Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Post 180 - Ironman training week 9

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

Monday, June 17, 2019

Post 179 - Ironman training week 8

Monday was the usual day of rest. It has turned into a physical rest day only – the mental side of things continues to buzz, with lots to think about.

The lists of things to do which I write for myself continue to develop. This blog needs writing. Getting the bike into “Ironman mode”. Will I carry spares? Will I just hope not to get a flat tyre? Will I carry one bottle, or two, and so how many bottle cages to I need bolted and cable tied onto the bike? Will I use my aero tool box? How many gels do I need? Where are the aid stations on the course? Etc? I’m keen to save as much weight as possible on the bike, so I borrowed some kitchen scales and weighed everything.

As a result, I will use a deep-section rear wheel rather than a disc wheel (saving over 200g of rotating mass at the rear). The course is too hilly for a disc to be much benefit anyway. I won’t use my aero tool box, which fits behind the seat tube (saving 250g). I will carry only one CO2 cartridge and one spare tube (saving the weight of a second CO2 cartridge, a second tube and a pump – around 250g). I will have an aerobar mounted bottle and a bottle cage behind the seat, which will hold one bottle, and I will tape my puncture repair stuff to this bottle cage, behind my backside and out of the wind. One less bottle cage compared to previous years saves 150g, plus 750g of liquid weight.

I thought about carrying no spares, but that would leave me a screaming helpless wreck at the roadside if I should get a flat tyre. Carrying spares will mean I will still be a screaming wreck if I get a flat tyre, but at least I will be able to do something about it.

All in all, I will be saving a maximum of 1.5kg. I could go high-risk and carry only one bottle (no contingency if one bottle cage breaks) and no spares, but the extra 500g saved isn’t worth it.
I had the bike fully serviced, in-house (i.e. in my flat, without having to schedule time to make a trip to a bike shop to have it dropped off, to explain everything, to talk through everything, and to go back and pick it up). This was very handy, so the bike is now in full ironman mode, which is good. One less thing to think about.

A mess of work and weighing and stuff, but worth it for the end product

Then it was into the training.

Tuesday 11th June 2019:

A long day at work meant I was home too late to justify the time going out, so I jumped on the turbo and did 8 x 5 minutes hard, with 3 minutes of recovery. I mixed the hard stuff up with some big gear, low cadence strength work. It went reasonably well. Then I did my stretching and core work.


I need to do a few “brick” sessions (bike sessions followed by runs). So I did an hour of “time trialling” on the turbo at 250 watts (you can definitely hold higher power out on the road than on a turbo), and went straight out for an hour’s run. In the lashing rain. The summer has been terrible so far, and we are right in midsummer – it’s bright when I go to bed, and bright long before I wake up. I ran in the new Asics shoes, they feel decent, but it’s the long runs that will really tell how they go. Then I did my weights and squats and stretching.


Another long day at work meant it was tough to squeeze in an easy 3-hour turbo trainer recovery session, but I managed.


Swam 4250 yards, swimming hard for 100 yards and easier for 150 yards. Averaged 1:44/100m. Felt reasonable. Got home, and got onto the turbo, and did single-leg pedalling drills for half an hour. Early to bed for a big bike day tomorrow.


The weather forecast looked just about reasonable enough for a long bike ride. I hoped to do 200km, and had a route planned. I’ve never done a 200km day, in all my days of cycling, ironmans, training and touring, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It was now or never – I have the endurance fitness and I’m still far enough away from the ironman (4 weeks) to get away with it and recover.

So out I went. I headed south, hoping to make it to Lockerbie. I detoured along the Talla reservoir to ride up the ludicrously steep Wall Of Talla climb, to make up some extra kilometres and to ride a tough hill. I could see a guy pushing his bike up in the distance. Ha, I thought, he has overestimated his ability. It is the steepest and toughest hill I have ever ridden up. I was doing 350 watts to just about maintain 5mph and just about stay upright. I passed the pusher. His chain had snapped with the forces. I could do nothing for him. I got over the top, rode down to the far end of the Megget reservoir, did a U-turn and headed back.

