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Amateur Age Group Triathlete
Amateur Age Group Triathlete

April-May: 5 Weeks, 5 Races, Team Tri Camp and taper for City to Summit

roborobby roborobMay 26th 2014
Bit of time to blog now that I'm tapering for City to Summit, so a chance for a quick recap of training and racing back in the UK since the middle distance triathlon I did in Seville.

Seville marked the '8 weeks to go' point before City to Summit, and as I detailed in the previous blog was a test to see how the planned race power and pace would work out. Obviously it was only half the distance and duration, but seeing as I came away from it feeling fresh and ready for more, I'm confident that I'll be able to hold that effort for double the distance. Over the next 8 weeks I had 5 races that I really wanted to fit in as they were either London League or Club Champs events (except Sevenoaks which was chosen because I love it and want to win it), so although potentially not ideal given the focus was Ironman, I discussed with my Coach and we agreed that they could serve as pretty decent training sessions in their own right. Given that these races were at the weekends, the general formula we followed was: heavy gym beginning of the week; high intensity intervals on the Wattbike and Treadmill around Tuesday, easier recovery work midweek, and then the long easy ride and run the day before each race, with lots of swim/bike commute etc in between. Some of these 4-6hr rides were done with the time trial bike on the turbo trainer (which is pure and utter torture, especially when trying to stay on the extensions), with a few being a great chance to double up as way of doing a recce of the race courses. Sevenoaks Sprint, for example, has a great hilly bike course, so in prep for the race I headed over a week before and did the 25k route 5 times, which meant a total vertical ascent of nearly 2k, and then headed into Knowle Park for 2 laps of the 8k run course meaning more hills and dedicated training for City to Summit.

I've been working on my nutrition during this time as well, and finding what works best to balance fat burning with performance. Some of the 5-6hr rides were done completely fasted (i.e. meal the night before but nothing for breakfast and during the ride), which were usually surprisingly energising, but on a few occasions saw me blow up quite spectacularly and end up limping into the nearest cafe to literally inhale whatever food they sold! On others I played around with Superstarch, and even gels and more processed foods. I've decided that the gels are fuel for your body in the same way that nitrous oxide fuels a car: they give you a massive boost when you really need it, but are not very good for you and will just damage your engine if you use them too much. Based on this, I plan to carry some in my race as an insurance policy, but not as my primary source of fuel.
Tri Camp TFN Race Team:

Super excited to announce that I'll be competing for the Tri Camp TFN Race Team this year, in addition to Crystal Palace Triathletes. This means some more races up in the Midlands as the team is Nottingham-based, which will be hard to fit in this year, so in the meantime I'll have to work extra hard to get some decent results down here in London. At this point I would like to recommend that you check out for all your holiday and coaching needs, and for all your gear and gadgets ;-)

So here's a v quick report from each of the races I did:
Kingfisher Aquathlon, 13th April:

Not a big fan of aquathlons given they miss out my favourite leg of a triathlon, but had to do this one as it was both the first Triathlon England London League event for 2014, and my Club's nominated Aquathlon Champs. It's also a great event run by the friendly Kingfisher Triathletes Club, with the swim as a hassle-free 400m zig-zag in Morden Pool, followed by a 9k/4lap trail run around Morden Park. As this was only a week out from Seville, I had no idea where my short-course pace was at, so I was surprised and very happy to get a swim PB of 10seconds on last year, and a run PB of over a minute. One key thing I've learnt this year is proper pacing, and taking it easy for the first few ks and then gradually building works much better than trying to hit goal pace straight from transition. Ended up 7th overall and won the club champs, and a great collective effort from our club put us top in all of the League tables.
Sevenoaks Sprint Triathlon, 27th April:

I love love love this race! This was my second ever triathlon back in 2007, and have been back 6 times since. Wherever you live in the country, you have to stick this one on your bucket list. Sevenoaks Triathlon Club put on an incredibly well-run event, and the bike and run courses are both interesting and tough. Unfortunately this coincided with the Ful-On Duathlon which was a London League event, but I decided that Sevenoaks would be better prep for City to Summit.

I've come 2nd and 4th at this race before, so my goal this time was to win. I knew a lot of guys on the start list, and reviewing their previous times, coupled with my own recces of the course, meant I was going into this race more prepared than for any race I have ever done before, which was ironic given that this meant nothing compared to the London League, Club Champs, Club League, GB Age Group qualification and Euro and World Champs events I have focussed on in years gone by. As I wanted to do well in this race, I asked my Coach if I could move my long ride and run to the Thursday rather than the day before, which ended up being worse as I struggled with power in both the bike and run legs. In hindsight it seems that the DOMS doesn't kick in on the Sunday following a Saturday session, but doing it Thursday meant they were in full swing in my quads and hammies!

