It all went flat

Today was my first attempt at a 10 mile time trial, after having a go at a 25 a few weeks back. The day started ok, then weather was sunny and dry and i turned up on time.

After pinning on my numbers it was time for a warm up, i am still working out what works but I go it my heart rate up and i felt ok.

After returning to the car for a last minute drink it was off to start.

Sat inline chatting to the guy who was due off in front of me, i was nervous but was looking forward to the impending pain!

Then it was time, the countdown hit 5 then go, and off i went. Initially sprinting to get up to speed and then settling into what felt like a good rhythm.

Initially the course has a slight uphill drag and there felt like a slight headwind but i was still going at what seemed like a good pace.

After about 4km i could see my minute man, i appeared to be gaining on him and as i raced onwards i was certainly catching him.

I approached the first roundabout with him clearly in my sights, and i heard the sound of rushing air followed by a loss of speed and that dragging sound only made by a flat tyre. I had a rear wheel puncture.

So there i was at the side of the road 5km from the start with a flat and no way of repairing it. My options appeared to be two fold, ride back slowly hoping not to damage my Zipp wheel or walk.

However, the Marshall on the roundabout had another idea, as i was one of the last to start off, he said once the last rider had gone through he had a spare wheel in the back of his car i could borrow to ride back on.

Well, this was an offer i could not refuse, and shortly after I had replaced the punctured Zipp with a Mavic cosmic. I rode back to then HQ trying not to get too upset although i was gutted.

On my return, i swapped wheels with the heroic Marshall and asked for his favourite charity so i could make a donation to express my gratitude.

Needless to say i have made the donation and also written to the organiser to thank the marshall again.

It’s funny though to him it did not seem a big deal, but to me it was an act of extreme kindness and one i was so grateful for.

What next then? Well no more TT’s planned although i am off to Silverstone in a few weeks for some timed laps so that should be fun, after that i am considering getting a bike fit on the TT bike to sort out my position.

DNF

The three dreaded letters, DNF, did not finish, something that you go out of your way to avoid and something you never wish on anybody.

Well for me yesterday it finally happened and I got my first DNF. There were however, some positives to take from this, firstly it happened during a Park Run, so it was a free race  and secondly it meant I finally listened to my body after a few weeks of ignoring it.

I have had a problem for a few weeks, and this happened at the same time as I switched running shoe brands and models, I went back to a newer version of shoes I had used in the past. The problem I have is that I have done something to my a nerve or tendon that goes down from my lower back to my foot. The issue manifests itself firstly as back pain, then once I am moving it goes to my hip and then works its way down to stiffen up my calf and finally to tighten the achilles. These don’t all occur at once but one after the other!

Over the last couple of weeks, the pain when running has never really got beyond pain in the hip but yesterday it went straight from the hip  to tightening the achilles to the point I wasn’t sure if I carried I might snap it. I know that is an unlikely outcome but the stiffness was painful and a Park Run is not the place to risk it.

I have now found some exercises that seem to be making some difference and loosening things up, I am hopeful that this is not something serious and it is just something caught up or tweaked, I know I will be taking it a bit easy for a few days until I feel good again, and I have also ordered a pair of the shoes I have used recently to go back to the trusted ones incase the shoes did contribute.

F3 Windsor Duathlon Series @ Dorney Lake

The first race of the season is always a moment of reckoning in a season, it is the point where you discover is the training you have done so far in the year will yield the results you want.

For those who are not aware this race series is run by F3 Events and runs on a monthly basis from January through to May. There are 3 distances each time, a super sprint (2.5km/10km/2.5km), sprint (5km/20km/5km) and standard (10km/40km/5km). This is a well organised series and being held at Dorney Lake gives a self contained flat and fast course, so there are no worries about traffic (unless you are still on the bike course when early finishers are leaving).

For me, on arriving it is the usual routine of register, apply the numbers to bike, helmet etc, tack the bike and then prepare to start my warm up.

Bike_ED

The weather at Dorney can play a factor in the racing, particularly as the bike course runs up the road between the two rowing lakes so is always prone to some wind, but this time the wind was fierce, but more of that later.

