Monday, 17 August 2009


With this blog being called 3rd time lucky it's already close to 12 months out of date so to fit in with all the other guff that's going on it's being moved to .

Nothing will really change except that hopefully I'll post a bit more regularly and it'll take a bit of time getting set up properly.

The first post is up there now and the aim is to pop one up there every week at least until the 7th November when I 'yet again' try to nail an Ironman.

See you over there :-)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Hayle Standard Distance Triathlon

It’s Sunday morning, 5:30am at the Hayle Travelodge and you can hear the familiar Summer sounds of wind and rain battering against the windows. “Oh crap, I’m going back to sleep. Goodnight” I said to Shelly who’d already been trying to wake me up for 30mins. Saturday had been such a nice day, but as 2009 is constantly proving, one day is never the same as the next. In fact quite often one hour is never like the previous one.

(Vo2 Max Lab Testing at Exeter Uni)

Finally we headed out to Copperhouse Pool for what will be the last time the event is held at this location. The mood wasn’t good, it’s supposed to be Summer sport after all, we want to race in the sunshine occasionally. Only 7 days ago I’d ridden the Two Moors 100m Sportive in torrential rain, I’d been hoping for better weather but it wasn’t to be.

I racked my bike and my bike/run gear in transition which was one of the most organised and spacious transitions I’ve seen, plenty of room for all of your gear and bike with none of the cramped up spaces that you find at most races. Brilliant job folks!

Soon I was putting my wetsuit on which was a longer job than normal as already everything was soaked. I left the bag with my clothes in a puddle by my bike, there was little point covering anything up in a feeble attempt to keep it dry and headed to the pool. Copperhouse Pool is an open water venue filled by the sea at high tide. Safe sea water swimming without any of the waves and currents you’d normally get. The water was nice and warm compared to my recent dips in the sea and we were soon all gathered on the far side of the lake for the start.

Soon we were under way and I immediately tucked in behind a clubmate who I expected would fly for the first 400m. I’d picked my spot carefully because of my notoriously bad navigation skills. After a while I looked up and we seemed to be way over to the left of the main pack and it didn’t look right to me so I jumped ship and headed back into the throng. The huge buoys marking the course were brilliant and visible even to a blind old bat like me and although I had to keep stopping to empty water from my goggles (I really must get a new pair) I don’t think I swam off course much at all which is a bonus. That said, I never really managed to break free from the hoards either and although I’m not the quickest swimmer in the world I’m normally quick enough to find myself in clear water fairly quickly.
The first lap finished and I still seemed to be struggling along and then suddenly my form just appeared from nowhere, I slowed down my stroke, focused on technique and I was flying past people. For the first half of lap 2 I just swam down the outside of a huge pack until I swam off the front and hit clear water. I couple of smaller groups were dispatched before the final turn where I saw a group of 2 just ahead and set about catching them. Just as I was sailing past I realised that one of them was my swim partner Phill, finally I’d got myself into a half decent position and knowing that his navigation is spot on I tucked in behind him for the last 100m or so before the exit ramp. (1500m swim time - 20:56)

(scenic setting for the start)

I exited the water in 6th place which I was quite happy with considering how badly my 1st lap had gone. Phill was up the ramp with his wetsuit down to his waist while I was still trying to unzip mine but I was soon at my bike putting on my sodden bike shoes and tipping the water out of my aero helmet before putting it on my head and grabbing my bike to exit transition. (T1 - 0:57)

Onto the bike and the rain continued to pour down on top of us. Phill was just ahead along with 2 other riders and I passed them heading out through the town before dropping into my Tri bars in preparation to smack the bike course, except that I couldn’t.......... My legs were just empty, there was nothing there, no power, no energy, no enthusiasm. It’s nothing that will worry me too much, I’ve put in a lot of miles over the last few weeks and I’m guessing that they’ve just caught up with me. The weather of course didn’t help and no doubt took the edge off what little bit of determination I have too. I still felt fine though so I just kept myself aero and turned the pedals round at whatever pace and with whatever power my legs would allow. I guess I’d had a bit of a preview the day before when I’d done a Vo2 Max test at Exeter University and my legs really hadn’t wanted to play there either. All I could do was hope I didn’t get passed by too many people, look forward to the ribbing of those clubmates who did catch me and hope that when I got off the bike I was able to run some respectability back into it all. (40k'ish Bike - 1:09:22)

