A year of achievements

It’s customary to look back at the end of a year at achievements (and what you wish you’d achieved) but with December fast approaching, I haven’t got many more goals for the year so thought I’d look now. It’s probably been my most achievement-laden year to date particularly with regards fitness and related goals.

Here’s a quick list with links to related posts:

March 2013 – Ran the Eastleigh 10K and almost achieved a PB but gained an age-graded PB

April 2013 – Winchester parkrun opened. This was an event I had quite a lot of involvement in behind the scenes until its inaugural event when Tansy and Dave Gill took the reins. Also helped organise the first ever Lordshill Mile Series Event and created the magic-mile.co.uk website to help administer the results for the series

May 2013Swam in the lake in a Lakeside for the first time and continued to swim there regularly through the summer and autumn

June 2013 – Completed my first Triathlon, the Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon. I loved it and went on to complete another 2 triathlons. I was also fairly active behind the scenes on the LRR 10K committee which was held on the same day. A great event. Also, held the 2nd Lordshill Mile Series event.

July 2013 – Ran in the National Lottery Anniversary Run (not once but twice) and got to cross the finishing line in the Olympic Stadium for my 2nd and 3rd time. The 3rd time was extra special because I ran it with Daniel and Denise.

September 2013 – Completed my 2nd Triathlon, the Valley Leisure Tri, and helped organise the 3rd LRR Mile Series event and got a mile PB. BOOM! Also, organised a Magic Mile singlehanded at Southampton Sports Centre and did my 30 day ‘cut the cr@p challenge‘. Also, became Vice Chairman of Lordshill Road Runners and joined a triathlon club, Southampton Tri Club. Finally, I completed my final triathlon of the year, the HOWSC 100 Sprint Triathlon.

October 2013 – Completing my longest cycle ride in the 70 mile New Forest Sportive

November 2013 – Race Director for the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race, the Southampton Juniors parkrun trial, a PB at the Gosport Half Marathon and Southampton Juniors parkrun opened

Add to all that about 1130km of running, 740km of cycling and 140km of swimming as part of the training for the events above (roughly 200 hours) and also helping to start Winchester, Queen Elizabeth and Brockenhurst parkruns (and now helping with 3 – 4 more in the local area – more about those in early 2014), it’s been a busy year.

I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve achieved to date this year and don’t have any more hard goals for the rest of the year. Time for a month off 😉

HOWSC 100 Sprint Tri – puncture scuppers plans a little

Having completed 2 triathlons so far this year, I decided about 3 months ago that I wanted to do another one before the year was out and fortunately, the team at Try Tri had one left in the calendar for 2013; the HOWSC 100 Triathlon.

The event was held at the Hampshire Open Water Sports Centre (HOWSC) near Fordingbridge which is about 25 miles from home and consisted of 3 different distance events; a novice, sprint and Olympic. Although I toyed briefly with the idea of the Olympic, I settled on the sprint distance instead. This consisted of:

  • 750m open water swim
  • 20km bike
  • 5km run

As with most Try Tri events, the distances are a little open to negotiation! The swim might have been a little longer and the bike was definitely nearer 25km. But, it doesn’t matter! It’s all part of the relaxed atmosphere that Try Tri are renowned for.

To ease the queues, registration was available on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. As Denise was away for the weekend and the boys were having a sleepover at their Grandparents, I took the opportunity to head up to HOWSC after dropping them off on Saturday evening. It also gave me the opportunity to check out the facility and, most importantly, the bike course.

I did that recce before registration and was pleased that the course was fairly flat (or at least, so it felt in the car!) I took a time-lapse video of the course and later shared it on Facebook for anyone that wasn’t aware of the course.

Having checked out the bike route, I returned to HOWSC and on arrival, I saw Charli who was the Race Director for the event and had a chat. I then went to look at the swim entry and exit. On my way there, Try Tri’s MD Chris and Ben drove up and Ben offered to give me a guided tour. How’s that for service?

We walked up to transition and Ben explained T1 entry/exit and T2 entry/exit. Everything seemed quite straightforward.

Shortly afterwards, fellow LRR and parkrunners Stuart and Tamsyn turned up and we all chatted for a while before heading for home.

The evening was then spent preparing for the event. Running is a very simple sport. T-shirt, shorts and running shoes are all that’s needed. For triathlon, it’s a whole different story. The bike needed checking, tyres checking, all the equipment collected and packed and then loaded into the car with the bike. I have a checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything.

At shortly after 9pm, I went to bed. I’d set my alarm for 5am with the intention of arriving at HOWSC for about 6:30am. My body clock woke me up hourly from 2am and I eventually decided to get out of bed at 4:45am, showered and got ready. I was in the car by 5:25am and arrived back at HOWSC at 6am just after the car park opened.

There were a few others there but it was pitch black. A few wise people had head torches. Wish I’d thought of that. Setting up for transition in the dark was a little challenging. Fortunately, I was the first to rack up for the sprint distance which meant I had a prime spot at the T1 exit of the rack. Although it didn’t really give much of an advantage, it did mean that I had a little extra space at the end of the rack and also could find my bike quite easily.

Having got everything set out by 6:20am, I was then twiddling my fingers for a while. Having said that, I’d much rather do that than be rushed to get to the venue and set up with the hussle of lots of others doing the same.

Having taken a comfort break, it was time to think about getting my wetsuit on. This is always a little difficult to time as once it’s on, getting it off again is a pain particularly for any toilet breaks before the start. It was quite chilly and I was glad that I’d taken my arm warmers.

Teri and her family arrived and she started setting up her bike. I spotted a few other familiar, and mostly friendly, faces including some that I’d seen at other recent triathlons.

Before long, it was time to head to the race briefing which was delivered by Charli. Everything seemed pretty straightforward still although I was a little confused about the run route and how many laps but hoped that this would become clear once we were doing it.

