Sunday, 28 March 2010

On track and a little off track...

Tom's currently stuck on the M1 travelling back from an epic weekend of riding so his little blog is via me and I can report he is certainly on track at the moment. MRI scan results await but fingers crossed we're on the road to getting the swim issue sorted. His running is going really well, he's so strong. On Thursday he and his mate Paul went out and nailed an 18 mile run. And for those of you keeping a check on his 16 x 16 bike plan, with this Saturday's 80 miler with mates Sam & Dom and today's (Sunday) 100 miler with mates Jev & Sam I can confirm that he is an hour up on target :0) I can't wait to watch him race in Lanza.

Today I ran Wilmslow Half Marathon. If school were to write a report on today's performance the words, 'not bad but could do better' would be in there. If I could bottle what makes the perfect race conditions for body, mind and weather I would be sitting here now a millionaire. So here are the facts plain and simple:

Two weeks ago I ran:
Silverstone Half... which was long (on my garmin 13.47miles) Windy (ridiculously) No taper (67miles already in the legs) Finish time 1:32 (average of 6:52min miles).

Today I ran:
Wilmslow Half... which was accurate (on my Garmin 13.29miles) Windy (but not as ridiculous as Silverstone) Taper (only 30 very easy miles in the legs) Finish time: 1:33 (average of 7:02)

If only I knew what made the difference? Maybe the fact that I didn't expect to perform very well at Silverstone took all of the pressure off me (in my head) and I just ran with no expectation of what would happen? Then today I expected to be in great nick yet in some way put that pressure back on myself? Who knows. The good thing is in days gone by I'd have beaten myself up about it and yet today it's just a run, not a bad one, just not a great one. Tomorrow's another day and because my legs aren't sore in the slightest I know I could have pushed them harder in different circumstances and so another good week of training can resume :0)

Game on for London I say. The test now being not to put any pressure on myself to get a certain time!! Answers on a postcard.

Well done to all of you who were racing this weekend and there were a lot. Wuhoo, the clocks have gone forward, the sun is trying to shine and the races are starting to come thick and fast!!

H & T x

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Made it... maybe...

Once again it's a joint blog, this week written by me (Tom). H is away on a photo shoot and I've been on the go since 5am and it's now half-past bedtime so a quick update is the order of the day...

H has, for the first time ever, managed to time an injury to perfection... there's never a great time to pick up a niggle but if you really have to do it then there is such thing as a good time. With her running going pretty much as well as it ever has, the seeming endless stream of snivels and sneezes nothing more than a distant memory and an awesome race performance in the bank (last week's 1.32 half marathon on a ridiculously windy, ridiculously complicated and seemingly long course) this Thursday's 20 miler saw what can only be described as a Some Mothers Do Ave Em comedy sketch! Still, coming out the other end with nothing more than a slightly strained ankle the prescribed rest days could not have been timed better seeing as she's a) got a really busy work week and b) taking it easy before a hard effort at next Sunday's Wilmslow half marathon. 

As for me... well, running and biking continue to move forward on almost a daily basis. I managed to knock out 18:24 at parkrun yesterday which is only about 7 seconds off my PB (achieved this time in 2008 just before I ran 2.49 in London) and followed that up with an easy three and a half hours on my bike in the afternoon. This morning I was up at 5am for two TT style laps round the infamous Pool Triangle time trial course... my all-time pb for one lap is 29:57 so doing the double in 67:20 at 7am on a windy day in March... and clocked another 5:15 in the saddle this afternoon to keep my 16 x 16 challenge running with 112:30 banked after seven weeks. I wish my financial bank account was a healthy as my two wheeled version ;)

There is of course something missing... swimming? Well, with Lanza eight weeks on Saturday it's seeming unlikely that I'll be able to do much more than cross my fingers and HTFU. Nothing seems to be helping and the latest is that I'm looking at a private MRI scan this week on my neck and upper back to look for evidence of nerve compression. If the race was tomorrow I'd get in there and tough it out, probably without loosing a qualification costing amount of time... but it's not... it could of course get better, but then again the continued lack of pool time certainly won't be helping... cross you fingers for me ;)

