A Good Day At The Office

The last of the F3 Events Windsor Duathlon series races has been and gone for me now, and it was a good day for me.

Let’s get it out there now, I set a pb and I was pretty happy with it. Yes I know that is very self congratulatory but if I don’t mention it nobody else will!

Following on from my last post I did wear my calf guards and yes I think they helped, but I can’t prove it with any quantitive measures.

The thing about them was that during the first run, whilst I did push the pace on I never felt any impact from wearing them, yes they do hold the calf muscle more stable but I can’t show whether that helps or not.

On the bike was where I did feel them, at a point on lap 3 I felt like I was getting a bit of cramp in one of my calves and whilst I didn’t slow down or stretch it I can only conclude that somehow the calf guard helped ward off the cramp, or it could simply have been a feeling and nothing more.

The final run was possibly where they helped, as ever my legs feel a little tight after getting off the bike but they seemed to come back to me sooner than normal and this helped as it meant I could run normally more quickly. I can’t prove the calf guards helped here but in my mind they did and sometimes something that works in your brain is better than anything.

I have done 3 duathlons in this season and I have set 2 pub’s which I think is a very successful season, and this is in no small part due to the coaching provided by Iron Mike, he seems to be able to enable me to produce great results with a training plan that allows me to have a life as well.

I am still planning on what to do next, I have a fairly good idea but am not going to say just yet, for anyone that has read these for a while what I am planning might come as a little surprise!

 

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The Pain Only Racing Gives

Today was my first race of the year, a duathlon at Dorney Lake (a sprint of 5km run, 20km bike and a final 5km run), and as usual I had forgotten just how much racing hurts.

When you are training you get the odd session which is hard but the pain these give is not the same as racing. Racing is an all out assault, the gun goes and it is a case of going as hard as possible till the finish or for as long as possible and then hang on to the finish, there is none of this I will leave a bit in reserve for tomorrow!

For me I sometimes think I like the idea of racing much more than actually takin part as when you are thinking about it there is no pain and whilst you sort of remember how it feels for some reason you can never quite recall exactly what it is like, perhaps it is like teething and the brain won’t allow you to remember!

Unusually for a race in February today it was not raining or freezing cold or even blowing a gale, although the usual Dorney head wind was there and so whilst it was fresh the conditions were good and so the prospect of a good time was there. Having done several duathlons here before I am used to the course and so have a decent idea what to expect.

For today the run course was two 2.5km loops using the service road and the road that runs alongside the rowing lake, for some reason this is a faster course than when the run is just out and back loops on the service road. The bike course goes out around the back of the venue and up between the two lakes into the now legendary head wind.

Down to the action then, the first run went off and as I hit the end of the first km I looked at my watch and thought oops that was a bit fast but I thought if I try and relax a bit I will try and hold the pace, as it was it did drop a little but still gave me an opening run of 23:44. Out on to the bike and it was full on from the start, 4 laps seems to soon go past and I always enjoy this part, probably because I pass many more people here!

The final run or as I like to refer to it, the final torture in hell, started and my legs had that just off the bike feel, it is hard to describe how they feel but it is enough to say they don’t feel like my legs, however, fortunately the longer I ran and the harder I tried the better they became, although not really good enough to stop a slightly disappointing 25:01 time, they just didn’t come back to me early enough.

Overall I did a 1 hour 23 minutes 14 seconds which was a pb by 5 seconds, and I was surprised by this based on the final run. Perhaps there is a little more to come if I can improve that last run, although getting a pb as I get older is enough for me.

The down side of racing is how my legs feel now, they ache and I feel sleepy but what else do yogurt from going all in?

Rest day tomorrow and then back on it and looking at perhaps racing in April again with the chance of another pb?

 

The Ballbuster Duathlon

The Ballbuster Duathlon one of the UK’s most iconic duathlons held at Boxhill in Surrey and is said to be one of the most epic events on the calendar.

The event is made up of 8 mile laps, each which finish with a climb up Boxhill, remembered by many for it’s appearance in the 2012 Olympic cycling road race, Each competitor completes a run lap, 3 bike laps and finishes with a run lap giving a total of 40 miles and 5 ascents of the hill.

For an event held in November there is an added ingredient which nobody has control of (unless the organisers have a special hotline!), and that is the weather, there are stories of gales, snow fog and probably plagues of locusts all impacting the race. This year the weather decided it would give us heavy rain, strong winds and cold which when you think that the day before was bright blue sky and sunshine as was the day after seems like someone was really having a laugh.

I have never done this event before, and like many others wanted to tick it off the list and get my hands on one of the limited edition hoodies, which I have to say really are good.