We walked back to the swim start area to collect our timing chips before getting into the water. Everyone shared ‘good luck’ messages and we waded in. The slope down to the water was a little sleep and slippy. Once in, the bottom of the lake was an interesting combination of pebbles, mud and weed. At one point, I waded through a ‘bush’ of weed and wasn’t sure I’d make it out of the other side. Fortunately I did just in time for the rather unexpected 3, 2, 1, go which caught some unawares.

As a single lap 750m swim course, the good news was that I wasn’t going to be lapped (unless I was really slow and the novices caught me up!) I managed to do a half-decent swim for me and wasn’t left dragging behind. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how many were behind me. I was definitely in the last 3/4 of the swimmers but did manage to pass a few people on the final straight.

Getting out of the lake might have been more of a challenge had Chris not offered a helping hand (and some words of encouragement). The route to T1 was a little challenging with a mini-hill to negotiate which was covered in (quite slippy) matting. Once down the other side, it was time to run, barefoot into transition to get on the bike for the cycle leg.

I found my bike easily due to its obvious position and removed my wetsuit (quite quickly for me), put my helmet on, gloves, race number (on belt) and cycling shoes. Transition wasn’t particularly quick and took me about 1 minute 50 seconds.

20130930-095609.jpg

I ran to the mount line with my cycle shoes on, never easy and prepared to get on. I struggled to clip in and had to try again. Fortunately, the 2nd time, I was good to go and started peddling.

My cycle leg went really well for almost all of the first lap. I was really pleased that I’d familiarised myself with the course before hand and knew what to expect. Fortunately, the roads were relatively quiet and I made good progress overtaking a handful of competitors on the first lap. After about 6 miles, my bike started to get sluggish and I couldn’t work out why. I carried on regardless.

I keep looking at the rear tyre and things didn’t look right. I had a puncture. For a short while, I hoped that I could carry on without stopping but the tyre was completely flat. I had to stop. Fortunately. the verge was quite wide and it gave me plenty of space to stop and contemplate what to do next. For a moment, I considered stopping and walking back to transition. However, I wanted to earn myself a medal for completing the triathlon so set to work to replace the inner tube. I was really glad that I’d done the RideRide Cycle Maintenance course. However, it still look me severa minutes to remove the wheel, remove the inner tube, replace it and then put the wheel back on. It was then time to pump the tyre up which with a small pump was impossible. I managed to inflate it to about 60psi (of the recommended 145psi!) and then set off. Within seconds, it was clear that something was wrong with the mech so I stopped, sorted that out, and then set off again. In total it took me 9 minutes and 45 seconds to sort out the puncture. Any chance of a performance I’d be proud of had slipped away.

A very clear indication of a break for 9:45!

A very clear indication of a break for 9:45!

I set off to complete the next lap, a little worried that I’d get another puncture. I didn’t have a spare inner tube. The 2nd lap was uneventful and I managed to pass several of the novice competitors who were already out on the bike course for their 1 lap. As I turned back onto the A338, I saw Teri ahead in her distinctive GE triathlon suit. As I passed, I wished her well and headed for T2. This went fairly smoothly. I was really wary of getting cramp as I had done in both previous triathlons. Fortunately, I’d been hydrating regularly during the cycle with High 5 Zero electrolyte tablets in water. These must have done the trick as there wasn’t even the slightest hint of a cramp at any stage of the triathlon.

DSC_3838-(ZF-6560-87335-1-004)

DSC_3837-(ZF-6560-87335-1-003)

DSC_4022-(ZF-6560-87335-1-002)

Teri’s T2 was much quicker. This could have been down to her cycling in her running shoes. She exited transition looking strong. I was plodding if I’m honest and was a little despondent about the puncture and its effect on my performance. However, I carried on and keep a steady, if relatively slow, pace. The run course was mainly on grass and had some very mild undulations. What I mean to say there is that it was flat. The elevation profile wouldn’t have been any worse than Lakeside and its elevation shared some similarities.

DSC_4283-(ZF-6560-87335-1-005)

I was still a little confused by the number of laps we had to run and was glad that I had my Garmin to tell me the distance I’d run. Had I not had it on, I might have run a shorter course (as others did end up doing). If there’s one thing that needs more clarification for next year’s event, it’s the run course. It has to be really clear what laps need to be done.

After 2 laps, it was time to head for the funnel. It was great to have an entourage of friends giving encouragement as I finished. It was also great to catch up with Steve (from RunCamp) and Nick (ex-work colleague) after the finish.

20130930-092022.jpg

I have to say that the medal that we received was excellent. Possible the best medal I’ve got so far. Combined with the latex swim cap, Try Tri pulled it out of the (goodie bag)! Nice one team!! 🙂

photo (9)

In summary, it was another great Try Tri event. Super-friendly team and marshals. Great course with only a couple of niggles which would be difficult to resolve due to the venue. The only negatives were the lack of warning about the swim start and the ‘confusion’ over the run course.

WIth regards my performance, I was happy with how well I’d done. I was particularly happy with the swim and the cycle (apart from the puncture and its effect on my time). The run was a little poor and I know that I need to work on this as I struggle to reach a decent pace after the other two disciplines.

Great performances from Roelie, James, Teri, Tamsyn, Stuart, Steve, Nick and many others.

I’ll add the official stats and any photos later.

OK, here are the stats. I came 34th out of 42 finishers.

  • 00:19:55 for swim plus run to T1
  • 00:01:51 for T1
  • 00:01:04:32 for bike
  • 00:01:33 for T2
  • 00:29:46 for run

Overall time: 01:57:49

Had I not got a puncture, things would have looked a little different with a 00:54:47 cycle making the time for the whole event 1:47:52 which would have put me in 25th place which would have been very respectable I’d say. Ultimately, the puncture lost me 9 places. However, I’m still happy to complete the event and have a great time doing so.

