Sunday, 13 December 2009

2009 - Job done


Its been too long, where have you all been, what have been upto?

Oh, thats right, this my blog and its my job to tell you guys what I've been upto etc, etc.

The fact that I'm sending out my first post in months is indicative of a few things.

Firstly, that I've got a bit of time on my hands. Not loads mind you, but enough to squeeze out a few lines.

Secondly, I've got the mental energy & appetite for wishing to share my thoughts & feelings. This hasn't been the case for a while.

Thirdly, its almost the end of what has been an incredible year for me and I wished to lay out a record (for my own memories) of the last 12 months.

Fourthly, it was a deal I struck with myself during last weekends trail marathon.

So, in fact, this post is more for my own selfish reasons than any 'social' reasons. That in itself is quite apt as that has been the story of the year for me, i.e pursuing my own personal ambitions at the expense of wider social 'benefits'.

Ok, enough rambling, lets get on with it.

2009 was a huge year for me.

I set out at the start of the year with ambitions, goals and dreams. I am immensely proud that all of these have been achieved, met and exceeded.

I have become a multiple Ironman, I have become an ultra runner, I have met and spent time with some great, inspirational like-minded people, turning acquaintances into friends and I have gained the respect of people of whom I respect greatly.

Have I enjoyed myself?

Has it been challenging?
Very, the sacrifices one has to make can sometimes become too much but the rewards do make them worthwhile.

Becoming an iron-distance athlete at Roth. An amazing experience, an incredible race, memories which will last a lifetime.

Developing a great, new network of friends within the 'endurance community'.

Being in some really low places but keeping going and coming out the other end a better man.

Not many but there were times when all I wanted to do was ride with my mates but I had to go and do 5 or 6 hours on my own.

Having to miss Neil Young in Hyde Park because I couldn't miss my last big ride pre-Roth.

OK, thats the Q&A over with!

In summary, the most pleasing result for me has been my own personal development in terms of strength of character.

They say sport doesn't build character, it reveals it.

I couldn't agree more. So what have I revealed this year?

I feel I've revealed that I'm a fighter.

Not in the 'Mike Tyson' aggressive, smack it up sense. But in the 'Rocky Balboa' sense, ie I keep getting up and keep going even when I'm hurting more than I can describe in words.

In the past I have been plagued with self-doubt at crucial times. This year I fought through those personal demons & feel a different man for doing so.

I have beaten myself up for being 'a quitter' - not seeing things through to the end. This year, I did see everything through, I didn't quit even when the inner voices were screaming at me to stop or to walk, I didn't. I ran every metre of both of Ironman marathons. That means more to me than than the medal, t-shirt etc.

Never the most naturally talented of sportsman, I do feel that I am making the most of what I have.

That, my friends, is the most fulfilling achievement for me.

Before I go, I do want to send out some thanks to a few people:

Ian - my coach - the man with the plan.

John & Jono - my mates - thanks for the banter.

Clif Bar Dave - supplier of the finest sports nutrition / life-saving fuel on countless occasions.

Eve & Ant @ Skinfit - for supplying the best kit going.

Cheers everyone, I'll aim to post again before the year-end with some musings about 2010 plans.



Sunday, 23 August 2009

Catching up

Hello, remember me? I know its been ages since we spoke but I hope we can pick up where we left off....

I'll try and wrap up the last few weeks into a reasonably concise post but can't promise.

In summary (good idea!) its been a solid few weeks. Getting back into consistent training has been great, albeit a shock to the washing machine!

I've been pleased with the training - particularly the bike. My plan for getting to Barcelona was to focus on the bike, developing more power, enabling me to get off the bike in better shape than Roth and therefore able to run closer to my potential. During the week, a fantastic article hit my in-box which summarised perfectly what my thinking is for Barcelona - here you go.

So, one superb bike fit session, some new bars & stem and some consistently decent rides and I'm feeling like its coming together. Ironically, the run hasn't kept up the pace (literally) but I'm confident that with more focus that this will come good.

Swim-wise, its feeling better. The new suit feels good, a session with the swim team helped me get back to focusing on a long, smooth stroke and my times vs. effort in the 50m pool are improving.

In fact, as I've been so "in the moment" and just focusing on hitting the plan, it hasn't really sunk in that I've got my second iron-distance race in only six weeks. This is a total contrast to Roth, where I was literally counting down the days & weeks and correspondingly topping-up the pressure cooker.

My whole attitude to Barcelona is different. I'm seeing it as a great opportunity to test out my development in a non-pressure environment. Roth was all about getting an iron-distance race under my belt, Barcelona is all about enjoying putting my training and training theories to test.

One of those training theories is training with power. I've been doing a lot of reading and speaking to some valid sources about adding power to my training tool-kit. This week I managed to borrow a Powertap from a local bike shop and took it on my Saturday ride. I rode the same course as last week, a pretty tough 57 miles over the North Cotswolds. There is plenty of climbing involved, and this is where I found the power data to be very useful. As I hit the gradients, you could see the numbers shoot up and knowing that I wouldn't be able to sustain that kind of output, I backed off the pedals. Using the gearing to hold the wattage at a sustainable level I climbed in far more-balanced way than my usual "crash & burn" way.

