If you search You Tube or Google for ‘bike fit’ you are immediately overwhelmed by the volume of results and also by the varying points of view on what the best approach is. It can be confusing. What is clear though is that the world must be full of geniuses because you’ll also encounter more experts on this topic than Magnus Magnusson did in his whole career.
I think most triathletes and cyclists will be aware of the importance of a good fit on the bike, lots will have had a fit at some point and then there’s those who don’t know, don’t care and remain perfectly happy.
I’m in the ‘do know, do care’ category. With my Ironman debut coming up in 2012, plus a general hunger to improve my race results I’ve spent a while researching and speaking to people who’s opinions I trust. I also had the pleasure earlier this year of meeting Richard Melik just as he was about to launch his Retul bike fit business, Freespeed. In addition to his passion for triathlon, his own sporting history and his knowledge in the field there was one more very important factor which made deciding on Freespeed a no-brainer: We share a love of Echo & The Bunnymen. If you have to ask why this is important, you’ll never understand.
I’ve had 2 bike fits in the past – the first at my LBS, and the second a Specialized BG fit. Neither was particularly recently and like my running form, I know that my cycling form has changed over time. In addition to that, with that Ironman looming (more on that in a future post) I am keen to go into the New Year knowing that my biking is as efficient as possible.
With both my road bike and TT bike to fit, a day off work was required – the process is detailed and not to be rushed. But it’s also a total geek-fest so it was a great way to use some personal time.
The first part of the process was a simple flexibility test and athlete history questionnaire; nothing taxing and it didn’t take long. I than had a number of small Velcro stuck onto shoulder, elbow, wrist, hips, knee, ankles and feet to which were attached the sensors read by the camera system.
The Retul system then records your motion on each side, over 4 low intensity work periods of only about 1 minute each. The readings from these tests is incredibly detailed, and watching columns of numbers appear on the screen is both impressive and daunting. The skill of the fitter is in deciphering the data and it is as much of an art as it is a science. Given the amount of data that was recorded during the tests this seems incongruous. There are so many measurements taken and it was quickly clear that one tiny positive tweak in one place could easily lead to a bigger negative elsewhere so most of the session is taken up with dialing in these changes across the bike (also including cleat position).
It was pleasing to hear that the position I have instinctively reached wasn’t a million miles off, but we did make some critical changes, described as follows by Richard in his follow up email…
"On the road bike you were a little forward of the ideal positioning causing your posture to be too upright and your arms too braced. By moving the saddle backwards it allowed you to have a more natural and comfortable reach and brought your back angle to a better, lower position. We also saw good improvements in your pedaling efficiency.
With the TT bike your angles were good, you were nice and steep on the bike but it was a false position as you were perched on the front of the saddle, an unstable base to pedal from. By moving the seat forward and raising it slightly we managed to keep the good angles but create a much more stable platform and the position overall looks more dynamic and powerful. We also experimented with a slightly lower front end but you felt this was going to cause comfort issues so we reverted to the +16 degree stem position.”
The follow up also included a before and after report and images, as well as very detailed info on final measurements and positions – crucial for reassembly if you are travelling and will be breaking the bike down to get it in a box.
Overall, it was a very insightful experience. I learned a bit more about the technical aspects of riding, and my own physiology. Plus, if you like bikes, it’s just a fun day.
What Freespeed have done around their brand is inspiring, and this is reflected in the space they work in – very cool and a pleasure to be in. So much so that I literally got the t-shirt.
My one regret would be that I should have done this earlier in the year to take advantage of the mild Autumn we had. Most of my riding for the next while will likely be on the turbo and I’ve spent quite a few hours already on the newly fitted TT bike and feel good so far. One further adjustment I may make is to investigate an Adamo saddle, for increased comfort but other than that I’m extremely happy with the fit, something that I am confident will prove to be a very worth while investment.
Tampere ETU Long Distance Championship Race Report
….and so the time finally arrived. After much planning, training and talking I was packed, double packed and being dropped off at Heathrow T3 for my journey to the ETU European Long Distance Championships and my appearance in GB age group colours.
I had a pretty solid last 2 weeks of training before the event, but overall 2011 was not as consistent as I had hoped it would be so while I felt OK, I was not 100% comfortable with my fitness and prep. But there you go, worrying about that at this point in proceedings wasn’t going to help.