20130930-092030.jpg

Joining a triathlon club to help improve my swimming

I’ve been swimming for almost a year now and although I progressed well in the first few months, I’ve felt as if I’ve plateaued recently. It’s difficult to pinpoint why but I have a number of excuses:

  • too heavy and dragging a fat belly through the water that acted as an anchor rather than  buoyancy
  • too little upper body strength – these weedy arms are inheritted
  • not enough time in the water
  • too much time spend ploughing up and down the pool and not enough doing training sets

In reality, much of the issue is down to technique and although I had a SwimSmooth video analysis earlier in the year (February 2013) and I managed to make minor tweaks, I’ve not really improved enough given the number of months that have gone by.

In parallel to this, I’ve friends who have improved their swimming efficiency and technique by attending regular lessons, attending SwimFit sessions, etc, etc.

At roughly the same time that I did the SwimSmooth session, I contacted Southampton Triathlon Club with the intention of signing up and attending their coached swim sessions. However, back then (February), I’d not done a triathlon and was worried that my abilities in the pool would make me the worst swimmer hence I never got around to attending a trial session. Instead, I continued to make little progress in the pool or, subsequently, in the lake when I started open water swimming. The latter really helped with my endurance (being able to swim 350 metres without stopping every 25 metres is quite a feat at first, let alone doing that for several laps.

Last week, fellow parkrunner, parkrun Event Director, fellow Lordshill Road Runner, fellow lake swimmer and friend, Tamsyn, posted a FB message asking for people’s opinion on Southampton Tri Club vs Tri Team Wessex. This started a good conversation about the clubs, their coaching and what level you had to be to feel worthy of being involved. This got me thinking that I really needed to do something if I want to improve my technique in the pool and open water so I emailed Julian, the club’s chairman, reintroduced myself, checked my diary and decided to go to a session at the Quays.

There were a couple of things that had put me off joining before (other than feeling I wasn’t good enough). These were:

  • the Quays was too far away
  • the cost of membership seemed prohibitive at £22 a month

However, in recent months, Denise has been diving at the Quays weekly and I’ve been taking Daniel diving weekly too. The location and proximity to home was really not a barrier at all.

Compared to running club membership, £22 a month sounds a lot (LRR yearly membership is £25 for comparison). However, for that £22, you’re getting the opportunity for several coached swim sessions each week. Because some of these clash with other things I do and a couple are too far away, I’m likely to do 2 per week, but that’s still at least 8 sessions per month which works out at £2,75 per session. That’s a bargain. Clearly, you’ve got to find sessions that fit in with your own schedule but 2 of them do for me, so it makes a great deal of sense to join and make the most of those two opportunities per week.

Anyway, enough of the logic behind my decision and a little more about what happened.

I arrived at the Quays at about 7:40pm, nipped into the changing rooms and got ready. As I was putting my gear into a locker, Julian arrived so I chatted with him. Shortly into our conversation, Tom, another newbie turned up and we got several questions answered.

We then went poolside. There were several lanes full of STC members. I recognised a few and had a quick chat with Liz, a fellow LRR who I’d not spoken to before. We got introduced to our swim instructor, Steve Cooke, who was very friendly and immediately put me at ease. We were also informally introduced to our other lane swimmers and given a summary of what we’d be doing:

  • warmup – 200 metres warmup freestyle
  • warmup – 200 metres freestyle with pull-buoy
  • various technique drills
  • cooldown using breast-stroke and back stroke

We were also told that if we couldn’t do the required number of lengths/laps, that was fine. Do the best we could was the advice.

For the warmup, I set off first. No pressure then!! As we swam, Steve watched us and took notes (or might have been completing his shopping list?!) I got to the end of it and didn’t feel as if I had to call it a day at that point. Phew! I wasn’t the fastest in the lane but then nor was I the slowest.

At the end of the warmup, Steve offered a couple of tips for improving my technique and then we started doing some drills to help start ironing out issues with our existing technique.

The drills were tough at times and I’m struggling to remember some of them. The first was a kicking drill with the pullbuoy held in front with two hands. This was tough as it’s amazing how little the kick (or at least my kick) contributes to propulsion.  I found it a little difficult breathing during this drill as you have to lift your head up.

The next drill was called, by Steve at least, the chicken arm drill and enforced keeping your arm close to the body (similar to the zipper drill) but with a high elbow recovery. I didn’t find this drill too bad. I didn’t feel like a chicken, but I got the idea.

Another drill was one where you had both hands on the pull buoy ahead of you and had to take alternate strokes but always returning to having both hands on the pull buoy (the swim catch up drill I believe). By this point, I was starting to get overwhelmed with all the information we were being given and my brain, and subsequent technique, turned to mush!

We then put what we’d learned into practice with some freestyle and Steve gave more advice or reiterated where we’d forgotten something. One of the things I’ve always struggled with is the high elbow catch and he suggested a hand entry technique which would make it difficult not to get it right. I think he was right.

Our last water-born adventure was a game of SWOLF. First of all, we had to prove we could swim fast… or at least faster than our slow pace. I think I managed to convince Steve that the negligible speed improvement was still an improvement (or maybe he was just being kind).

Having got through 50m of swimming fast (er), it was time to swim 50m and count our strokes. We each set off 5 seconds after each other and off we went. For the 50m, I managed to remember to count and came back and gave my score which was added to the time that I’d taken to swim the distance. I can’t remember what my score was to be honest!!

We were then given the challenge of improving out SWOLF handicap by 2. I put in an extra effort and, although I lost count on the first length (and ended up doubling the number of strokes for my 2nd lap), managed to reach the target. Everyone else did, some by 10 or more. My rationale was not to overdo it. I didn’t want to be teacher’s pet!! That’s my excuse at least!

Finally, it was time for the cooldown and the dreaded breaststroke!! I can’t do breaststroke. Simples! However, I did manage to get from one end of the pool to the other using something that was a distant relative of that swim stroke (and which my Garmin miraculously recognised at breaststroke. Technology, eh?!) so maybe there’s hope for me!! One length back on my back and it was time to get out of the pool.

