Vitruvian Race Report - Sarah Andrews 2nd in AG AT the British middle distance Championships

In 2015 I entered Ironman UK. As part of the build-up I did the Outlaw Half triathlon and managed to come 4th in my age-group. I was 3 minutes off a podium. The hard work that I had been putting in over the last couple of years was starting to pay off! Off the back of this result I wondered whether another winter of consistent training and specifically targeting the 70.3 distance would enable me to actually make the podium. Being so close gave me a hunger and motivation to really push every session. I also thought that I’d enter the Vitruvian – the English National middle distance triathlon Championships to see how I stacked up against the best people in the country.

After a hard winter of training I achieved a 2nd in my age-group at the Outlaw Half triathlon, 10 mins quicker than 2015, and started to believe that I could give a competitive showing at the English National Championships, although I thought a podium was possibly a stretch too far at the moment!

The days leading up to the Vitruvian had been quite hot and I was getting a bit worried as I find heat really affects my performance. However, this is England and the weather can change in an instant! So it was that at 3:30am on race-day I awoke to a very wet although not too chilly morning! Could have done with a bit less rain but the temperature in the teens was just about perfect for me! Due to the 3:30am start I got a coffee down me but couldn’t face any solid food. A banana and a gel half an hour before the start would have to do!

Leading up to the start the atmosphere was buzzing with nearly 1000 nervous triathletes champing at the bit to get started. Soon enough it was time to go. We lined up on the beach, and when the hooter went off, charged into the lake. I am a bit nervous of swim starts so started near the front, off to the right. This was a good tactic as I found space relatively quickly, swimming with a group of only about 3 or 4 other athletes. We stayed together as a group for pretty much the entire swim. The swim was remarkably uneventful and I was pleased to get out of the water in 32:50, a PB by nearly a minute.

So it was onto the bike. The water was cascading down the road and I thought I needed to be careful not to come off. Would be awful to end the race like that! However, I wasn’t going to let the rain dampen my spirits - so got stuck in. The Vitruvian is a rolling course so it’s difficult to judge how you’re doing based on average speed. I just concentrated on trying to put an even effort in throughout the race regardless of terrain and tried to stay controlled but strong. I passed a few women and a few women passed me so I thought I must be doing OK. And as it turned out I was. Going out of T2 I was informed by the announcer and my husband that I was 3rd in my age-group. Let’s see if I can hang on to this - I thought.

In previous races my run has been, relatively, my weakest leg and I have slipped out of podium positions as I have been overtaken by faster women. I have been working on my run recently, however, with some tough, structured long run sessions so I hoped this would make a difference. At the start of the run my legs didn’t feel great – definitely some jelly legs going on! However, they soon settled into a rhythm and I started to feel strong. Looking at my watch my pace was about 7:45 – 7:50 and although I was passed by a few women I felt like I was holding my own. I slowed a bit on the 2nd lap and a few more people came past me. I tried to respond but had nothing more. I just had to hope that they weren’t in my age-group. Soon enough the finish line was in sight and I crossed the line in 5:07 to find I was still 3rd in my age-group. Couldn’t believe I had got an age-group podium at a National Championship - by far my biggest sporting achievement! Actually got 2nd in British Championship as the winner wasn’t affiliated to triathlon England so was ineligible for a Championship medal!

I had a few tears as the emotion that all the hard-work that I had put in had come to fruition. Thanks to Performance Edge for all your advice and support – I couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

 

"Bad" training sessions and how they relate to Pirates!

Often I will hear athletes saying that they had a “bad” training session with the implication being that something is going wrong with their training. Sometimes this will ultimately lead to them changing their training or coach and very often, just like when football teams change the manager, the change makes little to no difference. The two mistakes that are made is that they are putting too much emphasis on individual sessions rather than looking holistically at the bigger training picture and they are confusing correlation with causation.

Correlation and causation are terms not often used by athletic coaches and more often likely to be used by statisticians or scientists. They relate to the fact that events that coincide are not necessarily causally related. A fun example of this is illustrated in the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” that global warming is caused by a lack of swashbuckling pirates sailing the oceans. You can draw a graph correlating increasing temperatures on the surface of earth with a drop in the buccaneer population. Clearly nothing rational connects these two trends; there is correlation but no causation.

So we need to look at the whole picture when we consider the session that went awry. We need to look at all the variables that are present and consider which are relevant, which are controllable, which are uncontrollable, which ones are merely correlated and what was the cause. The athlete and coach need to consider what phase of the training cycle they are in, what sessions were completed that week, what was the aim of the session, athletes mental state and stress level, what were the weather conditions: wind, rain, heat, cold all will change the way we run; nutritional status, the “wrong” shoes, iron levels …..to just name a few. There are so many variables and so much background noise that we can not simply draw a causal relationship.

So unless you have ALL the data points then don’t stress on the fact that in one particular run your rep pace was X seconds slower than the last time. I have never met any athlete, from Parkrunners to Olympians that has “good” sessions 100% of the time and “success” is extremely often a squiggly line! So if you completed a session that didn’t go strictly to plan just remember that you finished the session or workout and will have gained benefit from it. You will have a session to do tomorrow and that is the one to focus on.

Right, in the name of saving the planet I’m off to gather a motley crew and sail the seven seas.

Coach Jess asks - "what did you do this weekend?"

In her first interview of what is going to be a regular feature, Coach Jess interviews Coach Beth following her Ultra distance triathlon.

Jess: What made you choose to undertake this challenge?

Beth: First of all, let me say that I am honoured to have a double Olympian asking me questions about my weekend!  So, here goes - I had been doing Ironman for a few years and was growing a bit bored, so I decided to take a year off from long distance to do more fun events... then I read a book that changed my mind.  The Race Within by Jim Gourley that describes the world of Ultraman and it altered the course of my life.

Jess: Haha I might have raced the Olympics but I've never raced an Ultra distance triathlon! So in terms of the training what in general did you do? Did you start from a good base and how did your Taper week look?

Beth: Having an active life combined with the consistent training from years before, I felt like I had a pretty good base to build up to the distances – and I am built more for endurance than speed.  Training was a lot of swimming (pull buoy and paddles) gradually building to one big session and 3-4 smaller sessions / week, tons of cycling, a lot was done on turbo because of bad weather this year, but fortunately I had 1 week in Mallorca for the Performance Edge Tri Camp and another 10 days Performance Edge Tri Camp in Annecy, France really hitting specific long rides with plenty of climbs on the bike. Running was a bit hit or miss with knee issues and hip issues, but keeping the physio and massage work up along with good technique when I did run helped get me to the start line.   My longest swim was 10km in the pool, 112-mile cycle at Long Course Weekend and marathon at Long Course Weekend.  Taper week consisted ofboxing up and moving house, 7 hour drive to Scotland, a few turbos and runs – then a 6 hour drive to the race. But I did get some swimming and a turbo inThe main thing was to remain focussed and positive, I know I put in the hours and training – meditating on the good things put everything into perspective.

Jess: What were your biggest concerns going into the race

Beth: Swimming in a wetsuit and cycling 180 miles. Apart from that – no worries haha!

Jess: How did you plan to mitigate those concerns?

Beth: When I say I swam a lot, I swam A LOT.  Ask Neil, I was in the pool almost every day and those sessions were getting my body ready to swim 10 km in a wetsuit.  I felt so confident by race day – I felt that I could have kept going for another 10k. Prepared for the cold with a neoprene swim cap with chin strap, which I wore in the pool (nerd) and wore around the house to get comfortable with it (NERD).

