Category Archives: Training

Winter Training by Numbers

The low point of the triathlon calendar occurs at about this time in February. Last season is a distant memory and my first race is still a long way off, yet I am still having to get out of bed at ungodly times to train. Add to that the fact that any training before 7.00am or after 4.30pm has to be done in the dark and probably in freezing temperatures and you get the picture – it is a slog.

But winter training doesn’t have to be a chore. 2015 will be my third season in triathlon, so this is my third time round the winter training routine. My first winter was just about training and staying fit – what I lacked in structure I made up for in enthusiasm. My second winter was all about the bike. It identified itself very quickly as my weak spot and so I set about changing that. My chosen training regime was all volume and no science. If there was a club ride I was on it. If there wasn’t I was out on my own or with a friend come hell or high water – well we didn’t have hell that winter but I learned to cycle on flooded roads.

The only drawback with this approach was that I didn’t measure anything, so I had no accurate way of knowing if I had improved apart from how it felt. It certainly felt better, but it wasn’t until my first race in early June that I was able to prove it – a bit late if it turned out I hadn’t improved.

So this winter I am taking a completely different approach. Less volume and more science.

The less volume is a deliberate effort to rid myself of the junk miles I did last winter. The science is all about measuring myself on the basis that what you can measure you can improve. It’s the introduction of the numbers that has made winter training such fun this year and it’s the reason I can say with confidence, even at this early stage, that I am improving.

On the bike my measure of choice is power. How many Watts am I producing? images (5)And the way I am measuring that is through a cheap, but brilliant, system called TrainerRoad which works with any popular turbo trainer. I blogged about it a month or so ago. The structured workouts have already produced an increase in my power of 15% since November and there is definitely more to come. I have added a vital ingredient to my training, a virtual training buddy in the form of Chris Glover. We have been through exactly the same program together, mostly working out on the same day and the moaning, celebrating and general banter over Facebook Messenger has become an integral part of the process.

In the pool is where I need most help to train. My approach to date has been to pound up and down the pool hoping things get better – they haven’t. This year I am using a geeky sounding measure called “Critical Swim Speed”. It is what a runner would refer to as “Threshold”. It is measured using a simple swimming test that requires no specialist equipment, except obviously a swimming pool. Once you have established it then you train by doing intervals of varying lengths at your CSS and then retest every 4-6 weeks. I am hoping that a combination of CSS training and the technique lessons I had in the Autumn will see my swim times budge from the place where they have been stubbornly stuck for two years.

Which just leaves running. This is the area where I feel most confident and yet where I am making the biggest change to my training. In the past I have relied on speed work combined with a weekly long slow run to get me run fit for long-distance triathlon. My approach probably looks unchanged to any observer but on the long run I am trying a training technique pioneered by a guy called Phil Maffetone and introduced to me by Chris Glover.

Maffetone uses a formula to calculate your ideal endurance training heart rate which will be different depending on your age and current fitness. The magic number for me is 130. On my long runs I am not allowed to let my heart rate go over 130. At first it seemed impossible. I had to keep to about a 10-minute mile which is at least a minute a mile slower than I would normally train on a long slow run.

But that is the crux of Maffetone’s theory. Bashing out lots of modestly brisk miles is neither speed training nor endurance training. It’s training in that no-man’s-land that we know as “junk miles”.

By training at a heart rate of 130 bpm, Maffetone believes that I am conditioning my body to fuel itself with the oxygen I breathe and not eat into my glycogen energy stores that are scarce and quickly burned. As it becomes more efficient it can do more for less which in practical terms means I can run faster for longer. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Just a few weeks in and I have seen my pace improve by 15 seconds per mile at the same heart rate. It seems Mr Maffetone might be onto something.

Whether all the science and numbers produces a better triathlete come next Spring we will have to wait and see. But what they have produced is a really interesting back drop to my training. I feel as motivated as I have at any point in any of the last few winters and that has to be worth something


The Olympic swim coach

I have just over three weeks until my triathlon season draws to a close in Majorca. Ideally I would like to have finished the season before now, but the 149320_199150930284226_1887449749_nopportunity to race in the European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships representing Great Britain is such an honour that I am not about to pass it up.

Already I am looking back on the 2014 season with a sense of satisfaction. The thing that pleases me most isn’t any one individual achievement from the season, but just the fact that I have improved.