Steve was a great instructor, made us all feel at ease, offered great advice and made me feel confident that over the next 3-4 months, I should be able to improve my swimming technique.

As soon as I got to my PC this morning, I signed up as a member of Southampton Tri Club and I’m looking forward to trying out their Wednesday morning session at Fleming Park tomorrow morning from, wait for this, 5:45am! Yes, I know. It’s a crazy time but then training for multi-sports is pretty crazy at times.

Valley Leisure Triathlon 2013

It’s 3:40am and I’ve been awake for an hour. I have to get up in about 40 minutes to have breakfast and them head off to Chandlers Ford for this year’s Valley Leisure Triathlon.

This event starts at Andover Leisure Centre with a 600 metre swim followed by a 30km bike ride to Romsey Rapids. After that, there’s a 7.5km run to Knightwood Leisure Centre in Chandlers Ford. Those are the 3 leisure centres managed by Valley Leisure hence the name.

The reason for the early start is that I’m meeting Chris at Knightwood and then we’ll take one car up to Andover for registration and racking. Registration closes at 7am and we want to arrive well in advance of then.

As I lay here in bed, here are my ambitious targets:

Swim (600m): 15 minutes
T1: 2 minutes
Bike: 70 minutes
T2: 2 minutes
Run: 41 minutes

Giving a total time of 2:10 (2 hours 10 minutes). It’s ambitious but hopefully do-able. There’s scope for the cycle to be worse than my estimate but hopefully I can hold it all together and find some time in the early stages. My realistic target is 2:20.

I’ll let you know how I actually get on after the event…

I got up shortly after starting this post and had breakfast; porridge with sliced banana and sweetener. This was a slight departure from my normal breakfast but was nice and I’ll definitely have it again.

As all my bags and bike were already in the car, it was just a case of washing, getting dressed and heading out to the car which I did earlier than planned at 4:45am. Yes, you read that right. Why was I doing this??

I met Chris in Chandlers Ford where we transferred his bike and gear into my car before heading up to Andover.

The journey there was simple and we arrived at about 5:45am and recced the site before heading into registration. There was ample racking for the bikes so once we’d returned to the car to get the bikes we set up at the racks close to exit of T1. As the event was held over multiple venues, it took a little thought as to which gear had to be where and at that time of the morning, it was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I’d separated my gear into a bag per venue anyway and this helped.

Once our bikes were racked and our transition areas ready, we went off to find the toilets (there seemed an inadequate number but at no time did queues seem excessive). I also dumped some valuables in the locker and before we knew it, it was time to head off for the race briefing in the cafe which was delivered by Ben.

As soon as the briefing was over, Chris and the rest of waves 1 and 2 were off to the pool to get their timing chips ready for the 7am and 7:20am wave starts. I found a seat and relaxed before deciding to go and watch the swim.

I timed it well as the first wave entered the pool as soon as I’d arrived. The pool didn’t look 25m long as I looked down on it but I was sure that it’d look quite different from one end.

After a little over 8 minutes, the first swimmer exited the pool. That was quick. The last swimmer took between 15 and 16 minutes. Quite a difference in abilities.

Chris was up next and he was out of the water in under 11 minutes which was his target. I chatted to a couple of other participants while I waited until 7:40am to head down to poolside.

I headed down to the pool to get my timing chip which I fitted to my left ankle, put on my cap and goggles and mentally prepared myself for…

… The swim

Our wave started early. I was in lane 4 with 2 others. I’d be 2nd to set off and as the marshal counted down from 5, I submerged myself and got ready to go.

The first few laps went well. I was able to count each lap and concentrated on my form. I was fairly happy with how I was doing. By about the 10th lap, I was lapped by the first swimmer in our wave and by about lap 18, the swimmer who’d set off 20 seconds behind me overtook me. I wasn’t too concerned as I’d lost count of how many laps I’d done several laps before. It really was too much to think about with counting laps, trying to maintain an efficient (as I get) swimming form, keep an eye on the others in the lane etc.

I’m fairly sure I swam 2 extra lengths as my Garmin recorded 425m and one of the lengths was twice as long as I’d expect. Not the end of the world but could have added an extra minute to my swim time. I got out of the pool, removed my goggles and left my cap as instructed. As I looked at my Garmin, it showed 16 minutes which could back up the fact I think I did 2 extra lengths.

Getting to T1 meant carefully negotiating a set of stairs and running between buildings barefoot. This added about another minute to my time I’d estimate.

T1

My experience in T1 was good. I just had to put my cycling gloves on, my helmet, cycle shoes and race belt and in rack my bike. All went smoothly. I greatly appreciated the short distance I had to run in my cycle shoes across the hall floor and then pavement to the mount line.

I clipped in with ease and I was off for the…

Bike section

Shortly after the start of the bike section, we had to negotiate a roundabout. Fortunately as it was about 8:15am on a Sunday morning, it was quiet. I was lucky with traffic lights and headed off for the 30km route from Andover, through Stockbridge to Romsey.

The route was undulating with a couple of hills to climb and descents to enjoy. Having had two longer and more challenging rides out with Neil, the route didn’t seem too difficult. There was one section that was a steep incline but fortunately it was quite short. It was a killer though.

On some stretches of the route, there were some very narrow lanes and I was quite glad not to meet any oncoming traffic.

Before long (well, over an hour), I was on the outskirts of Romsey. Getting there had meant passing through some lovely villages and hamlets, not that I had a great deal of time to enjoy the scenery. There were some lovely views in the sunshine. A beautiful part of the country.

As I hit Romsey, I started working out how far off my ambitious target I was. Probably 2-3 minutes. I’d lost a couple of minutes on the swim and probably a minute or so on the cycle ride. I wasn’t disappointed. When I passed Romsey Station, my left quad muscle cramped up. I was in pain and the marshal at the lights there called out to ask if I was ok. I cycled through the pain and started to worry about cramping up in T2. I hit red and two sets of lights which lost me about 1 minute.

