Sunday, 30 September 2012

Regained my Mojo - a PB at Barns Green

With the exception of my planned bike / commute on Thursday that never happened (rest day!) I completed my training pretty much as I set out at the beginning of the week.

The big focus this week was my old friend and 'Nemesis' - the Barns Green half-marathon. I really did feel that I could push it more than previous years and despite it being a bit of a lumpy course, try for a personal best (PB) at this distance. I also had some unfinished business with this particular race as my times each year had been getting slower and slower, something I needed to reverse.

My training prior to the race had not been intense but I felt I had done a little more than last year, especially with my recent timed 5km and 10km efforts. In addition I was hoping that my Ironman fitness was still there for at least one more race this season.

The conditions were perfect, the only negative was that I had come prepared to buy a couple of gels at the event but found there to be no stalls selling them. Luckily one of my HAT buddies gave me one to consume before the race. I also was given another half about mile 6 - thanks Gareth- lifesaver!

I set my Garmin up for time, current pace, average pace and distance. The plan was to be slightly under 4:45mins per km (sub 8 min miles). The race always gets off to a fast start and you get swept along, even though you know you are probably going way too fast. I think my first mile took around 7:15 mins. My average pace for the first half was around 4:32 mins per km and took around 47 mins. I felt pretty good throughout but it certainly helped having Gareth run nearby - we helped each other keep a decent pace and would have probably finished together if it he had not had to have a toilet break between mile 9 and 10.

I still managed a sprint finish so may be my pacing was still not perfect and I could have gone harder. However, I was delighted with a PB of 1:37:32 (position, 201 out of 1,319 runners), almost 5 mins quicker than last year, which got me a silver medal.

My 'Nemesis' finally defeated and my Mojo regained - what a great end to the season.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

'Lost my Mojo'

Struggling a bit at the moment with the family-work-fitness balance and training over the last few days took a back seat to some needed DIY and family time - I shouldn't moan because as mentioned on a number of previous posts my intention is to fit all these important elements into my life - sometimes I just get disappointed that I cannot allocate my time a little better.

Anyway I did get in the Saturday Club swim and a Sunday morning run (1:00) before the heavens opened and it rained for the rest of the day.

Last night I had intended to do an hour in the 'cave of pain' on the turbo or a strength session. However, I felt I had 'lost my mojo' and opted to do nothing - not the greatest decision.

Fortunately, I set myself up to 'win' this morning as before I went to bed last night I got everything ready for a bike ride to work (whatever the weather). When you have everything at hand and don't think about it too much you simply go through the motions and before you know it you are out training. After a gentle warm up this morning I did a brief tempo session to get the blood bumping and HR in zone 3 and then dialed it back down for an easy ride to the office. The weather was not too bad and I managed to weave my way through the rain drops without getting too wet.

So the plan for the rest of the week (if I dont lose my mojo again!):

Tue: 2:00 bike commute - mostly Z1-2
Wed: 0:45 run intervals / 1:30 Club swim
Thu: 2:00 bike commute (hilly route / return easy) [Alternative 1:30 brick session (1:00 turbo + 0:30 run)]
Fri: 0:45 run - easy Z1-2
Sat: 1:00 Club swim
Sun: Barns Green half-marathon (hopefully 1:39:59)

I will let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wise words - 25 triathlon lessons

I just received an e-mail from Simon Ward who I must congratulate as he has been competing / coaching in the sport of triathlon for 25 years.

To celebrate his 25 years he came up with 25 lessons as follows - Wise words:

  1. Consistency is the key to success
  2. Results are important but having fun is better
  3. Your body can take a lot more than you think
  4. Triathletes are not indestructible
  5. Recovery is just as important as training
  6. Quality beats quantity most of the time
  7. Just because you are a triathlete and train a lot doesn’t mean you can eat with impunity
  8. Its not about the bike…or the shoes, or the wetsuit
  9. It is about the bike. Being strong here has a direct impact in your ability to run well
  10. There is victory to be taken from every finish, no matter how bad you think the result is
  11. Whatever position you end up, finishing a triathlon means you are still in the top 1% of fit humans.
  12. Keep your training a simple as possible
  13. There are lots of training methods which will help you get to your goals. Just make sure that they cover the 6 principles of training – individuality, Do No Harm, progressive overload, specificity, adaptation, reversal
  14. Unless you earn a living from racing triathlon, chillax a bit and just enjoy the journey
  15. A mid season break is a good idea. An end of season break is non negotiable
  16. There are NO short cuts to getting faster
  17. There are NO training “secrets”
  18. Pace judgement is critical for a good race
  19. Have fun and remember why you started this sport
  20. When seeking fitness improvements look for the “low hanging fruit”
  21. Before you enter races, don’t forget to consult those closest to your first; it will reduce the stress later on
  22. Although triathlon is a solo sport, you couldn’t do it without your support team.
  23. Take time to celebrate and reflect on your achievements; too many people move straight on to the next challenge
  24. There are always lessons to be learnt from every race; find at least one
  25. Take a long term approach to training and racing. Over the years I’ve seen many triathletes come and go and some stay the distance. Those that shot through like a meteor, trained hard, had a fanatical approach and then just like a meteor, burned out and disappeared. Others have taken a long term more laid back approach, enjoyed the sport, made it part of their life and like a powerful star, still burn strong
You can find out more about Simon and his coaching services at

Timed 10km run - slight improvement needed

This morning I completed a timed 10km run along Brighton seafront.

After a brief warm up I set off towards Hove Lagoon and back. The wind was light so had little effect to the overall time. Just after 9km I ran out of seafront a bit and had to include a couple of ramps and turns in the last 1km, which probably added a few seconds but generally it was as good as it gets - decent weather and a relatively flat course.

My total time was 45:56, average HR was 150bpm (max: 159bpm) and pace 4:36mins per km. I pressed the lap button after 5km and recorded the following splits:

L1 22:50, average HR 148bpm and pace 4:34
L2 23:06, average HR 153bpm and pace 4:37

I need to get somewhere close to 43:00 to give myself the best opportunity of PB in the marathon in April so some improvement is needed. After the session I felt OK and recovered quickly, thinking I could push harder on the next attempt.

Runner's World have a fun tool on their website - the Race Time Predictor:

Plugging in my recent 5km timed run of 21:27 I obtained the following predictions:

10km - 0:44:43 (suggesting today's time was on the slow side)
1/2 Marathon - 1:38:34

If I use today's 10km timed run of 45:56 I obtained the following predictions:

1/2 Marathon - 1:41:14

My PB for Barns Green was 1:40:58 so better than my run this morning, however I would have beat my 2010 and 2011 times.

In summary, some improvement is required, although I doubt I will make any further progress between now and the 30th September when Barns Green is scheduled. My focus will be on my 'A race' and beating my PB for the Brighton marathon in April.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Back into winter gear - not the best decision

Decided to cycle into work this morning and thought it best to prepare for the slightly colder mornings (I normally set off around 6:15am) with another layer of clothing - back into winter gear.

It felt the right move as I started off nice and snug and comfortable in the extra layer, however after only 15 mins I realised that I was overdressed for the occasion. My pace was decent this morning, despite being on the old singlespeed machine, recording reasonable speeds during a good part of the ride (30-35km/h), although by the time I reached the office I was dripping in sweat - lucky we have a shower!

Fortunately I came prepared and brought some lighter clothing for the return leg home.

For those interested in the training for this week my draft plan is as follows:

Mon: Push-run strength session 0:40 / Timed 5km run 0:30 [Done]
Tue: Bike - 2hr commute (tempo ride in morning / easy return)
Wed: Timed 10km run 1:00 / Club swim 1:30
Thu: Strength session including turbo warm-up 1:00
Fri: Bike - 2hr commute (hilly route / easy return)
Sat: Club swim 1:00
Sun: Long easy run 2:00

So picking up the volume - a bit more cycling than last week. Easier week to follow as I wish to incorporate a brief taper to Barns Green half marathon on the 30th.

