There we go!

There we go!
Pushing the Nitro Button

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Llanrwst Sprint Triathlon Race Report 2012

Last year I had a few lessons to learn. It was my first triathlon so no surprises there. Swimming was never going to be a major area of improvement as I had only swum 4 times. I was hoping for a 10 min effort. Next year, if I want to break 80 min I MUST get this down to sub 9 min. Transitions take time – I had practiced transitions this year and I was aiming for a significant improvement on last year’s effort. Run training should include some hill work – sadly running was not a major feature of my training for this race J In the couple of days before the race I had been feeling a bit under the weather. The day after the race my doctor told me I was suffering with shingles and should be on bed rest J
Training up to the day had been good. I was aiming to take a chunk out of my bike time as this seemed the easiest opportunity to save time. Unfortunately, I had taken my eye off the ball a bit and not done enough running. Next year’s effort will include a significant element of running.
The conditions on the day were good. Not too cool and little wind but the valley had trapped a humid atmosphere and this was going to expose my lack of run training.
My swim started at 9.35am and was only made more interesting by the other 2 people swimming in my lane. After several bashes to arms and feet I dragged myself out of the pool in a time of 10 min 22 sec. A bit slower than last year’s effort but not bad for the conditions. T1 went about as smoothly as I could have expected 1 min and 2 sec faster than last year! All working well!!
The bike conditions were fine. The valley that we rode down does cause swirling winds but nothing too strong and it didn’t really hold me back. As soon as I got out onto the road I spotted several of the faster swimmers that I had swum with. They seemed to be doing pretty well but I was feeling very strong on the bike. As this was a no drafting race I called, “on your right” as I approached them and shouted words of encouragement as I passed. This year I had considered the hill at Tal-y Cafn, which is a 500ft rise over 1 mile. I knew what I needed to do with this and overtook 3 people on the hill. Reaching the top I pulled past a lady rider and put it into my biggest gear down the hill. I did use the hill as a recovery and let my HR drop to the 130 area. Pulling through the remainder of the course I regularly overtook other riders. I was feeling very happy as I arrived at T2 4 mins faster than last year. T2 went really well, I had thought about where the exit was and positioned my shoes accordingly. T2 was finished in 50 sec less than last year at 1.01. Up until this stage I was just under 5 min ahead of last year’s time. All I needed was a solid run up the mountain. This was when I found out that my lack of run training was going to kick me in the rear J As my watch started it had not paired with my foot pod so I wouldn’t know how fast I was running. The only data I was getting was my HR and my overall time. As I started pushing the mental buttons to go faster I found there was nothing left to give. I was not passed in the run but I was not feeling as strong as I would have expected. Running down toward the line a was completely spent. As I crossed the line I was not happy to see the time but I was all I had on the day.
Lessons for next time are 1 SWIM 2 RUN J
Next race is the Oulton Park Duathlon in October – never done one before so loads to learn!! PS I WILL be running in prep for this race!!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Trials of a Mountain Snail - 2012 Holiday in the Ardeche Southern France

Privileged, that’s how I feel, privileged. Caught in a tricky situation with running shoes but in crazy conditions, 25C min at 7 am, I decided to borrow an old mountain bike and explore! My first forays into the local French countryside included a trip off to the local town, just a quick 12km loop, and a trip up to the top of the Dolmens, a series of Neolithic burial chambers. Lovely as these were they weren’t really going to pull me out of bed at 6am. Then, after just a few days, I saw something that inspired me.
Here is what I saw -

