Tag Archives: swim bike run

The Cone of Shame & Other Tales From a Train Wreck of a Season

I am not sorry to see the end of the 2015 triathlon season. The fact that I haven’t written a blog entry for over six months says it all. If 2014 was a story of unimagined highs, then 2015 was a train wreck!

It all started so positively at the Bath Half Marathon which I ran with a group of friends in February. I made it round in 1.44hrs. Not my fastest, but fine for a pre-season benchmark.

That left me almost exactly 12-weeks to get ready for the Outlaw Half – a half iron distance triathlon which had been one of the high points of my 2014 season. This is where the problems started.

My work circumstances meant I hadn’t had as much time to train as last year and as I headed for Nottingham on a Saturday at the end of May, I knew I was a little short of my form of a year earlier, but confident that I would be OK. But there were clouds on the horizon, literally. Biblical conditions were forecast for Sunday and if I am very honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it.

I awoke on Sunday morning to heavy rain and as I drove the short distance to the race venue at Home Pierrepont at 5.00am, I would have taken very little persuasion to turn south and keep going until I got home.

The conditions for the race were every bit as bad as forecast and then some. As we trod water in the lake waiting for the off, someone commented that you know that conditions are bad when the swim is not going to be the wettest leg of the race. That was probably the last time anyone smiled until the finish line!

The lake was a bracing 13 degrees and once we got going I took a long time to settle my breathing down. As I got out of the water at the end of the 1.2 mile swim I was so cold I found it difficult to speak. I briefly cheered up when I saw my mate Gary Hill exit the water alongside me: “38 minutes mate!” he declared. That was a pleasant surprise given the conditions.

The bike leg was brutal. It rained almost non-stop and we had to contend with untitled (18)standing water on the roads for most of the 56 miles. The worst of the weather was forecast for late morning and for once the forecast was right. We cycled into 30mph winds for the last 10 miles. There were three high points on the bike leg. Two were seeing my friends Jane and Iain marshalling, both gave me huge morale boost. The other was arriving at T2.

To cap it all I was pulled over by a course marshal for cutting a corner at a right hand turn. I ducked inside one of the cones to avoid hitting the cyclist in front of me. As if my bike leg wasn’t going to be slow already, now I had a time penalty to add on.

I pulled into T2 after 3.07hrs. I was soaked and tired but happy to get out onto the run and see what my running legs felt like. The short answer is ruined! The bike conditions had taken their toll and the second part of the half-marathon was a sufferfest. It felt a bit like the Ironman run had felt. And just like my Ironman in Bolton, I found myself running with Sid Sidowski cycling alongside me on a BMX dressed in a morph suit. His encouragement, together with my friends Jason and Mel, was priceless and really helped. Eventually after 5.53hrs I crossed the finish line.

Soaking wet, I packed up, went to the car, changed and headed home. As I drove I picked up my messages. One was a slightly panicked message from a friend concerned that he had seen DSQ (results shorthand for Disqualified) next to my name in the online results. “Bollocks” was all I could think of to say. “Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks”. My cone violation had been immeasurably more costly than I had ever imagined.

By the time I got home I had resigned myself to my fate. A convicted cheat!! I was philosophical about it. I was pleased that I had overcome some hideous conditions to record a top-ten finish in my age-group (DSQ excluded!), but I couldn’t help thinking it was a heavy-handed punishment. The very real punishment came the next day when I learned that my time would have been good enough to qualify for GBR selection in my age group for the European Championships in 2016. That was harder to take. But all of that was to pale into insignificance compared to what came next. Earlier in race week an altogether more sinister sub-plot had started to unfold.

I woke on the Monday before the race with a light cold. Exactly the same thing had happened the previous year and it was gone by the weekend. This year it got better, but it wasn’t altogether gone. To cut a long and unpleasant story short, being cold and wet for the duration of the race and pushing myself as hard as I could for six hours flattened my immune system (perfectly normal in endurance events) and had opened the door and ushered back in the departing virus which now took a firm hold. By the Monday after the race I had a cough that a 60-a-day smoker would have been proud of. By the time I went to the doctor three days later it was an infection of my windpipe and chest with an eye infection thrown in for good measure. The remedy? Rest and no exercise until the symptoms had gone.

