Thursday, 25 April 2013

My first bonk - An Outlaw training update

This Outlaw training has turned into a valuable learning experience. I thought I would let you all know the things I have learnt so fat so that you don't make some of the same mistakes I have.

On Saturday 20th April I set off on a training ride with the aim of completing 55 miles on the bike and then following this up with a 12 mile run.  This would serve as valuable training for my upcoming Ironman 70.3 race in Mallorca.

For those not in the know, an Ironman 70.3 race consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike and a 13 mile run. As such Saturdays planned session would have been superb prep for Mallorca.

This training session alone taught me so much.

  1. Fuel regularly - Since I have started riding a bike I have never really understood when to eat to maintain energy outputs. I've dabbled with different strategies but have never got into trouble before. However on Saturday it all went horribly wrong. I didn't eat anything for over an hour on my way out and all of a sudden I felt like I had no power (my speed dropped by about 2mph) which was a weird feeling as I had been keeping a relatively fast pace. An energy bar later and 20 minutes helped cure this. I was back to maintaining a steady pace. Fast forward another hour and I had eaten nothing again. Wasn't I stupid. I lost all power again and felt like I was going backwards. I also started to feel light headed. This must have been the elusive bonk I had heard so much about. I had never felt so awful on the bike. BONKING is really unpleasant.
    • I now know what my body is capable of maintaining on long rides and have formulated a fuelling strategy so that I don't bonk again. I hope this works for Mallorca and Outlaw. My strategy will involve me taking on carbs every half an hour in the form of both energy bars and gels. I will alternate between these.
  2. Take things steady - After I had been on the bike for about 40 miles I caught sight of another cyclist ahead of me and thought to myself in that macho way that us men do. "Right I'm overtaking you" Cue chasing the other cyclist down for about 5 minutes. I breezed past him. Job done I thought. How wrong I was. I had expended so much extra energy catching the cyclist that I quickly got reovertaken by the cyclist about three minutes later. Oops that was not embarrassing.
    • Remember to race or ride your own ride, it is not a competition, especially on a training ride. It seems I had forgotten my mantra of "Complete not Compete"
  3. Bonking is not pleasant - Sorry to reinforce this but bonking on the bike really is not fun. This really affected my planned session. I went for my run off the bike but because I felt so awful from my bike ride I only managed three miles instead of the planned 12 miles.
    • Eat regularly on longer rides especially to complete a brick session as eating on the run is difficult.
The other things I have learnt since I started my 20 week training plan is that perseverance pays off.

This year I have been concentrating on my running a lot as it is my worst discipline as detailed in the following blog posts. 

This year alone I have improved my 5km time by 20% reducing it from 33:05 to 27:33. This has not been easy but I am starting to feel a lot better about my running. I'm not saying I enjoy it yet but I am starting to reap the rewards of my hard work.

To put my hard work into context, last year in total I ran 166 miles and to date this year I have run 170 miles. We are not even a third of the way through 2013 and I have already surpassed what I achieved in 2012.
Like I said perseverance pays off. Who knows what the rest of 2013 has in store with regards to my running. I am not setting any targets for my 5km time but I think it will continue to fall.

Hope you've enjoyed reading the lessons I have learnt. 

Thanks for supporting me in my quest and for the motivation via Twitter.

Remember I am not only doing this for myself but also for charity. If you feel like sponsoring me, you can do so via my Justgiving page.



"174 days cigarette and nicotine free and going strong"

Sunday, 14 April 2013

And on the seventh day. God created rain - Part two

I've debated long and hard over the title of this blogpost.

Firstly we had  - I'm coming home. This seemed fitting as the Clitheroe Triathlon was held in my hometown.
Secondly we had - Expensive training day. Essentially this was an expensive training day as I picked this triathlon because of the hills that were on the bike course.
And the winner was - And on the seventh day. God created rain - Part two. Yet another triathlon I was competing in suffered from awful weather. This title won if you hadn't guessed.

Right I've got to get this off my chest early into this post.

I need a new weather pixie or better luck. I'm even considering contacting Job Centre Plus to advertise the position. Two consecutive triathlons with horrendous weather. First London and now Clitheroe. If my next one suffers the same fate I am cursed as it is in Mallorca.