(Did I mention the rain)

Back off the bike and into T2 it was still raining! I racked my bike, took off my helmet and bike shoes, then tipped the water out of my trainers before putting them on and heading out onto the run. (T2 - 0:45)

The good news for the run was that there was no sign of the cramp that quite often plagues me when I’ve been getting some bike miles in, the bad news was that my legs still had no energy and they seemed to tell me how fast I was allowed to push them rather than the other way round, luckily that was still a half decent speed and I almost immediately passed the last two people to take me on the bike, then about 1.5miles in I caught Phill who’d re-passed me at around 20miles and gone on to hit T2 a minute up. I continued to chase people down but not at anywhere near the pace that I’m used to, rather than making huge gains on them I was creeping up on them, but at least I was gaining. I saw my clubmate Alan near the turnaround, he’d flown past me like a man possessed half way through the bike course, he’d still got 2mins on me and if I was to stand a chance of catching him I was going to have to scorch through the 2nd 5k, so at the turnaround I put my legs in their place and made them work a bit harder. I caught and passed a couple more folks and then with about a mile to go we turned off the main road just as I ripped past someone. I heard shouting behind us and presumed it was spectators cheering encouragement to someone......... it wasn’t! While overtaking the pair of us had overshot a turning, the chap I’d passed turned around on hearing the shout to see a marshal waving him back, I didn’t realise until I got to the end of the path and saw my clubmate Alan who I was chasing run past from the other direction..... balls!!!
I turned around and ran back to where I should have turned off but I’d lost all of my momentum now and couldn’t really be bothered to push on, the chap I’d passed was now a good way ahead so I just focused on making sure I lost no more places and cruised into the finish in what turned out to be 9th place. (10k run - 39:12)

(cruising into the finish)
It also turned out to be 2nd place in my Age Group........... guess who got first place......... yep, it was the chap I’d passed and then lost time to when we took the wrong turn. Ah well, I could feel like I’d been robbed, but if I’d raced anything like the way I should have raced then it wouldn’t have even been close so it’s my own fault really.

All in all it's a fantastic event and would have been even better but for the weather. Copperhouse Pool will be missed because next year the swim will be in the sea, so there will be waves and tides for the newbies to contend with.

So now it seems that I’m race free for a few weeks although I have got a couple of testing lab session at Exeter Uni where I’ll be locked in a heat chamber and pedalling away on the bike for an hour. Hopefully with IM Florida getting closer then I’ll be trying to update this a bit more often than I have. Fingers crossed we’ll finally get some decent summer weather and I’ll be able to get some good training done.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Oooops, it's been nearly a month.

I've been really slack on the blog this year, but hopefully I'll get to pick it up a bit with IM Florida now less than 4 months away. I'm on top of the 'supposed' vital last 16 weeks and still I haven't really got my backside into gear. Still, I've been ticking along and even though my idea of ticking along involves far too many days off it's still doesn't exactly mean I've turned into Mr Couch Potato although the internet does take up far too much time - damn you Twitter!!

So what have I been up to since the last post? Well I'm not shy and secretive about my training, I'm happy to admit that it's as random as it can be. It's also published in full on the internet, so if you'd like to peruse, laugh at (or even advise) about what I'm up to in the run up and what I have been up to previously then just take a look by clicking here.

The bad/lazy news is that in the 25 days since my last post I've done absolutely nothing on 10 of them and I'm sittng typing this on a miserable Saturday morning when I should really be out on the bike, but the weather is sooooo YUK!!

