on Friday and it took most of the evening to wait out bad traffic, do some shopping and oh have dinner whilst post-apocalyptic M1 accident traffic cleared. We drove down on Saturday and I frustratedly sat on the M25 for over 2 hours.  I took my wetsuit just in case but didn't manage to swim.

We arrived at my mum in laws at 12:30 and I dropped all protocol and floated the idea of a ride early.  Having explained that I needed to get a 65 mile ride in for training, I was asked to be home by 7pm for dinner.  Excellent, a target.  Not one I thought I would make but I decided to try my best.

After coffee, TSK turned from home, still suffering the after-effects of our illness.  I continued, feeling sprightly.  I did this ride before but the wrong way around so I expected to hit the hills early.  In fact, I hit them just before half way so no real gain.  Still, it was 28 degrees and I still felt good, although slightly worried about my hands as I'd come away without gloves and every time I moved my grip on the bars, the tape tore at my skin in a way that was going to lead to blisters.  Still, I knew there was a friendly bike shop at Liphook where I could buy some - especially since I didn't have my lock and I knew they love people to just walk in off the street with their bikes.  These guys saved my bacon last time I was here by selling me food when I really needed it and went out riding without a lock.

Sure as anything they were open and not only had gloves but good Giro ones in my size.  I enthusiastically bought a red pair to match my STC and GB kit and carried on with my last 35 miles, leaving a queue of people out the door.

I pretty much raced the last 35 miles, calculating that if I kept pace I'd rock in around 6:30 and expecting to slow down but I didn't.  If anything I sped up and, although I managed to stave off eating a gel or a bar, rolled a little bonked into my inlaws at 6:40 pm with enough time to have a shower, even after I had laid on my back inhaling water for 10 minutes, fighting off the urge to accept the proffered beer until I had rehydrated on something healthier.

I even slept well through a hot night in a tent until awoken by neighbouring partiers at 3am whereby we retreated into the dining room with all the doors open and I continued to sleep fitfully with a big ginger cat on my lap.

Sunday dawned just as sunny so we swiftly inhaled a small breakfast then set off for our run.  After only 18 minutes I was instructed to turn back for start of the birthday party.  Nooo! I was just getting going!  Oh well, I made up for it by running fast (I finally found my legs somewhere in the deep grass) all the way back to the house.  More lying around, stretching, waiting for TSK to shower then a cold shower to me whilst attempting to pour my pink body attractively into civilian clothes for the short ride over to my sister in law's.

Our boy looked suitably pleased with his NorthFace flexible windproof that we brought him for scouting purposes - even if it wasn't suitable for the current climate - and I'm sure it will serve him well as a winter coat when he goes to uni in Brighton (as he is bright and I am sure he will get the grades he wants).

It was finally time to calm down and we spent the day in the sunshine and shade, eating and talking and building lego.  After 6pm I headed home to mummy and daddy's and ate a menial dinner since we were so stuffed from earlier antics.

A good rest day of driving home after a meeting in Guildford on Monday put me in excellent form for a second attempt at my long run on Monday evening so 16kms were dispensed with.  Not easily for it was still hot and 10 miles is a long way without a drink - although there was paddling.  It hurt at the time but the next day I was recovered enough for more yoga and my distance swim last night.

It took me 55 minutes but after the week I have had I can hardly complain that it was slow.  I enjoyed it all - clear water, warm enough to not worry and no need for showering straight away.  I hardly needed to use the changing rooms but for a cloudy overcast sky and a slight breeze.

I feel back on track.  I feel like I can make this now.  I feel like priorities have aligned and then the solstice came and I sat awake until 3am, buzzing with the joys of summertime - literally, my heart has not dropped below 61 all night.  I took the opportunity to line up ducks and checked that my bike bag would be allowed on my Air Canada flight and invested in the light weight tent I have been promising myself for oh so long.  I simply home the excitement about getting it does not last as long as the 2 weeks it may take to arrive.  I can't cope with this much lack of sleep.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chester Triathlon 2017

Prologue: if you're looking for Chester Race Report, scroll forwards to... "Anyway, I digress"

I really hate it when a good race gets spoiled by sickness afterwards.

