Category: Project Kona 3.0

Chasing Kona: The Book

I feel like I’m straining against an invisible leash. My legs saying ‘to hell with it let’s go’, my head saying ‘don’t be a clown’. I pass the three-kilometer marker. My legs have settled after the cycle and every part of me is grateful to be upright and not crouched down over my tri-bars. I shake my arms, working out the stiffness from the bike and my Garmin beeps to tell me I’ve done another kilometer. That was quick, I think. My pace is now bang on target but it still feels way too easy. I tell myself to have patience but the fear of being caught is building inside me again. I look over my shoulder, but there’s still no one close to me. Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona 5 Weeks to go “guilty pleasures”

I was 3300 meters into the planned 4k swim when I saw Patrick gliding effortlessly through the water towards me. “Shite” I thought, and not for the usual reasons. I wasn’t worried that he’d be kicking lumps out of me. Patrick was on an easy week after swimming the channel last week. I was also almost out of time and needed to go to work so there would at least be a limit to my Patrick imposed suffering.

Rather I was thinking “shite” because Patrick is very old school and looks at us triathletes with all of our swim toys with derision. I knew if he saw me all banded, pull-buoyed and paddled up then I was in for some stick. So I was hoping to finish the last 400m of the 5 x 400 set with my paddles, pull buoy and band before he arrived. Unfortunately I’d timed it rather badly because there he was.

And now I was caught playing with my toys.

And with less than 50m to go too. Shite.

If he had arrived 2 minutes later I’d have had my guilty pleasure and he would have been none the wiser.

Damn, here he comes.

Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona: 6 Weeks to go

Walking into the pool this morning Ais left me in no doubt that the next four weeks are going to be tough. She’s happy with where my run is but still feels that the swim and bike are the weak(er) links. Having one weak link isn’t necessarily a disaster but two would be a problem.
I’ve been given my orders.
1. No more missed swims. Minimum of three times a week in the water.
2. After that every spare minute for the next four weeks is to be spent on the bike. Which today as we are having something of a three day Indian summer in Dublin sounds like all of my birthdays have come at once. If the weathers nasty for a five hour ride though I might not be as excited.
Three years ago after back surgery I spent two months flat on my back unable to swim, bike, run or even walk very far. It taught me that even a hard, wet or cold day on the bike is better than that experience.
Even aside from being physically able to train I always feel very lucky at just how supportive Aisling is of my Ironman stuff. I talk to lots of people who have to quit the sport because it causes too much friction at home, or because they work or commute insane hours, or they’ve just had a baby and training suddenly drops from being one of the most important parts of their day to being something that they are lucky to do twice a week.
The next time I complain about how hard it is to train in Ireland feel free to give me a metaphorical (or an actual one if you live locally) kick in the arse.
For anyone who’s feeling sorry for themselves that they got wet or cold on their last bike ride.
Suck it up.
You should instead feel a little bit epic that you were one of the hard ones who suffered through it.
I’m sure that this will garner me all sorts of rants from those who don’t agree but fuck it. I’ve said it.
Anyway let’s get on with how the week went. Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona: 7 Weeks to go

The risk with pushing our limits is that we may push too far and instead of making breakthrough gains we just break down. After my first thirty hour training week in a long time. Actually it was 27 hours training in only four days, I came home ready for a day off and hoping for a few easier days after that.
I had the hoped for day off and then Ais had me do a 16k run on Tuesday which went reasonably well given how tired and sore my legs were. The problem started on Tuesday night when I woke around 3am with the beginnings of a cold/flu. I believe it was the combination of returning home in a very depleted state after the weekends training and as a result being particularly susceptible to infection.
An infection which was already running rampant through the house, Cillian and Ais were both already sick.
Ok so running rampant is probably a bit strong and sick is also probably a slight exaggeration. They had a cold which I then caught.
But it was a nasty cold.
Ok not so nasty, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant. And it did screw with my training plans during the middle of the week.
Anyway let’s move on and see just how it all went. Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona: 8 Weeks to go

As we hit the last ramp I came off John’s wheel like I’d been shot out of a cannon.
I was out of the saddle.
Full gas.
Dropping major watt bombs all over the road.
Feeling like a legend in my own underpants.
I was sure I had it this time.
He wasn’t going to come around me with this attack.
Then out of the corner of my eye I could see him come by me and instead of inching up alongside he shot past and immediately opened a bike length.
It seems John had the bigger watt bombs and he was busily dropping them all over the joint.
I pushed harder and stabilised the gap. I still had the legs to hammer all the way to the top but not quite enough to close him down.
I held him at just over a bike length all the way to the top but for the second time in two years John took the final and all important climb to the top of Howth head. The one that everyone remembers.
Next year I’m just gonna push him off the damn bike into the bushes at the foot of the climb.

