Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Everything... nearly...

First of all, apologies for the delay in getting this week's blog post published, our home internet went down just before the weekend and BT only got round to fixing it late last night...

Well, with tonight's Pool Triangle 20k time trial the final challenging session left before I toe the line in Lanzarote, what could be my final ever Ironman training block is pretty much over. For the last 14 and a bit weeks my goal has been to get to this stage feeling like I've given it absolutely everything possible and therefore maximise my chances of taking this journey to it's intended final journey... Kona. People often say that 'you always feel like you could have done a bit more', well I certainly don't! The last four months have been by far the most challenging of my life, with low's like I've never known and many many times when not only have I felt like throwing in the towel but I have actually chucked it all in. Time and time again I've managed to talk myself round, get back in the saddle, and push on for just 'one more time'. Suddenly, I find myself just ten days from the greatest challenge of my life and yes, I absolutely, positively could not have given even one more heart beat.

This Sunday I had scheduled my final big session, every year I do what I like to call my 'mega-brick' - a close to Iron distance ride followed by a close to Ironman pace 20 mile run - and despite the odd (supportive) suggestion to save it for the race, it had been written in stone ever since the same session got the better of me prior to last year's Lanzarote race. Sometimes you need to do something just for yourself, despite the fact that it might not be the best thing to do... I realise that it was only two weeks after the London Marathon and more importantly less than two weeks (just) before Lanzarote... but my goal this year has never been about simply getting to the start line and if I was going to feel like I'd truly given it everything then this session had to at least been attempted.

The bike is 'only' 83 miles but as six laps of a super hilly loop (see below) with a total ascent of around 1,600 feet per lap i.e. close to 10,000 feet total and several climbs per lap that require a near max effort just to reach the top I'd suggest that it's at least a tough a route as Lanzarote itself. Last year I'd started off well but blown to pieces after four of the six laps, finishing in with a ride time of five hours and 12 minutes... this year was a different story though with laps of 47, 48, 48, 50, 50, and 50 minutes bringing me home in under five hours and full of confidence.

Starting out on the run (half mile out and back up the nice and flat Castley Lane) I was intent to match the previous five hours but within just a few hundred metres I knew I was in trouble. I managed to fall into 7.10-7.20 per mile pretty comfortably and my legs felt great... my body was saying otherwise though and a combination of a really bad stitch, severe muscle pain in my neck and an overwhelming desire to lie down and go to sleep (what the?) suddenly took me back to Germany 08 and the suffering that was 42.2 miserable kilometres. By mile five it was clear that I was in trouble and, despite opinions to the contrary, I'm actually quite sensible and knew then that a) it would only get worse and b) if I tried to push on not only could it do some serious damage but my whole five year journey might end there and then. So, I turned down the engines and jogged it in to mile ten where I drew a line under my training for Lanzarote 2010.

On reflection? I'm really pleased with myself for attempting the session, no-one ever achieved anything through a lack of belief and commitment. I truly believe that once you have chosen a path you have to believe in that choice with 100% conviction, at the same time however there may come a point where that choice needs to be revised in order to protect the main objective. Had this been four or more weeks from my A race I may well have pushed on but with just 13 days between then and Lanzarote in which to drag myself into 'all-time' condition it was clear to me that I had to stop. Besides, I know that my running is better than it has ever been with 6:40 per mile in London feeling super comfortable just two weeks ago. Sometimes it just isn't there and you just have to be thankful that it wasn't during the main event, I will however take some great lessons through to the race...

1) I'll reduce the amount of energy I get from bars and increase the number of gels as the stitch problem may well have been related.
2) I'll hit the caffeine from about four hours into the bike and then continue through the run.
3) I'll work hard on upper back and neck mobility over the next ten days as that stiffness proved a serious limiter once I tried to stand up straight and run tall.
4) I'll concentrate on good quality sleep and rest (obvious really) from now on as tiredness clearly played a part in my struggles on the run.
5) To ride sub five hours on that course in full winter gear (it was freezing) shows that I'm in the best bike form of my life so have faith and be brave - I know I can run.

So, that's about it... tonight's my final hit-out with a crack at the Pool Triangle and then we're off to Lanzarote on Saturday (Icelandic volcano permitting).

I'll be updating from Lanza every day via my twitter feed ( and my Facebook account (come and say hi here) and although you should be able to follow the race via I would suggest that H's Facebook and Twitter updates from my iphone will provide the best race-day info.

Next week, I'll blog from Lanza, although it might be a little late and then tune in on Sunday the 23rd for what may or may not be the last ever entry to what has been a wonderful adventure...

In ten days we'll know,



runwildrunfree said...

Buddy, fully understand where you are coming from. Rest up now. You just need to re charge for the big day. I notice you mentioned caffeine. I have done a fair bit of research on this and definite benefits in sports for 1-3 hours but less so in endurance sport. Certainly the body can only take so much, so be careful on what you take. It is very individual. I drink loads of coffee so I am much more tolerant.... take a look here:
Will be rooting for you in the Lava - best of luck !!

Jevon said...

In the words of Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers:
"Go, buddy, go, buddy, go buddy, go buddy... GO, GO, GO!!!!"

Khara Mills said...

A mazing
M entally strong
A thlete
Z one (in the!)
I ncredible
N othing less than everything
G reat

S ock it to them!
T errific
U tter commitment
F lippin eck
F ight (i know you will)

With you 'virtually' all the way. Go Tom Go!

Michelle Simmons said...

I've been following your journey and I'm rooting for you!
I also believe that we as athletes need to find our limit and train there... Finding the edge of the overtraining cliff... then carefully dancing around it for a while before backing off and giving our bodies a chance to recover... It works for me so hope it works for you too!

runtilyoudrop said...

Go on son "ave it" you the man etc.

Trust your instincts.

all strength to you


Rob Quantrell said...

good choice Tom, London gave you all the running feedback you need! - look forward to catching up in Lanza with you both!

Rogier, Natalie & Rhys said...


As inspirational as ever, I'd like to say good luck, and I wish you all the luck you need, however I also know you will make your own luck by fighting hard. Dig in, dig deeper.


Martin Yelling said...

Every stroke, every revolution and every stride - you'll have us all with you as you aim for your spot at the Big One. HTFU and go get it!

Daniel Weston said...

You did well to cut the long run short. It must have taken a lot of will power.

Kay said...

Tom absolutely all the best, your training and dedication are AWSOME and inspirational to us all! Will be following you and cheering you on from a far