The end result of this was - a) I didn't go pop, ie hit max HR! which enabled b) a far more balanced ride which felt much more comfortable than the previous week and left me in a much better position to be able to run off the bike (if I needed to).

The total ride time was equal to the previous week, but with a lower average HR and definitely a lower RPE, and I was really pleased with how much more "intelligently" I rode.

The next challenge is to figure out how I'm going to be able to afford to buy one - which is a fiscal endurance challenge in itself!

Speak soon amigos,


Monday, 27 July 2009

Moving on....

Evening All,

Getting back into the swing of things is the theme of this weeks post, so I thought it apt that I begin by posting back in my regular Monday night spot.

Its now two weeks since Roth and things (i.e. me) do appear to be returning back to normal. The constant tiredness & hunger seem to have subsided, albeit I could always do with a bit more shut-eye.

I'm feeling like I want to train again, although this never really went away, I definitely did prefer the sofa & Le Tour combo over the last couple of weeks. I've had a couple of small swim sessions and a couple of bikes.

I went out on Saturday on the bike with a group of mates and ended up "having a dig" which I later regretted as I wasn't ready for this - not so much the effort but the delayed recovery - my legs are still sore and my cough has returned. Another easy-ish week will help clear all of this away - and then the work begins in August.

With some addtional down-time, I'm pleased that over the last two weeks I've progressed the 'actions' I gave myself post-Roth.

I've booked in a bike-fit appointment as I feel that my current bike position can be improved considerably (see pic above). Obviously, I am riding a road bike so I won't be as aerodynamic as a time-trialist but my current set-up does need improving as I'm currently not in a position to optimize power and also reduce drag.

My current thinking is to improve my position on my road bike as much as possible, without foregoing comfort (to a certain extent), and then look to move onto a TT bike next season. By getting an optimized bike position, using race wheels (Hed Jet 60s) and wearing an aero helmet I will utilizing the biggest aero factors at my disposal.

Obviously, all of this counts for nowt if the body doesn't comply so more time on the bike and more hill reps and harder efforts are on the menu for supporting my bike power development. This will be my key area of focus ahead of Barcelona. Barca is a flat, quick course so it will be important to be able to turn a big gear for a long time without pushing too hard.

I'll let you know how the bike-fit goes and hopefully share some photos of the before & after positions.

The second action was to purchase a pair of the Newton running shoes. For those who may not have heard of these shoes, they are effectively set-up to encourage mid-foot striking, i.e a more efficient & effective foot position. I've been keen to try these out for a while, as I've heard really good things about them but as they take a period of adaptation I had to wait until post-Roth. As I will be building my running back up slowly, now seems the ideal time to get used to the slightly different position. I'm hoping that the period of adaptation is short-lived, as I have shortened my stride length & upped my cadence over the last few months to enable a more efficient running style. I'm interested to see how these Newtons feel & see if they return on the investment.

The third action was to get a new wetsuit. Again, I had been close to doing so before Roth but decided not to risk changing anything. As my body composition has changed quite noticeably over the last 12 and particularly 6 months, my wetsuit had become too large and it subsequently allowed a lot of water to get in the suit. Over the course of a long swim, this totalled a fair weight of water which led to increased fatigue especially around the upper arm & shoulder region.

I went down to the blueseventy swim centre on Sunday and got a new Helix suit. I'm really impressed with this new moel, as it is a lot more flexible, lighter in the arms and obviously a much better fit. I'm confident this will make a difference to both my swim times and effort levels.

The final action was to get hold of The Paleo Diet books. Again, an outstanding action for a while so good to get this ticked-off. Most of you will know my keen interest in the nutritional side of things & this is method & regime I've heard a lot about. Simply put t is the elimination of starchy carbs such as bread, pasta & rice for an increased intake of lean proteins, fruit & veggies. Over the last few months, I have practically eliminated bread from my diet & I have felt (and seen) the benefits in my general energy levels and body composition. Whilst I'm not sure I'll be able to follow the Paleo principles to the letter, I feel there is a lot to be said for reducing starchy carbs as they do cause sluggishness and lethargy. I'm keen to adopt as much as I feel is practical for the Paleo principles.

So, you might have noticed that my 4 key actions covered off each of the 4 disciplines: wetsuit (swim), bike fit (err, thats the bike one), Newtons (run, and finally Paleo (nutrition).

A few other actions I'll be looking to progress moving forward are regular strength & core work (at least twice a week) and focused streching and flexibility sessions (again, twice per week).

Where my head is at currenetly is that I have now built a machine capable of completing an Iron-distance race in a reasonable time, so I now need to start "pimping up the ride" if I am going to start turning a reasonable time into a solid and eventually stellar time.

I'm a huge believer in "continuous improvement" so with one iron-distance race in the bag, we simply move onto improving for the next one.

The question will be whether I have bitten off more than I can chew.....but will have to wait & find out.

Its going to be an interesting few months, hope you're up for the journey....

Speak soon sportsfans,

Stay healthy,


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Roth Race Report - finally....!

Here it is guys, the long awaited (by me anyway!) Roth race report....

Apologies for the delay in sending this out but I wished to wait to I got some race-day pics to include. So, if you're one of my email readers, check out the blog to see the pics.