I made it to Romsey Rapids, dismounted at the unmount line and ran into…

T2

T2 went very well. I just needed to rack by bike, remove my cycle helmet and change from bike to running shoes. This all went very smoothly and I was soon heading for the exit of transition ready for…

The run

Having left Romsey Rapids via a little path from the field behind the leisure centre, it was necessary to cross a couple of roads. There was little traffic and I didn’t have any issues. I could feel my quads and was a little worried that they may start to cramp. I wasn’t wrong.

About a mile into the run, the pain had become unbearable and I had to stop. I’d started ascending a hill and it ached to standstill, to walk or run. I started to think about pulling out but knew that I had to get to the finish anyway so tried to run. It was more of a straight-legged hobble and it wasn’t long before I stopped again. I tried to hold onto a lamppost and stretch to ease the pain but nothing seemed to work. I had to try and run through it.

Each time I ran, the pain eased a little before getting worse again. This dictated a run/walk strategy which was really disappointing as my optimistic target slipped away! In reality it had slipped away before T2. Now my realistic goal looked in jeopardy.

As I turned left from North Baddesely towards Chandlers Ford, the route got flatter. I was still struggling with cramps but eased my pace determined to get to the finish and run as much of it as I could.

All of a sudden Big Dave Hawkins from ERC was at my shoulder asking if I wanted some company. He was out on a 10 mile run and nearing the end of it. The company was much appreciated. After a few minutes, a short distance ahead, I could see a Romsey Road Runners top. It was Chris. He’d finished a while before (probably an hour) and had come to help me to the finish. Whether he knew I was struggling or not before, I’m not sure but seeing him made me sure that I’d finish.

My pace increased and we headed for ‘home’. Chris explained the rest of the route so I knew what to expect. It was really helpful although I didn’t appreciate hearing about the incline to the finish!!

Before long, we were turning into Knightwood Leisure Centre and I could see the finish. Chris dropped back and I increased my pace. It seemed everyone at the finish was shouting my name and giving me encouragement!

I crossed the line feeling very glad that I’d not given up. I saw Barbara and Ian Boshier and Yvonne and needed to lie down once I’d had my timing chip removed, been presented with my medal and had my photo taken. Chris brought over some very welcomed water and I drank that and rehydrated.

The encouragement from Big Dave, Chris, Barbara, Ian and Yvonne was much appreciated and it was great to have them there.

I finished in 2:20:37. 37 seconds outside my realistic target which given my issues on the run wasn’t too much of a disappointment. I’m really glad I finished and completed my 2nd triathlon.

Here are my official splits:

  • Swim + run to transition (T1): 17:10
  • T1: 00:01:10 (18th fastest in T1 out of over 100 competitors)
  • Cycle + T2: 01:13:53
  • Run: 48:23
  • Total: 02:20:37

My T1 was really good. Everything else was less so!! I finished in 79th position out of 101 finishers. Had my run not fallen apart, I’d probably have finished 15 places sooner.

The event itself was very well organised. It’s great to see the friendly team of Ben, Charli and Chris and they’re always happy to chat.

Logistically, the event is well organised given the 3 venues. However, having to travel from Chandlers Ford back to Andover and Romsey is a pain and adds an extra 60-90 minutes to the day. Add to that the early start and it’s almost 7 hours from start to finish. Eastleigh Open Water Tri with its one venue was much shorter and easier. Also, the spectator interaction was great at Lakeside.

3 weeks until my next Tri, HOWSC Tri. That is a sprint (750m lake swim, 20km cycle and 5km run).

Between now and then I need to make several improvements and work out how to reduce the likelihood of cramps which have affected my triathlons so far.

Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon Part 2

This is the 2nd part of a 2-part post about the 2013 Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon. The first part detailed the preparation for the event.

It’s 3:30am and I’m awake. I’ve slept intermittently (as expected) and have various race day concerns going through my mind. However, it’s too late to worry now!! Just need to try and get another hour or so’s sleep and look forward to the event. I’m ready for it!

In other news, I signed up for another Try Tri event last night, the NOWSC Sprint Tri at the New Forest Water Park near Ringwood. This is another open water Tri event but uses the official sprint distances of 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run.

I had toyed with the idea of going Olympic (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) but decided that as the event was a week before Bournemouth Marathon Festival that I should play it safe. Olympic events can wait til 2014!! Having said that, I’ve registered for the Valley Leisure Tri (aka VLT) which has a 600m swim, 30km cycle and 7.5km run so that’s a hybrid between the sprint and Olympic distance.

Why do I keep choosing Try Tri events? Well, they’re a local company with a great team who’re very supportive. Those events are aimed at a range of abilities but seem to focus on those that are less experienced in multi-sport events. Next year I hope to venture further afield and go to a mass event and have either Windsor or Blenheim in my sights. In fact, if I enjoy today’s event, I can see myself focussing more on Tri events next year than running races especially for the latter half of the year.

Right, it’s 4am and I’m going to try and get an hour more of sleep…

Well, that plan didn’t work. I didn’t sleep and was up at 5am for breakfast. Shortly after, I was dressed and ready to head down to the event having arranged to meet Chris at 6:15am. An early start.

Arrival

In triathlon, the early bird catches the work or, more precisely, gets a good spot in transition. The best place to be is as close to the transition exit as possible.

When we arrived at registration, we met Ben and Race Director, Charli, for the event, Charli. The whole Try Tri team is really friendly and it was very clear upon arrival how much work had gone into the event.

20130630-134006.jpg

Registration

Registration was painless and all we had to do was stick out bike labels on and put our cycle helmets on and we were ready to rack up in transition.

Racking

We were the first to rack out bikes and we chose the end of the transition area. Although I had plans for pre-clipping my cycle shoes and running barefoot, I decided that it was best not to, and to run in my cycle shoes instead. That meant a slightly modified set up for transitions and I’d have to put my cycle shoes on in T1.

