Is It Not Meant To Be?

Last weekend should have marked my return to triathlon, instead I was left thinking about what might have been.

Unfortunately for me I suffered a shoulder injury that meant I could not get my arm through the recovery part of the swim stroke without a lot of pain, and even just normal arm movements were providing some level of discomfort.

How I actually managed to injure myself is a little bit of a mystery, I think it is simply an over use injury as I have been swimming a lot and also climbing hard routes and so both of these activities seem to have combined to provide the pain.

I am hopeful that a week or so of not stressing the shoulder combined with some gentle exercises will be enough to heal it, if not then a trip to the physio will be required.

I am beginning to wonder if me and triathlon are just not meant to be, first of all I struggled to get to terms with the swimming, then I get on terms with it and even start to enjoy it and then I injure myself, perhaps this is an omen?

Anyhow, I still intend to move forward and if I don’t manage a triathlon this year then I can start the next season early and take it from there.

Simply put it is a case of onwards and upwards, as long as the shoulder holds up to the running, cycling and swimming with some climbing thrown in for good measure!!!

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This Is Why We Do It

Yesterday the training plan said, “60 mins run no pace targets, just get out and enjoy.” An hour of running where I like how I like, here was a chance to go and have some fun.

I had pre-planned my route and knew exactly where I was going to go, it was a trail run which consisted of a downhill followed by a long uphill another downhill and a final steep climb before a flat run home. This is one of my favourite routes, the views are great and it has both wooded sections and fields.

On waking up on Saturday morning I discovered it had snowed a decent amount, and this meant that the planned route was now not only going to be muddy but snow covered as well. Didn’t matter, I wasn’t going to change the route.

On with a few layers and off we went, well it was certainly much more muddy than I thought and the snow wasn’t really much more than decoration.

The first downhill through a wooded section was great, released running through some deep mud, but generally on a reasonable path, my in need of replacing Saloman XA’s were doing a decent job of providing traction despite their condition. Quick skip across the road and the long uphill start, the field was covered in a thin layer of snow over mud. This section is always tough, but if you keep going you eventually reach the top when it all seems worth it. Through another wood before the downhill across a field where you have views right over the valley, looks great what ever the weather.

They had been doing some logging through the next section and this meant it was really muddy, but I just kept on ploughing through the mud, it felt good to be splashing along, an almost childlike experience.

Cross another road and then we are into the next field and the uphill starts again, at first it is so gentle that you wonder if it is actually going up at all, but as you look ahead you can see where the path goes up into the wood. On entering the wood you look up and see that it is now steep, the temptation is to walk, but if you keep on running, however slowly, you can see the gradient start to ease up, and then suddenly it is over it flattens out. Your heart rate starts to fall and your breathing returns to something like normal.

Out into another field and there in front of you is Hamden House, once used as the Hammer House of Horror, and as you cross the field and look towards the gate, and once through that you come up on the church, with its very picturesque grounds. Down the driveway and cross another road, and then into the final field. This field is one that you know is flat, a bit bumpy but near home and so the pace is always lifted a little bit here. After the field it is nothing more than a km or so on the road back home.

I returned, muddy, hot sweaty but with a big smile on my face, I haven’t enjoyed a run so much in ages if ever there was a run to remind me why I did this, then that was it.

I run for enjoyment and this was so enjoyable, pace didn’t matter, no running to heart rate limits, just pure running, running with a smile on my face.

2014 – A Year in Review

2014, a year that was a bit of a make or break year for me if I am honest, it had the possibility of offering much and delivering nothing.

The year started with me still struggling with swimming, and with triathlons on the cards it was certainly becoming more difficult for me to visualise actually finishing. I was trying with the swimming but it just wasn’t happening, and I was becoming more frustrated.

As the year moved on, life in the pool wasn’t getting much better, however, running and cycling were coming along ok.

An early season 10k trail race, saw me put in a decent 52 minute effort and that was a result inside the 75 (I think).

Time moved on and as spring approached the swimming still wasn’t where it needed to be, I honestly thought about pulling out of the tri’s as I basically didn’t want to drown!