The first 5km run didn’t start in the most auspicious circumstances as after about 400m my Garmin started beeping at me, I had forgotten to turn off an alert, so I spent the net 100m or so going through menus to turn it off, a lesson learnt there check no alerts are on! It is always interesting to me to see just how fast some runners are, and how they don’t look like they are trying.  A two lap run course, meant on each return leg you were running into a bit of a head wind just to make life  a little harder, for me a 25:19 whilst not the best was about as good as I could have expected.

Into transition, and this is an area where I could possibly improve but it would only be for seconds as I was only there for a minute.

Exiting ono the bike course I was really looking forward to trying to trying to catch up some of the faster runners, and I soon found I was passing people on the first half of the lap. The return leg of the lap starts as you cross the bridge of the smaller lake and hit the road that does directly between the two lakes. Wind, as I said earlier can often be a factor on this course and today it was fierce, in fact Reckon is was almost gale force! To illustrate this I was riding at lest 2 gears lower and losing about 8km/h on this part of the course as well as having to lean the bike into the wind, which was coming in left to right. I was glad whilst I had aero wheels, they were not really deep section as the front one of those might have been really interesting. Despite the wind I passed a lot of people and ended up with a bike time of 35:29 for the 20km

Transition two, the post where you hope not to get cramp int he calf muscles as you try and get your running shoes back on!

Out for the final run and I have to admit my legs didn’t really seem to keen on running, this is not usual for me as normally I don’t have an issue running off the bike, but today they took a bit more time to get going and whilst I maintained a steady pace, I was not really going fast enough and ending with a 26:38 whilst roughly within a minute of the first run really isn’t going to set the world alight.

Overall i ended with a total time of 1:29:29, leaving me 36 overall and 5th in my category, I can’t be too disappointed with the result when I look back and think that in January I was struggling to run at any sort of pace.

I went into this race feeling good, I knew the last couple of weeks of training had gone well, and whilst this wasn’t going to be the fastest time ever it was going to set me a good benchmark for the next two races in the series.

Progression is the one thing I am looking for in these duathlons, and hopefully that is what I will get, we will see!

 

 

 

Is There Life Without Data?

Recently I have been wondering what it would be like to go training these days without the use of a Garmin to both record data and guide your sessions. These thoughts started recently when I was watching some clips of athletes training in the 1970’s and the coaches were stood trackside with the old fashioned analogue stop watches, shouting out splits. It made me think, what did athletes without coaches do?

In those days what did people like me do? How would I have trained effectively and made the best use of each session?

I know that an over reliance on data is not always a good thing, I certainly struggle sometimes when a run session says go at 7.5 out of 10 on feel. What is 7.5, what pace is it or what heart rate does it equate to?

The reality is you should be able to judge your session on feel, but I think over time you get use to using heart rate data or pace data and using that to make each training session as meaningful as possible.

If it is hard for an athlete not to have data, how would a coach go about monitoring the progress of an athlete and set appropriate training?

I do go on runs without having predefined targets and I often find these really enjoyable, but they are at times some of the hardest sessions as I don’t know how much to push. For these runs I tend to head off-road and hit the trails as here pace is no longer such as issue it’s much more about enjoying the countryside.

What about when it comes to racing, well here I have an admission, basically the data goes out of the window and it is a case of go as hard as possible for as long as possible. Well, that is not the complete truth but in essence that is what happens, I do look at the pace but I try not to let that dictate my race, as how else would you ever get a pb as you need to push harder here.

So, for me data will continue to form a very important part of my training as it allows sessions to be targeted and so make best use of the time available, but there will always be those runs where it says go out and run with no targets and on those days, the Garmin will be used to record not to drive.

Data is a big part of modern life, we collect data on many things and so training data is just another form. I do wonder though how many people ever actually look at the data and then go back and analyse their sessions, look for patterns and try and understand the highs and lows? In these times data litters everything, and so the question is valid, do we need training data, well have a think do you really need it and do you actually use it?

Relaxing In The Mud

After a week where I have found the training hard and haven’t felt as tired at the end of it for ages, it was good today to go out and run the trails with no pressure of time or pace.

I know to some, the idea of running off road in the mud, up and down the hills with the ever changing terrain and levels of grip, isn’t their idea of a relaxing run, but to me it is.

There is nothing better than going and spending time running the trails, you are away from traffic, and the only people you see are also out enjoying the countryside, be that on foot, bikes or horses.

The Chilterns are not the biggest of hills, but they do provide some excellent running and often you are treated to great views across the valley’s. You have companions in the red kites flying over head adding a little more variety.