Ok, so where do I start? The beginning tends to be the best place, so I briefly talk you through the days leading upto the race.

5 of us travelled over on Wednesday & Thursday, driving through France, Belgium, Holland & into Germany. A long day in the car on Thursday got us to the hotel on Thursday evening. The hotel was perfectly located at 10km outside of Roth and about 5km from the swim start.

Up early on Friday for a practice swim at the race start. It was great to get down to the start, getting the buzz from all the other competitors who had the same idea. When I got there, I bumped into Guy from blueseventy which was cool but freaked me out a bit as I had previously met Guy in Switzerland when I DNF'd. Surely, this wasn't a bad omen....

Post-swim & brekkie, we headed over to registration and the Expo (yeehah!) Rego went like a dream, a real contrast to IM Austria according to my mates. The Expo was awesome and had my two favourite brands there in Skinfit & CEP. A pretty disciplined performance (by my own standards) left the plastic in pretty good shape.

A short bike session in the afternoon felt pretty good & introduced me to the unbelievably good German roads. How can you not go well on these roads?

Saturday was set to be a long day with bike & T2 check-in along with the race briefing. Therefore, an early morning bike helped quell any last minute technical doubts. Having a fluent French speaker in the group proved to be a blessing as Lisa could attend the early French-speaking session and brief the group on the key points. This enabled us to have an early dinner and avoid additional travel.

I must admit that the nerves were now at an almost unbearable level. Without consciously thinking about the tension had built up and you could feel the whole group go into their shells. The night before was just horrible, I don't think I slept for more than an hour and it really did leave a blemish on the whole experience.

It was a relief to hear the alarm go off at 3.30am. Just to know that I can know get on with getting rid of this tension. A decided to opt-out of the hotel brekkie and stick to my own regime of having a Clif Bar. In hindsight, I probably should have had more but whether the knot in my stomach would have tolerated it is a different question.

The girls were off in the first wave - so 6.20 - so we needed to be at T1 for 5.30. As my wave didn't go off to 7.35, I had a long time to hang around. Not ideal, but it did give me a chance to settle down and focus.

As you know, the swim start has been an issue for me in the past so I was keen to learn from previous mistakes. The great thing about the multiple wave starts was that the numbers per wave were c.500, so far more tolerable than a 2500 people mass start.

Placing myself towards the back-half of the wave, the cannon fired off and away we went. I had a great start, just accelerating through from below to cruise to above cruise - feeling in control all the way. As I had clear in front of me I was able to settle into my stroke before I caught those who had placed themselves further up the field. A short period of wrestling, gave way to clear-ish water and a huge smile on my face!

The swim is in a canal, with a simple out & back lap. Feeling great about the start, I settled into a cruisey pace - keeping my coach's words about going easy at the forefront of my mind. I was soon passing people, including those from previous waves and everything felt cool.

On the way home, you swim under a major bridge which has about 3000 people on it making a huge amount of noise. This just added to the great buzz I was now feeling whilst trying to keep everything under control.

Getting out of the water, I was a little disappointed to see that my time was 68 mins. I knew I didn't swim hard but thought that it would have been slightly quicker than this. I reassured myself that I didn't work at all so see it as saved energy and still not that bad a time.

A steady T1 (8 mins) sent me out onto the bike. The start of the bike is pretty quick, which really tempts you into go fast straightaway. Looking at my HR within 5 mins on the bike I was shocked to see at 153bpm!! This was purely adrenalin kicking in but I needed to get this down asap.

As much as you read about not going out hard & nstantly telling myself this, it was almost like the course sucks you into going quick. The roads are awesome, some nice sweeping turns and some riders up in front all tease you into wanting to smack it. I didn't go quite that hard but I was going harder than planned. The speed is like a drug, I'm running at 24mph without trying - wow I could have a really quick bike here!

Ok, put the ego away Sparky and just settle down soldier!

The plan was to begin eating aftr 20 minutes, so out came the Clif Bar. This felt good straightaway, as my stomach was crying out for solids. Everything felt great, I was happy that the HR had settled down, the pace was still strong and the course was running well.

Everyone knows the Roth course is quick, which kinda puts pressure on you to go well. I definitely fell into this trap. My mate Jono had talked me into thinking I could go sub-11 hours. I didn't believe it but it did leave a new goal in my mind.

Although quick, the bike is deceptive. Its a real roller and you have to work all the way around. A couple of lumps & one real climb do take their toll, if you try to take them on. I was riding well, surprising myself with my speed and starting to get aspirations of a 5.5 hour bike.

I was sticking to the nutrition plan religiously. Starting on solids via the Clif Bars, moving onto gels via the Clif Blok Shots and then onto sports drink via the Infinit solution. With aid stations every 17km, I was drinking a fair bit of water as well which did begin to give me a funny stomach. I started to bring back up any food or drink I put in. Not all of it, but a couple of mouthfuls. Not good - but at least some nutrition was going in.

Looking back I think this was a combination of an elevated HR, an empty stomach being filled with fluids and then the aero bar position.

Settling down into the 2nd lap of the bike and all felt good. My right hamstring did feel a bit tight & I thought that I could feel cramp coming on but this was just a scare. I was continuing to hold a good pace, looking at sub 5.40 ride.

