It’s got to be one of the hardest things to do. To learn how to race an event that’s at least twice as long as any you have ever done before and even if you have done it before you often only get to do it once or maybe twice a year if you’re lucky. I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of excellent coaches since I started racing Ironman and what I’ve learned in that time is that the best of them not only gave me a program to do but they also taught me how to train and more importantly how to race Ironman. Sometimes they’d tell me something, sometimes they’d show me. My favourite lessons were the ones that taught me a skill that I could use on race day. Peter Kern my first Ironman coach regularly got into the open water with me and showed me how to draft both on his feet and on his hip, he taught me to swim in close proximity with another swimmer and not freak out. Another time he ran my long intervals with me telling me to speed up or slow down based on my breathing, telling me to be aware of it at the correct effort. He was big on training and racing on percieved effort. He was the first coach I worked with and through specific sessions and one on one coaching he taught me my first lessons in racing Ironman.
I’ve been debating what to say in this weeks blog. 3 sessions in a week does not a Kona qualifier make. Admitting I’m having problems feels like admitting to failure but something’s not right and hasn’t been for a quite some time. The training hasn’t been having the usual effect and I don’t seem to be getting the resulting gains in speed and fitness I normally do with the level of training I’ve been doing. It’s been gnawing away at the back of my head that something’s wrong but I kept on telling myself it would come good in time. I also kept on telling myself that it was just the training volume and load that had me constantly tired but I think there’s something more than that. I’m seeing a doctor next week and we will hopefully get some answers. Anyway Let’s get on with this weeks fairly short update.
Someone contacted me recently to say that they had been following the blog and enjoyed it (thank you, it’s a relief to know that someone is reading and enjoying) and asked if I had race reports of any of my Ironman races. I told him I would go and find them and post them up here over the next few weeks. I will start with my first attempt at qualifying for Kona at Ironman UK in 2011. I have changed it slightly editing a couple of spelling mistakes and adding a couple of small details so it’s a fairly accurate telling of the race while it was fresh in my mind. Of course my recollections of the day now five years later are slightly coloured by time. I still think this was one of my best executed races ever and one that taught me some of the most important lessons about racing Ironman. I have called it a race report despite the fact that pro triathlete Jesse Thomas warns against that here. I just cant think of another more exciting yet fitting title at the moment. I hope you’re not put off by it and that it brings some small bit of enjoyment to your day. Anyway lets get on with it.
Ironman UK Irish results. Kona slots, podiums, wins, records, highlights & an Irish Challenge Roth result
What an epic day spent spectating at Ironman UK. Funny enough it’s my first time to watch an Ironman and I think it will be my last. If I’m going to go to the trouble of traveling then getting out of bed at 4am I would rather be doing a swim bike and run rather than just watching. Seeing the swim start gave me goosebumps that didn’t really go away all day. I can normally watch a race without feeling the need to partake but this was different, I just wanted to be out there. We had traveled to watch four friends who were racing. One broke the bike course record, led the race at one point against some of the strongest European and UK pros won not only his age group but the age group race overall and placed 5th beating over half of the pros. Two were there for their first Ironman’s. One of them got onto the podium and finished 68th the other was 182nd despite spending close to 20 minutes in transition. I’m not pointing any fingers but you need to sort that shit out Eoin. The fourth was chasing a Kona slot, an increasingly hard thing to do and was in the hunt until the last hour but still managed a top 10 age group performance. We had another athlete racing Challenge Roth who fairly stormed through the field after a decent swim. We didn’t have access to the tracker so were being sent updates from home but I believe he passed almost 1000 people on the bike and just kept on moving up through the run in one of the best executed Ironman’s I’ve seen. Read More
Total training hours doesn’t always tell the whole story. Most of the time For me 18 hours is a good amount of training for the week but at this stage the quality of it is probably more important. Considering I didn’t get a long run or bike in this week hitting 18 hours is pretty good but not getting two of my key sessions done isn’t.
I’m not a Froome fan, or at least I wasn’t. I’m not too sure why but I just never took to him. But his actions this week in racing aggressively, attacking when tradition suggest he probably shouldn’t like on a descent or on a flat stage meant for the sprinters and taking time from his main rivals in both instances is starting to win me over. Yesterday evening Ais called me when I was in work excitedly asking if I’d seen the Tour? Of course not I answered I work much too hard to be watching cycling when I should be working….
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Paul Simon / Simon & Garfunkel
Sometimes it’s hard not to worry about the numbers, but the problem with training numbers is that they rarely give us good news. Our average speed is never as fast as that day last year when we smashed everyone, our run pace is never quite a good as that race when we set a new pb and our swim splits….well you know where I’m going with this. Training is just training, and for Ironman we spend so much of our time tired that we rarely go as fast as we would like in training. As Ais like to remind me that “you’re never as fast as that day you were fast” Luckily enough the aim is to be fast on race day, not every other day.
I woke Monday feeling great which is a really good sign considering the fact that I did close to 7 hours training the previous day. It really shows that the training is working. I feel like I’ve spent the last 6 months just getting fit enough to train properly. It’s taken that long for the body to adapt to the constantly increasing loads and now at last I’m comfortably getting through a 7 hour day and feeling good afterwards. I’m really looking forward to some more hard, long days as I think they too will start to deliver bigger improvement as I’m becoming better able to cope with them.
I had a bit of a penny dropping moment recently. Recovery is one of those words that’s thrown around regarding endurance sports. There’s now a whole industry built up around it. There are all sorts of devices, gadgets, clothing, food, drinks even lotions and soaps to help you recover faster, better, stronger. I think however there are three things that above all else speed up recovery and improvement. They are rest/sleep, real food and the correct application of training. I’m sure a lot of the other stuff may also help but if you don’t get enough good quality sleep, eat the right food and time the correct sessions appropriately then massage boots and protein bars aren’t going to do you much good.
This week I manage to hit 20 hours for the first time in a while and on Sunday I have a real breakthrough session, not just because of how well it went but also because of how quickly I recovered after it. After months of slogging through hard slow bike rides I’m starting to see results. Ironman is such a long slow process, and progress seems particularly slow and hard in the early stages but if you just keep on ticking off the sessions and doing the work the results inevitably come.