I flew into Helsinki (as always, relieved to see the bike in one piece) and got my transfer by people carrier to Tampere, about 190km away. My observation is that Finland has a lot of trees, so if you are into tree related hobbies, this might be the place for you.I was staying in the team hotel, but really this didn’t mean a great deal other than the mechanic (Dave from Sigma in Kingston which is my local bike shop) being on site. A stroll out to find a supermarket and stock up on some food and drinks (expensive!) and a coffee were the first point of order, then the short walk to the Retina Stadium to register, which was closed by the time I got there (despite the opening times listed in the race documents. NB: This is a recurring theme we’ll come back to later).
The race started and ended in or around the stadium (17,000 seater used for athletics and football), with transition on the pitch so it was good to get some bearings and see the swim start. After that, and long day of travel it was back to the hotel to build up the bike and relax. I’ve found a whole new level of love for the iPad which I declare the best travel gadget ever. I’d downloaded a couple of movies and books, and the free wi-fi was fast so it kept me amused during down time.
Saturday morning was an arrange, police escorted lap of the bike course – about 20km. Scheduled to start at 8am, we eventually set off at about 8:30 (Finland observation #2: Things don’t seem to start as advertised) and seeing a hundred TT bikes owning the motorway A: turned the excitement levels up a notch and B: confused the locals.
Race briefing after lunch was a chance to meet a few of the other GB athletes (nice bunch, usual rules) and hear more about the race. The opening ramarks by the ETU president were surprisingly negative – disappointed with the number of elites, the number of countries represented, and the difficulty in finding a host for events like this.Cheers mate for being Captain Buzz-Kill. The undertone was that the ETU were not over the moon with the local organization, which although I’m sure done to the best of their ability wasn’t great (and particularly showed out on the bike course). Post briefing it was bike racking time (again, not as advertised) and after that, it was feet up time. A lot of Twittering, coffee and playing with the iPad, staying awake a bit too late then having the usual broken sleep.
Sunday – race day – started with a 04:40 alarm (02:30 UK time!). The hotel had laid on an early ‘breakfast’. It was shit. Bread, crappy coffee and some meat & cheese. What I really wanted was porridge but due to my crafty supermarket visit, I had prepared and could at least have some oats and milk. At that time in the morning there were a lot of young folks arriving back at the hotel looking pretty mangled after a Saturday night out. I think the gaggle of people in GB tracksuits confused them, which given the clip of some of them was probably always going to happen.
A short walk to the stadium, with a great red morning sky, and not much chat going on – people clearly had their game heads on. I’d left myself a good 30minutes to load up the bike with nutrition and was meticulous in my planning so there was no last minute panic or rush.
The swim start was outside the stadium, and the less than amazing organization was evident here. With just a few minutes to go the officials were still trying to register athletes over the timing mat much to the annoyance of the German technical delegate. But it seems we all got through in time and were straight in and ready for the deep water start.
THE SWIM 01:10:46
The swim course at O3 distance is 4km, slightly longer than full IM distance and the size of the lake meant this was done as one big (more or less) rectangular lap. The first sprint was about 400m before a right turn and a long straight of about 1500m. The turns were marked by big yellow markers which were very visible but the smaller orange markers in between were very low to the water and hard to see when we were bobbing around waiting for the gun, but no time to worry about that…
I got a decent start – with a fairly small field it was less of a washing machine than usual and over the longer distance I wanted to start steady. I got a good draft, swimming off the toes of someone for the first 150 or so but lost him. This is a skill I definitely want to work on – on the occasions I have stumbled onto the toes of someone I have clearly felt the difference. The difficulty is holding on and not veering off to one side. I picked up other swimmers from time to time and got short boosts here and there, but it wasn’t long before I could see one pack make a clear break away ahead of me. I was pleased that I seemed to be staying tight to the markers, despite the difficulty in sighting and the outbound leg was uneventful. At the 3rd turn though, we were swimming into a bit of wind as we approached the mouth of the river we had to swim up to the exit we also came up against a current. I was very aware of the water suddenly becoming a bit choppy and sighting was also trickier so there was a bit of ploughing away to be done before the final turn to the left up some 400m upstream to the exit. I felt I had done OK in the swim (it’s never spectacular) over a tough 4km. Swim time included T1, which was about 250 away from exit.