Then, a couple of things went against me. Firstly, the chain came off when going over one of the lumps. Not a massive delay, but a pain nonetheless. Then along came one of the friendly draft-busters. Being the good boy that I am, I made sure I was not in a drafting position and even sat up and took a drink to make sure. However, this wasn't good enough for Mr Draft Buster who decided to zip up and give me a 8 min penalty - even though there was nobody in front or to the side of me....WTF?!

This really peed me off and having to stand in the box for 8 mins really broke my heart. As all good things come in threes, my chain decided to pop off once again on the way home. All of these contributed to me losing a little heart, and settling for a sub-6 hour bike (which I would have taken before the start) - coming in at 5.56.

Getting into T2 was a real milestone for me, as this had been what I had been dreaming of all year. T2 was really well set up with some super helpful people on hand to help get you out onto the run as quickly as possible. A quick pee break and off I go onto the run...

The legs didn't feel great straightaway, I knew that I'd pay for having a push on the bike. Anyway, I settle into a nice comfortable pace , knocking out 8.15 min miles. The run course is pretty boring, out & back along the canal but I kept reminding myself how great it was to be here.

Pins & needles in my right foot caused me to stop & loosen off the laces and was a welcome break. Food-wise, the stomach wasn't great but the Blok Shots seemed to go down OK.

My pace on the run just started to ebb away, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was tough watching the Garmin edge up over 9 min miles but I had to tell myself that I may get a second wind.

I decided to flow with the course, and run at a pace which the course dictated. There were loads of low points, and re-adjusting of time goals. I had to let the sub 11 hour goal go - as to chase it would have caused me to pop. The next goal became sub 11.5 hours, and this went from being a dead cert to being a close call.

The stomach was now shutting down, with only a nibble on an apple being tolerated. I held off the cola buzz until about 20km, and then proceeded to bring it back up! I figured out that if I went cola then water, then it would stay in. Water then cola would cause me to throw it up. An interesting time to learn such a thing hey?! Getting home regardless of time really did become the priority as everything hurt more than I have ever hurt before.

Getting to 30km was a huge pick me up & it did bring a second wind. I started off going back under 9 min miles and felt pretty good. The last 5km really hurt but i knew I was on the way home. This didn't make it any easier and I can't believe how long those last few k's felt.

To enter into the finishers chute was worth every minute of pain & stress. I've never hurt so much yet been so pumped!

The feeling of crossing the line was unreal and I will hold onto that for a long time.

I met up with my mates and believed my time was 11.34 - so slightly disappointing.

We then went through to get out t-shirts, finishers certificate and grab a shower. When they printed my certificate, it came out with 11.29.44 - I done it, got under 11.5 hours!!

A really weird feeling of emptiness then consumed me. I was in a kind of trance, just going through the motions of showering, trying to eat etc.

The texts & emails made me feel great - it was really touching to see how many people had been keeping track all day.

My immediate post-race feeling was one of disappointment - as I should have run better but I feel that it would be disrespectful to start calling the shots over what time I should have done etc.

Over the following days, it started to sink in that I had achieved my goal. I had become an Ironman. I was buzzing, albeit in a very sore body!

It is a really cheesy to say but the last few months have been an amazing experience and for it all come to a head at such an amazing race at Roth was very, very special.

No-one will ever be able to take this away from me, its all mine!

I've already got loads of plans for developing myself further but I will save these for another post- as I'm sure you feel like this post is an endurance event in itself!

So, I will leave you all by saying a big Thank You to all of you who sent me best wishes and congrats - cheesy I know, but it really does make a difference.

The road doesn't end here, there is plenty more to come....I hope you are ready for more....


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Roll with it...

Howdee sportsfans!

Yep, I know its Tuesday and not the planned Monday night download but better late than never.....well, I hope you think so.

Last week was a real rollercoaster of good, bad, ups & downs and everything in between.

Tiredness really kicked in last week but I felt fresh when it came to training, in fact I actually felt better whilst training than I did at any other time.

A couple of good swims, including a decent 4k set on Wednesday, and a really pleasing brick session led me into the final big weekend.

I had to try and juggle a few things around, as I had tickets to attend the Neil Young concert in Hyde Park on Saturday, which meant the long bike needed to be done on Friday.....well that was the plan....

With the annual leave booked, all week I had my eye on the weather wasn't looking good. Still, needs must so just get out and get it down. Nutrition plan was down, start on solids (my trusty Clif Bars) move onto the energy drink (Infinit - 4 scoops) and bring in the Clif Blok Shots as necessary.

Fully loaded up, kit all working like a dream, legs feeling great I settled into my pacing strategy straight off the bat. An hour in and I was thinking how great I felt, then.....the sky emptied...and I mean emptied.....I plugged on but it got to the point of being bloody suicidal....I think it was when a tree branch came towards me in the stream pouring down the road!

I managed to take shelter under the skinniest tree in the Cotswolds, 20 minutes later I am freezing, shaking and turning blue. After much deliberation, a phone call to my buddy and a left home was sorted.

OK, so best laid plans are out of the window. Not a happy Sparky.

So what did this leave me with?