The good news is that I've finally got my backside onto my bike. It's been no great shakes and it was almost 2 weeks after Burnham Tri before I sat in the saddle again, but I've managed to sneak another 80miler, 4 x 50 milers and a couple of 20's in which is a massive improvement on the cycling I'd been doing before. I've also got the Two Moors 100mile Sportive coming up next weekend which will be my first ever Sportive. The event HQ is only 4miles from home and the course doesn't look too challenging so it should be a fun day out and a good time to crack my first century of the year. There will be no taper for it though, it's purely for training and if I end up bimbling around with some friends then so be it. Time in the saddle is what I'm after.

The swimming is the same as ever, it pretty much just bimbles along in it's own little world, although I did actually possibly swim a pb of 13:20 for 1000m last night (I'm not sure if it's a pb ot not) which meant I held 1:20/100m pace, I can't complain about that. There was also a nice change in the swim program when 5 of us from my Tri Club went down to Burgh Island to help film a new 'Wild Swimming' TV program with Robson_Green. Hardly the biggest training session and coming with it's own selection of problems (mainly getting home less than 4hrs before I had to get up for a 15hr shift at work) it was still a good fun day and 3 of us managed to get in a solid TT paced lap of the Island in (21:30) with the local head lifeguard leading us on a paddle board (thanks Liam).

Running like swimming has pretty much been ticking over. Most runs have been comfortably holding themselves below 7min/mile pace although there has been the odd disaster like attempting to do 14miles while fresh using the Galloway Run/Walk method. The plan worked like a dream at Marazion when my legs were trashed but running fresh meant that the first 5 miles were still all under 7mins and I walked the first minute of every one. It was more Interval session than steady paced effort and I suffered as a consequence.

The only race has been the North Devon Tri Beach Aquathlon which for me is more about having a bit of fun and doing my bit to help out than actually racing. The race was made interesting when some numbnuts turned half of the signs around. As I'd put the run course out I simply stopped to fix the problem signs as I ran the first lap, luckily there weren't many people ahead of me and those that were only ended up taking a slight diversion, so all was well.

So that's about it really. Update complete. There's nothing more to say really. Hope I haven't wasted too much of your life.

Oooooh, nearly forgot. It's IRONMAN season. I spent last weekend shouting at my computer as a bunch of folks I know raced IM Austria, at the same time I was also watching the drama unfold at IM Germany. Most of them did fantastically well (Rich you're a pussy). This weekend I'll be mostly shouting at my computer as Chrissie Wellington smacks Roth and the egotistical tosspot that is Kit Stokes (he's ok really) FINALLY BREAKS 9HRS at IM Switzerland. Come on man!!!! I'm sure I should be training instead but we'll call it inspiration ;-)

Laters all

Monday, 15 June 2009

(Racing in) The sun and the rain.

Well you can't write a script for the weather lately. Just one week after getting burnt to a crisp at Marazion I'm lining up on a Saturday evening to race the Saunton Sands Aquathlon and it's been pouring with rain ALL DAY. It's not very often you expect to finish the run wetter than you finish the swim, but this was one of them. Still it's all good fun and with the race being a tiny casual affair it was all done in good spirits. No doubt the conditions scared a few people off but the sea was as calm as you could hope for so it was game on.
Saunton Aquathlon
We stood in the clubhouse looking out to sea as they put the swim bouys out. "Are you sure that's the right distance?" we asked. "It looks like a long way".
Race time came and we charged into the sea, well some charged while I strolled out. At least the water was warmer than at Marazion. I picked through the back and mid packers and set my sights on a group of 3 who were leading the field, just before the first bouy I caught them up. We headed back to the beach to complete the first half of the 'M' shaped swim and as we exited the sea to run around a flag someone shouted "14mins!". 14mins!!!!! I can swim 1k in 14mins, this is supposed to be 1k and we're only half way through. Ah well, no matter. One of the local SLSC boys dolphin dived into the lead which helped me because it meant I didn't have to sight near invisible bouys. At the final turn the 4 of us were still together but with the huge white clubhouse to aim for I pushed on and headed out to transition with a small lead.

