Sunday, 10 August 2014

Outlaw race report...

First and foremost I have to say a HUGE thanks to the entire ATHelite team; those who raced, those who supported on the day and those who cheered us on from afar. It has been said on here already but this is such a special wee club and I'm really proud to be a part of it. Seeing the ATHelite banner and the orange tops jumping up and down and shouting out encouragement was totally AMAZING and very humbling.
Apologies... the race report is almost as long as the race itself...

Race preparation had gone well but Lorna had been ill for a couple of weeks leading up to the event, so my mind was not 100% focused on the race as I packed the car for Nottingham... Have to say there wasn't much space left in the boot and I reckon I'd packed everything (including the kitchen sink).

We arrived in Nottingham around 3 p.m. on the Friday before the race after missing an enormous queue on the M6 - well done BMW sat nav!

The hotel was on the outskirts of Nottingham on their University Campus around 9 miles or so from the National Watersports Centre (NWC) where the Outlaw would be held.

We'd specifically chosen this hotel as it had air con - John had told us the year before had been insanely hot and his room at the Hilton was like a sweatbox. Just as well we did as the temperature was around 27 degrees C when we arrived, only issue was this was a 'green' hotel and the air con wouldn't get much lower than about 21C! Nice place to stay although my credit card did take a pounding!

We made our way over to registration and bought a couple of things which helped to take our minds off the impending race. Back to the hotel for one final bike check and then back again to NWC to put our bikes in transition. Row 5, mid-way along... orange bar tape, sorted!
My bike even made it into the Top 10 bikes at Outlaw in Triathlete Europe magazine:

After checking and triple checking our transition bags they were handed into the Outlaw team in the big white transition tents you can see in the picture, then back to the hotel to refuel (eat) and off to bed at 9 p.m.

Alarm rang at 3:30 a.m. and it was time for breakfast. I felt surprisingly OK as I tucked into the cereal and croissants we'd bought the day before at Tesco - there was no chance the hotel would be preparing breakfast at this time!

We jumped into the car and arrived onsite at around 4:45 a.m. Pumped up the bike tyres in transition and mooched about waiting for the race to start. It all felt strangely low key and I must confess I wasn't feeling totally pumped up for the race.

Wetsuit on and we met up with the rest of team ATHelite as the sunrise began over the lake.

At around 5:45 a.m. we were given the OK to get into the lake and wait on the starting horn... That's me in the white cap  :-)

Whilst it looked a bloody long way from land, it actually wasn't. It was even bloody longer. The gun went off at 6 a.m. and the spin cycle started. Somebody should really have tipped a container full of Persil non-bio into the lake as it was reekin' and visibility was a bit on the poor side. Strike that, forget the Persil, a couple of truckloads of Cillit Bang! would probably do the trick. I was actually under the impression that I was supposed to swim 3.8km but felt more like David Bellamy rummaging around the 'undergrowth' as I pulled through forests of weeds. Chunks of the stuff got caught up in my goggles / mouth / swimming hat and I ended up with a mossy green beard at times... aero? I wasn't even hydro-dynamic  I missed out on most of the carnage by keeping left of the field (pardoning the pun) at all times and by the turn home reckoned I was on track to finish by Sunday. 
I was about 10m from the bank but then started to catch my hands on the bottom of the lake, raking pebbles with every stroke. The water was so shallow I thought someone had accidentally pulled the plug out of the lake and a bloke in front decided he would start walking which wouldn't have brassed me off so much if I'd been able to overtake him! I started to kick a couple of hundred meters out and before too long the RAF tri volunteers were pulling me from the lake. One chap helpfully shouted out to 'watch out for the step'... what, this one I've just stuffed my big toe into? 
Out of the swim in 1:18:50 (497th fastest). A full 5 minutes slower than Austria last year, but again, still alive - so happy with that.

T1... (9:24 - 754th fastest!) dropped to 573rd overall.
I hobbled into transition and ripped off the wetsuit easily just outside the tent. It was mayhem in there - like arriving at a U.S. airport when 5 jumbos have just landed and you realise that the 3rd Aunties cousin on your grannies side doesn't qualify you for U.S. citizenship. I found my bag (next to Captain Cymru who was wearing a cape underneath his wetsuit) tipped everything on the floor and promptly began drying off, applying chamois cream, on with shorts, HR monitor, top, socks, shoes, glasses and helmet. I grabbed the wetsuit and lobbed it into the bag, checked the floor, nothing there... good to go... or was I?