With a 2 hour run to be done, I decided to get this done later on the Friday. I went out, legs didn't feel great and my low mood (after bailing the bike) left me with a really unenjoyable run. However, the run was done at IM-pace (8.35 min/mile) without any dramas.

A short swim on Saturday and then a day of rest. This was pretty tough. My mates were out on the bikes, Neil Young was in Hyde Park and I was sat at home.....mmm, not an easy one to swallow.

However, this did get me pumped up for the long ride on Sunday. I got out on the road for 7am and it was already warming up.

The ride went really well, a nice comfortable pace especially as it did really heat up and everything felt pretty good. A bit of stiffness in the back but guess thats to be expected. A quick stop to take on-board some more water was a wise move as I started to feel pretty wiped after almost 3 hours.

Getting the hydration sorted made the world of difference and the nutrition planned worked well. Although taking on-board so much fluid did start to give me that bloated feeling on the way home but nothing to worry about.

So, six hours got done. This was a big weight off my shoulders as it had been playing on my mind. I got off the bike and felt really good. The last 30 minutes were really cruisey as my route came up a bit short so I needed to keep adding on some smaller parts which took me into the middle of Cheltenham and the heavy traffic.

Still, all things considered, I was really pleased with how I felt at the end of the ride. Definitely, the best I have felt after the 5 hour plus rides.

This left me feeling really pleased to have got to the end of the big weeks feeling like I've achieved all of the key sessions. Long bikes, big bricks and solid runs have all been done.

I'm feeling pretty good. The body is holding up. Roth is less than two weeks away now so its into the taper.

I've got a IM-distance open-water swim race on Sunday at which I wish to get a good start executed. This will help close down my demon from Bala. I need to get this sorted so I can approach Roth feeling confident about the swim.

I'll let you know how it all goes and my final thoughts before Roth in next weeks post.

Have great weeks, train well, stay healthy....


Monday, 22 June 2009

Fueling the engine

Yo, here we are back on the Monday night schedule.

As my last post was super-tardy & only a few days ago, I should be able to let you off lightly with a smaller post this evening.

Following a pretty big week which included the seven-hour brick and then Bala, I had a pretty quiet week. Rest has been the priority, and loads of sleep has been greatly appreciated. My left calve has caused me some concern as I have felt it all week. I'm confident that this is just tightness in the hamstrings and back - and not a specific injury.

So last week saw a couple of decent swims, including a solid 4 x 1k set, lead into a nice weekend. A sound 3.5 hour bike and 30 min run on Saturday took a while to get going but once the cobwebs disappeared I felt pretty good. It felt good to get back on the bike & I felt pretty good whilst down on the bars. Legs did feel pretty heavy during the run and I started to feel the left calve a little bit.

Sundays 90 min run wasn't the most enjoyable session ever. I just felt pretty flat, almost bored, and the legs did feel like cement. The left calve wasn't too bad. I'm now wearing my CEP Compression Socks on all of my long runs and these really helped get me through the session. At the end of the run, my clave really started to become painful but then the pain disappeared & today my legs feel pretty good.

I've gone for a good stretching session at the gym tonight. This was really long over-due but it did feel good to take the time out to focus on loosing up the hips & glutes in particular. I'll be doing more of this over the next few weeks.

With less than 3 weeks to go, rest & recovery are the order of the day. I've got a couple of solid sessions this week, including my last big bike and the last long run. It will be good to get these done & dusted.

Loads of sleep, stretching and super-healthy eating will be even more important in these last crucial weeks.

Diet-wise, as you know, I've started using Neovite (the colostrum powder) and I'd like to think that it is proving beneficial. On the wider diet, I've been adopting a lot of the theory behind the Paleo Diet, which isn't too dissimilar to the Thrive Diet I've mentioned before.

Basically, loads of fruit & veggies combined with lean protein at every meal. Nuts & seeds are good snacks and a reduction in starchy carbs are the key pillars. I must admit that reducing, almost eliminating, starchy carbs has made a massive difference to the way I feel.

I'm feeling less sluggish, less mood swings and a lot less bloated. Overall, I feel far more healthy and optimised.

So, there we are. An increased focus on rest and recovery, combined with some decent efforts will be the plan leading into Roth.

I can't believe I'm actually talking about "leading into Roth" but I am & its very real.

Exciting times hey?!

See you in seven,

Be healthy,


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Getting up to speed....

"It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you, without a dope beat to step to".....

Thats my way of apologising for my poor performance in the weekly posting stakes.

Believe me when I say I have had every intention of keeping you guys upto date with whats been happening in Sparky-world, but time is just at such a premium that it has just kept slipping.

With so much to recall, I think I'll just present the highlights:

Went through a low spell - after a missed weekend ride (due to torrential rain) - which just led to the mojo going missing for a few days.....

.....mojo returned following an awesome midweek session which really gave me an injection of endomorphins & renewed confidence....

....a satisfying Middle Distance performance at Bala, proving a great pre-Roth practice with all key variables passing with flying colours. Just leaving the self-controlled factors to get sorted....

Ok, so what does that mean?

The big mid-week session (2k swim, 5 hour bike, 45 min run) really did the trick in terms of restoring some much needed mojo. A combination of tiredness and a missed weekend ride had led to me experiencing a real downer for the first time.