The run was a real ramble at times and great fun except for the fact that my legs were trashed from my morning bike ride. There was a relay runner ahead who I just couldn't get anywhere near, he was only 13 but a national cross country racer. As he hadn't swum I'll hold my head up against the embarrassment of getting a kicking by one so young (I'll get him next time).
A tiny field, but a win is a win (so they say) and a rare race where the swim takes longer than the run. Happy Days in the rain.

Burnham-on-Sea Sprint Triathlon
Another week gone and the weather has turned again as Burnham took place on a blisteringly hot day, but the relatively early start saved us from the worst of it. In a bid to kick start my Ironman training I'd ridden the 80miles from Barnstaple to the parents holiday crash pad in Brean on Saturday and the 5mile spin from there to the Pool on Sunday morning told me that my legs were not the only sore bits that had forgotten what 4hrs+ in the saddle felt like.
After catching up with some old friends and cheering on some of my earlier starting clubmates it was time to head poolside.
The swim was straightforward enough. 500m in Burnham Pool so once that was dispatched in 6:50 I did the necessary and headed out on the bike. Early on there were a few annoying traffic hold ups. Maybe I'm too casual about this sport because rather than risk my neck overtaking cars I sat behind them while a couple of other lads charged down the outside. A couple of minutes later though the cars had gone and I set about catching and despatching those who'd taken advantage of my timid nature. In my swim wave was a lad I've never ever beaten, we're similarly paced on the swim and run but he always kills me on the bike. He'd been just ahead out of the water but the traffic had given him a lead of around 30secs, I focused on him ahead thinking that if I could minimise the damage on the bike I'd stand a slim chance of catching him on the run and better still I'd have a chance to break the hour marker here for the first time ever. Then around half way into the bike I realised that not only was I keeping him in sight but I was actually slowly gaining on him, that was all the incentive I needed to keep pushing when the going got tough and I wanted to ease off. With a mile to go I was within 5 secs and we returned to the main road and the main road traffic. For the next half mile there was some tentative overtaking going on before we returned to a closed section of road near the pool.
Entering T2 my legs were in bits but I knew that there was a chance of a very rare victory over someone who's been out of my reach for years. I entered T2 ahead but my transition was slow as I messed around racking my bike, I left with a small chase on my hands.
We ran out to the beach side by side and my legs were screaming, any minute now I could feel that my cramp problems would re-appear. My breathing was controlled though, pace wise I was well within my limits and I was holding my own, if I could just focus on keeping my form then I should be ok. Along the beach we were inseperable but then we hit the sand dunes for the first time and I got a small gap. Through the off road section of the run course the gap opened a bit more and then I started getting cocky and relaxed. Hitting the dunes to return to the beach I felt the inevitable twinge in my quads. Do I walk, do I hope to run through it? Looking over my shoulder I gambled on the gap and stopped to walk, I'd count for 1 minute and then get mobile again. When I started running again all of the gap had been wiped out and it was game on again, it was all down to the last mile of the run. We ran side by side for 2/3 of the beach before I felt confident enough to try increasing the pace and thankfully the increase was enough for me to cross the line ahead and sneak home in 2nd place overall, with a new pb and for the first time in 10 or so attempts a finishing time below the hour in 58:55.
Happy Days.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Marazion Middle Distance Tri