Today, the sun was out, it might have only been 4C but that was enough to allow just a base layer & t-shirt combined with hat and gloves for the perfect attire to enjoy the mud.

The condition of the trails today is best described as muddy and wet, but if you are running off-road yo have to expect mud, after all you can’t make a cake without breaking a few eggs!

Sometimes I wonder that if I stopped doing races and just decided to run when I felt like it and ride my bike the rest of the time would I be any worse off? I might miss the competitive side of it all but also there wouldn’t be really hard weeks of training. A question of another time I think.

Back to the run today, and basically it was the best part of an hour and a half spent out in the fresh air enjoying the countryside and feeling good about life, when you are out like that there are no stresses or pressures, you leave them at home.

Next weekend is the first duathlon race of the year, and I am hoping to use it as a benchmark for the other ones, the main aim is to enjoy it, but everyone knows what happens when the gun goes and the race is on, all rationale thinking goes out of the window and race mode takes over!

I Dream of Sunshine

On my run tonight it was dark and cold again. Infant it seems to have been like that for months. Overtime I go for an evening run I need a head torch, hi viz vest, hat, gloves and layers and I have had enough of it.

I cannot wait of those light evenings where the toughest choice is which lens to put in the sunglasses but those times seem so far away.

Running fast in the dark and cold is hard, especially when your only light is from your head torch, as we have no street lighting where I live, and so those sessions often produce results that on paper look a bit disappointing.

Every year I think that around this time of year I should really arrange to go away somewhere sunny for a week, take my bike, running shoes and probably the wife and go and enjoy some warm weather somewhere.

I have never done this, but I can’t help but think it must give you a boost on a couple of fronts, firstly you can train during the day in warm weather in a new environment, and secondly I think it would give you a mental boost. You would come back invigorated and looking forward to the race season, rather than seemingly plodding your way into it as I feel I am doing currently.

But, as I haven’t booked a trip this year then I will have to put up with it, and put some new batteries in the head torch and get back out on the road again later this week.

I can dream of the sunshine in the meantime!

It Has Been A While

Like the greeting you give an old friend you haven’t seen for ages, it has been a while since I wrote anything. I could at this point attempt to write some complex and thoughtful entry as to the reasons why, they could be physical or psychological. However, the truth is far far more simple, I just had nothing to say or write.

For someone who is not often short of something to say, this may surprise those who know me, but it really is true, I had nothing to say.

Okay, there is a little more to this than me becoming mute, and that will prove equally surprising to those who know me.

What is it I hear you cry, or more likely don’t bore us get to the chorus, well I lost my interest and motivation to train. I was coming home from work and I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything. I tried ti do some running, but it just wasn’t really happening, yes I could do the session but I didn’t feel like me doing it. I went swimming and did drills, get bored and got out of the pool.

I did my weekend bike rides, I just didn’t feel like me, although I did set a bunch of PR’s on hills not sure how but obviously physically there is nothing wrong with me, just mentally.

This has continued into this week, last week I did nothing at all, Monday night was a planned run. I left work fully intending to do it, but on getting home, I sat down and decided to watch the speedway instead. At this point I couldn’t really see it changing, but, come Tuesday evening I got home and realised I fancied a go on the turbo trainer, not to do some complex session involving power and cadence, no to ride part of the Sean Kelly sportive route, 20 odd km’s of simulated Irish roads with a 5km climb. I loved it, sweat was dripping off me, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Sitting in my garage going nowhere but everywhere.

Wednesday night is traditionally the planned turbo session, so I did it, yes it was a simple session consisting of one major effort, but again I loved it, I didn’t care I was dripping everywhere or looked wrecked when I finished, I had fun.

There I said it, I had fun. The thing I think had been missing, and I think it has sparked my love of riding my bikes again, in fact I have already prep’d by bike foe the coming winter, new tyres, brake blocks etc. As it stands two wheels is once more the love of my life.

What caused me to stutter from the path of exercise? Well, there are to possibilities, post race blues from the Ultra or over training. I have done research on both, and am not sure which one fits best, although I seem to exhibit more signs of overtraining and probably having a rest has done me some good in the long run. We will see.

Are there plans in place for the future, well in my head I have some I think I have. I am yet to finalise them but at this point it is enough to say I think they will involve lots of two wheel action, but we will see.