I didn't have much to say about the Chester Tri.  It was exactly what I wanted after I crashed in it in 2015... it was uneventful.

I swum.  I got my clothes off in the right order this time.
I biked - without crashing.
I ran as fast as I could which turned out to be 2 minutes faster than 2015's best on this course.

My post-race analysis is cathartic.  Sometimes a way to put down the excitement of the day.  In this one, it's not so much inwardly gazing as analytical.  I thought I'd plateau'd in performance and training enthusiasm but my post-race analysis this time is helping me draw out learning experiences and identify the sources of my disappointment and is fuelling my lust for improvement.  It's going to be a challenge to execute a change before my next big race at the end of July and even greater a challenge to remember them for next season but I'm going to set myself the target to do that.

Unfortunately all the excitement came on Tuesday.  Having drunk a protein shake that had been a few days in the fridge, I threw up the entire week's food.

I took Wednesday off work and then, feeling better on Thursday, cycled to work and back, via the polling station.  I should have known something was wrong when I made it a third of the way through the car park before realising I was on my bike, not in the car and retraced my steps to the bike shed.

It was a struggle to get myself up the hill coming home so on Friday I drove to work and slouched in my chair all day, pretending I didn't exist before leaving at 4pm to go back to bed.  That's when the rest of the illness caught up with me and I drained everything else I had eaten in the rest of the week down the loo.

I have spent the remainder of the weekend recuperating, eating cream crackers and drinking herbal tea and mostly stewing in the fact that I should be out there preparing for the most expensive triathlon I have ever done yet.

The two iron man events I chose have been relatively cheap.  Lisbon Standard was the most expensive so far with a Euro's entry fee and last-minute flights and a cheap hotel in the business district.

Never mind the race fee for Alpe d'Huez (which I managed to buy when the pound was at it's weakest - I think that was a knee jerk reaction to Brexit), the ferry for Alpe d'Huez has cost me the equivalent of an Ironman race fee - and all so I can sleep through the 5-or so hours it would take me to drive to Dover-Calais Ferry (and back again).  Instead I sail from 'Ull to Zeebrugge and then drive to the Alp in almost the time it would take me to do the Dover run... and I get a pleasant overnight stop on the way in a bijoux french Ferme or luxury Restop campground (only fate can tell).

Penticton Duathlon World Champs may be more expensive - but that's a month later so it doesn't count.

Chester on the other hand, was an average price and accommodation was sourced via the Caravan and Camping Club website.  After last time's disappointing pitch at the Delamere forest site (not at all forested) alongside a straight B-road filled with midnight boy-racers screaming up and down the road, we found this little gem.


Anyway, I digress

Swim

In my following of Kelly D O'Mara on the interwebs I have learned that I really shouldn't have taken my goggles and hat off before trying to get my wetsuit off... as clearly demonstrated by this photo.

but look at the crowds of people spectating in the background

34 minutes for the swim.  My PB on this course is 28:29 in a year when I was trying especially hard to improve my swim.  It's a shame it has taken me 2 years to vindicate this approach to swimming so maybe, yes, I will spend a bit more time in a wetsuit.

Otherwise my transition was OK although I did bother to put on a jersey which I was glad of on the windier parts of the bike.  I laughed in the face of fate by not bothering with gloves again.  I jumped on to my bike across the mount line, just as someone else plopped to the floor in a writhing mess (he ran out of momentum with both feet clipped in).  I left a cheering TSK to help pick the other bloke up.

Bike

I failed to crash on cobble corner and then just settled in to my ride, with nothing more on my mind than where the hell were my sunglasses?  Oh well... squinting will have to do.




I was really glad I'd gone out the day before as I felt well settled in to my riding position.  I spent most of the ride balancing on the edge of, "Go faster / Can I keep this up till the end and still do a 10km run?".  I probably erred on the side of the latter.

With 10km to go it turned to, "Can I beat my pb of 1:19?" (in 2010).  I admit I only had a plan for that time, I didn't work out a pacing strategy to meet it and that is probably the source of the failure to do so.  It's hard to tell for sure as all the "climbs" are at the beginning of the course and the tail wind was at the end of the course but my time for the first 10 miles was 35 minutes; 29.5 minutes for the second 10 miles and just under 15 minutes for the last 4.5 miles.  It felt like a negative split and not just because of the inclines.


