Inside out

Over the past few years i, like many other cyclists, have enjoyed the ability to ride indoors using Zwift.

Zwift, if you are not aware, is basically a virtual world where you can ride a myriad of routes where the software control the resistance on your smart trainer. There is an added feature to Zwift, you can also use it on a treadmill for running.

So, what does this all mean, well, for me i have found that training indoors on the bike has become a pleasure and so when the weather is not great i tend to opt for the trainer. Not usual you would think as using an indoor trainer allows you to do very controlled sessions so you can target power, cadence or heart rate. The odd side is that i have also been using it on the treadmill, and I hate indoor running.

For anyone who knows me, also knows that i would probably do a maximum of one runs year indoors and would go out whatever the weather. It seems i have now gone soft as if its raining I will use the treadmill.

The amount of indoor training i now do has started to slightly concern me, as where as i used to go out whatever the weather now i don’t, yes indoor training can be very targeted it also means you are not outside enjoying the real world.

The solution seems easy? Just go outdoors rather than inside, well yes that is the answer but the reality is that during the winter i can justify it by all the reasons above. The downsides are that I don’t go on club rides and don’t get to use the winter kit i own.

Am i going to change? I don’t know, my training through the winter has been consistent and i feel in reasonable shape and have achieved this without getting cold or soaking wet. I did go out over the Christmas period to prove I’ve not lost it completely but more recently its been the trainer.

i am looking forward to getting back out and about but equally i no longer think it is the only way to go.


Enjoying The Light

After the last post, which if you haven’t read is available here, things have been taking a more positive direction.

It is true that I as entered into a race which I didn’t do as I didn’t feel comfortable racing with others, and yes even doing ParkRuns have proved tricky as I seem to have lost the confidence in racing with others, it is almost like an anxious feeling. I have done a couple of ParkRuns but haven’t fully enjoyed the experience, but I will go back when I can get out of bed on time!

The biggest pleasure recently has come form cycling, going out on the singlespeed mountain bike is such fun, it takes away all the excuses of the gears weren’t adjusted properly, my suspension is too hard/soft etc. It is just about you and the bike so you get out what you put in. Funnily enough I have set my fastest Strava times on a couple of the climbs.

Running on the other hand seems more of a struggle, for whatever reason I am off the pace. I have been feeling good on trail runs and have set a couple of fastest times on routes when I have gone out to push, but when I get back on the roads I just seem to not be able to do it.  However, I am trying not to let it get to me to try an keep the mind in clean and in the right place.

The mental side of life is something that I am now more than ever aware of and I do find myself constantly monitoring myself and trying to asses how I am feeling. There have been a few times where I find myself slipping and my thoughts heading into the negative. At these times I try and do something to cheer myself up, be it a listen to a song if I’m at work, go outside if possible or ride the motorbike, bicycle or anything else that has two wheels. I am also far more open to talking about it when I start to feel a bit down and this certainly helps, it might be a cliche and it certainly isn’t easy but it is the best thing to do.

I am now working towards the London Duathlon in September and my main aim is to enjoy it and re-find the fun in racing rather than the stress and anxiety that it currently brings.

As a postscript, after the last blog post I did receive some really kind messages and offers of help and support which were very much appreciated and above all it reminded me that people really are good and can provide the inspiration to do almost anything.



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!


Charting Progress

As we go through training into races it is very easy to forget to think about how you are progressing not just about individual race performances. Progress is really the important factor as if you are progressing it is a key to keeping motivation high and that desire to keep training and to try and race harder.

For me I have been looking at my duathlon times from last year and this, and thanks to the excellent data provided to F3 Events by Stuweb their timing partners I am able to compare my performances to the field averages for my race.

I know that at this point some yawning will be going on as looking a data is not everyone’s idea of fun but it does give you a way of seeing how you are doing.

The chart below shows me against the field averages for each race:


From the chart the obvious things that stand out are that I am well under the field average for the bike leg and that I am slower than average for  the runs, apart from in one race where there must have been some slower runners to push the averages out.

Now the averages are very much dependant on who turns up to race but they do provide a handy indicator of progress, which in my case shows that I need to improve on run 2 significantly and on run 1 by a bit less.

If you are not sure how you are progressing then spend some time either putting your data in Excel or try and use the inbuilt reports available in the various sites used for training metrics and see if you can see an obvious pattern which you can use to direct your training to so you can progress further.

It looks like some running improvement is required so I can look forward to that!


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 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!

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”

Running Again.. Well Sort of

The rehabilitation of my knee is continuing and it seems to be going in the right direction, although I am still getting some degree of pain and stiffness.

Since the run on Thursday I have had a swim and another short turbo session. The swim was ok, although pushing off from the end of the pool hurt and the turbo was fine.

This morning I went for another 20 minute run, this time I decided I was going to try and ensure I ran properly, not run on the outside of my foot like the other night, and I would lift the pace a bit for a km to see how it felt.

Well, the first km was ok pretty steady and all felt ok, a little tight in the knee but nothing to worry about. The second km I lifted the pace and did a 5 min 25, whilst by no means flat out it meant I had to work harder than before, again I felt no real reaction to this. For the rest of the time I just backed the pace down and trotted home.

If I am honest I am not sure exactly how long this whole process will take, whilst at times the knee feels fine, others it is stiff and a little sore.

I am still using the foam roller to stretch the ITB and I have also added foam roller exercises for hamstrings, quads and calves as well into the post exercise routine, hopefully I will benefit form this going forward.

I am due to visit the physio again this week and hopefully that will be my last visit and from there on I am hoping just to build back up again.

As for the Ballbuster in November, I really don’t know if I can run 16 miles at a good pace, I have basically lost a months worth of what would have been good hard training and currently I am not doing more than 20 minutes, I will have to see.

An Apology

I am going to start 2014 with an apology to all those of you that read my ramblings, in 2013 I seemed to do nothing more than moan about pretty much everything, from a bit of illness to my inability to swim a perfectly. Basically this is unacceptable, yes it is good to write about the challenges you face but don’t turn each entry into a moanfest.

So, in 2014, for any blog post which is nothing more than me moaning about something I am going to make a donation to a charity. I will get my wife to judge the posts as she is well placed to know when I am moaning and not being constructive, but if any reader wants to comment as well then that is fine and your opinions will be taken into account.

I read quite a few other blogs and I am impressed at how so many of them are always positive, I need to get into this mindset, I have proved before that when the mind is strong anything can be achieved and somewhere over the last 12 to 18 months I have lost this, but I now want to get it back.

Bring it on 2014 I reckon I can handle you and if I can’t, well it won’t be for the want of trying.

Come on.

Under The Influence

Some really good news for me in the last couple of weeks in that I have signed up to work with a coach to help me with my training plans and hopefully to attain my longterm goals.

The coach is “Iron” Mike Shaw from TriPerformance, and I was lucky to be introduced to him by Julian Nagi. I met up with Mike a few weeks ago and laid out my goals and he was pretty sure he could help me out.

For the next few weeks it is going to be a case of him assessing my current fitness (or lack of) and helping me to build towards the half marathons I have, whilst not ignoring the swim and bike elements of triathlons.

I am really looking forward to this partnership, I have never worked with a coach before and having their influence on my training can only be a good thing.

I will be sharing my thoughts and outputs of training as before hopefully it will lead to some interesting articles.