The flat top of the hill in the center of this shot is quite intimidating. It stands like a beacon above the landscape. At just over 1100ft it challenges everyone around to come and see if they have the bottle to take it on. I was hooked! Looking through the bikes in the garage there was not a lot of choice. All mountain bikes and only 1 was big enough for me to get a proper pedal stroke in. So off I went on mega- knobbly tires, and some lovely gearing, just to see what I could do!
First time I approached the hill, 4 days after we’d arrived in France, I had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately, I didn’t managed to take any pics of the route but suffice to say 10% av gradient over the first 1.7 miles then  12% up the final half mile.  This final half mile section was completely unprotected. The path was about 10ft across, gravel, with NO barrier on the side. 1000ft drop is never a prospect I’ve looked forward to but this was just silly!! I decided that that would be the last time I went to the very top of the climb! This first effort was in the region of 20mins, from bottom to very top. HR was not a factor and I had no pretensions that this would be a test of any sort. That was still to come J
The decent off Samson was a process of braking hard and lots of turns. The smell of burning brake pad would become a familiar note by the end of the holiday.
After this ride I was sooo excited – like a young lad at Christmas! You know, the one who actually gets what he wanted rather than the real one J
The following day I was back for more!! The profile of this climb is a beautiful gradual slope (10% av) from the main road right to the car park next to the Chapel. A rise of just under 900ft in 1.7 miles.  The task was set. Earlier in the year I had set myself a task of attacking my local hill, the Little Orme, and thereby increasing my leg strength. This short climb, just 400m, had a climb of 140ft. Quite a challenge, and just 11% grade. My times had dropped from over 110 sec to just over 70 sec during the 2 months I had done these intervals.
 I had a new task – the challenge was to break 14 mins for this climb. While in France I had no idea how long or how much climbing was involved. All my watch would tell me was my time and HR data. I did have my footpod, but that was only useful for running so it was just me, the bike and the watch against the mountain. The only problem I was having was that after the climb, just over 14 mins, I had to decend the hill for recovery. At the bottom of the hill it was just tooooo tempting, and I was fully recovered  – so I did it again J The first day I did the climb 3 times. My average time up the hill was 14 min 40 sec. avHR 140. The following days saw more action up the hill, dotted with a few runs and a one notable TT (J) ride off to Ruoms to pick up some money. You’d be surprised how quick 18mph feels on a big old mountain bike when the timer is set Most of my other rides were with the family, or sometimes just with the wife. Her riding on the bike has been nothing short of amazing!! When we did our rides as a family she was always out front keeping the pace up. Brilliant stuff in mega hot conditions (35-40C) I’m seriously hoping she’ll keep it going when were back home.
After first triple session I was back for more. The next day saw a nice improvement, times of 14 min 14 sec, 13 min 57 sec and 15min 32 sec. After descending for the final time I was just riding back home when I was buzzed by a “proper” biker in full works kit and a “proper” bendy carbon bike!  He flew past me like I was doing 15 mph, which I probably was! I was so keyed up from the climbing I decided to chase him and see what happened. Into top gear and PUSH! I managed to catch him after about half a mile and pulled into his draft. I was pretty sure he hadn’t spotted me so I sat up and took a drink . Drafting is one of the greatest pleasures I know. Especially when they don’t know you’re there J We felt like we were doing 19-20mph and I had almost completely recovered from my effort when I noticed the sign post for my turn coming up in 500m. I decided that what Cav can do  so can I, so I put it back into top and pulled out to overtake him. The look on his face is still with me 3 weeks later J A look of WHAT THE HELL combined with OOOPS As I past him I just said “Merci” and gave him a thumbs up. I must have been a right sight TTing past him on a steel framed old mountain bike! I’m sure it was the shock that did for him as I wound up and pulled past. I looked back briefly just before my turn and he was still shaking his head J
I decided to take a bit of a break from the hills, just for a few days, just to see if I could re-charge and really make a breakthrough.  So 2 day later I was back at the bottom of the climb looking for some action. My first attempt was more like it! 13 min 22 sec was a very hard effort but a proper achievement. The next 3 efforts, yes 3 more, came in at 13.51, 14.00 and 13.44 giving a nice average time of 13 min 44 sec across all 4 climbs.
I gave it another day to recover, just a few family rides, then it was back on on the 6th August.
The day before I had had no energy so I was a little concerned that I might have been doing too many climbs J I went out nice and easy and felt fine when I got to the bottom of the hill. I ended up doing 3 attempts of 13.28,13.27 and 14.09. The final climb I was buzzed by a mountain goat, who I tried to keep up with, an blow completely L Still a nice average of 13.41 for the 3 so still on the upward trend. The day before we left was going to be my final attempt on the mountain. I knew I’d miss it as I don’t have access to anything like this in my part of the UK.
A shot from the Top of Samson

