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Monday, 29 December 2014

One month with my Wattbike

So one month ago. My Wattbike arrived. In that month I have completed around 17 hours of training on it. Here is the lowdown of the last month

I have upgraded my #mancave by moving a larger TV out to the garage and creating a motivation board. The board is blackboard paint and as such can be constantly altered.


I bought a smart Blu Ray player to enable me to watch the YouTube playlists I have created like  Motivation 2 I do find that the likes of Eric Thomas do help keep me motivated when I am on my Wattbike.

But enough about the peripheral things which make my sessions enjoyable and keep me focussed. What about the nitty gritty.

The Wattbike. I absolutely love it. It is superb. It is just like riding a bike, I love the fact it even freewheels like a bike. I can't believe I have ridden over 350 miles in a month indoors. And I haven't been bored once. Because of the fact the Wattbike is so consistent, it is really easy to monitor things like power across different sessions and know that it is accurate and repeatable.

The sessions I have been completing have been painful at times but have been getting easier as the month has gone on. Because the sessions I am completing are based on reaching a certain wattage at a certain rpm, I can only assume I am getting fitter as the sessions are becoming easier to complete. At the end of my first session I was a shadow of my former self (from a mere 90 minutes before)  (first Wattbike blogpost) but the last time I completed the same session I found it a bit easier. It really wasn't easy though as can be seen in this Vine, just a bit easier on my heart and lungs.  My legs were still jelly after the 9th rep of 3 minutes.



I have been completing three types of session.

An endurance session where I hold my FTP (functional threshold power) for periods of up to 45 minutes at 90 rpm.

A "threshold" session where I hold a wattage above my FTP for 9 periods of 3 minutes at 90 rpm with a 2 minute rest between reps, where I gulp down oxygen like it is the most important thing in the World.

A strength session where I hold a wattage above for my FTP for 9 periods of 2 minutes at 70 rpm with a 3 minute rest period between reps where my quivering legs get some feeling back.

Even though I have done each session a minimum of 4 times in the last month, I have not found it boring at all.

In fact I am thrilled that in December I completed more miles than I ever have done previously.

I am sure the next month will see my coach schedule another 3 minute test which will mean the wattages I need to reach will most likely increase. This means the sessions will get even harder.

One half of me is looking forward to this but the other half of me is petrified.

I am even starting to get used to being in my new TT position following my bike fit the other month.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Thursday, 4 December 2014

#operationwattbike

Last month I finally moved home. The reason for the move was so I could get a #paincave as having my bikes and turbo stored in the conservatory wasn’t an ideal situation. In the new house however there is a dedicated #paincave in the shape of a garage.

As I was getting a room to store my bikes and train in, it seemed a good idea to upgrade my turbo to a Wattbike. I have decided that a Wattbike will be of huge benefit as it will allow me train more consistently, means the sessions need only last as long as they need to (no traffic, traffic lights or breakdowns to contend with), is safer than riding on the road in winter, means I can train whatever the weather and it means I can monitor my improvements closely.

After moving and waiting patiently for delivery (entirely my fault as Wattbike could have delivered it within three days), my Wattbike finally arrived last Friday. Who says Christmas has to be on the 25th December? My Christmas was on the 28th November. I ripped open the box like a kid on Christmas day (cardboard flying everywhere) to be greeted by my new toy. After an hour of assembly (with the help of the clear instructions), it was their in all its shining glory. My new Wattbike (complete with 10%  off RRP due to being a Triathlon England member). Yes I have heard that people have a love hate relationship with their Wattbike but at that moment, I could not have been happier.

I set my Wattbike up to the same dimensions as #Rinnie, my TT bike. Much to the dismay of my patient wife who helped me take the necessary measurements. It is so easy to replicate, there are just four measurements you need. Bottom bracket to saddle nose (horizontal and vertical) and saddle nose to handlebars (horizontal and vertical). After you have those it is a doddle to dial in your actual riding position. This will be really useful as it means I will be training and racing in the same position.

Fast forward to last night, my first proper session on my Wattbike (after the obligatory playaround which obviously took place over the weekend). Let me set the scene, the #paincave was a balmy 3 degrees, the TV had been set up to play the London 2012 DVD and I had my session from my coach. After completing my 3 minute test last month, my coach worked out my zones and set last night’s session accordingly.
Taking clear photos while pedalling is hard
It sounded quite simple.

·         10 minutes easy pedalling at air resistance 2
·         20 reps of 20s seconds at 110rpm and 40 seconds of easy pedalling at air resistance 2
·         9 reps of 3 mins at 90rpm at air resistance 4 and magnetic resistance 2 followed by 2 mins easy pedalling at the same resistance
·         15 minutes of cool down

By the 6th rep of 3 minutes I noticed steam rising from my body. I was literally steaming. That is a first.

The first 6 reps were comfortably uncomfortable whereas the last 3 reps were just plain disgusting. One of the other athletes who is trained by the same coach, refers to this session as a peeler because you have to peel yourself off the Wattbike at the end. I completely understand that now. When I finished the 9th rep, my legs were jelly and I still had the 15 minute warm down to go. Having completed just one session on my Wattbike, I now understand how people have a love hate relationship with Wattbikes. They hurt but it is through this hurt that we know we are making progress.

My first #wattbikeselfie #broken
Surprisingly my left right pedal balance across the session was a 49/51 split, which I was pleased about. I need to have a look at my pedal shape on my computer at some point but when I remembered to look at it on the display it was definitely not the shape that I thought it would be. More of a figure 8, less of a peanut. That’s something for me to work on over the coming months.

Data overload
Here’s hoping that I make the improvement that I strive to make over the coming months. Thanks to Wattbike for answering all my queries in the run up to completing my order.

Thanks for reading,


Michael

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Getting (re)acquainted with #Rinnie

I bought #Rinnie last year for this season. She is a rather sublime Planet X Exocet 2 in matt black. After I bought her I had a bike fit but never truly settled in a comfortable position.

I spent most of this season tweaking my position to something I could withstand for a sprnt distance event. I thought my positioning was okay until at Brigg Triathlon when someone commented about my wandering left knee. There’s even a photo showing my left knee in another postcode to me and my bike.