Unfortunately for Boxhill is not just round the corner so after a very early 4:30 alarm call it was time to eat, pack the car and hit the road. The journey down was uneventful and I was soon parked up and signed on. With the weather being so horrible and the fact that they give you the hoodie when you sign on did make me wonder if I should just wait in the car and pretend I did it!

The rain decided it was time to fall harder once the first run got under way just to make it a bit more difficult. As i don’t know the area of the race it was interesting to run along and see the sights, although the main road section was a little dodgy with cars not really being bothered if they gave you any room to run or not. Luckily other than that section the rest of the route was ok and if you did meet traffic is was more than happy to give you room to run.

My main aim on the first run was to ensure I didn’t go off too fast else there was a good chance of blowing up before the end. I seemed to be being passed by a lot of runners but I kept to my plan and eventually arrived at the foot of Boxhill for the first climb, I went steady and was soon at the top and off into transition.

For the bike I leg I swapped gloves and put on a waterproof jacket to try and keep some of the rain out. The cold was starting to have an impact on the bike as once I was up to speed I really noticed how cold it was especially on my legs muscles, as my leg warmers were soaked.

The other problem the weather gave was that it had washed loads of leaves onto the road and these seemed to always form piles on exactly the line you wanted to take especially on the downhill sections. I did back off a bit on the descents on the first lap  as I didn’t want to crash. Once I got to the first climb of Boxhill, I just cruised up it, with several gears left to go and was able to pass people and so it was out onto lap 2.

Lap 2 was where I decided I would take a few chances on the downhills in oder to try and gain some more time, it seemed to work and despite being very wet I was moving ok, the second climb up the hill was again uneventful, gears to spare and passing people.

The final lap and I decided after lap 2 that I could keep pushing on a bit on the descents, however,this is where it very nearly all went wrong. On one downhill left hander the pile of leaves had moved out from where they were on the previous lap and as I came round the bend I was on top of them in a two wheel slide heading towards the other side of the road and the oncoming traffic. I managed to run out to the white line off the leaves and then re-tip the bike into the bend thus avoiding the accident. I have to say the marshall on the other side of the road looked worried for a while, I’m just glad I didn’t panic and grab a big handful of brakes or else that would have been it, instead I just trusted my bike handling ability and it saw me through, just!

Final climb of the hill on the bike and still had gears to use if needed and I was still passing people, back into transition and off on the final run.

I have to say I was dreading the last run a bit, another 8 miles in the rain and cold after having worked hard so far, it was never going to be easy. I started off and realised I couldn’t really feel my feet due to them being cold and wet, this lasted for about the first 10 minutes or so until they were warmed up and then felt normal again. For the final run I ditched any sort of jacket just put my running gloves back on as I was now soaked and a jacket would just have given me that boil in a bag feeling.

The run itself went ok, I got passed by runners along the way but unusually for me I also passed some. Coming into the last climb of the hill I was still feeling reasonable and said to myself that I wasn’t going to walk on the hill no matter what. I got into a rhythm and found that I was catching some people and moving past them, especially those that were walking.

Before you came round the final bend you could hear the people by the finish cheering all the finishers and that gave a little boost, on crossing the line and stopping I realised just how tired I was and how much of a hard time it had been.

I was a little disappointed in my time of 4 hours 1 minute and 20 seconds as I wanted to go sub 4 but I don’t think on the day in those conditions I could have gone any faster. I only dropped 2 minutes between my two runs which I think showed that my initial pacing was pretty good, and the conditions on the bike meant that I couldn’t make up as much time on the downhills as I would have normally.

Did I enjoy it? I think I did, I think it is an achievement to finish it as it certainly is no easy event. Would I do it again? Probably not as at the moment I don’t see a reason to do it again, but that might change.

Finally a couple of thank you’s, firstly to “iron” Mike Shaw at Triperformance.co.uk for the coaching to get me through this, as ever the plan was spot on. Also to my wife,Suzanne, who got out of bed at a stupidly early time on a Saturday to come and stand in the lashing rain to watch me flog myself, I know any one who races will appreciate how much it helps having someone there to support you and how much it helps when you are hurting and you go by them and hear them encouraging you.

A special mention should be made to all the marshall’s out on the course and those volunteers who run the event as they did a great job. I did thank all the marshall’s on my final run as I think that is the least you can do when they give up their time so you can do something you want to.

If you have never done the Ballbuster then I would say try it, you will see that it is an epic event and you get the chance to properly test yourself.

The Bison Duathlon

The Bison Duathlon, a new event held on the Dunstable Downs using as it’s main feature the well known local landmark, Bison Hill.

Anyone who has ever visited Whipsnade Zoo has probably driven up the hill, it’s the steep one before you get to the car park. It is also possible to go up it from the inside as well via a path so that makes it ideal for a duathlon.