Row 5, mid way along, bright orange, bring it on... Pushed through transition and a few metres beyond to avoid the carnage and off I went. Already in a nice low gear, legs started spinning and I eased past a couple of competitors. Then disaster struck...
I noticed another rider's race number flapping about in the wind and I realised I didn't have my number belt on. 'Oh bother' I thought (actually many more anglo-saxon words were used but this is a family-friendly report) and I came to a halt at the first aid station (about 300m or so into the bike). I let one of the marshals know what a muppet I'd been and his young keen assistant ran back to transition for me. There was no way I could cycle back against the tide of Outlaws-to-be so I just had to wait (and wait and wait and w a i t ) until she returned. Nope... she couldn't find it in the bag and I was likely to get a DQ for not racing with a number on. I pushed my bike as quick as I could back to transition and eventually a new number was scribbled down for me and pinned to my top. Back through transition and over the timing mat again (I bet that confused the system) and I was ready to start pedalling. That rookie mistake cost me (according to my Garmin) at least 26 minutes and 4 seconds 

Out on the bike loop and I knew I'd pretty much blown any chance I had of beating my previous p.b. I was in a very, very dark place and for an hour or so I fought the urge to chuck it and drown my sorrows with a beer ... and not the alcohol free Erdinger stuff they were giving out at the finish line....
I was holding power ok on the bike but my heart rate was a bit too high so I backed off a little. One thing starting off at the back and giving everyone else a ~30 min headstart meant I managed to pick off quite a few folks, about 180 of them according to the results base. In fact in the 6+ hours I was only overtaken by 2 people, so that (very) small victory kept me going. I must admit the flat course and headwind from hell made the bike leg feel much harder than Austria even though that was 2500m of climbing versus 640m.

Coming into one of the villages on the southern loop, I heard a huge cheer from the ATHelite team and this gave me the kick up the backside I needed. Brilliant guys and gals - you have no idea how much I needed that 

Eventually climbed off the bike in an official time of 6:46:30... or an unofficial 'I was actually only cycling for' 6:20:26. Down as 744th fastest but that includes my pitstop! Managed to overtake 163 people and climb back into 709th place.

T2... (6:55 - 493rd fastest)  climbed back into 700th place
I handed my bike to one of the helpers who almost dropped it on the floor. Now, at that point in time I didn't ever want to ride a bike again but still thought taking it home in one piece would be handy. Hilarious that you think 'Yay. I'm off the bike, thank goodness for that... now I've only got a marathon to run' I really must get my head tested once I get back from holiday... Another lovely volunteer helped unpin my new race number from my bike top and attached it to my ATHelite run top and I set out on the run. I was worried that I would miss seeing the rest of the team on the run loops but the design of the course was great and I got to see everyone at least once.

I met my lovely wife on the course and she wasn't having the best of times - I told her of my schoolboy error and was shared a hug and a kiss and headed off in different directions. I must admit I was really worried that she was about to call it a day and throw in the towel and I didn't see her on the course again... Thankfully when I did she was running across the finishing line with our kids - so, so proud 

I walked at every aid station and had a mix of zero / high 4 / water and isogels trying to avoid the stomach cramps which doubled me over last year. Luckily the stomach played along and I was able to fart with confidence, aaaaahhhhhh wind assisted chi-running 

I chatted with each and everyone of the ATHelite team and even helped John stretch out his left hammy mid-way through the course. A short burst of 'keep on running' for Graeme and conversations with both Alan and Alan where I muttered something like 'never, ever, ever, ever again'. It was brutal out there. I'm guessing only folks that have completed an ironman will really get that comment... it's a bit like women explaining childbirth to blokes - they've put up with grief for 9 months and then gone through hell to get over the finishing line and we nod and thank goodness we didn't have to do it!

Onto the final loops around the lake and the ATHelite crew were in great voice, I toyed with mugging another runner for one of the sought after wristbands to let me sneak down the finishing chute early but decided I was too knackered to start a fight (unlike Tony fists-of-steel Marlow) in the water but that's another story 

I spotted Luke, Zoƫ and Meg up in the balcony above the finish line and I dug in for the final loop.

Great to see one of my pals Iain Robertson in the crowd but I only realised it was him after he'd lowered his camera and at that moment in time I had the turning circle of an oil tanker and decided to catch him on the final loop. When I got there he'd already packed up as his wife Karen had finished in a blistering time, winning her age category - much respect!