After more tweaking ahead of Drax, I thought I had corrected my knee. Yay. However in doing so I lost all semblance of comfort that I had managed to obtain. Boo.

Enough was enough. After much deliberation, I decided I needed another bike fit. After spending many hours perusing the internet and asking for people’s recommendations. I decided to take a trip to Cannock to visit Bridgtown Bike and their level 3 fitter Mike Taylor.

Mike has fitted many top athletes including Chrissie Wellington and Tom Lowe and now he would be fitting me. I booked my appointment for a Saturday (yes they can fit in around your work) at 10am and made my way down to Cannock.

As soon as I sat down with Mike, I felt at ease and knew I had made the right decision. We talked about everything from my hip (the pin which I suspected was the root cause of my wandering knee) to my past life as a sedentary being. After about half an hour, Mike started to take some measurements starting with my feet, then loking at my cycling shoes and watching me walk and testing ankle flexibility before I was finally allowed to unveil my knee issue.

After cycling on the turbo, Mike immediately saw the problem (it wasn’t hard to miss) and said he knew how to fix it. HOORAY. Mike said e has to correct this problem about twice a year. Great trust my body. The problem was (drumroll please.........................) I have a wide stance.

A what?

A wide stance? Yes I know I have knocked knees but I didn’t know I had a wide stance and a high “Q Factor”.

Because of this, my feet when clipped to the bike and being forced out of their natural position and being forced inwards which was causing my knees to track outwards.

Mike fitted some spacers to my bike, between my pedals and cranks and told me to give them a go.He also had to fit some new pedals as the Look pedals on #Rinnie had the wrong fitting for the spacers.

After I got back on, my wandering knee was not wandering as much as it had been. Hooray.

Following some more iterations to my position including altering saddle, altering cleats lowering saddle, Mike then fitted some “shims” in my shoe underneath my insoles and for once I could feel where I was or was not applying pressure through the pedal stroke.

My knees now piston up and down rather than doing the Hokey Cokey. He gave me an exercise to do to relieve the tension in my back which has plagued me this season and resulted in numerous trips to the Physio to relieve the pain in my feet.

Mike then watched my pedal some more and was amazed at the differences he had made to my position and power output in the 3 hours. I felt so much more comfort on #Rinnie and didn’t have the aching quads I have become accustomed to.

My quads have been aching when pedalling because Mike theorises I have only been using a percentage of each (of the 4) quad muscle when pedalling because my knees have been tracking in and out rather than acting like pistons.

Because Mike paid attention to the unique biomechanics of me, I was so relieved and the level of service was second to none. During my previous fit, it was a bike fit by numbers and although I was fitted, I wasn’t comfy. Mike looked at everything from the ground up and I am hoping that the changes he made will allow some significant improvement in my bike splits next year. He was amazed I have managed to go so quick considering I had such a poor position. Brute force and ignorance does have its uses.

Now I just have to get used to this new position over the winter before the first triathlon of next year.

Mike said I can go back to Bridgtown in the spring for a follow up and he will further tweak my position to enable me to get the best out of my bike.

Considering that when I went to Bridgtown I had convinced myself I would have to trade #Rinnie in for a different bike as she wouldn’t fit me, I was pleased to be leaving with a bike which I finally feel comfortable on and only a small dent to the wallet (pedals, spacers and bike fit).

I can’t praise Mike enough. His demeanour was superb and he instantly made me feel at ease and he listened to me before using his vast knowledge (of biomechanics and cycling) to give me a bike fit which was personalised to me. Thanks Mike

Thanks for reading,


Michael

Sunday, 2 November 2014

2 years on

I can't believe it's been two years since I gave up smoking. At todays prices and given I used to smoke 200 cigarettes a week, I would have saved over £8000 if I'd put it all in a jar, but instead I found triathlon. And I am so pleased that I did.

2 years ago I wrote this blogpost http://smoker2triathlete.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/the-hardest-thing-i-have-ever-written.html
Last year I wrote this blogpost http://smoker2triathlete.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/1-year-anniverssary.html

2 whole years in a new relationship with my lungs and body. I can't believe how much my life has changed in those two years either.

I am now a triathlon coach, have helped set up a new triathlon club which now boasts nearly 100 members, have a love affair with triathlon, have completed triathlons at every distance and finally settled on the distance I enjoy most. I can't wait to see what the rest of my new life has in store for me.

Looking back on my life from two years ago, I spent a lot of time drinking in pubs, eating the wrong food and generally abusing and poisoning my body. Nowadays I spend most of my spare time exercising and I bloody love it.

I love challenging myself and pushing my body to work harder. Yes running is still not my favourite thing but two years ago I couldn't run to the end of the street whereas now I run three or four times most weeks.

The last two years have had their ups and downs but that is life. I am so much healthier since my decision to quit and really enjoy my new found love of exercise.

I am a proud ex smoker, I wish I had found triathlon sooner in my life and stopped poisoning my body sooner.

Every time I see someone smoking I want to scream at them and point out the damage they are doing to themselves and how with some hard work they can achieve one of the best things they will ever do.

Giving up smoking was a life changing moment for me. At times it was hard but it was so worth it. I just wish everyone else still stuck in the trap could see sense.

Thanks for reading,

Michael
A proud ex smoker

Friday, 17 October 2014

Miracle worker

Since I started running I have always had pain in my Achilles tendon on my left leg. It is something I have managed since sustaining the injury on the 8th February 2012.

This injury stopped me running for three months in 2012 and severely hampered my running progress before my first appearance at London Triathlon.

Since June 2012, I have been managing the issue myself using my trusty Achilles strap (which stretches the tendon) whenever I felt it tightening. Up until recently I had completely forgotten about it apart from the lump which has been there for over two years.

A couple of weeks ago however, the pain returned. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it was in 2012 when I could barely walk let alone run but when I was running I had started to feel the familiar niggle. Worryingly I was also starting to feel it in my right leg.

