Monday, 28 May 2012

Cyclotour du Leman 180km - 27th May

Riding time - 4:52
Elapsed time - 5:06
So my brother had signed up to this a while ago and asked me if I wanted to do it, I had 'ummed and ahhed', and without much in the way of money, a weekend foray to Switzerland didn’t seem like the best of ideas. However, after an extremely generous offer from my brother to pay my entry and accommodation, I didn't take much convincing - I booked a flight on air miles and was on my way to Geneva.
The forecast for Sunday during the week had suggested thunderstorms, and as I stepped onto the plane in England, flying away from perfectly good weather in the high 20s a small part of me began to question whether my decision to go would be a wise one.
After a hassle free trip with my Tri London emblazoned Amphibia bag, I arrived in Geneva and made the 40 min train journey to Lausanne, where the event was to start and end. I dropped my stuff off in the hotel and heading off to Bussigny with my brother to register. After catching the final few moments of the penultimate stage of the Giro, I began to feel more up for the event.
I collected my bike (borrowed from my brother’s friend) and set it up as best I could. It was slightly large for me, but a titanium frame with carbon forks and campag chorus groupset was still certainly better than I am used to. We went out for a meal, and a couple of beers, I had steak with vegetable, everyone else ordered pasta as recommended by official event briefing literature.

The route....
After about 6 hours sleep, we were up at 5am for breakfast. Sugar free red-bull, some ‘energy-milk’???, some salami, and a handful of strawberries. Having not ridden 180km before my brother was a little nervous, but I told him he need not be – his only previous sportive experience being a 120km sportive in Davos, in the rain with 2600m+ of ascent – compared with that this would be easy! We rolled down to the start about 4km away and waited in the pen to be let off in groups of 25-30. There were about 4-6 of us that knew each other and the plan was to vaguely stick together. With a supposed 2,500 riders almost all in the same race jersey, this seemed unlikely. 
As we set off, our group of 25 started out fairly brisk and soon we had merged into a large group of about 40-50 riders. My brother and I sat at the back and we crusied along at 40kph without much problem. Suddenly as we passed through a small town as the peleton pinched, the whirr of wheels was pierced by the sharp crack of carbon slamming down onto the floor, a lot of groans and the group swerved around a rider who had gone down. The group continued to be trundle along but sadly after 35km my saddle began to come lose, I called back to my brother who waited and I adjusted and re-tightened it as fast as I could. It was gutting to lose such a large group. We set off again and my bro jumped on my wheel, a fast guy came past on his own and I jumped on his wheel and alternated the work with him for a while. I looked back and suddenly there were 10 people stretched out behind us. I kept working until we bridged up to another small group ahead, I was clearly working too hard – but it was great fun. This group then worked well together growing as we accumulated those individuals ahead of us latching on.
Before I knew it we had gone nearly 70km, and my bro and I decided to pull in at the aid station for a quick refuel. I filled up my water and just as we were about to leave a couple of the group we had started with rolled in. We waited for them and head off after a short break. Again we began to build up a group up to about 40 odd people, and suddenly a group of riders in green, obviously some sort of race team, came past cranking it on a mixture of high spec road and TT bikes. The group surged but managed to latch on and so we sped along at 45kph for another hour or so. We pulled in for another stop at Evian where I had some Evian, you know, for novelty value. 
Drinking Evian
We carried on at a good pace, round through Geneva and its distinctive fountain that could be seen from miles away.  The weather had been perfect 25 odd degrees and not a hint of a thunderstorm. We had set off so early though, so it was still heating up, but I was really enjoying the ride - a far cry from the poor road surfaces in and around Hertfordshire. Eventually we got caught by another huge peloton being led by a scooter and a guy on a recumbent bike. With about 60km to go we decided to take the draft and stick with them not stopping until the end. Another guy went down, taking a girl with her, she was obviously in some distress and it was a stark reminder to keep focused. 
The fountain in the distance, its huge!
I kept on taking the gels and cracked out a can of coke I’d been carrying for the last push. I offered my brother some coke which he gladly accepted, and also gave him a caffeinated gel. It was getting hard work as now we were overtaking a lot of those who had started the 110km or 60km events – every time we passed them, the large group pinched and people not concentrating would lose a couple of lengths and the group would fragment. The same happened with the risers and many of the mini-roundabouts. In a couple of instances it required absolute max efforts for 30-60s to latch back onto the group.  
With about 10km to go there was a moderate climb which totally split the group. Ten or so riders absolutely bolted off the front and it all stretched out, my bro stayed with me as we pushed over the top, but the next time I looked around he was gone. I waited up, and he told me he had completely blown. I made several attempts to cajole him to stay on my wheel, but each time he just fell off. As the event has gone on he had started to feel a little sick, and stopped eating, thinking there was only about 20km to go, he thought he would be fine....d'oh. He certainly took it in good spirits, and fortunately it was very close to the end.  I had certainly worked hard for most of the day, and was happy to roll in with him the rest of the way, on smooth swiss-roads and glorious sunshine. If only I could post that time at Roth!
We enjoyed a free massage and the pasta party in the sun at the end of the ride (if only I could do that at Roth instead of the marathon?!) It was great fun, and I am certainly considering entering the etape come next year. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun down by the lake with a beer.….all in all a great weekend.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hercules 1.0 Triathlon Race Report