So, fully rested, I set out very easy to give it everything I had. If I could break 13 min then THAT would be an achievement. I got to the bottom of the mountain in good time, and just went all out. I had a few time points along the way where I knew I would have to be in order to really break my record. Everything was going great and I sensed that going under 13 min was on the cards. As I pulled into the top section of the climb I let my HR go above 150 and just went for it!! I crossed the line in 12 min 44 sec! Then a quick recovery saw me coming back up and doing a t 13.05 effort. As I descended off this climb I had seem a few “proper” bikers coming up the hill. Some nice target practice to pull me up J My final effort was a solid but not amazing 13 min and 22 sec giving an average time for all 3 efforts of 13 min and 4 sec!! I will return.
All in all this trip was a complete surprise. I was planning on running and doing core work. Both running AND core work were completely out of the question as the weather was so hot you were sweating just thinking about them!  The reason the bike was such a great option was probably due to the cooling effect of the wind, something which was never going to be an issue for me as I don’t run that fast J
I am delighted I got the opportunity to do all this climbing and I’m now looking forward to getting into the hills on some of my rides at home!

My Sturdy Stallion

I  would love to go back even if it is just to see the scenery. I would hope to take my own bike as the one I used did take a little getting used to and wasn’t as light as my bike. Still a great holiday and a fabulous place to ride your bike!!  If you get the chance – TAKE IT!!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Llandudno 10 - June 17th 2012

To begin….. at the beginning” -  Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood ( A famous Welshman!!)

Why do we train? We all have our reasons, but this race gave me a view of a reason I had heard but never so clearly felt before. As we train our bodies re-form themselves into faster, more resilient tools for us to use. We set targets to help us strive towards an ever receding ideal we have for ourselves. There is never a time when we truly imagine that THIS will be my final swim/bike/run. This is the right way to be. We are already in the flow of the stream of life we can either bob along like detritus or learn to steer and propel ourselves forwards. Many talk about training to race or racing to train. Yesterday I understood that for most people races ARE training with a cherry on the top!
Readers of my previous reports will be aware that the weather can play a major role in local races. The weather yesterday was pretty calm, just a 10-15mph westerly, and the temps were cool for this time of year, at 12-15C. Cloud cover meant that overheating, a perennial problem I have, was not a major risk.
As the time approached 10am the cool air and wind meant that the biggest risk was pulling a muscle! I had decided not to do a warm-up as my race strategy was to run a nice controlled race with steady 8 min miles for the first half then see what I had left from mile 7 onwards.
After re-reading my last year’s report, something I tend not to do, I decided not to take any caffeine during the race. My run training had been almost nil in the previous 5 weeks so I’d have to be listening extra hard for signs of weakness. I did take my sports legs tablets as I find they work when I’m looking to put in a hard effort.
The race route had been changed from last year which probably helped with the speed. Instead of running round loads of corners the route was now completely on the flat and a 2 loop ring up and down the prom, on the North shore, and over to the West shore and back.
Congestion was not as bad as last year as the race had only attracted 600 this year, half that of 2011.
10.07 We were OFF!