20130630-134258.jpg
In hindsight, this was a very wise idea. Running barefoot on the stony paths at Lakeside would have been very uncomfortable.

We were soon racked up and ready to store our valuables in the changing room before relaxing prior to the race brief.

20130630-134515.jpg

The lake looked very peaceful!!

20130630-134552.jpg

It wasn’t long until transition looked very different to when we’d racked our bikes…

946204_559736097412009_77605805_n

Photo courtesy of Try Tri Events

… and it becomes clear why racking in a easy-to-remember location is very useful!

It wasn’t long until the briefing was over and the first wave set off. We were handed out timing chips just before we entered the lake.

Chris was in wave 2 and I was in wave 3. This meant 15 minutes between our start times on paper.

It was quite surprising how much difference in ability there was I’m each wave from very fast front crawl swimmers to more sedate breast strokers.

The swim

In no time at all, it was my wave’s turn to get in the water. Much like Thursday evening’s Aquathlon, getting into a water and them staying on your feet was a challenge. Once you could start swimming, it was much better. I swam around a bit. Let’s call it a warm up!

The first challenge of the swim was to get on the right side of the line before the start. Bizarrely, although it was the same 400m swim distance as the Aquathlon, it had an extra leg! Odd!! Maybe each buoy was closer to the centre of the pool.

We were off. Throughout almost all of the swim I could feel the other swimmers around me whether I was hitting their legs while they swam ahead of me or feeling a tap from behind. There’s nothing you can do about it other than just swim, ideally in as straight a line as possible to the next buoy. My mantra was to just relax and enjoy the swim. Relaxed breathing and stroke. No pressure to charge off and try and exceed my abilities (or lack of!) in the water.

20130704-051050.jpg

The swim was 1 3/4 legs of the lake and it was soon time to get out and head for transition. I didn’t want to hammer through transition so kept things steady. The whole event was about relaxing and taking it steady. I could have given more in the swim and T1 but didn’t want to then burn out for later in the event.

T1

My T1 wasn’t bad. I managed to get my wetsuit off fairly quickly and got my helmet and sunglasses on before putting on my bike shoes and race belt. I unhooked my bike and ran for the exit.

The Bike

Running in bike shoes is tough. It feels (I would imagine) like your trying to run in heels. Almost impossible. I can see why triathletes run barefoot if they can. If I get a chance to do a try without gravel paths (or similar), I’ll definitely go for the clipped on method (shoes clipped to pedals) and practice, practice, practice.

It was quite a distance to run to the mount line and rather than attempting a running:flying mount, I went for the sensible option. Sprawling on the gravel and tarmac in the car park would have put a big damper on the day.

I was off. The cycle is 20km (2x out and back to Chandler’s Ford). A few too many traffic lights and roundabouts for my liking and an incline or two on each ‘lap’. The cycle was largely uneventful. I picked off a few cyclists on lap 1 and has a few overtake me on lap 2. I was happy with my effort though.

DSC_1950-(ZF-10201-80841-1-001)

Fortunately, I only needed to unclip once whilst out on the bike course. This was for traffic lights at Eastleigh Parkway Station. Although we were told that there would be marshals recording participants who got stuck at lights and the associated time, this wasn’t the case at a few of the sets of lights. I was one of the unlucky ones. I had to unclip and wait for about 40 seconds. Worse was the loss of momentum though as this gave a couple of cyclists ahead the opportunity to extend their lead.

Before long, I was heading back into Lakeside car park. Unfortunately, the flattened end of the ‘sleeping policemen’ were non-existent on the return trip to dismount.

DSC_1676-(ZF-10201-80841-1-003)

I came to a stop at the dismount area and kept my shoes on and ran back to transition. Again, this was slow and a little precarious in cycle shoes.

T2

When I got to transition, it was simply a case of racking my bike, swapping my shoes and removing my helmet to replace with a cap. This should have taken next to know time but, foolishly, I decided to sit down to do this. Acute cramp hit my left upper leg and I was writhing around the floor in pain. Needless to say, such antics lead to the 2nd worst T2 of the sprint competitors for the day!! Lesson learned!!

The run

When I eventually got on my feet, it was time to get out of transition and start my run. This follows almost exactly the old Eastleigh parkrun course with a few subtle differences.

james - tri - run

The temperature was rising and I was beginning to flag a little. However, I was determined to run all the way for both laps… And that’s what I did. It was great to get a boost as I passed transition for T2 and having alerted them to the fact I was passing, I got lots of encouragement from Chris and Ian B who was spectating.

The finish

Arriving at the finish I was glad it was over but pleased and proud that I’d completed my first triathlon. It wasn’t a great personal performance with a finish time of about 1h31m but it was something to beat the next time.

I’d share my Garmin stats but again I struggled with auto mult-sport mode again. The whole event was captured in swim mode :-S I will get the hang of it.

Yesterday I was a runner, a cyclist and a swimmer. Today, I am a triathlete!! Not a fast one but a triathlete nonetheless!

In part 1 of this post, I guestimated the following times:

  • swim: 9 minutes
  • T1: 2 minutes
  • cycle: 43 minutes
  • T2: 2 minutes
  • run: 27 minutes

The actual times were:

  • swim: 12:27 (3 mins 27 seconds slower than estimate. Suspect this was partly due to long course
  • T1: 1:55 minutes (actual 5 seconds quicker than estimate)
  • cycle: 47:06 minutes (actual 4 minutes 6 seconds slower. This was partly due to caution with wrists)
  • T2: 2:25 minutes (actual 23 seconds slower than estimate. Should have been far quicker but got cramp)
  • run: 27:37 minutes (actual 37 seconds slower than estimate)

Overall, about 8 minutes slower than I hoped for.

