Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Taper time

So the Outlaw's at the end of this week, and I have finally got that big event feeling of excitement and anticipation. Up until now, the thought of doing a long course tri again has left me feeling a bit 'meh'. Even two weeks ago, I was talking to Suzie, a clubmate from Phoenix as she was feeling the same, although she was tackling Ironman UK in Bolton. It was as she was preparing for that event and I was following a few threads on Tritalk with many first timers excitedly building up to it that I started to feel something too. Then realisation hit; I had not done an open water swim since August 2014 when I did the Alpe d' Huez tri. Yikes; so over the last few weeks I have been down to Shepperton Lake to get a feel for open water again and see if I could get around 3.8km. Last Saturday I met up with Simon and we did 3.2km, so near as damn it, and while not fast, it was pretty comfortable and brought a smile to my face, although my sighting and swim lines were woeful.

So Sunday was spent fairly glued to the laptop, tracking those people I knew at Bolton, in particular Suzie. She had a blinding swim and bike and actually dismounted as second in her age group and therefore in a Kona slot, but she had a torrid time on the run and her lack of run training came back to bite her. 5:15 for the run when I think she did 4:30 last year. A few of the Tritalk guys had similar stories; feeling great on the bike and then hitting a brick wall on the run. I know this feeling all too well from the Forestman and while an IM marathon will never be easy, I am hoping that I can run off the bike. Is that likely though?

So here's the thing; I am probably in the best shape of my life on the bike. I am considerably faster now than I was six years ago ans I have consistently put in some big miles, including 4 century rides and many more over 60. I should, in theory, be able to get off the bike and have fresher legs than I have ever had before, if I pace it right. I could go out and smash it and probably be around the 5 hour mark and yes, this would be monumentally stupid. My last long ride at the weekend was 85 miles in just over 4 hours and I felt really good afterwards. This would be a 5:15 bike but that would still be far too fast. 5:30 pace would be a good target to aim for and hopefully leave me something in my legs.

I would love to run a 4 hour marathon off the bike but with so little running, this is unlikely. A 4:30 marathon would be more likely, but to be honest, it will be what it will be. Ultimately, my run will be dictated by the first 50 miles of my bike. So my mantra for Sunday will be 'Bike slow / run fast (ish)'

The best news is that the forecast weather looks almost ideal with 19 degrees and scattered cloud; compared to the 30 degrees at the Forestman, this is Utopian. If any of my 6 readers can be bothered, I'm number 887 and there's a tracker. It might make Sunday afternoon more entertaining.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Mind Games

It's been a very odd, topsy turvy week. It started last weekend with a 10 mile TT on the F11/10 course where I set my pb last year. Dale, Simon and I were all going for pbs and he Phoenix record. I had a bit of a shocker as I just never really got going. It was quite blowy and I just didn't cope well and my legs felt very tight.  Dale did a long 21 while Simon set a great pb of 21:56, while I was a long way off in 22:29. My fastest time of the year and my second best time, but I couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed. The good news was that we broke the team record convincingly and with neither Dale or I being near our best, it's nice to know that there's more to come. 

The rest of the week was a complete washout. I managed a VO2 max TrainerRoad session which is about as hard as it gets on a turbo and it left me feeling unusually wiped.  I could tell I was getting my usual overtraining symptoms and this was confirmed when I tried a turbosession on Thursday evening. It was meant to be. 1 hour 20 threshold session but I climbed off after 30 minutes, barely able to turn the pedals and feeling mentally and physically drained.  The next day I was back on the turbo and this time only managed 20 minutes before calling time. With the three of use going for the 50 team record on the Sunday at the Blazing Saddles event on the P885 course, it was not looking too good for me. 

I felt a bit better on Sunday despite the 4am start and in my mind I was not expecting very much having had such a poor week. The course has a massive gift hill at the start and as I rolled down it I just didn't feel very fast and the turn onto the A3 felt even slower. Mentally, I had already given up but the thought that I would be letting Dale and Simon down kept me rolling on so I decided to get to half way and see how things were. A bit of rain and squally wind came through which cooled me down a bit and was actually quite welcome. So I went through halfway in 59:25; my third fastest ever 25 but this included the gift hill. Hmmm... so still in with a shout of a sub 2 and by now I had warmed up and was feeling in much better place. I also had a few slower riders in front and began to reel them in. It was weird. I went from 'Sod this', 'Don't want to be here', 'I'm putting all my TT stuff on eBay when I get home' to 'Ooh, I'm doing all right.'  