You know the feeling when you just feel like quitting & you beat yourself up for feeling that way? No? Just me then, but it was just fatigue catching up with me combined with some rubbish weather, all led to the self pitying mood.

A good session snapped me out of this & got me back in the game - ready for my final pre-Roth race. Bala is a legendary Middle Distance race and the whole event, course and atmosphere didn't disappoint - I'll definitely look to do this race again.

I won't bore you with all the detail - as I'm keen to cover off a few other things - but needless to say that the final result does hide over a few things I need to sort ahead of Roth. I came home in 5.04 - which I would have taken beforehand but I can't help but think that there was a sub-5 hour there for the taking - but my own stupidity cost me at least 10 mins.

There were some huge positives: a really great run off the bike on a super tough course (smacking at 1.28 for 20k), the nutrition worked like a dream and all of the kit was superb.

The run was awesome. Again, I'll save the details but will just leave you with the thought of Crowie & Macca running down the was an awesome feeling and left me pumped up for ages.

Nutrition-wise, my plan worked really well. I decided not go with any solids throughout the race. Instead, I loaded up my two bottles with one bottle of Infinit (4 scoops) and one of water & Nuun. I then used Clif Bar Bloks to provide additional calories. The Bloks are great as they digest really easily, taste great and provide a great injection of fuel.

I carried the Bloks with me on the run, as you can take them without water, and then used the water stations to flush them into the system. They worked perfectly and I really believe it was the combo of the Blok Shots and the 4 scoops of Infinit which gave me the energy to smack out the run.

Kit-wise, I was really happy. I decided to go with the tri-shorts & cycling top combo. The great thing about the Skinfit Aero Cycling Top is that (1) it has loads of pockets for nutrition and bike equipment and (2) its light enough that you can run in it.

I also wore my CEP Compression Socks on the run. I had planned to bike in them to but a flustered T1 led me to leave them off. I really felt the benefit of the socks on the run & definitely feel the enabled me to avoid cramp in my tight left calf. I will be wearing these on both the bike & run in Roth. Oh, they also look awesome - long white socks offsetting my black tri-shorts, white cycling top & white Clif Bar marathon cap. Very European, don't you think?!!

The biggest disappointment of the day was my swim. For some reason (I'm still not sure what happened) I ended up towards the front of the start-line. I then proceeded to go off like a bloody rocket for 300m, telling myself how great I felt and then all of sudden I went POP! I'm talking seriously blowing-up here....what an idiot!

After 5 minutes of breaststroke/backstroke I settled back into some semblance of normality & proceeded to swim pretty well. Combining this foolishness with a fumbling T1 didn't give me the best of starts to the day.

I've got an open-water IM-distance swim on the 5th July (week before Roth) so will put this right then and go to Roth with no negative thoughts. Transitions will also be slicker by then as well.

The bike was pleasing as I went out & held a nice IM pace. On a "lumpy" course I rode a 2.45 82km. I never felt like I was really blowing & HR never got above 85%. The new race wheels went (& looked) like a dream - definitely making a positive difference.

So, all in all, not a bad weeks work. Backing up the Big Wednesday with a decent race was really pleasing. My focus is now on balancing out recovery with some solid sessions. With only 3 weeks to go - I have a few key sessions to hit so don't want to ease off but still need to ensure that the fatigue is sensibly managed.

The Neovite colostrum is proving a great buy - as Im feeling pretty good post-sessions and feel like I'm able to back up the key sessions. A tight left calve is my only slight injury worry.

So...there you're now bang upto speed.

See you in 5 or so days chaps,

Train hard, train smart....and sleep a lot.


Monday, 1 June 2009

Sunny side of life....

Yeehah, the sun is out baby!

Isn't the summer wonderful? Life just seems so much better when the sun is shining. 

As for me & my journey on the 'Road to Roth', things are pretty sunny as well. 

This week has been really enjoyable on more than one front, giving me a lot of confidence and renewed vigour to take forward into the crucial final weeks. 

After a decent block of some solid days, including an Oly-distance race and a 20-mile run session, I felt pretty darn shattered at the start of last week. I mean not just physically shattered but struggling to keep my eyes open shattered. There was nothing in the tank at all.

A wetsuit swim on Wednesday indicated that I hadn't recovered from the previous 7 days or so, therefore some much needed rest was taken ahead of focusing on being ready for a quality weekend of training. 

I put the rest-time to really good use, in terms of supplementary prep for Roth. The aero-bars were fitted, as was the behind-the-saddle bottle cage. New bike shoes were ordered & received along with an awesome kit bag from blueseventy

The kit bag is their transition bag, which I spotted at the Little Beaver. Its a really impressive piece of kit and can easily handle all of my race day kit. I always like to take-away some learnings from others at races and this is one of the better ones. Knowing I have a plan for race morning for my kit etc, is another brick in 'peace of mind' wall. 

I've got a lot of time for blueseventy as a brand. I also wear their Helix wetsuit plus a few other products & have always found them spot-on. Wetsuits are a really subjective piece of kit, with some many brands out there, but I would always recommend blueseventy. With so many pros wearing the Helix and their skinsuits, I take this as a glowing endorsement of their quality & performance. 