After my race at Goole it was really painful and I was having problems walking down stairs in the morning. I decided enough was enough and I needed to see my physio Jenny of Blizard Physio. For those that don’t know Jenny is a miracle worker. I really can’t recommend her enough. Jenny's knowledge of the human body astounds me.

So last night I made my way over to Blizard Towers and mentally prepared myself for 30 minutes of pain, good pain though as you know you are being fixed.

After explaining the problem to Jenny she started manipulating my legs and back to work out the knots. Immediately the difference I could feel in my left Achilles was amazing. It didn’t feel so tight or painful and when it was being moved there wasn’t as much resistance. What I wasn’t prepared for however was that when I got off the bed, my lump had gone (some part of me will miss my lump :o( bye lump). This has been something I have lived with for the last 32 months and half an hour of work by Jenny had made it disappear.

I was over the moon. I wish I’d known Jenny when I initially had my Achilles problem. She could have fixed me 32 months ago.

If you’re in need of physio help around Doncaster then get in touch. She is brilliant at what she does. Yes she might make you wince with pain but afterwards the problem has gone.

Jenny is that good at what she does that the patient before me travelled from Skegness to see her. That’s a 4 hour round trip for a 30 minute appointment.

You can’t put a price on the value of a good physio and I am lucky to have one of the best (in my opinion).

Thanks for reading,


Michael

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Getting back on track

I find writing things down quite therapeutic and I guess this is one of the reasons I enjoy blogging. Over the last couple of months I have not felt myself.

Surely a combination of #ironmanblues and losing my Grandma and a few other things that I can’t even be bothered to mention.

However in those couple of months I have found my favourite distance in triathlon which is a major plus. I have exhausted myself this year by trying to race at every distance with little to no transitional period between different distances. I had my reasons for this and they were mostly due to me wanting to do an Ironman before this ticking time bomb in my hip decides to appear, but it was a huge mistake. I wouldn’t change anything I have done but I have learnt what not to do and plan on using this. As I stated next year is all about sprints for me. Where this will lead I have absolutely no idea. What races I will do I don’t fully know. I need to sit down with my coach and work that out. I have a few ideas but until these have been approved, I am not announcing anything.

So now the season is over. No more swimming in lakes as quite frankly I am too soft. This means my faithful Archimedes has been put into winter hibernation. The season closed with my best result to date. I finished 28th in the Drax Goole Triathlon and despite me feeling my bike let me down (for the second race in a row) I was pleased with my placing and how the race went especially as it was the first race where I raced by feel rather than with my trusty HRM.

Unfortunately the close season is here and after a period of recuperation (after Leeds Abbey Dash) I plan on spending the coming months working on my bike and my run and just ticking over with my swim. I know what I want for next year and it will only be achieved with significant improvements to my biking and running.  Plans are afoot to make gains with biking and running, in fact at one point I even considered a duathlon for all of three nanoseconds. What was I thinking? Run, bike, run is just madness to someone who is better at swimming. Those plans will become apparent over the coming weeks but I can’t say too much right now...........

Sorry for the lack of blogging but I have had a lot going on recently. I’m also sorry for not really writing any race reports. I just haven’t been in the mood. I’ve had some real fun racing in London, Leeds, Relays, Brigg and Goole but putting those to paper has proved very difficult for a variety of reasons.

Thanks for your patience and thanks for reading,


Michael

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Learning to race

Over the last two and a half months I have really enjoyed racing at shorter distances and I mean really enjoyed it.

Since I wrote this post (http://smoker2triathlete.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/whats-next.html) I have raced at the following events.

Doncaster 5k where I set a new "official 5km PB

Hatfield Sprint where I set a new course PB


London Triathlon Sprint which I had a really good race at and finished in the top 10% of all racers


Swim With Other Teams Championships which Doncaster Triathlon finished 4th at


National Club Relay Championships where I beat all my times from 2013 and finished as the quickest member of my team


Leeds Triathlon Relay (swim) which we won again and where I was #firstoutthewater

Doncaster Parkrun where I set a new PB by nearly 4 minutes


Brigg Sprint where I set a new course PB by 11 minutes and finished 37th overall and 7th in the 30-34 age group.

At Brigg I came to a realisation that maybe I am capable of racing so I have decided that in 2015 I am only going to concentrate on sprint triathlons and running 10k road races.

The aim is to learn how to race properly and see what I am really capable of.

I have three races (one sprint tri, one 7 mile off road run and one 10km road run) left this year before I plan on putting in a good winter's base training ahead of 2015. Who knows what will happen next year?!?! I need to come up with a plan for which races to enter and with the help of my new coach and #runboss, I am sure it will be a good year.

I am going to learn to race as I really enjoyed pushing myself at Brigg. The fact that I was only 32 seconds off my 5km run PB in a triathlon shows how much I have improved in recent months. I'm really looking forward to 2015.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Monday, 8 September 2014

A public thank you

About five weeks ago I contacted #runboss of Blizard Physiotherapy about my increasing weight (following Ironman Austria) and the fact I had lost my running and training mojo.

We sat down (via the medium of Facebook Messenger) and formulated a plan to put an end to my weight gain and help me rediscover my running and training mojo,

The plan revolved around structured training and a structured diet where I have been monitoring what I am eating.

Fast forward to today and my weight has started to come down, in fact recently I have weighed less than I have in as long as I can remember. People are even commenting on the fact that I look thinner.

And as for my running. Wow!

My running has improved so much in the past five weeks.

Five weeks ago today, on a recovery run, my pace was 10:30/mile, tonight on the same duration recovery run my pace was 9:04/mile (which is quicker than I have ever run for such a low HR).

In the same time my threshold run pace has reduced from 9:23/mile to 8:25/mile.

No amount of words can truly express my thanks to someone who is not only my coach but also a good friend, someone who believes in me when sometimes I don't even believe in myself.

The gratitude I feel can never be repaid in full, this man has helped me improve so, so much with his encouragement and belief in me. Yes it has been hard work but it has been worth it. I am starting to really enjoy running.

If you need some help with running you could do a lot worse than look into the services provided by Blizard Physiotherapy.

