Monday, 21 April 2014

Dec 23rd - Apr 20th I'm still alive and I'm still training

Where does the time go.  Can't believe it was December when I last posted something on this blog.  So I guess as the tri season approaches I ought to give an update on what I have been doing and where things are.  This does mean that rather than the detailed breakdown of a weeks training I will focus on the highlights to bring us all up to speed (no pun intended).

I'm still being coached by Laura, and things are going really well on that front.  I can feel myself getting stronger and faster in all areas, so whatever she is doing it's working.

I've done a number of races since the start of the year.

Essar Four Villages Half Marathon - 19/01/14
This would be my first half marathon in about 10 years so I was a little nervous to say the least, but the only aim was to try an do under 2:00 hours. Conditions on the day were as good as you could have asked for. Laura had given me a race plan to start me out steady and then build through the latter stages.  Tracy Hampson ran with me for the first 5.5 miles to keep me under control and on HR pace and she did a great job before leaving me to run the rest of the race at her own level for a well deserved 1:44:45.    I had a hard patch around 7-8 miles but when the last gel kicked in I felt strong and the climb that everyone had gone on about turned out to be a bit of an anti climax and no where near as difficult as expected.  The final push gave me a very surprising time of 1:52:31

Fearless MTB Duathlon - 23/2/14.
This was a tough event held in Llandegla Forest near Wrexham. Weather conditions were pretty poor all day with a constant drizzle, but the main issue was gusting and strong winds.  The first run started with a steady 2 mile climb on hard packed service track, but once we had cleared the trees into the exposed areas the wind was awful, almost bringing you to a standstill.  It was great to finally turn back into the trees and head downhill for some shelter.   The evil organisers stuck in a nasty bank to climb part way through the run as well, the worst part being you knew you would have to dot it again later.

Onto the bike and it was a 19km route that wound its way across a mix of the MTB centres trails, most of it on Red Routes.

I maintained a steady pace, and whilst losing a few places on the more technical stages, I was able to make this up on some of the steady long climbs spinning past people.  I'm also pleased to say that I managed to stay on the bike throughout and no injuries were sustained (though there were a couple of hairy moments).

Onto the final run and it was a shortened version of the first, but I was quite surprised to find myself catching and passing people throughout.  It took a while for the legs to get going but once into my stride I was pushing all the way.  I even managed to pip someone on the line who stopped about 5 metres before the actual finish line.  Final time was 2:25:13 Overall it was a good starter event for the year and will hopefully be back to do it again.

Oulton Park Duathlon - 16/03/14
A few weeks later and it was a return to Oulton Park for the duathlon, only this time it was for the standard distance event, comprising of multiple laps of the racing circuit, 2 run laps, 9 on the bike and a final run lap. The sprint event went early in the morning and gave me chance to cheer on a few of the Warrington Tri Club members.

It had been blowing all morning and it didn't let up later in the day either and it remained a fairly chilly day so I had opted to go with a long sleeve compression top under the tri suit.

The race plan was to work hard throughout, but the first 2 lap run was held to top level 3 to ensure that I had enough left for the rest of the event.  The run felt good and it was sometimes hard not to push harder.  I even went through 5k in a pb time so I knew it was going to be a good day.

With the final run lap complete it was into transition and out for 9 laps on the bike.
As you would expect with a race circuit the surface is pretty good so no pot hole dodging required at all.  You exit the pit lane before hopping on the bike and then its straight into the first right hand bend that seeps downhill into a left hander.  The wind was quite noticeable at this point and  on several of the laps you could feel it make the front wheel twitch; I was only on 50mm rims so anyone running deep sections would need all their wits about them.  After the left hand it was a long straight to the hairpin and a wind the wind behind the fastest section of the course.  Exiting the hairpin however brought you straight into the headwind and a small climb, normally not to bad to tackle, but that wind was really slowing us down.  Dropping it into the 39 I was able to spin nicely up the climb and in doing so passing a lot of folks trying to grind it out.  A nice straight downhill section follows into a right hander and the sharpest climb on the course.  Decide your gearing before you hit the bottom and then go for it.  Most of the laps I stuck with the 39, but did try the big ring as well.  In all cases I was passing people strongly up the climb, but found spinning the better option.  Once at the top it was flat then back round to the pit lane.  I had no dramas on any of the laps and the constant lap nature of the event meant you were always passing people so felt like you were going a lot quicker than you were.

