Saturday, 21 March 2009

Good times...

I absolutely love racing... It’s felt like an age between my first (Brass Monkey Half Marathon in Jan) and second (today’s Ballbuster duathlon) races of 2009… both have gone well and both have produced pb performances, but most importantly both have reminded me exactly why all that training time is so worthwhile.

Note: The official splits combine T1 with the bike and T2 with the second run whereas the times mentioned here don't include transition and are taken from my watch.

Today was the 5th time H and I had taken on the infamous Box Hill challenge and with plenty of miles in the cycling bank I was looking for a significant return on my training investment. My main goal this morning therefore was to beat last year’s 1:12:53 bike split whilst matching my 2008 run times in order to show a bike improvement and similar run form as 12 months ago. On top of that my ‘magic day’ goals were to break 1:10 for the bike, go under 50 minutes for both runs and therefore break 2:55 overall. I wasn’t too concerned about pbing overall but having gone 2:57 for the last two years would have been disappointed not to break three hours.

So, what happened?

Stood on the start line of the best day of the year I wasn’t really sure what to expect… although I ‘know’ I’m fitter than this time last year I’ve felt heavy legged since getting back from Lanza two weeks ago and at 69 kilos am around half a stone heavier than the same point last year. As usual the the start of the run was manic as people rapidly went about throwing their whole race plan out the window, setting off as if it was a 20 minute 5k race rather than a three hour endurance test. I really don’t understand the mentality of hitting your max heart rate one mile into a 40 mile event, fortunately however I’ve never been one to follow the heard and happily positioned myself in around 50th place over the first half of the run. Soon enough people started to explode and I gradually picked my way through the field holding 6:28 miles over the 7.7 mile hilly lap for a first run split of 49:51. At nine seconds slower than last year with an average heart rate nine beats lower (152 v 161) it was so far so good and with T1 taking 2:06 it was time to test my bike fitness.

With one eye on a 1:10 bike split I had 23:20 in mind for the first of the three laps, starting lap two 23:15 later I’d made up a load of places, was starting to lap the back markers and was feeling great. About five minutes later though my chain decided to pop off the inside of my chainset, attempts to pedal it back on failed and I found myself stood by the side of the road untangling it from my frame. At times like that it’s important to stay calm a) to solve the problem at hand as quickly and effectively as possible and b) so that once you’ve done that you don't hammer off down the road like a lunatic in an attempt to catch up all the lost time in the next 100 metres. About 20 seconds later I was back on two wheels pushing hard but also reminding myself to relax and avoid spikes in my power output which could trip me up during the second run. Five minutes later I found myself stuck behind a car stuck behind a slower rider and not wanting to risk life and limb round Box Hill's twisty, narrow and 'Chelsea Tractor' filled roads I was once again reminding myself to ‘keep calm’ and ‘be patient’. Fearing a serious loss of time it was great to get round the second lap only slightly slower (23:45) and the game was most definitely still on. Although I didn’t want to sacrifice the second run today was most certainly all about the bike and the 'ante' was duly ‘upped’… somewhat frustratingly, ten minutes later I once again found myself in the ‘slow rider blocking wide car’ scenario… still, you can only play the cards you’re dealt and I knew that if I kept focus I’d be there or there abouts. As I hit the dismount line and pressed the lap button on my Garmin a total bike split of 1:10:04 was great to see and with the various hold-ups along the way I was super pleased to only miss my 'best case' split by five seconds.

A slightly pedestrian T2 of 1:28 (20 seconds slower than the last two years) saw me start the second run with 2:03:30 on the clock knowing that a sub-50 minute run would finish off an amazing day. Feeling a bit sluggish I set off with as much focus as possible and running through the drink station 19:55 into the lap was 20 seconds up on the first run and growing more confident with every stride. As the lap went on though I kept seeing my heart rate dip into the 140s and turning into Box Hill for the final time had lost two minutes putting me 1:40 behind lap one, a sub-50 minute second run was now out of the question and a sub-2:55 finish would need a seriously big push. The amazing TriTalk support crew had positioned themselves about half a mile from the top of Box Hill but even with their shouts of encouragement my legs just couldn't find the strength to challenge my heart and a slightly disappointing second run of 51:52 stopped the clock at 2:55:22 and 8th overall.


Matching last year's run times with significantly lower heart rates was good and hopefully shows I'm in similar run condition to 12 months ago (three weeks after the 2008 event I pb'd the London marathon in 2:49). PB'ing overall by more than two minutes, again at a significantly lower heart rate was also good although I was slightly disappointed not to find another 10 beats per minute for the second run (hopefully that's just fatigue from Lanza). I'm really really pleased though to have gone 1:10:04 for the bike and feel really confident that with nine weeks to go I'm in the best bike shape of my life. Having already pb'd runs and swims in 2009 things are looking good for May the 23rd.


Well done to my amazing wife for taking home our first spoils of 2009 with £40 in the pot for 5th lady overall (see today's picture) and perhaps more importantly making a serious dent in her Ballbuster bike pb. Well done also to Pauly P and all the Tri Talkers for giving it big ones this morning and bad luck to one of the pre-race favourites and all-round good lad Mark Stenning for puncturing about a minute before the gun went... despite having to fix it while we all legged it he still managed to beat my first run by nearly two minutes!!!

See you next weekend,


p.s. don't forget you can now find daily updates of my training by clicking here.


lord_lordy said...

You sound in awesome shape. Keep it together through to Lanza and you're gonna fly. reckon the biggest concern now must be not to peak too early. Thats a nice position to be in.
The chain thing - I had my chain come off in Lanza two years ago on the way up fire mountain. Like you I focussed on keeping calm and not hammering when back on the bike. You never lose a much time as you thin. I ended up with probably my best bike performance in an Ironman.

Tom said...

thanks Steven,

I do feel pretty fit at the moment, could do with running off the bike a little more and I mustn't get too confident... I remember the week of Germany saying to H that the 'absolute worst' I'd run would be 3.30, and then going through 60k on the bike in 97 minutes I started to think I'd be close to nine hours... only to blow up spectacularly on the bike and experience the most painful three hour and 53 minute run of my entire life!!!

Hopefully the many lessons I've learned over the last few years should keep me on the straight and narrow ;)

Good luck with the rehab, can't wait to see you back on the start line.


Anonymous said...

Stuck here in Doha I don't get much chance to get on the internet. When I do its great to catch up on your blog!!! Just read the last 3 weeks and kind of hoping your not serious about slacking off next year :-( Just wanted to say that you are still a great inspiration and every time I read about you and H I get great motivation to throw at my own training. Looking forward to Lanza as well - hope to bump into you there. Keep up the good work.

Die Trying.

Tom said...

Hi Stuart (Die Trying),

Great to hear from you mate... we'll be in Lanza from the Saturday before so lets definitely hook up for a coffe, something to eat, easy ride/run or all of the above. When do you get there?