The title of this week's post??? Well, having set myself the training load that I though it would require to get to Kona I have to admit the last seven weeks were perhaps the toughest of my life. Combining a full-time job, podcast monster (loving every second but boy does it eat time) and a huge training volume was far from sustainable and ever so nearly finished me off. The University's Easter break, which started yesterday, could not have come a moment too soon and by Thursday I was most certainly cooked. It's seems however that by the absolute skin of my teeth I've made it to this much needed four week block where recovery and rest can once again live side by side with Ironman training and all the other general life type things... with nine week's to go things are looking brighter by the day... well... some things ;)

See you next week,

T & H x

Sunday, 14 March 2010

TT tastic... It's all in the mind...

It's late on Sunday night... we've just got back from Silverstone and bed is calling...This.Will.Be.Short.And.Sweet!

The beginning of the weekend started early on Saturday morning in Ingleborough (a remote and beautiful part of the Dales) to support Tom in a cycling Time Trial. I'm always blown away by Tom's 'mind over matter' attitude and have certainly taken something away from his ride on Saturday and used it today in the Silverstone half marathon. Tom ran 22 miles the previous night (and 22 miles is never easy no matter how easy you run it.) He then approached Saturday's TT as if that 22miler (only a matter of sleeping hours prior) hadn't even exisited and to my amazement he had an incredibly strong ride. Now, I'm sure, had he not done the run he would have been even stronger than he was but it honestly amazed me and if I'm honest intimidated me a little bit. How could I possibly use my hard 18 miler on Thursday and the fact that running Silverstone would tot my weekly mileage up to 80 miles as an excuse for a poor run after Tom's brilliant attitude and race result?! O oh, where were my excuses going to come from??? The clear difference here is that I was already projecting a bad run onto myself before I'd even done it. Telling myself there was no way I'd run well after a hard week and a hard run so close to the race. Tom did the opposite and left all judgement until post race.

Silverstone was never on my race list so this is where my initial quandry over race prep was coming from. I've worked with the Celebrity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Team providing their photography at running events for years and so was going to be in Silverstone working and with the offer of a free race entry then it would have been rude not to!

So how did I do? Well, I tried to take a bit of Tom's 'gung ho' attitude and pretend that I hadn't had a hard week of running already, that my legs weren't sore and that I was going to get a great training session out of it whatever. Although, this took my head a little while to get around.
The result was a respectable and pleasing 1hr 32mins. Conditions weren't perfect as it was ridiculously windy but I felt great. My legs felt great and I ran really well. I sat in with the 7min mile pacer and felt strong and in control until mile 10 where my pace just dropped enough for me to drop off the back. I managed to always keep him in sight but never quite got back. I'm over the moon with the result and had Tom not ran his 22 miler then TT'd like he had the freshest legs in the world I probably would have psyched myself out of that run and who knows I might stil be out there now!!!

So.... thanks Tom (inspirational as ever) I do listen to you...sometimes... you know :-)

Well done to all who raced today and to those whose training is starting to ramp up. Sounds like folk are getting fit to me.


H x

My Olympics...

Ten weeks from pretty much this very moment I will know once and for all if I’ll ever reach the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Although I feel like I’m going on a bit, in a ‘change the record’ kind of way, as the days rapidly tick by this really is the moment that the previous five years have all been about. In Episode Eight of Marathon Talk I talked to European cross-country champion Hayley Yelling about her running career and listened to how she missed qualifying for the Olympics, in what perhaps was her final chance, by 0.14 seconds. Most of the time in life there’s a chance to have another go and get something right, but every now and then there comes a single moment that is unlikely ever to be repeated. The 22nd of May 2010 will for me be that moment, my final chance to qualify. If I miss out then, and it could easily be closer than the three minutes that I was short in Switzerland 2009, I will never reach the Big Island…. my Olympics.