Thank you Dave.

Michael

Monday, 25 August 2014

TomTom Cardio Runner - My first impressions

Last month Running Bug ran a competition to review and keep a TomTom Cardio Runner. I entered and thought nothing of it until a few weeks later when I got an email confirming I had won one to trial, how exciting.

When my watch arrived I was like a kid at Christmas as I tore open the packaging to be greeted by my new TomTom Cardio Runner in all it shiney glory.


I had done some research into the watch but could not get my head around how it could monitor heart rate using light. I was baffled by the technology and was thrilled to be able to try it. I had read the DC Rainmaker review of the watch in an attempt to better understand the pros and cons of the watch.

I couldn't wait to get home to try out the watch for myself to see if it worked as accurately as what I have become used to when using a chest strap.

In the interests of science I decided to go for a run wearing two watches so I could compare the HR's between what I (and most other people) have become accustomed to and the new tech in the TomTom Runner Cardio.


On that first run the maximum difference I noticed between the recorded heart rates between the two units was 3bpm. I would love to be able to show you the data to back this up but had a technical malfunction and can't upload the data from this first run off my new watch.

As you can see in the above photo the difference in 1bpm. I was amazed that the difference was so little.

Since that first run however I have been able to upload the data from the watch to Strava and other fitness tracking services.

I haven't been for anymore runs wearing both watches. It just feels weird running with two watches. The plan is to complete another run wearing two watches so I can categorically state that the new technology is as accurate as the traditional technology.

Since that first run I have found myself reaching for the TomTom to log my runs. It is oddly liberating being able to run without a chest strap.  The weight of the TomTom Cardio Runner is also less than I have become accustomed to, which is a nice bonus

I love the fact that you can set HR zones to run to and it lets you know if you are training in the right zone. I find this really helpful and motivational as it is constantly there to remind you if you are working too hard or not hard enough.

I am looking forward to working with the other features of the TomTom Runner Cardio over the coming weeks to see what other niceties I can find in there.



I am not going to lie, I was sceptical about the tech but form my first couple of weeks with the watch, I am mightily impressed by it.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Friday, 15 August 2014

Breathing, running and me

Over the past couple of months I have begun to notice how atrocious my breathing sounds when I run. I know I have joked about sounding like I suffer from emphysema but that is how bad I think I sound!

At track on Tuesdays as people pass me they don’t sound as bad as I do. With this in mind I spoke to #runboss about my concerns.

My reasoning being when I coach swimming I know that some runners who are learning to swim struggle with the breathing and I wondered if the reverse were true i.e. when a swimmer (AKA me) starts to run and is struggling with breathing, is there a fundamental reason why they struggle to breath?

Now I know this might sound rubbish but I have always been a swimmer and never a runner until 2 years ago. Is there something different in breathing between swimming and running.

I booked an appointment at Blizard Towers to find out. Who better to advise me than two ex international runners, #runboss and my physio.

This Wednesday was the time for my appointment.

I had no idea what this would entail in the slightest.

First Dave got me to perform a peak flow test to see how powerful my lungs were. When I was a kid I had asthma so knew the process, big breath in and blow out as quickly and forcefully as you can.

The first set of results were:

PEF (peak expiratory flow) which is a measure of a person’s maximum speed of expiration of 601L/min. A normal reading for my age and height would be 636L/min



FEV1  which is the amount of air expelled in a one second period of time of 4.6L. A normal reading for my age, weight and height would be 4.36L

Jenny (my Physio) then set about seeing what my range of movement was across my thoracic spine, as this has an impact on how your ribs move which impacts on your breathing. I had severe stiffness in my back. After a bout of manipulation to free up my thoracic spine and check to see what the improvement in flexibility was like, we repeated the peak flow test again

PEF = 766L/min
FEV1 = 4.8L

A marked improvement.

Now we got down to the nitty gritty part. How I actually breath?

After I laid on the couch, Jenny asked me to breath in and out a few times. I did and she watched my chest rise and fall.

I was breathing with the top of my lungs first, my mid lung second and my diaphragm last. Which is exactly the opposite way a runner should breath.

When quizzed as to why I breath that way, I can only think that I learnt to breath that way as a kid who swam sprints for his town. When sprint swimming as a child it was about how quickly I could get breath in and the most efficient way to do this would be to use your top portion of the lungs.

After going through the correct “running” way to breath, which felt really weird at first as I had to isolate all the different portions of the breath before stringing them all together and breathing “correctly”, we checked my range of movement across my thoracic spine. There was a marked improvement from the first range of movement motions

So now I have to retrain myself to not breath in the way that I have breathed for as long as I can remember. Jenny gave me some exercises to do to help with this.

We then discussed how, when I have got my breathing sorted. To run I should breath in and then breath out for twice the duration I breathed in for. Why is there so much to remember?

Now for the important peak flow retest.

PEF = 784L/min, an improvement of 30% and a measurement which puts me 23% above what is considered “normal”
FEV1 = 4.94L, an improvement of 7% which puts me 13% above what is considered “normal”

I was shocked by the improvement with my breathing. I suspect the next few weeks will be odd, having to focus on relearning to breath. Even sat here typing I am aware of myself breathing the wrong way.

I went for a threshold run last night and really concentrated on breathing. I didn’t feel as out of breath as I had done previously. Coincidence? Only the future will tell.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hatfield Tri - Take 2

Last Sunday saw me compete in the Hatifled Triathlon for the second time. This triathlon was the same race I competed 2 years ago, the site of my first triathlon.

I wanted to go into the race and set a new PB to see how much I had improved in the last two years. Given I had hardly trained (2 5km runs and 2 swim sessions) since Ironman Austria, it definitely wasn’t the best preparation.

I decided to carry out an experiment in this race and race completely to HR zones.

My aim was to complete the bike at a minimum HR of 160bpm (well into my tempo zone) and then back this up with a minimum HR of 170bpm (again into my tempo zone) and see if I could hold those respective efforts for the duration of the sprint distance race. Yes I knew it would hurt but after holding 180bpm in the Doncaster 5km, I thought it was a worthwhile experiment.

