Thursday, 7 May 2015

Lincoln Sprint Triathlon & More.

Race 2 of the Midland Sprint series, it came around quick, just 2 weeks after the first race at Southwell.

Saturday (the day before) involved some unusual preparation. Up early for an easy swim to get some blood in the muscles. I wasn't swimming with the club, but along side them in the next lane.

It made a change to be on the receiving end of some casual abuse for being the slacker, caught talking and propping up the lane rather than swimming on more than a couple of occasions. That said, I had to smile while the participants of the structured swim set, many of who I was racing with and against the following day were giving me lip for taking it easy seemingly oblivious to the fact they were doing a set that involved what looked like a mile of kick at pace. I wasn't sure of the wisdom of that myself, but each to their own. I was happy to be controlling my own preparation with that as the alternative.

After the swim we had organised a transition coaching set. A good T1 & T2 will gain you valuable seconds, and seconds make places on the results table. With a huge array of times posted at the previous race it was agreed as a good idea, and the turn out was fantastic.

Ideas were shared, and advise on what worked, group practice of the in and out, and repeating the routine of Bike, Belt. Helmet, GO! A minority agreed to try banding up their bike shoes to the frame, so we did a side dish of that, with mixed success. It's something to practice before hand, not something to try for the first time on the day.... but getting it right saves you a lot of time. Putting on shoes and running in cleats is slow. Way slower than just jumping on your bike and getting on with it. Even if you get your feet in the bike slowly and take time to get moving at pace, you are still on the bike and moving. Not sat in T1 powdering your feet....

I ran into the owner of the timing company the following morning, and he told me he had forgotten to mention the week before that I had bagged the fastest cumulative splits for the Transitions at Southwell 2 weeks previous. Confirming I am too old to secure the fastest time at any of the 3 main disciplines, but can still get in and out quicker than the rest.

Pre Race Louth Tri Transition training
Home after the training and a 'quick' full 70.3 brick to keep with the going long program. It felt wrong so close to the race, but it has to remain about the bigger picture.

Sunday morning, up early and it was dire. Wind and rain howling away. It was never going to be an easy race.

My eldest Ella still got up with me, a keen junior Triathlete she remained happy to come and cheer and support, and given the weather it was more than welcome and appreciated.

We got their early again, to support family and early starters from the club. I hung the bike on the rack, watching the wind blow the disk about like a sail. Being a short arse my bike borders on child's size, and the front wheel struggled to keep contact with the ground. Making sure the box lid was good and tight I tried my best to prop the box at the side of the wheel to steady the beast, and left it to nature to see if my kit remained dry in the box, and the bike in my spot. A quick glimpse at the early exiters from the swim, they looked cold and weathered entering T1and about to brave the elements. Watching them watch those entering T2 as they went out was amusing, but it was doing nothing for my enthusiasm for the day. At the same time at the back of my mind, knowing myself well, I knew as tough as I found it, others would find it tougher, and what I lack in height I make up for in resilience. These kind of conditions are what the ice swimming is made for. It's taught me resolve. With that in mind we retreated inside.