Because of that I’m beginning to feel that my entire Ironman ‘career’ could well be defined there and then in Lanzarote and, aside from the issue of qualification, my current swim issues are really playing on my mind. From the very beginning of my Iron journey I’ve wanted to be strong across all three disciplines, to the extent of consciously putting swim / bike / run ‘balance’ ahead of overall finish time. Starting as pretty much a non-swimmer I’ve dedicated hundreds and hundreds of hours to building my first triathlon discipline to reach a par with my cycling and running… to the point where it typically provides my highest ranked split against the rest of the field (albeit more a reflection of the typical lack of swim focus exhibited by triathletes). I’ve always wanted to be a great triathlete and not a great duathlete who survives the swim, despite the knowledge that in terms of finish time, and therefore chances of qualification, my training time may have been better distributed with a bike / run focus. Frustratingly, as I approach what may well be that defining moment, some kind of nerve compression syndrome has meant I’ve averaged around 1,000 metres per week (compared to previous years of 15-20,000 weekly metres) for the last few months. Despite working really hard on it with a brilliant physio we just can't seem to turn things round and with less than 70 days to go I'm not convinced I'll get anywhere near my previous swim efforts. I'm currently estimating that it could cost me around five minutes into T1 however with my bike and run fitness getting stronger every single day I'm actually confident that I could turn such a deficit around and still break the ten hour barrier (my predicted MINIMUM performance to qualify). BUT... more than the time 'penalty' I'm really struggling to deal with the fact that in what might be my final official Ironman I'll be 'surviving' the swim and hammering the bike & run. On top of that, I really really love swimming and can't have enjoyed a single swim since way back in 2009.

Still, on a positive note... a really relaxed yet very hilly 22 on Friday night (2:44 - average mile 7.29 - av hr 140) suggests that my running is pretty much on par with this time in 2008 (when I went on to run a strong 2.49 in London) and with 98 hours in my cycling legs over the last six weeks I'm pretty close to turning my 'what seemed like a lost cause' bike fitness into something resembling that required to break 5:30 on the toughest Ironman bike course in the world. 

Before I sign out this week, well done to my amazing wife who despite something of a psychological 'speed wobble' on Saturday managed to turn things round at this morning's spaghetti junction of a half-marathon (see today's pic) and battle through the wind to get within a minute of her all-time half-marathon pb... 

See you next week...


Sunday, 7 March 2010

It's great up North...

At the moment things are pretty crazy... slotting full-time Ironman training around a full-time job is never easy, but chuck in a healthy dose of podcasting and time is no longer your friend! Never in my life have I been as busy as I am now... it's 7.15 on Sunday evening, I've been on the go since 6am and still have three or four hours of work before my head will be aloud to (briefly) hit the pillow. In what will seem like no more than a fraction of a second I'll be starting my week off with a pre-6am run followed by a stretch and (maybe) a swim. Proper work (if you can call academia that) will start around 8:30 and with no break scheduled in my day until after Martin and I have recorded Episode Nine of Marathon Talk (unlikely to be any earlier than 10pm) you can see that time is clearly at a serious premium. Still, it is what it is and no-one ever achieved anything extra-ordinary by living an ordinary life ;)

So, to today's photo... regular readers of my ramblings will have expected this week's scribble to be a race report from my favourite duathlon and scene of my one and only 'proper' podium, the Ballbuster. That picture doesn't look much like Box Hill though! Taking my opening comments into consideration you can imagine that I'm pretty tired at the moment and walking that treacherous tight-rope, no doubt familiar to so many of you, so often travelled by the working endurance athlete. Had we travelled down south it would have meant a five hour drive after work on Friday, followed by a rubbish night's sleep in a rubbish hotel, followed by a 5am start, followed by the toughest duathlon in the UK, followed by a five hour (if we were lucky) drive home, followed by collapsing into bed at the end of a rather tough 24 hours. Instead I opted for not having to mess around packing all my gear on Friday afternoon, followed by dinner with my wonderful wife and brilliant brother-in-law in my favourite restaurant, followed by an early night, followed by a (kind of) lie-in, followed by 113 very hilly miles around the most beautiful countryside in just about every form of winter weather you can imagine, followed by being home for (a late) lunch.