Race day morning arrived and I made my way over to the Waterpark in Hatfield. Registration was seemless. Now time for racking. Since deciding to race sprints, I have stripped my bike down to its bare essentials. Given I punctured earlier in the season, those essentials stop at foam and CO2 cartidge. No bottles. It’s amazing how little stuff I need for a sprint. When compared to how much I took for my first triathlon, it is joyfully minimalist. My transition area held my bike (complete with shoes on), a towel, my visor and sunglasses.

Compared to this photo from the same race two years ago this is nothing.



Swim

The plan for the swim was to push hard but comfortably hard. I always find it hard to guage effort on swimming, I have two speeds (all out sprint) and my general swimming pace. I pushed hard from the hooter but couldn’t find a way through the swimmers in front until we made the first buoy. Then I nipped past a few swimmers and was in clear water. This continued for the last 450m. I exited in around 12 minutes and ran to transition while removing my wetsuit.

It amazes me how efficient I have got at this. I had the top half of my Archimedes off before I had hit dry land. Thanks for the breakaway zipper HUUB.



After reaching transition I stripped my wetsuit off and unracked #Rinnie and ran to the mount line. I hopped on and set about pedalling. Thankfully I had remembered to have my shoes undone.

Bike

Time to get some pedalling done. First job get my feet in the shoes. Second job elevate my HR above 160bpm and keep it there. For some reason my gears weren’t working correctly so I couldn’t sit in my usual gear and pedal at 90+ RPM, it was either sit in a higher gear and pedal at 85RPM or sit in a lower gear and pedal at 100+RPM. Given my lack of riding I decided to settle on the 85RPM gear. Not comfortable but moreso than pedalling at 100+ for me.

The bike course at Hatfield is flat with 5 hills (motorway bridges) and I rode the entire course in the big ring and only changed gear about twice. I was pleased to set an average pace of over 19mph given I hadn't ridden any bike in 3 weeks. My average HR was 164bpm and I was working that hard that I even vommed a bit in my mouth. Thats a first for me.

I only got overtaken by about 10 cyclists throughout the ride, which pleased me. As I was pulling into the Waterpark I took my feet out of my shoes in preparation for a flying dismount. I flew into T2.

Bike racked now for putting my trainers on and starting the run.

Since I have been using talc in my trainers, my T2's have gotten a lot quicker.

Run

I even managed to smile on the run
Time for more suffering. It took me a while to find my running legs but I managed to get my HR above 170bpm quickly in my run. Despite the run route differing from 2012. 5km is still 5km. I made it to the turn point and wasn't passed once. On the return leg, my pace seemed to slow and I was really starting to hurt. I got passed by about 10 runners in the second half of the run.

This is my own fault as I have done little run training since Austria. I have lost a lot of speed and a lot of endurance. I was so relieved to make it onto the finishing field.  With less than 400m to go, I decided to push harder. I really wanted to get to that line.

I finished the race in 1:27:33 which was a 24 minute improvement on 2012.

24 minutes is ridiculous PB over a sprint distance and I really believe that with the right training there is still a lot more to come off that time especially as I hadn't trained properly going into the race. Who knows what my time will be in 2015 but one thing is for sure, I'll be racing to find out.

Below are the stats comparing 2012 and 2014.


As you can see I improved in every discipline which proves how much I have grown as a triathlete. I'm so proud of how much I have improved.

And if anyone doubts how hard I worked in this race, here is the proof.

Who shot me
Thanks for reading,

Michael

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Enjoyable torture in a pressure cooker

Last night marked my return to road running.

I know I run on roads all the time and run as part of triathlons but I have only entered 3 actual running races since I started this journey.

The Doncaster 5k was to be my third race as a runner and the second time I would get to pull on my club colours.

I left it until the last minute to decide whether to race as my knee had been causing me some discomfort but a quick visit to Blizard Physiotherapy last week helped cure the ailment. Yet again it looks like nerve tightness in my back causing me lower limb issues,

On Sunday I went for my first run since Austria and decided on a quick (actually it was quite slow) 5k near home. I trudged round in 29 minutes and was quite pleased with this having not run for exactly 2 weeks. I didn’t push hard but definitely felt the after effects for a few days.

So last night I went to register and was pleased to be back racing. I’ve found the post Austria rest enjoyable but frustrating at times. Some days I have felt great and others I have felt truly awful.

After registration I caught up with friends, some of the club runners and #runboss and watched the start of the Vets race before going for a quick warm up.

My knee felt a bit tight during the warm up but I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t in my head. Me and Martin ran a lap of the town centre including some strides and I genuinely felt good. I knew the heat would hurt me during the race.

When the heavens opened at 6pm, I prayed to the running gods that it could continue for another 150 minutes and then I could run in the rain. I much prefer running in the rain to running in oppressive heat, I just function better. But alas it was merely a shower.

We lined up for the race in the town centre. I positioned myself quite near to the front and on the outside of the course. I didn’t want to hold anyone up but also consider myself a runner, whereas last year I hung around at the back feeling awkward.

It's like Where's Wally. Photo courtesy of @doncasterrunner
The whistle went and we were underway.

I had targeted running the race above 171bpm and keeping it there as long as possible by setting my Garmin to alert me if it was lower.

After 100m my Garmin did it’s usual “beedlebee” to announce my HR was too low but I knew this was fine as we had only just started and had my HR gone from 70bpm to 171bpm in under 100m, I think I might have needed an ambulance or valium to take me to A&E or calm me back down. There were no more beeps  eminating from my Garmin so after a couple more minutes I glanced down at my watch to see 187bpm displayed.
Wow. How hard am I working? Photo from @doncasterrunner
187BPM. What the hell was I doing? Thats in my interval training zone and has only previously been seen on a treadmill when carrying out my lactate tests with Dave Tune spurring me on. No wonder I was breathing like some weird hybrid between a “60 year emphysema sufferer crossed with a male sex line operator”.