It started to drizzle. I hoped it wouldn’t get worse. Riding back down the Wall of Talla was even more horrific and frightening than riding up it. Literally 2 seconds off the brakes and you’d be out of control. I made it down, the drizzle eased, and I headed towards the Devil’s Beef Tub hill, the far side of which lay Moffat, and then Lockerbie. I’d stop for a minute at the filling station in Moffat to buy more water – 2 litres were almost gone by now.

The weather got worse and worse as I climbed the hill and I decided to bail on my planned route. The weather was looking better back towards Edinburgh and there was no point in getting wet, cold and risking getting sick. It proved a good decision as I soon dried out and never saw rain again. One problem now was that I was out of water, with only a couple of small villages within 20 miles. I got lucky finding a tiny tea room who were happy to fill my bottles. Then it was loops and laps and out-and-backs and hilly roads and U-turns around Peebles, Innerleithen, Temple, West Linton, Penicuik etc. Some great roads, some great views, some great cycling.

Blue sky was seen

More of a false flat if you ask me...

Great view of Edinburgh

I hit 100 miles, always a milestone. I hit 112 miles (the ironman distance). I hit 124 miles (200km), and felt good, and thought, why not carry on and make this a long day? I had wondered about heading home after 200km and making it a long day by adding an hour of running, but the running can be very difficult to recover from. So I kept cycling. I passed a small shop at 130 miles and, sick of gels, I went in and feasted on bananas, nuts, mars bars, shortbread, cereal bars, and topped up the water again. The girl in the shop asked how far I'd covered, and almost passed out when I said 130 miles, and almost passed out again when I said I'd do maybe another 30-40 miles. "I hope you make it," she said.

I could literally have continued for hours, but it was starting to move into the evening and the temperatures were dropping. I settled for targeting 100 miles plus 100km, and in the end I did 166 miles (267km). 9 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I felt fine throughout, I paced it well, fed and drank well, and definitely could have carried on. I felt much better on the bike than when I got off, and was really stiff. I’d averaged 190W (NP), 126bpm and 17.4mph over the 166 miles and 8200 feet of climbing.

The first thing I did, was to look up on the internet the distance from Mizen Head to Malin Head (the length of Ireland, the equivalent of Land’s End to John O’Groats), and the record time. It’s something in the region of 380 miles, and the record is bang on 19 hours (20mph average speed). It’s not immediately dismissible as being beyond me – I’m sure Mizen to Malin has far less climbing than what I did on my 166 mile ride, and with a support vehicle, I could save a lot of weight on the bike, I could use good aero wheels, an aero helmet, better aero clothing, aero-bars, maybe even the full TT/triathlon bike), all of which would give me time. But could I keep going for twice the 9 and half hours I did? Well, I felt I had a good few more hours in me when I finished…

After I’d had my recovery drink, shower, dinner and so on, I didn’t have the energy for my core work and stretching, so I settled for a quick stretch of my back and went to bed. It was meant to be a long run day tomorrow, but I’d see how I felt.

Trying to keep warm and trying not to get sick and "enjoying"
my recovery drink after 166 miles in the saddle...


I got up feeling quite tired and fatigued. A 100 mile bike ride is manageable and I’ve recovered well from them, but this was a bit different. I lazed about all day, resting, recovering and eating. Then I decided I would try the long run. With the new shoes. I carried a bottle of liquid nutrition, with a bit of caffeine in it – I’m not a coffee drinker and not used to caffeine, so this would be interesting. 

In the end I ran for 2 hours and 40 minutes, 22 miles, at 7:29 per mile, the longest training run I’ve ever done, and felt reasonable and strong throughout. It was a hilly route, but I never once felt like I was weak or losing power up the climbs. Carrying the bottle worked really well. I had a couple of stabs of knee pain in the final miles, but overall it was positive. The shoes worked well. No foot pain. Whether that was just luck, or the shoes, time will tell.

It’s fair to say I was knackered after this too, and again had no energy for weights or core work. I’ll trade the weights and core and stretching for the two successful long days though. Writing this, and thinking back over what I’ve done in the last week, has made me realise that it’s a hell of a volume of training, so I will need to be very careful in the days that follow, to ensure that I am properly recovered before I start piling on more training.