It's been a tough few weeks since I last posted/raced. Work has involved some very long hours, I've been lazy (nothing new there) and I seemingly managed to pull a muscle in my back although I'm still not really sure how. Up until the very last minute my racing at Marazion was in doubt, but luckily for me Cris and Karen from who organise the race are a top pairing and would let me enter at the very last minute if needs must. Even booking accomodation was a nightmare. Because Rosie is a nightmare and can't keep still in open spaces we decided it was easier to book a B&B. Wrong!! Finding somewhere that takes dogs is a challenge in itself but Google is a wonderful thing when that sort of problem strikes.
B&B attempt 1 soon email us saying that they've changed owners and the new folks are allergic to dogs. B&B attempt 2 seem great so Shelly calls them, the dog is fine and won't even cost any extra but what's that?...................... We're not married, so we're not welcome! Welcome to the 18th Century. Then by chance we find that the local Travelodge take dogs so the problem is solved, an expensive solution but it's solved all the same and it won't cost us if I end up staying at home resting my back and we have to cancel.
So on the Friday pre-race I take my Tri bike out for a quick 10mile spin, then take my road bike for the same 10 miles to see how my improving back reacts to them both. All seems well so I email off my last minute entry and it's game on. Saturday morning Rosie woke me up at stupid o'clock so I took her for a small run and then took the Tri bike out for another 10mile spin just to be sure it was ok to use. After that we casually packed the car up and headed down to Penzance, stopping off for Shelly to see our Tri Club's latest member who had been born just 5 days earlier.

After registering, meeting up with clubmates and plenty of friends (old and new) we headed off for some food and a half decent night's sleep.

Race morning dawned looking every bit as nice as the weather forecast had promised. I sorted my transition area out and joked with the lads around me that they wouldn't know I was there as my bike would probably be gone from it's place for both of their transitions (due to my nice and steady bike plan).

Wetsuit on and I half heartedly listened to the swim course description. Swim 650m out to a pencil thin bouy that I could hardly see, 600m across to an equally invisible bouy and then swim back in. Easy peasy. I'll just swim slightly off to the right of everybody and keep my eyes on those around me. Even with my pretty prescription goggles my sighting is useless and I've honed my skill after many 'blind as a bat' years.

The race started and everybody charged into the water which was f-f-f-freezing (ignore anyone who tells you otherwise). I'm always useless for the first 2-300m but once I'd get my ice-cream face under control I start chugging my way through the field. Just before the first bouy I caught one of my clubmates (Alan), this was a good think as he's been swimming well lately. I thought I'd swim with him for a while, but then he just seemed to go backwards so I carried on. Just before the 2nd bouy I caught my squad swim partner Phill and he disappeared behind me just as quickly, heck I must be flying. Then we turned back towards the beach and all I could see was the blazing sun, I couldn't see a thing and had no idea where the hell I was going, I couldn't see anybody ahead of me either surely I wasn't leading. To cut a long story short (and a few hundred meters of zigzagging) I finally stumbled onto the beach after lots of wasted time swimming breaststroke, backstroke and treading water just trying to get somewhere near the exit. Two local fish type swimmers had blasted to an early lead and I was in 3rd place with the rest of the field a lot closer to me then they should have been. Ah well. Onto the bike and I felt like a real fatty, I'd swallowed a load of water during the swim and just the thought of eating or drinking made me feel ill. The plan on the bike was to go steady, so that's what I did, except for that it didn't feel steady and I'm not sure I'd have been much quicker if that hadn't been the plan. Alan came flying past me on the way out to Lands End but he was only doing the swim/bike before handing the run reins over to his other half Lotty for the run, no problem I'll stick to the plan. Phill came past me with his Tribars hanging off before the hill at St Just, ahhh he's not supposed to catch me on the first lap, especially with his bike falling apart. Then I seemed to get to the point where people stopped blasting past me and disappearing and started working their way past me and pulling away real slow. I was happy now because it meant I'd found my rightful place and it wasn't as far back as I'd feared. I spent the rest of lap one and most of lap two getting overtaken on the hills and then easily running people down again on the descents, there are more uphills than down though so I appeared to still be losing ground but worryingly there was still no sign of 3rd clubmate Tim who I'd expected to come flying past by now. The rest of the bike was much the same as I struggled on the hills, cruised the descents, kept the pace steady, occasionally saw Phill not too far in the distance and still didn't get caught by Tim.

Into T2 for surely the longest transition as I lay down and fully stretched my back out before fannying about putting socks and stuff on, then I stopped just outside of T2 for Shelly to sunblock me. Did it work? Nah! Hurt like hell when it hit the wetsuit burn though.