Despite this, I still clocked a PB over this course, but couldn't match the winner, Mark Westlake, who put in a storming bike leg to take the win well away from me. So once again the bridesmaid, and unfinished business here for next year!
April-May: 5 Weeks, 5 Races, Team Tri Camp and taper for City to Summit
Thames Turbo Sprint Race 2, 5th May:

One week after Sevenoaks, and the second London League Event, meaning lots of the top amateurs from the region would be here. This is quite a unique race, as the pool swim is 426m in the open air Hampton Pool, and the 21.5k bike stops a long way from transition, with a 7min zone where you can gently make your way back to T2 and safely over a busy set of traffic lights, finishing with a standard 5k run in Bushy Park. The dead zone gives you some options as to how you tackle your bike - I decided to push it as hard as I could in the last k or so, then experiment with taking a caffeine gel in the dead zone. I took my Garmin on the run to track my pacing, and found that the gel turned a flat bike effort into a better run, but at the cost of some gastro-sensitivity in the form of a mild stitch. Second time I've done this race, with the first being in freezing conditions, so no surprise of a PB. Happy enough with 10th and dipping under the hour, and props to the young pro Rory Atkins for winning in such an incredible time.
April-May: 5 Weeks, 5 Races, Team Tri Camp and taper for City to Summit
East Grinstead Sprint Triathlon, 11th May.

Less than a week after Thames Turbo, this race was in for the sole reason of being the Club Sprint Champs for this year, meaning that if I wanted to keep the trophy from last year, I would have to come top out of the men in my club. Not London League or anything else, so none of the other positions mattered, which meant I had prepared the least for this one. I had done the race back in 2010, and could only remember the bike course being tricky because of car traffic, and the run being a little crazy as it darted left and right through East Grinstead town centre. Coupled with this, the wind was pretty fierce on the day, and I soon regretted the decision to run my deep dish wheels! The 500m pool swim had to be done without flip-turning, but despite this (and due a lot to the new Z3r0d Club Kit I was wearing), I smashed my pool PB by about 15 seconds. Off on the bike and 25k of undulating up and down on the hills and a fair bit of left and right in the wind, and then a solid enough run was enough to retain the club trophy and finish 5th overall.
Crystal Palace Triathlon, 18th May.

This is my Club's very own event, so after racing I would be on marshalling duties together with the rest of the club members. I have done this race 4 times before, with the best result being 2nd last year, so given my PBs in all of the other events so far, I was really hopeful that I could do one better here. The thing with these open races is that you cannot really know who you're up against, as most of the names on the start list are unknown to me, and seeing as they are all staggered starts, it's really just you against the clock. Still, I was feeling good, and was on home soil, so knew I had a good chance.

The swim was a 750m zig zag in the 50m national pool. After a comfortable 11m55 leg and a smooth transition, I was onto the 9 lap/20k bike course with the added benefit this year of a power meter. There's not much you can do with power data on a hilly sprint course, but it did help me by seeing that sitting in the saddle on the hill was resulting in more than enough power, so no need to drain the legs by standing up too much. For all you bike geeks and data freaks, here is the power and cadence data The run was way off compared to last year, and the legs were starting to feel the effects of all the IM training miles. Despite this, my finishing time was good enough for 1st (although just 5 seconds off from last year's winner, who would have won with last year's time).

This is definitely my biggest result to date, as it was also a London League Event with over 500 other triathletes racing - some as novices, but many chasing London League points. Knowing the course was an advantage, but having all the marshals know my names and cheering encouragement is just the most awesome experiences, and no doubt gave me a huge boost. I loved the racing but might have enjoyed the marshalling afterwards even more - especially when the juniors came out to race after the adults were done. The looks of determination and joy in their little faces was truly inspiring, and as I was posted at the bike dismount line, well - I can safely say that a lot of us adults could learn some transition technique off these kids!
April-May: 5 Weeks, 5 Races, Team Tri Camp and taper for City to Summit
So that's all the racing and training done before the big one this weekend. 5 races in 5 weeks with 5 top tens and 1 win is more than I could have ever hoped for (especially as I was willing to throw all of these races in exchange for ironman focus), and once again it's all down to having a well-thought out training plan from a smart Coach, following that plan, and widening out the scope of what constitutes proper training by including rest, recovery, nutrition and mind set, and not neglecting any of these.

The big test of course will be whether all this training works out for City to Summit. I am more excited and more terrified then I've ever been for anything in my whole life, so just hoping this abundance of adrenaline will aid my race rather than hinder it!
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