Ivan – My Season Roundup and IM Barcelona

I  remember “watching” the Ironman live tracker when club members Angela, Dave and Rich did Ironman Frankfurt in 2016 and swearing to myself that I’d never ever put myself through the hardship of a full distance race. It looked like a horrific ordeal.

I remember going away on a training camp last year and almost entering Ironman Lanzarote on a whim with 4 weeks to go to race day. I was a single click away from signing up. Luckily, sense prevailed and I put the phone away before I did something stupid.

While I was doing the sensible thing, I was always wildly jealous of everyone else who was entering and completing full distance races. The FOMO is very real when you know other ordinary people around you can get to the end of a full Ironman.

So last November, I put in a secret entry for Ironman Barcelona and went about selfishly recruiting training partners that could share the training load and also the race experience. Full distance triathlon or an Ironman as it is more commonly known is a selfish thing… don’t let anyone tell you different. The training to get you ready for 3.8km swim followed by 180km on a bike and then on to run a marathon (42.2km) requires significant time and dedication; time away from family and friends, no going out partying on Fri and Sat nights when you’ve to be up early the following morning, no other real hobbies, lots of sweaty dirty clothes, lots of food, the list could go on and on…

Not understanding the training requirements and also knowing that I needed to be accountable to someone, I recruited Danny from PSI to provide the training plans and make sure things were going in the right direction. It also helped that he is our club swim coach so I could ask questions face to face after swim sessions. I’m selfish like that.

Between one thing and another, I had a bad start to the year with zero training done in Jan and Feb. When I got started in March, my times were so poor for everything that I turned off Garmin, Strava and everything else that people could see. I just didn’t want people looking at how bad things were. Unknown to myself, I think this was a masterstroke as we got into the training. It meant I wasn’t constantly looking at what others were doing and comparing myself. It also meant that others weren’t looking at my progress or lack thereof and making judgements or recommendations. I did say you need to be selfish and only focus on yourself.

Two main goals were set for the season; 2hrs 35mins at Hell of the West in Kilkee and 11hrs for Barcelona. Mostly, the training sessions got done. I swam probably less than half of what I wanted and averaged about two rides a week when I wanted to hit three rides a week. I don’t think I missed a single run session as running is something I both hate and am pretty useless at.

I raced Athy double olympic early in the season to get some distance in. I probably wasn’t ready but that’s never stopped people in the past. It was a good marker for where I was at. My swim wasn’t great, sighting was extremely poor. The bike was fairly ok, I was most happy that I stuck with the nutrition and pace plan instead of trying to race people on the road. My run was still rubbish. But I got to the end and had a marker down for the year.

Next up was Hell of the West olympic distance and I didn’t know what to expect. Training was going ok but really not sure where I was at. The swim went well, I got out of the water with an old teammate having drafted off me all the way around which I was happy with as he’s a pretty savage athlete. Again, pretty good bike and stuck to the plan. Run? Well my run was still pretty rubbish and slightly down on my time from last year. Not happy with that but I came in on 2:34:55 which was 5secs under the target. Not all bad!

Next up was Tri Limits half distance in Tyrone. Reports from the previous year was that this was a great race, flat course and fast. A quick recce showed that it wasn’t flat. It certainly wasn’t full of hills but it just wasn’t flat. Throw in the worst rain of the year and a decent bit of wind and you had a recipe for a really tough race. Again, I swam quite well even though my time didn’t reflect it. I got lucky on the bike when I decided to throw on arm warmers as it was extremely cold, windy and constant downpour of rain. The organisers made the sensible decision of calling most athletes in after two laps of the bike. By that stage, I was one of the few who were on lap 3 so I had the pleasure of finishing out the full 90km and heading out on the run. I got through the run in a time I was fairly happy with so not a bad day. I also had a moment in T2 which can possibly be described as both my lowest low and highest high in triathlon. I won’t go into it here but showed my determination to get to the finish line. Happy to have that one finished and I flew out the next day to do a little recce of the IM Barcelona course.

The next 10 weeks were getting into the main “long” weekend sessions. With Rich doing Barcelona also and Graham racing IM Italy two weeks before Barcelona, we had a nice core group for all the long spins. It’s definitely easier to get out when you’ve made commitments to others to go. I don’t think there was ever a weekend when anyone had to go alone which really helped. The first of the longer brick sessions (bike followed immediately by run) went dreadful. I had nothing left after the first 5k of running. I managed about 12k of the prescribed 15k. I had fueled poorly so lesson learned for the following weekend. That went better. At this stage, I was making notes on what was working and what wasn’t working. I’m not a fan of running at the best of times and even less a fan of running laps on a long run. However, I found that laps worked great as I could do a 30sec stop at the house for a mouthful of water and to take a gel every 6-7k. I’d be doing this on race day so this was great practice. Also, my mind is easily fooled into thinking it’s only ever a single lap. Even after three laps, you can convince yourself that it’s still only a single lap. It really gave great confidence and I was learning what nutrition I needed and what pace I could manage. Maybe it was naivety but the race couldn’t come soon enough as I’d enjoyed the final ten week training block.

I was staying with Rich for race weekend. My brother in law Conan was also over for his first full distance race. After landing, we all did a 20k ride out the road. We pushed on a bit harder than race pace which was good to get the legs moving and the heart rate up a bit. Dinner in the hotel followed by a coffee in the town square and early to bed. The following morning, we had short enough swim in the sea… no wetsuit need. At least one of us squealed like a baby when they got in the water but I won’t name names. We got to race registration and athlete briefing in between a few coffees and a pastry (or two). The bikes along with our bike and run bags were racked and the evening was ours to get prepped. Between fighting for bathroom time to shave legs and do the rest of our prep, we got dinner and probably the earliest I’ve ever gone to bed before a race. The reality of doing my first full distance race had kicked in and I was more worried by my lack of worry than I was about the race itself.

I had a pretty good night’s sleep and we were both out of bed at about 6am. Down to breakfast where we caught the first two rounds of the McGregor fight and then the sky just opened up with thunder, lightening and a downpour of rain. It had been expected but still not exactly what you want before you start the race. By the time we were leaving the hotel, the rain had stopped and we were on our way. Last minute checks with the bike and our gear bags and it was onto the beach for race start.

Ironman have you self seed into different starting pens based on your expected swim time. I sat myself at the back of the 60min pen as I expected to be a bit quicker than 65mins but not on 60mins. The sea conditions weren’t great with a lot of chop and pretty decent waves crashing the beach. Lots of people were knocked back onto the beach by waves so it was a matter of diving like a surfer under a wave and getting out past it. I swam a pretty lonely race as it was difficult to sight due to the swell on the way out. The turnaround point felt like it would never come. On the way back, I figured that staying in the deeper water away from the beach would be a good decision as the closer you go to the beach, the harsher the waves were trying to throw you out onto land. As it turns out, my watch stopped about 400m into the swim either from me hitting someone or someone hitting me. I had no idea what my swim time was but I didn’t think it was bad given the conditions. It turned out to be a 67min swim which I wasn’t disappointed with given the limited swimming I’d done this season. A fair result.

The bike course had changed in the week before the race to add in a couple of hills. The explanation was that it was to sort out the drafting which plagues IM Barcelona every year. In reality, all it did was add some hills and extra distance to the course. There was still a huge amount of drafting which is really annoying when you are trying to race honest. I did let my opinion be known to some of those drafting and I won’t write here what I said. It made no difference to them. I’ll just call them cheats and leave it at that. I came off the bike in 5:16 which was down on where I wanted to be but I had stuck to the HR and cadence plan almost perfectly. The time will be the time.

I was least looking forward to the run… a full marathon after 3.8km swim and 180km on the bike. Who in their right mind would do something stupid like run a marathon after that? Or why? Off I set running too quick. I looked at the pace against my HR and with HR exactly where I wanted it, I made a decision to leave the pace as it was. HR is what was on the plan and it was good. On my second lap, I came across both Rich and Conan. This was the first of them I’d seen since the morning on the beach. Like everyone on the run, they were doing their own race and going through the same hardship and torment that everyone goes through during the run section. A few words of encouragement exchanged both ways and we were separated again. I felt relatively good and ran strong for the first 21km but the will to stop was growing. I talked myself into running until the end of the second of three 14k laps. Then I was going to walk 100m and run 900m for a few km. I think I did this for about 9km and ran the remainder. The 100m walk gave me good time to recover a little and it was possible to run the 900m well. I only dropped about 20-30secs per km for each of those 9km. Then I was right back on my pace. The target time was 4:12 for the marathon. I came in on 4:08. The run is the thing I was happiest with for the race.

In the end, I came across the line in 10:42:30. Had I been able to pee on the bike instead of getting off twice, I’d have broken 10:40. It niggles a bit that I didn’t hit 10:39:59 but I’m not unhappy. The hard work was done in training and the race pretty much went to plan. How could I be unhappy?

I texted home pretty much immediately after I finished with two words “never again”. It turns out that you shouldn’t be allowed near a phone for at least an hour as that “never again” is almost certainly a lie. Within an hour, the hardship has almost disappeared and the thoughts of doing it again are quite strong. You should be kept away from the Ironman website and credit card removed from your possession for a few days or you will sign up to do it again next year. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ll learn for next year.

Barcelona Ironman Race Report – Rich

This was my 5th  time toeing the start line of an Ironman. My first was in 2015 in Mallorca where I struggled in the heat to a 14:08:11. I followed this up in 2016 with Frankfurt and another 14 hour effort just increasing my PB with a 14:06:43. 3 months later I was in Calella, Spain for Ironman Barcelona. I pulled out after 90km of the bike sick. 2017 I tried in Spain again, only to pull out 13km into the run. I’d been sick again and knew it wasn’t going to be fast and just wanted it to end. This was my 3rd time trying to conquer Ironman in Spain.

Training started well, but for the last 3 months I have been nursing a knee injury. I tried not running for a few weeks but that made no difference, so I continued to run but had to keep the distances down and give myself time to recover afterwards. The day after every run I was in pain. I also didn’t swim that much.  I logged 29 swims all year and a dozen of those were club swim in the Irish sea. Cycle training was better but i didn’t really race this year so wasn’t feeling as strong as usual.

Race morning saw the forecasted rain arrive and it was hammering down whilst Ivan and I were eating breakfast. It was stopped by the time we headed down to transition to start the race.

Transition pre Ironman is fascinating. There’s a lot of people showing nerves and the odd person sat zoned out listening to their own music. You can feel the tension in the air, and the music is pumping over the PA system creating a great atmosphere. Tyres were inflated, bottles put on bike and I headed out of transition and on to the beach and into the swim start pens that were marked off by expected finish time. I was hoping to go faster than 1:15 so moved up to the next area – 1:05. The pro’s set off and very soon it was the Age Groupers turn. 50 minutes. 60 minutes. Then 1:05. It was a rolling start. You queued up and every 3 seconds, 6 people started. Beep, Beep Beep, Go.

I ran to the sea just as a huge wave crashed on the shore knocking two people next to me on their backs. I waded a little further and I was then swimming. The chop in the water meant you had to try and time your sighting when you were on the crest of a wave. I managed to get to the first turn buoy without incident and was just trying to concentrate on keeping my stroke long. On the long outward leg I found sighting difficult at one point I looked up to sight the buoy only to see it 50m to my left. I ignored it and just set sight on the next one to correct myself. I swallowed a lot of sea water during the swim, had my goggles dislodged by the crashing of the waves and was kicked a couple of times by swimmers who were breast-stroking but after around 1:14 I was nearly at the exit. As I stood I cramped in my right hamstring and fell on to the beach – waves were crashing over me as I tried to drag myself up, and the water rushing back off the beach was trying to pull me back into the sea. A volunteer grabbed my wrist and eventually got me to my feet and I hobbled over the timing mat and into the changing tent. I tried stretching my leg and couldn’t get rid of the cramp. Eventually I just sat and it eased. I got my helmet, and shoes on and made my way to the bike and then out of transition.

On to the bike and out through Calella town. Lots of shouting as people try to overtake on narrow roads, and we make our way to the two-lap course. Once we get to the roundabout we are on course and the first of the laps is underway. It’s pretty congested at the start as nearly 3000 athletes are all starting the bike at roughly the same time.