I lived on my bike.  I got very comfortable in the saddle – I 'only' cycled 112 miles but it was in Wales for the LCW so it was plenty hard and I felt ok with that.

Jess: I know you are vegan, Beth so how did you plan your nutrition strategy and how did that plan work out?

Beth: Well, you can plan all you want – but come race day ANYTHING can and will happen!  I had planned on water and Xendurance Fuel 5 to drink.  And ClifBars, Clif Builder Bars, Clif Shots and Clif Bloks for the bike ... Yes, I was sponsored and Yes I consumed boxes upon boxes during training.   For the run, I basically filled a plastic tub with any kind of food that I thought I would fancy... veg crisps, pea snaps, chocolate bourbons, Clif bars, chocolate, miso soup.  Pretty much anything I thought I might like to eat on a long run.

Jess: Day One consists of a 6 mile swim at Bala which I know from my triathlon days is cold followed by a mountainous 90 mile bike ride; how did Day One go?

Beth: Day One began with me starting my period at 3 AM.  GREAT.  I downed the paracetamol and hoped for the best!  The lake was almost perfect – just small choppy waves and not too cold (I started to feel the cold at about 7k – I tried to pee more and make sure to get the soup every 2k).

I got out behind Marco and Mikel in 3rd place and had a 20 minute transition trying to warm up.  Meanwhile, Iñigo got out in 4th and on the bike while I was sitting in transition (a special van for the woman) drinking soup and trying to get my kit on.  Once on the bike, cramps were debilitating and couldn't take food or drink.  I knew I had a cushion of time to get the bike done so I wasn't too stressed out.  My crew were stressed out though!  Trying to get me to take something other than a sip of Coke must have been frustrating as hell!  They did a great job of getting me to the finish line. Carlos and Toni both caught up to me and passed me around mile 45. So I finished Day One in 6th place.

Jess: I saw the photos from Day Two, the 170 mile bike and the weather looked truly atrocious! How did you mentally keep going on that day and what kept you positive and driving to keep going?

Beth: The forecast was for heavy rain from 11 AM through the afternoon, so I was prepared for at least half of day 2 to be in the wet.  When they say heavy rain in North Wales they mean HEAVY RAIN. I thought there was something up when I showed up at the start and it was already raining!  I then mentally prepared for being wet all day.  I had put an entire change of kit and extra jacket in the vehicle (hindsight I would have put a lot more in).  Mileage management in my head was to get to 100 miles, then ride like it was an Ironman race... easier said than done!  To be honest, I tried not to focus too much on the elements – I started counting my pedal strokes, singing songs – although I could only remember 2 songs... 2 songs! how ridiculous.  And waiting for those glorious times I could see the high viz vests of my crew waiting for me.

Jess: Was that a looped course on Day Two?

Beth: Yes, one big ass loop haha... We all started at 7 AM in order of completion of day 1 – I stayed with the group for a couple of miles before they shot off – I then caught up with Carlos and we passed back and forth for a while before the wheels came off (figuratively) for me.

Jess: How did you recover from those sessions prior to the 52 mile run on Day Three?

Beth: I cannot stress the importance of a great crew enough.  All I had to do was swim, bike and run – these guys took care of everything else... Made sure I was eating and drinking during the event – marched me to a warm bath and protein/carb shake upon finishing – so I didn't have to think or do anything else.

Jess: I saw a photo with you doubled over at the start of Day Three; it didn’t look like the way to start a 52 mile run!

Beth: I woke up feeling absolutely sick – I couldn’t eat my porridge, I did manage a peppermint tea, but was not feeling like running 1 mile, let alone 52!  If you look closely at the race photos I will be clinging on to a couple of rice cakes for dear life.

Jess: Were there any surprises during the race that you didn’t expect?

Beth: Each day there was a special obstacle – or as Neil calls them, opportunities.  So each day I took the opportunity to rise above and overcome.

Jess: What did it feel like to finish? How were the celebrations?

Beth: As with every other day, the guys who had long finished all came out to welcome me to the finish line... I just felt relieved it was over and I could lie down now.  I was hugged and congratulated by everyone... all the other racers, their crews, their families, the race organizers.  I was handed a big glass of beer and that was that!  After a quick bath we were off to the finishers ceremony- many beers and lots of food later we exchanged speeches and t shirts, compared stiffness of legs (I think I won... or lost, I'm not sure).  We were invited to Barcelona, Bilbao and Milan – Long live UMUK family

Jess: How are you feeling now?

Beth: Surprisingly good!  I was in the pool three days after finishing. My feet and ankles are a bit swollen – I'm a bit sore all over, but really not as bad as I would have thought.  The key is compression, warm baths, hydration and moving around.  Training the rest of this week will be: 20 minute walks, some floating around in a pool, and MAYBE some 30 minute easy biking.

Jess: Finally I guess the question is, what next?

Beth: The big question!  I was looking forward to a few weeks off for some R&R and not thinking about what is next... although I have thought about doing UMUK again.  I am super excited to be helping out in our run camps in Spain early in 2017  and more run and tri camps in France and Mallorca later in 2017.  If anyone is interested in UMUK, I strongly recommend it as an experience – and am more than happy to give pointers and tips to anyone who is looking to do it next year. Just contact us at www.performance-edge.me.

UMUK 2016 - 10km Swim; 420.2km Bike; 84.3km Run

Having qualified at Dublin 70.3 to race the World Championships in Australia I thought my 2016 racing season was set and would culminate in Mooloolaba and the World Championships. That was until I read The Race Within by Jim Gourley and my Ultra Triathlon fate was sealed. Having entered and got on with the training I found myself in Betws-y-Coed in North Wales instead of the eastern coast of Australia and more than a few times this weekend I questioned my decision to do UMUK in Wales rather than take my place in World Champs in Australia!

This is my take on the weekend. Out of 25 interested competitors, 9 signed up, 7 made it to the start line.

Day One: 10k swim and 90 mile bike 

Swim -(5 x 2k loops, feed station off a jetty for each loop) the Lake at Bala is renowned for being cold and unpredictable. On Friday the conditions were near perfect/ small choppy annoying waves and not too cold (until about 7k into the swim ). A few people had an extra layer under the wetsuit which I would try out if I did this again and everyone had a neoprene cap*lifesaver*.  I stopped every loop for some miso soup and Clif Bloks I got out of swim 3rd place having swum a 3:34, Marco and Mikel were about 20 minutes ahead  - I was pretty frozen and had a 15-20 minute transition to warm up, meanwhile Iñigo who had got out in 4th place swimmer got  on his bike ahead of me. One competitor, Javier, dnf'd (6 competitors remain)

90 mile Bike- after warming up completely and putting in a lot of clothes, I set out at a comfortable pace- I knew I had plenty of time to finish and wanted to conserve something for days 2-3. I had bad cramps and could only stomach drinks of coke and Xendurance Fuel 5 to start off then started eating Clifbars/ Builders Bars and Clif Bloks to  keep my energy up - and a well timed Clif Gel (double espresso) to get me through the last 20 miles. Meanwhile Toni and Carlos passed me around mile 45 - nice thing is, they were all at the finish line to welcome me home! I always knew I would be last and had come to terms- but it still sucks!