At three-quarters distance I was still up on a two hour schedule and then I had the lovely realisation with 10 miles to go that I only had to do it in 26 minutes; something I can easily do on my road bike. My only problem was I got the finish position wrong, which meant I didn't really wind it up over the last couple of miles which would have got me another 20 seconds or so. 1:57:34! I couldn't really believe it as it ended up feeling so easy.  Most of the events I've done this year I have pushed very hard from the outset and suffered later on.  I did a negative split yesterday by over a minute and was still getting faster towards the end. I guess the low volume week with lots of rest allowed me to soak in the training stress which I had accumulated over the last two months; but  it was still one of those 'Where  did that come from?' moments. To be honest, while I thought I might have the ability to go under two hours I thought that I would only just scrape it, so to be two and half minutes under with still quite a lot left in the tank is a massive confidence boost. Dale also ended up beating the club individual record and with Simon, we took the Phoenix Team record too, which means that Dale, Simon and I now hold the 10, 25 and 50 team records, which is something I'm pretty proud to be a part of. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Kingston to Worthing TT

I've ridden this event four times and just ducked under 2 hours on a couple of occasions. Being a point to point TT the wind makes a bigger difference than usual and thankfully, yesterday, there was very little of it about. There was however plenty of sun, but being an early start most of the course was in shade as we headed South. I had Pat Wright of Paceline three minutes behind me, so my aim was to try to keep him from overtaking me for a long as possible.  There's not a lot of Pat but he is extremely fast and has won a few open events this year.  This however was to just be a training ride for him so while I was in full TT gimp outfit, Pat was on his road bike and road clothing so at least he was giving me a bit of a handicap.  Dale had dropped out so it would be left to Simon and I to duke it out to be the first Phoenix rider in this event so there was quite a lot to go for.  Simon and I are very evenly matched with us both beating each other only by a handful of seconds over various distances with our last 50 only separated by 1 second so it would be tight.

It's quite lumpy until you get to the Great Daux roundabout at about 20 miles before the A24 opens up to proper dual carriageway.  I think I probably overcooked it again in the early part but was glad I still hadn't seen Paceline Pat. It was not until the penultimate roundabout at Washington that he went past me, with a much higher cadence than anything I could manage, and I really struggled up this last climb.  I gave it everything over the last two miles and saw 1:52:xx on my Garmin which was a 5 minute pb.  My final time was 1:52:45.  Simon's was 1:52:46! So in 46 miles of racing we were split by 1 second.  I get the feeling that had the event been 47 miles I would have lost.

Monday, 12 June 2017

SCCU 50 and Newbury 12 hour TTs - meh

All the gear; no idea.
I can't say much about the SCCU 50 other than I was delighted when it was over.  I just felt really slow, which was damn frustrating bearing in mind how much work I have put in on the bike over the last 6 months.  The course for this event is horrible with lots of slow single carriageway and sapping hills, but I felt that I should be around a 2:05.  I wasn't even close. 2:11:48. The only slight consolation was that I pipped Simon by 1 second, however he lost a lot of time temporarily going off course to avoid colliding with a lorry at a roundabout.  So even that was pretty hollow.  It just felt stupidly slow for no real reason as I have ridden a 2:06 on that course before. What the hell was going on?

So on Saturday I was tinkering with the Argon as I had bought a new rear bottle carrier for the Newbury 12 hour and was just checking things over. I've had a problem with the rear brake for quite a while, not being able to set it up right to bite on the rims properly and I just put it down to the design of cantilever brake that's on there. So I had opened the brake right up so it wouldn't rub the rim, which obviously from a safety point of view isn't the most sensible thing to do, so I thought I would look at it one last time before the 12 hour. It was only then I noticed that my rear wheel was completely out of line;  I'm talking three or four degrees here. So instead of rolling perfectly if would be continually scrubbing sideways, effectively acting as a brake. I might as well have tied a brick to a piece of string and thrown it off the back of my bike.  That was also why I couldn't get the rear brake to clamp true on the rim as well.  Suddenly it all became clear and within a couple of minutes I had adjusted a couple of screws and the wheel was back in line.  A quick road test and it was like riding a new machine.  I've only been riding like that for the last year!

