ITU World Champs

In case you didn’t see the latest round of the ITU World Championship series in Hyde Park… it’s on the iPlayer for another few days and longer on the download service.

BBC_ITU

Triathlon has received increased airtime of late, mostly in highlight form. It’s great that the BBC showed live coverage of the Hyde Park ITU event – the first outing on the 2012 Olympic tri course. And if you’re quick, the Mazda London Triathlon highlights program (screened yesterday) is also available on Channel 4’s catch-up service, 4oD (this writer actually features, very briefly, looking far too serious at the swim assembly!). Ironman is clearly the hardest distance to cover, but really Eurosport, how can you condense an 8-9-hour event (mens and womens) into 30mins plus ads? (see Ironman France coverage aired in July, if highlights can still be found).

Still, this really should mark the start of more coverage for the fastest growing sport. Which reminds me: I keep repeating this non-statistical stat – like I did about British Basketball in the mid- to late-90s – but sooner or later I’m going to need numbers and sources to back this up! Does anyone or any sports body actually measure such a thing? And if so, how?

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Will Clarke’s blog

Oddly – when considering I read BBC Sport daily – this is the first I’ve seen of Will Clarke’s blog. Will is the British Champ from 2008 and most recently won the Mazda London Triathlon. I watched him compete on Eurosport recently: leading, his bike broke mid-ride, he hit the deck hard, fixed it, remounted, and still won the race.

Check out his blog. Will is in action in London’s Hyde Park for the World Championship Series this weekend – worth going down there if you live in town.

Will Clarke_blog

Mazda London Triathlon

Londontri_logoSunday 2nd August 2009

It’s 5.15am and I’m driving through the quiet streets of East London; bike, wetsuit and a bag of gear are in the boot. The sight of people standing, laughing, stumbling, and inebriated outside bars and clubs whilst us hardy sports nuts make our way in the breaking daylight to the start of another event never fails to move me. Move me to excitement at the challenge ahead, or to pangs of jealousy over what I’m missing out on! – I’m not quite sure. It definitely makes you realise how commited we all are; commited to our sport, our performances, our health and vitality.

Having registered on the Saturday and checked out the route, transitions and venue set up – absolutely vital for a triathlon – I simply had to rack my bike, set up my transition items and don my wetsuit. Physically I was ready; mentally I was nervous (about what technically might go wrong, rather than my personal ability). The added press and camera attention surrounding Jenson Button at the swim assembly actually took my mind off things though. And what struck me was the strong sense of camaraderie amongst athletes.

The Swim: hundreds of seal-like bodies, arms flailing, legs kicking, sight blinded by a low 7.30am sun; the start was tough. It took a good five minutes to get into a rhythm and find my stroke. I hit some good form from then on and confidence grew. It felt odd being unsure of my pace and I didn’t try to glimpse my watch; instead I focused on tempo and as smooth a stroke as the open water allowed. The funnel to the finish found me blocked by a 5-man wall slowing my surge to the ramp. I exited the water in 30.46, middle of the field but good enough for 212th in my age group. Surprisingly I wasn’t too dizzy, and T1 went smoothly in 4.12.

The Bike: the bike loop was special (see the route map); closed roads along the wide streets, down to the Tower of London and along the Thames to Whitehall. I felt brilliant and really hit it hard, notwithstanding the headwind when going West. I used my Madone without tri-bars (I think they look ugly – and I also kind of want a seperate TT bike!) but this didn’t stop me eating up quite a few people. My best moment was in the black of the Limehouse Link, cracking on at 28mph and seeing another rider silhouetted against the orange sun at the tunnel exit – amazing, and I felt inspired. Time: 1.09.32 and 139th of 494. T2 was quick and easy: 2.21.

The Run: unknown territory now. I felt stiff and robot-like, but I was committed to extracting the most from my first 10k in over a year. By the lap 1 half-way turn I felt good and hit the 5k point in 19.59! I’d contemplated a 50min run, so this was well ahead of expectations. Blisters were my only concern – both heals and arches gradually became sore (any tips to help this folks?). But I hung on for a 20.31 lap 2 and a very limited sprint finish: 40.29 – actually a new 10k pb! and 124th in my age group.

My final time was 2.27.19, 144th place. Absolutely delighted, and Dan Bullock informed me – over a post-race chat – that it qualifies me for the fast wave next time out. Full results are here.