Day 2 170 mile bike

What can I say- the weather started out bad and just continually got worse.  It was a matter of head down and pedal. Pedal. Pedal some more. The rain was relentless-thank goodness for my support crew (Neil and Gideon) who found a pub with hand dryers!!! Gideon tried to dry out my jackets while I did a full kit change and felt halfway human again. Neil gave me his 2 shirts off his back and I put on both jackets- off I went into the pouring rain. At some point I think mile 80 Toni came off his bike on railway tracks and broke his collarbone. (Then there were 5)

 I was confident in my ability to finish within 12 hours- until about mile 145. I had been soaked through for about 10 hours and the run in to the finish still had plenty of climbs, the wind was picking up and was great when it was behind- but pretty much stopped you in your tracks or blew you across the road otherwise. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a good crew!!!  They got me to the finish with 3 minutes to spare ( the cutoff was extended for safety reasons- but I still made it!) I've been told this was the worst weather they've had in 5 years- as if the 170 miles wasn't bad enough! I ate as much as I could on the bike, Clifbar, Builder Bars, Bloks, chocolate, miso soup, crisps, and the all important espresso gels toward the end...I like to call them rocket fuel. Once again everyone and their crew were at the finish line. I used this opportunity to cry like a baby. And thank God it was all over.

Day 3 52.4 mile run

My crew shrunk by one today, so it was up to Neil to get me through...

I woke up feeling sick! Like throw up sick. Couldn't eat and didn't have any coffee (a sure sign that I am feeling unwell!)

I grabbed some rice cakes and headed to the start line- 12 hours to do 2 marathons, I can do this! I stuck to the Xendurance Fuel 5 and rice cakes to about mile 20 when I thought maybe I was feeling sick because I'm running 20 miles and haven't eaten anything!! So 2 Welsh cakes - started feeling better- 2 more Welsh cakes and I actually felt OK ... From then on I tried to eat a little bit every time I saw Neil. I was keeping an eye on time and the way I was feeling, and the amount I was walking, I was going to come in before 12 hours- the fly in the ointment was Neil urging me to keep jogging because if I walked I wouldn't make the cut off... My brain wasn't working very well, so with constant reminders to keep running I kept running- and ran 11:18. (Neil was working off the worng cut off time off by 30 minutes and was panicking- but it showed me that I actually could and can keep running even when I think I can't)

And everyone was at the finish line again to cheer me in!

There was a nice ceremony and buffet at the end, by day 3 everyone is like familia (my Spanish is picking up haha) with speeches and everyone gets a little prize.

UMUK is a fantastic event, family run (very popular with the Spanish!) I don't know why it isn't more popular with the endurance crowd here in the UK... It's a long way, the weather is iffy but other than that, it's a beautiful part of the world- the run course especially is amazing. It's a hard weekend- the guys at the front were racing which looking at the videos was a completely different experience than my solo race against the clock. Tips for future competitors: CREW get yourself a couple of positive up beat friends who can read a map and will take care of you. Prepare for any kind of weather, if you think you have enough kit- throw in some more. Prepare for any whim of appetite - it's nice to have know you've got it if you start to crave it. Swim swim swim swim . Get comfy on your bike- real comfy... live on your bike, get used to sitting in that saddle for days. 

One of the many things I've taken away from this is to eat- and train your body to eat and absorb the nutrition - and train at the same time of day that your event is... Sounds logical if sometimes impractical, but I would have worked on this aspect a lot if I realised just how important it is. 

 

Rio Olympics 2016 Race Report

The Olympics are a huge event and a coming together of countries and athletes from all over the world in solidarity and to participate in the games. The amount of countries and the number of different events and combination of events on offer is way beyond keeping track of.  This time around I had a few people I knew in the village and involved with the games both as athletes and coaches in a couple of different events, and that made the village part a greater experience. It was lovely to see a familiar face in the village and even organise a little group run. However, nothing compares to the enormity of a home games.

The expense of the games is beyond belief. It is weird sitting on a bus going past favela after favela which really isn't that far a step from shanty towns  - one room buildings made with bricks, no windows and bits of corrugated iron roofing. Then on the horizon you suddenly see this amazing space age looking Olympic facilities towering above all else. The hope is there’s permanent benefit for locals from sport facilities and infrastructure, for example the new underground line. 

Despite media noise to the contrary, I did not see one mosquito. We got lucky and the weather turned cold and wet for a couple of weeks.  Apparently Zika is not just an issue for unborn babies, but even adults with minimal symptoms may have part of the virus left dormant in the brain and it is currently unknown if it can be switched on again.

The Brazilians I met went out of their way to be part of the Olympic experience and they liked to learn more about other countries and were passionate and friendly people. The majority did not speak English and despite that they were motivated to try to communicate.  The village was picturesque, were a few minor ongoing new build repairs, gas leaks, plumbing, collapsing bits, hyperactive fire alarms etc and we did have a bit of petty theft, including the Chef the Missions iPad, but nothing major by the time I arrived. 

Race morning started with a 1-hour bus ride out to the Sambadrome where the start and finish were to be. Although not the athletics stadium it was nice to be starting and finishing at such an iconic landmark, it's where the huge carnival takes place every march. The marathon it self was on a, for the most part, flat road out by the sea front. Starting at 9:30 meant majority of runners were running at midday in 27 degree heat which resulted in some athletes not being able to finish - athletes that have given everything to get there - physically, financially, bit of a shame start times can't be more conducive for the athletes, seems to be a common situation at major champs. 

Been bit of a year of disillusionment for athletics, and how it is governed, with reports of anti-doping and corruption. Hard to trust particularly spectacular performances.  However, was pleased to see there are still plenty of inspiring people at the Games. 

Was my race the greatest race I've ever done? No. Was it my best performance? No. Was it the smoothest running organised event I've ever been too? No - it was chaotic including 5 minutes before the start I was pulled aside and told I had to change bibs, nothing followed the published protocol, and in the end I didn’t actually get to do up my left shoe at all and ran the full marathon with a totally loose shoe. I stopped at about the 5K marker to try and do something about it but my hands were too flustered to function. I have to take responsibility for it, it was my shoe and my race and I was disappointed after many set backs in the previous four years, it would be something so silly and last minute that would derail my race. Realistically it cost me at least a minute or two, which over a marathon isn't a disaster, however, in such a classy field 1-2 minutes is a lot of positions. Plenty of far better runners than I had a much rougher day out there. 

It was a nice course and the weather was really good for spectators - the first championship marathon I have done not in pouring rain. I was grateful that we got sent round the course in the opposite direction from what had been indicated on all the pre race maps, as it meant my right foot was on the inside and could use it for cornering. I was able to pick it up in the last 2K when a lady who had sat on my tail for the last 15-20K started to make a move. I believe she was one of only 3 people to gain a PB at the event and a national record for Hong Kong - she ran a smart race.

The week following the race, I wasn’t able to walk much as had injured foot in the race due to the shoe situation, however I went to Copacabana beach and watched the triathlon and saw the Brownlee brothers total domination, and went to the stadium nearly every night to watch the athletics. There were some great performances but from a Danish perspective Sara Slot Petersen winning silver medal and being the first medal at the Olympics in athletics for a Danish woman since 1948 was a historic moment.

Sunday it was the men’s marathon before on to the closing ceremony.  This time organisation was a lot smoother even the weather cooperated. Once back in the village I went to random team parties, starting with the Danish one, felt a bit late for that as the Danes had won the handball late that afternoon and so many didn’t go to the closing ceremony and had been celebrating since 5pm. The Team doctor was pretty cool so at 2.30 am, cocktails in hand, we popped upstairs to have a quick ultrasound on my unhappy foot. There after I picked up a few more cocktails and then set off with random people from different teams to different parties. The last one still going was the German teams, which I left at 5.30am.