There was a cunning plan for the run. I would run until I felt the first twinges of my ever annoying cramp and the moment I felt anything I'd walk for a minute, see how long I'd run for and aim to repeat for the length of the run. Easy eh . So off I went and almost spot on 5mins I felt a little twinge, I stopped and walked a minute and then ran for 5 more. Job done! Amazingly I caught and passed my clubmates plus several other folks and that little run/walk plan got me the 13th fastest run split of the day at an average 7:17 per mile without a single 'proper' bout of cramp. Bonus!
Could I have been quicker? Of course, but that wasn't the plan for the day, I could have swam, biked and ran quicker but then I might have blown up and learnt nothing, instead I may just have (hopefully) stumbled on a way to fix my damned Ironman run splits. Fingers crossed. Phill had an awesome race and were it not for his wonky Tri bars I might be telling you he beat me.......... or I might be telling you I ran faster just to make sure I beat him who knows. Alan ripped up the bike course. Could he have run off that bike though? Who knows. Guess we'll find out at Wimbleball (IMUK 70.3). Hopefully he'll nail it. Tim...... Hmmmm Tim....... Lets face it, Tim had a disaster. Heck I've had enough of them and I really felt for him. He rode past me as I was heading out on the run and told me there was no way he was running, I couldn't believe it when I saw him coming the other way and with it being 3 laps he had 3 chances to call it a day but he didn't and for all the cr@p we give him he gets full marks for getting there on such a ronking hot day. Well Done lads. Top Job. Right, sleep time now. I've had enough of this sucking up. I beat all my clubmates and that's what matters. Laters.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Exe Valley Tri

A week after Neolithic Marathon, after training 18hrs in 10 days (my biggest consistant block this year) I found myself in Tiverton for the Exe Valley Sprint Triathlon. So do you rest up in advance of such a race??? Don't be stupid. You bike and run (2.5hrs) the day before and then you cycle 38.5miles just to get to the race. Well actually, you wouldn't do that if you had any sense, but nobody has ever accused me of that.

The bike ride down to the race with my clubmate Phill was easy enough. It's probably fair to say that he did more work than I did and we took the longer less hilly route rather than go direct and spend too much time climbing. We made it to the race hours before my 1:45pm start time which was all good as I'd got team mates to cheer on who were in action from 8am. With us making up over 15% of the field plus all the other folks I knew there was never a time where I'd got nothing going on. I even had time to dispute the benefits of Newton running shoes with a chap at their Trade Stand while abusing a clubmate who wears them, all in my normal tactful style of course.

So onto the race then..... The 400m pool swim was steady enough, I felt a bit tired but chugged along nicely, not on for an especially quick time but it wasn't too bad, maybe 10secs slower than I would normally expect. 8th fastest on the day @ 5:31. Out of the pool and Transition didn't go brilliantly which wasn't helped by my aero helmet not fitting on my fat head, I'd obviously closed up the lock at the back during the close season and it hadn't been touched since. Doh. Never mind, it was soon sorted as I ran out of T1 with my bike in 83secs.

Heading out on the bike I was soon aero and reeling in the competitor ahead of me. As soon as I caught and went past him we hit a small climb, I'd got nothing in my legs at all though and he came tearing back past me. Over the top I caught and went past him again, we hit another small climb and away he went - grrrrrrr!!! After that the course levelled out and I pulled away comfortably. The rest of the bike ride was quiet until right at the end when I caught our waves speedy swimmer who was obviously less comfortable on dry land than in the water. I had a small traffic hold up at a roundabout, but was soon running into T2 to ditch my bike. 9th fastest bike ride @ 38:15. T2 was a comfortable 32secs and I was soon out on the run.

Out on the run and I was hurting, I ran past hoards of yelling clubmates pulling all sorts of faces, but soon I was in my stride and hunting athletes. As we hit the long steady climb which was the courses only ascent and I was in full flow. I had a target ahead who I knew was a good runner and he was coming back to me, happy days. Then it all went a bit pear shaped!!!

