Sunday, 9 September 2007

The Vitruvian

It's been a long hard season and I could certainly feel the fatigue in my legs on Saturday morning, but crossing the finish line with the Southerns Leeds flag reminded me yet again of how great it feels to train hard and then race strong. Since entering the Vitruvian on our return from the summer Ironman races I'd been determined to finish the triathlon season in good shape and therefore build a strong foundation on which to base my winter training. Last week I stated my goals for the race and with a target finish time of 4 hours 20 minutes thought I'd set myself a tough but attainable goal. With a focused mind and the usual amazing support crew of assorted friends and family I was feeling pretty confident as I walked down to the water at 6:30 on Saturday morning.

Coming out of the swim I was surprised to see 31:49 on the clock. It had felt like one of my better swims, starting strong and passing other athletes throughout without being overtaken I had expected to see around 28-29 minutes. Once I was on the bike I was already over three minutes down on my target and yet again had to resort to plan 'B' (rapidly becoming plan 'A') of making up the lost swim time on the bike then hanging on for the run. I still feel like I'm swimming better than ever and could expect to break the hour for double the distance... maybe it was a little long? I am beginning to think I could be overestimating my swim ability but the pool doesn't lie and a quick flick through the results showed a few Ironman athletes posting times slower than half their IM distance efforts? Anyway... time to hammer the bike...

Coming out of a reasonable T1 (1:12) it was straight in to a solid headwind for the first few miles and combined with tired feeling legs it wasn't looking good as I struggled to get the speed over 20mph. A quick downhill followed by a sharp left turn out of the wind however and I was soon cruising along at a touch under 30mph and gradually pulling back some time. Due to my slack swim I'd hoped to better my pre-race target of 2:20 for the bike and so coming in to the end of the first of two laps anything under 1:10 would be good... 1:08:30... same again and I'd be back on track for the run. By this point my legs were really screaming, particularly in the headwind sections and the three climbs which make up the infamous 'Rutland Ripple'. With a serious increase in perceived effort for the final hour though I was confident of a good time and jumping off the bike in 2:17:38 I'd clawed a couple of minutes back and following a reasonable T2 (59 seconds) it was time to ask myself some questions ;)

Starting the half marathon my overall time was 2:52:09 and feeling that my run needs the most work at the moment I knew it would take something special to break 4:20 overall. It's funny how at times like these your mind can start making excuses as to why you really don't need to push it that hard and how as long as you get close to your goal that will be fine... well 'close' and 'fine' are two words which I no longer wish to associate with my athletic goals so with all my inspirations (most of whom I've written about in this blog) brought to the front of my thoughts it was time to answer back! Within the first 100 metres of the run I'd heard the encouraging screams of my mum and everyone else and knew it was time to dig-deep. I love out-and-back courses because as soon as you hit half way you know exactly what you're dealing with, and as this was a double out and back of 5.25km in each direction I knew I needed to hit the first turn in 22 minutes... 20:35 and I was on my way back to the start and feeling strong... 41:35 and I hit half way knowing that the same again would see me smash 4:20 with time to spare. It's at this point where your mind can yet again intervene, in an attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, by convincing you that it's in the bag and that there really is no need to inflict too much pain on your already aching legs and burning lungs. Well, as I've also previously talked about, I now have only 300 days in which to learn the art of maximum suffering which I will no doubt need to call on come the final 10k (of 226) in Germany. Time to ramp it up... hitting the turn for home in just over 63 minutes I knew I would break my target and pushed for every single second imagining all the way that my coveted Kona spot was just in front of me... 1:25:07 and I'd done it... 4:16:45 for 6th in my age group and a top twenty overall finish out of around 700 athletes!

Sitting back and reflecting (during today's well earned 'Duvet Day') I'm really pleased with how the season has gone and am confident that I'm currently in the best shape of my life and therefore in a great position from which to build toward a sub-9.30 finish in Frankfurt next July. I'd set Saturday's target time based on the performance of athletes from last year who had gone on to do well in Ironman this year so to beat it by over three minutes was fantastic... I also finished ahead of a couple of guys who had comfortably gone sub-10 during 2007. It's also particularly nice to finish with a strong run, which had been missing for most of the season... I'm sure this was largely down to my Tuesday and Thursday runs with Tony B (cheers mate)... hopefully another few weeks of good running will see Tony and I both break three hours in the Dublin Marathon and what will be my final race before a much needed and well earned rest period for the whole of November.

And so to today's picture... two years ago H couldn't swim front crawl (at all) and was in the process of buying her first EVER bike... yesterday she stood on the podium of the National Long Distance Triathlon Championships after winning a bronze in the female 30-34 age group. I'd be proud of her whether she came first or last, it really doesn't matter, but words can't describe how great I felt as she stepped up to claim her medal.

Training wise this week will be very easy in an attempt to recover from yesterday in time to do ok in a 25 mile two-up time trial with Ben G on Saturday and our final triathlon of the season in Bala on Sunday (both with no real goal other than to enjoy).

Finally, we've added a couple of sections to the site. On the right hand side there is now a link to our photo gallery, at the moment there are only a selection of pictures from Ironman Austria (2006 & 2007) but when time allows we'll upload some more. Also on the right we've added a race results section which at the moment only covers 2007 but we hope to backdate it a couple of years over the next few weeks.

For the first time in ages I've managed to finish this before midnight but as I'm up at 4:30 (off to London for a rather exciting meeting which I'll tell you all about next week) that's not much use!

Well done to Sam and everyone else who did the Vit, thanks to Mum, Ray and our most vocal of support crews for the extra minutes you give us... hope you're all coming to Germany?

loads of love,



Jevon said...

Well done to you both. Great times and achievements.

Tom said...

thanks Jevon,