Right now I’m having a couple of days out just enjoying the freedom that comes at the end of such a long, all encompassing, project. Plus the real world admin, bills  etc. In some ways I was served up lessons over the last 3-4 years and the Olympics were like the graduation ceremony. In many ways it has been a very selfish and isolated pursuit, I definitely learnt that life and projects are a lot more meaningful and enjoyable when shared and when we collaboratively work together to be better. I also have a greater appreciation for how special the London Olympics as a home games were and I enjoyed Rio for very different reasons. It was a positive experience because of the people on the journey. I am grateful for having had the opportunity, I don't really think of the Games in terms of performance on the day, I think about it in terms of it being a culmination of everything that has gone into being there, day in and day out, through many days where only the commitment to the project and determination to see it through were key reasons to keep going. 

So what’s next? Tokyo? The Olympics are quite addictive ...you know that it's something special as the sun sets on one it raises on the build up to the next games. 

I haven't rule it out. However, I love sport, travel and helping others, so I am excited to team up with Performance Edge to deliver running and triathlon camps, which are athlete focused and customized. Check us out: http://www.performance-edge.me

Ultraman UK Course Details

Ultraman Day 1 Bike Course

Ultraman Day 1 Bike Course

Spending some time getting the logistics ironed out for September.  Swim: this is the first and only swim event that is NON drafting! How weird is that! Here is the break down:

 

UMUK DAY 1

Swim Course (Stage 1)
10.0 km (6.2 mile) swim in the fresh waters of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid).

6 hour cut off

Followed by 100 mile bike again with a 6 hour cut off but a 12 hour cut off for the day.

 

UMUK DAY 2

 

Bike Course (Stages 1 & 2)

Bike Stage 2 consists of a one-loop (to the south) 275.8 km (171.4 mile) bike ride beginning & finishing Day 2 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County.

12 hour cut off

 

UMUK DAY 3

Run Course (Stage 3)

Mt. Snowdon is central to the 84.3 km (52.4 mile) double-marathon run course and will be a challenging testament to my constitution! The run course varies in elevation and has some very steep climbs and descents. The day begins and ends in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County.

12 hour cut off

The Long Course Weekend

Every July since 2010 Pembrokeshire plays host annually to one of the most difficult multi-sport events – the Long Course Weekend. This unique event lasts three days and has grown from humble beginnings to now accommodate some of the best triathlon talent in the UK and the world, including a number of athletes utilising it as the perfect preparation and build up to the Ironman Wales event in September.

Beth did the event last year when I was away training in Switzerland and thoroughly enjoyed it so this year we both signed up for the full Long Course Weekend event; it was great preparation for Beth’s Ultraman event later this year and in my case I still love to participate in the sport I coach. There are a number of options for each discipline but to qualify for the Long Course and that elusive fourth medal you clearly have to do the full distance in each event. The weekend kicks-off on the Friday evening with The Wales Swim. There are two options a 1.2 mile and a 2.4 mile swim and it takes place on Tenby’s North Beach. The Long Course athletes have to complete 2.4 mile swim. Having not swum at all for a month due to a rotator cuff injury this was never going to be pretty for me and so it turned out with me exiting in 117th place. The course is a two-lap swim, for the full distance, with a so called “Aussie exit” (although I’m led to believe that Australians have no idea what an Aussie Exit is, nor why we call it that) and goes in a clockwise direction. The first buoy was reportedly 800m away but it seemed to take forever to reach it. There was a minor swell running and it was a little lumpy, there were reports of jellyfish last year but I only saw one however it genuinely was the biggest one I have ever seen! Straight up this event felt different to an Ironman branded event, with very little of the testosterone fuelled hype at the start and a much friendlier atmosphere. So straight away I liked it. We had stayed in a B&B in Tenby so you could just walk down to the start in your wetsuit if you wanted although we chose to just change on the beach and use the bag drop which was all very efficient. It was also quite nice to just do the swim and go back to the B&B rather than the thought of getting straight onto the bike.

On Saturday the attention turns to The Wales Sportive, and 112 miles of “undulating” Welsh countryside lined in parts with enthusiastic crowds. There is also a 44 mile and a 66 mile route option. This ride is extremely tough and some of the “undulations” are full blown hills. The weather was dark, rainy and in parts foggy. The rain did not ease up for the entire event and I did not take the rain jacket off. They start you in small groups and I started near the back and was constantly passed at the start by the likes of Lucy Gossage who was safely tucked in behind a peloton of riders from Cambridge. I wasn’t able to stay on the back of the group, to be fair I couldn’t even get on the back of the group! It is not a ‘race’ as such it is sportive so is fully draft legal. For me I spent the majority of the ride on my own and it wasn’t until near the end that I started catching riders. I rode my road bike as opposed to my Tri bike and at the time this seemed to be a mistake as there are certainly large parts where you can get nice and aero on the tri bars (perhaps a bit of grass is greener) although I was happy to be on the road bike for the decents as in the rain and fog with steaming up glasses there were a little sketchy, quite a few people came off. The ride is tough and my ride was fairly miserable going about 90 minutes slower than I did at my last Ironman. Got it done though and saved some time by not using the sportive style food stations and carrying my own food; I finished in 98th place.

To finish the weekend, the athletes have the small task of completing the 26.2 miles of The Wales Marathon, which is quickly establishing itself as a fantastic event in its own right. There are 5k, 10k and Half Marathon options with the latter two starting after the marathon. The Half for example starts 2 hours after the marathon start so if you are quick enough you will be cheered on by those runners waiting to start the half. In my case the fastest runners in the half and the 10k started to pass me around my 20 mile mark. The run was by far my best event and with the weather being much improved I aimed to run around 3:15 pace or 7:30 per mile. The route is an extremely hilly single lap and is not the Ironman Wales run course. I stayed on pace until around mile 18 or 19 but started to drift off towards the end. I came in at 3:25 which was the 26th fastest marathon time. Swim and bike for show – run for dough! You can tell which event runners are doing by their bib colour and both spectators and other runners alike were appreciative of the Long Course athletes. I passed a fellow LCW athlete on the run and rather than trying to race me he was complimentary about how well I seemed to be going – this isn’t what happens in an Ironman when you pass someone in your Age Group!

All in all I can thoroughly recommend the Long Course Weekend. It is challenging but more than that it is a well-run event with none of the drama that goes with the Ironman events, so no huge race briefing, no racking of bike or dropping of bags and it is conducted in an inclusive and friendly atmosphere. With the pick and choose nature of each discipline there is something here for everyone. For those doing an Ironman later in the year you could do the full swim and bike and perhaps just the 10k to save your legs for example. Entries for next year are open and if I was you I’d get on it.

If you have any more in depth questions about our experience of the event just contact us.

Endure 24 Race Report

Jen

Jen

Here is a great Race Report by one of our athletes, Jen about her experiences in the Endure 24 hour running race. Enjoy!  

Endure is advertised as ‘Glastonbury for Runners’. Having never been to Glastonbury I’m not sure how the constant sweat levels compare, but it certainly had an amazing party atmosphere, which was incomparable to any race I’d done before.

Running solo for this long was a first, I had no fixed expectations. My longest ultra before this was 40miles. I had no idea what would happen to my body after this, but I was more than ready to find out! I had an outline plan of laps/breaks/eating which I had discussed with Coach Neil. I was happy to adjust as needed.

My outline plan was to run each lap in 1hour, have a small snack each lap, and a longer break plus a meal every 3-4laps. I ran the first four laps with friends who were also competing. I had a quick unscheduled return to my tent after 2 laps to change trainers. I’d set off in light trail shoes, but the race organisers had laid lots of hardcore down which was much too hard underfoot. I ran the rest of the 24hrs in cushioned road shoes. My feet were certainly very grateful for the early call on this.