Swim – 20:32
T1 – 02:25
Cycle – 1:16:08
T2 – 01:08
Run 41:45
Position = 6/68
I had planned to treat this race purely as training. On Thursday I had a massage from Chris, and having not been for one in a good couple of months, there was a lot to iron out. All day Friday I felt that massage and I was a little worried I’d have nothing to offer come race day, I felt sluggish in my swim on Friday morning and certainly didn’t feel much better getting dragged round the Chilterns by a couple of ‘real cyclists’ later that day.  Saturday I went for a swim and did feel a lot better and simulated some starts hammering the first few lengths then easing into a more sustainable pace.
Sunday came around and my goals were to get into the front pack with the swim as best I could, bike conservatively and run at my threshold. I wasn’t here to compete, I was here to test my training to date.
The swim was fresh (14.1 degrees apparently), but not unbearable, I warmed up as best I could and kept moving trying to keep the blood flowing. Soon enough we were off and I found myself on the toes of the lead swimmer. A look back and there was a gap of about 3 metres to 3rd by the turnaround on the first lap. It felt somewhat odd, as being so far up in the field was a foreign experience to me. For my swimming companion, sighting was obviously foreign to him – he was all over the place.
There were some buoys for navigation, and it was colder than this looked
I wanted to take advantage of the draft but not at the expense of 200 extra metres on the swim. As I worked my way back down the lap, I decided it was best to take control of the situation. By the start of the second lap, he had merged behind me, and in my childish nature, I couldn’t help but mess around. I put in a couple of spurts, just to see what would happen. He didn’t respond and lost a couple of lengths on me. I thought about killing myself to see how far ahead I could get, then grew up a little, and decided to hold the pace I was comfortable with and swim in. He rolled in 9 seconds behind me. I feel this was a pace I could hold for Half Ironman certainly, and having no draft for the majority, even if it was a little short, am very happy with my swim – you can’t beat first! ;-)

Leading out the swim....ohh yeaaah!
After the swim I decided that no matter what happened the rest of the day, I would be pleased with the result. I certainly took my time in transition and put on my jacket, gloves etc etc – I left transition in 4th – haha. I set off on the bike and tried to keep my heart rate at a reasonable level.  I knew I wouldn’t enjoy the ride if I was cold, so no regrets in wrapping up. A couple came past me early on and I caught the girl who had overtaken me in transition. I to’d and fro’d with the swimmer who couldn’t navigate and although the legs felt a little tired, as the second loop was over I felt like I was just getting warmed up. I certainly had a lot more to give on the bike but I definitely need to work on it A LOT if I want to realise my season’s goals – for which there is still time. 