We turned onto a small out and back section where we had to run through a gateway. After the big week that gateway was just too much for my quads and they started to cramp up. I eased off the pace a little in hope that it would subside, but I've been here too many times before and I knew there was no escape and soon I was forced to stop as my left quad locked up. A quick self massage and I was back on the move, but not for long though as I was forced to stop another 3 times the last of which had my quad and hamstring cramping up at the same time (trust me, that hurts!!). Finally I jogged into the finish with the 75th fastest run time of 22:44, around 5mins and 70+ places from where I should have been..

Ah well it was still good fun and served as a reminder of everything that goes wrong when I race Ironman. At least this time the run was only 5k because it's a real pain when that happens and there's still 25miles to go. Marazion Middle Distance next on 31st May which will (not) be followed by the Dartmoor Discovery 32miler the following Sunday.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

6 months and counting.

Well today is the 7th of May and that means that 6 months from now I’ll be plugging my way around the Ironman Florida bike course and hoping that just this once I can finally manage to run a Marathon after cycling 112 miles. This Sunday was an inadvertent practice session and also a big kick in the pants as once again I got taught a harsh lesson. The question is though, will I ever take these lessons in and become a better athlete for it, or will I do my normal trick of shrugging it off and forgetting all about it the next time round. So on to the weekends activities we go.
April had finished poorly, very poorly. Training hadn’t gone well and work had thrown some big hours at me. Towards the end of the month my Tri-Club mate Jimmy had brought up the subject of the Neolithic Marathon. Not being able to resist a challenge and the chance to redress the balance after last year’s pathetic performance there my cheque was soon in the post. Jimmy was going for Marathon number 4 in 6 weeks following on from Rome, Taunton and London only 7 days earlier. Amazingly the 3 previous Marathons all had finish times within a couple of minutes of each other, this one wouldn’t though as it was off road and hillier than the road versions. I on the other hand was totally unprepared and untrained, nothing new there then. Although I say ‘undertrained’ I’ve still knocked out some decent runs this year and days like the Bampton-Tiverton race (then back to Bampton) mean that I have got a few miles in, add that to my years (and years, and years) of general training and it wasn’t exactly like I was taking a step into the unknown.
I met Jimmy at 6am and we drove the 2hrs to Stonehenge where we loitered a while before catching the bus to the start at Avebury. Once at Avebury we just had to kill an hour and collect our timing chips before we were ready to roll. Soon the small field of marathon nutcases were lined up and ready for the off.............. and we were away.
I soon settled at my planned Heart Rate of 140-150bpm and found myself cruising along in 10th place, the aim of the day being to settle in at this pace for at least 24miles and then if by some chance I found myself feeling good then I could put the hammer down over the last couple if it meant gaining significant places or maybe dipping under 3hrs. The first mile is nice and flat but the next 3 are a constant climb, I was well aware of this and paid special attention to my Garmin so as not to get too excited early on. I paid the price for that last year and didn’t want a repeat. As the race developed it soon became clear that there were no superstars here, there was a group of 3 who took the lead early on but they were going nowhere fast once the pace settled. I had my Garmin set to show just Heart Rate, the time run and my average pace for the run. Nutrition wise I just took an SIS gel before the start and carried a couple of SIS caffeine gels to have at 9 and 18miles.
The plan went brilliantly for the first 9miles as I consistently averaged 150bpm. Then several things conspired against me. Firstly I took my caffeinated SIS gel which seemed to act as rocket fuel. I’m normally really sceptical about people who claim that a gel has made all the difference to their performance, sure they will fuel you to help you go further/faster but I’ve never before taken a gel and felt a noticeable difference in the way I’m performing ‘at that time’. Was it was the gel that suddenly made me feel so much stronger or was it the placebo effect from my noticing that I was now in 5th place and the 4 people ahead of me were all getting closer with every step? Who knows, but I decided that as I was feeling so easy I could afford to let my HR rise by 5bpm. Not a big factor because I’d come into the race playing the safety card and in theory I ‘should’ be able to run it at close to 160bpm if required. 10miles done at a jog in 1:09:20, things were looking good.
Miles 11 & 12 took in the days steepest climb so the pace dropped a bit as I shortened my stride and cruised up it easily enough to catch the lad in 4th place. I know he’s a useful runner and was surprised to catch him so easily, a quick chat discovered that not only had he done London the previous week but is about to do the 10 Marathons in 10 days challenge so there was no rushing him along. I eased past and focused on the group of 3 ahead, I could afford a couple of slightly elevated miles because once I’d caught them I could ease off the pace, settle in and it would be ‘Game On’ at 24miles. By 15miles we were running along comfortably in a group with me sat at the back concentrating on dropping my HR back down from 160 to the 150’s and then all of a sudden I lost all my senses and turned into a complete idiot!!!
I hadn’t been able to make my mind up whether I’d caught the 3 lads with me because they’d gone out to fast or because nobody had wanted to do the work and pull the others along. My plan for as long as I'd looked like catching them had been to hang in until 24miles and hold my HR as low as possible AND THEN IT HAPPENED!!! We ran past a drink station and everybody pulled over to the right so that they could grab a drink, everybody except me. In a moment of complete madness I decided to see what everybody had got in the tank and I turned the screw. I didn't see what happened behind but I heard several swear words, lots of sprinting feet and even more heavy breathing as I cruised along and knocked out a 6min mile, the fastest of the day by a long way. We came to a hill, I eased off and looked over my shoulder to inspect the damage. One of the lads was still on my shoulder but breathing real heavy, the other two weren't too far away but far enough to make me think it was in the bag so I eased off and allowed the group to reform.