It has to be said I had 2 sponges under my hat at this point in time!

I eventually crossed the finish line with a marathon of 4:27:54 in an official time of 12:49:53 (19 mins and 14 seconds slower than Austria)... and an incredibly un-official time of 12:23:49. I looked up and saw Luke and Zoe's faces and I will NEVER EVER forget what they looked like. At that moment, the 11 months of training, the ££££s I'd spent on gear / travel / accommodation etc. and the unrelenting slog of the day were all totally worthwhile.
My marathon was 283rd fastest on the day (top 20% I reckon) and helped me climb into 508th place overall and 132nd in my age category. Lots of room for improvement.

Would I do it all again? No bloody way. Nope, never, ever, ever again.
Well, maybe in 2016 

It's now been a couple of weeks since Outlaw and I've had a bit more time to reflect on the race after an amazing holiday in Italy.

I'd like to thank all the volunteers on the course - they were truly amazing, full of encouragement and nothing seemed to be too much trouble (like running back to transition for me or pinning on race numbers to my tops). The aid stations in particular were incredibly well organised where you just shouted out what you were after and a willing hand thrust it in your direction (apart from my 'new legs' request).

The ATHelite support was great but there was very little support out on the bike route which was flat, exposed, boring and dare I say it a little dangerous. One of our ATHelite members was knocked off his bike by a caravan which was being driven incredibly dangerously. John survived with bad road rash and kept on going to cross the finishing line as an Outlaw - the guy behind him who crashed into his bike was not so lucky and he had to pull out of the race. The same caravan missed me by about 20cm during the race...
There were several times I could have passed fellow competitors but couldn't as we were on busy A roads - I now appreciate the closed roads of IM Austria even more. This is something the Outlaw organisers will have to look at in the future.

I actually enjoyed the run route, although the loop around the lake seemed to get bigger each time I ran it. The loop out towards Nottingham Forest's ground was good and the frequent aid stations were great psychologically. Run to each aid station, walk through with juice/water/gels, run to the next.

I must admit I was disappointed with my overall finishing time of 12:49:53 (19 mins and 14 seconds slower than Austria)... although my incredibly un-official time of 12:23:49 (taking off the time I stood still waiting for a new race number) would have been almost 7 minutes faster than last year.  I'd put in a huge amount of training, followed my plan to the letter but the race didn't go as planned. Hey-ho, these things happen.

I will confess I wasn't as pumped up for this race as IM Austria last year, the atmosphere in and around Nottingham was really flat compared to Klagenfurt, hardly anyone knew about the race apart from those at the NWC or fellow competitors. In Klagenfurt the whole city grinds to a halt for the weekend for the race. Perhaps this was because it was my second IM distance race but another ATHelite member (on his 4th IM race) expressed the same feelings. 
I'd also been worried about Lorna who hadn't been well in the run up to the race (and during it) so we never got the chance to wind each other up and get excited about the race.

So, how to improve?

Get stuck in on the swim a bit more and hold a tighter line to the buoys. I'd stayed out of the stramash and in doing so swam an additional 200m+ (at least 4 minutes) and got stuck in the weeds / shallow water which really slowed me down. More focus on technique again as I have no issues with swim endurance.

I reckon I need more time on my TT bike to get more comfortable and powerful in the TT position. I held the position for the majority of the race but the incessant headwind and lack of spectators just turned the 180+km into a grind. So, more biking required!

My run was ok (4:27:54) but I'd hoped to do sub 4 hours to be honest. I really didn't push that hard and spent quite a lot of time chatting with my fellow ATHelite team members on the course. I suspect if I'd been in the zone I'd have pushed much harder - especially if I was chasing down my teammates!!

During the race, I'd said never, ever, ever again but after a couple of weeks on holiday (missing the buzz of training) I've decided to give IM another shot. I must be mad!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Almost there!

Well, time has flown by unbelievably quickly and we're getting ready to head down to The Outlaw. Just 3 more sleeps and we'll be lining up at the start line on Sunday 27th waiting for the gun to go off at 6 a.m. for the swim start.

I took the kids along to watch the pros do their thing at the Commonwealth Games Triathlon at Strathclyde Country Park today. What a day, amazing weather, fantastic racing and an incredible atmosphere. There was never any doubt that Glasgow (and Scotland as a whole) would rise to the challenge and after day 1 it's safe to say these games will be a total hit.