Inside was an inverse relationship to outside. The atmosphere, albeit damp from the weather with all the huddled steamy damp bodies was warm and upbeat. Plenty of chats and catch ups as always and I was starting to feel the urge to race.
A few hours of clapping people off the start line, and running to different points to cheer people in, I left it as late as I dare to set up my kit, and so cheered my Dad in - who it turned out was knocked off on the bike, but suffered the run regardless, and then finally rushed off to set up my station. It was still windy and blowing, but the Ball-Box had done its job. Everything inside it had stayed dry the last few hours. I congratulated its translucent plastic construction for working so effectively, then promptly opened the lid and got everything wet through.  
A slightly damp transition
I wasn't sure about the towel, but being in a car park the transition has a lot of little pebbles and stones and bits of grit. Regardless of how well it would or wouldn't dry my feet standing on it would remove some of the debris before I put my shoes on later. So I laid it out and it soaked up the rain like a sponge.  I balanced the helmet and belt as sturdily as I could to prevent them being blown about, and did a pared down practice routine for T1. Others around me we prepping with equally morose faces. I blew up the tyres on my bike, and then had a minor panic.
With running a home made disc on the back I don't have the luxury of a hinged access panel to the valve, so after blowing the tyre up I have to carefully re-apply tape to stick my plastic insert back down flush. Soaking wet weather is never going to make this easy. I faffed about, began to get wound up and so stood back and took a breath. I went back to the box, took out a super absorbent brand of dish cloth I always keep tucked away and carefully dried the necessary area. That, and some premium quality duct tape (again in the box!) and it was secure. I could live with the extra 3 grams weight of duct tape this once. And in that 5 minutes alone the trusty Ball Box has paid for itself again, and the time taken to pack for every eventuality. The abuse, and ridicule it inspires at home as I clat about going through it again and again, considering every eventuality. After all the minor excitement I decided I was cold and keen to retreat indoors, and so I didn't even tape an energy gel to the bar this time. If I got that thirsty I could always bike with my mouth open. Job done.
Back inside and dumping my clothes on poor Ella, who was disappearing under coats, brollies and towels from people keen to have someone look after them for her. ( After the race she came over to congratulate me - and show me that her bag was so stuffed full it had broken under the weight. The box couldn't help her here.) I added to the pile and cleared off to warm up for my start. I got a good catch up with some more competitors, and looking around at the last few waves as we gathered to start could see there was a strong decent field of athlete in the mix. A final pre race poo and we were ready to rock.
From the off the swim felt OK, more comfortable than last time. Ella informed me after I seemed to die off badly in the last 200m, so something to work on there. Its useful to have someone watch and comment honestly.
Into the  bike, I didn't notice the wet, everything went smoothly and I was through T1 in 31 seconds. I got my feet in without issue this time and stuck my head down and pedalled hard on the initial straight, controlling my breathing and settling myself in time for the hill. There is 1 big hill, a decent climb that gradually gets steeper to a big push at the end. I alternated between standing and sitting, back straight. Soon enough we were at the top, off the junction and the final little crest cleared and it was time to put the hammer down. Back wind and a down hill at a decent elevation made for a swift stretch of road spanning about 1/4 of the course. Most of this was done at about 30mph and it felt good. All the while at the back of your mind the little voice laughing at you, knowing come the turn when you have to pedal back into that wind and rain you wont have it so easy.
Sure enough the grind back in came about soon enough, so tucking down chin to the headstock I knocked it down a few gears, kept the revs around 90rpm and let the legs burn hot back for home. Plowing through standing water it was fortunate that the carriageway was closed for the duration of the race and I didn't have to take much care to look up. Just head down and suck it up. Dismount on the line without issue, and another cheer in my ear of 'Go Dad' gave me the boost to hammer the run.

Ella  making me laugh with some lip as I exit T2.
Bike down, shoes on and a strong kick from the off. The run has felt good for around a month, and this being the worst run of the 3 sprint races in the series I wanted to get it out the way as soon as possible. Up the bank, down the tow path, back on yourself. At this point I passed a team mate coming the other way, and knowing his rough pace was able to judge my own at around the 5:45 min mile mark. Then past the finish line, through a group of lunatic club members - I couldn't help but ramp up the pace to meet their demands to 'stop jogging and start running'. Soon after the buzz of the crowds had subsided the most appalling stitch kicked in. For 1 split second I entertained stopping as my right hand side bit down on me, causing a wince with every step. So I shouted some abuse at myself to man up (to the shock of the runner next to me) and eased off slightly until it let up.
As soon as it eased enough I wicked it back up, round the final cone and back into the wind and wet for home. Finally round the corner, easily spotted by the wall to wall all weather Louth Supporters, a barrage of cheers and finished. 1:05:32.
Let's ignore the swim. The bike was a 22.8mph average and then a steady 5:54 run pace. Without the stitch and easing off on the run I'm sure I could have been a 1:04:**. Next time.........
I had  a 1:05 something in my mind, and given the day was pleased with the result. A decent 12th overall against a strong field, but a meagre 3rd in my age group this week. Not that it mattered, both of those above me are top class GB athletes, and not in the series this year. Their points count for nought in the league table!
Of course the sun beamed down the second we went to pack up, and so back home and a restful afternoon slobbing with the family watching bikes.
Next day, making the most of the bank holiday it was back on it and into the training with a long ride.
A current issue I am struggling with now training for longer distance is keeping on weight. I currently weigh now what I usually weight at the end of the season, just over  9 1/2 stone. I seem to be bleeding lbs in weight all over the place, and the last race has cost me another few. Without eating junk it seems impossible to find the bulk. At present I am consuming 3500 to 4000 cal a day, and my stomach is working over time to process it.  Our house doesn't always smell pretty. Below is a typical day.

Breakfast now includes a cheese, avocado and tomato grilled sandwich with a poached egg on top.
A typical lunch of fish, pasta veg & sweet potato.
and stir fry with turkey for Tea.

All of this gets washed down with 1 to 2 litres of milk a day, homemade juice after each training session, cereal (or similar) for supper, additional fruit and nuts to snack on throughout the day, and the endless supply of homemade cake and biscuits that the 'Kitchen of Love' that is our Home churns out.
If you enjoy eating become a triathlete!
And so now into the final week of hard graft before I ease off for the Half Iron.