Monday was the day of rest. Calling it a day of rest is a bit false. It’s a day to go to the supermarket, to do the shopping, to catch up on chores, dishes, washing, cleaning. It’s a day to think about race strategy, what still needs done, to write lists of what needs done, to make sure everything is in hand and under control.
The bike needs a new chain and cassette – the current one is worn. The range of choice for new equipment is bewildering. So you do a search for which is the best. And every different item of equipment has terrible reviews (usually it’s only the negative stuff that gets reported) – “Don’t use Shimano chains, they snap all the time.” “A bike shop mechanic said never use Sram chains as they don’t last.” “Buy dura-ace cassettes, they are worth the extra money”. I drew the line at buying a £150 cassette and settled for a £50 Ultegra one. And of course I needed two cassettes because I have a race wheel and a turbo training wheel and everything has to interface properly…
I was also processing boxfuls of stuff I’d ordered online – various pairs of triathlon shorts (most of which will be returned), new cleats (current ones are worn out), gels, bars, energy chews, sweat bands, elastic laces. I needed more trainers. I’ve decided to run in the Asics DynaFlyte trainers, they are very comfortable. But the “new” ones I bought are already worn, so I need a new pair. And because I like them, I am going to buy several pairs, so that when the model is discontinued, I still have access to a couple of pairs.
I’m sick of spending money, but at this stage it really is a case of having a metaphorical blank cheque book, within reason (i.e. I couldn’t justify the £150 dura-ace cassette, and I’d quite like to buy a new £15,000 bike, but there we go…)
Lists, based on old lists which were based on even older lists
The previous week, I had a big weekend – 166 miles on the bike and a 21-22 mile run (depending if you count a short warm-up and cool-down). These were big sessions, and on Monday and Tuesday I was finding it tough, and starting to get angry with myself that a stupid desire to have one big day on a bike could compromise the end goal. So I had to tweak my training. I switched from doing bike intervals on Tuesday to doing an easy steady turbo session (usually 3 hours, but only 2:10 on this occasion, because I was tired and because work has been very busy). Still, 155 watts for 103bpm wasn’t bad. I did my stretching and core work and squats, got food and went to bed.
I didn’t feel great – I had a bit of diarrhoea, I was dehydrated, tired, stressed with it all, with all the training but also with everything else that needs doing and sorted, stressed with not being able to switch off, stressed with work being overly busy. I was in a poor mood.
The mood wasn’t helped by me deciding to write up my entire Ironman race history. 9 full ironman races entered, 4 half ironman races entered, and 13 absolute disasters. Revisiting all that didn’t help – I’ll maybe write about this in a later post.
I felt decent enough again (I say decent enough – that implies I felt good – in reality I wasn’t much above “awful”) on Wednesday evening to head over to Arthur’s Seat and do intervals. I took the triathlon bike, in full Ironman set-up to test it out. I did six climbs, then added two more. The bike is heavier than the road bike, and I guess it was 10-15 seconds slower on a 4-minute climb, but instead of comfortably and easily getting to 25mph at the bottom of the hill, I was easily getting over 30mph. So the triathlon bike is fast when it’s fast, and slow when it’s slow… The new thick bar tape was really good, but the gears were jumping, so the new cassette and chain is a must. A few bits and bottle cages need cable-tied down a bit tighter. I followed this with weights, stretching, food and bed.
I knew the rest of the week would be a struggle. Should I temper down my training, or carry on and do what I had planned, with the risk this carried of overcooking it and doing myself damage (getting injured or sick). I was pushing myself hard, and there’s only so much you can take. I’d take it day at a time… I knew this would be the last big week before the race. I just had to survive it…
On Thursday I wanted to do another bike/run brick session. I did an hour of time-trialling on the turbo (245 watts for 138bpm wasn’t bad) and then changed into my running gear which was all pre-laid-out. Everything but my running watch. I couldn’t find it anywhere and grew more and more angry as the benefits of the brick session were ebbing away. 20 minutes later I found it. I wanted to be running within a few minutes of getting off the bike. I ran in the new Hoka carbon-plated shoes. They are meant to be super-fast, but I didn’t really feel like the earth moved when I was wearing them. They have a very thin tongue and they are a bit uncomfortable, so I don’t think I’ll use them in the Ironman. My heart rate monitor seems to have packed it in, so that’s another issue to deal with.
