Never Too Old To Learn A Lesson

Today was meant to mark my first cycle cross race of the season. The sun was shining, the bike was prep’d and the rider was ready, well probably not full race fit but looking forward to it!

I arrived at the venue, signed on, watched a bit of the race that was on at the time and was looking forward to getting gout in a bit to warm up and then race.

Back to the car, pinned on the race number, timing chip on the shoe and all seemed ready to go.

Walking back to the course with the bike chatting to my wife, I suddenly realised I didn’t have my helmet on, and then it struck me like a truck, I hadn’t bought it with me! What an idiot!

We carried on to the start area, as sometimes they have stands selling kit and so my last hope was that there would be one, and I could get a helmet of some sort. However, on this occasion there wasn’t one.

That was that, no helmet no race. The walk back to the car was punctuated with me asking how I could be so stupid, well words to that effect anyhow.

I packed up the car, went back to registration and crossed m name off the start list. The day was done.

In all the years I have raced this is the first time I have ever forgotten anything fundamental to race, the question is how did I forget it?

Well, I think the only answer is I packed my kit bag differently to normal. For a cross race I normally put both my pairs of shoes in the bottom of my bag, clothing on top and finally the helmet on top of that. This time I left my shoes out of my back in their shoe bags and for whatever reason I just never picked up my helmet, I can’t blame anyone but myself and I know that next week I will be writing a kit list and ticking off the items as they go into my bag.

I appreciate this is a first world problem and certainly when put in context isn’t really a big deal, but, when you are looking forward to a race and then not be able to take part due to your own stupidity it is disappointing to say the least. As a punishment I did a long turbo session, that will teach me!

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One Foot in the stirrup

There is a saying about getting back on the horse when you have fallen off, this is often applied to accidents or unfortunate incidents or just when something doesn’t go to plan.

For me, I am not back on the horse but have taken my first step towards it, I am about to take a leg up!

This week I did my first longish run for a long time, a decent 8 miles plus backed this up with a a faster, shorter run in the week plus a couple of weekend runs.

More importantly I went climbing, putting the shoulder under some stress, I didn’t push the climbing and certainly was not climbing near my limits but just doing it and getting the feel again was great, during the climb the shoulder felt ok, not 100% but ok.

My long run did throw up an interesting scenario though, I experienced some stomach issues to the point where for the last 20 minutes I thought I was going mohave to do a Paula Radcliffe, and if not use the street my shorts were certainly under threat. This really did hamper the tail end of the run and meant knocking the pace down but the positive was everything stayed in my stomach!

The other interesting thing from the week was at ParkRun on Saturday I went for a more steady run rather than the usual go for broke, and this meant that I ran a steady pace at a fraction over 5 minutes per km but at no point did I ever feel I was pushing and at the end I still felt fresh. My reasoning for this was simply I didn’t feel as sharp as I have previously so decided to run steady and just enjoy the run.

Back to the shoulder, and this morning it did feel slightly sore, not a surprise after a climb plus running. However, after the run today it wasn’t too bad but as I type it is stiff but hopefully nothing more than the after effects of all the above and some gardening!

I am looking forward to keep on moving forward and hopefully getting back in the saddle, the acid test is likely to come with a return to the pool but that is in the future and when that happens the result will be what it will be.

Coming Along Slowly

After injuring my should I have been recovering slowly. The shoulder has been responding to exercises and is feeling better, still not 100% but the movement is back if not with out some discomfort

One of the things I have noticed is that whilst the shoulder provides some discomfort when training it doesn’t make training impossible and funnily enough on the bike I have beaten a few Strava pr’s without really trying and certainly not going out to intentionally do so.

Running has been coming along too, whilst not as sharp as before certainly I haven’t lost all my fitness and this week I would have been able to test it but for Watford’s home game being moved for tv meaning I couldn’t get to do a ParkRun, which I am currently using as a measure.

Regardless of this I feel I am coming along ok, I know I need to do some more speed work and some longer distances but they will come in time but until then I will continue to enjoy the training and have a go at an easy climbing session this week to test the shoulder.

 

Bits Keep Falling Off!

The last few weeks have really turned into a time of frustration, I seem to be slowly coming apart at the seems.

It started with the shoulder problem, now this at the time seemed like a small set back as I was pretty sure it would be easy to get it back to normal with some simple exercises and not doing anything to really antagonise it. The reality on the other hand has been a little different.

I started on the exercises, and initially it felt like it was progressing, then for what appears to be no reason it regressed, and currently it feels worse than when I started feeling the issue.

Add to that, this week I developed a problem in one of my hips, it simply felt like it was locked up and left me limping around like old man who was in need of a hip replacement.

Once more I have no idea what caused this problem, the only good side is that as I type this it has finally relented and isn’t giving any pain, although it doesn’t feel quite as flexible as the other one.

As you can imagine this has left me feeling somewhat hacked off, I just don’t seem to be able to get fully back to fitness,

When you get in these scenarios it leads to start thinking, “is it time to stop?” or “do I need to focus on one sport only?” and to be honest I have considered both questions but don’t feel able to answer them. I know there are still things I want to do and that they involve multi-sport, yes I could just go back to cycling and I would certainly enjoy it, but the multi-sport part adds some interest to the racing and variety to the training as well as additional load on the body.

