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!

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Trew winter training

So… I haven’t posted anything training-related of late. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing any! Quite the contrary I’m happy to say. I took the decision – whilst self-coaching my way to the half ironman – that I really needed to start working with others more tri-experienced. Why?

Well…. Sure I reckon I could post a decent time in IM Switzerland next year by continuing with what I was doing… but would that be enough? Would I be satisfied? What has experienced shown me?  After my first marathon I felt elated (or more specifically relieved) to have finished, but immediately (quite literally) this feeling was overtaken by a recognition of what I could have done…, and therefore what I wanted to do. I knew I could have trained better, or smarter (not necessarily more – v important distinction) and that I simply wasn’t satisfied with my performance. 5 marathons later I’m – to be honest – still not. I simply didn’t want to go through the same process with triathlon.

So Ironman. I know I want to be the very best I can be in Switzerland on July 25th. Yes like anything it will be a learning curve, and once I finish I’ll want to go quicker (of that I’m certain). But I just don’t want to leave anything to chance. 12th October marked the start of week 1 of a six-week block working with Olympic coach Steve Trew. Steve’s got me really focused on quality, not quantity. I’m doing 3 sessions of each discipline a week, building carefully but most definitely working hard. That said, he also focuses his athletes on good technique – something often forgotten with bike/run (in contrast to swim) but winter is the time to perfect form and build strength. His guidance – and the fact that I’m expected to stick to and feed back on the training he sets – is helping me make the most of each and every session. I’m really motivated for the challenge ahead.

Steve also organises periodical training camps; I spent this weekend in Hertfordshire with his group of athletes and also swim coach Dan Bullock. Mixing with fellow triathletes ranging from novices to World and European qualifiers was great, and having access to expert advice, video analysis and tuition was invaluable.

There are a number of coaches around offering on-line or distanced coaching, setting training for you, reviewing results and guiding accordingly. I would strongly recommend this for any triathlete; it’s especially beneficial given the complexity in balancing three sports. Now all I need to do is do the training….!

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.

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Sea swimming and the Forestman

The New Forest, 12th July

This weekend I was down in the New Forest supporting my friend and Channel Swim team mate Ruth, as she undertook her first ironman distance triathlon: The Forestman. Although not an official Ironman event, this course is arguably tougher and certainly longer than many long distance triathlons. Arriving bright and early at Ellingham lake for the 5.30am start, around 120 athletes set off on their 3.9k swim. Ruth nailed an impressive 1h17 time into T1. After seeing her onto the bike, Burt and I then headed off – swim gear at the ready – in search of the coast, on leg two of our own triathlon of sorts.

Southbourne is a sandy beach and well manned by the friendly life guards; the ideal place to practise sea swimming. With the team Channel swim just two months away, this was our first experience of English seas this year. Thanks to the warm weather the temperature was a comfortable 17 degrees and we quickly adapted – a relief! We swam for 40 minutes between two groins spaced 200m apart. The tough aspect was maintaining technique as the rough waves battered and buffeted us around. Occassionally a break would sneak up unannounced just as I turned to breath; after a while the horrible salty taste at the back of the throat almost burned. Next time we should probably swim further out from the coastline. All in all a valuable session both for swim strength and fitness, and psychologically in prep for September.

We made it back in time for leg three: a few beers supporting the athletes for most of the hilly marathon course. Hats off to all those that finished; it’s an amazing achievement. Ruth came home in 14h52. Next objective for her is the Channel Swim, and we’ll be hitting the beach again soon for more sea swimming. The weekend also proved a good reconnaissance mission for me for the New Forest 70.3!

Here’s a glimpse of what awaits us in the Channel.