Looking at my splits, the swim is clearly the weak discipline – yet this is also the one I know I can improve in most. I also think the bike could be brought down with more high intensity work and an aero position (or a new TT bike!). I have a side goal of breaking the 40-min 10k barrier; based on this I’m confident I can work on tempo speed to achieve this next year. I can’t wait for my next Olympic distance tri.

My mate Nik also competed, and came in a very good 2h47 – his swim was excellent, and he’s new to cycling and running so clearly he’s going to make a good triathlete. For anyone looking for a fast, flat and well-organised Triathlon then the Mazda London event is top class. 2010 entries have opened and another friend as already signed up!

Training diary: week 3

With the London Triathlon on Sunday I’d planned in a lighter week than usual. My main goal is the New Forest 70.3 so I didn’t want a proper taper; nonetheless, I want to be sharp and tuned up to put a good performance in on Sunday.

A favourite from my Mike Gratton marathon schedule is the 2 x 15min tempo session; it’s a great way to keep the body used to running quickly without pushing it too hard. The same evening I went to Tooting Bec Lido for the first time: 90m, 19-degrees; it’s a triathlon mecca with tens of athletes using the facility. I tested my new Orca Equip wet suit, then joined fellow Channel swimmers for an hour’s worth of full stroke sets. The remainder of the week has been sharpening sessions for each discipline and sufficient rest, making sure I’m in shape to perform on Sunday.

Week 3 (w/c Sunday 26th July)

Sun: RUN (1hr steady); Mon am: RUN (2 x 15mins / 5mins rec @ 10k pace, pace increasing to 5k in second 15mins); GYM (core and upper body workout); Mon pm: SWIM (3k in 2- and 4-length sets, Tooting Bec 90m Lido); Tue: BRICK (1hr bike, 15mins run easy); Wed: RUN (10 x 200m / 2mins rec @ 3k pace); Thu: SWIM (1hr drills and lengths); Fri: RUN (45mins easy); Sat: Rest day

Weeks 1 & 2

London Triathlon

The route and race details are now online for the London Triathlon. I’ll be starting in Wave 3 at 7.30am, along with this year’s number one F1 driver Jenson Button! Jenson managed a 2h22 time in Windsor last year with a 28m swim, 1h10 bike and 44m run; I don’t expect to see much of him on the race route!

I’ve been searching for a pace calculator for triathlon. For running I like the Cool Running engine for ease of use and flexibility. Although not visually appealing, this calculator offers both pace calculations (in metric and imperial) as well as a total finishing time calculator. 

If I can swim to current form, nail a good bike leg then hang on for a 50 minute 10k I could be on for a 2h46. Tri finish time calculation

This is the course that awaits me on August 2nd (click to enlarge)

London Triathlon Route 09

Notes from the pool

In search of lost time, or Swim for Tri session three

I made a mistake: after session two with Swim for Tri, I didn’t get back in the pool for four weeks. Big mistake. Okay, I ran the London Marathon, I recovered from the London Marathon, I moved house, I was busy with work, I needed bike time ahead of a series of sportives…  Maybe – after the quick success found in sessions one and two, the rapid growth in confidence, the comfort in bilateral breathing, the lowered stroke count – maybe I was over-confident. Or maybe I just under-estimated the work to be done in the pool.

Session three was a refresher. Warm up, rotation and extension drills, then the introduction of some new ‘catch up’ drills for timing. But by the end I just didn’t feel good like before. Where had the confidence gone? And – more importantly – what was I going to do about it?

Enter Clissold Leisure Centre.

Clissold Leisure Centre

Lottery funded, and playing a supporting role in the London Olympics, it’s a cracking facility in Stoke Newington, North London. Pool membership is just £26 per month unlimited usage.

I’ve committed to 3 to 4 swim sessions a week now – no messing around – and this is where I’m going to practise. As Dan Bullock of Swim for Tri says: you have to practise regularly, do drills regularly, avoid time lost through re-learning the movements, regaining feel for the water. The muscles need to learn how to execute the stroke and get used to the additional workload. Dan recommends shorter but more frequent sessions to accomplish this; minimise the time between sessions to maximise muscle memory.

I swam 2k today in around 45 minutes – swimming easy, not pushing it, in a crowded pool – with a stroke count typically 18 per 25m length. I’ve got the feel back for the water. I’m breathing bilaterally all the time (something I wasn’t doing before).

The clock is ticking to 1.5k in the London Triathlon, 1.9k in the New Forest 70.3, and likely 2 x 1-hour stints in the English Channel Team Relay.

The question is: can I make up for those lost four weeks?