As disappointed as I am in not doing the Ballbuster, even more so seeing as my pb would have got me on the podium, sometimes we have to look at the bigger picture. At the moment for me there really is only one picture and that is in the form of 140.6 Lanzarote miles on May the 22nd... and when faced with a choice between loads of driving, a bad night's sleep and a 90 minute (albeit hard) bike ride or no driving at all, a great night's sleep and eight hours in the Dales there really is only one answer.

Today's photo was taken just before I descended into Kettlewell down (allegedly) the steepest tarmaced road in England and the scenery was so breathtaking that I was compelled to pull-over, remove a million wet damp layers of clothing which were (just) keeping me from hypothermia and snap a few shots.

Before I sign off and get back to my marking mountain you might be wondering how my 16 x 16 challenge is going? Well, with five weeks gone my bike miles bank account is in credit to the tune of four hours and 15 minutes (somewhat healthier than my financial version) with 84 hours and 15 minutes 'deposited' to date. I'm feeling stronger every single day and with time trials scheduled for the 13th and 21st of March and a 100 mile sportive with some great friends / strong bike riders on the 28th if I make it to April in one piece there might still be another twist in the road to Kona.

Well done to my Iron buddies who took on Taupo this weekend, sorry I've not been around the blogosphere recently but my once zeroed daily Google reader now stands at well over 300 entries... I'll catch up with you soon, promise.

See you soon,


p.s. Well done to all my amazing VARR mates for a great performance in this morning's fifth and final cross country race... both the boys and girls teams won and the boys will now be promoted to the premier league of the PECO cross country league!

At last...

...I've started to run a little more like I used to...

Blog done :0-)

After 8 weeks of quite a few miles, quite a few lost voices and quite a few sore throats I was beginning to wonder if I was doomed to run Oompa Lumpa style for the rest of my days. For the last four weeks I've had a really good block of consistent training. Yet still my speed has been (for me) consistently slow. It's like my legs have had amnesia for the last two months and have mistaken themselves for legs of a cart horse. I've checked... and they're not THAT hairy! Anyway, I resigned myself to the fact that having jumped out of the Ironman loop I wouldn't have the fitness benefits from riding and swimming long and now I'm working a lot more fitting the miles in is a challenge.

Until... Thursday evening this week when as usual Russ and I were off out for our long run. We've worked up every week going 16 miles, 18, 20 and 22 and so this week it was back to 16 miles but with a little bit of pace added. Off we went wondering how on earth we were going to fool our legs into injecting some pace. Surprised by our first faster few miles and how easy we were finding keeping the pace we chatted enjoying the late evening sunshine. Where does it come from? I mean how does that work? Is it just like a little switch when you're body has soaked up the time on your feet and the speed sessions and then like a microwave do you reckon it just pings to say... "Ting, you're now fitter than you were so I'll allow you to push those cart horse legs a little faster"?!

So a confidence boosting run which is just what my cart horse legs needed and now I need to just maintain that for the next seven weeks and we'll see what happens come London Marathon day. Giddy-up legs :-)

Last Cross Country race of the season today and a great result for our Virgin Active Road Runners coming first in the girls team AND in the boys!! Well done VARR :-)

Work this week is manic (again) all is good and I'm loving it but thank goodness I'm not Ironman training because lord knows I'd struggle to fit the hours in. I'm absolutely loving hearing everyone else in the IM world's progress and now race season is upon us I'm excited to come and support you all and of course Tom. I love it, it's such a wonderful sport with such a wonderful community. So you lot, get out on those bikes (wuhoo to the sunshine!) get in that pool and run those little legs ragged. I'll see you on the road (I'll be the cart horse you pass while you're all on your bikes!)

Happy week.

H x

Pic above is time out I had with my brother on Friday and Saturday, sitting next to an open fire and catching up... wonderful.