On the bike, although I don’t have any hard stats, on a like for like long distance course I am 10% – 15% quicker and on the run I have taken 12 minutes off my half marathon PB in a year. It now stands at 1.41hrs.

But one thing that has stayed stubbornly consistent or stubbornly unimproved, depending on how you look at it, is my swimming. I am not a bad swimmer but I am not a good swimmer either – I am a fully paid up member of the “mid-pack” club. But despite lots of training my swim times refuse to budge. My last three half iron distance (1.9k) competitive swims have been reliably 37-38 minutes. My swim training is pretty unscientific and I think all I am achieving is to make my 37 minute swim easier but not faster. So I am clearly doing something wrong.

It’s time to change that. One of my commitments to myself is that during this winter I am going to get some proper help to breakdown my swim and reconstruct it in such a way that more training will result in faster times and not just in an easier swim. If I am going to spend the winter on this mission, then I need to start that process right now.

My first decision was that I wanted a swim coach to help me and not a triathlon coach – someone who knew the minute detail of swim stroke mechanics. Secondly I wanted to find someone who has a real swim pedigree – who has been there and done it, ideally in an endurance swim event and so knows what is what. That person is not easy to find!

It took a while, but eventually my search led me to Adam Faulkner – the owner of The UK Swim Academy. Adam’s credentials? Well pretty spot on really. He swam for Great Britain in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and in an endurance event. He was one of only a few Brits to swim 1,500m in less than 15 minutes. On top of that he is instantly likeable and approachable. We had numerous phone calls trying to work out what I wanted to achieve and how, where and when he could start coaching me to make it happen.

Eventually after a few weeks he put together three of us, all triathletes who were all trying to achieve the same thing, and we met for our first session. We met at Marlborough College’s pool, an eight lane, state of the art pool, which we had pretty much to ourselves for an hour.

We had a quick chat about the process and Adam covered a bit of theory. Instantly I felt a sense of confidence. Not only was this guy a world class swimmer, he was very good at imparting that knowledge and most important he made it fun. Then as if I needed any more convincing he got in the pool and swam four lengths to show us what it should look like. It was one of those OMG moments!! Like anyone who is very good at their craft he made it look ridiculously easy, covering each 25 metre length in about 14 seconds and 10-11 strokes (me – 25 seconds and 22 strokes). You can see it in the video above. It just made want to get on with the lesson and start learning. A friend of mine who saw the video of those four lengths said it inspired him to want to train until he was even “a shit version of that”.

photo 1

Adam sharing the recipe!

Then we started the process of breaking the stroke down element by element and putting it back together properly. We only worked on one thing at a time and covered probably no more than three elements in the hour. But just in that hour I managed to cover 25 metres in 3 less strokes.

I have never been excited by swimming, until now. We have some training sets to work on for the next two weeks before we meet Adam again in a fortnight for more coaching. I did the first of those training sets yesterday and for the first time ever, I looked forward to going to the pool and really enjoyed every minute of the session. I was swimming alongside a guy in the next lane and I counted his strokes (I am now obsessed with stroke count!!!) over 25m – it was 40, to my 18 and that translated into being faster than him – less strokes equals more speed. Who’d have thought it? I felt very knowing!! I feel a bit as though I have been told the first part of recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In other news, training for Majorca is going well. I have been contending with a few late-season aches and pains which has meant that I haven’t done some of the more intense sessions that I would like to have done, but I feel that I am on course to get to the 18 October is pretty good race shape. I am really looking forward to it, almost as much as I am looking forward to my next swim coaching session!

10 things we know about Ironman now that we wish we’d known a year ago

If you have just signed up for your first Ironman or iron distance race and you are wondering what you have let yourself in for, don’t worry, help is at hand in the shape of the Ironman Journey group on Facebook.

IMUK2012_newMany of the 850-odd members of the group have now done at least one Iron distance race. While it is still fresh in everyone’s minds, we have drawn on the Group’s collective wisdom and assembled some tips for todays would be Ironmen. Things we wish we had known a year ago.

This is not about training or coaching; in fact it is the very opposite. It is the kind of real life advice that you won’t find in any coaching manual. So here goes:

1. Have the conversation
Ironman is a selfish game. As you approach the action end of your training you will be out of the house for long periods of time – mostly at weekends and in the evening. This is time that your partner and kids refer to as “family time”. Temporarily it has to become “Ironman time”. There is nothing worse than coming back from a long ride to an atmosphere because you haven’t got the family on your side.