I ignored the crowds and tried to settle into the bike and my plan to keep my power easy and get through the 180km without expending too much energy. My goal was to keep power in a low zone and to average <210w. Nutrition wise I was using a product called tailwind which should give me 200 kcals an hour.  I took it easy up the hills and at the end of lap one was on target for a 5:30 bike split and it all felt relatively easy. Lap 2 started and as I hit the 100km mark I knew I was struggling. I couldn’t hold 160w on the flat and had no energy at all. On the hill everyone came past me as I pushed a low gear until I eventually got to the top and then enjoyed the break as I coasted back down to the bottom. I got to the far turnaround point and was at rock bottom, but knew I only had about 35km to go. I was struggling to turn the pedals over and every slight incline felt like Everest. With 10km to go I was struggling to hold a straight line. At the last aid station I grabbed 2 bananas and an isotonic drink and pulled in. I ate the bananas, sipped the drink and put my head down onto my tri-bars. There was 2km to go to town, then 3km through the winding streets. I got back up and somehow managed to get back to transition. I sat in T2 wondering how on earth I was going to get through the marathon.

I laced my runners up, pulled my visor on, fastened the race belt and started to run. Plan was to walk aid stations and run the 2km in between. First aid station was after 250m. I grabbed a slice of orange and a coke, walked to the last bin whilst sipping the coke, binned the cup, and then started to run. About 500m later my right hamstring cramped. I had to stop and try and stretch out and then after a little walk it eased and I was able to run again. I got to the finish line turn and set off for the first of 3 laps. 500m later my left hamstring wanted in on the party and decided to start cramping too. I couldn’t stretch it out, walking was painful at first, but doable, anything faster and both hamstrings started cramping. I was 2km into the run leg and had 40km to go. I reckoned on that being around 7 hours if I could sustain a 10 min per km pace. I had already decided quitting wasn’t an option.

I saw Ivan for the first time as he was on his second leg. He looked comfortable and encouraged me on.

The loneliness of the long distance runner is often talked about, but the loneliness of someone walking a long distance event is much worse. You’re alone with your thoughts whilst being overtaken by a constant stream of runners, and well-intentioned supporters urge you to run. At the busier areas I pulled my visor down low and looked down at the ground, I just wanted to walk in peace.

I was constantly taking on the same every 2km – coke and an orange slice and by the 10km stop was feeling ok. Still couldn’t run but mentally I’d accepted it. As I completed the first lap and made it back to head through transition an angel appeared. Well not exactly, a lad from Portmarnock Tri Club asked how I was doing and gave me ibuprofen after I told him. I took these at the next aid station and carried on with the walking. A few km later, around the 18km mark, I felt like a sniper shot me in the legs. Both hamstrings cramped and I had to sit down. No matter what stretching I did I couldn’t get it to ease, every step caused them to cramp. I decided to try a little run and miraculously, that didn’t cause them to cramp – or the ibuprofen had kicked in and I couldn’t feel them. I ran, walking the aid stations for the rest of the marathon. A couple of times I took a walk break but generally I managed to run. It was amazing how many people were walking and how many I managed to overtake – although they had probably already overtaken me earlier.

With just over 1km to go I hit the last aid station and settled into the same routine. Orange slice and coke and walk to the last bin. A bloke started shouting at me “You haven’t done all that training to walk!”. He was lucky I didn’t have the energy to smack him in the face. As  I binned the cup and started running again he probably thought he was the best motivational speaker ever,

As I came up to the finish line I was ecstatic, emotional, glad to have finished and so happy to get that monkey off my back. At that moment in time “You are an Ironman” are the sweetest words anyone could ever say to you.

Finishing time was 13:10:42 so nearly an hour quicker than my best despite it nearly being a disaster.
The splits were:
Swim – 1:14:48
T1 – 8:22
Bike – 5:53:18
T2 – 9:38
Run 5:44:38

Will I do Ironman again? In the words of Ironman themselves – “Anything is possible”

How I Spent My Weekend – IM Dun Laoghaire 70.3 Race Report – Eoin O’Reilly

Some background. This is my 6th year doing triathlon and I have been lucky enough to tick all the boxes – tri-a-try all the way up to full Iron Man distance. I have also been in 3 triathlon clubs. I started in Fingal Triathlon club in 2013. I was there for 2 years and thinking of changing to a club closer to home when the coach told me my swimming was beyond help. Based on my pool swimming I would agree, but the majority of triathlons aren’t swum in pools! My mind was made up and I moved to AMS. The funny thing was in my first season with AMS I completed two IM events the 70.3 and Full distance in Mallorca, swims were respectable too – 45mins for the half and 1hr26 for the Full. I am happiest when I have a pull buoy or a wet-suit. The piece of advice Rich gave me on the eve of the 70.3 has always stuck with me “Swim like a boat” your arms are your oars and will do the majority of the work, the wet-suit will keep you in more or less the right position (while preventing you from sinking – bonus!) so concentrate on arms and don’t worry so much about kicking (swim coaches everywhere going to hate me).This year saw me move to TriTanium. I completed IronMan Barcelona last year so this was my year off. Which brings me to Dun Laoghaire 70.3.

Why Dun Laoghaire? I have done all 3 IM Dublin events and I work in Dun Laoghaire so it seemed like a good idea. This year saw big changes – a single transition and a new (and improved they said) bike route sold as scenic and challenging (more on that later). Working in Dun Laoghaire meant I could practice the run.

The build-up to the event wasn’t ideal. Smashed toes and broken toenails from those sneaky rocks in High Rock disrupted my running for a few weeks. A tear in the wet-suit was annoying but easier fixed thanks to Brian in dry suit tailors (www.drysuittailors.com). My swimming was mostly pool based solo efforts with pull buoy and paddles. Bike was some turbo with weekly club spins. I knew I was getting distance but not enough hills. My last spin was supposed to be between 4-5 hours, it then dropped to 2hrs and ended up being just under 40Km arising from 2 punctures. Better to get them out of the way now than in the race. Off to Wheelworx for new tubes, tyres and CO2 canisters. Changing the tyres destroyed my hands (combination of hard rubber (bomb proof tyres) and desk-based job – soft hands) I knew if I got a puncture in the race I was screwed, no way I could change those tyres again. Hopefully, they would do what is said on the box…

Collected my race pack at lunchtime on Friday, very cool new bag but no race program. That was a pity because I like to keep them as souvenirs. Saturday was bag drop and bike rack. No issues there. Good landmarks for finding the bike so feeling good. Ice cream with the family and it was home for carb loading and an early night.

The alarm was set for 04:30 so, of course, I woke up at 04:00. Not much chance of going back to sleep so might as well get up. Breakfast and drinks prep – one for pre-race and one for the bike. There had been a Snickers placed in the fridge for a pre-race snack but it had mysteriously disappeared – damned pixies up to no good again. Run through checklist one more time. Wetsuit, check. Goggles, check. Nose plug, check. Race belt and number, check. Garmin, check (IM do an excellent job timing but if it’s not on Strava it doesn’t count!). Post-race clothes and towel, check. OK, good to go.

Very little traffic on the road. I had decided to play safe and go with the official IM car-park option. It seems the Harbour Police missed the memo so the gates to the old ferry terminal parking were still locked when I got there at 05:10. They were supposed to be open at 04:30. Directed to wait while efforts were made to source a spare set of keys. 15mins pass and no movement in front with a good many cars now behind and more than a few nervous athletes pacing around. Another 5 mins and the queue starts to move. I get up to the gate and notice sparks. I roll down the window, “Did you just cut the locks off the gates?” I ask the marshal – “Yeah, fuck ‘em.” Was the reply. That gave me a laugh. Park up, grab the gear and head down to transition. Spot a small pod of port-a-loos on the way down. No queue either, too good to be true? Sort of, they were all facing inward so no access. Resigned to have to queue in transition when someone starts moving them, just enough to get access. Result. One less thing to worry about. Bumped into a few familiar faces on the walk down. AMS out in force. Few Fingal guys as well, one has a similar story of gatorskin tyre changing so I don’t feel like such a twat. Get to bike and air still in tyres, big relief there. Put on the bottle and check speed/cadence sensors – al good. Ok where’s the white bag drop? I miss the sign so end up doing a lap of transition – out one side and back in the other. Into the wet-suit without any issues, drop the bag and head down to swim start. It’s all quiet with a hum of nervous excitement. A lot of talk about the bike course and the weather, feck off rain being the common thread.

Conditions look idea for swimming. Water reported to be 16 degrees which is good. I wander down to the start to say hello to a buddy who’s helping with the swim start and check out the pros – they use their legs while swimming. I also wanted to check the line to the first turn buoy. The course has a long straight out to the first buoy, turning left and a short straight to the next buoy, turn left again for a slightly longer straight to the final turning buoy then turn right a swim for the pontoon. There are smaller yellow buoys between the larger orange ones but they look to have you swimming in an arc/dog-leg to the first buoy. I decide to use the lighthouse as a sighting point as that’s a straight line, Decision made it’s back down to my pen. 40mins, not today. 45mins, maybe a little optimistic, settle on 50mins. Ok, let’s get a move on before this oasis of calm I’m feeling disappears…

It’s not as cold or crowded as last year and that’s a good start in my book. I’m feeling relaxed and sighting every six strokes – so far al going to plan so keep swimming like a boat. There are a few swimmers going across my line but no real issues. Yellow buoys to the left, rescue boats to the right, lighthouse straight ahead. Water is beginning to get choppier now. Not breaking waves but certainly lumpier than the start. Few attempts needed spot the lighthouse, it’s still straight ahead which is good. The turning buoy seems to be moving though, at the very least it’s not getting any closer! Take a few more strokes and not a lot has changed, ok stop for a bit ad take a good look. I’m still where I was aiming but the buoy seems further away. I hear a few choice words from the swimmers around me so I’m not alone in my frustration. No point getting worked up, head down and pull hard. I even throw in some kicking (Every little helps). I fall into a rhythm – breathing every three, pulling harder than I usually would (paddle workouts paying off) and exhaling hard in the water. To me it sounds like a bass drum but it seems to be working, finally I reach the buoy. Crowded as usual but still no major issues. Turn, sight and head for the 2nd buoy. Progress still slower than I hoped. I estimate I’m about going to be 5mins and 200mtrs above target. Still plugging away though and soon it’s time to turn again. This should be the easier bit if the tide has indeed changed. Forward movement is better but sighting still tricky so I resort to staying between the groups of swimmers. I know I’m moving in the right direction based on the shoreline (house colours are changing). I catch the occasional glimpse of the final turn buoy so just keep doing what I’m doing. Final buoy is the most crowded and the final straight to swim exit is the most physical. Few mouthfuls of water and that dreaded rotten seaweed smell and soon I’m between the triangular IM buoys indicating swim exit. Kick hard to pontoon, grab an arm and get my feet under me. Legs still work, always a relief. Quick check of watch confirms my estimate 2.1Km swam in 56:31. Oh well, another missed target but swim done. Time to hit the hills.

Transition chats confirm the swim was hard (not just me, that’s a relief). Grab the bike bag and take a seat on the bench. These are great until the person at the other stands up – cue one man see-saw impression. Wet-suit on, quick dry of the feet, pull on socks- dammit I’ve ripped one. Above the ankle so no panic. Race belt is tricky, should have used Joey’s trick (next time I swear). Helmet on, rack bag and off to the bike.