There were 2 possible distances, the full (13km, 30km, 13km) and a sprint (6.5km, 19km, 6.5km), me, I chose the sprint as I thought it would make a good training session for the Ballbuster next month.

The weather was misty and there was certainly a bit of rain in the air, and this meant the views were pretty much lost from the top of the downs, which was a shame. It wasn’t too cold but the temperature was at that point where it made what to wear of what leg a little tricky, you don’t want to be too hot on the run and then cold on the bike. For what it is worth, I went for a base layer, short sleeved jersey, arm warmers, gloves (which came off after the bike leg) and shorts. This turned about to be about right, I probably should have left the gloves till the bike leg and not bothered on the first run, but it didn’t make too much difference.

After the usual pre-race briefing the run was off and we headed out onto the trails path around the top of the downs, which dropped down and wound it’s way round to the bottom of Bison Hill and the infamous cut steps and the slog up the hill. Once over the hill it was basically a flat run to the transition area.

Quick (well average) change into the bike shoes and off onto the road. The bike course went downhill to the bottom of Bison Hill, where the slog up the hill began. Once the hill was done the run back to the transition area had another sneaky uphill drag

The second run was round the same course, although a bit slower than the first one!

So, what was it like then? Well the short answer is it was good fun but hard, I certainly was not in any shape to have done the full distance one. The course was well thought out and the run course especially was an enjoyable run. Having an event where the run was offload and the bike on road made for a good change, running off road is not only more fun but is harder than road running and certainly more interesting.

I was certainly feeling it in my legs at the finish, I think I probably started the first run too fast and then paid for it for the rest of the race, my left calf felt like it was on the verge of cramping from near the end of the bike until the end of the run, it didn’t but certainly felt like it might.

Overall I really enjoyed the event, it was well put together for the athletes and the medals were good as well. The only downside was that the National Trust for whatever reason didn’t open the centre that servers food and drink until about 9:30, when the race started at 8:00 and there were certainly plenty of spectators who wanted to get in there early! Certainly not the fault of the organisers.

When the event returns next year I would recommend it, it is a good challenge on excellent courses and is well run, have a look at their website for more details here

 

 

Just Let Me Quit!

Yesterday was a race day and a day when I probably learnt a few things that I didn’t already know.

The duathlon at Dorney Lake was my 4th visit this year and came only 3 weeks after my last race. Training for this one had not been going brilliantly, see my last post, and so I went to this race thinking I would enjoy it and see what happened.

At this point I should admit that, the idea of turning up at a race and just seeing what happens and me are not good bed fellows, as when the gun goes the race mentality takes over and it is go as hard as possible. But, I did try an did myself that I would see what happened.

The weather was brilliant, it was actually hot and there wasn’t a massive head wind, perfect conditions for a pb but I was in realistic mood I was tired and speed probably wasn’t going to be there.

The gun went and off we went, and as usual I try and run the first km in a relaxed manner and then see what the pace is after that first one. At the 1km marker the pace wasn’t too bad but my legs didn’t feel great, no worry I thought I will keep this pace and see what happens. Next km the pace dropped a bit and the same the for the 3rd one, it did pick up a bit towards the end but I was not feeling too sharp.

At this point, I thought right, take it easy through the transition area and then cruise the first lap on the bike and see if the legs come back. Good plan that!

I strolled through T1, in no hurry went onto he bike course and realised there wasn’t the usual power in my bike legs, I carried on and after about half way picked up a bit. At the end of the first lap I decided to give it one more lap and then if nothing felt better to quit as I wasn’t doing myself justice. The second lap I passed a few more people but was not comfortable in my aero position, felt like I was constantly shifting in the saddle, and kept thinking I will stop in a minute, just get to the end of the lap and quit. End of the 2nd lap I thought I may as well do another one, got about half way round the lap thinking why didn’t I stop? I was going to quit. 3 laps became 4 and then the bike leg was nearly over, still wanted to stop!

Coming into T2 I wasn’t concentrating and went to dismount the bike at speed and hadn’t taken my feet out of my cycling shoes so I dismounted and landed on the cleats, skidded forward and nearly crashed into the barriers, what an idiot. Good lesson to remember there, if you don’t take your feet out of your shoes slow right down before getting off!

Into T2 and back on with the running shoes, after about 50m I realised my legs were not moving well, I thought give it the first lap then stop, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the first run lap I took a drink and thought might as well carry on for a bit as you could stop easily on the run loop. Got halfway through the run loop and thought, right stop now, but I didn’t, I carried on. I knew I was getting slower and slower, I didn’t walk but might as well had done, and finally finished the run, it took 28 minutes to run 5km, my worst ever 5km time in a race.

