IMCH 2008 vid

Here’s a good video I stumbled upon from Ironman Switzerland 2008. Worth a look if you’re joining me at the 2010 event (or fancy a crack at an Ironman some point in the future for that matter).

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Weymouth 70.3: preview

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the sky is blue; all those hard winter months are behind us and – hopefully – the base miles have had the desired effect. Now it’s time for the racing season!

To placate my winter blues I entered a series of events to add spice to training, trial pacing and tactics and generally tune up before the Main Event: Ironman Switzerland. My major race in preparation for this will be the Weymouth Middle Distance Triathlon, Sunday June 6th.

1930m sea swim. 54 mile bike. 13.1 mile run.

I admit that – after The English Channel last September – the prospect of more competitive sea swimming does not appeal. It starts on the beach and we’ll head out in an oval loop into Weymouth Bay. The organisers release competitors in 15-min waves, so hopefully this will alleviate the usual mad-capped first few minutes as swimmers fight for clear water or a useful pair of feet to draft off. Conditions will clearly have a big effect on time here and sighting will be a challenge. My hope is to just emerge unscathed up the pebbles and into T1!

Looking at archived results, the bike leg could be fast. If it’s the same route as ’09 then – at 54 miles – it’s a shade under the standard distance. There also appears to be plenty of A roads on the route up north-east through Dorchester to Bere Regis and back, allowing some good sustained riding. Past participants have referred to it as “flat to rolling”, so we’ll see. It’s always nye on impossible to predict bike times, such is the impact of course profile; but, I’d be delighted with anything sub 3hrs.

The exit from T2 sends runners down some steps – which will be novel in a race – and onto the Weymouth sea front. It’s a two lap course and I’m reliably informed there’s “only one real hill” and the rest is pretty flat. Given the time of year it could well be a warm day; hydration will be important and it will also provide an opportunity to test out race nutrition strategy in general. If all this winter training pays off and I get my tactics right then I’m hoping to put in something like a 1h40 run time, running just under 7.45 min miles. Coach Trew’s question slash statement about Weymouth was: “this one is pretty serious to see where we are, OK?” I felt yes was really the only answer!

Here’s what some people who’ve previously completed Weymouth had to say:

“I like the weymouth race as it’s low key, cheap and easy on the schedule.”Toby Radcliffe, professional triathlete.

“great event. it’s our club middle distance champs so always a good turn out. can often be hot…”Ewan McKay, Crystal Palace Triathletes.

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Al has put together  an interesting preview of my other overseas challenge this year: the Maratona dles Dolomites. Check it out.

Caution runners: Sussex Beacon Half Marathon 2010

Sunday 21st February marked my first race outing of the new decade, and what better place to do so than my home town of Brighton. This year was the 20th annual running of the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon, a race that has grown beyond all measure over the years.

Just three years’ ago I ran this – as I started out on a metamorphic journey from former national-level high jumper and loosely active twenty-something, to obsessed amateur endurance athlete – and was one of 3208 finishers. Incidentally, so too was former GB track star, Olympian and Sussex resident Sally Gunnell, with whom I had the fortune of running for a few miles, until her superior pacing kicked in!

Yesterday, 6064 brave souls battled heavy rain, at moments sleet, fierce icy winds and biting cold to run 13.1 miles up and down the sea front. The starting area was understandably filled with plenty of cautious faces before the gun went off. And – as the weather battered the coastline and Palace Pier – there were plenty of hardy supporters looking even more cautious about the next hour or two.

Substituting this event for a scheduled hard training run and using it as a barometer for form/Ironman training progression, my race plan was simple: go out at 7s and see what happens. I hit mile 3 (the only marker I saw) in 20mins – slightly too quick – but then faced the headwind going west after the turnaround; it was really testing, but I held form as best as possible. Of course, a headwind never seems to manifest itself as a tailwind when going back the other way – sods law! – but the going was easier on the return and I came in under the finish banner at 1.32.35. A race day PB (although I’ve run quicker in training!).

