Postives from Negatives aka Challenge Henley

mhowoodby mhowoodDec 30th 2011
Postives from Negatives aka Challenge Henley
6 months since my last post, 'It's all Mental'
Yowza! What's been happening?

Well, I went from that to Challenge Henley in September, courtesy of Swimovate, averaging only 6 hours a week training; it's not that I wanted to train as little as that. Work just went crazy, and I was then on holiday for 2 weeks.
The holiday was good rest after the Outlaw Triathon (iron distance) at the end of July. Lots of sleep. We even had our own wee pool, so I clocked up the lengths working on technique and practising Butterfly. I also ran almost every day by the docks, incorporating kilometers of hill reps, on the steps into Mahon.
Yet, Henley kicked my arse. Properly.
I finished in 12:05:17. 194th out of 600 finishers
It hurt me so much I couldn't even really comment on it or write about at the time. It probably put me off triathlon for while. My day was that bad.

It started cold and foggy and got worse from there.
The swim, my weakest discipline, was too cold for me. I'm a pretty light guy (58kgs on race day), and the cold conditions really created problems for me. I crawled out the water in 1:38 (ranked 442nd), 15-20 minutes down on where I would expect to be. It was a real Catch 22 situation, the colder I was the slower I swam, the longer I was in the water, the colder I got, the slower I swamÂ....
I remember swimming the return leg and shivering so badly that my arms were shaking with every stroke. At 1:20 I was treading water, shuddering, unsure I could even make it, thinking, "I should be finished by now but I can't even see the dock".
Eventually I crawled out and headed to transition, where a hundred athletes sheltered trying to get warm.
I spent 9 minutes in T1, as opposed to 5 minutes at Outlaw (my first ironman) and that was taking it slo-o-o-ow. I'm normally lickety-split in T1.

Out on to the bike and I started eating. Anything to replace all the calories I'd lost in the water.
The hilly bike course, 2400m of climbing, exposed weaknesses I was already aware of from Outlaw. Although physically able to complete 112 miles, I'm not physically strong enough to cope with wind or rough conditions. I'm more at home on the Turbo ;)
A far more demanding ride than Outlaw, and I made an effort to eat more. Bananas are now definitely on my IM menu.
After 5 hours of riding, the rain that had been threatening off-and-on all day, started hammering.
Eventually I wobbled into T2 with a 6:18 bike split, and ranked 220, so must have overtaken quite a few despite it all.

T2 wasn't much better than T1. I remember sitting, almost delirious, trying to work out how I was going to make it out the changing tent, never mind around 26.2 miles. I couldn't move.
After 8 minutes of procrastination, I stumbled off so hungry that I ate a whole bag of PowerBar Ride Shots in the first 800 yards, then washed them down at the first aid station with 3 cups of coke.
Suitably caffeinated the world seemed brighter, and I had to control my pace, as my legs wanted to run 4:45 min per km. Reining them in, I ran around 5 min per km / 8 minute miles for the first 21km. I felt good! Finally something I didn't suck at.
It wasn't to last and after 30km the wheels came off and I dropped to 5:30 min per km, with occasional walk breaks pushing it up further. The lift I'd gotten from the cola wasn't enough to keep me going and I think I was just empty. However, the support on the course was great and even a load of my fellow Thames Turbo's made the effort the ride over. They'll never know how much their mere presence helped.
My wife and sons arrived towards the end of the marathon and it was great to see them. Always an incentive to run faster; I never want to keep them waiting!
I think I walked most of the last 3km but pushing hard, I ran the final km towards the finish, pausing only to collect Seth (4), who then out sprinted me to the finish line. It was enough to give me 3:50 run, and ranked 83rd.
A huge grin on my face, a great photo and it was over. Finally.
Postives from Negatives aka Challenge Henley
It took a while to recover from that but I slowly came back and set about addressing the issues that had been raised.

Negatives into Positives.
- Nothing I can do about being warm in the swim for the moment, so that's an easy one. Don't race in the UK after August!
- Physically weak. I knew this already and have started on a weights programme. David LLoyds do a Body Pump class which keeps the reps high, so I shouldn't bulk up.
- Weak on hills. I knew this going into Outlaw. The strength training and specific hill training should sort this, and I'm targeting the Ballbuster Duathlon in March as an early season goal.
- I'm also going to drop off running. Less is more. I'll be at the London Marathon but I won't be training specifically for it. Instead, I'll be at the Cambridge Duathlon the week before to gauge how far I am off AG Qualifying pace, with the VLM as a long run.
- Swim more in 2012. 'Nuff said, but with a speed focus. I've lain the ground work for distance this year, so I now know I can swim 3.8km. I'll work to shorter, faster sets until April-May, and then up the distance when the lakes open.

I ran the Cabbage Patch 10 and the Thames Turbo Marathon in October and November, and I have to be honest, I was still tired. I was only a few seconds off the pace at the Cabbage Patch but I felt exhausted on the final 6km, and I was 4 minutes slower on the marathon from 2010.
Even 4-6 weeks after Henley, I was still feeling the effects - that's how deep I had to dig just to finish.
Postives from Negatives aka Challenge Henley
I started to come out the other side late November and set my sights on the off-road Mudman Duathlon as a bit of fun (see photo above - that's me leading out the run). I'd only ever ridden a MTB off-road once before, so I knew I was going to get my ass kicked. This was the point though. I wanted to get beaten, so I could see how far I'd slipped over the preceding months.
Job done ;) Great fun though.

My 2012 race calendar is written, and the Outlaw iron distance will again be my A race.
More on that later.
Postives from Negatives aka Challenge Henley
mhowoodby blog author: mhowood, Jan 4th 2012 08:00
ADDITION 3/1/12.

I found the text below on my computer today. I must have written it just days after Henley:

"Almost a week on and I'm still trying to come to terms with Henley.
I got, frankly, brutalised by the course. As it ticked nearly every physical limiter I have.

You'll see from the photo of me at the finish (on the previous page), that there's not a lot of me - 58kg to be exact.
I have neither the body mass to cope with the cold of the Thames, or the strength to deal with 112 miles of hills.
So why was I at Henley only 8 weeks after my 1st ironman at Outlaw in July?
Simple, it was free. I won a place, through Swimovate. Makers of the brilliant Poolmate watch, and sponsors of the Swim leg.
My mates in Glasgow joke that 2nd prize was 2 places. They think you must be mental to do this.

For me, the swim was a disaster from start to finish.
Fog hid the Thames in the morning, and I felt a flashback to a year earlier and Vitruvian - lost in the fog and asking a canoeist for directions! It couldn't happen again could it?
Even before we got in the water I was visibly shaking with cold. I just wanted to get it over with.
Unfortunately, the Catch22 with the swim was: the colder I was the slower I was, the slower I was the longer I'd be in the water, the longer I was in the water the colder I became. A vicious circle that saw me exit almost 20 minutes slower (!) than I should have.
There were a few freaky moments during those 3.8km, if that's what I swam, seeing how often I found myself stopping to peer through the fog, and swimming back in the general direction of a swimmer in the distance.
I remember clearly, my body shaking in the water as the clock ticked past 1:22 with no end in sight.


I'm really struggling here to write anything positive.
The more I write, the more I wonder what the hell I was doing out there.

sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Jan 6th 2012 14:43
Great photos and a great achievement! I sat in T2 delirious on my Ironman also. I was in there for 14 minutes not the fastest transition ever!
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