Right rant over.

I had an awful nights sleep on Saturday and suffered the usual random dreams that I suffer pre event. I woke up at 06:00 bouncing off the walls with a nervous excitement. This was just a training exercise so why was I so nervous. Who knows but I was.

My wife and I drove from my Dad's to Clitheroe in plenty of time or the race. I went to collect my race numbers, chip and t - shirt and placed my chip inside the pocket on the front of my hoodie. I then went to set up transition.

Given the predicted weather (wind and rain) I decided to wear the following for my triathlon.

Swim - trisuit, calfguards and goggles.
Bike - trisuit, calfguards, gloves and RG Active winter jacket
Run - trisuit, calfguards, arm warmers and RG Active spring gilet.

The transition area was suffering from high winds and my bike was buffeted around on its transition rack.

After my transition zone had been set up I went to speak to my wife whilst waiting for my Dad to arrive to support me. I'd travelled to the venue with trisuit and calfguards on underneath my clothes so as the start time approached I just stripped off. I promptly forgot to take the aforementioned chip out of my hoodie and packed everything away in my bag without a clue.

I went to the race briefing none the wiser. There were a few athletes who decided not to brave the elements and thus were not at the race briefing. What a waste of £40

The format for the swim was as follows.

Athletes were asked on registration to predict their swim times for the 400m swim. I and a lot of other athletes predicted swim times of 7 minutes. There should have been fifteen in my wave (5 lanes of 3). Athletes were given a swim hat determining their start position (orange 1st, pink 2nd and green 3rd). I was given a pink swim hat so had to set off 10 seconds after those with the orange hats. There wasn't an orange hat in my lane so I had to wait for 10 long seconds to pass.

The starter set us on our way and I was flying. There was no one in front to chase. Before the race started I set myself a challenge of bridging the 10 seconds to the swimmer in front. As there wasn't a swimmer in front, this was a challenge. By the end of the third length I had caught the orange hat in the lane next to me who represented GB in Auckland in 2012 if her fleece was to be believed. Job done however I had another 13 lengths to swim. What to do now. Chase down all the orange hats and be first out of the water. After 8 lengths I had managed to get on the same length as the green hatted swimmer behind me and now he was in my sights. So new challenge was lap the swimmer behind me. Fast forward to length 13 and I had caught him. I had to swim at his pace until the end of the length when he let me pass him.  This length cost me about 6 seconds as I had been doing 22 second lengths but lengths 12 and 13 totalled 51 seconds. I reached the end of my 16th length and exited the pool building in a time of 06:21. This would have put me in the top 20 swimmers competing that day.


I jogged to transition and it was on entering the transition zone that I realised I had forgotten my timing chip when I was asked by a marshal where it was. Cue comedy run back and forwards while I decided what to do. I decided to leave it and continue with my race. According to my Garmin (which thankfully was logging my race) transition took me 3 minutes and 33 seconds which I realise is not rapid but given my previous T1 times have been 10 minutes and 6 minutes. I am getting better at this element of triathlon. I put on my winter jacket and the other biking clobber.

Bike ride

The weather had deteriorated while I was inside swimming. It had started to rain. I was so glad that I had decided on my winter jacket for the bike. The aim for the bike ride given the weather was to survive it unscathed as Ironman 70.3 Mallorca is only 27 days away. I didn't push things as much as I could and it is a good job really as I was not prepared for a few of the surprises this course had in store for me. The weather at times was worse than in London. I had to take my glasses off as they were hampering my vision as the rain beat down on me. My RG Active winter jacket which has done me so well in the past was even struggling to withstand the torrential downpour.

Cue first of the surprises the course had to offer (if we don't class the weather as a surprise) I rounded a corner going up a slight gradient to be greeted by a farmer riding a quad towards me with a herd of 40 sheep behind him. It really is quite scary having a herd of rampaging animals heading towards you. The eyes of the sheep looked wild and this caused me to stop immediately.

The second surprise was Jeffrey Hill, yes I had seen the course profile on the internet and its 16% gradient but until I saw it in the flesh I had no idea how steep 16% was. So here I was about to ascend the 16% gradient. Before the triathlon I had said I wouldn't get off my bike on this ascent.