So it was off to the Newbury 12 hour with renewed energy. The only downer being the strong westerly that was likely to gust to 18 mph in the afternoon, but it promised a very fast easterly leg too. I gave a lift down to another rider, Chris, who was ironically my minute man. He was riding his audax bike and has ridden a sub 20 minute 10 and a 1:48:xx for a 50,  so he's what you would describe as a 'pretty useful rider'. I was slightly taken aback when he lit up a cigarette while donning his skinsuit and tied the most enormous frame pannier bag to his bike though. It seemed like he was doing everything to slow himself down. He was looking at riding around 270 miles so with my best being 234 I was unlikely to see him much after the start.

So off I went on the first leg and I have to say I felt very comfortable with the Argon just feeling totally different. The first leg was with the wind and I was spinning out at 30 mph on some sections.  Blimey it was quick.  Not surprisingly at the top turn the anchor was thrown out but I was still able to maintain 22-23 mph.  After an hour I could see Chris and I caught him and went past. That should have been when the first alarm went off in my head, but no, I ploughed on feeling amazing.  The second alarm should have gone off when I caught a guy who was my two minute man, again, a rider of considerably more talent than me. But no, I carried on.  The third alarm should have been when I went through three hours having ridden 70 miles.  A 280 mile finishing distance which would have broken Dale's Phoenix Club record by 15 miles. But no I carried on.

And then, as sure as eggs are eggs and as dependable as gravity, the wheels came off. At four hours I had covered 90 miles so I was still looking at a 270 mile distance finish, which would still be a club record, but the fact I had slowed that much in such a short space of time showed that I had gone out way too fast. This was confirmed when I went through 100 miles in 4:20; that's 16 minutes quicker than my stand alone 100 mile time. The three or so fast guys who I had gone past, overtook  me again like I was cycling in treacle as the stiff headwind began to bite.

While I had slowed a lot I probably could still have seen out 250 ish mile distance but now I had a new enemy; saddle sores. I was wearing my new no pinz skin suit which is a lovely bit of kit, but the chamois pad is a lot thinner than I would use for a ride like this and I started to get very uncomfortable.  The saddle I have on the Argon is the one I bought it with and it's a very cheap, hard and unforgiving one, which is ok for shorter distances of more relaxed riding positions, but now I have a more aggresive position it's just not comfortable enough.

It got to a point at 5 hours when there was no way that I could do another 7 hours in such discomfort so I decided to pack. It's the first time I have not finished a time trial but I learnt a lot.
1: I need a specific TT saddle. Not the testicle destroying monstrosity that I currently own.
2: I didn't have enough savoury food to eat. I should get a bento box for sandwiches etc.
3: Apply sun cram. I have some interesting tan lines this morning.
4: pace it right.

Anyhoo, it was still a good training ride even if I didn't accomplish a finish. Onwards.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Sub 11

My intention, when I entered the Outlaw Triathlon was to get under 11 hours and even up until a few weeks ago that seemed quite possible.  I am now looking at reevaluating my goals as just to finish. My cycling is fine. I know that I will be able to cruise around the 112 miles and knock out a fairly comfortable time around the 5:15-5:30 mark and that would normally stand me in good stead for a sub 11 time. More importantly I think I've managed to put the miles in for that type of time to be relatively comfortable and at a low rpe.  Once again, the issue is my running.  After aggravating my Achilles four weeks ago, it has not really gone away. I've been able to do some gentle 5 mile runs a couple of times a week, but anything more than this and I can feel my Achilles tightening again.  I am still hopeful that I will be able to get a few long runs of around 15-18 miles banked, but I will not have the run conditioning that I think I will need. My mindset has therefore changed, and changed for the better.  It's going to be a long training day and I intend to just enjoy it, stay relaxed and not worry about the clock. As I said last post, it's only a hobby.

