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



Monday, 11 May 2009

Money in the bank...

G'day folks, 

Is it really seven days since we last met like this? 

Time is flying past at the moment, there are simply not enough hours in the day. Don't they say "time flies when you're having fun"? Well, I'm definitely having fun thats for sure!

I'm loving, yes loving, the training at the moment. I hasten to add that this is "at the moment" as things are starting to hot-up which will be putting me in a place I've never been before so we'll have to see what happens....

Last week felt like my best week yet. Every session was hit, bang on plan. Every session felt good, the goals and structure of the session were met and I left every session feeling like I'd taken a step forward. 

A couple of key stand-outs were Wednesday's BRICK session and Sunday's long run. 

The BRICK session was split 1:45 bike / 45 min run so not huge but a decent start to the BRICK sessions. A solid bike was finished with a nice run. I was pleased with how everything felt, ie under control and the stats supported this with the HR & pace well under control. 

Sunday's long run was pleasing as it was at the end of solid week. The 2 hour run felt great, I held a really comfortable pace and the HR never crept above 131bpm (apart from when Bruce Springsteen ' Born to Run' came on the iPod - works everytime!)

I genuinely felt in complete control of the pace, HR and overall feel of the run. It was a lovely morning, running along my favourite trail with a big smile on my face. Its those moments which really make me realise how fortunate I am to have my health & fitness and how I plan to keep it that way for a long time. 

Nutrition-wise, I had a result on the run. I took out a pack of Clif Bar Blok Shots and ate 3 of these at the 45 & 90 minute markers. The great thing about the Blok Shots is that they dissolve nicely in the mouth and don't really require any water to wash them down with. Therefore, super convenient and also great tasting and kinda refreshing. ProBikeKit have currently got a buy one, get one free offer on - I'd really recommend taking advantage - just leave some for me! 

I had an interesting swim session on Thursday, Coach Kev brought along the video camera so we shot some footage. I took out a few killer points from my analysis. 

Firstly, sort those bloody legs out! My body position in the water is shocking. If I can get my legs lifted - so my head, butt and ankles are all level - I could really get moving. Easier said than done but good to know what to focus on. 

The second point was my right arm catch. Unbeknown to me, the right arm (my breathing side) is catching and pulling at a slight inward angle, ie under my body. I used to have a really pronounced issue with this on my left side - but this has been corrected and looks a lot better. So, I just need to focus back on the right hand side and should be able to sort this out quite quickly. 

So all in all, I'm pretty pleased with my progress to date. I've got a couple of BIG weeks ahead. I'll be lifting my weekly volume from 15.5 hours upto 20 hours. This uplift will mostly becoming from some huge weekend volumes. 

Its now really starting to sink in, this is when the serious work begins....this will separate the men from the boys...

So on that note, I'm off to bed to get in as much sleep as I can. Sod's law that I've got to be in London for 9am tomorrow......

Have great weeks, I'll get back to you in seven....



Monday, 4 May 2009

What a ride, what a ride...

Now this is a rare luxury, an early evening post....praise the Lord for Bank Holidays!

Its been a great week here in Sparky-land, the training has been going well, the nutrition is coming along nicely and I'm really pleased with a few other bits & pieces. All in all, I'm feeling pretty good with things....

This week has seen a return to some solid sessions and decent volume. The weekly plan totaled 18.5 hours, so pretty juicy. I managed to hit 15.5 hours, so although disappointed not to meet all of the sessions, I am pleased with the quality of what I did deliver and the overall balance, consistency and recovery from the sessions. 

Swimming is returning to its previously strong form, after a slight drop over the last few weeks (due to this annoying chest infection). The stroke is feeling longer, balanced and more consistent. The balance between pace & effort is returning to the 1:32/100m cruise. Thursdays session was a beauty of 40 x 100ms, off 1:50 swim & rest. This was just my cup of tea, as I love the longer, more focused sets. 

I'm really, really pleased with how the bike is developing, although I did miss Thursdays 2 hour 'easy ride' - due to bad weather, tiredness and work - not a good combo! 

However, I did get in two really good sessions, both involving some strong hill work. Wednesday's 90 minutes undulating ride saw me take on the legendary Cleeve Hill (the highest point in the Cotswolds). Its a cracking climb, with took me all the way into the red zone, but the winding descent was well worth it. My descending is rubbish, so this was much needed practice. If I can improve my descending, my Roth experience will be greatly enhanced. 

Saturdays ride was a beast, equalling 4 hours of pain! My mates wanted a "lumpy" ride, so we hit some of the biggest climbs around, including an epic 25% climb! As managing my HR is key, I did (willingly) get off the bike and walk to the summit! 

It was a super tough route, but I was really pleased with how I managed to keep both the HR and cadence within my target zones. it definitely made me feel like I was in control of the session. 

A slight disappointment was the nutrition. My plan is to eat 150 cals every 30 minutes. The climbs knocked this out of sync, and the effort levels meant I was drinking more than eating.

Once again, I was using the Clif Bar and Clif Blok Shots, which are proving a God-send. In fact, they're proving too bloody good as I'm ending up sharing them with my mates who have turned into "admirers" of the bars as well. It was like "seven loaves & seven fishes" at one point!   

All of this good-will left me out of food & drink with about 45 mins left, so not too bad but I would have liked to have got this spot-on. 

So after a tough bike on Saturday, I was pleased to get out & hit my 110 min run on Sunday. Looking to hit a slower than marathon-pace, I was pleased with both the legs and the "engine". Everything felt really comfortable, as it also did on this mornings run. 

Overall, I'm feeling strong, enjoying the training, loving the the dream bro'!

.....but a good massage wouldn't go amiss!!

Cheers ya'll, see you in seven,