In regards to the weather, it was very hot and muggy, lightheaded nausea became a bit of a problem. I found little sips of water and savoury snacks worked best for me. The course ran through scenic forestry, with a few nasty hills along the way! I quickly worked out where to walk and when to run, but even the shade of the trees didn’t lower the temperature.

After the first 4 laps (20miles) I had a meal break and a complete kit change as I was soaked with sweat. I ran/walked the hills for a further 3 laps. It was still incredibly muggy, so they were a bit slower. I stopped for another meal break. A jacket potato has never tasted so good! I then did another 3 laps finishing just before 1.00am. I now had 50miles in the bag. I experienced some serious chaffing on this last lap, so I took a longer break to sort myself out. I had lots of messages of support on fb which gave me a morale boost, and so I took the chance to read and update everyone.

I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself setting back out at 2.00am as I was a bit sore, and whilst walking was fine, running definitely aggravated it. Luckily I have a fast walk! I readjusted my plan to account for slower laps. I had prepared an awesome playlist for the night, and putting that on made me feel more positive. I loved the night laps. The temperature was so much cooler, and somehow even ‘heartbreak hill’ didn’t seem so steep in the dark, (as I couldn’t see it.) By 6.00am I had covered another 3 laps, but I returned to my tent feeling really tired. I had some breakfast, then had a decision to make because my legs and muscles all felt surprisingly fine, but I was so tired. I decided to try and nap for an hour, then I would still have plenty of time to get another 3 laps in before the cut off, as long as I could be back out on the course before 8.00am. I laid everything out ready, and fell asleep almost immediately I lay on my airbed! I’ve never had a problem sleeping in a tent.

I woke feeling positive. I put on fresh kit, and headed out for a further 3 laps. I knew I could do this, and that 80miles would be a very respectable total mileage. At no point did I ever want to give up. (I did, however, think many times ‘I’m not doing this ever again’.) It was just a matter of readjusting the plan and the goal to fit what I was capable of doing, as circumstances changed. I laughed, I smiled, I enjoyed banter and chat with other runners and marshals, and I looked deep inside myself…and surprised myself. I got a bit emotional as I set off on my last lap. I was doing this. 80miles was mine! I certainly had tears as I approached the finish line with so many strangers shouting and cheering.

42weeks of training. All the early mornings/ the dark/the rain/ the double runs. All were worth it.

I endured.

Thank Goodness for Clif Bar!!

clifThank goodness for Clif Bar!! I have been a bit busy with work, getting the house ready to put up for sale and looking for a new house, (or motorhome -stay tuned!) so I haven’t had the time I would have liked to experiment with nutrition bars. Enter Clifbars - an ethical company that takes whole food seriously. Plant based nutrition AND free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup who have sponsored me on this Ultraman journey AND as well as fuelling me have sent me some cool kit! I did find the time, however, to make these Super Simple and easy to put together (right up my alley!) Onigiri. A Japanese rice ball popular in ultra race aid stations due to its cooling effect on the body – loaded with carbohydrates, electrolytes and salt and easy to digest to boot. The photo is google image (mine weren’t so pretty) and I got the recipe from :

riceEat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

By Scott Jurek, Steve Friedman

2 cups sushi rice

4 cups water

2 teaspoons miso or umeboshi paste

3-4 sheets nori seaweed

Follow the directions for cooking the rice, then rinse and place the rice in the fridge over night to cool.

Using your hands, form a 1/3 -1/4 cup rice into a triangle. Spread 1/4 teaspoon miso or umeboshi paste evenly on one side of the triangle. Cover with another 1/3-1/4 cup rice. Shape into one triangle, making sure the miso is covered with rice. Using half of one sheet of nori, wrap the rice triangle in nori, making sure to completely cover the rice.

 Next time I make these, I am going to make a bit smaller. These lasted a good 4-5 bites and on the bike I am not going to want to hold on to these suckers for that long. I also added pickled ginger (to keep the tummy happy). On the whole I am happy with these and with the seaweed sheets they have their own wrapper.

They are a big hit when you’ve been having sweet stuff and want something salty and savoury. But I’m not against trying these with almond butter or honey…

My favourite thing in the world is quick and easy to assemble snacks with as few ingredients as possible – hopefully at some point I will have the time to get stuck in making more bars. The toughest thing about triathlon- fitting life in between training sessions!

*This week I spent:

4 hours swimming (missed one session)

4 hours running

7 hours biking (cut 2 sessions short)

*And watched:

The Sasquatch Gang

Carpool karaoke with Gwen Stefani, Adel, Sia, JLo, One Direction, Chris Martin, and Elton John – and yes, I sang along.

Hundreds of swimming videos (at least 10)

Britain’s Next Top Model cycle 10… all 9 episodes… I’m not proud of this.

My Vegan nutrition for Ultraman

carrotBeing Vegan and with the rigours of the particular challenge that Ultraman places I have to really consider the nutrition I am going to use and how it will fuel me pre, during and post race so this week I did some nutrition testing. First up was some raw carrot cake balls; next week it is Scott Jurek’s Japanese Rice Balls (Onigiri). If you are interested, here is the recipe:

No-Bake Carrot Cake Energy Bites

Courtesy of Amanda @ Running with Spoons

Yields: 12 balls

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Medjool dates
  • 4 dried apricots                                                    
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • unsweetened shredded coconut, for garnish

In a food processor, combine first 5 ingredients until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (minus the coconut) and continue processing until smooth.

Roll into balls and press into the shredded coconut .

 

1, 2, 3 ....GO!

So my swim training is kicking into high gear – with 123 days to go, I guess it had to at some point. A Tuesday night 5.6k set took 1hr 45mins – which seemed ok until I realized the race is 10km in Lake Bala so basically I am looking at about 3.5 hours if I don’t speed up!  If you fancy replicating the session it was:  1 x 600 pb/pad

6 x 100 pb only – 10 sec rests

2 x 500 pb/pad – 30 sec rest

5 x 200 1st , 3rd and 5th are pb/pad; 2nd and 4th are pb only – 15 sec

3 x 400 pb/pad – 25 sec rest

4 x 300 1st and 3rd are pb/pad, 2nd and 4th are pb only – 20 sec

Dimond

The weather has been, shall we say, “changeable”. There was a 2 hour window last weekend to take out The Beast (I am experimenting with names for my bike). This was the inaugural outing – and I am so happy to say The Beast is ALIVE! She is a Dimond with Knight 65 front and 95 rear wheels – perfectly fitted as always by Richard at FreeSpeed.

It was nice to be outdoors as I have been doing all of my cycling on the turbo trainer in the garage. At some point I think I will have watched every movie on YouTube!

Happy training!!

 

What do you do when Marathon, Ultras or Ironman isn't enough?

IMG_4348It all started with a book. “The Race Within” by Jim Gourley – a story of passion, courage and sacrifice at the Ultraman Triathlon. Having spent the last 15 years racing triathlon up to Ironman distance and running up to Ultras my planned ‘easy’ 2016 season of ‘just’ racing half ironman distance was slowly slipping through my fingers the more I read.   In December 2015 when I entered UM UK I had a great idea for a blog writing about what it takes to get to the start of Ultraman, as a Vegan how I plan to implement a plant based nutrition plan and ultimately how the race goes – then all of a sudden it’s the MIDDLE of APRIL! Day one of this three day race is 1st of September. Roughly 4 months away. Training so far has been about keeping the fitness I already had from training and racing Ironman distance and staying injury free. Four week blocks of training have emphasized building consistency and volume – nothing too daunting… yet. If you are not familiar with the rigours of Ultraman the race information is below.