Mile 1
I got into a nice easy 8 min pace with loads of space and just me and my watch. The wind was behind us for the first 800m so that helped even more. As we turned I spotted a group of 4 “lads” of the “largous” variety so I shielded myself behind them for the return section. Mile 1 completed in 7.58 AvHR 140 AvCAD 86
Mile 2
The route turned directly into the westerly wind. My shielding had already run out of steam, you just can’t get the quality anymore, so I was going to have to push on regardless. Suddenly the wind dropped and it was pace to easy pace easy heart rate. Mile 2 complete in 7.55 AvHR 143 AvCAD 86
Mile 3      
Running around the West shore was a tactical section, looking for open spaces when the tail wind was there and looking for “giants” when a head wind was in evidence. Everything felt pretty smooth and I kept myself targeted on maintaining the 8 min pace. Mile 3 completed in 7.57 AvHR 144 AvCAD 85
Mile 4
During mile 4, with the wind behind me, I had noticed a small runner just out of the corner of my eye, nothing specifically distinguishing, just a constant presence. I assumed they were running a similar strategy. It was at this time that I spotted, about 400m ahead, my one-time nemesis!! On my first half marathon I’d had been running up the final mile of the race, up a hill which had been very tough, but only made worse by spotting a runner in the most horrendous luminous pink/yellow/orange tutu!! That day had not been mine but today would be different!! Mile 4 was completed in 7.55 AvHR 149 AvCAD 85
Mile 5
This mile was still with the wind behind me and it appeared that I’d been correct about the runner. I decided that if they were still there when I broke mile 7 I’d tell them what my plan was. This mile was all on the prom and I was very happy to see I crossed the line in 40.08. Everything was going perfectly to plan and I was feeling nicely strong. Still looking out for some protection on the return journey, I spotted a small group of runners so I slotted in just behind them J Not nice drafting but I had been pulling a few runner around for the last few miles. Mile 5 completed in 8.15 AvHR 149 AvCAD 84
Mile 6
Turning with the wind behind me I noticed the small runner was still there. As someone who enjoys talking to fellow runners, and also someone who likes to thank all the volunteers who support the race, I mentioned to her that I’d be pushing from mile 7 onward but that if she wanted to crack 80mins she should keep it up! General progress was pretty good with lots of runners starting to suffer. I had a few near misses as I pushed round tiring runners but I was keeping my HR under control so mile 6 was completed in 7.59 AvHR 150 AvCAD 84
Mile 7
This was when my progress started in earnest. I informed my fellow runner that I was going to push a bit harder but she was very welcome to stick with me if she wanted. The twiddly bits of the course meant dodging people was the order of the day. There were lots of sharp turns and restricted pathways but this mile was a complete success as I finished in 7.53 AvHR 152 AvCAD 84
Mile 8
Glancing to my right I noticed I was not alone! The young lady who was running with me was more than keeping up with me and she looked like she was happy to push even harder. My heart rate was nicely under control and I was still feeling very strong. Not wanting to go too fast too early, I kept to my HR limit of sub 160. At this point  all my concentration was on not pushing too hard. Mile 8 was completed in 7.43 AvHR 155 AvCAD 85
Mile 9
This mile was all about leaving something in the tank. I have run some races where the “hanging-on” period of the race was far too long and my result suffered because of it. I was still looking at my watch to make sure my HR was not staying too much above 160. The route was nice and simple with the wind behind us so the temptation to push harder was definitely there. Mile 9 completed in 7.35 AvHR 160 AvCAD 86
Mile 10
This was time to make sure I gave EVERTHING I had. The route followed a short flat section with 200 m rise, a turn, followed by the run down to the finish line. Signage was there from 400m out. I held it back a bit on the short rise to make sure I didn’t run out of gas before the line. At this point I was overtaken by the young lady who had run so strongly over the previous miles. Only after the race did I find out that she was delighted that she had run a 6 min PB for the distance. I said I’d be delighted if she wanted to push on but at this point the strain appeared to be telling. As the route turned down towards the prom I consciously pulled myself together for the final 800m. This section of the race is one I have run hundreds of times. It is in fact the section of tarmac I use to do my mile repeats. The biggest problem was the number of runners who were struggling to keep going. Always one to encourage, I used a few happy phrases to signal to other runners that I was hoping to passJ As the 400m sign appeared I noticed my erstwhile running “buddy” had re-appeared. A final statement along the lines of “this is what you can’t do when your training!” saw her moving just in front of me. As we passed the 200m mark we were head to head. It’s times like this you like to think if I die at least …. I’ve not seen 170+ on my HR for a while J It was time for some PROPER running! In the last 100m I like to run sub 6 min pace. I over took 4 other runners but as the line approached I noticed she had fallen behind by just a meter or 2. I slowed JUST before the line and she crossed at the same time – it seemed like the right thing to do. As I did my end of race stagger, my good friend Richard approached to congratulate me and tell me how he’d done. Richard is a proper runner. Even so his 67.30 is an AMAZING run! Next, I spotted Dave Gardener, the over 70s regional champ who I’ve run with before. An ex-international duathlete, he can’t ride a bike anymore because of hamstring problems but this doesn’t stop him running like someone 40 years his junior. He had completed the race in 74.50!!
Reflections on the race are that, for people like me, I’ll never be winning any proper races, I train to race AND race to train!