20130630-162737.jpg

Having caught up with Chris and Ian at the finish line and cleared transition, Chris and I decided to head to the Lordshill 10K road race which had started at 10:30am. Rather than drive all the way, we cycled most of the way and cycled the last 4-5km to Ordnance Survey. We arrived just as Chris’ partner, Ali, was crossing the line. Amazing timing!!

After that, I helped out distribute goodie bags and chatted with several friendly faces. There was a great vibe around race HQ. Lots of runners and supporters enjoying the sun post-run. LRR sure know how to put on a race!!

Getting to OS was easy. I could follow Chris and the runner direction arrows for the 10K. I was worried that Chris had left and I’d have to work out how to get back to my car. Fortunately, I was spotted by Ali after the children’s fun races and then Chris and I headed back on our bikes to the cars.

Overall, a great morning.

20130630-173728.jpg

Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon part 1

This is the first part of a 2-part blog post about the Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon.

This post concentrates on my last minute preparation for tomorrow’s event. I’ll post tomorrow to share how well (or otherwise) it goes!!

I don’t recall exactly when I registered for the Try Tri EOW Tri event but it was autumn last year, probably September. At the time, I was doing most of my training by running and I felt the need to add something else to the mix. I’d also not been using my road bike for quite some time and a triathlon seemed a great way to make sure I broadened my training horizons and set myself a new challenge.

Although, at the time, the event seemed a long way-a-way, it’s come around quickly and I don’t feel very prepared. My run volume has definitely dropped in recent months partly made up with swimming, and some, but not enough, cycling.

All of a sudden, the triathlon is tomorrow. I’m more nervous now and that feeling is overshadowing the excitement. Nerves are inevitable and should help on the day. I’m certainly not going into the event unprepared but if there was one thing I would go back and change, it would be to get more time in the bike.

As a rough guide, I expect to be in the water for about 9 minutes, cycling for 43 minutes and running for 27 minutes plus time for transitions. With an 8:30 am start, I should be a triathlete with one tri under my (race) belt by about 10am tomorrow morning. Those durations should really give a rough guide to what % of time should be spent training for each discipline.

That means that most training should be done on the bike. Having said that, I think it helps to swim more than those ratios imply as swimming gives a great all-body workout and coming out of the water feeling good must help in latter stages of the event.

Anyway, it’s a little too late for me to make up for lost time in the saddle so I won’t dwell on that any more.

The last few days has been spent getting organised for the Tri. I know the timetable and have this written down so I can refer to it in the likely event that I’ll forget what I have to do when.

I’ve got all my gear ready and packed the items into separate ‘boot/PE’ bags for each discipline. This will hopefully make transition set-up easier. Hopefully!!

My bike’s prepared with tyres checked and inflated. The saddle bags are packed to spare tubes, puncture repair kit etc.

All the gear, bike etc will be loaded into the car tonight so I only need to worry about taking a small bag out with me in the morning. I’ll load the water bottle (chilled in the freezer) and an energy snack onto the bike before I set off.

I’ve shaved (to save transporting too make plake (is it a pond or a lake?) creatures on the cycle and run) and also cut my nails short (to prevent tearing my wetsuit as I put it on and take it off).

Just to ensure no mishaps, I’ve packed spare goggles and sunglasses.

All that remains is a good night’s sleep and I’ll be ready. I hope!

Tomorrow, I’ll review the event and my performance in it.

My first Aquathlon and other stuff

This afternoon, I finally got around to doing some T1 and T2 transition training. In reality, this meant heading down to a local flat field and practising getting on and off my bike at speed.

I won’t go into full details of what I did other than to say I need to work on getting on the bike whilst running and getting my feet into my new triathlon cycling shoes. That’s tomorrow lunchtime’s plan.

The only issue I had was that on the bike, it’s clear that my wrists are going to suffer from road vibration and jolts from the uneven road surface. Even with padded cycling gloves, it’ll be sore. I’ve invested in some clip-on aero-bars so I can rest my arms on those although I’m not sure a lack of practice is advisable.

This evening saw me complete my first Aquathlon. The event was organised by Try Tri who are also organising Sunday’s triathlon.

Due to my wrist injuries and as I didn’t want to overdo it, I chose the novice distance of a 400m swim followed by a 2.5km run. The swim was in the lake where I’ve spent several early mornings and the course was one lap of the original Eastleigh parkrun course.

There were many familiar faces at the event including Tamsyn, Stuart and Chris. We’d all chosen the short distance event.

The weather wasn’t great with rain and some gusts. Given that we’d all get wet, it wasn’t too much of an issue though.

Getting into the water was an experience as the entrance was very slippery. We must have looked like zombies getting in as we tried to tread carefully and, in many cases, failed.

I was wearing my new Aqua Sphere Vista googles with clear lenses. They were amazing. Really clear and as the wide ‘skirt’ sucks to your face as you put them on, they were leak-free. Ideal.

As we approached the start line, there must have been 50-60 participants in the water. Many were doing the longer distance comprising a 750m swim followed by a 5 run. It was good to encounter that many other swimmers as each wave on Sunday’s Tri will have 50 swimmers.

Given my wrists aren’t recovered (my left wrist is much better and I’d say it was 90% ok. My right wrist hand isn’t as good. Let’s call it 75-80% maybe better under medication), I really didn’t want to push things too much so tonight was more about getting through the experience, learning a few things and, hopefully, enjoying it.

As we started, the range of swimming abilities was clear. A gap soon opened up and it wasn’t long until the lead group was about 75m ahead. I have no idea how many ‘novices’ were behind me. Not many I’d imagine.

After 1 1/2 uneventful (and what seemed like slow) laps, it was time to exit the lake and head for transition.

In aquathlon, there’s only one transition; from swim to run. This involves removing your wetsuit, goggle and swim cap and getting your running shoes on (made much easier with Bodyglide and Talc). However, I really struggled with getting my wetsuit off and that’s something I need to fix for Sunday’s triathlon.