Anyway, I digress....

So, like I was saying, getting a few more pieces of kit in place ahead of Bala and then Roth has helped with the whole confidence and peace of mind piece. 

Now, onto the training. 

Saturday was an awesome day with great weather, a great venue and a really great session. 

An early morning open-water swim was a great start. I swam for 2 x 30 mins continuously and felt really comfortable. I covered over Ironman-distance and the heart-rate never got above 78 bpm - so super easy. The arms & shoulders are now getting used to the wettie and the stroke feels far more natural. One key take-out was that everything feels more comfortable when I don't wear a tri-top underneath the wettie. Therefore, I'll now be leaving the tri-top in T1. 

Ok, so after the swim and some chit-chat over coffee in the sun, I headed out for a 4 hour bike. The bike was now loaded up with 4 water bottles, plus the new aero bars, so the increased weight & handling needed practicing. 

After a nervous start, I settled down nicely onto the bars and really started to feel the benefit of the more forward position. I felt really strong, was turning a bigger gear for less effort and the stats were all on the "sunny side". In fact, I would go as far to say that this felt like my most complete bike session ever. 

Nutrition-wise, I continued to use the impressive Clif-Shot Bloks as my solids and the Infinit Long-Course Formula as my fluid source of calories. The rear two bottles containing water & Nuun. The Bloks were perfect for the hotter conditions, as they're quite refreshing and don't leave the sickly feeling in the mouth. The Infinit formula is really working well. I'm using the Lemon & Lime flavour and it is just right & not OTT. 

OK, so a great bike just left a 50 minute run. A well-paced "transition" and off I went for multiple laps of the water park lake I swam in earlier. The legs set off at their own pace for the first few minutes but soon settled down. I was really pleased with how comfortable a solidly-paced 6.5 miles felt. No dramas, everything felt under control, especially when using the car as a water-station to keep the hydration levels topped up. 

After finishing the run, a quick dip in the lake to help the legs cool down wrapped up a great days work. 

Sunday brought "just" a 2 hour endurance run. Again, all went well with a comfortable 8.5 min/mile pace not taking my HR above 135 bpm (so, very comfortable). A pain in my left calf did ease off after 30 minutes or so, only to return towards the end. Ended up being pretty painful, so a physio is booked in for Friday. I'm not too concernedd, as I think this is caused by some lower back tightness after the more aero-bike session on Saturday. 

So, there you go....a really pleasing week. Accepting that it is OK to be tired but not wishing to put myself in too deep a hole, the focus will be hitting the key, quality sessions. Bala is in 11 days time, so I'll be ensuring rest is balanced with quality efforts. 

All in all, the world is a happy, sunny place. 

Heres to more of the same for the foreseeable future. 

See you next week, 


Monday, 25 May 2009

Horses for courses


Can't believe that another Monday evening is already upon us but in the spirit of the moment - lets get on with it....

I'm pleased to say that another great week of training is safely under the belt, as is my first race of the season. 

The recent trend of hitting the key sessions continues with several new milestones being hit along the way. 

The stand-outs for me were: 

My longest bike session ever
My first Olympic-distance tri
Backing up racing with two stellar days of biking and bricks

The longest bike session was a 5.5 hour session on Wednesday. Everything went well and felt great, apart from running out of fluid for the last hour. I was really pleased with the pace, feeding and cadence metrics. Funnily enough, this session seemed "easier" than the 3.5 hour rain & wind-soaked session last Saturday. Conditions were perfect, the roads and routes a nice mix of lumps, bumps and rollers. The last 60 mins were a bit of a slog (especially as I took a wrong turn - adding on an extra 5 miles!!) but overall I was really pleased. 

Saturdays race was my first at the Olympic-distance. Again, everything went to plan. The plan being to race at the pace I've trained at, ie Middle Distance and beyond. I was a little disappointed with the swim, as I just switched on auto-pilot and settled into my middle-distance pace. I would have liked to have tested out going a little harder, as I feel confident that a strong swim is within my capability. 

The most promising take-out from the race was that I felt stronger throughout each of the disciplines - so the swim was getting quicker, the bike stronger and the run quicker as I made my way through the distances. On the run I felt better than I have before in any race - so another pleasing sign. 

It was a day of mixed emotions, as part of me felt quite "poor" as I am obviously a lot slower than the guys who specialise at this distance - and its never nice to be beaten so badly by others. However, I just kept telling myself that this was a 'C' race for me - and Bala will be a far better indicator of my standard. 

That being said, I am perfectly aware of my limitations as a competitive triathlete. I am still new to this sport and I conscious that i don't want to fall into the trap of setting un-realistic expectations or pressures on myself. I am not a naturally gifted triathlete, but I do have a very strong work ethic and a desire to continue to develop myself. I believe these talents will lead me to develop into a respectable athlete over a period of years. 

I actually enjoy the lifestyle, the culture and the benefits it brings to my physical & mental health, more than the rewards of racing competitively. Good job really, as I would be a very poor pro!!

Finally, being able to back up Saturdays race with a 2 hour bike on Sunday and then a 3.5 hour run/bike/run session today has left me feeling content with my level of progress, development and performance at this stage of my plan. 