Hopefully it’ll be another tough(ish) week to follow, then an easy week, then a moderate week, then a taper week and that’ll see me to race day…

Training done was as follows:

Swim 3.9km, Bike 296 miles, Run 31 miles

Monday, June 10, 2019

Post 178 - Ironman training week 7

An easy week to let the body and mind recover after 2 tough, relentless weeks

I spent time making list after list of the things I need to do, buy, get, sort. And then gradually ticking things off the lists, and adding things to the lists. Triathlon is meant to be three disciplines. Ironman is at least 10... swim, bike, run, transitions, weights, core, stretching, sleep, nutrition, logistics, science, procurement, black art, organisation, management, you name it...

I finally decided to enter the damn thing. I've got through 7 weeks of hard training. I've had niggles but they've been manageable. I've been able to tolerate and cope with the training. There's no reason that I shouldn't make it through the next 5 weeks. So I paid up, nearly £500 for the entry fee alone. Horrendous. I couldn't even bring myself to do it - I had to get a friend at work to take my credit card and put the number into the online form and click whatever it said - "enter" or "pay now" or something. So that's it - I'm all in now.

Then, literally an hour or two later, the following came up on my Facebook:

Not even funny

I gave myself Monday and Tuesday off. I spent all of Monday after work in the running shop. I need a pair of "fresh" running shoes for the Ironman, with their cushioning fully intact and not worn out. In the running shop I had a proper gait analysis done (with my running stride being videoed on the treadmill and played back) by someone who knows what he is talking about. I've always ran in stability shoes because I was told years ago I had flat feet and that stability shoes are the best type of shoes for flat feet.

It seems this is not so. I was immediately told that neutral shoes would be best because although I have flat feet, they don't collapse in to a very great extent. Therefore I don't need stability shoes. So I tried on every neutral shoe in the shop, while being analysed and filmed on the treadmill. This was a big change for me, and I will have to see how the new neutral shoes go in training before deciding whether to race an ironman marathon in them.

I was told that my stability shoes were preventing the load being evenly distributed across the foot, meaning that the outside of the foot was taking a lot of impact. Makes sense, given the pain and problems I've had with callouses on the outside my my feet. Neutral shoes will allow the foot to roll in a bit more and allow the load to be spread more evenly. I was even told that this would reduce the wear rate on the soles of the shoes. It did all sound like a silver bullet, but it also did seem to make sense. 

I decided on (i.e. was told that these would be best) a pair of Asics Dyna-Flytes with a kevlar sole as a fairly "safe" bet, and a revolutionary pair of Hoka shoes with a carbon fibre "rocker" insole. These feel absolutely bizarre to stand in but apparently they are tremendous shoes, and I am told all the pros are giving up their shoe contracts so they can run in these Hoka shoes. I also picked up a few new pairs of highly-recommended running socks. We will see...

They look benign...

As a random digression, here is the reason why my rice and veg and falafel
do not get boring night after night... impossible to repeat the same dosage and combination.

With Monday and Tuesday being rest days, I did a one-hour turbo followed by a 30 minute run on Wednesday. In the new Asics shoes. They felt OK, but you could run in anything for half an hour... it'll be the long runs that determine if they are a success or not. I was also told that (especially for the new revolutionary carbon fibre soled shoes), I could run a bit on the treadmill to see how they feel, and still return them if I didn't get on with them (at £170 per pair, I would be keen to return them for a refund if they don't work for me). 

On Thursday I did a swim, then on Friday I packed up my gear and headed for Bolton for a couple of nights, to train on the new Ironman UK bike course. They had originally advertised Ironman UK 2019 as being on the old bike course that I know so well from previous years, which was a big reason to choose Ironman UK - knowing the course is worth a lot. A few months ago, this was all changed, as they brought out a new course for 2019. Which meant I'd have to go and see it, because knowing the course is important...

All the Ironman bags:
Ironman UK x 5 (x 6 coming up)
Ironman Wales x 3
Ironman Weymouth x 1
Ironman race disasters x 9

We arrived to the hotel on Friday afternoon in torrential rain. There were an older couple just getting off their bikes and unloading everything into their car. I guessed they had been out on the course. They were like drowned rats. I asked them how it was. The short answer was that it was terrible.