I had a nice quick transition, but can't say that my legs felt fantastic running off the bike.  I grabbed to some water for a mouthful and a splash over the head then it was time to work hard on that final run.  I knew somewhere behind me Warrington Tri member Tracy Hampson, would be hunting me down as she was a quick runner, I just didn't know how much of a gap I had after the bike.  By the time we had reached the hairpin the legs felt more normal again and I was holding level 4 HR comfortably, exiting the hairpin I caught a glimpse of Tracy  and knew she was closing in.

On reaching the steep climb shouts from Gail, Andy other club members spurred me on and I pressed hard up the climb and maintained the effort once I got to the top moving into zone 5.

With about 300m to go Tracy caught up with me and a gentle tap on the elbow to let me know she was there as she came past, looking strong as always.
I tried to push a bit harder but was already at max level so there wasn't anything left to offer and crossed the line happy that I had given everything to that race. Link to my Training Peaks log for the event
The even better news at the finish was that Tracy had picked up 3rd female overall.
Results -

Bolesworth Beast MTB Duathlon - 30/03/14
Organised by Chester Tri Club, this was a small event held in what can only be described as the "hilly" bit of Cheshire.  The weather was very pleasant, if anything erring on a bit to warm at times.

The event was based at a mountain boarding centre (basically off road snowboarding with wheels) a sport that requires gravity to help you along.  As such the first run began at the top of a steep bank about 250m long.  We proceeded downhill round a tree and then started the steep climb back up to the start point, this wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't for the fact that we got send back down and up again.  After the second ascent it was into the woods and following a path out into some fields and then into more woods that climbed up to the top of a sandstone ridge.  Once up top we followed the ridge for a while before dropping down a steep descent (playing into my hands as a descender and allowing me to pass a few people.  Onto fire tracks we then dropped onto tarmac road that led us back into the village and transition.

Out onto the bike it was a very mixed course, with tarmac roads, fields, bridleways and some sections through private woodland of the Bolesworth estate.  I had a steady ride overall, not pushing the pace to hard, but certainly making good time as I was passing people who were doing the shorter sprint event and had done a much shorter run course that didn't include the climbs at the start.

Once back in transition it was a repeat of the first run, so back up and down that bloody hill again, up to the ridge and back down.  I found the climbs hard going and did have to resort to walking sections, but surprisingly only came in 1 minute slower than the first run.  I also found that I was able to press on quite hard once all the climbing was dealt with.

Overall a really pleasant event, nice little goodie bag and a nice challenging course, certainly one I would recommend to others as the bike isn't to challenging or tricky.

There have been some good weeks of training along the way.

The work at the track continues each Monday and there have been several occasions where I have been the most consistent runner of the week.  We have also done a couple of time trials, the most recent being 3000m (13:34).

I've also done a 400m TT in the pool, but despite all the improvements in my technique I was dissapointed to record exactly the same as when I did my first one in December (7:12); I put this down to fatigue from racing at the weekend before and also having done a hard swim session the night before.  I certainly hope to be under 7:00 very soon.

March also saw a group of us head up to the Lake District for a training weekend.  One thing that didn't disappoint was the reliability of the weather, it basically pee'd it down the whole weekend.  That didn't stop us enjoying this great place though. Saturday the group headed up Helvellyn, though conditions were poor and when we got to the point of Striding Edge the decision was made to head back down, this for me was the fun part, engaged in fell running at it's best.  Though we did stop for a photo call.
spot the short arse

On Sunday after being joined by a few more hardy athletes we headed off on the bikes in yet more rain.  It was a lovely ride however and whilst challenging in the conditions all had a good time.  It was actually surprisingly warm (a good job as I had forgotten my leggings).
The only bad point for me was the right hand STI working loose and therefore leaving me with no brakes on a fast wet descent.  I thankfully managed to bring it to a stop using the back and with shaking hands re-tightened the the STI and carried on.  It was a brown stain moment to say the least, but I survived.

So there we have it, an update on where I am at the moment and hopefully I will be a bit more concientious in keeping it up to date as we come to the start of the tri season

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