I am sure this is just a phase and in a few weeks all will be back to normal and I will wonder why I bothered about it, but on the other hand if it doesn’t what then?

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!!!

Are The Times A Changin?

To borrow a title from Bob Dylan is brave on my part as there is no way my writing stacks up against Bob’s and I am unlikely to write anything that is remembered and celebrated like him, but irrespective of this I will continue to share my exploits.

Back to the main reason for writing, as anyone who has read these before will know over the years I have had some challenges with a certain sport, and that sport is one third of a triathlon and has led me to not have carried on with the challenge of triathlon for the last few years.

For anyone who hasn’t guessed so far, the sport in question is swimming, a sport that those who do it don’t understand anyone who can’t and those who can’t or struggle wonder how anyone can possibly enjoy it.

I am firmly in the camp of how can anyone enjoy it, it takes place in artificially lit plastic boxes with cold chemical filled water, which as if to make it harder gets deeper at one end.

For those of us that struggle with swimming the act of getting from the shallow end to the deep end gets more fraught as you go on as once you get past a certain point you can’t stand up and so the chance of drowning becomes a realistic possibility. The return journey is not as bad as the water gets shallower but I get more tired so drowning remains possible as you can drown in a few inches of water!

Now, it turns out swimming has two major components firstly technique, very important and secondly the mental side which is probably more important as if you can’t relax in the water than swimming is almost impossilbe.

I have struggled with both of these components and frankly thought the idea of ever swimming in a relaxed enjoyable way was not for me, it was something other people did.

Recently I have been thinking about future challenges and triathlon kept coming to mind as I obviously felt I had unfinished business and so it became a simple question of either of overcoming the struggle of swimming or forget triathlon for good, and find other areas to go at.

Unfortunately there is never an easy way to overcome a struggle, and so my approach was simple, go to the pool and try swimming again with no pressure and then find some lessons to sort out the technical side and hopefully the mental one as well.

The few times I went to the pool, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, I did some lengths and tried hard to be as relaxed as possible, it seemed that perhaps there was a chance swimming was possible. The outcome of these trips was that I decided to search out some lessons

Finding appropriate swim lessons is tricky, you need to find someone who you can trust, someone who is able to help you and break the technique down into chunks you can understand. Luckily for me via social media I saw an advert for a course run by someone I met years ago when trying triathlon who I knew was a good swimmer and was now coaching full time.

The lessons were over a 5 week period, and to summarise the course it basically broke the technique down and each week a different element was worked on, culminating in the last week of reassembling it and swimming!

I quite enjoyed the course and whilst it certainly wasn’t easy I did learn a lot and had my first experience of swimming where it felt I was on top of the water rather than dragging myself through it.

Since the course I have been swimming at an open air pool, which is heated and is so much more enjoyable than the normal leisure centre one, it also has the advantage of being open on my way home from work.

This week I had the new experience of a whole swimming session feeling “easy” or rather moving through water and the amount of speed reflecting the amount of effort rather than the effort out weighing the movement.

Perhaps the most important part of this is that I have been enjoying swimming, and actually looking forward going which is making it easier mentally.

The final part of the puzzle is that I have decided to enter a sprint triathlon in July and that is going to be the acid test, where this will take me in the end is unknown but this is a start, and a good one at that.

If you want some swim lessons then look up Bex Tri Fit there are various courses and I am sure you will learn.

Who knew that I would finally find swimming enjoyable and believe that I could again try triathlon.

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:

me_v_fieldavg_duathlon

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?

 

To Do Or Not To Do

The question of whether to do something for not is one that we all face every single day in some form or another, be it shall I have cake with my coffee or buy that new pair of wheels.

In my world I am currently trying to work out what is my sporting targets for this year, in the past I have usually found something easily but for whatever reason this year I just can’t find something that really inspires me.

I will do some duathlons again, as I enjoy them but as they are done by the end of spring it does leave a large hole in my summer schedule.

I have tried to ask myself a few questions to try and help, and whilst these have helped to the point where I know they have to involve bikes and also running is welcome. I could do some long off road mountain biking events or try some time trialling but whilst these appeal they just don’t fill the gap.

For anyone who has read my ramblings before will know there is an elephant in the room, and that is swimming, if I added swimming to cycling and running then i would have the chance to do more triathlons. Now, I have done a couple of these in the past but I have issues with swimming and that I find it stressful, and thats not just on the race day it includes the training as well. I did think about going to the pool to try to and see how swimming was, but the mere thought of it just meant I couldn’t bring myself to go and do it.

Could there be a “cure” for my issues with swimming, well I am sure there is but I am not sure if I really want to go through the struggle of trying to overcome it, as it is not the physical side but the mental side, perhaps I am just too weak.

So, currently I am in a bit of a state of flux regarding what to do and I will continue to look for something and hopefully inspiration will strike.