Race Preparation

Things are really heating up now with just two weeks to go until Ironman 70.3 Staffs!

Ironman Staffs 2

After months of hard training I am now at the point where things are starting to calm down with a bit of tapering before the big day (although six separate gym sessions in the last four days might argue with that statement). It is funny that having been through this before with the Avenger last summer I now have slightly different concerns. Whilst previously my main concern was whether I could actually finish a race this long, I now know I can go the distance, and by accounts Ironman Staffs is supposed to have a slightly easier / flatter course (we will see…) which should mean that will take care of itself.

Also unless the weather changes a lot in the next fortnight it is unlikely to be pushing 30 degrees C during the race which will make nutrition a little more realistic and help avoid near collapses on the bike due to dehydration. Finally the cut off time is a bit longer than the 8 hours I previously had (8.30 this time) which I assume has been done especially for me and more importantly might mean I actually finish ahead of someone!

So assuming I can actually finish the course, my attention has turned to the admin side, and I honestly never thought I would have more concerns on this side of the race then actually getting around it!

First up is the location. When I booked the race (which was a mission in itself – see my post from last year on the perils of online race entry) it was because it was less than an hour away from home, which fulfils most of my criteria of being able to get to easily by car and not having to spend money on a hotel the night before. Unfortunately it is the other side of Birmingham in an area I have never been to before, so spent most of yesterday afternoon location scouting in the car, firstly driving around trying to find the venue, which was severely hampered by a load of road closures which confused the sat-nav and the fact that in general it is in the middle of bloody nowhere (I am sure there should be a question mark in the picture below!). Once we actually found it this added to my confusion as the first thing on site is a huge great petting zoo, which is definitely a first for me, although I guess being chased by an angry goat will probably ensure people achieve their PBs!

Shrugb

Next up is parking, and funnily enough writing this blog has made me find another issue. I was just searching for the name of the venue which I keep forgetting and noticed that car parking needed to be booked in advance ‘if you want to park there on the day’. Now bearing in mind I have already highlighted the remote location there is not really a realistic alternative available, as parking miles away and biking in with all my kit is not going to work. So another £14 (yes £14!!) to grudgingly pay on top of the massive entry fees, has at least ensured I will actually be able to park at the race and get home afterwards, assuming I can find it first.

The next, and potentially most complicated part of the day, is that the race actually takes place over two sites. So here you go: You start off at the finish.Yes, although you park up at Shugborough, that is not actually the start location. That is around 15 miles away at a place called Chasewater, where you do your swim and then ride (via a convoluted 90 km bike route) back to the start / finish place. This also means that not only do I need to go along the day before to set up on multiple sites, but on the race day itself you have to get a shuttle bus from the finish to the start. To be honest it is giving me a headache just thinking about it, so hopefully it will all just work out!

chasewater

Oh, I forgot to mention that one other thing that makes this so complicated. I need to be there at bloody 5 am! So as if it was not hard enough finding the place in the day time, I am going to have to leave the house at around 4 am and find it in the dark, whilst managing to actually stay awake. This is because of this complicated set up, as I will need to get to the finish / start and check my running gear is all ok, then jump on the shuttle bus to the start / finish and again check on my bike stuff. I then need to be in my wetsuit and ready to go in the water around 7ish, for my 7.10 wave start.

That said I am actually really glad I have this start time, as my age group (30-34) is the first ‘normal’ start time, meaning some others won’t even begin until I am halfway around the bike course, which should mean I have some companions during the run, rather than the lonely, painful struggle I experienced on my last lap in the Avenger.

Gomez

Finally, there is just the small matter of the ‘elite’ competitors taking part. As this is such a high-profile Ironman event (televised and everything) there are some big names in the mix, and none more so than the current ITU World Champion and Olympic Silver medallist Javier Gomez, who is in the first swim wave of the day starting just ten minutes before me. That’s right, I will be hot on the heels of one of the fastest triathletes on the planet! Well, that is probably the closest I will come to him unless his bike falls apart (although I expect he can run faster than I can ride anyway), but it is an amazing thought that I will be that close. I wonder if he will give me any encouragement before the start? That’s if I can work out where the hell it is!!

Gomez

Advertisements

Race Report: Tewkesbury Triathlon 10/5/15

After going from a couple of races per year to half a dozen last year, I have toned things down a bit for 2015 with just a two main races, partly due to being busier but mainly to get back in favour with my better half! Whilst one of them is Ironman 70.3 – one of the biggest races in the UK calendar this year with over 2000 entrants – I thought I would go the other way with my warm up event and try a nice local race with under 200 competitors.