THE BIKE 03:21:21
Thanks to an escort from the Finnish Police the day prior to the race we had done 1 lap of the 6 lap course so new what to expect - more or less flat, with a couple of long slight up hills (maybe 1.5 km each?). These seemed innocuous for the first 3 laps but after that I started to feel them a bit, and they were shallow enough that there wasn’t much gain on the way down. I hadn’t really legislated for how hard a flatter course is – there is no downhill respite do I was working the whole time, but overall felt OK. There was a bit of wind throughout and on one section in particular it was a direct headwind – not blowing a gale but definitely added a bit of additional challenge. I had a near miss on the first lap when I lost concentration and clipped a traffic cone – I did the jelly wobble on the bike but somehow managed to stay upright. Luckily it was on an uphill so speed was moderate but it was a sharp lesson in being switched on all the time – my race nearly came to an end at that point.
The local organization was shown up again on the bike – we changed sides of the road on several occasions and markers were mostly just plastic tape and not very clear.Marshalls were not in abundance and at one turn riders were passing each other at high speed in both directions with very little space, separated by nothing much. Twice I saw the local Police chase cars who had managed to get onto the closed roads, and we heard (although not confirmed) that a female rider collided with a car at one point. Another reason to stat focused.
The course was pretty uninspiring, through the non-descript town and on the motorway at times so it was really just a case of head down and get it done. I felt pretty decent coming off the bike and ready for what I knew would be the most challenging part of the day.
THE RUN 02:39:36
I knew this was going to be brutal. The step up in distance on the swim and bike was challenging but very manageable, but at 30km the run was an additional 10k on my least favourite event. I felt surprisingly OK as I came off the bike and started on lap 1 of the 4 lap course and was really boosted by the Bujold family (who I had met randomly in the street the day before) on their balcony overlooking the run, cheering me on and waving the signs they had made. That was incredible – I was a stranger to them and they adopted me as their athlete, and were around for pretty much the whole race. I can’t thank them enough for that.
The first 2 laps felt OK – I help a steady pace and prepared myself for lap 3 which I thought would be mentally tough. The course was a mix of tarmac along the banks of the lake until it headed into a local park where it was firm gravel path underfoot – fairly scenic with plenty local support all the way round and that helped a bit. But by the start of lap 4 I was really struggling. I could feel the first twinges of cramp in my right hamstring and my right calf was also feeling tight. My running form was terrible and in my head I was now thinking of just getting to each aid station, dreaming of a cup of flat coke and ultimately getting through. I had to stop and stretch out my legs a couple of times before I had to take a couple of short walk breaks. It was murder. I could see quite a few athletes who had obviously decided to quit the race – there was no way I was doing that and by the time I got o the turnaround point on the last lap I knew I was on the home straight. It was a very long 3.25km back along the lakeside and rounding the last corner I could hear the PA from inside the stadium. My hamstring was screaming at me by this time but I employed the #shutitlegs mantra and with a big cheers from the crowd at the stadium entrance I was through the tunnel and onto the running track for one last 400m lap to the finish. I was all alone and those last meters felt like I was running the wrong way on an escalator but eventually I got there, and crossed the line with a smile on my face.
FINAL TIME: 07:12:48
The next 20 minutes were spent flat on my back, slightly goggle eyed, to tired to do much except ask for water. I wasn’t really thinking about my time, I was just pleased to have completed my first event longer than 70.3
Shortly after that, I was overwhelmed with the hunger of 100 men and food became a priority.
Back at the hotel I ate then, I managed to get my lower half in the very cold swimming pool for 10 minutes. That was a smart move. Combined with some gentle rolling on my TP Therapy Grid over the next couple of days I felt better than expected, but pretty knackered to a whole new level (I slept a lot!).
Overall, I am not unhappy with the race. Representing GB at any level is an honour and a schoolboy dream fulfilled and I hope my time is enough to keep me on the team for 2012 and I believe with this learning race under my belt and a strategy I can make some big improvements. Thoughts now have turned to what I do over the next 12 months, with plans slowly coming together. But that’s for another blog…..
