London is a great town, really, but it's almost impossible to find a bump in the road any higher than my mate Adam (given, he is 6'7'') and even more difficult to find a patch of water not already overcome with other swimmers or ducks, so when my old friend Conrad suggested we take a couple of days off work to go walking in the Lake District I positively leapt at the opportunity.
Training has been going quite well lately. Last Sunday I went out with the Serpentine club from Roehampton gate in Richmond Park for the weekly Sunday ride, but instead of confining my pursuits to the safety of the park, I took on the "3 Hills" ride with some experienced riders. It ended up totalling 120km's with my cycle to and from the park, but it was quite excellent. The first 2 'hills' are more (as aforementioned) bumps, but the 3rd, Box Hill, actually requires a bit of sustained effort to ascend and the whole experience of being out there was magnificent, especially given the weather that day; bright, sunny and hopefully portentous of a good summer to come.
Anyway, back to the Lakes. Conrad and I arrived late Thursday night, just in time to acquaint ourselves with some Lakeland ale and some local fare before retiring for the night. I woke early the next morning, drove down to Derwent Water, put on my wetsuit and wasted no time in swimming out into the lake. As with many things, debating the matter too much only results in second thoughts and delays. The water was icy at best and when I got out just 24 minutes later, my jaw was locked shut from cold and my hands numb and useless. I finally regained sensation in all my digits 2 hours later. Apart from that, it was well worth the experience of cutting through the stillest of lakes, alone in the grey early morning light. That same day we hiked 9 hours and I crashed hard at 9pm, utterly exhausted, sore and content.
The following morning I did a 16.6km run before breakfast, which seemed just too easy, followed by another 9 hour hike and a similar end to the day.
The Lakes are simply beautiful. The dramatic plunging valleys and misty peaks set-off against silent still lakes forged so many millions of years ago give the place that big-sky, big-country feel so familiar to me growing up in South Africa. In the U.K. there can't be very many better places to train and I think, somehow, I'll be back.
Wouldn't you know it, just as everything was going to plan, a spoke in the wheel is thrust.
This week I am in the charming French Alpine village of Val d'Isere, to snowboard. The trip was planned months ago and is scheduled for 7 days. There are 12 of us on this trip and needless to say, I have been looking forward to it for quite some time. I've only ever been snowboarding once before, in Flims Switzerland, and I had a great time. I had similar hopes for this trip but an unfortunate turn of fate intervened and on the first day, even in the first hour, as I descended a slope, possibly too difficult for so early in the day, possibly too rapidly, but whatever the circumstances (these things always happen quite quickly) I found myself slammed into the slope, landing awkwardly on my right side. Winded and sore, I lay there for a few minutes to catch my breath which ached on each inhalation. Not to be deterred by a little fall, I carried on with the others and boarded the rest of the day, despite a deep and growing ache.
The next morning I rolled up at the local medical centre to have the source of the stubborn discomfort checked out and was diagnosed with a cracked rib. There will be no more snowboarding and no more training for at least 10 days. A minor setback.
This past Sunday, I woke early and made the journey from North London down to the town of Portsmouth on the English South coast to run the half marathon there. I've never been to Portsmouth before but I guess I should have known just about anywhere, especially coastal towns, in the UK are going to present fairly harsh conditions in February.
Apart from a Saturday swim session, I'd taken it easy the whole week after riding 75km's the Sunday before. My legs had been achy jelly all week and it was only by Saturday that I realised I had a bit of an injury, the left quad being the offender. Anyway, nothing to be done about it apart from stretching, frozen peas and Voltarol gel. A sort of triathlete holy trinity.
Before the race, the starter got on the PA system and issued a warning to be careful on the muddy beach sand, a message which came to me sort in the way sounds in a dream end up being actual real sounds in your consciousness after you wake up. My pre-race routine is quite cerebral. My initial thought was; what have I signed up for here? But I like a good off-road race, ever since joining the cross country running team in high school. And so, with the wind positively hurling freezing rain drops at the start line, the horn sounded and we were off. I had positioned myself somewhere in the first quarter of the field but in a race like this, with less than 800 runners, traffic is not a problem. I started well and surged through the slower runners, reaching my full cruising speed in the first couple of minutes. I think psychologically it's better to pass people than be passed and this worked in my favour all race, initially passing runners in droves but the rate of attrition slowing to a trickle as I moved towards the front of the race. I had no idea where I was placed but it didn't really matter, I was just trying to finish in under 1:23:00 to secure a guaranteed spot in the New York Marathon later this year.