Overall I am delighted to be running this sort of pace off less than half my normal marathon training volume/frequency. Moreover, thanks to end of ’09 season niggles, Britain’s January big freeze and reckless North London drivers, I’ve had a few knee problems to contend with. This is a real boost going into Coach Trew’s next training block and what will be a crucial period in the build to Ironman Switzerland.

Now for the criticisms: how difficult is it to 1/ issue and police proper colour-coded race numbers corresponding with finish times? 2/ label starting pens clearly? 3/ set out 13 mile markers (not just random barely visible signs)? Okay, the entry levels have skyrocketed, but this is a real mass participation race now and other organisers don’t allow such elementary problems to occur.

Saying this, the Sussex Beacon is growing year-on-year for a reason: it’s a top race on a flat scenic course, ideally timed before the spring marathons. And with the inaugural Brighton Marathon on the horizon, running on the south coast is really on the UK road running map. Great for the sport and great for the city.

Congratulations to friends Simon Clarkson (1.42.22), Richard O’Connor (1.43.37) and Louise O’Connor (1.43.12) – PBs across the board.

T minus…

…6.5 months, or 29 weeks, or 202 days.

That’s how long I have left until the big day. Ironman Switzerland, July 25th. Nervous? A little. Excited? Very. Now that we’re into 2010 what I’m embarking upon is suddenly far more real: the flights are booked, the hotel is paid for, my competition schedule is planned out, and the third phase of my training plan is starting.

Speaking of figures….. We all have ‘A’ races, ‘B’ races, time targets, PBs, and friends to beat… and there’s nothing wrong with keeping things on the low down [that’s down low – ed.]. But sharing objectives can be fun, it kind of makes them more real and makes you that little bit more accountable to them. So here goes:

Half Marathon: break 1h30. Olympic distance: 2h15. 70.3: break 5h10. Ironman: break 11 hours.

How am I going to give my self a shot at this then? Well, phase 3 of my training plan is focused on ‘strength endurance’, and looking at the sessions I’m in for a lot of hard work. There are 3 sessions of each discipline per week, with alternating quality run/quantity bike to ensure my fitness increases through pushing the boundaries followed by adequate recovery. This means pushing the pace one week then pushing the distance (or rather, time) the next to enable the body to adapt. The swim is also moving into a fitness build phase, overloading the system with harder and longer swim sets balanced with periodised recovery.

Keeping motivation through these cold, dark, and icy months is testing. But with stated targets in mind I feel I’ve got every reason to swim/bike/run every day, to work hard, eat well, and to keep my mind on the job.

And for anyone doing an Ironman this year and in need of a little extra motivation, check out this video!

New Year, Renewed Motivation

Ironman Switzerland, courtesy of Crystal Palace Triathletes…

Entered

IMSwitzerland_Logo

After much deliberation, the decision has been made: Ironman Switzerland. 25th July 2010.

323 days and 9 hours to go as I type.

The overriding sensation is excitement mixed with a dash of intrepidation! I’ve thought long and hard over which event would be the target for my Ironman distance triathlon. Austria was the original choice (renowned as being the best ‘first timer’ event, well organised and over a fast course) but sadly personal commitments didn’t work with the 2010 event date. Florida, Australia, and New Zealand have all come under varying degrees of consideration. In the end, the proximity of Zurich to London, the lake swim (as opposed to sea) course, the flat (ish) bike route (notwithstanding IM Switzerland’s own ‘Heartbreak Hill’), and the flat, scenic run route swayed me.

I’ve never been to Switzerland. The national tourist board‘s slogan is ‘get natural’ – I’m assuming IM competitors can wear clothes! Despite the inevitable pain, the course, scenery (and post-race holiday) will be special.

This is what awaits me in 10.5 months’ time.

zuerich_panorama