Well the plan was to suffer so I thought balls to it and pushed on at the same pace. I completed the first lap and felt absolutely horrific. The heat was dreadful but I carried on. Quick glance 181bpm.
End of 1st lap. Wow I look healthy. Photo courtesy of David Tune
I love the Donny 5km, you can get cheered on by friends, clubmates and the inebriated all in the space of 2 minutes. It really is a special race.

Quick check of Garmin as breathing hadn’t changed . Still 184 and feeling dreadful. Carry on? You betcha. Bring on the suffering.

By the end of the second of three laps some of the quicker runners (read race winner and about 17 others) had passed me. I had hoped to not be passed but I felt like I was running through treacle at this stage. I still had one lap to go so decided to keep the suffering up. HR 183bpm.

Another picture where I look a picture of health. Photo from @doncasterrunner
It transpires that my treacle running was justified. My first mile was a 7:12.

7 bloody 12. My fastest ever mile and proof that I might’ve overstretched myself given I haven’t run for two and a half weeks and haven’t run at speed since my last track session on the 10th June. My second mile was 8:40 and my third was 9:14 showing a steady decline after my earlier herculean efforts. Honestly 7:12? Was I on drugs?

Just for clarity, in case any of the organisers or people from WADA read this. No I bloody wasn’t.

So the race was completed in a (tbc) time of 26:02. Hardly record breaking and far from what I have achieved in the past.

But it is a new “race” PB.

And it came off the back of an injury and no hard running for 5 weeks.

This morning I expected to feel truly, well crap, I expected to have to walk down the stairs backwards. But I didn’t. I feel great. My legs feel fine and I can’t wait to race again on Sunday.

The race was important to me for a couple of reasons.

Fristly it helped banish any thoughts of long racing from my immediate future. Why? Well I truly suffered during this race and I can’t exert that much pain on myself for a longer race, but I have missed the hurt in the recent weeks. I love the feeling of beasting myself but I don’t possess it in me to keep it up for hours on end. If you had seen me at the finish line you’d have been tempted to call an ambulance as I was bent double propping myself up on the barriers with sweat dripping from my forehead but inside I felt alive.

Secondly it transpires that I possess the ability to well and truly suffer. My average HR for the run was 180bpm. This is harder than I have ever run before and although the time doesn’t reflect the effort I put in (given my actual PB is 22:53). I know I raced with honesty and heart. My previous 5k runs have seen my average HR be

169bpm for Blenhiem
169bpm for ETU aquathlon
168bpm for my last warm up run before Cologne.
168bpm for my actual 5km PB of 22:53 from April this year.

These are all in the right zone though as my tempo zone is from 167 – 186bpm.

But last night I absolutely beasted myself and completed all 5km with my HR well into my tempo zone. I didn’t die. Yes it hurt, but isn’t that the point?

So now with a renewed sense of vigour I know my distance. My distance is short, no more playing at going long as it isn’t for me.

I know how to suffer as I have done it.

Onwards and upwards. I have a score to settle in Doncaster in 364 days where I will be lighter, stronger, correctly trained and as a result a lot quicker.

I’d like to thank all the race marshals, all the spectators and all the people who cheered me on for making last night so enjoyable. Sorry I couldn’t acknowledge you if you cheered me, I was in a different place at the time.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

A sprint triathlete

Sunday, 13 July 2014

What's next?

The A race for 2014 has been completed after I got to the finish line in Klagenfurt.

I also managed to complete a wish in the run up to Austria when I got to pull on a GB Trisuit.

So what's next?

I honestly don't know.

I have a few sprint triathlons coming up over the next few months but as for the longer term goals, I haven't made any final decisions yet.

Given the fact that races for next year are already starting to open, I need to be quick and make some decisions. I'm 99% decided that I won't be completing any Iron distance triathlons in 2015.

The long training sessions alone are so boring and time consuming that they quickly absorb a weekend. It is only this weekend when I have nothing planned that I fully realised how little time I have been spending with my wife.

I am not ruling them out in the future though.

I think I need to learn how to truly suffer at shorter distances before I embrace the suck at iron distance.

However I have only raced one half distance and there is an itch there that I would like to scratch. The fact I could combine this with an early season break away with my wife makes it something I would like to discuss with my run coach.

As for the races that are coming up my calendar is quite full.

16th July - Doncaster 5k (if my knee is up to it)
20th July - Hatfield Sprint (the Hatfield in Doncaster not near London)
3rd August - London Triathlon Sprint
16th August - Swim With Other Teams Championships
23rd August - National Club Relay Championships
14th September - Leeds Triathlon Relay (swim)
21st September - Brigg Sprint
5th October - Drax Triathlon

I'm really looking forward to going shorter over the coming months and I think I will continue this vain into next year.

I am also going to make a concentrated effort to lose some weight. The quickest way for me to get quicker on the bike and run is if I weigh less. It's simple physics.

So next year will mainly be spent doing sprints with a possible entry to Ironman 70.3 Mallorca thrown in for good measure. After all I have a PB to aim for there. Who knows I may even attempt to qualify for the ETU sprint triathlon champs if my running gets better.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Update

After speaking with Dave Tune aka #runboss I have decided not to pursue any 70.3 races next year and will concentrate solely on sprint distance racing. Who knows I may even push the boat out with the odd Olympic distance.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

51685 seconds

Ironman Austria. What a race. What a difficult day for me both physically and mentally. 

I haven't mentioned this to anyone else other than those who I knew were racing in Austria because I didn't know how I would feel. 

Unfortunately 16 days before Austria my Grandma passed away. This shook me to my very core. Since losing my Mum in 2006 I have enjoyed making Grandma proud in what I achieved both at work and more recently in my sporting life. 

I found the week that followed extremely tough but had to complete the necessary miles if I was to be in any sort of shape come Sunday 29th June. The long run and long bike were extremely tough but in a funny sort of way allowed me to reflect on the good times as they were time alone with only my thoughts for company. They were cathartic in a physically painful kind of way. 

Anyway I digress. The last time I saw my Grandma in good health. She asked what I would be doing next and so I explained about Germany and Ironman Austria. 

Having told my Grandma about Austria I couldn't not see it through even though I would be racing with a potentially injured knee. 