Which tied in pretty well with all the online chat and comment and podcasts about the new course - terrible, dangerous, far too tough and hilly, awful narrow dangerous roads, potholes everywhere. Having heard all this, it was very important for me to get to Bolton, and ride the course, and learn it, learn where the dangerous spots are, learn where to take it easy, learn where it's OK to let fly, learn where the potholes are etc. And have some idea of whether it would be best to use a light, nimble road bike on race day (good on hills and descents), or the time trial bike (good in a straight line on the flat) - not a straightforward decision...

The course record holder on the old course was interviewed about the new course on a podcast (listen from 21:50 on the link below) - not much good was said about it.

I hadn't been looking forward to seeing the course, and after talking to the pair of drowned rats, now even less so. The weather forecast was terrible, so Friday evening's training was on the treadmill in the gym. I had stupidly forgotten the Hoka shoes so didn't get a chance to try them. Saturday was no better, it was apocalyptically bad weather. 

It would be foolish to ride in weather like that, on narrow roads, up over windswept, misty, rainy moors and hills, so we took to driving it. One-third of it was fair enough then the hilly, narrow roads started. Steep descents, broken by tight turns. It wasn't a great drive. In fact it was a terrible drive. If they get rain on race day, they will have to shorten or cancel the bike - on the Sheephouse Lane descent, part of the road had turned into a lake.

Saturday evening's training involved a soul-destroying hour on an exercise bike in a gym, without a fan in my face as I have in my flat, then a mucky but enjoyable run around the reservoir behind the hotel. Sunday was a better day, and I headed out on the bike course. It's a two-lap course, so one loop would be about 50 miles.

The first third of the loop was fairly flat and reasonable, on fairly main roads, through Bolton. Not great cycling in the traffic, but should be OK on race day. Then the hilly sections started. The road surfacing actually wasn't too bad. The hills weren't ridiculously steep, but they were frequent. Relentless. It is a course that will reward patience and discipline to take it easy. I noted the important braking areas. I capped my power to around 200 watts. Took a couple of wrong turns. Then started to ride a bit harder, and after my 55-odd miles, I wouldn't have wanted to do another 55, so I now know what "too hard" feels like on this course. 

But on the whole, it wasn't as bad as I thought. It was slower than I thought. I didn't push super hard, and didn't have any aero gear, wasn't properly tapered, but I'd hoped to be faster than I was at less than 17mph...

Anyway, some of the scenery was nice:

I'm fairly confident in my bike handling abilities, and now my knowledge of the course. My strategy always had been to freewheel the downhills, to allow recovery, to set me up for a better run. I won't be racing downhill, so this will be a safer strategy, and if I keep my wits about me and keep my hands ready on the brakes instead of on the aero bars, I should be OK. Assuming my front brake doesn't fall off like in South Africa... I think the big danger will be on lap 2, when the leaders and faster people (myself included) start to lap the slower athletes, who may not have the best bike-handling abailities or awareness of how to ride when faster people are passing, especially on the narrow, twisty roads. At least I know all this now. It is what it is. Same for everyone. 

Training done was as follows:

Swim 2.1km, Cycle 140 miles, Run 13 miles

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Post 177 - Ironman training week 6

Another tough training week has finished, and even better, it is the end of a tough 2-week block, so I can switch off a little bit mentally (and physically) for the easier week to come. The training has been relentless. Get home from work, get the training done, finish training, force yourself to do the core strength work, stretching and weights, eat the dinner, go to sleep. I don’t know how I did it in London with the longer hours at work and the longer commute. Anyway. So far so good with training. I have hit all the sessions, I have trained well (or at least I think I know what I think I need to do and I think what I have done has met this thinking).
Monday 27th May 2019:Rest day. Nothing. No training, no stretching, no core work, no strength, and trying not to even think about anything to do with it. Went to the podiatrist to get the callouses on my feet treated again. I need my feet to be in good condition and not to give me any pain in the Ironman marathon. It’s an expensive 15 minutes, and I have to spend 15 minutes per evening filing and moisturising my feet, but hopefully worth it.
Tried on a pair of shorts in the charity shop - 
legs now undergoing their summer rip
Veins don't look too pretty on closer inspection...