Interesting Sweatshop offer - running community

Before I get into today's topic - a brief training update:

Last week ended up a little different than I planned but the volume was close to target. Wednesday was a big training day with a 2 hour cycle (commute) followed by a tough 1:30 swim session. Thursday and Friday were busy days at work so training unfortunately had to take a back seat (i.e. rest days!). Saturday morning was another Club swim and then the afternoon found me back on the bike with my old Ironman training partner Chris for a 1:30 bike session. As published on my previous IM blog ( Chris suffered some serious problems during the big event and ended up in hospital for a week. On returning home he took approx. 8 weeks off resting (i.e. not training) and getting checked out by a number of medical specialists. Despite this long spell out of the sport I was pleasantly surprised how 'bike fit' and strong he was. We agreed on a rolling course with a killer hill (Steyning Bostal) and Chris pushed the pace from the start - averaging 35km/h on the flat and attacking the hill climb like a man possessed - welcome back Chris!

The Club Aquathon race was cancelled so my week finished with an easy 1 hour run trying out the Digifit application and ANT+ adaptor for my iPhone - unfortunately not the best experience - thank goodness for my trusty Garmin.

Yesterday was a double run session - the morning was a 40min push-run set: a circuit around Preston park stopping to complete 5x exercises every 3-5 mins following a 10min warm up.

The evening was a little different and brings me to the main reason for my blog - the Sweatshop Running Community. Upon passing their Brighton store I noticed they were advertising free weekly runs for the local community. I registered online and was surprised at the level of benefits for a free resource:

1st week - free bottle of Lucozade
5 weeks - free adidas Sweatshop Running Community technical t-shirt
25 weeks - free lucozade nutrition pack
30 weeks - free Sweatshop lifestyle t-shirt
50 weeks - free Garmin Forerunner 610 (worth £329.99) - wow!

I understand that you are supposed to complete the above in a 52 week period and despite having sessions on both Monday and Wednesday are only allowed to record one stamp a week. So it may be a challenge to record 50 stamps in a year but a very nice reward if you can make it.

The session was managed by Sweatshop staff and a qualified running leader and consisted of a brief warm up and a timed 5km run along Brighton seafront. The wind was pretty severe in one direction, which raised the heart rate high early in the run, although was easier on the return. I went with the 2nd group and faster runners with a sub 25 min target. 2 athletes shot off and were well out of my league. I did quite well and recorded a 21:31 time (similar to my recent timed 5km run, although on that occasion with little wind). All in all a good session and a nice group of runners to train with. I expect I will join them again although the Monday and Wednesday session overlap with my Tri Club's swimming sessions so unlikely it is something I will be able to commit to each week - shame, I would have liked that watch!

Details of Sweatshop Running Community can be found via the following link:

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Track session report

Missed this morning's scheduled run so decided to attend the fortnightly track session (Tuesday at 7pm) at Broadbridge Heath Sports Centre.

Our running coach (Tony G) unfortunately did not turn up but that didn't stop us having a decent training session. 6 of the HAT club members who attended (including me) completed a warm up, some dynamic stretching and drills before the main pyramid set of:

2x 200m
2x 400m
1x 800m
2x 400m
2x 200m

My running was quite consistent and I logged the following times:

200m: 0:46, 0.46, 0:45, 0:39
400m: 1:31, 1:32, 1:31, 1:30
800m: 3:01

The only set that was out of line was my last 200m where I found a bit more energy - always like to keep something back for the finish!

We finished with a cool down and some stretching - a decent session, well done Gareth for recommending the sets.

More likely now to complete my easy cycle tomorrow (commute to work and return) and leave the timed 10km to another week, given I now plan to compete in the Club Aquathon on Sunday morning, which involves a 1km swim and 10km run. Best to save my legs to then and use that as a base 10km time.

Other than that I remain relatively on track to complete the scheduled training for this week.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Week ahead - more focus on running

Enjoyed a long off-road run on Sunday morning up on the South Downs - the great weather helped. I kept the pace easy on the flat (Z1-2) but it rose to Z4-5 on the main climp up to Chanctonbury ring (pictured). Also an opportunity to catch up on some of my favourite triathlon podcasts (Zen and the Art of Triathlon and Training Bible Coaching). Got home and was really juiced for the rest of the day.