For those that don't know I tweaked my knee 11 days before Austria and so very nearly pulled out but careful injury management enabled me to travel to Austria. The week before the race I did very little. I did lots of walking to strengthen my knee, I swam once in the beautiful Woerthersee (seriously you have to see it to believe it) and I rode my bike for 10 minutes.

The race plan was simple. Get to T2 with enough time left so that if needed I could walk the marathon to get to that finish line.

Race day

I woke up at 03:30 to get my race gear on and travel the half hour to Klagenfurt with my family. I went to transition to pump up my tyres and put my nutrition on the bike. I then made my way to the swim start where I got in the zone and put my wetsuit on. 

I had signed up for the first wave. This wave was to leave at 06:45, 15 minutes before the main wave at 07:00. There were 799 other competitors in this wave. 

The race was a beach start. I got to the beach 10 minutes before the start and collected my thoughts. I was stood there with 799 other people and all I wanted to do was cry. I found the wait tortuous. I was filled with a sense of pride, loss and achievement. So many emotions all bubbling to the surface. With my game face on I planned to use the nervous energy to my advantage. As soon as that cannon went it was show time. 

Paul Kaye counted us down in ten second intervals from one minute. 

1 minute - what are you doing? You're injured

50 seconds - take it easy swimming is your thing

40 seconds - lets do this

30 seconds - hang back at the start there's no point getting kicked or punched

20 seconds - shit this is happening

10 seconds - oh god

9

8

7

6

5 - this is for you Grandma

4

3

2

1

BOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!

I trotted down to the water and waded for as long as I could before getting ready to swim. As I had hung back a bit from the melee that was bound to ensue I had some overtaking to do. So overtake I did. Whenever I caught someone up I would sight for clear water and put my body in the gap. I caught a few elbows and had a few kicks to the hand but nothing to really bother me. 

The 1.2km swim out was a thralling mass of moving body parts. If I couldn't find a gap I had to slow down until one appeared. I purposely took the first turn wide to not get caught up in the high jinx that can occur there. As soon as I had turned I aimed for the next buoy. After another 470ish m we turned and headed back for land. As soon as I turned I headed for the next buoy. I noticed that the water became a lot clearer. Either I had been dropped by the pack I was swimming with or someone was swimming off course. 

I was swimming to the buoys so I couldn't be to far off course, could I?

Actually yes I could. Unbeknownst to me the buoys had drifted. At each buoy I sighted for the mass of arms and they were 50m to my right. So I corrected and aimed to rejoin the pack before I saw a buoy and headed for that. After lots of zig zagging between the pack and the buoys we neared the infamous entry to the Lendkanal. I then aimed for the two flags which marked the entrance. Finally something to aim for which could not move. 

Stay on target. 

As we neared the entrance I knew there was another 1km to swim. The Lendkanal was shallow and due to the thrashing mass that had already passed the visibility had dropped as the silt on the bottom had been disturbed. The plan was to orientate myself off the canal bank and keep that a set distance from me at all times. 

There was one swimmer near me who could not swim straight he kept veering from one side of the canal to the other. After a little sprint I managed to pass this swimmer. My watch beeped marking that an hour had passed and I estimated that I was within 400m of completing the swim as I had walked the length of the canal before the race. I turned the last corner and saw the blue carpet. 

After being helped to shore I looked at the clock. It said 1:05:47. Wow I had PB'd the swim by nearly 5 minutes and I had taken it quite conservatively as I didn't know how hard I could push for the 3.8km. 

I love the fact that I have my wetsuit half off while someone is checking their watch.
Thanks Huub for making the Archimedes so easy to get off
I set about the jog to T1 but as soon as I landed on my right foot there was pain in my knee. Oh dear the weeks rest hadn't cured my knee. This was going to be a long day. I plodded to the change tent, put on my cycling shorts and kit and made sure I applied more suncream. It had forecast a hot day and I burn easily. There's no point risking skin cancer for 30 seconds in my eyes. 

I got to my bike and was pleased to see there were still a lot of bikes left from the first 800. 

Now just the little matter of 112 miles to contend with. 

The plan I had formed in my head was simple. I knew there were 3 significant climbs on each lap. Two of these were really severe and the other was short and sharp. I planned to keep my HR above 136 but below 156 on the flat or downhill, below 160 on climbs of no real importance and below 170 on the major climbs. 

The ride out to Velden (the first 20km) was fast and lovely. After Velden there was a fast descent which marked the start of a 30km loop which included two of the "major" climbs the first being the climb to Faakersee, which was another beautiful lake and the second being the climb up the first descent to complete the loop. I kept my HR in the zones I had decided on. I was feeling okay when I reached Velden for the second time and pushed on knowing that the final 40km had the infamous Rupertiberg climb. 

I can honestly say I have never witnessed the natural beauty that I was fortunate enough to see during this bike ride. The views were simply stunning. Until you see them with your own eyes you can't really comprehend them. Just wow.

Look at the backdrop
I reached the bottom of Rupertiberg and set about the ascent. This climb just kept going and going and going. At one point I reached a flat and thought that was it but rounded a corner to find myself faced with another ascent. Thankfully at the top there was an aid station where I filled up my water bottles before setting off again. What goes up must come down. So down we went. I hurtled down. At the race briefing we were told it was all downhill from the top of Rupertiberg. Oh how they lied. I was glad I did a recce of the course as there were at least another two climbs before I completed the loop of 90km. I completed the first 92k in 3:06:04 which I was pleased with. 

Now for lap two. There was a bout of heavy rain for the second lap to contend with. I knew what to expect, I knew when to push and when to hold back. I aimed to repeat the same rules with HR but my lack of long rides came back to haunt me. After the second ascent of Rupertiberg, I felt truly awful. My legs were starting to seize up and my quads and hip flexors were burning. I couldn't push hard enough to get my HR  above 136. I was on fumes. I then discovered coke at aid stations and after necking several glasses full of the stuff I felt a lot better. I pushed on for the last 25km and was relived to reach transition. My time for the second loop was 3:32:20 and the lack of long rides was apparent with the drop in speed. 