Tuesday:Cycled over to Arthur’s Seat with Kev, who’s turning into a good training buddy, for bike interval training. On the way over I still wasn’t sure what I’d do. Only the uphill intervals (about 3:10)? The uphill intervals plus a little bit of flat at the top (about 3:30)? Or the uphill intervals plus the entire flat at the top (about 5:50)? And how many?
In the end I did 6 of the longest ones, working on the hills but also working on getting my speed up after the hills on the flat. I got to 6, could easily have continued, but decided to trust that 6 was enough. No point in overcooking the legs when I had an entire week of training ahead. Plus it was getting cold and late and sleep is important, so I saved about half an hour of sleep time by being happy with 6.
Times and power outputs were reasonably consistent. Being very critical, the sixth one had started to drop away by a few seconds and was maybe 10 watts down (316 watts average instead of 325-330 watts), so six was a good number to finish on, as a seventh might have faded a bit more badly. Also did my stretching and core work.
Wednesday:The Ironman UK run course is hilly (as is the bike). So I need to train on hills. Over the past few weeks I’d been doing fairly punishing long runs and tempo runs. Tonight I wanted to do some hill run intervals. I wouldn’t run them as hard as I’d run them if I was doing my normal running training for pure running speed, but I’d run more of them. The “Bruntsfield West” hill – usually I’d do 10 or 12 or 14 repeats of just under a minute. I thought I’d do 20, but I’d see how the sore foot was coping.
I started off at 65 seconds, and gradually the time came down to 60 flat after 14 intervals. The foot felt OK. So far so good. The times continued to fall to 59 and 58. I got to 20 and felt I had a few more in me. 26 would be a good number (26 miles in a marathon), so I got to 25, had strong legs, and hammered the last one in 55 seconds. I was pleased with this, the final 12 intervals were only a tiny bit slower than previous times I’d done this session as an out-and-out runner, when I was only focused on running. Legs and niggles all felt reasonably OK. Went home and did weights and squats.
Thursday:Two tough days were followed by an easier day. 3 hours on the turbo (thanks to poor weather again – May has undoubtedly been poor this year in comparison to last year), without too much intensity. “Only” 160 watts average for 109bpm. Just getting easy bike miles in the legs. No core/strength work this evening. My left knee started to hurt, and my neck and upper back got very sore. Probably in part due to a long drive on Monday with work, and having to frequently use the clutch in the car (putting weight on a bent left knee in the wrong way has always given me problems – horrible stabs of pain), and having to sit in the car for a while didn’t help my back. Physio appointment tomorrow, hopefully he can do something about it.
Friday:A long swim in the morning before work. 4500 yards (4115 metres). Seemed to go well, had the lane to myself for about half of it, had to deal with a couple of slower breaststroke/backstroke swimmers the rest of the time – how can people be so inconsiderate?! Glaned at my watch at half distance, the time was decent, but couldn’t understand why the end time was a bit slower. Maybe I miscounted the lengths…?
Went to the physio after work. “Everything is just horrific” is what he said. I asked him to go easy because I had a big weekend planned and didn’t want to have residual muscle soreness (often a physio session can leave you sore and dehydrated for a day or two). He did what he could to iron out my back and neck, and did some work on my knee. He got into the backs of my knees, which I wasn’t happy about as this was really sore. Got home and did some single-leg drills on the turbo for half an hour, I haven’t done those for a long time, and was pleased that there was no dead spot on any pedal circuit, no “clunk” to signify this, it all seemed fairly smooth. I’ll do a few more of these sessions.
Saturday:Long bike day, and I finally got outside. Debated what to wear. I knew I’d be doing at least 100 miles and wearing a flappy jacket would slow me down. So I wore a base layer vest, a tight cycling top and a tight gilet. Maybe this was too much as I sweated loads and it took ages to reach an equilibrium, then this was ruined after 50 miles when I had to make a quick pit stop to buy more water and realised I was soaking wet with sweat. 