However the rain caused streams to run down the tarmac. I started to climb out of the saddle as the gradient was too steep to tackle in the saddle. With all my weight over my front wheel I noticed that I was starting to lose traction on the rear wheel. Right time to knuckle down and climb while seated like I was shown in Mallorca by the coaches. However with my weight leaning backwards my front wheel started to lift. This caused me to nearly fall off my bike three times before I decided to walk up the steepest part of the incline.

When I reached the top of Jeffrey Hill I was so relieved. I assumed it was mostly downhill back to the transition zone. It was but there were a few more uphill sections to go.

I completed the bike in a time of 01:21:39 which given the surprises I encountered I was happy with.

Below are some photos from the course photographer and my wife as well as a copy of the course profile.

Transition 2

Transition 2 took me 1 minute and 53 which again for me is a massive improvement. Putting trainers over wet socks is certainly a new experience.


The aim for the run was to run the run and not walk the run. In the previous two triathlons I have not managed this. At Hatfield I was struggling with achilles tendinitis and had a comedy ninja roll. At London I was just plain knackered. I had read on the event website that the run for Clitheroe was a mixture of trail and road running. I did not expect the trail sections to be so treacherous. The off road sections consisted of sheep trodden farmers fields, dirt tracks, numerous fences to pass through and some areas of stone path (which would put the Giants Causeway to shame). I managed to complete the 2 lap 7km run without walking and my pace was relatively consistent. I know what I am capable of and was not bothered that I was passed by a lot of athletes. I know the pace I can run at comfortably. The average speed for my run was 9km/h. I was more than happy with this.

I got the the finishing line in a time of 2:17:01. Earlier in the week I had predicted a 2 hour 10 minute finish so given the awful conditions and the sheep I was more than happy with missing this by 7 minutes. A year ago if I had entered this event I could not have dreamed of completing this race in such a time especially with a top 20 swim time.

The aims for the race were

  1. Smash the swim and bridge the 10 second gap to the swimmer ahead of me. I not only did this but did better than I could have hoped.
  2. Enjoy the bike. I didn't not enjoy the bike but I did find it very challenging.
  3. Run the run. Again I completed this mini challenge.
  4. Don't get injured. Here I sit writing this injury free.
All in all I had a good race today and completed everything I set out to.

There's 27 days until Mallorca so it's back to training on Tuesday. hopefully my legs will not be too stiff over the coming days and there will be no niggles that haven't made their selves known yet.

My tea of fishcake, sausage, chips, mushy peas and gravy should help my muscles repair.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, 2 April 2013


A long time twitter follower (who shall remain nameless) and blog reader contacted me this week about something unrelated to training or triathlon. Anyway we got chatting and they referred to me as inspirational which knocked me for six. This person is going to represent their country at the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Championships in London and I inspire them?

Little old me inspiring a world class age grouper. This got me thinking. Am I inspirational? I suppose in some ways I am but this is not intentional. All I do is set out to achieve the goals I have set myself. Sure some of these goals see me up at 5:20 to sit on my turbo trainer in my Baltic conservatory (like now) but these are only steps on my journey. My journey which started out with the following goals

1. Give up smoking. Achieved but is still a work in progress as any ex smoker can attest to but I am so happy to be free and feel so much healthier for it. For the second time I have now reached 150 days cigarette free.
2. Complete an Olympic distance triathlon. Challenge done and on the way i raises over £1000 for Cancer Research UK although I have some unfinished business with the course.

And for 2013 a new goal

3. Complete a triathlon at every distance from super sprint to ironman in 2013. This is my work in progress for this year and I will complete it because I am lucky enough to have a dogged determination and this is all that keeps me going in training.

At best I am a slow triathlete with extreme determination but if I inspire you to get training when you see my tweets at silly o clock then I am happy. If you are a smoker who I have inspired to kick the habit then this means more to me than you could ever know as I have helped start you on a journey which will change your life for the better. Sure there are up and downs but stay on the path and you will reap the rewards.

And if you are an age grouper going to London then thank you for your kind words but the relationship is reciprocal as you inspire me at times.

Thanks and I really mean that.