Happy Racing AND Training to You ALL!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Nick Beer 10km 2012

This race was unique. My recent training has been primarily on the bike and I wasn't really feeling it up until just 5 mins before the race. As I parked my car the cool drizzly weather wasn't helping with my enthusiasm. Warming-up with a short jog along the promenade just in time to hear the starters gun go! Fortunately this year's race was chip timed and I was happy I wouldn't be in the running for any honours :)

Mile 1 is a tough assent and I decided early that I didn't want to hurt myself too much this early on in the race. Last year I had pushed too hard and this first uphill section had done too much damage. I was consciously keeping my heart rate down and completed the first mile in 7min 39 sec with an AvHR of 142 and AvCAD of 89.

Mile 2 includes a short downward section before the main assent of the Great Orme. I used this downward section to drop my HR and was feeling in complete control after finishing this mile in 7 min 32 sec with an AvHR of 148 and AvCAD of 89.

Mile 3 has the final part of the climb then a short flat section, into the westerly wind, before the long hoped for decent. There is a water station just before this mile ends but seeing as there was only 1 person serving and I wasn't willing to queue, I kept on going. This mile includes the toughest part of the course so the AvHR of 158  and AvCAD of 85 were no suprise. Time for mile 3 was 8 min 22 sec.

Mile 4 is the sort of mile that most runners dream of!!! All of the previous assent is given back in this mile and if you keep the cadence high, and the effort low, you can increase your speed while taking a bit of a break! This mile was completed in 6.54 with an AvHR of 151 and a nice high cadence of 90.

Mile 5 includes the tail of the decent which can give you some momentum to keep the pace up. The danger with this is that it can encourage you to push too hard too early! I might have fallen for this a little as I look back but the effect was a nice suprise. Mile 5 completed in 6.52 with an AvHR of 154 and AvCAD 89

Mile 6 includes a 400m ascent. Many runners don't keep enough in the tank for this section. I was almost one of them. The final part of this mile includes the decent onto the prom which is nice, and I did spot Dave the 72 year old Panther, but unfortunately this meeting probably caused me to burn more fuel than I should have! The mile was completed in 7.22 at an AvHR of 159 and AvCAD of 87.

The last few metres were tougher than I had hoped. I was pretty much out of it just following the announcer shouting that there were only a few seconds until the 48 min mark! I did my now traditional final sprint for the line and just got in under the 48 min mark on the race clock. I then remembered that it had also been chip timed so I checked my watch. 47.27!! A 33 second PB!

With the training I had had, the 5lb of excess weight I am currently carrying, and the 5 hrs of training I had done in the 6 days before the race I have to say I'm really please with the result. The next race is the Chester Half Marathon in May - but I may just forget that and target the Llandudno 10!!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

2012 Pier to Pier Race Report - 21st Jan 2012

Today’s race was all about the wind! The wind in these parts can be a right pain. It has been known to switch direction during a 2hr run ending up with either a VERY hard run or an overly easy saunter!