On Friday I swam 3800 yards, doing sets of drills. When I swim continuously, I maintain a temperature equilibrium. With the breaks between drills (to put on hand paddles of tie the ankles together or get the floats or whatever), I got a bit cold, and ended up standing in the shower for 25 minutes afterwards, knackered and trying to warm up. I had to almost literally slap myself out of it, and shuffled off home to sit on the turbo trainer and pedal it with one leg, then the other, repeated several times… it was midsummer’s night, Friday night, the weather was nice, and I went to bed at 8pm. I was absolutely wrecked.
I had a bit of a lie-in then got up feeling slightly less knackered. I had a bagel with peanut butter (no porridge, I have a suspicion it makes me pukey when doing big sessions or races), got the bike ready and got out the door. I intended to do no more than 100 miles, no more than I thought necessary, but I intended to make it hilly. I started with 12 miles of flat, which was a good “break-in”, then rode every hill, repeatedly, within a 10-mile radius of Penicuik and Temple.
Bike banquet, plus some Tailwind nutrition drink
I actually felt good, better and better as the miles went on, and 6 and a half hours genuinely flew by. I drank well, fed well, paced well, the legs felt decent, I was wearing the base layer and tri top I plan to wear in the Ironman, the double layering worked well. I ended up doing 108 miles, just over 200 watts, annoyingly no heart rate data as the monitor is well and truly kaput. I climbed 2486m/8156ft, almost exactly the same as the ironman will be.
I got home and as I was carrying my bike up the stairs, I wondered if I should push my luck and follow it up with an immediate run. I argued with myself and then decided to go. 20-25 minutes tops, nice and easy, just to get used to the feeling of running off a long bike. In the end I was flying on the run. Bouncing along. If I can hold 7:30/mile in the ironman I’ll settle for that, and I was averaging under 6:30/mile just now and feeling comfortable. I did 5 miles (granted, a long way short of a marathon, but I felt I could have continued at that pace for a good bit longer, and had I toned the pace down a bit, then in theory I could have continued for a good bit longer).
The summer rip is in full swing...
Would look even worse if I shaved my legs, as many triathletes/cyclists do
So, a positive double-session, where I felt I had plenty more to give and where I had to hold myself back. It’s maybe going a bit far to say I was straining at the leash but yes, I think I’ve arrived a point where I can say I’m as ready as I can be, and ready to tone things down a bit and taper into the race. More stretching, core work and squats followed, and then another very early bed.
I slept in very late. One more day to get through. One more long run. 2 hours tops. I headed out in the middle of the day, in warm sun. After about 50 minutes, I realised I was going to get sunburned, frazzled and horribly dehydrated, so I bailed on the planned route and ran back and forth along the old railway line (now a cycle path, and shaded by trees). It was tedious, tedious running, but at least I wasn’t getting too much sun. My legs were sore, but not injuriously so. I just wanted to survive it.
With less than a minute to run, I was almost hit by a delivery cyclist, it could all have ended in tears. A close shave. Too close for comfort. I clocked 17 miles in just over 2 hours, got back, blitzed my weights and squats and stretching, and called it a day on a tough two weeks.
I added it all up: 7.5km in the pool, 850km or so on the bike, and 100km running over the last 2 weeks, in addition to all the core work, weights, stretching, squats, treating my feet, and thinking, planning, strategising. I need a break from all this. I’ll have an easy week next week, then a moderate week, then a final taper week. I just want to get there in one piece, but hopefully the worst of the training is over now, things will become a bit more tolerable.
Training done was as follows:
Swim 3.5km, Bike 225 miles, Run 31 miles