Shrug, smile sweetly and move on

I wonder if I have upset the sporting gods this week, it seems I was allowed one good session and3 not so good ones.

It started on Monday evening, a run session that was planned to be hard but not impossible, the weather was cold and I even remember to put a waterproof jacket on (more on this later). I headed out along a flat disused railway line which has been converted to a trail and for the first 5 minutes all was well, and then changed.

I felt a spot of rain, and thought well at least I have a waterproof on, and then as if someone turned a tap on, the drop become a deluge of freezing cold rain. In about 5 minutes I was soaked and cold, very cold. I tried to carry on and tough it out, but my leg muscles were so cold I gave in, and let the pace drop down to where I just jogged it in, yes I did the time but no where near the pace.

As for the waterproof jacket, well I have known for some time that it wasn’t really that waterproof but it used to keep a fair amount of the rain out but now it was basically useless, probably down to its age rather than anything else so time to research and buy a new one.

The next session that wasn’t perhaps as planned was the turbo session, this was an interval based assault really. In each interval for about the first of the three minutes I could hold the power and then it was a case of just holding on. It hurt and isn’t one I would be keen to repeat. Whilst I got through this, again the time was right but I never held the average power targets.

The next run I did however, was great, an evening trail run just pushing along not flat out. The sun was out the trails were drying out and it was a pleasure to be running across fields and through the woods. I even enjoyed the hills at the end!

Finally we come to todays bike ride, as my road bike is currently in bits awaiting some replacement parts I decided to head out on the cross bike and ride off road. It started off ok, came to the first interval and the legs went, “you must be joking” there didn’t seem to be much there. I plodded on up the hill and hoped they might return. After the next muddy section, I noticed the rear tyre was flat, not a major disaster, just pop in a new tube and away we go. Out came the rear wheel I put my hand in my bag and no tubes, what a plank I had forgotten to pack them. I never go out without spare tubes, well apparently I do now. Plan B, I had some patches, found the big thorn in the tyre, removed it, patched the tube and pumped it up. I could hear air escaping, found the second hole, patched that, pumped it up and all seemed well. Put the tyre back on and pumped it up again. Once more I could hear air escaping, tyre off again, found the third hole, patched it, tyre back on pumped it up and this time all was ok. However, I now had used all my patched, had no spare tubes and had really lost the enthusiasm so rode home.

I know that in context these are not the tales of real life disasters and there is plenty in the world which is worse, and I accept that but, these types of weeks make me wonder sometimes why I bother.

Next weekend is another race weekend, another duathlon and a chance to have some fun, race hard and remember that I do this for fun and that training weeks that don’t go so well really don’t matter!


The Need For Speed

Every athlete wants more speed, be it on the bike, running or even i water, speed is the key

Obtaining more speed is not an easy thing, it takes hard work and often comes in very small quantities, often leaving you feeling the effort input wasn’t matched by the results in the output.

I am not going to talk about how you could or couldn’t make gains, that is between you and your coach, training plan etc as each persons requirement are their own.

However, since my last duathlon I have known that I really needed to find more speed, particularly run speed as my run times were disproportionate to my bike times and were leaving me with a feeling I wasn’t achieving all I could.

Over the past month I have been following a specific plan set for me that was focused on giving me more run speed, and I have to say I didn’t find those sessions easy, knowing you have to push yourself hard and then actually doing it are two different things. The thought is just about acceptable, the practice is hard and painful!

I have began over the last weeks to feel like I was getting some run speed, nothing earth shattering but I was getting something.

For me there are two impacts of this, firstly and most obvious you are moving more quickly, but secondly and more importantly in my head I was starting to believe I could go faster, and once yo believe it is easier to achieve.

This brings me unto today, another duathlon at Dorney Lake, a repeat of the one I did last month, same course, sane distances but a month further on in the training, how would I go?

Well, the first run went well I settled into a pace that felt comfortable and one I felt I could hold without destroying myself for the bike and second run leg.

The bike, was as ever the most enjoyable leg, there is something about racing round on a flat course on an aero bike, down on those aero bars passing people of fun. I will clarify this by saying I was passed by a few people, but I passed many many more than passed me.

