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 forecast....it 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 uber-bikers.....it 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 go....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,