Last week I logged about 40km of running. As I get closer to my next 'B' race - Barns Green Half-Marathon where I desperately wish to beat my time last year (and ideally my PB on the course) I will continue to focus on the running - adding in cycling and swimming for cross-training and recovery benefits. In previous years I have simply turned up on the start line for Barns Green and gone through the motion (typical 'end of season' event) - as a result my race times have got slower. This year I am determined to at least give it a go and train accordingly. The race is on the 30th September so not long to go.

Played around with the Annual Training Plan on Training Peaks last night, entering some potential goals for races for 2012/3 season. I need a bit more fine tuning and will report back once perfected. Meanwhile, post Barns Green I am considering building a base over the winter months in preparation for my 'A' races next year - Brighton marathon in April and a 70.3 triathlon event (race yet to be decided) in the summer of 2013.

This week I have booked in 10 hours of training to look something like the following:

Mon - 0:30 run (Z1-2 recovery + 5x intervals) / 0:30 strength
Tue - 0:50 run (base building, mostly Z1-2)
Wed - 1:00 timed 10km run / 1:30 Club Swim
Thu - 2:00 Easy bike Z1-2
Fri - 0:30 run (high cadence) / 0:30 strength
Sat - 1:00 Club Swim / 0:30 (Z1-2 recovery + 5x intervals)
Sun - 1:10 Club Aquathon event - 1000m swim + 10km run

Let's see how close I get to the plan!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Friday update

Just about to leave the office for the weekend and thought I would bring the blog up to date.

Following my timed 5km run on Wednesday morning I attended the 1:30 Club swim that evening. Coach MT likes to incorporate some strength training as we approach the end of the season and during the winter months. After a number of 50m sets the lane ropes were removed and we swum a number of 'pyramid' sets using the width rather than length of the pool. Diving starts were included and 'press-up punishment' was handed out for any swimmer going too early - all good fun!

Thursday was an easy day, giving the legs a bit of a rest, although I did get in 20 mins strength exercises in the evening.

This morning more strength work with what I call my 'Push-Run' session - 6km of mostly easy running around Preston Park with 6 stops, normally at park benches, to complete 10x push-ups, dips, lunges, squats and step-ups. Might jump on the turbo tonight although when I get home I am sure I will just want to chill, so may be not, we'll see (already talking myself out of it!)

Tomorrow Club Swim and possibly run. Sunday morning I would like to try to get in either an easy longer run or cycle (min. 2 hours).

That is it for this week - main goal for next week is to do a timed 10km.

Have a great weekend and see you soon. Happy training.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Aging Athlete - extract from Joe Friel's blog

As mentioned in previous posts I am making every effort to include a bit of strength training into my plan.

Just read an interesting post from Joe Friel's blog on the subject - extract below:

The Aging Athlete - Getting Older, Getting Faster, by Joe Friel
(The following first appeared in my interview with Performance Conditioning for Cycling Newsletter.)

Old athletes are old for many diverse reasons. But the primary one is due to their relatively slow rate of recovery following stressful workouts. Someone can be “old” at age 35 due to a poor rate of recovery. On the other hand, I’ve coached athletes in their 60s who recovered very quickly and so by this definition were still “young.” In fact, recovery is probably the key to performance at all ages, but especially so for aging athletes who appear to have the deck stacked against them. But there are also other reasons for declining performance with aging.

For the purpose of this discussion let’s say that one is "old" over age 50. By this age it is usually apparent that an athlete is experiencing several life- and performance-altering physical changes: lower levels of testosterone, lost muscle mass, increased risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis (especially in cyclists and swimmers), an increased tendency for acid-base imbalance further contributing to bone and muscle loss, a greater propensity for weight gain, lost soft tissue elasticity with an increased likelihood of injury, reduced enzyme activity, less tolerance for heat, and more. It isn’t pretty.

So it appears that aging athletes are fighting an uphill battle. But for most I don’t believe the issue is aging so much as it is detraining, misuse and disuse. We simply fail to adequately and appropriately change our lifestyles and training regimens as we get older. When younger ones can make more mistakes in lifestyle and training without significant negative consequences for performance. As we age there is less latitude for mistakes. For example, temporarily cutting back on training only exacerbates the problems when the aging athlete once again trains seriously. When younger the same athlete may well have bounced back quickly from a break in training. So one example of a critical issue as we get older is training consistency.