It was brilliant to get so close to the athletes - just cm away as they flew by on their bikes or stormed past like gazelles up the hill... 

Check these out...

The Brownlees whizzing by

... and this time without their bikes!

Awesome to see Nicola's boyfriends taking gold and silver too   ;-)

The nerves are beginning to kicking in now and it all seems VERY real when you lay out all the kit you need for the race. We're going on the idea that we can stuff everything in the car and that if we suddenly remember that do-hicky we need, we'll have it in the boot... hopefully it will actually fit ;-)

The training is all done, I've stuck to the plan that Gary at Dig Deep has developed and now I've *just* got to put it into action on the day.... eek

So, for you stat lovers, the scores on the doors are...

Since the start of training on 1st August 2013;

622 sessions
covering 8,725.5 km
elevation of 50,154m
exercised for 559 hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds
burned 334,749 kCalories.

This breaks down as:

Swim: 82 sessions, 180.3km, 63 hours, 33 mins, 37 seconds

Bike: 176 sessions, 7208.7km, 263 hours, 54 mins and 9 seconds

Run: 163 sessions, 1325km, 157 hours, 45 mins and 36 seconds

Weights / stretches: 199 sessions, 70 hours, 7 minutes and 31 seconds.

A number of people have asked whether or not I'm raising for charity this year. I decided after last year when everyone was incredibly generous that I'd not come round shaking the collection tin.

If, however, you think this madness is deserving of a small donation to a worthy cause, you could donate to the UNICEF appeal launched yesterday at The Commonwealth Games opening ceremony:

Simply text FIRST to 70333 to donate £5 via your phone - simples!

So, I'll sign off for now and update you next week after *hopefully* a successful race at The Outlaw.

You can track me and the rest of the ATHelite team online on the Outlaw website on Sunday 27th July.

Tracking numbers for Team ATHelite: Gav (625), Lorna (141), Alan Stirling (363), Alan Robertson (510), John McManus (715), John Young (1010), Derek Boyd (1028), Graeme Scott (1098), Tony Marlow (1132)

Monday, 14 July 2014

It's all in the numbers...

It's been a couple of weeks since I've updated so this is likely to be a long post... get a coffee / tea and some biscuits and sit in an uncomfortable chair...

Well, less than 2 weeks to go and I'm beginning to get excited / nervous about the race. I've now completed the peak phase of my training and I'm now officially in taper :-)

The last 2 weeks have been pretty full on and I'm looking forward to the reduced workload in the run up to the race.

The first week of July was my biggest training week to date: 21 hours 48 minutes, covering 332km and burning 10,729 kCalories. Last week was less intense, only 15 hours and 55 minutes, covering 177km burning 9,044 kCalories in the process. This week I'll cut down to 11 hours or so and only 5 in the week running up to the Outlaw. All this time on my hands, what will I get up to?! (N6 Physics - woohoo)

We've been using Pinkston Watersports centre in central Glasgow for our open water swimming sessions. It's a 140m x 28m bowl, around 1.7m deep with really clean water just minutes off junction 16 of the M8 - i.e. really easy to get to.

From the Garmin GPS trace it looks like I spent most of the time crawling around the edges of the centre rather than in the water... I know my technique isn't that great but I promise I spent all the time in the water! Hopefully the overall distance I covered was pretty close to the real value - if so I may be able to shave a little time off last year's swim time...

Had a couple of good long runs last week, covering 29km in 2:31:15 on one occasion, having covered 30km in 3:01:00 the week before... oh to be able to hold that pace for a marathon!

The Tour de France came to Yorkshire and the first 2 days were spectacular. Amazing crowds, great scenery and excellent racing. Unfortunately Cav dislocated his shoulder on the final sprint on Stage 1 so no fairytale ending for him. Jens Voigt won the King of the Mountains stage - not bad for a 42 year old (there may be hope for me yet!). I watched the first stage on my turbo trainer, pedalling away for 150 minutes - less than half the time the pros were riding and easily less than half the power they produce.

I spent Sunday 6th as my last long ride, around 4.5 hours battering into headwinds and dealing with the changeable weather conditions (horizontal rain / sun splitting sky) that is the Scottish summer. It's so much easier cycling with other people and that is one of the great reasons to be part of the ATHelite team but there's no drafting in the Outlaw so I rode on my own to build up mental stamina as well as physical. Most folk would say I'm mental enough already...

Boil in the bag wet weather gear... just as the sun splits the sky!