That little showdown was on Sunday. I’d had four days and almost 700km on the bike since Thursday. I’d also gotten a couple of swims and a run done. It made up the biggest training block I’ve done in a long time and I was pretty happy with how I was handling it.
Happy with all except the fact that John had managed to scalp me at the top of every climb bar one and if I’m honest that was only because I had a bit of a head start on him.
I did however take the only flat sprint of the week, but that is little consolation for someone who considers themselves a climber first and a sprinter not at all.
I am consoling myself with the thought that it was a really solid block of training and despite the fact that Friday was a 3k swim, 162k bike and a 6k run I felt none the worse for wear on Saturday or Sunday which had a combined 330k of riding.

Anyway that’s enough about that. Read on for all the details Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona 2017: 10 Weeks to go

When we (I rarely think of this as my Ironman. I think of myself and Ais very much as a team) first set out to qualify for Kona back in 2011 we took on the guidance of a coach.
The first eight days under his guidance I did 28 hours of training which culminated in a sprint triathlon. I placed third overall and won my age group (it was a small race) I’d never done either of those things before and I felt like I’d just been let in on “the big secret”
If you want to get fast you just have to do a shit-ton of training. In the beginning it’s not as important what type of training you do so much as just doing a lot. When you go from an average of 6 hours a week to a 28 hour week just the massive overload will cause all of the adaptations you could hope for.

Either that or it’ll break you. Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona: 11 Weeks to go

I was talking the other day to a very good Ironman coach who also happens to be a psychologist (it’s funny how you think that they can read all sorts of things about you by what you say, or don’t say) anyway, one of the things we talked about was how training was going and also if the Kona project was on track.
I was telling him that this year was going a lot better than last and that one of the reasons was that I felt last year I’d very much underestimated how difficult it would be to return to the sort of fitness required to qualify for Kona.
As much as I hate to admit it there was a part of me that thought “I’ve done this twice before, I know what to do and that I can be successful again” and as a result I think I was very complacent in a number of ways.
Not ticking all of the boxes like getting regular massage or enough early nights or eating too much cake (I’m still struggling with this one…) and the biggest one of course was skipping sessions.
When you’re going to be one of the athletes chasing one of the last slots in the age group making sure that you do everything possible, i.e. All of the marginal gains (assuming you’ve done the required training and race well) is often the difference between those who qualify and those who don’t.
When athletes getting a slot or not might only separated by seconds or minutes over a 9 or 10 hour race. The slot may well go to the person who not only did all of the work but to the one who was also a little bit insane about the details too.

If I’m not already then maybe I need to get a bit crazy…. Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona 2017: 13 Weeks to go

Getting ready for bed on Thursday Ais asked me “What’s on your plan for tomorrow?”
“I’m down to swim” I answered “but I’m really tired, maybe I’ll sleep on instead and skip it” I added hopefully.
What I was thinking was ” I don’t want to” the voice in my head sounded like a petulant child.
I waited for Ais to tell me to take it easy, rest, sleep in, you need it, it’s been a good week so far, you’ve worked hard and deserve a lie on.
What she actually said was…
“Tell it to the guy who gets your Kona slot that you were tired and skipped your swim”
I knew she was right and I sheepishly resolved to get up and go to the pool.
But then eight hours later when the alarm went off I failed. I knocked it off telling myself I’d swim in the evening after work.

But I never swim after work so I knew it was bullshit.
It turns out I was right about it being bullshit. And I didn’t swim in the evening. In fact I compounded the failure by ordering pizza on the way home from work for dinner.
So that was how Friday went. Read on for the rest of the week…

Read More

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Robs Blog: Chasing Kona: 14 Weeks to go

For years I’ve maintained that Ironman is a “big picture” sport. I liken it to painting the gable end of a house. For a job like that you wouldn’t use a 1″ detail brush. Rather you would select the biggest paint roller you could manage. The roller wouldn’t work very well for the small details but it would get 95% of the work done.
If all you did to train for Ironman is a long bike, long run and a long swim and you do those every week you would most likely get through the distance just fine. Whether you ride easy or hard, hills or flat is much less important than the fact that you’ve spent 5-6 hours on your bike. The same goes for the run and the swim.
Of course there are sessions that are more effective than others but in essence if you focus on getting the the big “bread and butter” stuff done consistently you’ve gone a long way towards being successful.

Sometimes the small details can derail the big picture.

There is also the argument that you should do everything you can to maximise your race day performance. Aero bike, helmet, fast clothing, bike fit and race day nutrition. These are all the details. Some details are certainly more important than others, some save you more time but in essence they contribute a very small amount when compared to what a lot of training will do for your overall speed.

I’ve been playing around with my bike position recently. I found it hard to get it right ever since having back surgery back in 2014. I think I finally have it mostly right now and I’m seeing better speeds and feeling much more powerful than I have done in a number of years. I was still tweaking (not twerking) the position to try to perfect it and I was feeling like I was a bit low in the saddle on a couple of the rides so I decided to try a small change during the week and raised the saddle by about 10mm. I did a couple of sessions and it felt fine.

