Month: August 2014

Sheep

My main concern with attempting Ironman Wales is that of failure.

I guess failure comes in many different shapes and sizes, but for whatever reason if I don’t finish within the cut-off I, like most will genuinely view it as a failure.

Half of me thinks that there is surely no way somebody who struggled to run pre Outlaw and managed to complete that in sub 13hrs should lose 4hrs in 7 weeks to be threatening the cut off at the same distance event.

But when you break it down its quite scary just how potentially easy it could be done.

The swim involves the sea, which can be brutal to times (granted it can also do wonders for them), its loops so you get to run a bit along the sand as well which may or may not hinder (last time I had this type of swim exit I got carried away on the re-entry and briefly lost my goggles). No getting away from the fact that my 65 minutes at Outlaw was towards the top end of my ability so if I have an average day and then the weather is against me– that potentially quite quickly adds 15 / 20 minutes to my swim time all in.

Tenby is unique in terms of the hilly run to T1, so much so that you are advised to strip on the beach and you have to have a set of trainers to solely run up the harbour side in. I think it’s about a kilometre in total but the climb must be pretty impressive over that distance so that’s potentially easily another 10 minutes.

So that’s potentially 30 minutes down on where I was at Outlaw and I haven’t even looked at my bike yet.

Fair to say that the biggest difference I expect to come whilst sat upon my trusty steed. Wales is hilly, 1750 metres of climb with the majority back loaded towards the end of the ride so chances are I will already be fairly cooked by that point. I am a big lad, I am not designed to go up hills quickly – it often surprises me that I manage any sort of hills given my shape and size and how hard it makes my heart rate work.

I have been practising since Outlaw and attempting to build in hills to almost every ride I have done – doing loops of some of the closest and biggest hills to me. However due to time restrictions and commitments I haven’t managed to complete a 70+mile ride with 1750 metres of gain (which was my aim) – the closest I have come is 1500 metres in 39 miles which was a painful and generally slow (average 14.2 mph) event. That said the ride was abandoned due to the tyre almost trying to kill me coming down a hill. I have never heard a tyre explode with such force and never seen one actually rip apart the wall of the tyre, rendering it impossible to fix roadside and resulted in me having to call a taxi to come and collect me. Because I was in the welsh hills on minor roads I had to trot down the road in my socks to reach a main road for collection which was an interesting experience with my current toe situation. The strange thing is I don’t even remember hitting anything, one moment I was going downhill enjoying the scenery the next I was hanging on for dear life as the back stepped out and I lost control, including a none working rear brake.

After I surveyed the damage and calmed down I just sat there thinking how lucky I had been not to seriously injure myself or by the looks of it wreak the bike (tyre aside, that said two days later a spoke went on the wheel set and I think that must have been connected to the bashing it took) – nice bit of perspective applied to the training.

Anyway – short story is I climb badly, I climb slowly and it knackers me out dis-proportionally to the progress I make. My bike split on the flatlands of Outlaw was 5:47, with the hills of Wales I could easily be looking at the wrong side of 7 ½ hours for Tenby. That’s not me being all doom and gloom, that’s a potentially realistic finish time, given that I have heard that even the downhill sections are tricky and technical. If the weather is welsh like it, it has the potential to be windy and rainy to boot, instead of nice sunshine (albeit a bit windy) like last time.

So that, assuming I take similar times in T1 and T2 means I would be circa 2 hours down getting off the bike in around 9 ½ hours – seriously threatening the cut off time of 10 hours if I have any sort of mechanical.

Assuming I make the cut off at this stage I don’t know what will happen – since Outlaw I have run twice, both on Saturday. Once downhill in my socks pushing my bike for probably a mile and once with my daughter in a forest path as we waited for a kids event to start. Both times hurt for various toe reasons so I won’t be risking it before going on holiday next week. Where due to a lack of a bike I will attempt some runs between all the eating / drinking and the little bit of sea swimming I plan.

I walked a good chunk of Outlaw but if I get off the bike, unable to run due to the toe and due to being borderline exhausted at that point from the adventures of the day, I am not sure I will even be able to run parts of the downhill sections of the course. Is hobbling a marathon possible in 7hrs – I guess it is but it might be close.