More than one person has said that they could never repay the debt to their wife / husband for all their support (although only Iain Edgar’s wife has said she will see that he manages to repay it!). Ironman is an infinitely better experience if you do it as a team and take the family on the journey with you. That needs a proper conversation right at the start.

2. Join the Ironman Journey Facebook Group
Everyone thought it, Cath Hartwell suggested it. At home and at work you will quickly run out of people willing to listen to Ironman talk. The Facebook Group is full of likeminded people. It is the only place where people will think it is normal that you want to cycle 112 miles before running a marathon.

The group is full of reassurance, advice, banter, and top tips. But most important is has a handful of Ironman veterans who are able to reassure you that the menopausal mood swings, high anxiety, sleepless nights and motivational troughs are all perfectly normal. That’s OK then!

I met several people on race day that I had met virtually through the group and there are many more who I am sure I will meet at future events – people who I hope will become friends. Isn’t that one of the reason we all do this?

3. Perspective: Part 1
During the long winter months of training it will get tough. The sheer scale of the challenge can also get under your skin and will sometime appear near impossible. Try to keep things in perspective. You are not being asked to stop the polar ice caps from melting or to solve the national debt problem. You are training for a race that you want to do and have volunteered for. Most important, remember that you are doing this for fun. This is a hobby. If it all gets on top of you see paragraph 2!

4. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition
All the coaching manuals will tell you how important it is to get your nutrition right on the day. It can make the difference between finishing or not. But here are some tips born out of bitter experience:

Man cannot live on gels alone! Make sure you build some solid food into your race. The bike is the most obvious place to do it. If you are doing Ironman UK you will pass the special needs feed station twice. Pack a picnic and make the bike leg more social like Ines Carr did. But Jason Anderton offers a word of caution – if you fill your tri suit pockets with food, don’t forget to empty them before you disrobe to go to the loo or the last you will hear of your bananas and Powerbars is a splash.

On a serious note, start experimenting with nutrition now. Not everyone gets on with all nutrition as many in the group will testify. Combine a “gel tummy” with race day nerves and the results can be explosive – literally!! A few things to watch out for. Adrian O’Brien advises never to trust a fart on the run. For Chris Glover that was too late, his trust was betrayed in T2, so his advice is simple; carry some loo paper! It’s not all bad news for Chris. His mishap has already entered Ironman UK folklore and will be known forever as “Doing a Glover”.

Niamh Lewis has the last word on this topic and brings a ladies fashion eye to the problem. If you are doing Ironman, don’t ever wear a white tri suit!

5. Be organised
If you are like me (and it seems a few are), once you get to the race venue your mind turns to mush and even the simplest decisions become difficult. So try and get as many decisions as possible made before you arrive.

Jason Walkley offered a top tip for those doing 140.6 races that use transition bags. Work out what needs to go in your bike and run bags in the week before the race – then simply take it to the race venue in separate bags and decant it into your transition bags when you get them at registration. One less piece of thinking to do on the day. But make sure you do a final check and avoid Adrian O’Brien’s experience of cycling 112 miles with no socks and brand new bike shoes.

Kaine Pritchett advises against arriving at the venue on the Saturday before a Sunday race. Registering, checking in transition bags, bike racking and attending a briefing is a lot to pack into one day and adds a lot of stress at a time when you want to be de-stressing. Get there on Friday.

On a more practical note Hannah Elliot advises that you make a note of your race number so that you don’t forget it and end up in tears looking in the wrong row in the T1 changing tent!

6. Take your time and don’t panic
Onto the race itself now. Several people offered advice about the swim. 10514594_705906046111239_6860745791808719757_nParticularly be careful at what point you enter the water – with thousands of others around you it is difficult to re-position yourself once you are in. I just joined the queue and once we were in I found myself mid-pack – not somewhere I would have chosen.

Maria Greaves took this to a whole different level and ended up right at the front of the swim and endured what she describes as an aquatic pub brawl!

Wherever you end up in the swim, Emma Hampson offers the comforting assurance that you won’t die so advises against her approach which was to burst into tears as she got into the water.