It’s now less than one week to my big race in Finland and I’m starting to get excited. There’s no training I can do now that will make me fitter, faster or more efficient so this week will be about mentally preparing, and resting as much as possible and following my final training week plan as closely as possible.
I’ve decided though that if I feel like I can sleep a bit more rather than get up to train, I will. At both Antwerp and Hyde Park, I started the day feeling tired and under-slept so will try and avoid that this time round.
I’ve also started to write my own packing list, which I’ll post later in the week. I ALWAYS forget something and I think it would be a mental boost to get there with absolutely everything I need. I even bought a spare gear hanger!
Hopefully @russmcox won’t mind me posting my final week training schedule, for the training geeks among you.
Planned Distance:2187 yardsWorkout Description:Threshold reps on extra rest.Swim Warm Up - 500 Efforts Set 1 Reps: 1 Distance: 200m, Stroke: any , RPE: 5, Notes: Easy warm up swim Set 2 Reps: 4 Distance: 50m, Stroke: Front Crawl , RPE: 8, Notes: First 25m easy, second 25m hard. Rest interval - 30s Set 3 Reps: 1 Distance: 100m, Stroke: Front Crawl , RPE: 5, Notes: Easy front crawl swim, focus on long stroke. 12 x 100m CSS on extra rest Set 1 Reps: 12 Distance: 100m, Stroke: Front Crawl , RPE: 7, Notes: CSS pace/Threshold. Rest Interval - 40s Cool Down Notes - Easy Swimming Set 1 Distance: 300m Stroke: Front Crawl , Notes: Easy swim down.
Run : Aerobic Run Session (30 minutes) Planned Time:0:30:00Workout Description:Include 3x5 min at IM paceAerobic Run Set 1 Duration: 30min HR Zone: 1, RPE: 6, Speed Zones: 1
Wednesday, 17 August, 2011
Swim : Open Water Swim (30 min) Planned Time:0:30:00Workout Description:Continuous open water swim for time.
Run : Aerobic Run Session (30 minutes) Planned Time:0:30:00Workout Description:Include 10 min at IM pace in the middle.Aerobic Run Set 1 Duration: 30min HR Zone: 1, RPE: 6, Speed Zones: 1
Bike : Bike Race Prep (2x5 HIM, 3x10 IM, 1.5 hour) Planned Time:1:30:00Workout Description:Easy pace with HIM intervalsWarm-up (25 min) Set 1 Duration: 25min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 1, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60 - 60, Percent HR: 65 - 75%Max HR 2 x 5 HIM Intensity Set 1 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 4, Power Zones: 3, RPE: 8, Notes: Half Ironman paced effort , % FTP: 80 - 90, Percent HR: 80 - 95%Max HR Set 2 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 2, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 5, Notes: Easy spin between , % FTP: 80 Set 3 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 4, Power Zones: 3, RPE: 8, Notes: Half Ironman paced effort , % FTP: 80 - 90, Percent HR: 80 - 95%Max HR Set 4 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 2, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 5, Notes: Easy spin , % FTP: 80 3 x 10 IM intensity Set 1 Duration: 10min HR Zone: 2, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 7, Notes: Ironman intensity , % FTP: 70 - 75 Set 2 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60, Percent HR: 60%Max HR Set 3 Duration: 10min HR Zone: 2, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 7, Notes: Ironman intensity , % FTP: 70 - 75 Set 4 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60, Percent HR: 60%Max HR Set 5 Duration: 10min HR Zone: 2, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 7, Notes: Ironman intensity , % FTP: 70 - 75 Cool Down (5 min) Set 1 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 1, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60 - 60, Percent HR: 65 - 75%Max HR
Thursday, 18 August, 2011
Swim : Open Water Swim (30 min) Planned Time:0:30:00Workout Description:Continuous open water swim for time.
Run : Aerobic Run Session (30 minutes) Planned Time:0:30:00Workout Description:Include 10 min at IM pace in the middle.Aerobic Run Set 1 Duration: 30min HR Zone: 1, RPE: 6, Speed Zones: 1
Saturday, 20 August, 2011
Swim : Open Water Swim (20 min) Planned Time:0:20:00Workout Description:Continuous open water swim for time.