Friday – Stage 1 – 10.0 km (6.2 mile) 1km x 5 loop swim up the right side of Bala Lake . The swim is immediately followed by a one-loop 144.8 km (90.0 mile) bike ride beginning & finishing Day 1 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy. Time Limits – All swimmers must be out of the water within 6 hours and the bike stage must be completed in 6 hours.  Stage 1 has a total cut-off time of 12 hours.  All athletes will be timed.

Saturday – Stage 2 – One-loop 275.8 km (171.4 mile) bike ride beginning and finishing Day 2 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County. Time Limits – Bike (Stage 2) in 12 hours. All athletes will be timed.

Sunday – Stage 3 – Mt. Snowdon is central to the 84.3 km (52.4 mile) double-marathon run course. Day 3 begins & ends in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County. Time Limits – Run (Stage 3) in 12 hours. All athletes will be timed.

Each must be accompanied by an individual support team of at least two persons over the entire course.  Individual resources: mental, physical and spiritual, are shared in an atmosphere where the pursuit of human excellence is the fundamental rule of the road.

Stay Tuned: Next week I will be experimenting with my plant based nutrition plan!!

Don't forget the Aerobic Engine

ovettAs you know, despite being schooled in modern methods, much of my Coaching philosophy is reflected in what would be considered an old school way of thinking about training. A good reason for this is that being a child of the 60’s I guess I am old school to many. Indeed many of the athletes I work with have never heard of many of the greats that I talk about whether that be Coaches like Percy Cerutty, Arthur Lydiard, Harry Wilson or Jimmy Hedley or athletes like Herb Elliot, Peter Snell, Steve Cram or my all time favourites Emil Zatopek, Steve Prefontaine and Steve Ovett. However when we look back at all of them and their own philosophies we see that in virtually all cases the grounding was always aerobic work. If we take Steve Cram for example, many will now know him as the voice of athletics on BBC1 but some of us we remember he had a lengthy elite career lasting from the late 70s to the 90s and was a 1:42 800m runner and a 13:26 5000m runner as well as a 3:46 miler. Despite these super fast times Cram spent a huge proportion of the year on building on endurance and the aerobic engine.  In fact he spent approximately 22 weeks running around 70-80 miles per week; which for an elite is not super high but he did suffer with a number of injuries. I do wonder how many of my athletes I would retain if when they came to me for coaching I said we’ll spend 6 months laying the foundation. Cram would do this year in year out. For me it shows that perhaps we are all in a rush to do the sexy fast workouts and we miss the need to lay a solid foundation for the work to come.

One thing to remember is how fast these athletes were so an Easy 5 miler that Ovett would do twice a day on some days would only take him 35 minutes as 7:00 per mile pace was his easy pace. So for an Age Group athlete this run might be completed at 9 or 10 min per mile pace and thus take significantly longer. When we consider Olympic 800m Gold medallist himself we see reported that his volume could be 80, 100 or even 120 miles a week and Ovett would typically spend even more time than Cram stressing the aerobic engine with periods up to 24 weeks in this phase. The total phase would be broken down into blocks but even by the final block 75% of the week would be at “low level” training. Remember all of this is pre GPS days.

Elite athletes tend to run twice or usually in the Kenyan’s case three times a day and Harry Wilson, who was Ovett’s legendary Coach would structure the weeks training in this aerobic development phase with a real mix of easy, medium and faster-steady-state runs, longer aerobic repeats, some build runs and with some sprint drills and mobility exercises included. So you can see the heavy emphasis on aerobic development. So it wasn’t just pure mileage, there were variations on the distance run and the speed run for normal runs but it wasn’t sexy fast intervals.

So whether we have lost the knowledge that these workouts are the ones that really count, or whether we are in such a rush to get things done in this modern age so we skip this phase I don’t know but I do know it is what makes the greats GREAT. It’s of no surprise to me that in that great 800m final in the London Olympics that British runner Andrew Osagie ran a PB of 1:43:77 yet in 1985 that Steve Cram’s PB was 1:42:77. So my advice to all my athletes and all reading this is not to forget the aerobic engine and develop it continually through all phases of training for your entire athletic life.

The ABC of Training

ABC-logoThe 3 key principles of Accuracy of Session, Balance in Training and Consistency are key to any training programme regardless of the sport and are ones that if you or your Coach builds them as central pillars to your programme will aid you in your desire to achieve that PB in the race season. Accuracy of Session or making your sessions more Specific to you, your abilities, your goals and your event is a key pillar to ensure that the desired adaptation occurs. The term specificity is sometimes used interchangeably with the acronym SAID, which stands for specific adaptation to imposed demands. The underlying principle here is that it is the type of demand that is placed on the body that dictates the type of adaptation that will occur. So if you are training for a marathon then an accurately designed session would revolve around perhaps some race pace adaptation, or some shorter interval type work to facilitate that leg speed and improve the aerobic engine efficiency, or tempo work or an appropriately paced longer runs. Not long and slow but longer and appropriately paced. Similarly if you are training for a Ironman Triathlon then you need to swim 3.8km efficiently in a wetsuit, therefore to match the stimulus must match the desired adaptation, so a session might be something like 40 x 100m with some small paddles and pull buoy Would swimming open water make you a better open water swimmer? Perhaps yes, because it is more specific – it is also quite tough to do all year long in most climates. So the examples I have used here are ones where I am trying to activate or recruit the same motor units required by your sport and by incorporating training that mimics the movement patterns of your sport as a Coach I increase the likelihood that muscles involved in the sport will be recruited.

Balance in life whilst still achieving the consistency, that as you will read below is fundamental, is key to achieving long-term success in sport. Training adds to our daily dose of stressors, work, death, marriage, taxes etc. and therefore by achieving balance and limiting that total stress you allow therefore just Training Stress to be placed upon us. If we achieve this then we can perhaps up the training stress thus facilitating greater adaptation. By achieving this healthy balance you can eke out the most from those training sessions.

Consistency is the unqualified key to long-term progress. Consistency in training is paramount and in its simplest form is limiting those sessions you miss. Your Coach may plan weeks where you will do no training – and believe me when I say these will be tough but in principle we look to keep ticking over. Aerobic progress and fitness, in general, respond well to continued stimulation. De-training happens very, very quickly. For this reason, avoiding injury is absolutely imperative. Injuries do nothing but put you on the couch, undermining consistency, and therefore long-term progress.

 So when you or your Coach is designing your next block of training consider the ABCs.

Boost your Immune System this Winter

image2

image2

Leek, Fennel, Apple + Walnut Soup with Turmericserves: 4

One of the great ways we can get good nutrients into our diet and to boost that immune system in the Winter time when colds, coughs and flu are abound is to cook up a great pot of soup. This recipe here is designed to provide anti inflammatory ingredients  to heal, nourish, and soothe. Whether you’re battling a bad cold or the flu, this food will help you on the road to recover but best of all it tastes great!  There is some good research to suggest that the health-giving properties of these home remedies and their active ingredients will actively help in these Winter months. So why not try this recipe below to ward off illness or just warm up a chilly weeknight supper.

soup ingredients:2 tbsp coconut oil3 leeks, white + light green parts chopped 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves minced1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped (reserve a few fronds for garnish)2 medium bramley apples, peeled, cored + chopped1-2 tsp ground turmeric1/2 cup walnut halves, toastedsalt + pepper4 cups vegetable stock

to serve:maple syrupfresh black pepperreserved fennel frondsmore toasted walnuts

Heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add the chopped leeks and thyme. Stir and sauté the leeks until they are a bit soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel and apples. Stir everything up a bit. Add the turmeric and stir to coat all of the vegetables evenly. Sauté the vegetables until the fennel is starting to soften, another 4 minutes. Add the walnuts and stir them in. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper.Add the vegetable stock and stir. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer until all of the vegetables/apples are very soft, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Carefully blend the mixture in batches until totally smooth. Check the soup for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Bring the puréed soup to a boil and serve hot with drizzles of maple syrup, fresh black pepper, fennel fronds and more toasted walnuts.