Thankfully both tyres still have air in them. Unrack bike and run (yes I ran!) to the mount line. Set Garmin to bike, mount bike, wave/shout to Dave B. and Ivan and we’re off. Mentally I had the bike course broken in 3 stages –

  • Transition up to Roundwood – warm-up, ease into the challenge to come. Good roads, shelter from the elements and not the worst of the climbs
  • Roundwood to 65Km – main set, here be suffering and pain. Roads are narrower, surface questionable at times, no shelter and climbs
  • 65Km to transition – cool down. Fastest section as most of it is downhill. Chance to claw back so time if brave enough or focus on recovery for the run

The goal was to get to 65Km in one piece, time be damned. Make it there and I’m as good as finished, there wasn’t (in my mind anyway) any need to be a hero on this course. Exit out of Dun Laoghaire brought us past the People’s Park. It’s Sunday so there’s a market with a food fair. Wonderful smells and I’m heading up the mountains with isotonic drinks, Powerbar cola shots and Clif bars for company. Why do I do this again? Drafting rules appear forgotten as flat sections few and far between. This makes for a lot of little chats. All pretty consistent – hard swim and the bike is going to be a brute. Settling in now, trying to keep the HR low (under 160) and make sure the bike is working. Worryingly the gears are making a funny noise at the low end. Typical, never the big ring gears causing trouble on hilly routes. I’m going to need all my granny gears to-day so hopefully it’s nothing serious. Just keep going. People walking on the first hill out of Enniskerry is a bit of a surprise – long day ahead for them. I’m able to stay seated which is good. Made it to the 1st aid station, grab an iso bottle. There are red and smaller than the Powerbar ones we’ve seen on previous IM events. Drink is tastier than Powerbar equivalent though so it balances out. First descent negotiated with no issue – brakes and gears working, so far at least. Weather is kind as wind our way up to Roundwood – the highest village in Ireland (see scenic). Coming out of Roundwood the fun begins. The roads narrow, the surface is not as good as up seems the default direction. We pass a sign saying 1Km to Sally Gap but go the other way, the next one I see says 8Km. As the climbs begin the shelter starts to thin and the mist can be seen ahead. Roads getting steeper and the wind makes it’s first appearance, cross and head varieties of course – IM is no place for tail winds, at least not today. The cross winds mean you really have to concentrate on the descents – bike is twitchy even with standard road rims. Huge respect to those on deep rims in these conditions. According to the blurb this is the jewel in the crown – climbing surrounded by stunning scenery. I’m sure it’s there, I’ve seen it before but today it’s hiding shrouded by mist and obscured by rain. All I see is grey sky and black tarmac. Finally made it to the top of Sally Gap (again no walking and seated the whole time). This is supposed to be easier but I don’t seem to be moving any quicker. I’m feeling down – not enjoying this at all. I’m cold, wet, windblown, miserable and over 50Km from home. On the plus side the bike is working and the body behaving. I take 2 more cola shots and just keep peddling. There are people worse off than me judging by the amount of times a medical vehicle passes me. Attrition rate seems higher than usual. Time for another climb. What road the mist allows me to see only goes upwards. Still have full range of gears to choose from. I’m not exactly powering up the hills but I am making progress, slow progress but still progress. Average speed now down around 18Kph and heading into the toughest climb of the day up around Lough Dan. It’s a split climb so you have the introduction which is tough enough, you get to the top thinking glad that’s over only to turn right and see the main event – no idea of the gradient but steeper than my stairs at home and a bit longer unfortunately. Wicklow Tri club are at the base shouting encouragement so I pop 2 more cola chews and concentrate on moving forward and not falling off the bike. Adding to the challenge is having to avoid the walking or weaving cyclists. No such thing as spinning this is pure grind all the way. It’s probably mental but it seems to be getting steeper – you can see the top the whole time which makes it even crueller. The view to my left is stunning even in these conditions but I’m only concentrating on the top which is slower getting closer. When I finally get there the reward is a very scary descent. My arms ache from clutching the breaks. Keep it on the hard stuff, keep calm, don’t panic and no sudden changes of direction which isn’t that easy with the crosswinds, bike twitching every now and then. Certainly keeps you focused. Seeing a good few people stopped now – either by choice or misfortune. Rob Cummins of Wheelworx fame is being kept busy on bike support. I pass him stopped loading another bike (or parts of at least) into the back of his jeep. He passes me further down the road. Ais rolls down the window – I ask for a lift, she smiles and says I’m doing well. I laugh and say doing at least and then they’re stopping again to help another stricken cyclist. Then I’m back arguing with my inner voices again, why does it feel like I’m going backwards . Think positive – only 10Km left then it’s downhill to home, bike and body still working as they should, I’m slower than hoped but not by a massive amount given the conditions. Overall no real cause for alarm. I have some more food and get back to just pedaling. The fact I know the family has come out to watch also provides a shot of motivation. I safely negotiate the last hill-top descent and the hairpin bends (warming signs to slow down ignored at your peril to-day) and I’m on the last bit of climbing up to the 65Km point. I should be able to see the top but my visor has fogged up. I laugh, seems like I really am hot-headed! Then I pass the posts marking the top of the climb and I’m onto the last part of the course – downhill to home. The speeds starts to climb and again I have Rich’s advice to thank – this time it’s how best to corner at speed, I’m watching my lines while being aware of the other riders. It’s working as I find myself gaining on riders. I have to back off a few times but like I said earlier this is not a course for heroes, far more important to finish. Easy to see some people are better bike riders so I err on the side of caution. Have come too far to crash now. Staying within myself and even apologise to a Guard for breaking a red light, she laughs and tells me to get a move on. Back onto main roads now which means roundabouts and speedbumps. Then I see it – the dismount line, it’s a try-colour which is pretty cool. I hear familiar voices shouting and I manage to dismount while waving and not falling over – not too shabby if I say so myself.  In short, it was 4hours19mins52secs of suffering. 20mins slower than I hoped but again it was more important to finish. I was inside the cut-off so it was time to rack the bike, grab the runners and go for a bit of a run.

The last 3 70.3 runs in Dublin had not been pleasant for me. I haven’t figured out why. My approach this year was to do no running after the Rock ‘n Roll ½ Marathon (where I actually paced correctly this year). Even still I needed to stop running when I reached the pier. This was even after the pleasant surprise of real coke at the aid station, no cola just coke makes me happy. Just before the pier I saw Danny and gave a high 5, I was feeling good. 200 mtrs later my mojo has disappeared. Ok, I’m walking for a bit. A lot earlier than usual, just getting it out of the way early this year was my mindset. I did another status check – any cramps? No. Pins & needles in feet? No. Sick stomach? No. Excessively high HR? No. All in my head so, I allowed myself to walk to the end of the pier with the promise that would be eh only extended walk of the run leg. It’s a long pier with not much to see, support is sparse so they have a DJ on the bandstand which breaks it up. People passing ask if I’m ok (you have to love triathletes – no matter how bad they might be feeling always asking others if they’re ok) say yes, just rewarding myself for surviving the bike. I reach the turnaround at the end of the pier and start running again. I had hoped to hold 5min40 pace but that’s not realistic so settle in around 6min20. It’s already feeling like a long day so trying to make it a little easier. If you know Dun Laoghaire (or are using Google maps) the course goes along the pier and back, then turns left heading up the town past the Purdy Kitchen. You turn around at the park/green space there and run back down the town to transition, there you turnaround again and repeat. 3 laps. Essentially 40% uphill, 40% downhill with 20% flat being the pier. Think Chesterfield Avenue in the Phoenix Park but not as straight. There are 3 full aid stations and one independent republic of Red Bull aid station. The 3rd aid station has Cole and Pepsi which is unusual. My approach is one cup water and one cup of Coke at each, I walk to allow me to drink and not spill. I see a few familiar tri-suits/faces from the bike and greet/give encouragement as appropriate. For me I tend to stick with – just keep moving, it doesn’t matter how you finish as long as you finish! I never tell anyone who’s not running to start running – no way of knowing what or how they are feeling. Soon enough I’m back at transition and starting lap 2. I’ve managed to stick to my internal agreement (only walking aid stations). My pace has slowed but I’m still on target for a sub 2hr30 run which would be a 70.3 PB (also look for a positive!) The majority of people seem to be a lap ahead (or finished) so I’m just concentrating on how I’m feeling – better than when I started running so that’s good. Chatting to a few people and again encouraged that the stories are the same – horrible swim and brutal bike, not liking the run much either. Just keep moving. Coming back down the town on my second lap I spot a cool IM tattoo. I can’t make out the race so I ask the owner. It’s for Lazarote – he’s done 5 of them (they give special prizes if you do 5 or 10 – the only race that does that). That itself is impressive, what shocks me is he says he has never felt worse in any of those 5 races than he did today on the bike. Lanza is famous for being one of the toughest races on the circuit, it’s on a volcanic island with legendary climbs, brutal winds and soul-destroying heat – and he suffered more here! We chat for a while 9as you probably gathered). I ask will he do Cork next year. Has paid the fee but is going to ask for a refund based on today. I said I swore something similar after Barca last year so we reach an agreement that he’d wait two weeks and then decide. I’m moving a little quicker so part with me saying I’ll see him in Youghal. Past Teddy’s again and I’m now on my last lap. Once more down the pier and a small reward of an extended walk after 2nd aid station based on the promise that there is no stopping now until the Red Carpet! There are a lot of very tired bodies on the course but the support is amazing, it really gives you a lift. One last turn at the top of the town and now it really is the home straight. Spot the family just before the turn-off and stop for a brief chat. I’ll see you at home, high 5’s and they’re gone. Round the corner, up the ramp, turn right and it’s red carpet time. Relief, the feeling never gets old. Big smile (not just for the cameras but because it’s over), high 5 for the MC and my race is done – 8hrs55seconds – shouldn’t have stopped for the family chat! My run split was 2hrs29mins53 so just under the 2hr30. Good way to end.

Overall I’m happy with the race. Swim was confirmed to be tough but I kept going, I didn’t panic or feel like I couldn’t go on. Based on post-race conversations I think it was my strongest IM swim, well short of my quickest but all things considered positive for me.

The bike was as tough as expected, maybe more so because of the conditions. I was a little underprepared but more on the mental side. Conditioning will make the hills easier but only slog like today will help the mind and the mind is a HUGE part of long distance racing.

The run still needs a bit of work but it’s moving in the right direction. No adverse effects on the body so that was a big plus. My triathlon focus is now on Mallorca 70.3 and IM Cork next year. Will do some running races to finish out the year and get back into the club swims. The bike will probably be turbo based. The plan is to tick over until January and then ramp up from there.

As a reward for surviving the race, I bought one of the spot your name tee-shirts. This race was definitely a tick the box race. I also bought myself a large 99 from Teddys. AS I walked back to collect my bike and bags I saw quite a few finishers tee-shirt were athletes enjoying a 99 so I wasn’t alone.

 

Outlaw Triathlon 2018 (Joe’s Race Report)

 

So the club asked me to put together a piece about my training for the outlaw triathlon and also the race itself. I suppose it’s best to break it down into 2 sections, the training and the race. I would normally write this for myself anyway so apologies in advance if it’s long and boring!

So, first of all, why go long and why do Outlaw. 2017 was a good season for me, I got a 6th place in the age group sprint National Champs and then a 20th overall including the elites at the Olympic distance National Champs. This meant I would be racing draft legal in some races in 2018 against all the lads representing Ireland around Europe, you have to be a top swimmer for these races and for me it would turn into a race trying not to be lapped and hanging on until the end. This got me looking at something else to do for 2018,  I sat down with Laura and we talked about me doing a full distance triathlon, what it would mean training wise and how much time I’d be putting into it. We agreed that this was probably a good year for doing it, not much going on at home and work wouldn’t be too bad so the decision was made around September 2017 that I’d be going long in 2018.

 

Why Outlaw? I wasn’t sure how well I would hold up training wise and if I would enjoy the race so I didn’t fancy spending the big Ironman money on entry fee’s, I wanted to try and go fast too, if I was only doing one long distance race I wanted to try and get a fast time. I’d done the Outlaw half before and knew the course was very similar and also knew where to stay and how to get there. I’d be able to get the ferry over so could take plenty of gear and there is a campsite about 400m from the start of the race so it made the logistics very easy and so the decision was made to enter Outlaw.

 

Over the winter I kept my training up, nothing too focused and was more going through the motions keeping my fitness levels up, I didn’t worry too much if I missed sessions, once the plan started I wouldn’t be missing much. I used the winter to plan my training, using a combination of a few different plans and what I know had worked for me over the last few years. I also started looking at people’s reports online who had done full distance races and trying to find out what had worked for other people and what hadn’t worked. I found out the on-course nutrition for the race and started using it a bit in training to get my stomach used to it. I started to think about what gear I would use for the race and where I might be able to make up a bit of time from gear choices.

 

The training plan started on the 22nd of January and I’d follow this until the race on 29th July. At the start, it wasn’t too bad, but gradually it built over the months. An average week would be 2/3 swims (depending if I’d get up in the morning or not), 4 bikes with 3 of these being on the turbo and about 5 runs a week including one long run and a brick session. This wasn’t too much more than I had done the previous season but the longer bike spin at the weekend and the long run at the weekend was a big difference. For my training I used power on the bike, I’m lucky that I have a power meter on my bike and all my training would be based around these numbers, this let me track all my improvements over the months and made sure every session had a goal. For the run I used heart rate, again this let me see improvements in pace for the same heart rate over the training. Over the months training, I found this very important, the training is hard enough but when you can see some improvements in your training it makes it worthwhile.