In the meantime, I still have some things to get ready for.  This weekend is a family one so no training at all to speak of, but the weekend after next is the SCCU 50 TT. The plan is to ride there and back which should give me a good 100 ish miles. The SCCU course is quite hard with lots of junctions and climbs; not a sporting course but most definitely not a drag strip either.  Then the weekend after that it's the Newbury 12 hour TT.  I didn't realise that it was effectively the same course as the Charlotteville 50 that I rode a couple of weeks ago, except just lots more of it! There's a rumble strip section which I think is going to drive me insane by the end.  Both these events will give me the chance to practice eating and drinking on the bike and getting my nutrition right.  Happy days.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mostly cycling

I rode the SCCU 10 at the weekend on the G10/57 and achieved my aim of a course pb of 22:46; a one measly second improvement. I had a really good ride and with the stiff climb almost from the start, which I have always found tough, it was a well paced ride.  Simon beat me over a 10 for the first time in a year by 9 seconds, which was a great ride from him.  When I compared our rides on Strava he went out much faster than me, climbing that hill considerably quicker and I was going faster towards the end as I slowly caught him, but not quickly enough.  It's really good for both of us to be so close and to be pushing each other on. I was wearing my new Bambino lid, which was extremely comfortable and gave good visibility; it is the most comfortable aerohelmet I have ever worn.  Only time will tell if it will be actually 'faster'.

 Simon, Dale and I currently hold the Phoenix 25m team record so we have all entered the Bedford 10 on the F11/10 course and the Blazing Saddles 50 on the fast P885/50 course, with the intention of us getting those team records as well. The 10 record will be relatively straightforward, but the 50 will need Simon and I to go a good chunk under 2 hours, while Dale will probably be looking at potentially 1:49:xx.  It's something to aim for and it will be pretty cool if the three of us can hold all three team records at the same time.

I did an early turbo session this morning. My legs were very heavy from a 7 mile run home from work yesterday and I just couldn't push out the watts and I ended up spinning for most of the session. I was pretty disappointed and hacked off; I hate it when these sessions don't go to plan and I stalked off to the kitchen to get breakfast and turned on the TV to hear the news about the events in Manchester last night.  A big dose of perspective; it's only a hobby.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Free speed? You must be joking!

So after my outing at the Charlotteville 50 last week, things have been on a bit more of an upward turn. It was a pretty consistent week's training and I ended up riding over 180 miles, plus a swim and a couple of runs. Saturday morning saw me out for another 70 miles on the road bike on my own and while it was a slog at times into the wind, I felt pretty comfortable and got a pleasant increase in speed over quite a few Strava segments, despite it just being a steady aerobic ride. I did have a minor spill while riding one-handed and eating a soreen loaf. A temporary set of traffic lights had been set up for the Horse Show in Windsor and I just wasn't concentrating as I almost ploughed into a group of pensioners. Doh! Hit the back brake with my one hand and went straight down on the greasy surface with fresh rain. Thankfully, I was only pootling at 5mph and nothing damaged or dented except my ego. I had a lot of bemused stares from the elderly as I picked myself up, but the lady who was controlling the crossing was lovely and seemed quite sure that I wouldn't make it back and I should take care.

So, free speed. The bike speed that can be obtained without the need to train for it. However, free speed is a misnomer. Free speed is bloody expensive. My Catlike TT helmet was looking very tired and it was very large on my head. More importantly it had a very long tail and quite a few pictures taken of me racing time trials showed that the tail was often sticking up into the air as I got tired and lost a good aerodynamic position. I decided to get a short tailed aero helmet instead so I have bought myself a Kask Bambino, as worn by Team Sky. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. It may not be as aerodynamic entirely as the Catlike, but with my head potentially wobbling about a lot more than it should I am hoping that the net effect will be a reduction in the amount of watts I need to push my carcass through the air.

And then there's a skin suit. First of all, my existing one is red and I look like an enormous overweight chilli pepper. It is highly unflattering. More important than that is the fact that it has a lot of wrinkles and wrinkles equals drag. I also have to pin my number onto the back and a pinned number also equals drag. So I've invested in a Nopinz skinsuit, which seems to be the current standard for such lycra items. On their website they claim that their Supersuit will give a 10 watt reduction in power needed at 45km/hr, so in theory over a 10 mile TT, that's a 'free' 16 seconds. So, for these two items I have pretty much spent the same amount of money as my first road bike. On Saturday I am riding the SCCU 10. Last year I rode a 22:47, which is my second best time. In theory if the conditions are on my side I should knock that out the park. If not,