At the base of Tinto hill

I've been struggling for comfort on my new TT bike - unable to hold the aero position for any longer than 5 minutes before my neck and shoulders seized up. Sam (from Sam's massage therapy - 07818 477858) has been doing a great job keeping my muscles from knotting like a kitten with a ball of wool, but given the race is going to be in excess of 5 hours I knew I needed a second opinion on the bike fit.

I booked in to see John Dargie at Dales Cycles for a Specialized Body Geometry fit session.  Now, I've had a couple of RETUL fits previously and I know what a difference a good bike fit can make. This was the best fitting session to date. The first hour was spent looking at physiological testing i.e. my flexibility and strength and then this provided the data for my bike fit to be truly personalised. I've changed saddle which has stopped my hips rocking - a cause of lower back and hip flexor pain and sorted out a couple of issues with my shoes. It turned out that my aero bars were way too close together, causing the pain in my shoulders and deltoids. The good news was Zipp make extenders to move the bars apart - the bad news was the lead-time was 90 days!

After much searching on t'internet I managed to buy a second hand pair on eBay. Now fitted and the bike is a total revelation! I tried these out yesterday on a long cycle and they were great - no shoulder pain and much easier to hold aero position (= less air resistance = more speed for the same power). Unfortunately I had 2 punctures in the front wheel (and only one spare tubular tyre) so my ride was cut short and I had a taxi ride home from East Kilbride! As long as this doesn't happen in the race I'm happy. Michael has pointed me towards some (hopefully) indestructible tyres that I'll fit prior to race day to minimise the risk of puncturing - although I'll still probably carry everything (including the kitchen sink) to fix any mechanicals on the day.

Moving the bars out an additional 20mm meant bike has moved from an instrument of torture to a speed weapon!

On the 9th of July I found out my Outlaw number: 625

Now, I'm in no way superstitious and I don't normally get overly excited about numbers but it turns out that 625 was my Dad's squadron during WW2. He was a navigator in Lancaster bombers and was in 625 before moving to 550 squadron late in 1944. I performed a quick Google search and found this photo of him (second from the left) that I'd never seen before:

Amazing what you can find online these days.  :-)

One of my friends came up with a lovely idea to draw a wee RAF roundel on my hand so I could use it for an energy boost during the race - thanks Angela!  I've already added a roundel to my bike name tag:

Hopefully I'll be flying on this on race day. :-)

The Outlaw medal this year is especially cool... I'm looking forward to the first beer opened after finishing with this...

Sunday, 29 June 2014

1 month to go!

I'm sitting in my study listening to the ATHelite committee chatting on in the kitchen. It seems a certain Derek forgot about the meeting and his office was closed!!!

HUGE congratulations to David Arthur who has just finished Ironman Nice in a brilliant time of 12:47:26, beating last year's time of 12:54:36 over a very difficult (read hilly!) course.

Another couple of local triathlon club members who have trained alongside us in Strathclyde loch over the last few weeks have also done incredibly well. Paolo Leite finishing (his first I believe) IM in 12:24:24 and Gerry Seenan in a blistering time of 11:21:18 - his marathon time at the end of the IM was 3:27:28 - amazing!!!

Bobby Ferguson also conquered the fearsome Celtman extreme triathlon yesterday - not one to do anything by half, this was Bobby's 1st IM distance event. 3.8km swim in Loch Shieldaig, followed by 202km bike (because 180km isn't far enough!) and then run 42km over the top of 2 munros. Respect!

As I am writing, 2 of our international ATHelite team (the founder members no less) Colin and Genevieve Freeman are racing IM Coeur D'Alene... GOOD LUCK guys!

It's great to see my fellow triathletes doing well - all the hours of training have paid off and I am sure they will be celebrating tonight... any more than 2 beers and I'll be equally amazed!!!

For the Outlaws within ATHelite, we're now on the final countdown. Only 1 month to go! Eeeeek!

I've managed another really solid month of training and only have 2 more weeks of 'peak' training followed by 2 weeks of taper to the event.

Month totals:
63 actvities
covered 970km
trained for 71 hours and 27 minutes
burned 43,371 kCalories

I've found out to my cost on a couple of occasions that the 4th discipline of triathlon (nutrition) needs a little more work. When I've been rested and well fuelled I've put in some strong times on the bike and run, when I've missed out on the nutrition, not surprisingly, I've struggled. It's been really useful to make these mistakes in training - now I can avoid making the mistakes on the day of the race!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Chi running - part 3

Our good pal Nick Constantine from came up for a special ATHelite session today in Hamilton.