As my water ran out I thought of days in France, in the Alps and Pyrenees, when I was out on the bike and needing to top up the water - usually calling into a restaurant or shop or pub of some sort and asking "est-ce que vous pouvez remplir mes bouteilles s'il vous plait..." and half hoping they would start a bit of a conversation - I'm always keen to speak a bit of French. Or in Tenerife, with my limited Spanish, just a desperate look and "agua por favore..." usually did the trick. Neither would work in Moffat... 
Regardless of being soaked in sweat, it was a great scenic ride on some new roads. It was 50 miles almost due south to Moffat, into a strong headwind. 14mph average speed (really slow), but capped my power output, especially on the 10-mile climb up out of Edinburgh. This paid dividends later. Passed the source of the river Tweed, then the Devil’s Beef Tub (a massive spectacular valley), then descended into Moffat, pit-stopped for more water, then headed towards St Mary’s Loch along a spectacular road, past the Grey Mare’s Tail (a waterfall up on a mountain that looked exactly like its name), on to St Mary’s Loch where I finally hit some flat roads and calm weather, got some speed up, turned over the mountain road to Innerleithen, then Peebles and back to Edinburgh.

Could be the Alps (if 20 degrees warmer, and no clouds)

I needed one more mile to make 112 miles (an ironman distance) so I ripped around the block to get it done – probably stupid in a fatigued state with the risk of traffic and it was also stupid to be torqueing high power out of the corners, risking injury. I won’t do that again.
The legs felt good at the end, I was still able to get good power out. 14 more miles would have seen a 200km distance. I’ve never done 200km, I’d like to, I could easily have done it today, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Funky "helmet hair"

Some negatives too, only some of which I can learn from: My energy drink was too concentrated, I needed to drink a bit more, and supplement the energy drink with a few gels and solids, but all good learning. I used gel-padded cycling gloves for the first time on this ride. It was the longest ride I’ve done for a few years. I was disappointed that my right hand, the one I broke in the crash in south-west Cork, got really sore during the ride, and for a long time afterwards.
Was tired afterwards and it was a big effort to do my hour of stretching and core work. But it’s an important hour to try to keep all the body parts functioning, so it had to be done…
Sunday:Long run day. I really dislike long runs. My running shoes are knackered as well, I need new ones. A job for my easy week next week.
I ran for two and a half hours, the first hour with Kev, which helped the boredom of it all. It was very warm and windy, I was overdressed, I sweated a lot and got dehydrated. I was carrying a small bottle of water and two gels and I’d never have got through it if I hadn’t had these to consume. One thing I am worried about in the ironman is getting too cold – wearing a skimpy triathlon top and in an Ironman you don’t ever go full steam, so you don’t generate as much heat.
I incorporated 4 long hills, each of about a mile and a half. I did just under 20 miles. That’ll probably be the longest run I do in training. It didn’t feel too bad to be honest. Of course it was boring and tedious and fatiguing and the legs were sore, but the pace and strength held well. The sore knee seemed OK. All in all it was decent.
I forced the weights and squats and stretching that evening, and the knee didn’t like the squatting, nor did the backs of my knees feel good after the physio massaged them – he should never have gone in there and I won’t let him do that again… hopefully with a couple of planned days off and an easier week to follow, everything will ease. I wanted a Guinness on Sunday evening, it’s good for you. But alas I had none left and had to settle for a glass of lemon juice…
At the end of my easy week next week I will head to Bolton to ride a couple of laps of the course. Worth doing, as the new bike course has been described in very poor terms – horrendous, dangerous, terrible, dreadful road surfacing and plenty of climbing. I climbed just over 5000 feet on my long ride this week, the Ironman bike will have over 8000 feet…
Training was as follows:
Swim 4.1km, Cycle 210 miles, Run 32 miles

Monday, May 27, 2019

Post 176 - Ironman training week 5

After an easier week, I was (perversely) itching to get back at the hard training. There's not a great deal of time left before the Ironman, as I'm doing a much shorter build-up this year, so I want to get on with it, but at the same time I need to be mindful that I don't do too much too soon...