Lots of first time Ironmen offer advice on not rushing things – 17 hours is a long time. Rob Jude says don’t be afraid to spend the necessary time in T1 and T2 to get comfortable – you are a long time biking and running. Clive Onions is one of many who recommends you invest some of that time in applying Udderley Smooth Chamois Cream around the undercarriage in T1 – Jason Clarke prefers Vaseline!

Vicki Gale recommends you change socks in T2 – having done it myself, I can safely say that Vicki’s tip is one the most important changes I made all day. Starting the run in dry fresh socks was bliss.

A word of caution here from Andrew Rudda. He agrees you shouldn’t rush things, but also suggest you keep a bit of time in the bank to absorb a mishap. Andrew had an episode with a puncture that he couldn’t fix and by the time the mechanic got to him he had missed the bike cut off

7. It’s not a Marathon, it’s an Ironman run
Tim Lebon takes the credit for this one. Anyone who has done an Ironman will know exactly what this means. Normal Marathon rules don’t apply. I read a great article recently which said that an Ironman Marathon is not like a normal Marathon that turns ugly at 20 miles – it starts ugly. Forget your normal thinking about pace and splits – think survival. You have one aim and that is to get to the finish.

Walking is not an admission of defeat – virtually everyone walks at some point during the Ironman run. I had breakfast the morning after Ironman UK with Becky Hoare who clocked a 3.50hrs marathon to finish in 11.10hrs, won her age group and is going to Kona. Becky walked through every feed station.

So take the walking moments to meet your fellow competitors and help each other through it. Most of my best memories of the day are from the run for exactly that reason.

8. Leave your watch at home and enjoy yourself
This was multiple Ironman Jason Briley’s advice to the Group before Ironman UK. You only cross the finish line of your first Ironman once – so make the most of it.

Nobody doing Ironman for the first time really knows what their finish time will be, so why heap all the pressure on yourself of chasing a time that you have pretty much guessed. There will be plenty of future Ironman races for chasing times – just enjoy the first one and aim to finish.

From my own experience I didn’t completely follow Jase’s advice. I had a watch on during the run but the battery died at the start of the last lap. I felt liberated and enjoyed that last lap as much as any part of the race. I could hear Briley in my ear saying: “I told you so”!!

Iain Edgar agrees with this – his single piece of advice is to enjoy yourself. Carrie Power adds a commercial twist recommending that if you enjoy it for no other reason remember you have paid a lot to be there!!

9. Keep some perspective part 2
One thing you can be certain of is that things won’t go to plan. That may be a minor inconvenience, it may be worse. One in five of those who entered Ironman UK this year didn’t finish (some didn’t start). Hopefully that won’t be you, but if it is try and keep some perspective like Cath Hartwell who had to pull out after a bike crash. Cath’s philosophy is simple: “Knock me down 7 times. I’ll get up 8”. She’s already entered Ironman UK 2015 and already has 850 supporters!

I’ll leave the last word on this to Andy Holgate – after all it is his fault that many of us were there at all. Sadly Andy’s race at Ironman UK this year ended in an ambulance. He says:

“Sometimes things happen that are out of your control that can end your race. Don’t dwell on it, stay positive, refocus and make a promise to yourself to come back stronger. Perspective, an Ironman DNF is not the end of the world :-)”

10. So if you have your partner on side, got your nutrition sorted, joined the group, ditched your watch and you’re organised and ready to roll, there is only one tip left to give – an Ironman Journey Group favourite: Don’t be shit!!

In my mind

When I am running, in my head my running style is the same smooth, floating style as Steve Cram.

CoeCram460 (2)When I am swimming, in my head I have a smooth long stroke and I cut through the water effortlessly.

If I step out of my head for a moment and into the real world, I know none of this is true – but that doesn’t matter. Right now I am preparing for a battle which, in the absence of injury or a mechanical problem, will be largely won or lost in my head.

With ten days to go, there is little I can do to my body that will improve my chances on 20th July – that small task has consumed most of the last six months but is now largely complete. All I can do is to try and keep my fitness levels where they are and stay sharp for race day. So a lot of my time now is being spent working on what is going on in my head.