I dismounted before the line, and as I ran into transition, I unclipped my helmet. The marshal shouted, “you, stop there!” As he did so, I clipped my helmet back, guessing what it may have been pertaining to and apologised. I hadn’t intended to cheat and I certainly felt by this point, it was clear I had understood my mistake, and already lost as much time as I could have saved having come to a complete standstill.
I know now that the bike has to be back on the rack before you touch your helmet – but racing the longer stuff I genuinely hadn’t thought about it that much. I’ve even read through the ITU rules now – something I can’t imagine is expected of every triathlete entering a Sunday afternoon run around in Welwyn. (Apparently its illegal to crawl on the run!)
Anyway, the jobsworth marshal was having none of it. As he slowly waddled his slightly rotund frame over to me, he began to question me “How many of these have you done”…..I said “I’ve done one Olympic before”……I looked at my watch and said, “sorry, but can I go?” as the 5th place ran off out of transition. He said, “look, you can either have me stand here and hold you up for a while or I can give you a two minute penalty”. At this point I bit my tongue, and although many of the things I wanted to say came rushing to me, I just said “be held up for a while?!”. He then waited for a couple of seconds and said, off you go.
On reflection I broke the rules, and I certainly will take heed in future. But where was lotte’s stop and go penalty as stipulated in point 31, Appendix K, number 12, p.126 of the updated 2012 ITU rules for leaving equipment (aerobars) or discarding personal articles on the course? – there is just no justice in the world. What probably bothers me the most is that after all the stick I gave lotte for her Lanzarote transition, it was well and truly returned when she realised she had outsplit me in both transitions. What goes around comes around! See you at IMUK 70.3 Carritt!

Anyway, lesson learned and onto the run, I after less than a lap I had caught the 2nd swimmer once again, and settled into my pace, I was running at 170 HR and felt I could have held it for a good while. I could see I was very slowly gaining on the guy ahead, but as the laps went on I lost him in the extra bodies on the course. I passed Naomi on my 3rd lap, and received some encouragement. I carried onto the last half lap as the first lady drew level with me, she had been slowly gaining on me for the run. In no mood to kill myself, as she drew level, I told her she was good to go and I wouldn’t give chase. I mean someone who wears their name on their kit at that time in the morning in rural Hertfordshire is clearly taking triathlon a bit too seriously! ;-)
Some of the run course - it wasn't this nice a day!
Sadly as I rounded the last corner I saw that the guy ahead of me and he was much closer than I had though – maybe with a little more effort I would have had 4th.  But realistically, there was not ability in this field worthy of beating. Even so,  I upped the pace in the final 50m – its almost irresistible  when you are running towards a finish chute. I was happy with a solid race (bar transitions) and gladly  undid all my hard work at Ray’s gathering – as usual……

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lanzarote Summary

It feels like we were there longer than a week, but Lotte and I are now back in England. All things considered, things probably could not have gone better. I can't speak for Lotte, but I certainly leave Lanzarote more motivated and fitter than when I arrived (I've even got a tan).

I think its easy when you set aside a block of time for serious training to have unrealistic expectations of what you might achieve. Perhaps I would have trained longer and harder had I not had such a debilitating gastric issues in the preceding days before flying out, but as a result I arrived only wanting to get back into training. Therefore, what I considered we achieved over the past week exceeded my expectations. Either way, the outcome has left me pondering this statement:

Not wanting to get into a deep philosophical discussion of what that might entail just now, instead, I’ll talk through our week. We arrived on Thursday morning, and instead of renting the bikes from Friday-Monday leaving two days to relax after, we rented them from Saturday-Tuesday giving me and extra day to build my strength for the days ahead. 