Bike : Bike Race Prep (3x5 IM, 35 min) Planned Time:0:35:00Workout Description:Easy pace with IM intervalsWarm Up (5 min) Set 1 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 1, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60 - 60, Percent HR: 65 - 75%Max HR 3x5 IM intensity Set 1 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 2, RPE: 7, Notes: Ironman intensity , % FTP: 70 - 75 Set 2 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60, Percent HR: 60%Max HR Set 3 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 2, RPE: 7, Notes: Ironman intensity , % FTP: 70 - 75 Set 4 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 2, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60, Percent HR: 60%Max HR Set 5 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 2, RPE: 7, Notes: Ironman intensity , % FTP: 70 - 75 Cool Down (5 min) Set 1 Duration: 5min HR Zone: 1, Power Zones: 1, RPE: 5, % FTP: 60 - 60, Percent HR: 65 - 75%Max HR
If you happen to follow my Twitter you will know that the reason I have not written a race report for Ironman Antwerp 70.3 is that a bike mechanical 1km into the bike leg ended my race. So it would have been a pretty short, and pretty depressing report report.
But there are a few things to note about this, apart from the fact that Antwerp is along way to go to swim for half an hour.
I had been looking at Antwerp as an opportunity to get a time good enough qualify for the GB age group team in 2012. I’ll now try and find a race early enough in 2012 to beat the cut off date for application, perhaps Mallorca again.
On reflection, I don’t think I was mentally or physically prepared enough to give my best possible performance – I’d say I was maybe 88% where I should have been, which is not good enough. Reasons for this are varied – work hours have impacted on training, family requirements and mid-level work stress meant my head was there rather than on sport. I’ll write more about that in a future post.Overall, I cannot complain about the lost opportunity. Someone died on the bike course, and that gives an immediate and sharp perspective. It was very sad and I spent a lot of time thinking about how this young guy woke up on the morning of the event, probably really excited to be racing, and never made it home.
When you’re a kid, life is brilliant. Responsibility is far, far in the distance and time is of little concern, other than “Mum, how long till tea time?” (And by ‘tea’, I mean ‘dinner’ for the non-UK readers here).
But when you grow up..man, time suddenly becomes valuable and responsibility comes in buckets. I’m not even very sure when that happened for me, all I know is “Being a grown up can be hard!”. But when you have aspirations of triathlon, you’re basically taking a week that already seems to be too short for real life and finding an additional 12 hours a week to undertake an activity that will drain your energy banks, potentially your wallet, the goodwill of your partner and to cap it all triples the amount of laundry you do.
A lot is written about how to manage all that, and as suggested via Tiwtter by @MarkShipton I thought I’d drop some on how I balance being a husband & dad to an 18 month old, life as an age-group triathlete and my job as director of digital at Universal Music UK (the biggest music company in the country).
Training Times need to work for the family and work, as well as me.
For me, the only way to consistently get my training in is do do the bulk of it before work. This usually means a 5am alarm which can be tough in the depths of winter. But doing this means I can get 2 hours in, and be home for breakfast, plenty time to shower and get ready for work and crucially leaves evenings free of training. The only time I will train in the evening is the occasional run home. I often make the journey to work a bike session by going via Richmond Park and doing short stuff, or an endurance run. I’m lucky to have showers at work and a top tip shared with DIY is to do the prep - I will often take a couple of sets of clothes to work on a Monday meaning I don’t have to carry much stuff on runs etc.
So if I get up at 5am most days, I must be knackered all the time right? Sometimes. But sleep is vital - not just to stop you feeling tired but for recovery too. So I try and be in bed for 9pm, with lights off at 10pm although I don’t always make it. And I also find a power nap at the weekend really helps reduce the sleep deficit. The deal with that is I’ll be responsible for our son while the bread knife has a snooze or does something else (such as making my dinner…JOKE!)
Lots of training, reduces sleep, crap food. A recipe for illness. I always aim for ‘real food’ which is nutrient dense and follow a paleo-ish diet. If it’s advertised on TV, or is brown, it’s probably not ideal. A good diet definitely powers you to consistent training.
Not the same as sleep. I follow a proper training plan, prescribed by my coach (another good tip for staying motivated and making best use of limited time). But if I really feel tired, or really want to be with my family I’m not scared to take a day off now and then. I definitely think 2 hours extra asleep rather than dragging yourself to a crappy swimming session will be better in the long run.