 

Training gradually built over the months and from around May to the race I was averaging around 17-18 hours of training a week. The body was tired but it was a different type of tired than what I was used to, it was more just from time training rather than any particularly hard sessions. I didn’t race a whole lot leading up to the race, it was hard to find a race that suited timing wise and I know I usually suffer a little with recovery from a race so wasn’t prepared to miss the training during my recovery. Instead I planned 2 long weekends of training for the bank holiday weekends in May and June, these involved a cycle and run all 3 days of the weekends, averaging around 12 hours on the bike and about 4/5hours of running, I felt that this training would really stand to me come race day and would have a better training impact than a race would have. Stand out sessions were 2x 3 hr runs feeling comfortable for the whole thing and covering around 37km. 2x200km+ on the bike, one with a 1.35 half marathon off it.

 

Plans were made over what gear to wear, the weather for the race was predicted to be hot so I was going with an aero road helmet, this would be more cooling than a full triathlon helmet and also lighter, I was prepared to give up some of the time benefits from the helmet for the comfort the aero helmet would give, especially when you have to run a marathon off the bike comfort is important! I also sorted out my nutrition, sticking to bars for the first 3/4hrs of the bike before moving to gels and what I would wear for the race, making sure all of it was comfortable first by wearing it in training and making sure it fit well and there was no chaffing.  I brought my disc wheel, deep back wheel, deep front wheel and normal front wheel to cover all wind conditions and lucky I did!

 

My run taper started 3 weeks out from the race with my last long run of 3hours and then the bike taper started about 10 days out with some hard sessions done on the turbo. My training had all gone really well,  I think all my power records on the bike from 5 mins up to 5 hours were set from Feb of this year. I don’t think I missed one bike session and only had to change 2/3 sessions due to fatigue. I missed a little bit of running around March due to a niggle in my foot and after this I stopped doing any hard running in training, I wasn’t too worried about this, I swapped all the run sessions for bike sessions and I was still able to do plenty of steady running, and felt this would be more important for the marathon than hard running. Swim went fairly well, I averaged around 2 swims a week but at least 1 of these was swimming with people who were better than me so was working hard. I probably could have swam more but at the same time, I knew I would get around the course, maybe not as fast as I could but still in good shape and a decent time. I knew going into the race that I had done everything I had planned and hadn’t skipped many sessions so the confidence was high, the long-range weather forecast looked decent, probably a little hot but looked like it would be a good day.

 

Training figures (approx.)

 

Feb hours—52 hours

March hours – 57 hours

April Hours—58 hours

May hours—72 hours

June hours  — 75 hours

 

The Race

 

So we traveled over to Nottingham on the ferry on the Friday before the race. The drive took a lot longer than expected, planned was 3.5hours and took around 5.5hours because of traffic. We still got there with plenty of time and were set up with no hassle. It was very hot though at around 31 degrees and was playing on my mind a bit for the race on Sunday.

 

Saturday was spent with a quick spin on the bike in the morning to make sure everything was working and then a short run off it just to get the legs working. After this was off to the registration and then the briefing. Nothing major other than the fact that the wind had really picked up and there was a lot of hoarding and tents being blown over. The initial forecast said it wouldn’t be as bad on Sunday but this changed as the day went on. Bike went into Transition with the normal front wheel and deep back wheel, deep front and disc would be too much for me to control in the wind and I played on the safe side. I did a few walks through transition just to figure out where I would go after getting out of the water and when I came in on the bike. My 2 bags were racked in transition and again I walked through a few times just to figure it out in my head. All set and then spent pretty much the rest of the day sitting down and relaxing. We all got an email that evening to say that because of the forecast wind the swim would be changed from 1 big lap to a 3 lap swim which meant getting out at the end of each lap and a short run before getting back in. This didn’t bother me too much, it was going to be the same distance and would be easier to break down mentally because of the laps. I did have some worries about the bike though, parts of the course were very exposed and the wind would have a big impact on the day. Went to bed at the usual time, didn’t see any benefit of trying to go early, felt I was better sticking to my usual routine and it worked, pretty much straight to sleep and felt like I got a good nights sleep when I got up at 4.

 

A quick breakfast and grabbed my packed bag and down to the swim start. The day was awful, from 31 degrees on Friday to around 8 degrees on the morning of the race as well as 45kmph winds and rain. Wasn’t what I was expecting to be racing in but it would be the same for everyone, was still looking forward to it but in my head I was thinking that the 10 hour target I had set for myself was out the window, my bike time would be up in the air and had no idea how it would go.  Changed with plenty of time and down into the sub 60 min pen for the swim. We weren’t held too long at 6 in the morning the race was off.

 

 

 

Swim  59.39  55th (Relays included in it)

 

Started up near the front, sure why not! The plan was to draft as much as I could for as long as I could. Got pushed around a bit at the start of the swim and was pushed out a bit from where I wanted to be, nothing to worry about though and worked my way back into a group and let myself settle a bit. Sighted every 2nd breath, mainly to look at other swimmers and see who I could jump onto. Worked my way through the groups on the first lap and by the end of the first lap I was leading a group out of the water, I could see the back end of the next group about 20m in front of me so I put a bit of a sprint on to catch them when we got out of the water to start lap 2. Worked well and I started lap 2 at the back of the group. Again swam smart and worked my way through, few sprints to catch faster feet and constantly looking around to see if there was anyone I could draft off. Out towards the front at the end of the second lap too. No one really in catching distance so took it a little handier this time. This was the turning point of my swim, when I got in I noticed a relay swimmer (different colour hats) to my left away from the main pack, he was really moving so I swum over and got on his feet, I was swimming hard enough and only just staying on his feet, judged the pace by comparing us to others around and we were constantly passing. Once or twice I pulled out to try and overtake and I realized how fast he was going! I stayed on these feet from the start of the 3rd lap to the very end of the swim. I have no doubt that this is what got me the sub 1hr swim. Delighted to pass the timing mat and see 59 mins on it. Probably a faster time than my training deserved but shows the benefit of swimming smart.

 

T1 4.32

 

Took it handy enough through the transition, long enough but no rushing and felt it went well. Socks on and bike shoes carried out to the bike, pockets on the tri top stuffed with gels.

 

Bike 5.36.46  82nd

 

Start by saying the bike was around 5km long and 3km of that last 5km may as well have been cyclocross. The route at the end goes through an old private country estate and the surface is awful, potholes, ramps, and gravel all over the place. Not a huge impact on my time but I need my excuses! I stuck to the power target for my race (approx. 75% of FTP) so have no complaints with that but I felt I was fighting the bike for the whole time, I was constantly blown across the road and for one section of around 15km or so downhill into a headwind I averaged around 25kmph. A bit soul destroying but was the same for everyone.  Some of the course was on open roads too and I had to come to a complete stop twice at roundabouts and lost a little time, nothing huge but gets in your head a little on the bike. There is only one real hill on the course about 800m long and steep enough for the last 200m and then a good long gradual descent off this, with the wind though we didn’t get any benefit of the descent, this was probably one of the more exposed parts of the course.

 

The bike started well but was freezing with driving rain and wind, I took it handy at the start to make sure I didn’t get carried away. It took me about 1.5hours to feel someway warm on the bike and at one stage was thinking that unless the weather improved I would have to stop the bike, luckily it started to get a bit brighter and a little warmer when the rain eased. Seen a few people on the ground at corners on the bike so made me take the corners even more sensible than I already was. If I look at the bike splits I lost around 20 places in the first ¾ of the bike but then gained nearly 40 over the last ¼ so I paced it well and I knew based on my numbers on the bike I could run well off the power and was looking forward to getting onto my feet, a long way from when I started in tri!

 

Normalised power was 175w@58kg on race day so nearly 3w/kg and exactly what I wanted to hold. Little disappointed getting off the bike as it now meant it looked like the sub 10 was off the cards but I didn’t let it get in my head and just stuck to my original plan and tried to make sure I enjoyed the run.

 

T2 2.03

 

Again in and out quick enough without rushing. Same socks left on, laces still in the shoes and ran in Nike Zoom fly.  They had volunteers to take your bike off you and rack it so once that was passed off I was out of bike shoes and into the tent in my socks.

 

Run 3.13.41 (14th including relays and think top 5 run taking them out)

 

Legs felt good from the start, very conscious of pace but was still through the first km in just over 4min so far too fast. Settled well then and pace was averaging around 4.30min/km. Faster than race pace but I had decided that I was going to go for the sub 10, if I blew up I blew up, I decided to gamble on the run. I read a quote on Roman Bardet’s bike during the tour de France, ‘Take the risk or lose the chance’, this was what was going through my head, I had a great training block and couldn’t have asked for much more, now was the time to put it on the line and see if I could do it.  I was feeling good so I went with it and would see where it got me. Aid station plan was to sip a gel over 2 stations, new gel every second aid station then. Water at every station, some to drink and some poured over the head, and high 5 zero at every second one. Legs were feeling good and I was constantly passing people. Through the first half marathon in around 1.35 and passed the clock at the finish line seeing I had around 1.40 for the second half marathon to go under the 10 hour target, I knew then that the risk had hopefully paid off, I had a bit of a buffer to get through so I tried to be a bit more sensible and I pulled it back a little but still felt more comfortable around the 4.30min/km mark. Less km’s were coming in just under and usually around 4.33 or so. I knew I was banking time on each of these km’s so went with it. I started to feel like both quads were going to cramp at around 25km but it just stayed like this and never went any further, luckily!. Coming around onto the last lap of the run I knew I had it in the bag if I could keep going and not let the pace fall off. I decided to walk through the last 2 aid stations, these were the only walking breaks I took, to make sure the legs didn’t cramp and this worked well. Second half marathon was in around 1.38, taking into account the very fast first km and then walking the two aid stations there wasn’t a huge variance in pace across the race. Got onto the finish carpet and was delighted to see the time was under 10hours. Let a lad in front of me take his time and then followed him in. Had a little word with myself coming down the carpet and even let myself smile crossing the line. Found out after that the lad was in same age group as me and came 4th in the age group. Should have pushed passed him, I could have, but made no real difference, my number 1 goal since Jan has been sub 10hrs.

 

9hrs 56 mins 41 seconds23rd overall.

So I took a chance and it worked, I came in around 6 mins faster than my best-estimated run time. Delighted was an understatement. I wasn’t passed once on the run, not by relays or people on other laps. A definite top 10 run and I think closer to 5th when you remove relays. A swim and run performance I can be really proud of, the bike was slower than I liked but I’m putting that down to conditions rather than effort, I held the power I was looking for.

I couldn’t have given aanymoreand finished with my legs completely shot. I hobbled through to get a massage and then my food. Completely wrecked but delighted with how the race went overall.

My Mam and Dad made the journey over to watch the race as well as my brother and his wife who came up from Weymouth to watch. Laura came over too and acted as number one supporter as well as their guides for the day. It really helped having them on the run course, they even managed to have a new sign for every time I passed them. Laura and my Parents got a bus out to the bike course and surprised me when I seen them twice on the route. A big thanks has to go to Laura, she was great through the whole effort. Never moaned or gave out about my training and even helped as much as she could with my recovery and would help with my food and nutrition so that when I came back after a long bike and brick I could start the recovery straight away. This time was a team effort and I wouldn’t have got through it without Laura’s support, at times it was like living like a pro, having everything outside training taken care of and just having to do the work.

 

I’ve said I won’t be going long in 2019 and I’m still sticking to that. I really enjoyed the race and will be back to long distance racing, probably Roth or Barcelona in 2020 with a faster goal, but for next year I’m going to concentrate on short course racing. I couldn’t face the training required for the long distance again, mainly mentally, and am looking forward to a year of short course racing with less pressure on myself. The last 2 years I’ve set big goals and hit them so next year will be about having some fun while still hopefully picking up some good results.

 

The plan at the moment is to concentrate on my 5km and 10km running times up to Christmas and then start proper tri training then. I’ll still swim and bike but the emphasis will be on the run. I’m looking forward to lowering my PB’s, which will hopefully lead to better run times overall in the future or letting me hold higher power for the same run times.

 

The other thing I will be having a look at is the bike. I need to try and figure out what I can do, 3w/kg I would have hoped for a faster time than that, maybe I’m too light weight or might be something else entirely but it’s something I need to look into and see what I can come up with to tackle it. If anyone has any suggestions on the bike please let me know! I don’t know if it’s that my overall power number is relatively low but I need to look at ways of getting better return on my power or ways of increasing how much of my FTP I can comfortably cycle at and run well off.