It was great to revisit the theory behind the Chi running technique and of course have Nick's excellent commentary and feedback on how we were doing.

This is the third time I've attended one of Nick's courses and there is always something new to learn. Like golf, swimming or even a bike fit, the difference a few cm in the position of your body can make a dramatic difference - going from arrrrrggggghhhh to eureka in a few moments!

It was great seeing the rest of the ATHelite team progress throughout the day and we've got some great new ideas for group sessions to keep the chi flowing! I see many p.b.s on the horizon!

Bethany Sportive

Saturday morning and the alarm clock went off at 5:45 a.m. Not really what I had in mind but we were off to do a long day on the bike, south of Edinburgh, starting in Lasswade near Bonnyrigg.

The Bethany Sportive, according to John, was 'a bit lumpy'. Lorna had a few other descriptions for it but this is a family blog so I'll just say she reckoned it was a little on the tough side!

We got there early, registered and met up with the rest of the ATHelite team. We knew the weather was going to worsen as the day wore on so ensured we were one of the first teams out. It was brilliant working as a chain gang and we were keeping up a great pace as we flew through the valley. Then 'pop', 'hisssssss', and 'puncture, pull over' were heard from the front of our peloton...

It was a sound we'd here again, several times during the day, and they all happened to John! Four punctures and one exploding inner tube later and it was game over. Thankfully on sportive events there are support cars roaming the route and John and his infamous Continental Supersonic GP tyre were loaded up and ferried back to the finish line.

To be honest, at that point in the race I could quite happily have got a lift home. I've decided that hills don't like me and after 2000m of climbing I was pretty ready to throw in the towel. I'd fuelled pretty well during the day and had worked well with the rest of the gang to keep the pace going but every time I hit a hill the rest of the team disappeared into the distance. After several one-man time trial efforts I'd then catch them up, put in a stint at the front of the group then drop off again as the hill turned skywards!

At one food stop I left early as I knew they'd be the fox to my hare and sure enough after 10-15 mins they caught and passed me, on yet another hill. I have to say a big thank you to all the volunteers, especially for their home baking. The chocolate brownies on the course were amazing!!!

I was keeping a close eye on my Powermeter and I was looking at well over 250+W whenever the tarmac began to rise. I'm hoping to put down a constant 200W for the Outlaw which seems a bit easier than the constant interval session on the sawtooth shaped landscape of the border hills. 

The weather we were expecting arrived and the rain began to fall more heavily and the wind picked up, so much so that I was pushing 250W pedalling downhill into a headwind on the final 20 miles of the route in an attempt to get to the finish line ASAP. I downed half a bottle of water and within a few minutes started to full human again - I suspect I was dehydrated, even though I wasn't at all thirsty, and by that stage had drunk probably 2.4 litres of water during the ride.

I also discovered that spinning in the little ring at 90 rpm (~140W) versus the big ring at 90 rpm (~220W) didn't really put any additional strain on the CV system, but meant I was going noticeably quicker.

Eventually, after 6 hours and 31 minutes of cycling, I crossed the finish line, notching up another century ride.

Lorna and I were supposed to do a 10km run after the bike and as she wheeled in as I put the bike in the car I could tell (thankfully) that we wouldn't be doing one! It was absolutely bouncing down at this stage so we opted to get dried off and have coffee and cake with the rest of the ATHelite team!

So, whilst this was a really tough event, there were several positives to take out of the day. Another great social event for the ATHelite team, another good training ride and ideas on how to improve my performance in the longer events. Those hills may have won the battle but they've yet to defeat me!

Time (trial) and error

Took the new Wilier twin blade out for its first outdoor session on Friday.

I'd warmed up by taking out the S-Works Tarmac for a short blast, checking to see that the guys at V44 had fixed the clicking noise that I'd noticed when putting full power through the cranks. Thankfully it seems to have (almost) disappeared so I can now make a little stealthier progress on the bike ;-)

The twin blade feels great, very much like a road bike at the back, stiff but not harsh. You can really feel putting down the power is transferring into forward movement and when the Zipps were spinning there was a satisfying 'clack-clack-clack' from the bearings in the hubs as they span round. 