Tewkes Tri Club

This type of early season race is great for a number of reasons. Firstly to make sure my kit still actually works after spending the most of the winter in the wardrobe / shed. This mainly applies to my bike, as although I have been doing loads of training in the last 6 months it has all been at the gym in either spin classes or the stationary bike (I am not a fan of riding in the rain or cold, especially in the roads around where I live), but also to other things like my tri-suit (fortunately I seem to have lost some weight so still fit in) and other race day equipment.

The other reason is to practice the specialist parts of triathlon, such as timed starts, transition and a finish line sprint: all of which of course are possible to do on your own but a lot less fun then normal training, and therefore I don’t really bother. Anyway, let’s talk about the race itself:

Pre-Race

It turned out I was also in the ‘senior’ race group (a first even for me…) which also meant I had to wait a fair while for my start as part of the final group, so after a 5.45 am get up, 6.45 arrival, and 7.15 briefing, I had to wait until after 9am to actually start, which – I am not going to lie – was not the most fun 90 minutes or so of my life. I spent most of it in the car listening to the Rocky soundtrack and trying to stay warm, given I had to change into my tri-suit before the start of the race. Finally, it was time to get into the pool, and near to the start.

Swim – 8.14

This was only the second pool based triathlon I have done, and the logistics can be a nightmare so I was interested to see how they would do this one. As before, we were split into 30 second stars based on our predicted swim times (making me wish I could have added on a minute or so to be able to start earlier!), but rather than working our way from one side of the pool to the other by ducking under a lane rope every few lengths, this one instead involved staying in one lane but each of us wearing a different coloured hat. I chose yellow of course, so coupled with my black tri-suit it matched my bike (little things…)

Twekesbury pool

The pool was nice and warm which meant that other than dodging up to  3 others who were in at the same time as me things went well. Fortunately the breaststrokers had finished up by now, as when I was watching some of the earlier starters there were a few awkward looking collisions and overtaking manoeuvres.

The main incident involved my slightly old school digital watch with its velcro strap, which I use for triathlons as my GPS is not waterproof. It works fine on open water swims where I can tuck it under my wetsuit sleeve, but it has a habit of undoing itself in warm water pools, and did not let me down on lap 1 of this race, meaning I had to grip it in my fist for the return leg and hurl it at the friendly starter-lady as I neared the edge for her to hang onto until I got out.

She seemed to get the idea though, and looked after it until I hauled myself to the edge.This was another area I did have some concerns on before, as unlike my local pool where the water comes right to the edge of the sides, this one had a good 8 inch or so drop from the edge to the water, meaning it was a real effort to climb out after a heavy swim, and a for a few competitors in particular it was far from glamorous!

T1 – 2.52

There is a massive difference between the first transition in an open water swim to a pool one. In the former your fingers are typically frozen, meaning minimal dexterity and an inability to perform simple tasks such as doing up zips or laces; in the latter you are supposedly a bit warmer and therefore in theory more able to get changed. Of course in reality it does not quite work that way, as part of the problem is the fact your brain is a bit fuzzy after getting out of the water, which means however carefully you have laid out your kit before the race you still end up doing things like putting your top on the wrong way round, wasting valuable seconds trying to change it back! Other than this minor indiscretion my T1 was fairly uneventful (which is a good thing), and before long I was away…

Bike – 51.41

The bike course was beautiful, riding out of town and onto some nice quiet country roads. Although there was a bit of traffic it was still fairly early for a Sunday morning, and plenty of space for the odd car to overtake, so a good choice of course by the organisers. It was a fairly flat out-and-back course, with just a small hill around the halfway point, so a good chance to blow the dust off the bike tyres and stretch the legs.

Tewkes Bike

It did make me feel a bit better that there were another 50+ people starting after me, so there were at least people coming the other way during most of my return leg, as there are few things more depressing that knowing you are pretty much the last person still on the course (I would know, I have been there!). Also, I literally just found out when checking my time online that the bike leg was 24 km rather than the 20 I thought it was, which does make me feel a bit better about my time, meaning I would have easily been under 90 minutes if I had not been cheated!

T2 – 0.59

As always, very little to say about this part of the race, except I was in an out in under a minute and everything went to plan.