 

And that is it for the time being, I might do a sprint depending on how I recover, I’m only walking comfortably today since the race. I’ll get out on the bike tomorrow for a little spin. Not really any sprints close to me and don’t really fancy a big journey to do one so that might be it for me.  I’ll hopefully get back into a little bit of easy training by mid-August and looking to kick into the 5 and 10km plans in September. Saying that though Tritanium has some club records I would like over the shorter distances, so I might end up going for some before the end of the season!

Back to the grindstone…Week 7 of 21

Week 7 was another testing week. A chance to assess where I am, and to make sure that the training I am doing is working and making me either faster, able to endure more or more efficient… I was just testing bike this week. Wasn’t going to be able to make Park run and I wasn’t able to schedule the test swim in, but don’t think I am getting faster

First up was the weigh in

Start Weight: 115kg
Current Weight : 109.0kg
Weight lost: 6.0kg

The weight is still coming down and I’m still in front of the target. In years previous I’d now be reassessing my targets and making them harder to attain, and then failing to hit them or the ones I originally set. This year I’m leaving the target at 99kg and if I hit it great (I’d better!). If I exceed it, even better but I won’t be lumping more pressure on myself than what is already there.

On to the training…

Monday

Rest day. There was a club meeting for New2Tri and I was traveling with work so I used the day for rest. It always good to meet people new to the sport too and see how enthusiastic they are about starting their triathlon journey.

Tuesday

Tuesday evening was round 4 of the Inter-Club TT. I’d held 306 watts the last one so was hoping to improve on that.

I met Graham in Summerhill and we cycled to the start as a warm-up. We signed in and then just before we were due to start I realised my front wheel was rubbing against the fork. No amount of fettling could sort it and as it wasn’t rubbing too much I decided to ride anyway. It would slow me down but would affect power readings and I was only there to race myself.

Legs were tired as I set off but got into the zone quick enough. Seemed to take forever to catch anyone (or even see them) but I eventually got close to my minute man (the bloke who set off a minute before me) just as the line came into view. I overtook everyone else in front of me.

I managed to hold an average power of 306w – This was exactly the same as before. I was a little disappointed with this and the time (27:56), but at least I didn’t do worse.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1649179276

Straight from the TT was a swim session. A nice way to end a tough day! Got a bit of cramp in the calves so didn’t finish the cooldown but a tough session trying to hang on to Ivan and Graham’s feet.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1649447765

Wednesday

Wednesday night run club in the National Indoor Arena. Decided to make this into a longer training session by running from home and back with Daire. A finger in the air calculation reckoned on this being about 2.5km there and back. It wasn’t it was 4.5km there and 4.5km back. The run there was good, nice and relaxed and chatty. We then did the interval session. There was a long enough warm-up, then it was meant to be 4 x300m with 100m recovery, four times. I managed 3 before time ran out. The run home was painful. Real lack of energy and struggled to get any kind of pace going at first, eventually settled into a nice slow jog.

If I was to assess what training stimulus I got from the extra run session it would be nothing. But from a calorie burning point of view and mentally – as in running when the going is tough, it was a good session.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1651554614

https://www.strava.com/activities/1651555540

https://www.strava.com/activities/1651556070

 

Thursday

The dreaded FTP session. After the TT – and no improvement, plus doing the test on tired legs after the run the day before. In the end, it went well with a nice increase of 7% to 324w and up to 3w per kg.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1653687214

 

Friday

Club Run – Met with Artiom and Hilary and did the same route as the previous week. A nice easy 12km up from the Maxol, around Tyrrelstown park and back again.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1655368579

 

Saturday

Turbo – The Chores. Did this outside in the sun. Bad idea as it was roasting and the fan outside does nothing but blow hot air. I managed 50 mins of the 70 before I gave up – legs were tired and it was a real struggle.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1656948193

In the evening I went swimming – just a 1500m technique session to help keep the feel of the water.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1657490925

 

Sunday

Woke up and it looked beautiful outside. Cracking weather for the club spin. 12 of us out for an easy 30km loop (was week 1 of New2Tri so we had stepped back). A nice route around the back of Tyrrelstown / Kilbride. When we got back I sat and drank coffee with a few of the others whilst most of the rest went on to do another 40km.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1658580774

I then had a 2-hour turbo to do – started and did the warm-up but wasn’t feeling great.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1660308366

So went out and did a 40km loop I use at race effort.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1660055636

 

 

Conclusion

Discipline Swim Bike Run S&C
Planned Time 2:00:00 6:00 4:00 3:00
Actual Time 2:00:00 6:00 4:00 0:00

Really happy with the week – hit all the planned times for training except S&C which, I might just have to face up to the reality that, I just don’t have the time for it.

Everything seems to be moving in the right direction, run intervals are getting faster, swimming is getting slightly easier, and bike power is moving up.

 

Ironman Blog Catch-up …

Well, that was 4 weeks that flew by and I am not sure I feel like I achieved a lot.

After work and the degree course assignments, training was relegated to a distant 3rd.

This was the last of the base period training weeks and the 16 weeks of Ironman Training starts now (18th June).

Apologies for the lack of blogging – I’ll make sure I do the Ironman block in full (sorry!)

Week 6 weigh-in figures:

Start Weight: 115kg
Current Weight: 110.7kg
Weight lost: 4.3kg

 

Over the last 3 weeks I also did a lot of travelling and eating. I find it hard to eat with any kind of discipline when I’m out of my routine. I’m still slightly ahead of targets but I’m definitely not as far ahead as I was going into week 3. Hopefully a couple of well disciplined weeks will see the weight start dropping off again.

On to the training… I’m not going to write up every session of the four weeks. I’ll just do the key/interesting sessions so as not to drown you all in data…

 

Monday 21st May

Howth Aquathon – Race 1: I’ve entered this series of races the last 2 years and never turned up to one of them. I have a thing about swimming in cold water. It’s one of the reasons I do my Ironman races abroad. I don’t like the chilly water at all.

So I turned up and it’s one of the coldest nights of the month. Overcast, rain in the air and everyone is saying the sea is the choppiest they’ve seen it for the race in a good while. Everyone had their wetsuits on shivering away waiting to start and get even colder in the Irish Sea.

Remind me again why I turned up?

There was a few others from the club doing the race: Dave, Artiom, Tommy, Ellen and Ivan. The latter 2 were doing the long course (1000m swim / 7km run) and the rest of us the short course (500m swim, 3.5km run).

With the water quite choppy the decision was made to cut the race to a 300m swim. As I ‘warmed’ up in the sea (dipped my toes in the water) I was quite glad of the shortened course.

One the long course had finished it was the turn of the short course athletes. I was a beach start and it’s possible to walk a good way out too. It was then a short swim round the buoys before it was possible to walk again and I exited the water and jogged to transition. A quick change and I was out on the run, just behind Dave and was soon heading along the promenade and then up the hill. At the top someone commented on the new trisuits and mentioned I had the same behind. That spurred me on and as I got to the turn around point I could see Artiom and Tommy not far behind. I tried to run a bit faster in order to hold both of them off, and also to catch Dave. But it wasn’t to be. Artiom caught me as I got to the bottom of the hill and I didn’t have the speed to stay with him to the finish and Dave kicked on and I was never in contention to catch him.

All in all, despite the weather, I enjoyed it.

Swim 9:58
Transition 2:10
Run 17:47
Total 29:54

https://www.strava.com/activities/1587482339 (swim and transition)
https://www.strava.com/activities/1587482333 (run)
Saturday 2nd June

Athy Olympic Triathlon

I’ve done Athy a few times before and it’s not a race that’s ever the highlight of my season so for the last few years I’ve given it a miss. However, the week before the race a few people were saying they had entered and so I decided I would try and get an entry. I had to join a waiting list – that sent me an entry less than 5 minutes later. One quick debit card payment later and I had an entry into the Olympic.

Graham, Gareth, Roisin and I were the only ones in the club racing the Olympic, a few others were doing the Try, Sprint and Double Olympic distance.

It was an early start (aren’t they all!) and I picked up Gareth and headed down in the van. We met up in the car park with Graham and headed down to watch the Double Olympic start and cheer Ivan off.

Once he had gone we went back to the car park and into transition to get ready for the race. Whilst we were setting up we saw Hilary heading out on the bike leg of the Try and gave her a cheer too.

It wasn’t long before we were heading to the start line and lining out for the race. We were on a rolling start so were entering the water 2 by 2 – like a reversal of Noahs ark. And just before you entered the river there was a timing mat to record your start time.

Before hand we had talked about staying near the bank heading up the river, and then moving to the centre of the river on the way downstream. Advice I promptly ignored as I swam upstream right in the middle. This wasn’t because I was stupid, but because it was congested on the outside so it just meant I had clear water.

Heading back downstream I had someone on my feet tapping my legs. I zig-zagged to try and shake them but to no avail. It was Gareth. But it meant as I got out I had someone to unzip my wetsuit.
I was still faffing around in T1 as Gareth left and was about to leave as Graham came into transition. I jumped on my bike and set about catching Gareth. It took 5-6km I think but I eventually went past him and tried to get into a rhythm. The roads weren’t great surface wise and it was a pretty undulating course so I could never get settled. Graham passed me around the 25km mark and I stuck with him for a while but as we hit another hill he left me behind.

Into T2 and a quick-ish change and out on the run. My legs felt heavy straight away and although pre-race I had hoped to beat the hour mark on the run I wasn’t sure I would be able to. The run starts with an uphill section and I was struggling to keep around the 6 min per km mark. Just after the top of the hill the watch beeped to tell me the first km was done in 5:55. I mentally noted that down as 5 seconds in the bank and carried on. 2nd km was similar and in my head I decided that was as fast as I was capable of today. But that was 10s up and a slower km allowed later in the run. As it happened I sped up in the 2nd half and finished the run in 56:56.

Times for Athy were:

Time Position (of 486)
Swim 30:09 125th
T1 4:10 383rd
Bike 1:09:20 49th
T2 3:15 342nd
Run 56:41 331st
Total 1:19:36 167th

 

I think my transitions need work (and my run!).

 

Sunday 10th June

Skerries Sprint Triathlon

Skerries was my 2nd ever triathlon 6 years ago. On that day there was the tail end of a storm and it was the worst sea swim I’ve ever done. It was reminiscent of the final scene in “The Perfect Storm”.

I wasn’t going to race it, but after Athy I decided I would do a fewe more races as I enjoyed it so much. By that time though it had sold out. Luckily I managed to get a late entry and was looking forward to the race. As I headed over with Daire and it was a little overcast and looked like it might rain. In the end it was a glorious day of sunshine.

We had registered the day before so all that was to do was get the bikes into transition and then head to the start line. There was a good turn out from the club and Daire, Graham, Gary, Eoin, Artiom, Anne-Marie F, Ger and Rachel were all doing the sprint too with Ivan in the Aquabike.

This was a beach start and as the siren sounded a couple of hundred of us headed into the water to begin the swim; a kinda reverse L-shape where you headed out to see and then headed left to exit on a headland. My sighting was good, even if my pace wasn’t – I managed to get pretty good lines and could see others way off track. I breath predominately to my right so was breathing into the waves for most of the swim. I swallowed sea water a couple of times and had to stop at one point as I started to retch.

Swim over, it was a steep enough run up to transition. I was the first of the club into T1 (small victories and all that!). Another slow transition though from and Graham was entering the transition area as I was leaving, and I knew I would have it all to do to keep him from passing me on the bike.

The bike started with a tricky technical section to exit the town and then was a two-loop effort out to Balbriggan and back. With 3 turn around points it was easy to see if if Graham was gaining on me (he was) and whether I thought I could hold him off (I did). The bike felt like it as slightly long.

I was into T2 with about 30s on Graham, but another tardy transition meant Graham was in and gone before I had my runners on. I wasn’t going to beat him on the run though, so it didn’t matter.

The run was slow and felt like a struggle – it was flat to the rugby club but I didn’t feel like I was running as well as I could. The run was short by a good bit which suited me, or I would have lost more places. I finished 71st out of 274 so well inside the top 3rd.

A quick analysis of the results shows where my weaknesses are at the moment, namely the run. There was a timing issue which I think has made my Swim slower and T1 quicker. Still work to be done on the run but it is trending faster which is encouraging.