A few sessions in the open air pool in my wetsuit certainly helped, as I was able to just about swim the required distance for the first trip, 400m, not far I hear you say, far enough I say.

Before long, the year had progressed and the first tri was upon me. Yes I goy through it, not without a struggle but I did do it. If you want to read the full story of that first trip, then click here

The next trip was due to be at Blenheim, but due to really bad weather I decided not to do it, I was really concerned about crashing on the bike leg.

Instead, I entered another trip at Dorney Lake, this one had a 750m swim, and whilst I was slow in the water, I got through it ok and the rest of my race went really well. The full report can be read here

After this I felt the pressure was off me, and I really enjoyed racing at the Brompton World Championship, where I finished 109th. Ride 100 London was a bit of a disappointment, the weather was frankly terrible, I have never ridden in rain like it, the course was shortened and if I had not been riding with a friend of mine who had raised a lot of money of charity I would have deferred my entry. We got through the 87 miles, but it wasn’t a whole lot of fun!

The back half of the year was due to the set around doing the Ballbuster Duathlon, an event that is legendary in its toughness, but I managed to displace my knee cap and this meant that I couldn’t really train and had to go through a course of physio to mend the damage. In fact, the knee if only really recently back to feeling normal and is something I am monitoring carefully.

So then 2014, a year I did become a triathlete, I did swim 750m in open water, I did improve my pb for a 10k trail race, I did improve my placing at the Brompton World Championship (by over 100 places) and I did have an injury

There are as ever a few people who at this point need to be thanked for their contribution in all of this, it isn’t all me you know. Firstly, “Iron” Mike Shaw at www.triperformance.co.uk without whose excellent training plans and advice a lot of this would not have been accomplished. The people I have trained with over the year, Roger, Dave and Gary to name a few. The biggest thanks goes to my wife, Suzanne, who has put up with me, come and supported me at races and generally been very encouraging when I felt like chucking it all in.

All in all 2014 was a good year for me on the sporting front, I am looking to forward to 2015.

Happy new year and I hope 2015 brings you everything you want.

One Year On

About 12 months ago I too the decision that in order to get some proper help with triathlon and set a plan to work to, and this meant getting some coaching.

I was lucky enough to be put in contact with Mike Shaw from TriPerformance who said he could certainly help me out. Mike it turns out is known as “Iron Mike”, on account of the amount of IronMan triathlons he has completed, initially I wondered if it was a reflection on his tough training schedules!

During the last year the biggest change for me is giving over all my training to the methods of someone else, I, like many, have spent years doing my training my way and suddenly I had to trust someone else.

I will admit to struggling with some of the ideas behind some of the sessions early on, but once I understood them better it became much easier to encompass the ideas and really start to buy into them.

For me one of the big pluses has been having someone to discuss issues with, especially my struggles with swimming, the level of encouragement I received was brilliant. I know I have certainly bent Mike’s ear with my moaning about swimming, but ultimately he was proved correct in that I could do it.

Would I recommend getting some coaching to everyone, well it depends what you want. There are many training plans online to follow and I am sure work well, but if you want something tailored for you and are prepared to both invest the time and money then, yes, a coach could be for you.

I have certainly benefited over the last year from the help and guidance provided by Mike, and I am looking forward to continuing the relationship and hopefully with my results continuing to improve.

Am I A Triathlete? – Part 2

Today I went back to Dorney Lake to take part in the Votwo Gatorade Triathlon, this time a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.

For anyone who has read the blog before will know that me and swimming have a tricky relationship, and it wasn’t that long ago the idea of swimming 750m would have seemed impossible, but today I was very calm before the start and actually was looking forward to the challenge. The hooter went and we were off, I was at the back of the pack and for about the first 300m there I stayed, and then they seemed to pull away from me. I wasn’t last out of the water there was someone behind me, and I was only narrowly beaten by the guy in front of me. I was a bit tired but happy to have got through it.

The bike was a different story, I had a working bike computer today, which meant I was able to see my speed and keep the pace around where I wanted to. The laps went passed pretty quickly, and I picked off a few people along the way, which is always good for the soul.