Last year I only did 1:26 because of the crash.  It was a good job I had that target to chase because I came in at 1:19:50 and if I hadn't have pushed it then I would have been really fed up with myself.  As it is, I'm still just mildly disappointed.

My bike's supposed to be the strong bit and I have abandoned it a bit.  I admit it.  There's nothing else to say but this race was a good arse kicking.  It was the B minus again.

I passed a few into transition in my race to hit that 1:19 and jumped off the bike as I hit the line then disgruntled someone having a nice walk with his bike as I called politely to pass on the right.  You can't please all of the people all of the time.

Remembered to take the helmet off (yes!).  Next bit of learning: after struggling to run without  socks at Bala, I opted for socks here but the tiny ones with no ankle.  Massive improvement! No blisters and without the time spent trying to feed my slightly damp, senseless toes down a long tube of tech fabric, still a fast transition.  Didn't bother doing the shoes up (didn't seem to matter, see above reference to numb feet).

I grabbed a few gels... Eugh! That one wasn't mine and it was open... and now all over my hand.  Dilligently under the eyes of the BT official, I returned it to its rightful place and resumed running.

Run

Felt good joining the run.  I'm getting the hang of hitting high speeds coming out of transition.  It also helped that after 100m, you're joining faster racers who are already on their later laps so not only are they faster, they're also into their stride.

After a short period of exuberance I checked my speed and was hitting 7.8mph.


Well, that's not right hey, so I backed it off and took a drink of crisp fresh water.  I didn't want to be wasting bottles so I didn't take any more after the first one that I ditched 7/8ths full.  Time to check my competition.

My aim was set on beating a woman wearing a GB suit whose name was Priscilla (this would have been her surname).  In retrospect she may not have been competing for an Age Group place so she may not have been important.

She may not have been on my lap or in my age group (at the moment I am about to move up so it's difficult for me to race and remember what age group I'm in).

However, it also appears from the results that she didn't even exist and she was merely a figment of my imagination.  I don't mind her though because she made me run faster. At first I was satisfied that I was gaining on her (I clearly saw her twice), then I was satisfied I had left her behind - I didn't see her going the other way on the out and back.  Then I ran faster to put more time between us.  She truly was a great imaginary friend.

Bits of me hurt that shouldn't - hips that I've been having problems with for a while.  I loosened my muscles off and moved around more whilst I ran.  I think I've been holding too much tension whilst running and this seemed to work so more lessons learned.

Otherwise, there's nothing I could have done better on the run.  I went as fast as I could for as long as it took and as I ran to the line, I was going flat out.  Someone passed me - Gemma Collings - and there was absolutely nothing I could do to answer her but that's OK because she was 15 minutes ahead of me in a different start wave and a different age category.  She was a good test for me though.  Nope, nothing left.  I was glad it was done.


Swim: 34:23, 41/47, 212/257, 767/933  [104 men in cat.  676 men in total]
T1: 2:13 34/47, 184/257, 628/933
Bike: 1:19:58, 33/47, 157/257, 677/933
T2: 1:51, 38/47, 214/257, 760/933
Run: 49:31, 31/47, 129/257, 579/933

Overall: 2:47:57 35/47, 160/257, 659/933 (qualifier result - H-125%. I-122% - unconfirmed)

Target times to aim at - 2:41 (9 minutes) or 2:34 (14 minutes)

Swim - down by 3 to 5 minutes (29 to 30 minutes)
Bike - 3.5 to 5 minutes (1:15 to 1:16:30)
Run - 1.5 to 4 minutes (45:30 to 48 minutes)
Total - 2:33:30 to 2:38:30  

With the same transitions, this would put me Females: 85th to 116th instead of 160th.  Short of the obvious positives of a gorgeous day, not crashing, feeling comfortable on my bike for the first time in ages and it not raining, I did this on minimal training.  I have slacked off so hard recently.  I'm focused on Alpe d'Huez now for the next 6.5 weeks but with tight targets above to work to as well I have no choice but to get off my ass and stay out there until such time as it all comes around again.

(c) all photos thanks to the organiser that recognises a good set of free photies is more rewarding than a teeshirt bike cleaning rag.