Time Position (of 274)
Swim 16:47 105th
T1 01:14 18th
Bike 35:44 18th
T2 1:34 202nd
Run 24:20 172nd
Total 1:19:36

 

Monday 11th June

Howth Aquathon – Race 2:
I was working most of the day in Waterford and then had to get home, changed and out for registration. Managed it with about 15 mins to spare but sitting for 6 hours in a van during the day isn’t the best preparation for any kind of exercise. There were 3 of us from the club doing the short course; me, Ivan, Artiom and Ellen and Graham were doing the long course.

As last time there was a fair bit of walking that could be done before you needed to start swimming and I had an idea of trying to draft off Ivan. I managed to get behind him as he started swimming but before I started my swim, two slower swimmers swim across me and lost his feet – I ended up swimming most of the swim on my own but at least the water wasn’t too cold this week.

I felt good coming out of the water and jogged into transition. Another slow one putting my runners on and then I was off. I had a couple of people who left transition around the same time as me who I decided to try and stick with and I managed that ok until I hit the hill. I have to take that at my own pace, ignore the people going past me and ensure I do not overdo it. This tactic seemed to work quite well as the few people who did go past me weren’t able to push on from the top of the hill where as I was able to increase the speed and re-pass them.

Just after the half way point I saw Artiom and reckoned I had enough time in the bank to beat him this week. Ivan was well in front. From the hill onwards, I tried to up my pace and I managed to knock a few seconds of my previous run.

Another enjoyable race – and a good chance to chat afterwards.

Swim 11:23
Transition 1:42
Run 17:18
Total 30:23

https://www.strava.com/activities/1587482339 (swim and transition)
https://www.strava.com/activities/1587482333 (run)
Saturday 16th June

Boyne Swim

I made a decision to try and swim more open water and after googling “Open water swims Ireland” the Boyne swim came up near the top.

Parking was in the railway carpark nearby and I got to sign-on just as they were closing the tent. Met up with Graham and Ivan and had a pre-race chat before we jumped on a bus to get to the start line.

None of us wore shoes so as we got off the bus and had to walk to the start across stony tarmac. The verges were covered in dog muck so it was a precarious walk to the river.

The river was cool but not that cold. A few breaststrokes and then my head was under and I was crawling. There was a current in the river so we were told to swim to the right up stream in order to avoid crossing the start line. This in the end meant I was about 100m away from the start when the hooter went to start the race.

I quickly got going and it was just a case of trying to maintain stroke rate. It was pretty uneventful as races go. I sighted ok, the water tasted brackish and there were patches in the river that were full of twigs / weeds. I was told after there were crowds on all the bridges but I never noticed. I just counted down the bridges – six, and then aimed for the finish

Sunday 17th June

Long training day planned. 2-2.5 hours easy cycle followed by an hours easy run. Then 60 minutes bike at race effort (210-20w) followed by 30 minutes race pace run (6:30 ish).

The long bike was fine. I met Gareth and Richie at the Maxol and we headed out on a loop of Summerhill, Kilcock, Kilcloon, Dunboyne and back. Nothing too hard and heart rate well under control with an average of 87. Highest heart rate was hit leaving Damastown to come home.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1644573599

 

The first run was good too – headed out for 30 mins towards Finglas, turned round and came back. Nothing flashy, heart rate  bang on for the zone I was aiming for at 6:40 pace – 112bpm. Got back and got the turbo ready for a race pace effort. 25 mins in I felt sick so stopped and took stock. I thought I was ok so got back on the bike and went again only to have to jump off the bike to be sick after 36 mins total.

Decided then and then to call it a day. Went for a shower and went to bed. I had zero energy and think that what the problem – lack of nutrition on the bike and not enough to eat before I headed out too. Lesson hopefully learnt for next time.

 

Conclusion

Not the best few weeks from a training point of view but I’ve enjoyed getting back racing and hope to do more of it. I’ll try to blog each week as I get into the final 16 weeks which is where the Ironman training proper starts. Thanks for reading.

Lisbon Race Report – Gareth

I’m not a proper triathlete, someone who trains in three disciplines with an end goal in sight.

I’m a tryathlete, someone who has a random idea about doubling the furthest distance ever swum out of a pool or cycled on the same day and then throw in a half marathon at the end, just for the craic.

I knew I wanted to do a greater distance than Olympic as I had not died doing the last one, you will see a common thread of stupidity here……

Flights race entry and a new (secondhand) bike all completed by early January, training diary ready and interest enthusiasm, and weight were high.

March arrived a whole lot quicker than anticipated but swimming had started in earnest along with proper running and Sunday spins.

Having been unable to run further than 6.5k without pulling something the beginning of May was here and run progress was looking a bit dodgy.

My swimming had improved greatly thanks to Danny and his bitching at me to stop crossing the arm over and my new mantra of high elbow grippy hand and reverse Hitler going through each stroke I was feeling pretty good, in the pool at least never being more than 25m from safety.

Sunday spins had become a great cobweb reliever and had steadily increased from the first 20k spin way back and having done 75k two weeks before I was comfortable I could complete the cycle.

My running had become fairly non-existent due to regular issues with both legs. I’d managed a run-walk 5k without pain the week before the big day,… Sure just do that 4 times the rest will be adrenalin I tried to convince myself.

So here I stood at Dublin airport about to board a plane and truly stepping into the unknown.

My goal was to finish the event, nothing more. Knowing how my legs were untrained and banjaxed I had already been vocal that if I had to walk 4 hours to get there I would, it was all about the bling and cake. Tri Laois had seen me walk the 5k in under an hour so even if the wheels totally flew off I was confident of completing in under the 8 hour cut off.

I arrived on Friday evening (having planned this with the original start time of 4pm Saturday NOT the new 7am in mind) to find my accommodation was not where I expected Rule 1 double check everything 27 times

I had no battery on my mobile and needed to register before the event. Arriving a mere 30 minutes after they closed sweaty nervous but with a newly acquired travel charger, a kind soul allowed me to collect my things and depart. Repeat check all that stuff in advance and print it for reference.

10pm and half an Italian BMT later I began to reassemble my bike, pedals that look backwards screw in the wrong way along with rear mech that was hanging lower that a grannies boobs were seriously threatening to make me lose the plot. Queue a video call to Chairman Richard some swearing and some lumps with an overeager set of tri bars and the bike along with wobbly stem was ready. Me on the other hand, I was a serious bag of nerves.

After the French people who decided to have a full-blown VERY F***G loud conversation outside my door were told to shush or be killed at 3am I rose like a nervous zombie 2 hours later.

Racking my bike with tri bars that were last used in a race in 1992, YES ’92 I noticed there were a lot of fit skinny looking people walking nonchalantly around with water bottles, energy bars and amazing hair.

If I’d seen myself from a distance I would be asking what that fat bloke with sunken eyes is doing in there with the athletes.

Group photos and wetsuits applied (using liberal amounts of baby oil gritted teeth and assistance from at least two people in my case) we started the long walk to the swim start.

Thinking it looks like someone was being attacked by an angry mob of washing machines but it turned out to be the pro men who were going faster than I run across the marina, followed a few minutes later by the ladies who were just as quick.

Our group split into two as all the young-un’s went with the white hats and I was left to represent Tritanium with the oldies with red hats.

Water was cool but didn’t suck the breath out of me like our Irish lakes had earlier in the month. Had a good rhythm going and just followed the mess of water in front of me having not been there for the initial race briefing the night before. Of course, I had my earplugs in for the Portuguese explanation of where we were to go just before the start. More rules, check all this stuff out before arriving.

I came out of the swim pleasantly surprised with how I was feeling as this was the furthest ever swum in the sea in one go and not seeing stars or hearing colours as previously (thanks Danny, the high elbow “encouraged” at least two that swimming that close to me was a life diminishing event, the grippy hand helped me grip more than 1 shoulder and the reverse Hitler propelled me over quite a few not so lucky white caps, sorry L) PB1/3 COMPLETED

Transition was very slow as I needed grown-up helpers to get into the wetsuit but can opener to get out was not readily available.

Seeing lots of fancy bikes still racked gave me a little boost as I made my way to the bike mount line to find #thebroderick taking photos, I supplied a thumbs up and a (what I thought to be cool smile)grin and off I went wobbly stem and all. 200M in and the first upwards slant exactly where we get water from meant wobbles and panic as water racked and I was off. Another uphill drag? 500 m flat to down and another up? The motorway beckoned and I was being as aerodynamic as my belly would allow. The slow hum of what I thought was a motorcycle turned out to be a disc wheel when some people on their second and maybe third lap went past me like a blue polka-dot turtle. Trying to keep myself to myself and not get caught up in the moment was difficult but I tried to just watch the HR and say over and over, it’s you against the course, let them go.

The “hill” was not welcome at all. First time up I hit the lowest gear about 200m from the top, laps 2, 3 and 4 were a considerable distance further down. The only saving grace was that being a little more buoyant in the water makes for a great downhill section.

I had seen Ger at the turn around on the 2nd lap and though she must be a lap ahead of me, I stuck to my predetermined “don’t go full retard on the bike, there is still a run to do” plan. Plenty and I mean PLENTY of people passed me on the bike be it the relays, pros, the fella on the hybrid with white rim tires and mostly going up the hill. I got them all on the way back down, clocking up a 61km at one stage it was the best feeling ever for that 90 seconds that it lasted.

My left quad started to cramp towards the end of lap 4 but I still felt pretty good. Eoin had said to eat during the bike and I had two bars taped to the top tube, a bit too much tape as it turns out and it took the best part of 2k to pry the miserable b****rdsa out so I could eat them. Trying these before the event in a Sunday spin was a godsend as I knew the results they would give.

Seeing Rach close to the turn around at the hill on lap 4 confused me a great deal as I must have passed her during her impromptu #wheelchange101 class. I kept to my plan and even with my greater “speed” down the hill only saw her back at the start of the course where she said 1 more lap, puncture. My heart sank for her as the day was getting warmer by the minute and the road lonelier and lonelier as more and more cyclists pulled off for the run.

I took water at each opportunity and the ¼ banana’s they offered for lap 3 and 4 making sure to keep the last bottle as a memento. PB2/3 COMPLETED

 

Richard had mentioned hot feet in Barcelona last year and I knew what he meant as I dismounted the bike as it felt like I was walking on hot rocks.

Another slow transition as the cramp that had set in was making a show of me in front of the photographers, Gurners weekly would have me as a coverboy I reckon.

I took the previously stowed bottle of coke and away I went, walking the first 100 m and starting my slow shuffle as the body tried to get used to running. Cramp. Ouch, walk it out and start again. I would get to a maximum of 225 plods with the left leg before it would kick in again and I would need to walk about 100 before it stopped. I resigned myself to this for the rest of the laps and kept going.

First Emma then Ger passed me on the run and I saw James and Brian and Mark going in the other direction too. Mutual encouragement from all continued as we passed each other in each direction and my plodding was getting less and the walking more. At the end of lap two I could not manage more than 15-20 run type strides before either the quad or both hamstrings would threaten to go. I had eagerly accepted some diaoralite earlier and it had helped for about 20 minutes but I knew at this stage it was mental strength that would win the day. While I could still walk I could still finish and this took the stress out of it. I was never going to be sprinting to finish under 6 hours but finishing was going to happen however long it took

Rachel arrived on course and caught up with me eventually as I was at this stage reduced to a quick walk interspaced with stooping to stretch hamstrings. She looked wrecked, so I tried a little dance when she approached the next time to boost her spirits. She thinks I’m mad, but Id like to think in a small way that the fact I was still going helped her push on. Rounding the final cone and starting down the finishers chute I was very pleased to see nobody behind me, this meant no awkward run scrabble to beat someone over the line.

As I approached the last 200m an English speaking voice said “keep running well done you’re nearly there”. I stopped and had a laugh with them and said “this is the value for money 70.3 f**k that finishing in 5 hours lark and not enjoying the view” The final turn was within sight and with a careful and slow turn to see nobody behind me I rounded the corner in a slow trot and ambled thumbs up across the line. PB 3/3 COMPLETED.

Thanks must go to those who travelled, to compete and complete and those whose advice and wise words on training nutrition and general don’t be stupid and do this were instrumental in getting me over the line.

So if you are wondering if you can do a 70.3 the answer is a wholeheartedly, YOU CAN. If you are thinking of stepping up from Sprint to Olympic YOU CAN.
If you are contemplating trying a trí at whatever distance you feel you are able for YOU CAN.

