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....