Someone asked me the other day if I was getting psyched up for the big day. Are you kidding? Psyched up? I have been permanently psyched up for the last two months. I can’t watch an Ironman motivational video without bursting into tears. Even following my friends via the online athlete tracker as they did Ironman France I was welling up. My problem isn’t getting psyched up, it’s trying to stay calm!

In an ideal world I would like to remain calm right up to the moment when the hooter goes at 6.00am on Sunday week. When the hooter does go, I hope I can go calmly about my business. There is no hurry and it is likely to be a very long day, so no rush of blood to the head needed.

A far more likely scenario is a week of obsessing about the problems before and during the race. Once you go looking for them, there are lots to be found.

Sheephouse Lane, one of the two climbs on the bike course seems to have found its way into many peoples’ heads to the extent that it is now bigger by reputation than it is on the map! But such is the size of the task that it is not surprising that I, and hundreds of other first timers like me, are all very nervous and allowing our minds to run riot. Managing the mind is a big challenge!

Apart from some training and some mind games, the next ten days is all about getting organised. I have lots to do – bike service, change the tyres, new cleats, check wet suit over, get a massage, pack my kit, unpack it, check it and pack it again (that little loop will consume two days alone!) and so the list goes on.

And then next week there is the haircut! For Ironman I am going short. Short is normally the preserve of kids or men who are bald and who if they didn’t shave it all would look like Friar Tuck. I don’t qualify on either count. I could try and pretend short is more aerodynamic on the bike, but as I will be wearing a helmet throughout, that excuse won’t wash either.

The truth is that it is another small part of the mind games. I want to look like I mean business. In my mind I want feel like I could be an Ironman. As with my imaginary view of my running and swimming style, sometimes in this game that is so dependent on your mind, it is not what you really are that matters, it is what you think you are!

Have a relaxing and productive last ten days everyone. Not long now!

My body is eating itself

Two weeks and three days to go and the nerves are beginning to jangle.

Everything became a bit more real this week as three of my friends completed 10491098_10152549189272288_4681211261765486426_nIronman France in Nice. Up until now I have to confess that I have been hiding behind my friends. In my mind Ironman UK was after France and so if Ironman France hadn’t happened then Ironman UK wasn’t here yet. Well it just did and it is. On Sunday evening on La Promenade des Anglais, Nick Wall, Liz Mayon-White and Pete Holt became Ironmen. Heroes!

Meanwhile back in the UK my training was reaching a crescendo with one last push. The last two weeks have been full on – 32 hours of training, two one hundred-mile bike rides, long runs, full Iron distance open water swims and more. I have emptied the tank and now it is time to let it recharge.

I hesitate to use the word taper because to me that word has connotations of putting your feet up and declaring training over. Nothing could be further from the truth. My training continues but the really long sessions are done. I plan to keep some volume and intensity for the next week and then ease off for the last ten days to allow my body to fully recover before race day. But I will continue to train lightly even during race week.

One of the side effects of the huge volume of training has been on my body weight. I reckon that in each of the last two weeks I have burned about 12,000 calories over and above the 2,500 a normal man burns just by existing. Surprisingly that amount of calories is quite hard to replace, especially if you try and do it sensibly. It is equivalent to 140 slices of granary bread (20 a day!!) or 80 cream eggs!! Without a stream of cream eggs to keep the calorie count up, my body has turned to its own fat stores for help. It is literally feasting on itself.

Even though I am constantly hungry and eating ad lib, my weight has gone down. For the first time in maybe 20 years my weight recently started with the words “11 stone”. Maybe I have stumbled upon an effective fool proof weight loss regime – on second thoughts it probably has a limited appeal!

In other news I had the most pleasant surprise this week. On the strength of my result at the Outlaw Half, I received an email from British Triathlon telling me that I have been given a place to race for Great Britain in my age group at the European Middle Distance Championship in Majorca in October.

It is impossible to put into words what that means to me. At first I just felt Zerod-Tri-Suit-500x500excited as I rushed around booking flights and hotels. It wasn’t until a little later when I went online to order my GBR triathlon suit that it suddenly sank in. I am going to race for Great Britain! I am going to race in a GB tri suit with my name on it and everything! What an honour.

My 82 year old Mother came to dinner on Monday to celebrate her birthday. She was naturally thrilled by my news – a proud Mum. But the spice went out of it for her when she learned that we weren’t going to Majorca on a chartered British Airways Team GB plane. Well she has a point!