The question is will you train and prepare for it fully so it’s a walk in the park. Or will you arrive undertrained and underprepared so it’s a walk in the park?

Disclaimer: No triathletes were killed or irrevocably damaged during the making of this event. Rumours of over-ambitious dance moves and refuelling only with #superbock burgers are also strenuously denied.

 

Lisbon Race Report – Rachael

We’re always grateful to receive race reports from our members. They’re real stories of real people doing triathlon. Here we have a story of blood, sweat and tears (or should that be blood, sweat and tyres?). A story of overcoming the odds, of bravery in the face adversary…  Rachael’s race report!

I began writing this race report with “I’ve always wanted to do a 70.3” and deleted it because that’s a lie. I didn’t even know what a Triathlon was until 2 years ago. But I’m very easily influenced and thanks to Ivan Casey I’m here horizontal, stiff as a board in Lisbon.

Rewind to November 17 – Race, flights, Accommodation booked. WhatsApp Group created, craic starts.

Before long, here we are in May 18. I arrived at Dublin Airport with a dismantled bike and just enough training done.

There was no ‘Check-in’ on Facebook with a picture of my passport sat beside a pint. I don’t know how many people would be interested in seeing my bottle of water so I saved myself the bother. We watched as they loaded the bikes on to the plane. This is something you shouldn’t do, there were one or two gasps when we saw a bike (not ours) roll straight back down the belt but saved just.in.time before it hit the ground. Travelling is stressful enough without watching these types of things.

I travelled with my training buddy, Ger and her training bud/coach/pain in the ass, James and together we called ourselves Activ TriTanium! I genuinely don’t know how James Coyle would have got through that weekend without us 😉 In other words, we had a great time.

When we arrived at Lisbon Airport late that night, and after what felt like a very long time, the bikes rolled out. There was more than the ‘6 bikes maximum’ as suggested by Aer Lingus when we booked. We were in good company though with other Tri-athletes from Activ Multisport, Piranha and Pulse Triathlon clubs also collecting their bikes.

Dragging bikes and cases through Lisbon Airport should not be underestimated. Consideration should also be given to the space they take up in a taxi. James Coyle, King of the Tetris! 🏆 This taxi driver saw us coming a long way off and he made his money out of us. We knew, we cared, but we were tired. We were only 15 mins away from our accommodation and on arrival, we were pleasantly surprised with the apartment. Huge ground floor apartment 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a couch big enough to sleep on. If you were that way inclined 😉 We immediately built the bikes. It took some time, some episodes on YouTube but we got there. Straight to bed. Slept like a baby, which is rare for me.

Friday was all about registering, testing the swim, and racking the bike. Smooth registration, it was a matter of calling out your race number and after a quick autograph, you were out of there. We noticed a mechanic set up close by who for a small fee would ‘bike check’. Unfortunately for us, it was the same price to have them build your bike. ‘Why didn’t we do this’ was a common theme. I decided, as I’ve never built a bike before and clearly couldn’t set handlebars straight that I’d have them check it for me. The bike felt brand new, money spent well. We were allowed entry to the swim section to get a feel for the water and as I stood there looking out at the buoys I felt very overwhelmed. We all swam to the first buoy and back. Approximately 600m, only. It looked much further. Serious reality check. But, the water was A LOT warmer than my quick dip in Lough Lene last week. I knew I’d get through it, slowly, but always happy to get out of the water.

Racking the bike later that evening was where I had another reality check. I reckon I counted 20 road bikes. There were Tri Bikes there worth more than my car ffs 😂

The morning of the race itself was brilliant. No real nerves until I stood next to the water. But as soon as they started they were gone because for the first time ever the Portuguese were on time. Gun off, Rachael gone like the clappers. Not. I left everyone go, like I always do. And just took off at my own pace. This went really well until the turn at the first buoy and I was surrounded by ‘the red hats’. I’m not pointing any fingers Gareth but I got one or two digs that left me swallowing lots of water. Very happy with my 49min swim. I’ve read race reports of people being unhappy with 29min swims. Who are these people 😂 no mad panic in transition, just me and a few stragglers trying to squeeze wetsuits into sandwich bags.

Out on the bike, slowly getting warmer. I found the first lap of the bike great, loads of super bikers to watch absolutely booting it on the other side of the motorway. Second lap fine too. I am one of these people who talk to themselves saying ‘ok you just have to get back here 3 more times’ then ‘ok your halfway now’.

So when I set out on lap 3 I was happy thinking ok, just the same again. Felt fine. Just as I approached the hill before the turn back I felt like I was struggling a lot sooner than before and I looked down to see I had a puncture. I couldn’t tell you how long I had it, because other than a few bumps and holes in the road, I still don’t know what I hit. I remember saying ‘you are kidding me’. I pulled in. Devastated. I’ve never changed a tube. But I had all the tools. So I got my little levers out and said I’d give it a go at least. I watched Rich change a puncture for me once before so I knew what to do, I’d just never done it before.

Long story short, I got the tube changed handy enough. What didn’t cooperate was the air canister I had with me to pump the tube. Cue tears. Watch stopped and saved. I started walking with the bike. I had seen loads of fallen puncture prepare kits earlier up the road so I was thinking if I just came across one of them I’d be fine. Not one. I walked with my bike for 15 mins, with everyone passing me, some on their last lap, crying. I had come to Portugal and still wouldn’t have completed a 70.3. I wouldn’t have been able to celebrate with the lads that evening and I wasn’t going to get a medal to bring home. It was all about the pints and bling. I got to the turn back point and the spectators that had been there on the other 2 laps had moved on. It was just me and the cops. And I don’t like cops.

I stood for about 5 minutes wondering how the hell I was gonna get back when two competitors came up the hill. They both stopped to take a break. One was guiding the other and I noticed they had a pump. 1087 is my hero. He pumped my wheel for me. I knew, but I didn’t care, that I’d probably be last, so I just ploughed on. The return of each lap is very fast, so I flew back. I remembered there was a wheel station back at transition. Contrary to popular belief the wheel station does not have a pump. I still had one lap to go but figured I could at least try the last lap. I grabbed my last bottle of water and off I went. Imagine cycling on the m50 for 20km with no one around. Just me and the tumbleweed. You can imagine the chats I was having with myself here.

I struggled to eat with the heat and drank all my water but I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve never wanted to run a half marathon so much in my life. I’m laughing here even thinking about it. I was almost home, maybe 500m when, due to, I don’t know what, maybe changing the gears too quick? The chain came off. I had no more tears left so I just got off, got it back on. Jumped back up, ready to rock, 3 seconds later, fell off again. It was at this point that I imagined throwing my bike across 2 lanes of traffic into the sea. Oil all over my hands and probably my face I arrived back to transition. I racked the bike and gave it the fingers. Runners quickly on and I set off on the run. Run is a stretch, the heat was a killer. I ran some, walked some. It was genuinely the hardest run I’ve ever done. All of a sudden the swim felt like it was last year. I passed my friends multiple times always wondering how far behind I was. As it turned out, they all had 2 laps on me, but that was to be expected. I eventually finished with a time of 6.59, sub 7 hours 😂 yayyyyyy 😂 it was the hardest thing I’ve ever put myself through, mentally more so than physically.

Who knew I wanted a medal and a glass of suds so much 😂😂😂

Before they even placed the medal around my neck the words ‘never again’ were coming out of my mouth.

 

A Testing Week

Week 2 of 21

Week 2 was a testing week. By testing I don’t mean hard. Although it was. More that it was testing as I had tests to do to see where I was, and to reassess training zones.

I’m a big believer in the need to test and reassess in order to make sure you are always training in the zones that are optimal for improvement. It kind of a case of – “If you don’t know where you are, how do you know how to get where you are going?”. That kind of leads on to goal setting and Lewis Carroll –  “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. But that’s for another blog…

So on to week 2 of training…
First up was the weigh in

Start Weight: 115kg
Current Weight (BF%): 113.2kg (30.2 %)
Weight lost: 1.8kg

 

This was weigh-in number 1 really (the first one that counts anyway) and I was off to a good start. I’ve done an excel spreadsheet to help me track weight targets versus actuals. Why? Because I work in IT, used to be a programmer and am a geek so that’s what I do.

So, I am in front of my weight target at the moment – the blue line is target, the red line is current progress. This is not unexpected. Usually, when trying to lose weight, the first few weeks are the easiest, then as your body adjusts to slightly fewer calories and the increase in exercise it becomes more resilient and needs even less calories, so you begin to plateau. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen too soon. I’ll try and blog a little on nutrition next week, what I’m eating and my approach to all that.

On to the training…

Monday

First test of the week – Cycling. Time for an FTP test. FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. In simple terms, it is an estimate/measurement of how much power (measured in watts) that you are able to hold for an hour. There are a few ways of testing this. The purest would be to ride for an hour and get your average but that takes too much out of me and it’s tough to recover from, and whilst increasing the amount of training I’m doing is good,  recovery is important. In the past I’ve done TrainerRoad’s 8 min FTP test. This is 2 x 8 mins all out and then times the average by 0.9 to get your FTP. They also do a 20 min version which is 20 mins all out and then multiply by 0.95 and it gives you a value.

As I said previously I’m trying Sufferfest this year just for a change. They have a new test called 4DP or “4 dimensional power” which attempts to map different aspects of your cycling and tell you what kind of cyclist you are.

Here comes the science-y boring bit… the 4 dimensions of power are:

  • Neuromuscular Power (NM) measured using an all out for 5 second test
  • Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) – 5 minute all out
  • Functional Threshold power (FTP) – 20 minutes all out
  • Anaerobic Capacity (AC) – 1 minute done as all out for 30s then hang on for another 30s

All out is relative term – a 5s all out effort is different from a 20 minute all out effort where you are also trying to pace to make sure you can last the 20 minutes.

My results were

  • NM – 826
  • MAP – 362
  • FTP – 304
  • AC – 461

The main one I’m interested in is FTP – it’s the most relevant to triathlon. Unsurprisingly, after the test, I was identified as having the power make up of a time-trialist, probably because of the long hard sessions I concentrate on in training. The last time I did the test (the first of the year ) I was 270w so an increase of over 10% which is good. Just another 20% increase to go now to meet my 365w target.
https://www.strava.com/activities/1571897641

After the test, I went running with the club. Headed down to Maxol and met up with Gemma. I explained I’d just done a bike test and my legs were tired so we set out at a nice slow7 min per km pace, which quickly ended up as an average of 6:28 per km pace by the end. We were running at talking pace though without really checking watches so another little bit of proof that I must be getting quicker.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1572130336

 

Tuesday

Tuesday evening was round 3 of the Inter-Club TT. I had timed the first two and was feeling tired after the test the night before but decided to ride the course anyway. I made sure I was out early, so I was less likely to get caught. Within 20s my legs told me they weren’t interested but I pushed on and in the end,  I felt ok. About halfway through I checked my average power and was over 300w so was happy enough. A bulky frame and a headwind meant I was never in contention (also the fact I’m fat and not bike fit yet!) but it was still a good workout. With a couple of people well within catching distance both ways it gives me something to aim for next week too. Normalised power (average power minus the bits where you weren’t pedalling) was 306w which indicates the FTP the night before was pretty accurate. Although as it was outside I would have hoped to be 10w higher.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1574490650

After I finished I realised rear tyre pressure was <40psi – I’d started blowing the tyres up but not finished them and was too distracted handing trisuits out before the race to check. This contributed to a flat tire on the way back to the van. C’est la vie.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1574493714

Wednesday

Club run session with Ger. Tough enough session on tired legs. Warmed up then 200m all out, 200m jog recovery then 5 x 800m with 200m jog recovery in between. I held just under 5k race pace for the 5 x 800m (3:55, 3:55, 3:55, 3:52, 3:54) so was happy enough. The quick 200’s were done in 48s and then 46s – faster one at the end probably as I was fully warmed up – hardly going to worry Usain Bolt but they are getting quicker.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1576877342

 

Thursday

Inter Club League. First Cycle race of the year. I’m writing this part before the race so we will see if expectations meet reality later as I come back to update.

Race tonight is at Mondello. Flat enough circuit with a couple of small drags. I’m expecting to get dropped quick enough. At this moment the thoughts of a good hour of racing is terrifying. I just don’t feel like I’m fit enough.  The race will be run as a handicap. So the slowest group, Limit will go out first, then Semi-Limit (my group), then Semi-Scratch and finally the fast lads – Scratch. The idea being that it’s one large group at the end. If I get dropped by my group early on then I’ll be able to slot in with group behind, but they will be faster than the group I’ve been dropped from.