Into transition, and the difference using elastic laces in my shoes made was noticeable as I seemed to be in and out in a flash. The run course was flat and went round the lake, I set off at a pace that felt comfortable and just kept it going for the whole run. It was strange as my time for the run was 24:49 but it didn’t feel that fast.

Today left me feeling happy with my performance, I came in under 1 hour 30, my original target was sub 1 hour 40. I know that my swim is slow, but it is improving and I know that with the guidance of “Iron” Mike it will get better.

For now, I am feeling more like a triathlete and keen to continue the journey.

Am I A Triathlete?

Today I completed my first triathlon, it was part of the Garmin Sprint Series at Dorney Lake, the distances were 400m swim, 21.5km bike and 5km run.

Now, for anyone who has read any of my previous blogs I have had on going struggle with swimming. Me and swimming and not the happiest of bed fellows, just as I feel I am making progress something happens and I go back a couple of steps. Recently I have felt like I have made real progress, my weekly swim lesson has helped, they have simplified swimming for me, tried to take away some of the complexity and tried to basically make me believe that I am actually an ok swimmer.

Pool swimming is different to open water swimming, and I think most people accept this, I certainly did. I have had a dip in a lake previously and didn’t find it a problem, yes my swimming was worse then but I didn’t suffer any kind of adverse effect.

In the run up to today, I have been feeling stressed about the swim, I am not sure if it was the distance or just the fact it was a swim but I have certainly felt the pressure in the build up. So, come today, I put my wetsuit on, and yes I managed to tear it, and then it is into the water. Dorney Lake is a man made lake designed specifically for rowing, the water is pretty clean and clear and not too cold. I was ready for the start, and then it went, the hooter sounded and we were off, except, I didn’t go anywhere. I looked up and suddenly thought I can’t do this, and I never went anywhere. I then called to on of the canoe marshals and swam over to his canoe, he told me to take a minute, catch my breath and then move off when I was ready. I waited a bit, and then I set off, I then proceeded to swim the 400m, with the occasional veering off course, but hey what is a few extra metres!

On exiting the swim, it wasn’t quite like watching the ITU strs on TV as I walked off into transition, rather the pro sprint. I removed my wetsuit and was grateful on put on my cycle shoes and unpack my bike. Now, due to my slow swim I was a bit desperate to try and catch up on the bike, and so I hit the bike hard and I went for it full on. The bike course was 4 laps and on my first lap I was pretty much on my own and took the advantage of having free lines through the chicane and bends, I then started to catch people. It was during the bike I realised my bike computer had decided to take a day off and my Garmin also didn’t want to work, so I was riding on feel, and this meant I pushed on, hard.

By the end of the bike, I thought I must have caught a few and so it was onto the run. By now it was very hot and the heat and the effort on the bike started to take their toll. My pace felt slower than normal and I was struggling to be able to lift it, I just dug in to get it done and to the finish.

The finish line came not a moment too soon, on crossing it I realised that I was basically cooked, I had taken on a decent amount of energy drink but not enough simple water and the gel I took was repeating on me!

So, what conclusion can I take from today, well I came 385 out of 640, my bike time was faster than the 120 people who finished before me, but I had a funny moment in the water. I don’t really know what caused it, a moment of self doubt and lack of confidence for the one element I know I struggle with. The big question is what happens next, do I go on to Blenheim and take on the slightly longer swim or do I just sit back and say I have done a triathlon now? For me it will depend on the next couple of weeks swimming, if I feel better and more confident in the pool then why not, I know if I have a problem I will be rescued.

To the original question, am I a triathlete? The answer for me is currently no, I have done a triathlon but I need to do more to become what I call a triathlete.

The final part of this is to thank those who helped me get to this point, “Iron” Mike Shaw who has provided me with a great training base and put up with my moaning about swimming. Julian Nagi for the free advice on swimming and most importantly my wife, who ams swimming with me, encouraged me when I was down and has generally been the voice of reason and big support all through this process.

Train or Race?

When I was out cycling today I started to wonder whether I preferred to train or to race. It is a more difficult question than I first imagined.