But having done what I need to do to get organised for October, I now have to put all that to the back of my mind. Ironman is not something you can go into preoccupied, it needs to have my full attention for the next 18 days. My GB selection will be a lovely distraction to return to after that and will hopefully go some way to relieving the post Ironman blues that everyone talks about.

To everyone doing Ironman UK, happy tapering. We are almost there!!

It’s Not a Marathon, it’s an Ironman Run

This week I took another small step in the learning process of Ironman training. As if I needed reminding, I learned that when it comes to Ironman, normal rules don’t apply – but more about that later.

First I had a mojo problem to get on top of. The week started well with a Club swim session – a gathering that I always enjoy. Lots of chat and banter amongst good friends mixed in with an hour of hard work helped to cheer me up. But by the time I got to the track for our Club’s weekly coached running session on Monday, I had slipped back into my rut. My legs were heavy and I moaned my way through a session of 8 x 600m at about 800m pace.

The turnaround started on Tuesday when someone posted in the fantastic “Ironman Journey” group on Facebook that they had hit a huge motivational brick wall. Their words could have been mine exactly. What followed was like a “Spartacus” moment as literally dozens of people, all training for Ironman, posted their confessions. Everyone was suffering from the same thing. But as important to me was some of the Ironman veterans in the group reassuring everyone that it was perfectly normal to experience a low at some point in training.

I don’t know if it was the reassurance that I wasn’t alone or the rest day I took on Tuesday, but when I woke up on Wednesday morning the world was a different place.

I did a great high intensity 90-minute bike ride in the evening looking for hills and working hard and I followed that with my long run on Thursday. It was a shorter run this week of 8.5 miles to give my legs a bit of a break, but it was such Lakea nice day and I was enjoying the run so much that I ran straight past the road home and tacked an extra loop on to make it a round ten miles. It seems my mojo had returned. To prove it I tagged along on a trip to the lake that evening which I had planned to skip. It was a beautiful evening and I had a great time swimming 2.3km with a group of friends from the Club.

Friday was the big one – the 80-mile cycle that I had bounced from the previous week blaming the weather. This week I was really up for it and was out of the house at 8.30am on a beautiful sunny morning carrying my bodyweight in energy bars and gels and a pair of legs which were slightly heavy from the previous day’s run.

After a tour of lots of pretty villages south of Andover, I stopped at about halfway in the small market town of Stockbridge to buy some water and top up the nutrition with a chocolate twist from the Co-op’s pastry counter – as you do! The only other interruption to my ride were two puncture stops during the second half. The roads around us are terrible at the moment.

I got home in just over five hours of riding time (excluding puncture stops and lunch) having covered 83 miles (132km) with 3,500 feet of ascent. A moving average speed of 16.5mph (26.4kph). For a training ride with ten weeks left, that will do nicely. Then came an important Ironman lesson.

What I wanted to do when I got home was to lie on the lawn in the sun with a large bottle of ice-cold water. What I knew I should really do was to pull on my running shoes and run for a mile straight off the bike and so I did.

It should have been no surprise to me that, as 83 miles is the furthest I have ever cycled, that one-mile run was going to be a challenge. It was a small taste of what starting the run in an Ironman might be like. Let’s not quibble about the fact that the ride was 30 miles short of the Ironman distance or that my run was only one of the required twenty-six miles, it was a struggle.

When I think of running a Marathon, I think about things like pacing strategy, splits and other important stuff. Forget all of that! From now on I am working on a “get round strategy” which starts with ignoring the pace on my watch. Whatever the strategy, run, shuffle or walk, it will have one aim which is to get me to the finish line, come what may.

Tim Lebbon, a member of the “Ironman Journey” Facebook group put it perfectly in a post last week:

“One of the best bits of advice I had was: It’s not a marathon, it’s an Ironman run.”

When I read the post, I thought I knew what he meant. Having done my 83 mile bike and 1 mile run, I now know exactly what he means. It may be one of the best bits of advice I get too.

In other news, endurance racing madness reaches an all-time high at Andover Triathlon Club over the next two weeks as my friend and club mate Jason Briley takes on Enduroman, a double iron distance race (4.8 mile swim, 232 mile bike and 52 mile run).

Because part of the race is through the night, the course is designed to keep everyone close by for safety reasons. So the run course is 50 times round a loop of just over a mile – psychological as well as physical torture!