The long drag up Fire Mountain
On Friday, even though I certainly didn't feel my best on waking, we set off on a gentle 4 mile run in the morning to Puerto Calero and back along some undulating trails. It was great to be out training again, and it was a great way to get some of the cobwebs out of my system. More literally, Lotte and I also ensured we did our POWERbreathe training, choosing to do the 30 breaths after our run, to work the already part-fatigued inspiratory muscles. Not only does this add an aspect of specificity to the training, but it is also a good way to get it out of the way. I tend to do most of my training in one big block in each day, so putting at least part of the POWERbreathe practice actually into that training block seems to lessen the logistics of performing the twice daily regimen.

View of Puerto del Carmen Harbour on an early morning run
On Saturday, Lotte and I slept through and wandered over to the breakfast buffet in a leisurely fashion. We then set out for a 50 mile route of the Ocean Lava bike course and ran for 30 mins off the bike. This was my first experience of cycling in Lanzarote, and it took some getting used to. I haven't been cycling that much of late, coming off a run focus, and I knew my cycling legs would take a while to return. The ocean lava course is pretty cruel, but great fun.  I slowly began to get my bearings on the island and lets just say I also began to understand when the wind was going to be helpful, and when the wind was not going to be helpful. Despite my short-lived illness, I also found that I was relatively rested, and perhaps a little over enthusiastic. After a loop of El Golfo as we climbed up into Las Brenas, I pulled away from Lotte, building to threshold and enjoy the silent smooth roads. Then out of Las Brenas, having enjoyed the last little surge I did the same again, this time climbing out of the saddle and pushing on. We re-grouped at the bottom of the next sweeping descent and then turned left up the climb at Fermes. I only had to look ahead to see a small car at a funny angle to know it wasn't going to be pretty. It was most of what I had to hold on to Lotte's wheel for the short but steep climb to the top. Lotte aptly described that climb in a tweet later that evening "#Fermesisabitch". Im inclined to agree (excuse the pun).

View from the top of the "#Fermesisabitch" climb
On Sunday we were to bike the Ironman course, which to be honest I found a bit of a struggle. It was a hot day, and I think by the time we reached the top of Tabayesco, the heat was starting to tell. Not even an arid cheese and ham sandwich (hey Spain, ever heard of BUTTER?!) was enough to bring me back. I stayed alive on some caffeinated gels up to Mirador del Rio, but  really blew up on the way back along the LZ1. Even though the wind was behind us, as we moved along at the same speed as the wind, it was as though there was no breeze at all, and I just felt like I was cooking in my helmet. It was over soon enough, and 100 miles with 2000m + of elevation the bag. Even knowing what I know of coping with adversity, this was a great reminder of how easily, when you’re tired you can still lose focus and drift into a more negative mindset. I’m happy to say I took this reflection with me over the rest of the week, and made an effort to actively re-enforce my positive emotions as I trained – I felt much better for it!

Lotte coasting down to Famara
On Monday I had convinced Lotte to take the morning off, to give us some time to recover, and to head out for a late-afternoon ride. Now knowing the island a little better I selected a route that I felt would be about as easy (wind assisted) as we could get. After a little splashing around in the sea in the morning, we got on the bikes and  head off up the donkey track and then over Fire Mountain, getting some of the uphill work out the way. Dropped down through Mancha Blanca, Tinajo and into La Santa before a short climb (wind assisted) up to Soo. Dropped down again into Famara, then another (wind assisted) (do you see where I'm going with this?) climb up to Teguise, before coasting back (mostly downhill, wind assisted) home. Despite plotting as favourable route as possible this still gave us another 50 miles and nigh on 1000m ascent. Beacuse it was later in the afternoon, it was also a little windier, which Lotte was quick to point out! Regardless 200 miles and 4000m+ asc in three days and we were beginning to see what resembled some decent training. 