I have learnt something from the last few weeks, and that is without having fun training is bloody tough going, and so going forward if I am not enjoying it I need to act not just let it slide and hope it will come good.

I am now off to look at some bike pictures as my wife is out!

Chiltern Challenge 50km Ultra Marathon

Well, after much build up it the day finally arrived when I would get see if all the preparation and training would pay off and I would become an ultra runner.

The day dawned sunny, and if I am honest a bit too warm for my liking, I was hoping for grey and overcast but as it is July you can’t always get what you want!

As we all know you should, I had packed my kit the night before and so in the morning all I had to do was get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and make it to the start line. Luckily for me the start line was only 10 minutes from home and my wife was taking so no need to worry about driving.

On arrival it was the usual check in process, and the only late change to my kit I made was to get rid of my number belt and pin my number to my shorts, as it turned out that was a good idea as it out of the way and you don’t even notice it, yet it is visible.

Then, it was time for the off, in my head I had a pacing plan, having never run the distance before or even run a marathon, it was just a guess.

Off we went and the course instantly went up a big hill, which you had to walk up, followed by some steps before you could really start running. I was soon into my running and whilst I set off a little faster than I wanted I soon reined myself in and felt ok.

The first checkpoint arrived after 10km and I arrived feeling in good spirits, a quick topping up off the bottles, some food and off I went. A lot of the first part of the course I was familiar with as I had run it during training, only in the other direction.

As the run continued I noticed that I wasn’t actually catching or passing anyone, but seemed to be on my own a lot, with the main pack somewhere in the distance, this started me thinking that perhaps I was out of my depth and shouldn’t be doing this. I quickly got rid of those thoughts on the basis that my steady progress would see me through in the end.

After the second check point I seemed to catch a few people and the conversation was free and easy, I am amazed at how many of the runners played down their own abilities. In particular two ladies who had been doing various ultras and were more than happy to pass on tips but also tell of their future plans, I felt very lazy next to them!

The journey to the third checkpoint did seem to drag a bit, but in the end it came into sight. A much needed drink, more food and a chat and we were off again. This time I caught a group of runner san ran with them for a while, including trough a section where someone had removed the marker tape, luckily we got through in the right direction.

During this period I noticed my IT band was beginning to stiffen up and whist not a show stopper didn’t feel great, this was at about 32km. Sometime later I started to notice my right ankle was becoming sore, in my simple mind I linked it to the IT band and carried on. Then, there was a pint where I had to run downhill and suddenly realised I couldn’t, I simply couldn’t load up my weight onto my right ankle as the combination of the pain from it and the tight band meant to go downhill I simply had to take fairy steps slowly.

Once back on the fact I was able to move again, but the damage was done and during the rest of the trip to the fourth and last checkpoint it just got worse. On arriving at the last checkpoint, again I filled up my bottles had some food and thought about talking to the medics about it, but I didn’t as I was worried they might try and make me stop, this I didn’t want as I was only about 8km from the end. So I pressed on.

The next section contained a lot more walking than I wanted to do, I simply couldn’t cope with any sort of gradient, either up or down, flat was ok. On a gradual gradient I would run for 300m to 400m, walk a bit then try and run again. It was basically the only way.

Eventually, the final section of the run came into view, and I decided I was running the last part no matter how much it hurt, I wasn’t walking over the line. Luckily it was a short road section. As I approached the entrance to the school where we started, people were applauding and offering encouraging words and congratulations, and this carried on till to the finish line, it was a great touch.

On finishing I received my medal, certificate for completing my first ultra and vest!

As I am writing this the following day, my right ankle looks a mess, it is very swollen nd has a lot of bruising, and as if in sympathy the left one is swollen as well, my legs ache for the finishing touch.

That said, it was a brilliant event, a fantastic course, with the checkpoints staffed by brilliant, kind and encouraging people who simply couldn’t do enough for you. The organisation was first class, I know that the company XRNG normally do multi day events and this is their only one day event, but to me it looks like they bring their experience of multi day events to this single day one to ensure that everyone has the best day they can.

So, was it all worth it? Well, my training was spot on “Iron” Mike Shaw has got me in good condition, my nutrition plan worked as I hoped and so if it wasn’t for the injury I reckon I would have been considerably faster than my 7 hours 23 minutes, I think I would easily have broken 7 hours.