Onto the second run, and as is normal the legs felt a bit odd as I started running, but they seemed to come back pretty quick and I pushed on trying to gauge the effort so that I could ensure I got round as fast as possible without blowing up.

On crossing the finishing line I feel shot, I had certainly not left anything on the course and was keen to know if I had got the pb I really wanted.

Before I go on to the actual times, it is probably worth mentioning that I secretly wanted to do a sub 1 hour 25 minute time this year, but I didn’t think It was achievable as it meant running faster than I thought I was capable of.

Todays time was 1 hour 23 minutes 19 seconds, a pb by 6 minutes and 20 seconds and also smashing my dream time. I knew I had one well, but didn’t think I had gone that well.

In terms of the splits, I ran 24:15 for the first run, biked 32:54 and then finished with a 24:38.

Who knew I could go that fast, not me for sure!

I have to thank Iron Mike Shaw from triprformance for his continued excellent training plans which again have proved to work.

I have one more duathlon this year, next month and the question is now can I go faster again, we will have to wait and see!

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.


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!

What About The Weather?

Well the last week has certainly produced a fine array of weather that has gone form one extreme to the other.

Last Saturday I was mountain biking in frozen and also deep wet mud, and that made for a tricky day, that is another story and not one I want to recount again here!

Sunday, there was a blanket of a couple of inches of snow which was melting rapidly and turning the trails into really wet muddy paths. This made running an interesting affair, as when you put your foot down in the snow, you has no idea if it was frozen underneath or another muddy puddle. I enjoyed running in it but wouldn’t want to do it everyday.

Monday was a weights session, so the weather had no impact, minors was warm and comfortable.

Tuesday, ah Tuesday was bloody freezing, infant it was -3 and so doing hill repeats was no fun, the cold air, the road was icy and so basically it was purgatory.

My turbo session on Wednesday was also cold, my turbo trainer is in the garage and so a couple of extra layers were required to get the body up to the warm working temperature, perhaps next time I will bring it into the house?

Thursday was better, yes it was cold but the temperature was on the increase and so running was not as bad.

Friday, much more like it, an increase in the temperature meant a much more enjoyable time.

Saturday, again warmer and so for my run a change of kit to remove of the extra warm stuff, and no hat just gloves and even then I probably didn’t need them, I noticed my wife went running without hers, so perhaps I need to man up a bit!

Finally, Sunday and the circlet is complete a much much warmer day, about 12 degrees and so with a watery sun trying to come out made for a really enjoyable bike ride, if only the wind would go away it would have been near perfect.

So there you have it, my training last week was really more about the weather, and t didn’t help by having a coach posting comments and pictures from a very sunny looking southern Spain, perhaps his rates are too high and I need to renegotiate!

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 Cycling
20 Feb Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 2 5k/20k/5k Duathlon
20 Mar Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 3 5k/20k/5k Duathlon
16 Apr Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 4 5k/20k/5k Duathlon
1 May Kawasaki G100 * 50 miles Cycling
3 Jul The Lapierre White Roads Classic 110km Cycling
28 Aug 12:12 Torq in your Sleep 6 Hours 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!


Having Fun Again

I realised the other day I have written anything for ages, there has been no real reason for this, just I didn’t think I had anything much to say.

The last few months have been a bit trying, I initially struggled to decide what I wanted to do going forward and even once I decided I just found it all hard going.

The best thing I have done is, for now decide to leave triathlon alone, and focus next year on having fun on the bike. I have entered a few duathlons but other than that I will be doing bike events that I just fancy.

In the summer I learnt that if you are going to do anything you should do it with passion, without passion it is very hard to achieve what you want. When I stopped swimming I just felt like a weight had been lifted, I used to get stressed about swimming and never really enjoyed it and this plainly led to me not being able to relax and this led to all sorts of other issues in the water.

So, having decided to give it a rest I now feel much better about things, and whilst I am a little up and down in training in terms of performance, this is not a concern as it is the off season really. The main thing is that I am enjoying training again and having fun doing it.

Other than finding a bit more consistancy in training I need to write more posts as I actually miss doing them and I am sure someone misses reading them!



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!