What I need to remember is to use the racing as a training session. The result doesn’t matter, all that matters is the training impetus I get from it.

Soooooo…. Post race. That went quite well. I tried not to go to the front of the group and to instead just sit in but I wasn’t 100% successful there with that strategy. On the 1st lap I ended up on the front pushing the pace coming down the start/finish straight, and then very nearly paid the price as I struggled to keep in touch as the group sprinted out of the first corner. Managed to hold on though and despite being caught by Semi-Scratch and the pace raising I finished the race in the pack. Average for the laps I recorded was ~41km per hour (I missed the first lap and half)

https://www.strava.com/activities/1578653383

 

Friday

Club Run – I had planned on doing about 20km. Met up with Daire and Elena and told them I was aiming for 7:00 ish per km pace. Went out about 6:30 ish and after 7-8km was feeling shakey and short on energy. Decided then just to do the 10km and not go out for the 2nd lap. Actually felt ok after 10km but I think the slight upping of the pace put me into a slightly harder zone and after a hard week just didn’t have the energy to sustain it.

This leads on to one of the balancing acts of Ironman training. Whilst it’s always preferable to train with other people sometimes it’s just not conducive to the session I’ve planned. I’ve usually too slow a pace planned for a group but I find it hard to motivate myself. I need to think about what the purpose of a session is and then decide if it’s met running at someone else’s pace. The answer to that is usually No.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1581341160

Saturday

Park Run – There was a few of us down from the club to do the run. I was looking to at least match the previous week (24:40) but within 100m I knew I would be struggling. I just felt tired the whole way around. I hit the first km mark in 4:57, 2nd was 5:02 and whilst I thought I might still get a sub 25m result on km 3,  I struggled to get it back to sub 5:00 pace. Ended up with 25:22 which I was happy enough with. It was less than 10s a km slower than last week and this time out I was running on very tired legs.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1581341696

Swim Session – first real one of this 20-week training block. This was a test set consisting of 50m timed and 500m timed with sime other work thrown in. I did have a few thoughts of buoyancy shorts or pull buoy but they weren’t prescribed so I swam naked. Get your minds out of the gutter! I mean naked as far as toys go – sans toys.

Started and felt really tired and slow. Unsurprisingly I guess down to the lack of swimming. This was my first swim since Laois. After a warm up there were some drills thrown in and then some quick 25m’s which were tough. Then was the timed 50m – 53.2. From my quick 25’s this was abot 10s off. I should be down around 43s but I ran out of energy around the 25m mark. A chance to get my breath back and an easy 100m before the timed 500m. After such a long time out of the pool I was hoping to be around the 10 min mark – I did 10:05 – not fast but ok for where I am at the moment and a marker down to improve upon.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1582725934

As I was hauled myself out of the pool onto the banking I thought I saw someone in the club I recognised, but they looked straight through me and as I walked past their lane they had a gel at the end. I decided that know one I knew would take a gel to a training session…

 

Sunday

Woke up and it looked miserable. The easy option would have been to go back to bed but as I had said I was going out on the club spin I decided I would get breakfast and head ouT (This is where the benefits of group training come in – accountability!) Met the others at 9:00am and we headed out to Sally Gap. Weather never really improved but at least the rain ceased by the time we were down in Lucan. It wasn’t cold (I managed in short sleeves and bibs) and after what felt like a lifetime of climbing we summited Sally Gap. It’s hills like this are good to remind me where my current fitness is. Although I don’t seem to have it so if you see it please send it back. I don’t want to hark on about tired legs but at several times I had nothing. I’ve a feeling I might be doing that route (plus a bit more) several more times before the Ironman. At the very least it build character, hopefully, though it will be more, strong legs.
https://www.strava.com/activities/1584701875 (Part 1)

https://www.strava.com/activities/1584701863 (Part 2)

Conclusion

Discipline Swim Bike Run S&C
Planned Time 1:20:00 5:53 3:00 3:00
Actual Time 0:37:00 8:42 3:22 0:00

Biggest week of the year and still a few sessions that I didn’t manage to fit in. No strength or conditioning was done as I didn’t get the time – although perhaps I could have made time as I didn’t do any early morning sessions this week.

I was happy with the run and bike volume and it’s also pleasing to get back in the water despite it feeling like a real struggle. It was also good to start racing bikes again and even more so not to be dropped in what I really need to think of as a hard training session. My weight is heading in the right direction, down. I just need to make sure I stay committed to losing weight and have as few days off the diet as possible. The amost immediate feedback loop of seeing progress on the scales as I increase training and restrict calories helps, hopefully when I hit the ultimate plateaus I don’t waiver.

Best laid plans…

Week 1 of 21.

To paraphrase Robert Burns, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry”.

I use Training Peaks to organise and plan my training. One of the advantages of this is that I can put the sessions in and then drag them around to make sure they fit in with the week I have planned. So If I have a Thursday night cycle planned but have to organise the race (like this week), I can move it to a Friday instead and see if it still fits in. I can see what I must do for the week in advance and get an idea of the levels of training I have planned.

This week – looked like this on Wednesday when I did the screenshot.
Planned sessions then turn green as they are completed (red if they aren’t) and if I miss a day I can decide if I just carry on or move sessions.

 

On the above, I had missed a day (Tue). This was just an easy bike session so it was moved to the next day. I think for the easy sessions moving a session is fine. For the hard sessions, you need to be prepared to let them go and just miss them. As it ended up I should have just let that session go too.

The other thing I like about training peaks is that it allows me to see the loads I am putting on myself, fatigue levels and when to back off. That way I should be able to plan it that I peak for a race.

So on to week 1 of training…

Start Weight: 115kg
Current Weight (BF%): 114.6kg (32)
Weight lost: 0.4kg

 

To be fair it’s the first week and 1 day since my original weigh in, so I shouldn’t have lost weight as I’m only starting. Target is 99kg so roughly 0.75kg per week. Hopefully, these weekly weigh-ins and the thought of having to write it down on this blog will keep me honest.

Monday

It was the bank holiday and I had planned a ride with the club up to Blessington and back. Sunday was a scorcher and I was expecting more of the same on Monday. It wasn’t quite the same but still warm enough for short sleeves. The good thing about the Blessington route is that all the climbing is in the first half and you have a great descent then back down to Lucan before a slight drag back up Laraghcon to the Maxol where we had met. All in all a nice 80+km in the training bank.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1555634944

The evening was the usual Tritanium Run Club session, a nice easy 5km run for me and Daire to ease into the week. The faster group got 6.5 km in – it felt tough enough though after the earlier cycle but was good to get it done.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1556428211

Tuesday

I was up early to head to Cavan for work. I was back in the office just after lunch but ended up working late to make up for the time I was in Cavan (not sure how that worked) plus the rest of my team had all gone home early with various excuses. By the time I got home and ate dinner I had meetings to prepare for the next day so unfortunately had to push training back to the Wednesday.

In the end, this didn’t get done so first session of the week missed – 40 min bike session focusing on technique.

Wednesday

Early meeting in town so I didn’t have time for the planned pre-work gym session.

Evening time was Ger’s run session in the National Indoor Arena. The main session was a warm up the 5 sets of 300m fast with 100m recovery then 500m with 100m recovery.  Before the main session, Ger decided to throw in some bodyweight squats and lunges, made the main set slightly more challenging running on tired legs.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1560965033

As soon as the running session was done I headed down the road to the gym. Around 60 mins of weights to round off the evening.

 

Thursday

Early morning gym session missed, after 2 early starts and then a late gym session I felt I needed the rest.

The evening was spent organising a club league cycling race. Nearly 10 pm by the time I got home so any hope of getting a cycle turbo session was gone and also the recovery run afterwards.

I was starting to ache from the squats and lunges we had done the day before too. Not a good day.

Friday

Another morning session missed – this was a swim.

The evening session was a long slow run. These are still short enough at the moment at 1: 15. Didn’t get home from work till late so met the club runners coming up the hill to Tyrrelstown and ran 6km or so with them before turning off for a slightly longer loop home.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1565524385

 

Saturday

Started the day with Parkrun. When I decided to do these regularly it was with a plan in mind to just do 1 week in 4 as a serious run/season’s best (SB) attempt, and the other 3 weeks as an effort just below the current SB. It hasn’t worked out like that…

I met Eoin before the race and had a quick chat – both of us were feeling tired after the Friday night long run, we couldn’t be bothered warming up, and neither of us were thinking of going for a fast time. My comments were something along the lines of taking it “easy to the bottom turn and then see how I feel”.

We set off in the middle of the runners, so it was a couple of seconds till we crossed the line and we took it easy for the first 100m or so before deciding it was too slow and overtaking a few people till it thinned out a little bit. I ended up running behind a girl wearing a “You don’t get views like this on a treadmill” T-Shirt, and she was right! Although I don’t think Hartstown Park is that picturesque. She was setting a good pace though, so I settled in for a bit using her as a target for the flats and uphills and then going past on the downhills as gravity assisted me.

In general, Hartstown is a flat course. There are a few drags but nothing that could really be classed as a hill. But the drags are where Is struggle and see my average pace start to go the wrong way.

I hit the 1km mark in 4:59 and was feeling quite good so decided that I would try for a SB. Currently it was 25:46 so roughly 5:08 per km. In my head that meant I already had 9s ‘in the bank’. 2km was up in 5:00 so I was consistent. I had been checking my HR and was comfortable – ie not close to Max HR. Kilometre 3 is the only one with a slight net downhill, and usually the fastest. When the time flashed up on my watch as 4:56 I knew I was in with a chance of beating 25:00. The 4th km is usually where I struggle. There’s a slight drag and I’m usually at my max heart rate trying to maintain the pace. This time I eased off a little and got onto the shoulder of a runner who had just overtaken me and used him to pace me to the top. He then kicked on but I’d got to the highest point of the course without losing too much time – 5:01 for km no. 4. The last km is the easiest as you know you’ve nearly finished. I got overtaken by a couple of people but still ran a pace of 4:57 final km to get an SB of 24:45. I know the mins per km don’t tally with the final time but that’s because GPS measured the course short (it measured it long last week).

I know it’s a long report for a Parkrun but I’m happy to have got back under 25:00 minutes. I did Parkrun back in January in 27:13. 2 weeks ago I was all out hitting 26:06. For me, it’s a marker of how fit I am. I really think it’s down to Ger’s indoor interval sessions on a Wednesday night along with the long, slow runs on a Friday. It also means the 22:30 target is a little bit closer and a little more realistic (to those who doubt!). Next week is meant to be another testing week for me so I should be aiming for an SB again.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1566449696

Later that evening I went to the gym. Was nice and quiet and am starting to move up towards the weights I was lifting previously.

Sunday

Club training day. Up at 8:15 and then a mad rush to get ready to meet Ivan and head down to Lough Lene in Westmeath. The plan was for a long enough swim, but I was freezing so rushed through explaining about sighting, drafting and swimming around buoys. Then got out early whilst the rest of the club swam another 2-300m.

I’ve no file for this as I forgot to set my watch.
The cycle was an easy spin through Fore then onto Castle Pollard and Collinstown. A Loop around the lake really. I got a bit more of a workout than expected as I was showing people the turns to take, then once the last riders passed, trying to get back towards the front. 18km done.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1569767457

Run was an out and back to Fore. Did this at an easy pace and chatted with Ellen the whole way round.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1569767900

 

Conclusion

Discipline Swim Bike Run Strength Total
Planned Time 1:25 5:54 3:49 3:00 12:08
Actual Time 0:25 4:42 4:05 2:00 11:12

If I was a school teacher marking this week I think I would be commenting – “Could do better”. It wasn’t the worse week I will have, and I still got in 11 hours of training, but I missed too many sessions.

I’m not going to beat my self up about missed training yet though. Plans are made, and plans are broken, life happens.  I’ve still 20 weeks to go, but the hard work needs to start soon.

There is nothing wrong with making plans even if they need to change. But things usually work best when a plan is made, and a plan is adhered to. The trick is in creating a plan that you can stick to. If that means morning session never happen because you like to lie in – then don’t plan early session.

Week 2 will see me look at my day to day nutrition and see how I can improve it in order to make the weight loss I want to, whilst still having the energy to train.

 

Rich