I reached T2 after 7:53:39 which gave me 9:06:21 to get changed for a run and complete a marathon. 

I walked through T2 and got changed in the change tent. I applied more suncream and some chamois buttr to my feet. Now it was time to see what this knee was like. I started to run and lasted 100m before there was a shooting pain in my knee. 

Oh crap. It looks like it was going to be 26.1 mile walk after all. 

I stopped, reassessed things and decided to soldier on. Like I said earlier I'd told my Grandma I was doing this race, so I was doing the race. I took some painkillers and decided to leave it an hour before attempting to run again. I put on my knee brace and set about walking. So walk I did. I completed over 4 miles in that first hour and tentatively took a few running steps after the hour had passed.

There was still pain. It was demoralising having to walk and having so many people pass me. But I was still moving forward. The crowd were so encouraging. Each group of people I passed urged me on with words of encouragement like

Lauf Michael - run Michael
Bravo
Super
Go Michael

It was amazing. 

After another 30 minutes were I was perhaps at my lowest with thoughts of my Grandma at the forefront of my brain, my wife and Dad appeared like a mirage before me. I hadn't seen them in nearly 3 hours and it was such a relief. I'm sure they could see the despondency in my face. Had my wife told me to drop out then I would have but she told me I had this. I nearly rang my run coach for a bit of encouragement but decided I could walk the last 20 miles in 7 hours and 20 minutes. So off I set again. My aim was to keep my walking pace as close to 4mph as I could. The heat was oppressive and I was so glad I had suncream in my running belt. I picked up sponges at each aid station and made sure I was hydrated. 

With newly buoyed spirits (but more likely painkillers working) I thought I would have one last go at running. With a sense of relief I could run pain free. Right time to knuckle down and get some miles in. The plan was to run for four minutes and walk for one minute for as long as I was pain free. I ran walked for the next 8 miles. I had no idea of pace but with a dogged determination I kept moving forward. After a total of 14 miles my painkillers were wearing off. I took two more paracetamol and settled in to walk some more. 
Grimacing through the pain
With another six or so miles under my belt, the pain when attempting to run was subsiding so I set off run walking again. It was at this point that I knew I would complete the Ironman. I had about four hours to get through 6 miles. I lessened the run intervals to two minutes as I was starting to tire. It was during this last six miles that I think I perfected the Ironman shuffle. It's not really a run but more of a lope from one foot to the other. I plodded onwards as the sun was starting to set. With less than 1km to go the heavens opened and that last km seemed to go on forever before I made it to the finishing carpet. 

I jogged down the finishing chute trying to savour the moment. But it was too crowded as someone was proposing to his other half. I didn't get my "Michael you are an Ironman" from the announcer but it didn't matter I knew I had completed the 140.6 miles and earned the right to declare myself an Ironman. 
Where is the damned finish?
I completed in 14:21:25 which was longer than I wanted but it was a finish and that's all that matters. I also PBd at iron distance by nearly an hour and on a much tougher course. 
Finally it's over
My Shinie
There are a few people I would like to thank who helped me get to the finish line on the day. 

Nick and Dougie. Your banter on Twitter has been immense for the past year and I thank you for the encouragement during the race. 

Scott B thanks for the high 5s, they helped keep my spirits up. 

Liz Hufton from Triathlon Plus thank you for the encouragement. 

Vicky Clarke for run walking with me on the second lap. It truly helped me keep moving forward having someone to talk to. 

Alan ?? for giving me a "you got this" after the second ascent of Rupertiberg where I was zoned out at the false flat before the aid station. 

I am also truly humbled by the support I have relieved on Twitter and Facebook. Coming back to so many messages of encouragement has touched me more than you will ever know. 

And now for the thanks to the people who have supported and believed in me

Everyone at Doncaster Triathlon Club for helping me train consistently

Everyone at Doncaster Athletics Club for helping me become a better runner. 

Dave and Jenny and the team at Blizard Physiotherapy for all the help and encouragement you have given me this year especially Dave who has helped me reassess my 2014 goals twice to get me in shape for two races at completely different distances within 4 weeks of each other. 

Dean and everyone at Huub for believing in me and featuring me in an advertising campaign. I am still shocked by this. I even got recognised at the race briefing for the advert. 

The people at TrainerRoad. Even though I got some severe abuse for spending so much time on the turbo over the winter. I know it helped me a lot and helped me increase my power on the bike. 6:38 is hardly record breaking but considering I weigh 15 stone and climbed 1900m its good enough for me.

Mark and the staff at TFN for getting #Rinnie ready to race by fitting a compact chain set to her. There is no way I could have done those climbs on a standard.

And now most importantly my family for supporting and believing in me. 

I am an Ironman and bloody proud of the achievement. 

Is that it for me and iron distance racing. Who knows? 

I won't be signing up for any in the near future until I have reassessed what I want out of triathlon with Dave at Blizard Physio. 

During the race I said never again and I know I am more suited to shorter racing but Ironman is like an itch that needs scratching and currently it's under my skin as I haven't had my perfect race yet. I want to run the marathon and suffer through the entire 140.6 miles.

Post event recap

I know my preparation for the event was far from ideal.

To be able to get to the end of the bike in under 8 hours when I have only twice ridden over 56 miles in the lead up to Austria shows what would really be possible if I truly applied myself to the training required.

I also only swim once per week so to be able to post a 65 minute swim when I swim a maximum of one hour each week again shows what could be possible.

Considering I only ran over 13 miles twice in the run up to Austria, it is no surprise at all that I found the marathon horrific. Even if I had been uninjured, my preparation was bordering on suicidal. Training to go long in four weeks was definitely not my wisest decision.

Now I just need to apply myself to my training if I decide to complete another iron distance race in the future.

I have withdrawn from Outlaw as I believe that it would have been too much for me to do two iron distance events in the space of 28 days.

So in summary it is possible to complete an Ironman with far from ideal training as long as you have the mental strength to get to the finish line. It is possible but it is not something I would recommend. 

Thanks for reading,

Michael
An ex smoking Ironman