Enjoy!

“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners!

images“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners! There are 3 go to tenets that should help you improve and certainly make you more efficient in that triathlon swim leg.

Be Consistent
: Consistency in training is the number one method to achieve success in all three disciplines of triathlon, especially swimming. Depending on background I encourage my athletes to maintain at least 3 training swims a week a solid structure and basis to each session. For some who do not have a swim background yet have lofty goals like a Kona qualification we may work up to 6 swims a week and 20km of swimming. Typically this would consist of four 4km sets and a couple of 2km recovery type sets that would follow other disciplines – so Sunday for example might be a longer run and later in the day a 2km recovery swim.

Understand Your Speed: 
You need to know how fast you are swimming your 100s so learn to read the Pace Clock or use some form of timing equipment, like your fancy Garmin 920 watch, or use a Finis Tempo Trainer. This skill is essential in order to measure improvement – you can’t measure improvement if you don’t know where you are starting from. Knowing what times you are swimming and the pace you are holding is central to improving your times. Having said that for a triathlon swimmer I’ll take efficiency over ultimate speed every day of the week. So I’d much rather you swam 1:15 in your Ironman efficiently than you swam 1:05 but it took a lot out of you. To achieve either result we still must understand our relative speed and the simplest way is to start reading that pace clock..

Build Sessions
 These work to prevent the common mistake of going off too hard. We see this error in all three disciplines in triathlon where an athlete starts a session or a race too fast. Try to break sets down into 3 where you build through the session. So if you were swimming a 2400m main set maybe as 12 x 200s think of the first 800m or 4 x 200m as easy, the middle 800m as steady and the last 800m as fast. This means getting faster, or at least trying harder, throughout the set. This not only applies to swimming but all disciplines in triathlon. This will allow you to be aware of your pace in a race and can teach you how to start fast but not too fast and then to build throughout the swim.

So in your next swim set why not try and put one of these latter two tips above into practice and over the next few weeks work to become more consistent in your training and soon you’ll reap the benefits.

How are You going to Approach your next Training Race?

XC

XC

As I write this in November there is a good chance that your primary race for the year will be some months off. Perhaps you are aiming for a Spring Marathon or maybe a Summer Ironman and therefore any race that you conduct around this time in the season can be thought of as a Training Race or a C or perhaps B Focus event. As a runner you may have entered your local Cross Country (XC) series or some trail races or as a triathlete perhaps you are doing a Winter Duathlon or you have entered a Cyclocross race or you also are taking part in that same Cross Country league. So how are you going to approach this Training Race? By at least having an “approach” you can ensure that you get the most out of the experience either as a race, as a race simulation or as a solid training experience.First and foremost I think it is key just to have the approach or goal that you aim to get something out of the event. It doesn’t need to involve the totality of the event; perhaps you have been working your bike strength recently so in the Duathlon you want to focus on the bike, or you have been working on some run hill reps so you want to feel like you can push more than usual on the hills. Perhaps you have devised up a new warm up strategy, or if appropriate a new nutrition strategy or have some new kit you want to try out. What ever it is, make a point of noting it and understand that it is your rationale for the race.

One thing to consider is that you have paid money and taken time to enter the race and to get to the race venue so you do want to race and race hard! However in this phase of the season you do not want to forgo good training time by tapering for such an event - so incorporate it into your training volume. As a runner if you have a 10km XC race then perhaps do an easy 5km jog before breakfast then head out for the race and either as a cool down or later in the day do a 5km cool down jog so you make it a 20km run day with the middle 10km being at a hard race pace. Or as a triathlete, do a nice aerobic 4km swim set on the Friday and a long easy bike or possibly turbo session on the Saturday before entering the same XC race on the Sunday. In both cases run the race as hard as you can and it can be your hard session for the weekend. That way you get the competitive juices flowing, you run hard against others, your trial new strategies but you incorporate it all appropriately into your weekly training load.

After the event don’t forget to reflect and consider what went well and what went not so well. Look at the process and not the outcome. The outcome will be affected by the fact that for you this was a training day – for others this may be their goal for the year! So look at the process: how did that new warm up routine work, or that new kit or that race strategy? Consider it all and reflect such that when it comes time for your A race all of these things are second nature.

So take your training races seriouslybut remember their place within the bigger picture. Place them appropriately within your programme, go into them with a plan, race them hard and reflect upon them afterwards. That way you’ll be on your way to greater success when the main races in your season roll around

Have you tried this running trick?

watchWhen I trained as a youngster with the local athletics club the Coach had a stopwatch but none of us young athletes wore a watch. If we owned a watch, it’s only functions would have been to tell us the time and perhaps the date. It would have certainly been taken it off prior to the run. When we raced we would run as hard as we could for the distance; so if it was a 3 mile XC race we would race as fast as we could for 3 miles when we conducted a training session each interval was as fast as we could for the number of yards (yes it was yards back in the day) that the coach set. In the mid-1990s I did buy my first heart rate monitor and for full disclosure I do own a GPS watch. I no longer use the former and I do find the latter useful for some racing and in particular to hold my pace in the first few miles (yes even I go off too hard at times) if I am trying to even pace a race. I will also use the time facility if I am doing a timed fartlek or interval session and would use the GPS if I wanted to run a particular distance or a particular pace. However the absolute majority of my runs are conducted with no watch, no HRM and no GPS.

This morning’s run was a good example, I wanted to run about an hour at an easy pace with my Collie, Murphy but to be honest if it was 55 minutes or 65 minutes or it was 7:30 pace or 8:30 pace it didn’t matter as long as it felt easy. So I picked a route that I knew would take about an hour an off we went. Running this way will allow you to truly understand your body and understand how running at particular intensities actually feels.

imagesThis week in Athletics Weekly, Julia Bleasdale the British 10,000m runner was interviewed and stated that she too enjoys leaving the watch behind. Rather than paraphrase what Julia said I will quote it and if you want to read the full article please buy Athletics Weekly.

“With the training aids nowadays giving you your pace and distance, when you run along with your watch, you’re always going to have an emotional response,” she says. “Sometimes in training I don’t take a watch and I feel I’ve become very in tune with my body. I can sense whether I’m running at the right intensity but only by starting the process of sometimes leaving your watch behind can develop that real deeper self-awareness and having that self-awareness can really help athletes to get closer to fulfilling their potential because you’re really in tune with your body, sensing niggles and how hard to push rather than trying to fulfil what a piece of paper or your training aid is telling you.”

An interesting area here is that Julia talks about having an ‘emotional response’ when running with a GPS and as a Coach I believe that sometimes athletes will set a false ceiling. They may be going well and look at their GPS and think ‘I can’t run this fast’ and slow down. In some respects this may be the correct response as they may have actually gone off way too hard however on the other hand they may be having a breakthrough performance and should carry on. Again if they have conducted training without a watch then they will know whether they are going too hard. Regardless what your gadget is telling you if you feel like you are going too easy or too hard then you probably are.

So like Julia I would encourage you to start to leave the watch at home for some of your runs and begin to develop that self-awareness and sense the intensity you are running at.