Panorama view from Mirador del Rio
 On Tuesday we forewent out buffet breakfast in the morning in favour of heading out early. We had got some supplies from the supermarket and had those before getting out the door before 8am. As we set out on sore bums, it was abundantly clear, that it wasn't just tired legs that might slow us down, but a strong wind. Lotte's sister had recommend we see Orzola right at the other end of the island. We plotted a relatively direct route there, but it was hard going. I’m not sure if the 40 min slog into a buffeting wind from Arrieta detracted from the initial impressions of Orzola, or whether a favourable view was soured by the unsuspecting climb out of there, but needless to say I won't be in any major rush to go back. Having taken on another gel, Lotte and I commenced the (in)famous Tabayesco TT. We managed it comfortably in 40 mins. I held back most of the way and enjoyed the climb. It wasn't nearly as steep as I had remembered from descending some of that section on Sunday. I think it was Lotte's time to be wiped, as after a bite to eat she seemed to struggle a little as we made our way back. Instead of a direct route home however we had added in a loop down from Teguise to Tahiche, through San Bartoleme to and back up to Tinajo to make up some distance. This did NOT go well. The wind seemed to have picked u even more  and those of you that know, this loop heads north.  No hashtag that can be repeated could describe how Lotte suggested she felt. Soon enough the miles ticked away and we were coasting back across from Mancha Blanca towards PdC, on what I think must be one of my favourite stretches of road on the island. 

It'd be wrong not to eat some Paella...
Lotte and I managed our POWERbreathe training every morning and evening, and having performed the twice daily breaths before, and also having only ‘dabbled’ before, it is also clear that the rapid progression comes from the regularity of practice. No surprises there then. This time, I have opted to also perform half of my daily practice standing up, without the inspiratory muscles supported. Although these attempts seem significantly harder initially, and some adjustment of the level is required for the standing, I hope that the hard work will pay dividends. For now, I look forward to building on the both the momentum and hard work (21 hours of cycling in 4 days) established out here in Lanzarote. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

POWERbreathe UK

So this week hasn't turned out quite as planned, but it could be worse.

On Monday, I (more or less) completed my 30 days of running. (30 mins running every day for 30 days); a small challenge I had taken up for a good boost to my run training in the run up to Roth. I say more or less as I had technically let slip on the 26th (after zero sleep from a poorly timed uni assignment) but made it up with a double run on the Friday. Technical completion or not, I had achieved the desired outcome, I was running well, and had a good mix of interval work in there too. As I am sure you will realise, April had also been a bit soggy, so I was pleased that I had stuck it out.

All I had to tackle on Tuesday was my final exam of the year, before I could look forward to getting ready for a week in Lanzarote, training (but also relaxing) with Lotte.

However, on Monday night, I came down with a nasty bought of gastroenteritis which I reckon I can trace to an uncharacteristic pastry after swimming on Monday morning. I had an unsettled stomach by mid-morning. By late evening I felt plain unwell, and by 2am, I had lost nearly 3 kilos. I don't think there is ever a good time to get gastroenteritis, but this was particularly poorly timed. Not that I wasn't up for risking an 'inbetweeners'-esque moment in my exam, but I honestly was incapable of anything that day and decided to apply for mitigating circumstances. I just slept.

It was then a race to recover for some decent training in Lanzarote. Although I felt remarkably better on Wednesday, I still felt very weak.  Lotte and I decided to push back the 4 day rental of the bikes until Saturday, to give me an extra day to recover, and it seems to have paid off. My stomach seems to have rebuilt itself, the sun is out, and I even felt like a beer yesterday (and today of course).

So having rested up, Lotte and I even managed a run this morning.

After 3 days off, I guess this signals the start of the last big push before Roth, and then of course Transalpine. In relation to the latter, further good news comes in the form of team sponsorship by POWERbreathe.  Lotte and I will now officially run as Team POWERbreathe UK and blog on our training with the devices in the run up to the race. I have been using mine for a while, and have noticed significant benefits in my breathing during swimming and during interval work, but really expect to reap the rewards when it comes to running at altitude. Hopefully we will both be able to give a balanced and realistic account of what it is like to train for triathlon and multi-day eventing using POWERbreathe, and also an insight into some useful hints and tips regarding its usage.

Anyway, thats enough for now. Off for some dinner and then to bed before some biking and running tomorrow.