For the aging athlete training and lifestyle must adapt. Something has to change to maintain or even improve performance. My experiences as a coach and as an athlete in my seventh decade of life tell me that the focus for the aging athlete must be in four areas:

Workout intensity. There are only three elements of training for a given sport that can be manipulated to produce fitness: workout duration, workout intensity and workout frequency. As we age there is a tendency to increase duration at the expense of intensity. Workouts become longer and slower as weekly volume becomes the focus of training. The aging athlete needs to do just the opposite if he or she is to perform at a high level despite the aging process. Workouts above 80% intensity factor (just below and above anaerobic/lactate threshold) with an emphasis on muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance and sprint power (see my Training Bible books for details) should be the basis of their training two or three times each week - not lots of long, slow distance This change typically results in shorter training sessions but higher weekly average intensity. Such change stimulates testosterone release and helps to maintain muscle mass.

Strength training. Lifting weights is one of the best ways the aging athlete can build bone density while also stimulating testosterone release to maintain muscle mass. The use of heavy loads with traditional strength training is what is needed to accomplish these goals. Such training should include loading the legs which requires a great deal of planning so as not to impact sport-specific training in the build period (this is not necessary for runners to maintain leg and hip bone density). An alternative for the cyclist or swimmer who prefers not to load the legs in the weight room is walking or running several miles each week. I suspect that body-weight only exercises such as squats, step ups or lunges are not as effective as lifting heavy loads or the impact loading of walking and especially running when the purpose is bone density. Such training should be done frequently and regularly but vary with the season. Research suggests that this will ma intain or even improve the aging athlete’s bone and muscle health. You can rebuild bone and muscle despite how old you are.

Sleep. Younger athletes can make many mistakes in training and still perform at a high level. Aging athletes can’t. This is certainly true when it comes to recovery. As we get older adequate sleep is especially important. If you follow my suggested guidelines above, training will become more intense and serious strength training (or walking or running) adds to the accumulating physical stress. Sleep regularity, quantity and quality are necessary to allow the body to cope with this stress for it's during sleep that the body releases testosterone. Aging athletes must be very careful not to compromise sleep in order to fit more activities into their daily lives. The standard I use to determine if an athlete is getting enough sleep is this: If you have to use an alarm clock to wake up in the morning then you didn't get enough sleep. Go to bed earlier.

Nutrition. After sleep, the second most effective modality for improving recovery is nutrition. There are two primary areas of concern: adequate macronutrients, especially carbohydrate and protein, in the recovery period immediately following a high-stress workout, and a micronutrient-dense (vitamins and minerals) diet for the remainder of the day. The first requires taking sugar during a long and intense workout (water is all that is needed during short workouts) with starch consumed in the recovery window. These during-exercise and recovery foods are micronutrient-poor but necessary for restocking glycogen (stored carbohydrate) for the serious athlete (note that if you work out an hour or less a day then you don't need to be concerned with restocking glycogen). Once short-term recovery is achieved the athlete should greatly reduce the intake of starch and sugar. The emphasis should then be on micronutrients. The most micronutrient-dense foods are vegetables, fruits and animal protein. Akaline foods (fruits and vegs) have also been shown to improve acid-base balance. (As repeatedly demonstrated in research, an acidic diet due to a high consumption of cheese, grains and legumes escalates the loss of bone minerals and muscle mass. This is explained in Dr. Loren Cordain's and my book, The Paleo Diet for Athletes.)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

5km morning test - more to come

Quick update following last post:

Mon - Run interval set - completed a brief warm up and then 10x (30 sec sprints / 30 sec rest). Cool down to finish. Done in 35 mins. Brief strength exercises in the evening, although should have done more.

Tue - Appox. 70km on the bike. 40km in the morning - commute into Brighton via Partridge Green, Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks, Keymer and then over Ditchling Beacon (9 mins of climbing) into Brighton - relatively easy pace Z1-2 (Z4 on hills), 1:40 in time. Return commute - Z1-2 pace again, some hill work but less than morning - another hour in the bank. Some stretching exercises on the foam roller before bed.