Remember You’re Not A Pro.
My livelihood doesn’t depend on sport. As much as I love it, my family and looking after them is more important. And I want to spend time with them. Don’t stress it, and always put them at the top of your priority list.
It just works. I recovery is definitely improved as a result of using this product and harder sessions are easier to consistently get through. It’s quite expensive, and I’m lucky I can afford a bit if this luxury. But if you are thinking about supplements, this is worth a try.
Small child, public transport, reduced sleep all add up to getting sick. It’ll happen. But I try do avoid extra risk - I wash my hands regularly, avoid being close to people with colds, eat well, let someone else press the button on the train door or in lifts - common sense stuff, a wee bit OCD, all adds up to keeping ielness to a minimum.
As well as a sporadic blog writer, I’m an avid blog reader across a whole heap of varied topics. I find them to be a great resource, and allow you to get closer to the authors, experts and pro’s than reading a magazine or website post ever could. Find the right blogs and you can get regular expert advice, for free, all the time. I have an RSS app on my iphone so they are all gathered in one place, and it alerts me to new posts - perfect for snack reading on the train, canteen que or toilet.
So here are 5 blogs I love and I think are worth checking out.
Loads of great theory and technical tips and advice, easily digested and easy to understand. Good diagrams and often HD video, I’ve really been able to apply lots of stuff from this blog to my own swimming. Swimsmooth is also worth checking out, as is their range of DVD’s.
Joe Friel’s blog is really quiet technical but he’s probably the authority on the sport of triathlon and well worth the time it takes to properly read and digest. He’ll pick a topic (often in response to readers questions) and really drill into it. Also worth going back through the exhaustive archive if you have a tropic or question - there’s a good chance it’s been covered already.
Stumbling across trains travels eventually led to Russ Cox becoming my coach, so it must be good, right! Russ delivers a great mix of deep technical knowledge (especially around examining your training data, which he excels at), his own experience and training as a full time athlete and more general thoughts on life as an athlete and I’m always waiting for the next post. He’s also a guest blogger on Endurance Corner which I think also speaks volumes about his writing.
Training Peaks is a brilliant tool, and loads of people use it. But most people also go straight from the homepage to their training log and miss a great hidden secret in the TP blog. There is a really wide range of topic - athlete profiles, tips on using Training Peaks, training advice, some great science, insight from coaches and frequently race files from elite athletes which can be so incredible it sometimes makes me want to give up.
Focusing on the paleo/primal eating, this is a great place to start if you are thinking about changing your diet. A fair dose of science, lots of great recipes and not too dogmatic. Mark Sissons has also published some book and I refer to my copy of his Paleo Cook book a lot.
First race of the season, and what a place to go to compete..Mallorca. With wife and child in tow, and a stupid o’clock alarm call for the short flight it was a great feeling to close the door behind me knowing by the time I got home again I would have one more great race experience under my belt.
The inaugural Ironman 70.3 on the island was to take place in Alcudia, an easy 45 minute drive from Palma. The first thing that struck me was the number of cyclists on the roads, and as we got closer to Alcudia, we started to see some great TT bikes out on the road….clearly there were triathletes in town.
Arriving early on Thursday mean plenty time to build up the bike and get out for an easy 30 minute spin, and while the temp wasn’t through the roof it was definitely liberating to feel warm on the bike for the first time in a while. I always feel it’s a boxed ticked to register early, avoid crowds and know you have everything you need in plenty time, so I did that on Thursday afternoon. I’d love to say the swag bag was great, but frankly it was a bit shit. I have no plans to go to sea any time soon so the sailor style duffle bag will probably join the pile of unused crap in the bottom drawer.
This was also the fist opportunity to check out the swim start, from a beautiful sandy beach into a mirro flat bay. They markers were being laid out at that time, so I made a plan to comeback early on Friday morning to swim the course.
My friend Snowy was also competing, so we arranged to meet and swim together. And it was great vibes aplenty as lots of athletes had gathered to do the same, raising the excitement levels another notch.