Monday saw me set out to do one of my favourite run sessions. It was a 2.5 hour run which was to include 4 x 15 minutes hard off a 3 minute jog recovery. I was just starting the third interval when I felt something go at the top of my hamstring. Right at the point where it connects to the glute. I kept on running trying to decide if I should push through and get the session done or if in doing so I’d make matters worse. The pain continued to grow and I was starting to run with a hitch in my stride as I tried to alter my gait to lessen the soreness and run around the injury.

With the pain was worsening I decided to pull the plug. I slowed to an easy jog and turned for home. But as the pain subsided to a dull ache I started to doubt my choice to back off and after a couple of minutes of easy running I decided to try to push again. Just to be sure. As soon as I did the pain worsened and the hitch in my stride turned to a proper limp. Satisfied that I had actually done some damage and that I would only make matters worse by continuing I backed off and jogged home.

It was only a couple of days later while doing a customers bike fit in the shop that it clicked and I made the connection between raising my saddle and pulling the hamstring. Having the saddle too high would be a common cause of irritation or injury at exactly the point where I had an issue, where the hamstring connects at the glute. I went back to my previous saddle height and after a sports massage and a couple of days of easy biking and swimming and no running I was fine and made a full return to training.

I guess it’s easy to be dismissive about how important the small details are when you’re dealing with something as big as Ironman. It’s also easy to think you know everything when you’ve been involved in the sport in so many different ways for so many years. As a specialist retailer, bike fitter, coach and athlete. However I was reminded yet again this week that despite being involved in triathlon for over 15 years I am not yet immune to making silly, amateur mistakes.

Luckily that same experience that didn’t stop me making the mistake did however allow me identify the cause of the problem once it had arisen and I was able to correct it very quickly.

It’s good to be reminded every so often that I’m only 10mm away from being a complete tool.

It’s a humbling sport.

Anyway lets get on with how the training went.

Monday 31 1:30 (1)

Run 1:30 17k

This is the session that I talked about in the introduction to the post. I got through two of the long intervals before pulling up.

Tuesday 1


  • Energy 7/10
  • Motivation 7/10
  • Work —
  • Sleep 8 hours. good

Wednesday 2 2:25 (2)

Swim 1:20 3900m
Run 1:05 12k

Easy run today to test the leg and see if it’s ok after Mondays session. I could still feel it but I’d only rate it at maybe 2-3/10 and didn’t worsen at all while running easy so I was happy to do the hour Ais had me down for. When I say happy I was actually knackered and dragging my arse through the session and constantly fighting the urge to just go for coffee and cake.

  • Energy 6/10
  • Motivation 5/10
  • Work 9 hours
  • Sleep 8 hours. Disturbed and broken. Because of an over indulgence of desert. Again. I really need to sort my shit out

Thursday 3 4:00 (2)

AM Bike 3:30 84k
PM Bike :30 13k easy commute

  • Energy 6/10
  • Motivation 8/10
  • Work 10 hours
  • Sleep 8h40

Friday 4:00 (2)

Swim 1:25 4100
PM bike run brick. 2:35 68.5k. (Bike 1:45 57.5k. Run :50 11k)
Session notes: (bike 30, run 15) x 3 times treadmill and turbo
Bike 15 easy, 15 threshold, run 15 threshold
I had the treadmill set to 12kph 5/min/k but it read as 4:40/k on the Garmin. Felt more like 4:40/k effort so that’s what I’m going to tell myself that it was. Either way I felt really good on the runs and only felt ok on the bike. I think my power is still low.

  • Energy 6/10
  • Motivation 9/10
  • Work 6 hours.
  • Sleep 8 hours. Disturbed

Saturday 5 1:5 (1)

Run 1:25 16k

Parkrun 20:20 7th

Legs were tired and heavy and after the first 2k I just couldn’t maintain the pace/effort I’d started at despite it being almost exactly the same as I’ve been running for the first 2k as the last few weeks parkrun. I could definitely feel the fatigue and heaviness from last nights session in the legs.

  • Energy 8/10
  • Motivation 9/10
  • Work 6 hours
  • Sleep 8 hours. Good.

Sunday 6 6:00 (2)

AM Bike 5:35 160k
PM Bike :25 10k

  • Energy 7/10
  • Motivation 8/10
  • Work 5 hours
  • Sleep 6.5 good

  • Total 19:20 (10)
  • Swim 2:45 8000m (2)
  • Bike 11:45 324.5k (5)
  • Run 4:50 56k (4)
  • S&C —

The hours are ramping up now and there’s much less leeway to skip sessions particularly the important ones. The bike is the area that we are looking to work on over the next period as we feel it’s going to be key. Ais thinks that my run is in good shape but I think that she’s concerned that if the bike takes too much out of me I just wont be able to use my run fitness as I will have to work too hard on the bike.

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