My initial thoughts were, race, you only train to race so I must prefer racing. However, racing comes with added complications, you get pressure when you race, you get nervous pre-race, you have other people around all of who can have either a positive or negative impact on your race. When I thought about it these factors actually do put me off racing a bit. On the other hand when you finish a race you get the satisfaction of completing the event and sometimes even the admiration of friends and family.

Training on the other hand comes with no pressure, no one else to influence your session and the added advantage of being able to do it when you want to. But, training involves pain, and you whilst you have to hurt yourself in a race in training there are often sessions where you need to push yourself harder than you want to, remove that comfort zone and see what you can do.

I really enjoy training, I don’t mind coming home from work, getting changed and going out training in whatever the weather is. I find training relaxing, a way to clear your mind from the day.

When you train for a multi sport event there are obviously sessions you prefer over others, but the key is getting through all of them and trying to enjoy them all. If you don’t enjoy it then it becomes a chore and then you start resenting it and that is the point that you probably give up and stop. Me, I enjoy it.

In conclusion I would have to say I probably enjoy training over racing, and whilst I train to be able to race, if I couldn’t race anymore I would still certainly still train.

The Best Laid Plans

Well 2013 was the year that I had a simple plan to do the sprint triathlon at Belnheim, and guess what it went nothing like it should have.

There are several reasons for the failure of the plan, the mayor one being a two month lay off from training due to contracting an allergy which affects my breathing and requires I now need an inhaler. This basically wrote off any plans as at one stage I couldn’t even run 500m let alone a proper distance.

My struggles with swimming are well documented and really whilst an issue were not a cause of the problem, the illness took care of that.

So you may be wondering was the year all bad? Well no as out of the problems came some good, and also before the illness there were signs of good things.

From the start of the year many events were cancelled due to the weather, I think I had 3 or 4 events I had entered cancelled, and when I finally did a 10k at Dorney Lake, it was cold and hammering down with rain. So it was a real surprise to run a pb and take some 4 minutes off my previous best, who knew that would happen and also who knew how as I hadn’t really trained specifically for it.

The other good thing that has happened is my association with Mike Shaw from Triperformance, you will need to ask him if he sees it as a good thing! He is now providing my training plans and I have to say I really enjoy the sessions, I would never have done the variety of things he gets me doing and all set towards a bigger plan. I know that swimming is a topic I try and avoid but I think by taking extra lessons I have shown I am serious about cracking it.

For 2014 the goal is the same, I have my place at Blenheim again and hopefully this year it will happen, I will also be entering some other events details which will follow but am looking forward to the Lincoln GP sportive.

I hope every one achieved their goals for 2013 and has set the 2014 ones and is looking forward to achieving them.

Happy new year

And finally as we all know, Go Hard Or Go Home

2014 – What To Do?

With the year end fast approaching it is the time to start booking up the events for 2014, and lets face it there are plenty to select from.

For me, I like to try and do one event a month, mainly done to time nd cost, but I think if those two factors were not so restrictive then I would probably do as many as I could.

So then, what do I fancy for 2014, well as you might have gathered from reading previous posts, I really want to do a triathlon (I know I have to swim, but that is another story), a few cycle sportives and probably the odd obstacle run.

That might sound like a fairly broad list, and to be fair it is, but I can narrow it down. I am already book dingo the Blenheim Triathlon in June (yes I know I have to swim, I remember it from earlier) and the Lincoln GP Cycle Sportive in May.

Other than those actually booked events I am looking at a 10k cross country in January, possibly duathlons in February and March. Then once we hit April it looks like the cycle sportive season is properly on and so I think I might find one or two to do, then in May there is another triathlon that looks promising and after that frankly who knows.

I think the problem is that there is simply too many events on offer that I think I wouldn’t mind doing and so how do you decide what to enter? For me I really don’t know, if my swimming was decent then I would probably be entering almost any tri I could find but as its not I have to limit myself to “only” runs, cycle events or duathlons!

What I would say is that by entering events it does give you a focus for your training and that really helps.

In short watch this space and I will say what I enter, but currently it’s all in the planning stage.