I can say without hyperbole or doubt, the Portsmouth Half Marathon is the hardest race I've ever run. The starter was right, the muddy beach was quite treacherous and the rest of the off-road paths (comprising about a third of the course) were tough and uneven and required intense concentration. If that wasn't enough, the wind was sufficiently gale force to almost entirely halt progress in parts and combined with the rain, served to strip heat from the body fast enough to induce numbness.
All in all, I can't really complain. For all the adversity, the race went extraordinarily well, I eventually (and very gratefully) finished joint 10th in a time of 1:23:40, narrowly missing the time required for NY. No matter, I have entered for the Milton Keynes half, next time lucky.
Results can be viewed here.
This past Sunday I somehow dragged myself out of bed (After a Saturday speed run session and swim class) and cycled the 15km's down to Richmond Park from my house to join up with the cyclists from my running/tri club, Serpentine. I'm glad I did. When I got down there, I met up with a lively crew who had all pitched up despite the very blustery and chilly conditions.
While most of the others had designs for the 3 Hills ride through Surrey, I thought it best to stay inside the park and get some mileage into my legs by doing 4 laps, which I did along with a couple of other riders working on getting their mileage and speed up. Each lap measures about 11km's so in total I finished the day having completed 75km's. While the session was really good training and I felt properly worked out afterwards, the break when I arrived, between laps and before going home made it all a little easier than I would have liked. There will be no pulling over for a slice of ginger cake on race day.
Next time out, I'll be joining the 3 Hills group and experiencing properly what it's like to take on some real hills and the relentless drive of the pack.
I'm always looking for improvements to my diet. I'm quite well informed overall and very conscious of what I eat, but (and I hope I'm not alone in this) I struggle to keep up with the latest on what's better, leaner, full of more Omega3, higher in protein, etc.
Today I came across an article on Runners World which contains a few good diet tips. Having recently started training properly again I can use all the advice I can get and I post the link here in case anybody else is in the same canoe.
Phew, it's been a hard week. Ordinarily I start the week with a Monday swim & gym, but sometimes you're just not into it and I believe you have to listen to your body, it knows best. Not to be confused however with pure apathy and a general lack of motivation, bouts of which can strike, with surprising frequency, on a Monday!
So it was that at the start of this week I awoke with no energy and no interest in training that day, a sharp contrast to my usual vigour and excitement at putting in a good solid session and reaping all the feel-good rewards which come after. I spent the day on the bench, and the next day I really only managed a lame gym session but by Wednesday I was back on the horse, hitting a good pre-work speed swim. Yesterday morning (Saturday, I made it to the first of my Swim for Tri - Developing Front Crawl sessions to try improve my stroke. I swim ok, but it's the area where big gains can be made purely through technique rather than long hard training. Already it's proving to be worth it; the instructor pointed out 2 areas of improvement I can take away and work on in the drills. After going to afternoon tea (and eating as much cake as possible) I headed out around 5:30 for a long run, which ended up being a shade over a half marathon at 21.2km's... I used to be a fun guy. This morning I cycled down to Richmond Park, just as I did last Sunday, did a lap and cycled back. Surprisingly I didn't feel those miles from last night in my legs and it turned out to be a great cycle. Things are going suspiciously well.
I recently came across an article by Martyn Brunt on 220triathlon.com about why we do it, why do we do this to ourselves? For a long time I thought it might be just because I like pasta that much, but Mr. Brunt seems to have summed it up quite perfectly, or at least it made sense to me. You can read the article here: Why oh why oh why
Today marks the end of my first week of training for Ironman Mallorca. I'm loosely following a training program I used for my first 70.3 (Monaco) from markallenonline.com. I'll write about the program in full in another post, but essentially Sunday is long cycle day, so this morning I cycled from my house in north London down to Richmond Park, did 1 lap and came back, a total of about 41km's (my bike computer isn't working for reasons unknown). The session went really well. In the past I've been quite weak on the hills, but I think the recent spin classes have really helped out with strength. Richmond Park is a great training ride, there are parts which really test your endurance and the are party you can really open the taps, put it on the big ring and crank it. I must have hit 50mph on certain stretches today, thoroughly exhilarating.
Hi and welcome. Tri703.com was launched today as a place to blog about all my experiences training for Ironman 70.3 races, and indeed other races too. I've signed up for the Mallorca Ironman 70.3 on May 14th, so expect a lot of posts between now and then. I'll be focusing on my training and race experiences, looking at the training program, nutrition, recovery, equipment and anything else which comes up along the way. This is my 2nd Ironman 70.3 (Monaco being the first) and I welcome comments from readers.