Monday 20th May 2019:
Rest day. Can't remember what I did but I'm sure I did very little.

Turbo tempo. The weather wasn't great so I was on the turbo. I've done quite a few intervals but not many out-and-out continuous efforts. I read that the hour-long time-trial efforts are of benefit when training for and racing Ironman triathlons, so I did a good 15-minute warm-up, 70 minutes hard, and then 15 minutes to cool down. 265 watts for 158bpm. Not bad, probably could have pushed harder but it's a balance between pushing hard and being able to recover, and pushing too hard which means the entire rest of the week suffers. Decent session. Stretching and core work and squatting afterwards.

The weight is starting to fall off...

Hilly tempo run. 10 miles in 63 minutes. I could run 10 miles in 53 or maybe 52 minutes with a couple of months of specific training, but that's not what the target is. My legs felt a bit knackered after this, I don't ever remember racing 10 miles flat out and being this tired. But then again, I taper for my races, rather than doing a hard 70 minute bike the day before... weights and squatting afterwards.

Had an early finish at work, threw together a plan with Kev to do an easy cycle in East Lothian and get the train home. Cycling eastbound with a tailwind was great, it meant it was indeed an easy 3-hour cycle, very scenic, very enjoyable.

Cyclists always look cool

East Lothian roads

Tantallon castle

The North Berwick Law ("Law" is what they call "hill")

Train home

Was hungry afterwards, went to the shop, got the evening discounts - two tubs of fruit and a meal deal tub of chicken, broccoli and couscous, got the train back, cycled 2-3 miles back to the flat, by then it was freezing. Ate dinner and went to bed.

Went to the podiatrist. Not sure how much benefit I am getting for my £34-for-15-minute-sessions, but I get the callouses on my feet hacked off and get told to buy various creams and files and plasters and covers. Hopefully doing some good and hopefully will prevent horrendous pain in the ironman marathon. Finished work. Work has been tough and very busy recently. Really needed a rest and a switch-off. But that's not really an option. Straight to the pool and did 3500 yards, doing all sorts of tortuous drills with tortuous-looking rubber bands and hand paddles and other swim "toys..." Didn't bother with the sauna as this would take an extra 20 minutes which would be better spent sleeping...

Poor weather again meant a long turbo. 5 hours and 40 minutes. I had bought some "turbo fodder" in the charity shop recently - a pile of DVDs, so I got through a couple. Did strength and speed work. Every hour I was doing 2 x 3 minutes at low cadence and high power for strength, and 2 x 3 minutes at high cadence and high power for speed. Fine for three hours, legs getting tired after four, goosed after five... also tried a very concentrated mix of Tailwind nutrition mixed with water. It didn't work too well, it was too concentrated and I felt pukey at the end and a bit sick the rest of the day. Will try less a concentrated mix the next time. Stretched and did core work and squatting.

Long run day. The face says it all. I hate long runs.

Waited for the worst of the rain to pass. Was overdressed, especially when it warmed up. Sweated a lot, got a sore head. Did 4 hills to mimic the Ironman UK run course. 18 miles in 2:13 at 7:23 per mile and around 140bpm. I don't know how people can run marathons in 2:30. People I would beat at 5k and 10k races can run such 2:30 marathons. It's incredible. I was extremely tired after this run. Flopped on the sofa and spaced out and ate and ate and drank and drank and had to force myself to finish the week with weights and squatting. Another week done. I was quite dehydrated and had a sore head for the rest of the day, but if that's the worst of the week, I'll take it,

I had a look at my bike position. I'm happy with the more upright position now when I'm on the base bars, it allows me to stretch out a bit, but I need to lower the aero bars a little to make myself a bit more aerodynamic when I'm in the aero position.

Agressive aero

Moderately aero


More upright

Extremely upright when your back is absolutely ruined

My very sore right foot, which was really concerning me, seems to have eased, so that's a big plus. My left hip still hurts, but it's not an immediate concern. In the long run it could turn into a concern but it's not so acute as to make me think it'll give problems in the next couple of months - I hope not anyway...

Training done was as follows:

Swim 3.2km, Cycle 190 miles, Run 29 miles