Then the other worry is the gastric system. Mine pretty impressively exploded post the finish from all possible exit points – that was a couple of hours after I finished and I was safely (just) back into the comfort of the hotel bathroom. A similar time will likely see me starting or have just begun a 26.2 mile hobble, if my guts give up I am not sure if I will be able to keep any sort of forward momentum. Especially if it comes north, I don’t deal well with large quantities of my insides exiting at speed through my nose at the best of times.

But then no one said it would be easy did they.

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Back on the donkey

The week after Outlaw was done and dusted I was left feeling a little stranger than normal – in pain to a degree, with little motivation to train, with a lot of motivation to eat everything in my reach and the feeling that due to walking a larger chunk than I wanted, that I had somehow cheated my way through to becoming an Outlaw.

Essentially to overcome most of these feelings I just ate.

Ate a lot, a lot of everything, cakes, biscuits, fresh bread, yogurts, toast (my god I forgot how good toast was) gumbo (which I made and was rank) ice creams, chips, burgers, puddings, bacon, larger, ale, Guinness.

I ate so much that my guts rebelled in a similar fashion to the hours after I stumbled through the finishing line a sweaty mess. This was around Thursday night, a similar time of when a certain chap on twitter – Mr birks – posted a countdown timer to the tenby smashfest in September. It was the perfect moment of clarity – stop being a moron and eating junk and start thinking 40 odd days down the line and to attempting to finish.

With that in mind I set all the alarms again for the regular early morning training sessions, prepped my gear and jumped back into training. I cycled Friday morning, nothing serious in terms of distance or climb but I had a renewed love of cycling. Me, the bike and the sunrise was great, like the ‘old’ days of just going out on the bike to get fit and have fun – not to hit HR zones, or distance or pace. As a result my toe swelled up alittle bit more again and left me hobbling round the office but my mind was back in the game even if my toe wasn’t.

Good job I wasn’t chasing pace – I struggle massively to get going and was well below where I would have wanted to be in terms of pace.

Sunday came and the chance to meet Ed Clancy thanks to the guys at 9 bar. Right up till 30 minutes before I wasn’t sure if I should go due to the toe but I knew if I did make the drive I would be riding – Sue fairly pushed me out of the door saying rightly that if I didn’t go I would just regret it, especially because I might not get that opportunity again.

Damn that women has a knack of being right.

It was a great day out, the weather held, all the people doing it were nice and I got to meet and spend some time with some more 9bar folks. The route has a 30 mile 3500ft affair so fitted in perfectly with the probable training plan for Wales and if I hadn’t have gone I probably would have done no training at all that day.

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Ed was a genuinely nice bloke, happy to talk all things bikes but seemed interested in everyone’s story / questions throughout the day. The turn of speed he has is crazy plus the ability to pull one handed wheelies up a steep hill is an impressive sight.

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So on a post meeting a famous person high I sat down and looked at the number of days to Tenby, looked at my commitments between now and then and set about making a vague plan (which I could align to the actual plan given by trilife) It’s clear that the limiting factors to ‘success’ will likely be hills, hills and more hills on the bike. So with that in mind I will be hitting hills, hills and hills in my biking. I shall locate the hills and struggle up them in a bid to get fit for Wales. I did a hilly (ish) 25 miles early Monday and then an even hillier (ish) 24 miles on Tuesday – I didn’t really enjoy either, but the view on Tuesday was a soul warming sight.

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Downside to the early mornings and the time in the year is that its still pretty dark at the moment at 5 in the morning and noticeably chilly as well. Sucks going back to long sleeve tops on rides.

The toe is still an issue, although it is now not swollen, so running is off the cards again for the next week or so. Hopefully if I get bike fit before my holiday on the 21st then whilst I am away I can get a few runs in and bring that upto speed a little bit.

Speaking of feet I swam yesterday in the mere and managed to boot something under the water and sliced the same foot again. Maybe my bad luck has transferred from lofts to water?

It’s good to be back on the training plan and I have enjoyed being focused on something again, although as most of you know Ironman Wales still terrifies me.

It has also made me think about 2015 – what to do – fancy the long swim events in the lakes, maybe the coast to coast in a day (which I have talked about for a couple of yrs now) would be a good challenge, a marathon (Wrexham) or one of the ‘easier’ ultra’s just to tick that box off.

I honesty can’t decide whether to do another full ironman next year or not – I won’t go back to outlaw, despite it being a lot of fun and a good event and the only one to catch my eye is Roth, which is sold out apart from the Christmas limited places premium payment option.

Let’s see if I manage to finish in 38 days before deciding on next yr, although always open to suggestions folks.