And what a place for my first sea swim. Warm, calm and a real pleasure. Swimming felt effortless and smooth and we stopped at the far marker to take it in. Fulham pool and Heron Lake seemed a long way off. The swim really helped me get my head into race mode too, and I really felt the countdown was on for my 9am start wave the following day. A quick 20 minute easy run and lots of playing with the boy helped me relax and after a mild panic when I thought I had accidentally thrown out my timing chip and number (false alarm!) I got a pretty decent night sleep.
And so to race day. My parents were also on the island, and staying quite close to start so I got changed into my race kit at their hotel and walked 5 minutes to the start. This would be my first race where the swim started with a run to the water so I was pleased to watch a few waves take off to think about where I would position myself.
A few minutes to 9 and my wave was funnelled into the holding pen. Just enough time for a hug from the little man and that brilliant pre-gun hush fell over my wave.
And then we’re off….
With about 15 meters from the pen to the waters edge I had taken up position about 3 rows back. I expected a washing machine, and I got it. In fact, the washing machine must have been set for a heavily soiled sports wash because it was pretty brutal. It was all fists and feet for what seemed like ages, and any chance of clear water or rhythm early on was quickly forgotten. So much so that by about 400m I was thinking “This isn’t going very well”. I was struggling to get my breathing controlled and with someone practically mounting me from the left, was having to breath all to the right hand side. But I also always prepare for the worst case scenario so tried not to stress too much and got on with it. Things started to thin out and calm down just before the first right hand turn at 900m and by the next turn toward shore at 1000m I was into it. The final stretch was non-eventful although there what felt like about 40 or 50m ro run to the timing mat. Given the tough start I wasn’t expecting anything great from my swim so was surprised to see a BP of 30.58.
T1 Transition was laid out in a long thin strip on the main street in Alcudia, which meant about 500m of running from entry to exit. luckily my bike was racked in the first rail of bikes so I had no trouble finding it, but this meant a long run with the bike to exit. I had packed my bike bag well so had no trouble, and with the shoes already in the pedals (rubber bands are one of the first things I pack now!) I was comfortable heading out. 0:03:38
The bike course at Mallorca 70.3 is brilliant. The first 10k passed through Alcudia, hugging the coast toward Port Polenca, before turning inland through olive groves, goats included. At about 22km, the road started rising and took us nto some really stunning scenery and relentless (although not too steep - 5-8%) climbing for the next 25km or so. I’m not too bad on the bike, and tend to pass more than get passed, and I bobbed and weaved with a guy from the British Army team for a while before he started pulling away (we’ll come back to him later…). Lots of climbing means lots of descending, and unlike the equally beautiful course at 70.3 Austria with it’s long sweeping down hill, this was all hairpins and switchbacks - pretty technical and a bit hair raising, especially as the cost of missing a corner was a steep drop. At he first aid station I had smashed my hand against a water bottle held by one of the many brilliant volunteers and as the bike rattled over some of the bums in the road at speed, I started to feel it. Coming out of the hills, the flat terrain was countered a bit by some head winds but I felt pretty good and was able to get into an aero position for long periods, making good speed and remaining comfortable. Some tightness in my glutes made me realise that my seat post has quietly slipped down about 2cm, meaning I made the decision to stop and fix it in order to be in the best shape possible for the run. This probably cost me about 2 minutes, and another 2 when I had to stop for the same reason again a bit later. Bummer. But it wasn’t long before we entered the nature park that signaled the approach to T2, and then we started seeing more and more spectators as we got back into town, and it’s always great when complete strangers shout your name and cheer you on. My best guess for the bike ahead of race was somewhere between 2hrs 30 and 3hrs, so 2:45:01 was bang on. Not amazing but bearing in mind the stops for mechanicals, not a disaster.
T2. Non eventful, apart form the long run again to re-rack the bike, and a quick pee stop before hitting the run course. 0:03:48
One of the best parts of the day was exiting T2 to see my wife, son, Mum and Dad straight away, positioned right by the railing, cheering me on. What a boost - I even managed a Hi-5 I think. I felt pretty decent from the off, and was glad I had attended to the seat problem on the bike. The sun was really beating down now, and of course had saved itself for the run - not ideal for a Scotsman. The course was 4 flat laps with a cheeky last few hundred meters running over sand, then a foot bridge which was not what the legs wanted by that point. Despite the heat, I felt fairly decent throughout and was disappointed with my run split of 01:46:30 as I really thought a PB might have been on.