Would I do another ultra? I honestly don’t know, the main reason being to train for these long runs means I don’t get to ride my bike and I really miss that, I won’t rule it out.

As with all these personal projects to complete events there are always more people involved than just me, and certainly without them it wouldn’t be possible. Firstly to Mike Shaw of Tri Performance, whose coaching was brilliant as ever and combined with his advice has certainly got me believing you can achieve anything. But, most importantly, the biggest thanks goes to my wife, Suzanne, she supports me in a completely unquestioning way when I do these things, she is always encouraging, comes and supports me and never moans about me going training for hours. I know these are very selfish pursuits and having her understanding and support makes them much easier.

In conclusion, if you are interested in doing an ultra then don’t be put off by the distance or if you haven’t run a marathon it doesn’t matter if you put the time and effort into training you can do it, I did and enjoyed the whole experience.

Go on try it, you might just like it!

The Direction Is Right

As this year has moved on and the focus of my year comes ever closer I often find myself asking a simple question, “is this going in the right direction?”

Firstly, what do I mean by this question, well to me it comes down to is my training going to enable me to complete my target. This question will only be answered on the day of the race, but in the meantime you can certainly look at your progress in terms of the numbers and also how you feel.

Perhaps, how you feel is more important to a degree than the numbers. The numbers provide the hard statistical evidence, but how you feel both physically and mentally is the truly telling item.

I have been feeling physically good now for a few months, ever since I got over my knee injury and have been training confidently. Mentally I have been positive most of the time, yes I have had moments when I question what I am doing and whether I am equipped physically to do it. I know that in all likelihood on the day of the race I will have some dark times, and that is when you have to look inside and ask yourself the big questions. Do you trust your training? Have you followed your plan? If the answer is yes then it is a case of dig in and trust that you will succeed.

I often feel that I am in a fortunate position of being able to afford a coach, and more importantly one I trust, for me without the trust in the training program there is no way I would undertake an ultra. The training got me through 2 tri’s last year, and so I when I look at my plan for a week I know that it is all about building to the ultra and that if their is a weakness then the training isn’t it.

I find it hard to quantify how fit I am, but if being able to ride 122km in very poor weather without riding a bike this year is any sort of yardstick then I am doing ok, especially as I know a few guys who have done a lot of riding who struggled!

In conclusion, for me I feel I am heading in the right direction, obviously I can’t see the future and tell if there is something on the horizon that may interfere, but, I feel good, am enjoying training and most of all I am actually looking forward to hauling myself around 50km of the Chiltern Hills.

To use a well known football chant, “here we go, here we go , here we go”

No Race Day Motivation

This morning I was due to race another duathlon, my bike was ready all my kit was packed but when I woke up I just didn’t feel like racing, I don’t know why.

Normally when I wake up on the day of race I have that slightly nervous, slightly excited feeling, today it just wasn’t there.

To make up for this I decided to go for a trail run, just go off into the woods no pace target, no distance target, just go and run. So that is what I did, 17km of off road enjoyment, very steady pace, muddy but so relaxing.

Out on my run I had time to wonder why I didn’t feel like racing, and whether I needed a re-think about what I was doing and wanted to do.

I thought about the differences between me and “Iron” Mike, not just that he is a better athlete than me!

Mike, to me, enters events to genuinely race them to try and be competitive, he enters a main race each year and builds to it and then tries to beat his best time. For me, I am much more of a bucket list athlete, I like the challenge of trying to complete an event and move onto the next thing. I have never found something I want to repeat and try to better my times each time.

When I think about this more I realise there are very few events I have done twice and only 1 I have done more than twice.

I thought triathlon was the event that I would really take to, it would always provide the challenge, you can increase the distance and test yourself, however, it just didn’t grab me in the way I hoped. Duathlon is a bit the same. I think that is why of so many years I was just happy going out and cycling, the odd event but nothing much more.

All this thinking has led me to decide to make a couple of changes, firstly I am going to stop the swimming lessons, and just go back to swimming and try to discover the enjoyment for it. Secondly, I think I am going to do more bike events after my main aim for this year, an endurance mountain bike race perhaps. I have always thought I could be reasonable at bike racing, and if not I would enjoy it anyway so maybe that is the future route.

I guess I will see how it all works out, but I don’t think being a bucket list athlete is a way to maintain interest and motivation and so finding the right path is still important.