The run was largely uneventful. I didn’t push it and finished the event in just under 24 minutes. As I couldn’t work out how to set my Garmin watch into Multi-sports mode, I can’t tell you how long the swim, transition and run were. As soon as I see the splits, I’ll share them.

Update:

Here are the splits:

  • Swim + Transition: 11:33
  • Run: 12:20
  • Total: 23:53

It’s not clear whether my swim was really poor or whether transition was poor. In reality, it was probably both! I didn’t exactly motor from the lake into transition and was in a bit of daze. I’m guessing about 9 – 9 1/2 minutes for the swim and then 2 – 2 1/2 minutes for getting out of the lake and through transition. Pretty poor in both cases really. My run wasn’t fast either (a 53.2% age grading) and would be the equivalent of a 25:59 5K time so someway off a PB.

So, overall, an uninspiring performance but then I wasn’t pushing it. It was tougher than I’d imagined and it does make me wonder how doing double each distance plus 20km on the bike is going to feel. Very tough I’d imagine.

Things to work on and fix:

– work out multi-sport mode on Garmin
– improve removal of wetsuit (including taking in water into wetsuit before exiting lake)

Overall, the event was great. My performance was ok and a good start. Lots of room for improvement. Good organisation and support from Ben, Charli and the team.

Triathlon – things to remember

So, I started by running, then started cycling, then swimming. The inevitable has happened and I’m now 10 days away from my first triathlon. I enjoy taking part in each of these activities but putting them all together at race pace next Sunday is going to be, er, interesting. I won’t lie, the event and preparing for it is playing on my mind just a little!!

Questions running through my brain include:

* how will I find my bike in transition?
* how will I get on my bike without careering into something or someone?
* how will I get up the hills?
* will I be able to uncleat in an emergency stop?
* how will I get off my bike without careering into something or someone?
* what happens if I get off the bike and my legs refuse to work?

Of course, I’ll be fine!! I enjoy a challenge!! There are still 9 days to prepare, practice and improve each of the disciplines and, most importantly, the transitions. It’s never too late!

One of the biggest challenges will be to have everything I need on the day so I’ve decided to compile a list which I’ll share here broken down into each of the disciplines:

Swim:
* wetsuit
* googles
* spare goggles
* Bodyglide
* deck shoes or similar
* race belt
* talc

Cycle:
* road bike
* helmet
* puncture repair kit
* spare inner tubes
* pump
* CO2 inflater and spare CO2
* sunglasses
* cycling gloves
* cycling shoes
* water bottle and water
* energy gel
* elastic bands

Run:
* run cap
* running shoes
* energy gel

Will amend as things come to me!

Other:
* photo ID
* towel
* suncream
* bucket
* Garmin
* snack and drink for post race

Cycle, swim, cycle, run…

Yesterday, I had an idea… To cycle to the pool, swim and then cycle back. The idea came about from having quickly skim read http://www.220triathlon.com/article/ultimate-bricks-pt-1-swim-bike

I’ve often contemplated cycling to the pool but the concern that my road bike might be stolen while I am swimming had put me off. Every time I’ve walked past the cycle racks, all the bikes looked very old and past their best. My sparkly road bike would stand out like a sore thumb. Most likely a highly irrational idea but, to me, one that had meant I’d discounted the idea on many occasions.

Anyway, having though about it, I decided that the likelihood of the theft happening was low particularly if I locked my bike up with two D-locks.

I chose a route of about 10km to the pool which was on roads I know well. My one main concern was a busy roundabout where there was a high likelihood I’d need to unclip from my pedals. Hmmm! As you may have read, clipless pedals and myself don’t always get on!

I originally decided to cycle the 10km, swim 1km and then cycle back. However, I woke this morning and decided that it was time to do some real triathlon training and do swim, cycle, run as part of the workout which meant tagging on a swim so the plan changed to:

* cycle 10km
* swim 1km
* cycle 10km
* run 5km

The last 3 would be my first unofficial triathlon with a 10km cycle as warm up.

Although I did toy with the idea of wearing my trisuit, I decided that this would look odd in the pool so chose to wear cycle shorts, change into swim gear, change back for the return cycle ride (into sweaty stuff!) and then into running gear. I had to carry a rucksack for the 2 D locks and various other clothing to make sure I had the right gear for each section of the workout. The likelihood of accidentally ending up wearing the wrong thing on one section was high!

As it turned out, my route to the pool was a little longer than expected. In fact, the distance was 12.32km. It was a fairly straightforward route though and I didn’t have any issues unclipping or clipping into the pedals. Hooray!

Once I got to the pool, I had to change into different shoes (tottering into the leisure centre in my cycling shoes would make me look like I was wearing heels on a night out), lock the bike, remove the saddle bag for fear someone would take a fancy to its priceless contents (!) and then go and get changed. Hardly a realistic transition but it gave a little rest before the 1km in the pool. Result!

The swim went ok. There were some really slow swimmers in the fast lane which meant an earth shattering performance! Not!! Swimmers!! Please note that fast means that swimmers behind you shouldn’t need to stop, stand up, wait, grumble etc to give you chance to dawdle up the pool. Repeatedly. Get in the ‘medium’ lane. Please!! I am not a very fast swimmer by any stretch of the imagination but I know my limits.

Another slow transition back from the swim to the cycle and it was time to reverse the route (almost) for an 11.22km cycle back home. It was certainly a slower ride than the one to the pool. No excuses for why. I’d like to say that the elevation profile made it a more challenging route but I’m not sure that explains it.

Once home, I put my bike away and then went out for the 5km run. I’m not going to lie. It was a challenge!

So, approximately 25km travelled and about 1500 calories burned.

In hindsight, I enjoyed the challenge of the multi-sport workout and will definitely cycle to the pool (and back) in future. There’s a more direct route that would mean a 7km journey (approx) each way. That should take 15 minutes or less so an hour roughly door-to-door.

For future reading… http://www.220triathlon.com/article/ultimate-bricks-pt-2-bike-run