The next part of my season was due to be an appearance at The Cotswold113, another half-iron distance race and then The Outlaw, a full iron distance event. The long and the short of it is that I did neither. In fact I did no exercise for a month and a half. I arrived at the end of July frustrated, less fit and a few pounds heavier. All I had to show for my season’s efforts was a DSQ and two DNSs (Did not Start). I needed to put some numbers on the board.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I had been given the great honour of being selected in my age group to race for Great Britain in the European Long Distance Championships which were being held in Weymouth in September. When I found out back in February I was ecstatic. A home championships in a GBR tri-suit in front of my family. I now had a decision to make, to follow my head or my heart.

My heart said go for it. How many times am I going to get to race in GBR kit. My head said don’t do it. Any other distance and it may be OK to wing it, but I wasn’t fit and a full Iron distance race wasn’t something to take on with 6 weeks of training. I flipped back and forth for about three weeks, head, heart, head, heart. Eventually it was Cate, my wife, who made me see sense and with a very heavy heart I called the team manager and told him I had to withdraw. He was fantastic about it.

But determined not to let my season end with a DSQ in Nottingham I entered the Weymouth Half, a half iron-distance race being run on the same course as the LD Championship on the same day.

Having pretty much recovered from my chest infection, I was amazed how excited I was to be racing at Weymouth and I set about trying to claw back as much fitness as I could – but work was still busy and spare time was tight.

Fast forward to 7.00am on 13 September and I am standing on some rocks looking over Weymouth Beach minutes from the start of the European Long Distance Championships and about 90 minutes from the start of my own race. Sods Law, conditions were bad again and the sea was rough. It only took 3 minutes from the start of the LD race before the safety boat was hauling competitors out of the water and returning them to the beach, their race over before it had started.

At 8.30am 150 of us waited for the sound of the starting gun before running down the beach and into the swell. For me tactics were simple: survive and get to the swim exit. Time was of no concern. It was to be a horrible 46 minutes being thrown up and down by the rolling waves. Twice I came within a nano-heave of feeding my breakfast to the fish of Weymouth Bay, but I stuck at it and eventually returned to terra firma. Mission accomplished.

The bike leg was frustrating. A long climb out of Weymouth (regulars will recall Weymouth runthat climbing is not my forte!) then a technical stop start 20 or so miles with dead turns, roundabouts, hairpins and little time to get into a rhythm. The second half was better and finished with a 4-mile sleigh ride back into Weymouth. Along the way I had lost about 5 minutes when a guy crashed badly right in front of me. He landed on his head with a thud and was hurt. I stayed until medical help arrived.

T2 was slow – poorly organised. But eventually I got out onto the run and was pleasantly surprised at how I picked up a sub 9-minute mile pace comfortably. As I came out of T2 I was greeted by a crowd of friends from my tri-club – one of the benefits of doing as local race!

The half-marathon was three laps of a loop along the Weymouth seafront. Scenic, quite well supported but a constant stink of fish and chips. That breakfast 11988429_10206630830904946_4859279063563653509_nthreatened to appear again! Eventually I went round the turning mark for the last time and headed for home. At this point I was on for a sub 1.50 half marathon. That would be a PB for me but I wasn’t running at that pace – something was wrong. Most people would go with it, but when you already have one DSQ to your name, your immediate assumption is that you have got it wrong. But it turned out I was OK, the course had been wrongly marked and was about a mile short. I finally crossed the line in 6.03 to record the year’s first legitimate result and end my train-wreck of a season on something of a high!

So all’s well that ends well, even if the route was a bit rocky!!

Something different planned for 2016. More to follow!!

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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.

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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).

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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?