I managed to get a couple of decent runs around the block and the Strava results looked good - a second place and a 7th place for a couple of segments. I still don't feel 100% comfortable in the time trial position but I think this is more down to time on the bike rather than any (drastic) set up changes required at this stage. By this time last year I'd logged countless hours on the Boardman in the TT position so could hold the aero position for long sustained periods. I know the Outlaw course is reasonably flat so this is something that I'll need to work on in the coming weeks to bring down the bike time and do justice to the super bike I've got my hands on!

Leaving the pool behind

Normally on a Friday afternoon I'd leave work and spend an hour and 20 minutes (or so) endlessly swimming up and down the pool at Virgin Active in Hamilton. This is great training on 2 counts... I need the swim fitness to get me through the first part of the triathlon and secondly, training the mind to deal with the monotony of endurance events is useful. It's often a great stress reliever forcing the brain to turn off from daily events and focus on simple (important) things like breathing!

Over the last 2 Fridays we've been lucky enough to have good weather and the Commonwealth Games' triathlon venue on our doorstep, so a number of the ATHelite team have been going to the loch in Strathclyde Park to open water swim. Now, if you've been reading this blog for some time you'll know that I have a love-hate relationship with open water swimming. I hate doing it and love it when it's all finished!

All this changed on Friday 30th May. I tentatively donned the wetsuit after finishing a running session in the gym with the kids and joined Lorna in the loch (she'd already done 1 lap of the course). I think the fact that I was late getting there gave me less time to worry about what I was about to do, so I jumped in and just swam. 

The water was cold but clear and I was soon focusing on trying to swim straight (not that easy when there are no pool markings!) by sighting on the large orange buoys we'd swim round. Instead of mindlessly ploughing up and down the same lane now the mind had to course-correct, avoid other swimmers, remember to breathe, check swimming technique and dodge the occasional swan. The time flew by and after 32 mins I'd covered 4 loops (approx 1800m) and it was time to get out for Fish and Chips (and ice cream) from Equi's. Yum!

Last Friday we got there on time and decided no stopping on the beach! We did 8 loops - approximately 3600m (or nearly full IM swim distance) and the time flew by. I loved it. No more Fridays in the pool for me for some thine I think!

Marvellous May!

Well we're into June now and the days are ticking down to the event - 7 weeks today!

May was another steady month of training, incorporating the Drumlanrig sportive, Caledonian Etape, and Strathclyde Park Triathlon relay... did I mention our club were the Scottish champions?!!

I managed another 63 hours, clocking up over 816km and burning over 38,000 kCalories, not bad considering I squeezed in an additional 2 rest days.

I've done more training this year than I did last but my head keeps on telling me I've not done enough. Handy when you can look back over your training plan and the results tell the correct story!

Monday, 26 May 2014

New bike day!

It's been a really busy week culminating in over 18 hours of training.

Luckily I was off on Friday (Bank Holiday) and was able to head back up to Velocity 44 in Stirling to pick up my new time trial bike.  It took a little longer than expected to arrive from Italy but it has been worth the wait - it looks totally stunning in the flesh.

I've now added on my Stages power crank and spent 40 mins or so yesterday checking the calibration of power between this and my KICKR power meter. Numbers look pretty comparable, so now I need to focus on a smooth pedalling technique and set the Garmin to display 3s average values when out on the road. 

Paul has completed the RETUL fit for me on the bike, so I know that this fits me... I just need time in the saddle to get used the the TT position again in time for the Outlaw.

Shameless advertising for our club... after all, why do you think I picked this colour scheme?

Saturday's ATHelite (+friends) group ride was good fun but at 4 hours and 105km it was a little faster than I'd been planning on - once home I donned the trainers and set about 100mins on the treadmill, followed by 25 mins of stretching and weights... no rest for the wicked.

Rest day today (26th) and Gary has promised me an 'easy' week this week... Big race this Sunday - the Carluke 5 mile fun run :-)

Strathclyde Park triathlon

Week commencing Monday 12th May was a fairly easy week - in the run up to the Strathclyde Park triathlon.

I sneaked yet another Saturday off (what a slacker) and headed down with Lorna to the Watersports centre at some alarmingly early time for her to rack her bike and get ready for the full race. I had (much more sensibly!) decided to just do the 10km run, however, the pressure began to mount as I knew Brian was half man half fish and Mark would give Bradley Wiggins a tough time over the Strathclyde Park circuit. Suddenly 'just' running 10km felt pretty scary.

I'd done absolutely no speed work in the last few months - everything has been geared round low heart rate training so I really had no idea what to expect.