Let us know how you get on.

Race Week Advice

Race weekSo race week is upon us and for all my athletes the first thing they will notice is that they will see that we keep training quite similar to that they have been used to. There is no massive taper for the athletes; yes we reduce the volume and for some we keep a bit of intensity but overall we keep a nice consistent training rhythm going. As an athlete you aren't going to get fitter in these last few days but you also won't lose a lot of fitness so don't stress it if life takes over; after all you probably will have some travelling to do and prep for the races. If you have raced before you'll know there is a lot of pre race posturing that goes on, particularly in triathlon, but this counts for nothing when the gun goes off. As a Brit everyone else always seems to look better tanned, have better shaved legs, look more muscular, more lean, have better kit a better bike etc etc but this counts for nothing so don't let it affect you. However staying out of this environment is always worth while. I'd advise spending as little time around others that are racing as you can. Go and register, go to the race brief and check out the course as required and for triathlon the flow through transitions and all aspects you need to know but do all of that efficiently. I like to wear my iPod just to keep myself in my own world. You've been there though you know the routine and how to race but any physical or mental energy you can save here all helps.

As the training load is slightly lower than normal there is no real need to carbo load as you are not burning the calories as normal. Hence with your usual calorie intake from foods you in effect will already be loading up. I always advise athletes to miss any pre race pasta party - no need to go wild at the buffet!

During the race itself concentrate on the process and not the outcome. Try and quieten your mind and never give up. Just be the best YOU can be on race day.

Keep your mind still and just keep working mile after mile. Break the event down and don't let the totality of it overwhelm you; so in a run think of it as 5ks or 10k or look to the next aid station but don't concern yourself with mile 20 while you are still at mile 10. Lastly good luck; we all need it. Concentrate on the process and most of all enjoy the race!

Dublin 70.3 Race Report

Dublin 70.3 Race Report 10448825_497448720387814_4220495444974091941_n Last Sunday Beth and I raced the inaugral 70.3 in Dublin. After a race I like to be quite objective with my race reports in order that I and others can glean some information about the race, and learn from those things that worked well and those things that didn’t go quite to plan.

My objectives for this event

This was a build up race for us in our prep for IM Chattanooga in September but with most races I always aim to do as well as I can.

Swim – as ever try to be strong and get the swim done without it taking anything out of me

Bike – ride a solid bike leg aiming to put myself in a good position to run strongly

Run – aim was to run around 1:30 which I hoped would put me in sight of an age group podium

PRE RACE

On the Sunday before the race I had my last real hit out session with a run that included 20 x 3 min reps at 70.3 race pace with 1 min recovery jogs. After the session I felt like I had a bit of hayfever coming on but early hours of Monday I awoke with a sore throat. No excuses whatsoever but this developed into a cold then a chesty cough as the week went on. Come the Friday I made the decision I would race as I felt it was getting better and we spent the day sight seeing; which culminated in a great meal and a couple of pints of Guinness in a bar on O’Connell Street with some great live Irish music – the Guinness actually seemed to help my cold! Saturday was the usual racking of bikes, dropping of bags and race briefing all of which seemed to take forever as the swim start and T1 was an hours drive away from T2 and the brief.

SWIM

11811294_706981652767852_4258489646522847887_nRace morning felt pretty nervous which I haven’t been since Vitoria last year and this is definitely something to continue to work on. The swim takes place in Scotsman’s Bay, Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) and the 1 lap anti clockwise swim was set off in rolling, wave starts; there is a nice video of the swim start here. We were split into gender and age group waves that set off at 10 min intervals but you entered in a very orderly fashion down a slipway into the Irish Sea with the timing mat at the bottom of the slip way so there way no drama of the mass start. The swim was un-dramatic, although was about 300m long! The water temperature was reported to be 14.9 degrees C and there was a bit of a swell running that made sighting awkward. I came out in 40:40 which was 13th in my AG but as it turns out nicely placed with those who would be in the mix as you can see from the results below. The exit is steep but multiple helpers did a grand job pulling you out.

All the bike bags were on racks in a tent as is normal at these events and I found mine and pulled on a long sleeved skins top to keep me at a good temperature and protect from the” Irish sunshine” on the bike. I was away well and pleased with myself for a reasonably slick transition all things considered.

 

BIKE

bikeThe bike course is a beautiful relatively flat course where you cycle on closed roads firstly straight into and through Dublin city centre the out on a one lap route that ends in Phoenix Park. The road surface in the main is pretty ropey to be honest and there were some significant pot holes. There are also at least 30 to 40 speed bumps on the course with 22 of them in the last few miles coming into Phoenix Park. These coupled with the road conditions and the rain shower we had made for some crashes and also the usual bottles and bits of bikes littering the course. I felt like I cycled well and only remember a couple of guys passing me and came off the bike in good shape in 2:33.

RUN

11870694_706847759447908_6256546699818839470_nThis is my strength and I had high hopes of keeping to the 1:30 target I ghad set myself. The run course is three laps around Phoenix Park and is pretty much supported the whole way round. At the end of lap 1 I stopped to have a pee in a portaloo and this was a good move in terms of I ran much better afterwards but took a few precious seconds so perhaps I should have peed on the bike. Technique wise I tried to run light, using a heel strike and hold my hips high with high cadence. It’s never easy in a triathlon but I felt my technique stayed reasonable throughout although I could definitely have run with a higher cadence.

The crowd support on the run was fantastic enthusiastic! My first two laps were pretty much on target and I felt that I was accelerating as the race went on which on a multi lap course is a great mental boost as you spend the entire race overtaking people. I ran a 1:32 so was happy with that time and it gave me a finish time of 4:56:19 and 5th in my AG. No World Championship slot for me although it rolled to 3rd place however Beth managed to bad a roll down slot and therefore we will be making the trek across to Mooloolaba in September 2016. Still time for me to join her racing though!

Summary

Swim – I stayed focused and got it done without it taking anything out of me

Bike – I’m in good and felt I rode reasonably strongly without it killing me for the run.

Run – A strong run, not as fast as some but I felt like I tried hard.

NUTRITION

Overall I went in with a plan and stuck to it and didn’t feel I needed anymore.

Breakfast:

We had breakfast in the hotel: cereal with some fruit and some homebaked Guinness Brown Bread with honey and almond butter. Yes all you Paleo people will be shouting at this.

Bike:

One bottle with 4 Overstims gels in it topped up with water.

One bottle with some Overstims carb drink

1 ½ Powerbars withy the whole bar cut in half.

1 x Double Expresso Clif Shot Gels (caffeinated)

 

Run:

1 x Double Expresso Clif Shot Gels (caffeinated)

2 x Overstims gels

Water

Plan was to eat half a bar every 20 mins on bike then take caffeinated gel at 1 hr 20 then drink from gel bottle every 20 mins to finish. On run it was 1 gel every 25 ish minutes.

OUTCOMES

Positives:

  1. All my gear worked great and I did not get too hot or cold. Huub wetsuit, Cervelo P3, Adidas Tempo run shoes – I’ve run in Adidas Tempo since 2012 if it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it
  2. I handled the mental side well once the race started but was nervous before. In the swim and the bike and raced my own race. Felt I ran strongly
  3. Nutrition worked pretty well in terms of not bonking at all
  4. Confident that if things go well I can put together a faster time

Negatives / Work On’s:

  1. Race nerves pre race
  2. Possibly nutrition. I need to think how to transfer this plan to Ironman
  3. Push harder on swim and bike – however cognisant that “you run for dough” so don’t want to overcook it

All in all a great race and one I would certainly do again.