Thursday, 14 July 2016

Victory at Ironman 70.3 UK Exmoor!

I took a late decision to race Ironman UK 70.3 in Wimbleball and very pleased that I did! The week following Staffordshire 70.3, I felt good and so had a fairly hard week. Then a week of low volume in the lead up to Wimbleball left me feeling ready to race.

I much preferred the setup here compared to Staffordshire as it was a rolling start based up predicted upon swim time, so essentially this meant that anyone challenging for the top spots would likely to be starting within 20s of each other.

I put myself fairly close to the front of the pen, which was a bit punchy given that my swim is relatively slow compared to my run and bike. I thought I might be able to find some feet to drag me to a quicker swim, but in fact it meant that, for the first third of the swim, I was actually moving backwards through the field. Towards the end of the swim I found a group much more suited to my pace and came out in about 28:30 (and I would guess about 30th).

On to the bike, and I can honestly say it must rate as one of the toughest bike courses I've ever done. Basically 56 miles of up or down. Straight on the bike I hit it hard and by 6 miles I had moved past my fellow Freespeeder, Tom Higgins, and into third. What then happened was pretty much the bike played out: I was overtaken on the descents, and clawed back the ground on the hills. At about 30 miles, Brian Fogarty came through, followed shortly after by Clive Kennedy-Burn, and both looking very strong. In my mind I thought that as long as I came into T2 within 2-3 minutes of them, there was a chance of catching them in the run. On the second lap, aerobically I felt strong, however my legs found it tough particularly on the short sharp climbs. Bike done without any issue and I came in 3rd, about 3 minutes off the lead. Now to get my head down on the run....
At 11.5 miles on the run (Photo: Huw Fairclough)
The run course is a mix of trail, gravel road and minimal tarmac, and continues the trend of being very undulating. My legs were in bits after the bike but I could see the other 2 competitors ahead and knew that I could dig in and reel them in relatively quickly. By 4 miles I had taken the lead and then it was just a case of keeping things steady and not risking blowing up. I ran very controlled and kept it a consistent 5:50/mile (aside from the hills which I allowed myself to slow up for). The finish line atmosphere was incredible, high-5s, crossing the tape, spraying champagne, just a fantastic experience!

I now feel as though I've cracked my strategy for 70.3's and have come to the conclusion that it's probably my favourite distance to 'race' (as you can genuinely 'race', as opposed to 'hold on' in an Ironman). I take minimal fuel on, in fact today I had 2 gels and a bottle of squash for the whole race, and I find that works for me.

In the days following the race, I came on with De Quervain Syndrome, which sounds rather nasty, but essentially is an inflammation and tendonitis in my wrist. So painful that I actually took myself to hospital for it. I can only assume was from a lot of breaking and climbing on the hood and now, 2.5 weeks on, it is finally just about subsided.

My next Ironman 70.3 is Dublin in August where I'll be up against Clive Kennedy Burn again, and in the meantime I will start to include some longer rides and runs in the buildup to Kona.

An update on training since the London Marathon

I’ve not blogged for a while, mostly due to being away racing for large parts of the weekend, and during the week either training hard before and after work, or out trying to maintain some sort of social life. As I move from focusing on triathlon over the summer as opposed to the cross-country running over the winter, the ramp up in volume of training certainly impacts trying to keep on top of everything else in my life. Anyway, on to what I’ve been up to for the past couple of months…..

My plan for 2016 had always been split into 2:
1. Jan-Apr: Focus on running, with the target being the London Marathon
2. May-Oct: Build up the time on the bike and swimming, with the target being Kona

Since the London marathon, I have gradually built up the time on the bike, so that I'm now cycling 200-250 miles a week, and running 45-55 miles a week, however swimming continues to remains very minimal. As was the case last year, my bike legs seemed to have come back relatively quickly, which suggests to me that aerobically the marathon training converts well, but also that a few Wattbike sessions over the winter coupled with the longer and shorter running intervals are all a good base. I've also re-introduced the 60mile bike/10mile tempo brick session (running at about 5:35-40/mile pace) as I find this is best way to get a long work out down in the smallest amount of time, and a short trip to the Alps in May has certainly reminded me what it feels like to be in the saddle for number of hours and has provided me good endurance in a few races recently.
Peabrain's at the top of Alp d'Huez climb
One thing I do struggle with in triathlon training is to have that regularity in sessions that I achieve with running. My marathon prep is built around a very set routine of short intervals (Tuesday), threshold (Thursday), long run (Sunday). However my triathlon routine is hardly well established: cycle before work if it's not raining, run to and from work steadily, occasional Tuesday running session (although these are much shorter reps now and I don't believe convert well to ironman), higher intensity bike laps in Regents Park once a week, long ride/run brick at the weekend, or a race. Whilst I would love to have a routine, trying to balance the number of hours required to train for long distance along with work/socialising/racing/mending bike/etc. , just doesn't fit into a schedule as something else always comes up. Given this, I've come to the conclusion as long as you put in the required volume, and make sure enough of it is quality, then that is sufficient.

My greatest concern remains the swim, which is hardly surprising given that I am managing just one of two swims per week at the moment. With 3 months to go to Kona, I really ought to push up my swim volume and I am looking for a triathlon/swim group in London that might push me to be able to go a bit harder.

In my run up to Kona, I've chosen not to race any full distance triathlons, and rather focus on 70.3s, given the distance allows me to 'race' all the way (rather than 'hold on' in an ironman marathon), recover relatively quickly, and provide a good opportunity to build up more speed endurance. With this in mind, my first target, and indicator for how training has gone since the London Marathon, was Staffordshire 70.3, shortly followed by Exmoor 70.3 and then Hever Castle Middle distance. Next up is Castle Howard, and then Dublin 70.3 in mid-August. With a week in the Alps in early August, where I plan to do some significant bike miles, I feel that my Kona prep is right where I want it to be at the moment.