Brian came racing out of the water in 25:54 (1500m) and handed over to Mark who blazed off on the bike. I kept occupied by taking photos of the rest of the ATHelite team until it was time to head to the transition area. 

Michael Martin came in and handed over to Colin Bain, then the 'spider' came in and handed over to John's pal... But where was Mark, he'd been flying? I was worked he's had a mechanical, or worse, crashed on the tight circuit... nope, he'd been having so much fun he'd done an extra lap (8) of the 7 lap circuit!! Mark handed over in 1:09:20 and it was time for me to get going... the pressure was on... (It later turned out that Mark's last lap was about 9 minutes, so he'd have been one of the fastest cyclists on the day)

I set off like a rocket (well, a slow rocket, more like a Catherine wheel with shoes on) through transition and I felt my heart racing. Just as well since my heart rate strap had slipped down my chest and was hovering below my belly button. Checking the Garmin and my HR was 205 bpm... so I could forget about pacing on this data and just set about settling into a steady pace of around 4:30 / km.

The course led along the banks of the Loch and then up and around some small but steep paths to a Marshall standing by a cone 2.5km away. The two loop course was great in one respect - being able to cheer on and high-5 the other ATHelite competitors, but knowing what the first loop was and then repeat it is always a little tricky. Having to plough through a headwind back to the turn around /finish point at the Watersports centre didn't help much either.

I shouted on words of encouragement for my fellow ATHelites and leant into the wind and focused on my Chi running for the last few km of the race. I'd seen our President, Mark, gain ground on me and I was expecting him to breeze past me in the final straight but I managed to hang on in there and posted a time of 44:26 for the 10km. I'd managed to knock 2 mins and 30 sec off my previous 10km p.b. and set personal records for 400m / 1/2 mile / 1km / 2 mile and 5km. Result!

We cheered on the rest of the ATHelite team as they all came in and found out that our triathlon relay teams had come first and second! I reckon our team may have come third if we'd discounted Mark's last (victory!) lap, so a great day was had by all!

Well done to Papa G for the ATHelite banner! Have to say, I love our triathlon club, I've never met a nicer group of lycra-clad nutters! So supportive and great fun to be around - can't wait for The Outlaw with them on the 27th July :-)

Ah yes, sunburn. Nobody thought to mention the sun *might* come out, but out it came during my run. I totally forgot to put sunscreen on (and given the cloudy conditions that morning it really didn't cross my mind) this is what happened... ! week in Lanzarote, milk-bottle white... 3 hours on the 'Strathy Riviera' and I match our club kit...

busy, busy, busy...

It's been a busy few weeks since I last penned electronic ink to virtual paper and it's no coincidence that I'm writing another instalment on a Monday (rest day) bank holiday.

The week of 5th May - 11th May went well. I've been suffering from pain in my right arm (maybe biceps tendon / devoid insertion point) possibly from all the swimming I've been doing recently so I avoided my usual Friday after work swim. I sneaked in an additional rest day on Saturday 10th in preparation for the Caledonian Etape on the Sunday.

The conditions this year (our 3rd in a row) were great and for once, I managed to correctly guess how many layers to wear. I usually end up freezing or like a boil in the bag chicken. Lorna and I set off at 6:42 a.m. and we waved each other goodbye after a few hundred metres! I linked on to a couple of 'road trains' and was amazed at how much easier it was to sustain a high pace in a group. I took several long stints at the front and after one particularly long uphill section the following group promptly dropped me like a hot potato... thanks guys! As one of them passed as he flew up the hill he at least thanked me for putting in a 'good shift'. Cheers!

I'd just fitted a Stages power meter to the bike so it was interesting to analyse my power both during and after the race. I think the general conclusion was - push those pedals harder!!!

I practiced my nutrition strategy (despite one less gel pack!) and felt pretty good crossing the line in 4 hours 9 min, about 9 mins faster than last year. The legs felt good, just as well as I had a 50 minute run of the bike to do, so once Lorna crossed the line we donned our trainers and headed off to the hotel gym. Surprisingly enough, the run felt pretty easy - I remember being in agony doing a 20 minute run after last year's Etape, so I'm treating this as good progress.

Kudos to Alan (3:48), Graeme (4:06) and John (4:58) from ATHelite who all completed the Etape in great style and to my pal Darren who despite crashing 3 miles from the finish posted 4:28 for his first ever Etape - kudos!!!

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