I decided that now was the time to take my other gel, I knew the effort was going to take it out of me so the caffeine boost would be welcome. I took the gel and ------- nothing!

From there it all went a bit pear shaped, even as I was doing it I knew that putting a hard mile in was a stupid move, I just hadn't realised how bad. It wasn't long before the lead group started moving away from me and I could do nothing about it. I tried to kid myself that either they were just running scared and would soon ease off again or that my gel would soon kick in and I'd be motoring along again before I knew it. Neither of those was likely to happen though, the Garmin doesn't lie and my pace was dropping while my HR was still miles too high. I've been there too many times before to not know what that meant.

Mile 18 was the last time I saw a sub 7 and the drop off was rapid, there was only actually one mile below 7:40 after that point. A cramp stop during mile 22 saw my first 8+ mile that hadn't involved a big climb and from there on in I was just trying to get it all over with. A couple of 7:50's took me to 24miles, at the time they seemed disasterous but looking back they were an achievement because if I could have only held that pace to the finish I'd have been 4mins quicker and still finished 4th instead of 6th. The last mile was a pure 'death march', whether it was because I'd just lost the plot mentally or whether my body had really given up I'm not sure, but at the point where everybody normally pushes through to the finish I just bimbled along before managing to jog the final field. That last mile took 11mins and then you cross the line and you've finished 6th, everybody is happy for you, everybody cheers you to the finish line and you do your best to look happy when in fact you're (once again) like a bear with a sore head. At least I've only my own stupidity to blame, it's so much easier to deal with when it's not down to anybody else.

So that's the tale, 30mins quicker than last year and a far better first 15miles. I still need to control myself and work off the plan rather than instinct, that would be easier to do if I knew the plan worked though I suppose. Ah well ;-)

Since the race I've trained pretty well and as of today I've averaged 1h40m a day so far this month. The first bit of this blog was deliberately written on Thursday 7th May but I didn't realise it would take me until early morning on Sunday 10th May to finish it. Now, just to prove that I've learnt my lesson after last week I'm off to race the Exe Valley Sprint Triathlon which is run in Tiverton around 35miles away. How am I getting there????? I'm cycling there of course :-)

Laters all.