10356588_10152393645121745_1601295816_nTo keep himself motivated, Jase has had all of his mantras and motivational catchphrases printed on card and laminated and plans to collect one at the start of each loop of the run to see him round the next mile. A brilliant idea!

I’d wish him luck, but he doesn’t need luck. His cheery chirpy exterior belies a core of steel. Enduroman doesn’t stand a chance!

Lost: One mojo!

I am sure when I look back in months and years to come, my Ironman adventure will provide plenty of high points to enjoy but this past week or so won’t be one of them.

Today marks ten weeks to go until the big day which also means that I am exactly ten weeks into my twenty-week Ironman training program. Ten weeks of relentless, daily grind, sometimes twice a day for six days a week, but I still have another ten weeks to come. Except the ten weeks ahead of me are going to be harder as the training volumes go almost off the scale. I am in a mojo funk. The halfway blues

The challenge hasn’t been the volumes or the number of hours, it has been getting my arse out of the front door to do the training. I have been here before and the feeling will pass, it always does, but that doesn’t make it any easier.


Ready for the Clatford Challenge

The week that ended on a low, started on a high with a great cyclo-sportive. The Clatford Challenge is a 60-mile ride in aid of Naomi House, a local children’s hospice. Our tri club has supported this event for a few years and this time eleven of us turned out and it was about good as it gets. Great company, great banter, fab weather, a beautiful scenic route round North Hampshire and fantastic cake at the halfway feed station. We also had an animated discussion about the etiquette of blowing snot rockets when you are at the front of a group ride. No-one could ever accuse us of ducking the big issues! By the time I had cycled to the start and home again I had clocked up 73 miles (118km) at an average pace of 16.4mph (26kph).


Tea and cake at the end of the ride!

The next day was a club track session with a difference. This week we did brick training at the track. Ten minutes of hard work in the big ring on the turbo straight into a fast 400 metre run – repeat several times. It was great fun.

From there it went downhill. Wednesday was a 12-mile (19km) run. I spent the whole day procrastinating, finding excuse after excuse. I did eventually force myself out of the door but I wasn’t feeling the love. I warmed to my task after about 3 miles and finished at a comfortable cruise but was glad to be home with 12 reluctant miles in the bank.

Same message on Thursday. It was an open water swim and I had no appetite for it. I went to the lake with a car full from the Club and I did the session, but I grumbled at myself for the first 1km – the water was cold, it was too choppy, my wet suit was chafing my neck (was there ever a better situation to illustrate the use of the term MTFU) I managed to get to 2km before I called it a day.

So far I was holding it together despite my fragile state of mind, but Friday was to prove the low-point. I was scheduled to do a 5-hour bike ride which would equate to about 80-85 miles (135km) but the forecast was for rain and high winds all weekend. Fine for swimming, acceptable for running but miserable for cycling. This was the point at which I should have said to myself: MTFU (it was a bit of a MTFU week!) – but I didn’t. Instead I started a negotiation.

The long-range forecast was for fine weather a week ahead – so I decided to swap the long bike session from next week for this week’s 80-miler. So instead of a five hours ride, I did a three and a half hour brick session – a three-hour bike ride covering 48 miles (77km) and then straight into a 30-minute run. Hardly an easy option, but preferable to 5 sodden hours in a cold wind tunnel.

I took an impromptu rest day yesterday to try and get myself together before getting back on it. I went for a couple of tried and trusted mojo restoration techniques. The first was lunch at MacDonald’s which helped. Cate came to the drive-thru with me (in fact it was her idea) – if you knew her you would fully understand how much this was her falling on the grenade in support of my Ironman cause! Then last night I treated myself to a few beers. I am following my father’s philosophy. He always claimed that he was born two gin and tonics below par!! Having been pretty abstemious for the last 5-months it doesn’t take much to have the desired effect. After three Buds, I was ready to cycle 80 miles – what wind and rain!!

I couldn’t swear that the slump is over but I woke up this morning feeling a lot more positive and did a 90-minute bike run brick session with more of a smile on my face. I am pleased to be looking back on a week where, despite feeling as though I have lost my groove, I have done pretty much all the training I was supposed to do and clocked up another 12-hour week. I could have been looking back at a train wreck.

Ironman was never going to be easy right?