This morning I decided to do a bit of a test and after an initial 10 min warm up ran at above my normal race pace to complete a base time for a 5km distance. Following from my last post I am interested to building up my 5km, 10km, half-marathon PBs in preparation for an attempt of a PB in the Brighton marathon - that's the theory. My plan is to devote one running session a week for test data, which hopefully is a better way of monitoring my progress.

My main goals are to complete a 10km in 43 minutes and a half-marathon in 1 hour 37 minutes prior to April next year.

So the results from the first test data today:

5km ran in 21:27 - average of 4:17 mins per km (or 7:05 mins per mile). Average HR of 153bpm (Z4-5). I certainly felt some discomfort but not total exhaustion and believe there is room for improvement. If I was back at my Ironman weight (2-3 pounds lighter) and worked on my cadence (leg turnover speed) I reckon I could realistically aim for between 20-21 mins - although could I ever break 20 mins? Probably not without quite a bit more training.

Will try a 10km test next week to see how far away from 43 mins I am - I expect around 45 mins is more likely to be my first attempt.

I will keep you briefed on my progress.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Southwater Tri Relay - fun marshalling

Little training over the weekend. A decent Club swim on Saturday - lots of fast 50s (diving starts) followed by recovery 100m sets. At least I got 2 swims in this week, which should the minimum. Ideally need to build back up to 3 sessions.

Our annual club event was on Sunday - the Southwater Tri Relay, which I was very happy to marshal rather than compete. It is a great event and though I have enjoyed competing in the past, watching the full race and helping the competitors exit from the lake swim is even more fulfilling. Some competitors grab you like their life depends on it and others fly out and on to the next discipline. That is the real beauty of the sport in that you have the first time novice competing with the seasoned pros and age-groupers. As I have previously highlighted it really makes me proud to be involved with the sport. However fast or slow there are a growing number of people that want to get off the couch, get fit and just 'Do It'.

My week is not looking too bad so I hope to continue with my short term goal of getting at least 2 sessions of each sport (including 1-2 strength sets) in over the coming days. This morning I completed a short run interval session - simple 15 min warm up, 10x intervals (30 secs sprint + 30 secs rest), 10 min cool down - job done! This evening I hope to get in the 'cave of pain' for a strength session. Then Tuesday it is on the bike - the weather is not looking too bad so I may extend the ride (commute) to include Ditchling Beacon.

I am hoping to get my name down for Barn's Green half marathon at the end of this month (30th Sept) - this race is my nemesis - the first time I ran it I did my knee in and finished above 2 hours. The following year I managed a decent time but since then (2 years ago) I have clocked slower times. I know I am getting older but my training has certainly increased (improved?) over the years so I have no excuse. May be it is just one of those events at the end of the season where I just go through the motion rather than try my very best. I would really like to get a PB this year, despite it being quite a challenging race.

Race times for Barn's Green half-marathon:

2008 - 2:03:03
2009 - 1:40:58
2010 - 1:41:17
2011 - 1:43:29
2012 ?

Looking ahead at PB's - I would also like to beat my marathon PB of 3:45:20. A 3:30 marathon is approximately 8:00 per mile (sub 5:00 per km). I know to get anywhere near a 3:30 marathon I need to do sub 1:40 half-marathon (ideally around 1:37 - my PB was at Brighton 1:38:46) and sub 43:00 10Ks.

There is a decent looking 16-week plan for running a marathon sub 3:30 on Runner's World, which you can also download to a Garmin:

Obviously I need to build in all the cross training in the pool and on the bike - not really appropriate for a triathlete, although I like the idea of setting myself some PB goals at 5K, 10K, and half-marathon distance in preparation for Brighton full marathon in April next year.

Might try incorporating a 5K run at race-pace this week to see what I can do and then build to 10K (ideally close to 43:00).

E-Bike adventure

I know, you must be thinking 'E-Bike adventure'.... that's it, he has finally given in to old age, no more 'Tri Hard Dave...