Run – 27.31

After a frankly stunning bike ride around the Gloucester countryside I had high hopes for the run: fields or woodland I wondered to myself as I left transition for the second time. But, much like the Stratford Triathlon I did last year (in fact it was actually on on the same day this year but I decided to do this race instead) this was far more exciting – a tour of the Tewkesbury industrial parks! I kid you not. This was a fairly flat route which took me past a delightful series of office buildings, factories and warehouses (some of the businesses I had actually worked alongside in a former life), which were of course deserted at this time on a Sunday morning. Charming!

tewkes bus park

Perhaps underwhelmed by the scenery the run did not feel great, and without my GPS watch to give me an idea how I was doing I assumed I would be on for well over 30 minutes, so imagine my surprise as I got found myself on the return loop marshal shouted there was only 1 km left, and I realised I had only been running for 22 mins. I could actually do this in under half an hour (yes, that is a big thing for me)! So a final push managed to get me through in the above time which was not far off my PB, a great way to end the race and start the season.

Finish – 1.31.16 (133 our of 196)

For the first race of the season I am very pleased with this. Of course it would have been great to get under the 90 minute mark, but I will take that – especially after I found out about the extended bike leg which probably added close to 10 minutes. Most of the competitors were also part of the local club so knew the course well, which does help with pacing, etc, but in bearing in mind it was effectively a training race this was fine. The finishers loot was also not too shabby, with a medal to add to my collection as well as a nice mug from the triathlon club (a new one for me). All in all, a good early season race, and excellent preparation for Ironman next month!

Cornish Training

As preparation for my first triathlon of the season on Sunday, I thought it would be a good time to go away to Newquay for the bank holiday last weekend and spend most of it eating and drinking! To be fair it is only a sprint tri and I am hoping with the amount of training I have done so far this year it should go ok, but I did feel a bit guilty after the Cornish pasties, cider and ice creams, so decided to go for an early morning run to make up for it.

Newquay 1

Despite an extremely painful 6 am alarm, it turned out to be a fantastic plan. Monday morning was the sunniest period of the week, and I managed to time my start at just after sunrise, making sure the views were as stunning as you would expect in this part of the country. It was also reasonably warm, and although I had a long sleeved top I could probably have coped in less, even with a bit of wind chill on the hills.

Those of you who read all my posts (all 3 of you!) might remember I did a similar run last year around Newquay, taking in a few beaches, gardens and even the zoo. But this year I though I would push it a bit more, and take myself from the centre of Newquay, and along the famous south west coastal path to nearby Watergate Bay.

Newquay 3

At that time in the morning I had the town almost to myself for the start – a long way from the crowds of holidaymakers and stag parties that roam during the daytime – and after just a few minutes from my hotel I was already by the water’s edge at Tolcarne beach. A fairly gentle downhill from there took me past Lusty Glaze and onto Porth beach, the limit of my run in the previous year, where I managed to recreate some of my Rocky III beach running on the sand!

From there I faced a fairly steep hill, with a couple of k’s climb to the top of the cliffs. past various farmland, wind turbines and the local airport. This was fairly tough going as I am more used to road running, but this was proper trails with various obstacles and traps which seemed to have been put there to add to the challenge, and I am sure my ankles will forgive me in the long run for some of the toll this took on my feet along the way.

Newquay 2

The top rewarded me with great views of Newquay and Watergate on either side, with the stunning cliffs and coastline just beneath me. By this point I had been going about 30 mins so was glad to see my halfway mark not too far away, and an equally steep downhill finally took me to Watergate Bay and onto the beach.

Part of the reason we had gone to Cornwall in the first place was that there was supposed to be a surf competition on, although in the end it turned out to be a lot smaller than we expected, but there were a few hardy souls in the water even at that time in the morning, who like me were making the most of having so much open space to themselves.

Newquay Run

As you will see from my tracking map, the return route was almost a mirror image of the my out leg, although this time I was a bit more prepared for some of the rocks and holes to dodge on the way back. There were also a few more fellow runners by this time, who had also realised what a great opportunity this was. It was also when I had the low point of my run, where after getting a bit cocky towards the end I tried to vault over a wooden gate, but the soles of my trail shoes had got a bit wet on the grass and slipped on the top, leaving me to cling on upside down with my bare hands. Fortunately I don’t think anyone saw, so I managed to sprint away with only my palms and ego a bit bruised.

Newquay 4

In the end the run was exactly 11 km (I did a bit extra at the end to make sure!), and although my time showed 75 minutes, in reality I must have stopped for around 10 of them as I could not prevent myself from taking photos and simply staring out to sea at the beautiful views. All in all a great morning’s work, and I hope it will help get me through Sunday!