The question I am left with, is why didn’t I stop, I felt rubbish, didn’t look ever like doing a decent time (it was my 2nd slowest of the year) there was no reason not to stop. In my head I had the conversation constantly, the voice saying just stop it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t stop, I am glad in some ways I didn’t as having a bad race is probably good for me as I think recently I have started to think I am a bit better at racing than I probably am and so a bit of humbling is good and a reminder not to take things for granted.

I will now take a bit of a rest from racing and decide what to build for next.

As they say, pain is temporary, quitting lasts for ever!

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!

 

 

 

2016 Events

As is traditional at this time of year it seems you need to publish the events you are doing in the coming year, so far be it from me to break that.

As it stands these are the events entered so far,

Date Event Name Event Distance Website Event Type
7 Feb Chilterns CX Wild Wood Sportive 60k http://www.cxsportive.com Cycling
20 Feb Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 2 5k/20k/5k http://www.f3events.co.uk Duathlon
20 Mar Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 3 5k/20k/5k http://www.f3events.co.uk Duathlon
16 Apr Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 4 5k/20k/5k http://www.f3events.co.uk Duathlon
1 May Kawasaki G100 * 50 miles http://www.gorrick.com Cycling
3 Jul The Lapierre White Roads Classic 110km http://www.cycleclassics.co.uk Cycling
28 Aug 12:12 Torq in your Sleep 6 Hours http://www.gorrick.com Cycling

* Entries not yet open, but will enter once I can

I am looking forward to putting in the hours to get through these and I am sure one or two of you may join me along the way!

 

Gatorade Eton Duathlon

This past weekend I did one of the Gatorade Eton Duathlon races, this is a series of 4 races, 1 each month form January to April, and not surprisingly held at Eton Dorney Lake.

The race was a sprint distance, consisting of 5km run, 20km bike & 5km run. All sounds simple and if I am honest that is what I thought and turned out to be a bit of a mistake.

Before I did this race, I knew it was going to be hard, well it would be if you try and do the best you can by pushing hard, but I think I slightly under estimated it.

I had a bit of a pre-race plan and that was to go reasonably hard in the first run, consolidate on the bike and then just run as hard as I could n the last run. In principal the was a decent enough plan. The reality was a little different.

The weather, was sunny and warm on arrival but on exiting the car it turned out it was very windy, and this was to play a major part in my race.

As usual with Votwo events the organisation was excellent, registration took about 30 seconds, and racking of the bike was equally simple.

I di da warm up, something I have learnt is a good idea as trying to race without one just isn’t a good idea!

Then it was off to the start line, a pre-race briefing and then ready for the start.

The run course was 2 laps of 2.5km, simple out and back. The countdown began and then we were off, I made an effort to not start too quickly, I soon found what felt like a good pace, and settled in for the run. There seemed to be plenty in front of more, and more importantly some behind me.

The first run finished in 24:23 which was quicker than anticipated, but felt ok, a steady change in transition and off onto the bike course. The bike course was 4 laps round the training lake, and the first thing I noticed was just how windy it was, and this meant that large sections of the lap were into a headwind. Infant on a few occasions the wind was picking up my front wheel as I had a 58mm deep section rim on, it must have been really bad for those with very deep section and disc wheels.

The bike was done in 36:28 which wasn’t too bad, an average speed of 20mph, another steady transition and off for the final run.

Heading out for the run I could feel that my energy levels were down a bit, I took it steady for the first lap and on the second lap concentrated on maintaining good technique hoping that this would keep the speed up, I was certainly feeling it.

The last run was done in around 25:40, unfortunately of some reason on the official results page, I am shown as a query with no time for my final run, no idea why I crossed the line and they took back the timing chip.

So overall, I think I had a time of just over 1hour 29 minutes, which whilst not brilliant wasn’t so bad as I have not trained for this type of event. I have another chance in April to have a go again as I going back to do event 4 in the series.

I have to say I was spent at the finish, I felt like I had suffered and certainly done the best I could on the day.

There were a couple of down sides to the day, firstly I forgot to put my watch into multi-sport mode, so I have the whole event as one run, certainly gives some impressive km splits!. Secondly somehow I lost my mini bike pump out of my jersey pocket, no idea how I managed that. As these are only minor things it just shows the day wasn’t too bad.

As I have said I am off to do this race again next month, yes it is hard, and yes I suffered and my Saturday night was spent basically dozing before admitting defeat and having an early night, but, I would say if you like running and cycling have a go you might just enjoy it.

If anyone is interested in what kit I used, well here it is:

Shoes: Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 9
Bike: Bianchi 928C with Zipp 60 wheels
Bike Shoe: Shimano road shoe