Its now only 6 weeks to Roth, so it really is crunch time. 

The great thing about having a plan, is having faith in the plan and believing that if I hit the plan then I'll be in a position to execute a good day. 

Right now brothers, I have the faith and the belief!

Lets keep the faith together, amen!

See you in seven, 

Rev. Sparky


Monday, 18 May 2009

One step forwards, two steps sideways...

Yeehah, here we go again!!

Let's get straight into it this week guys, as I'm on the clock once again. As well as the physical development this long-course work brings on, its also helping refine my time-management skills. Every minute is precious....

Last week really was a random mix of good, bad and definitely ugly. 

Do you remember me saying how the week before last was one of my best ever? 

How I hit every session as planned, and how great I was feeling?

Well, last week was none of the above!

The week started off slow, with a mixture of work & fatigue resulting in no training on Monday or Tuesday. However, I did have a great day in London on Tuesday, buzzing around the big smoke at 100mph. The combo of a super early start, long train journeys and the brain working overtime, really took its toll. I was shattered. 

So, bring on Wednesday. A 3 hour BRICK was the plan. I hit the session, smack bang on plan. The numbers looked good, I felt strong and was really pleased with how well the session went. The two days off clearly helped. 

I backed up this encouraging session with a strong swim on Thursday morning, knocking out a total of 4.1k, and feeling good about it. This did empty the tank, so with the fatigue, the torrential rain and working late I decided to miss Thursdays planned track session. 

A 60 minute Friday night spin on the bike, set me up for what was going to be a big weekend. If only it would all go to plan....

Saturday morning saw me make my 2009 open water debut. I was super pleased with how this 30 minute continuous swim went. The wetsuit felt great, my technique decent and my pace was comfortably strong. One key take-out was the tiredness in my arms (due to the wettie) but I'm guessing more time in the suit will help overcome this. 

So, off to good start....then came the beating!

The plan said 4.5 hours bike. I managed 3.5 hours of sheer hell. The skies emptied (several times!), the winds howled and there was even bloody hail stones! 

I must admit that I really did not want to be out there. However, after much soul-searching I pushed on until I could literally go know more. Those 3.5 hours were far tougher than a lot of longer rides I have done. 

There was a 50 min run off the bike planned but the lack of feeling in my feet, made me decide to bag this. 

After the session, I wished to incorporate as many of the recovery points Alan Couzens (AC) made in a great article on recovery which I read during the week. So standing in a freezing lake, already freezing cold, I was really looking forward to Sundays 3 hour run, bike, run!

Once again, I was determined to hit the planned session but yet again the weather decided to take the piss. I hit the first run back on plan, a good balance of pace & effort. The legs felt like hell for the first 15 mins but grew stronger as the run went on. 

So run out of the way, I jump straight onto the bike for 60 mins, only to be met by Hurricane Hughes! Stone me, it hammered it down! Torrential wind and rain were my opponents, and I'd like to call it a score-draw. 

However, there was no way I was going back out for the second run. The fact that I couldn't stop shaking sort of made my mind up for me on this!

So, all in all a week & weekend in particular of mixed emotions but the over-arching emotion is frustration. Frustration in the sense that "should I have battled on even more regardless of the weather, am I am soft-ass for quitting?" and one of "if only the weather was better, because I'm performing really well". 

Upon a lot of reflection, I feel pretty pleased that I got done what I got done. In years gone by, I would not have even got out of my front door. During both sessions, I really wanted to quit and didn't. Ok, I didn't get all of the session done but what I did get done was good quality and all things considered worth more than the equivalent in easy conditions. 

I'm working hard on staying positive, so I am putting this down as improved mental fortitude. I know now that I am stronger not only physically but mentally. 

This week sees some more key sessions, including a long mid-week bike and my first Olympic-distance tri on Saturday. 

With a couple of new additions to my daily diet, sports nutrition and bike set-up I'm keen to see how things go in a race situation. 

The new addition to my daily diet in colostrum. I've been to trial this out for ages, so was pleased to start including this protein source into my morning & evening smoothies. I've been using the neovite product, and early days but all seems good so far. 

Sports nutrition-wise, I've finally found an on-bike drink that I'm happy with. I've started using the infinit long-course formula. Its got just under 300 cals per bottle which is perfect for what I wish to consume per hour. 

Then the new additions to the bike are aero-bars & xlab behind-the-saddle bottle cages. I'm looking to get these fitted this week so will let you know how both of these go. I haven't been a fan of aero bars in the past but appreciate the advantage they can bring over the long-course distance, so will look to adjust to them over the next few weeks. I'll aim to execute well at Bala in mid-June, so the next couple of weeks will be about adopting the new position. 

Well, theres heaps going on hey?! 

Incidentally, have you guys seen the new Challenge race in Copenhagen? This is planned for 2010 and looks awesome. I'm a huge fan of the Challenge brand, and am looking forward to experience the Challenge atmosphere at Roth & Barcelona this year. 

Copenhagen looks & sounds an amazing place to hold a long-course race, so I am already pencilling this one into the 2010 diary. I must admit the thought of all of those super-fit Danish chicks does add an extra element to the whole experience!

Hey, if you don't have a dream, then how are you going to have a dream come true!

See you seven dudes