Final time: 05:09:54
My final thougths on the race and my performance are:
Pleased with a PB swim. The work is paying off.
Ambivalent about the bike performance. Small technical problem cost me a few minutes.
Disappointed with the run, and if I’m being honest I didn’t leave everything out on the run course. I know I can do much better.
Xendurance works! I’ve never really been one for supplements, but after 2 months of using this one I saw a noticeable difference in my ability to hold threshold pace for longer and also big improvements in recovery from hard sessions. I’m sticking with it.
Overall, a great event and I’m not unhappy with my performance - it’s the first of the year and just one step to Finland.
1/4 cup coconut oil 6 eggs 1/2 cup coconut milk 6 Tablespoons Xylitol (or raw honey if you’re not doing the candida thang!) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Zest of 1 lemon 1/2 cup coconut flour 1/2 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 180.
Measure out coconut oil and place in an 8 x 8 inch pan. Place pan in oven to melt the coconut oil.
While coconut oil is melting, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, honey, vanilla and lemon zest together.
Once coconut oil is melted, remove the pan from the oven and let it cool while you mix in the rest of the ingredients. Combine coconut flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the dry ingredients to the wet.
Once your pan is cooled enough to handle, carefully swirl your coconut oil around your pan in order to grease all sides. Then pour the coconut oil into the batter and mix until all lumps are gone.
Pour the batter into your greased pan and place on the middle rack of the oven. Base for 35- 40 minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
For the drizzle, mix 2 tablespoons of icing sugar into the juice of 1 lemon.
I posted on my old blog in July 2010 that I was setting myself the lofty goal of qualifying for the GB triathlon Age Group team. At that time, it seemed like a million miles away but as you might know from Tweets and Facebook posts, I did it, prompting holy-fuck levels of surprise and excitement.
So, it is to the 2011 TampereETU Long Distance Triathlon European Championships I go on August 21st.
And with less than 4 weeks to go to my first race of the season I thought this would be a good time to start a proper diary of the road to Finland.
I trained hard last year with the thought of wearing GB colours as a big motivator. I will definitely feel proud, and I want my little boy Athol to see pictures of his dad when he’s old enough to understand and feel proud too. Plus anyone who is at all serious about sports dreams of an opportunity like this - I plan to grab mine and give it the best possible shot.
The race itself is O3 distance: 4km Swim, 120km bike, 30km run. Holy shit - that seems like along way, half as long again as my current half Ironman distance. And in fact the swim is slightly longer than in full Ironman. Again - holy shit…..
I’m confident I can get through the distance, but that’s not enough - I want to come away from it afterwards feeling like I raced it to the best of my ability and my goal is to be in the top 50% in my age group. Given that the entire field in athletes representing their country, this will be tough.
The addition of this race to my season schedule immediately changed the whole shape of it. This become my sole ‘A’ race, with my other 2 70.3 distance events in Mallorca on May 14th and Antwerp on July 24th becoming ‘B’ events. The other 2 races I already booked in are my ‘C’ events - Hyde Park olympic diatance on August 7th and The Vitruvian half distance which, as it falls after FInland, now feels like a bit of a dangling appendidge …just there and not much use other than perhaps fun and to keep the season going a bit longer.
After what felt like a pretty solid winter of training, my consistency was broken in March by illness, injury, travel for work and a bit more illness. Bummer. As Brett Sutton said:
“It doesn’t have to be fucking hard, but it does have to be fucking consistent ..Which in turn makes it fucking hard.”
And since I hauled myself back, I haven’t really felt as focused and effective as I want. So I’ve just done the smart thing - hired a coach. I came across Russ Cox via his excellent blog 'Trains, Travels', and we have chatted via Twitter for a while. He understands the numbers behind training and not only do i hope to become a better athlete working with him, I hope my knowledge improves too.
So, the first couple of days under Russ’s training plan have gone well, and tomorrow will be the first open water swim of the season - always a great thing after a winter of the swimming pool, which I really find pretty dull.
So, I’m now firmly have Aug 20th 2011 on my mind - everything till then is build up to that day. The countdown is on…