Today’s weather had started with an almost Spring time theme – sunshine and showers. I rarely use the term “flying” when referring to my running but today would be one of those days. The wind was a nice 30mph from the north-west and it could not have been more helpful!

In preparation for the race I had chosen my normal running kit PLUS my super quick Puma track spikes. They had seen me good on my first 5km last year and I felt they might help me along this time. On the other hand I had struggled to cut the @#$% out of my diet in the last few weeks and was toeing the line at 4lb over weight L

As the race time approached I was running a little late J I just managed to drop my friend off and get to the start in time for the announcer to relay the safety stuff and we were off!!

Mile 1 The wind was a real help here – I started off to the side of the pack, hence the slightly long reading, but as I looked at my watch I saw a sub 7 min pace was pretty easily established. In fact the danger for me was going to fast to soon. Mile 1 was completed in 6 min 55 sec with an average HR of 144 and a max of 165 (I needed to keep a lid on this) – Very happy my average cadence was a strong 92.

Mile 2 is in some ways the toughest mile in the course. The assent of The Little Orme (220ft) is immediately followed by a sharp decent and the decent can, if you’re not careful, take more out of you than the rise! This mile was going to be slower but at 7min 26sec it was a bit slower than I had hoped.  Average HR came it at 160 maxing out at 177 (The highest number I have seen in 6 months!) Cadence was still strong at 91.

Mile 3 was a new section of the race which just happens to run around Penrhyn Bay East!! Some of my friends will recognize this name as it appears very frequently on my training updates. It was great that this section had been added and quite a few of the people I normally see while I’m out training waved and shouted support. This must have been a factor as I completed mile 3 in 7 min 3 sec. Fortunately I had managed to drop my HR back down to a more sustainable 159 average and a 164 max. Cadence was still OK at 90.

Mile 4 started with a slight shock. As the 5km marker was crossed I had just broken my 5km PB of 21.31 with a 21.29! This was a little concerning J Never mind I was still feeling OK, a bit tired and my right quad was complaining, and I’d just pasted Dave Gardener (From the Abergele 5)!  I was feeling pretty strong so he told me to keep going and he’s try to stick with me. He did run and amazing race, finishing in 45.34 for 1st in his age group AND winning the North Wales 10km over 70 title! Mile 4 was completed in 7.11 with a 159 average HR and 166 max. Cadence had dipped to 89 but was still OK.

Mile 5 was pretty tough. It included the only part of the race where the wind was actually in your face! Fortunately it was wind AND rain. The rain helped to cool me down but this mile was very hard going. It was at this time that I chatted to a guy to encourage him. I suggested we could run together as we appeared to be running at the same speed. He ended up beating me by 10 sec, but at least he turned and shook my hand afterwards J Mile 5 ended with a rather high 163 average HR and a 169 max. Cadence was still solid at 89.

Mile 6 was even tougher J The energy had gone from my legs and the only thing keeping me going was the feeling that I should take this opportunity NOW. There was still a chance that I could go sub 45, a long time dream, and the time to give it EVERYTHING was now. I remember thinking, ”who, among my friends would stop now?” We all know the answer – NOBODY! So I pushed on and finished the 6th mile in 7 min 11 sec with an average HR of 167 and a max of 172. Cadence was just hanging in there at 88.

With the finish line beckoning, I saw some of my other running friends shouting and waving. I could not let them down – so I didn’t!  I crossed the line in 44.36. My HR was fixed at 173 and my pace was back up where I had started the race, 6.52, but I had done it! I didn’t really think I could.

What with the extra baggage and a far from perfect training cycle I had done what I set out to do – all I can say is THANK YOU to everyone who helped and encouraged me – you really did make the difference!

My next race is likely to be the Chester Half Marathon in May but who knows? J