18th challenge completed – Triathlon

Last week came the turn of the Triathlon.

It has taken a week to write this report as I’ve been deciding whether or not I enjoyed the experience and ultimately whether I will do one again.

Having rested for a week after the Manchester Marathon I decided that I could recover in time to have a good crack at my first Triathlon. I decided to start with a Sprint triathlon and join Jimmy and Katie in the Hampton Thames Turbo Triathlon. 426m swim (pool), 21.5k cycle and a 5k run.

I think I need to split the report into two – training and the race.

Training

So 6 weeks to get in shape. Swimming, Cycling and Running. Each on their own quite manageable, but a different prospect altogether to complete each one after the other. I also wanted to post a half decent time.

Swimming

Having completed the Sportsrelief 2.5k back in March I had built up some decent swimming fitness with breaststroke, but decided that I should give frontcrawl a shot. Ever since school this was the one swimming stroke that I couldn’t really do and definitely couldn’t do for very long. The first couple of sessions I could only manage a couple of strokes without stopping, but after the 4th or 5th session I started to build up some endurance and I was close to swimming 426m in one go. The issue was I was very slow. It was taking me almost 2 minutes  more than my breaststroke and the inefficiencies of my stroke meant that I was a lot more tired at the end. I decided to have a couple of lessons to see what I could do. They definitely helped and I felt like frontcrawl was a definite possibility. After my second lesson I went for one more swim session as a time trial. I felt shattered. Training 22 out of the last 23 weeks had started to take its toll. I managed about 300m and had to stop. I took a little breather and decided to see how my breaststroke was feeling. Again it was still much more comfortable and a lot quicker. Breaststroke it was going to be.

Cycling

I think most people are relatively relaxed about the cycling element of a triathlon. The thought of 21.5k didn’t worry me, however I knew that because it was the longest element of the race it was the one that I needed to spend the longest time doing. Had some good rides along the way and managed to fit in a couple of brick sessions, 48k Sportive and a few other Cycling challenges in the Olympic park. Most of the details for my cycling training can be found in earlier posts.

Running

During the 6 weeks Triathlon training I was also hoping to work on my speed, having been so focused on endurance up until now. Having recently joined Ealing Eagles Running Club I now had access to some coached sessions. My 5k PB was 23.36, but having put in a few interval sessions I have got this down to 22.33. The aim is 21.30 by the end of the year.

The race

With the race day fast approaching I started to get everything in place. My new tri-suit had arrived in time for my last swim and I had read through the race pack to get familiar with the course and how to get through transition. I always knew it would be an early start, but when the official start list came out with my name next to number 34, it dawned on me that I was be in the pool around 6.45am! Being a pool triathlon, competitors are set off in waves dependent on their predicted swim and completion time. So on the morning of the race, I got up at 4am to have a light breakfast consisting of a banana and an energy bar. I didn’t feel like I could stomach anything else that early.

I was one of the first at the pool, so had plenty of time to set up my bike in transition. The weather at this point wasn’t too bad but the forecast was not very good at all and around 5.30am the heaven’s opened. So me and my fellow triathletes headed for cover under a tree and the race briefing was delivered in the most horrendous conditions.

6.42am – I had been queuing up by the pool for around 10 minutes by now and was really very cold. Jimmy and Katie were watching on – they weren’t due to start until the 3rd wave. So in I went – 12 lengths of the 32m pool. My aim for this leg was 11minutes and I was almost spot-on. 11.07 and onwards into transition. This is something that is very difficult to practice and in truth I hadn’t give it enough thought. The rain was still very heavy so I had to dig into my black bin liner to get my helmet, gloves and trainers. I was now set for the cycling. This was all done on opened roads but as it was before 7am there weren’t many cars out yet. The cycling was the most isolated part of the race – and at times there weren’t any other riders or marshals in sight. Around half way, I was going pretty well. Having only been overtaken by 1 person in the swim, I had picked off 4 or 5 by now on the cycle. The roads though weren’t great and the sheer volume of water meant that it was difficult to see potholes at the sides of the road. As I approached the bottom roundabout I was determined to keep up the momentum that I had built up until this point as there weren’t any cars around I didn’t slow down too much (I really should have). I lost control of the bike and although I didn’t completely wipe out I ended up hurting myself quite badly trying to keep it upright. I had bruised my ankle, cramped my calf and tweaked the top of my hamstring. On top of this it was still pouring down and I was the furthest possible point away from base. I decided to keep going with the hope that my muscles would loosen up and I’d be ok for the run. The next few miles on the bike were tough and by the end I did start to feel better.  I moved into transition number two. This was much quicker than T1 as all I needed to do was rack my bike and take off my helmet. I still wasn’t sure whether my calf would stand up to the run, but once I got going it seemed alright and my pace was good. By now the rain had started to ease off a bit and I was starting to enjoy myself. I was running at a comfortable pace for the first couple of miles and managed to overtake a couple more people when suddenly competitor 33 came past. My competitive spirit kicked in and I knew that if she got too far ahead she would finish above me. She started around 30 seconds before me so I picked up my speed and stayed in touch all the way until the end. My 5k run finished in 23.28. I was over the moon with this time. 6 weeks previously this would have been a PB and I did it having already completed a swim and a cycle.

I was shattered and in a lot of pain. The adrenaline that had got me through had started to wear off.

My final time was 1.25.28. 171st out of 331. A pretty good effort for my first one. Reckon I might give it a go again – just maybe one that starts a little bit later in the day. And yes, I think I enjoyed it.

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17th challenge completed – Mountain Biking

Another challenge completed thanks to the great facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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15th challenge completed – Cycling Road

Having transferred my mountain bike to a road bike a couple of weeks ago I decided I was ready to enter my first Cycling Sportive. Not because I felt I had trained for it but because I had ‘all the gear …….’.

I had come across the Financial Times London Sportive (A Humanrace event) a few weeks ago and it looked like an ideal opportunity to complete the Cycling Road part of my Olympic challenge. There were 3 categories. Short – 48k, Medium – 100k and Long – 100miles. I went for the 48k event and managed to persuade my uni mates, Jimmy and Katie to join me. We are all training for Thames Turbo Triathlon so I managed to persuade them that it was ideal preparation.

The event started in Dulwich, finishing at the Herne Hill Velodrome – venue for the 1948 Olympic track cycling. Having never entered a cycling race before, none of us knew what to expect. The start time was 9.20am, earlyish but similar to most of the running races I’ve taken part in. They set us off in waves, with the riders taking part in the Long race going first – they were all kitted out in their Garmin and Sky cycling gear and ridiculously expensive bikes. Cycling is definitely more ‘showy’ that running. It was a bit intimidating seeing them all go off, but the nerves were soon calmed once the medium riders had gone off and all that was left were the fellow short riders. There were still a few stylish looking bikes, however there were plenty of Hybrids and Mountain bikes included into the mix.

So we set off with our fellow 250 riders (think there were around 2,000 in total) at a nice leisurely pace. The first few miles were through built up areas, with plenty of traffic lights and roundabouts so you couldn’t really get into a rhythm. After mile three we decided to pick up the pace and Katie told Jimmy and I that she was happy for us to Cycle ahead. So off we went, slowly picking up the pace – although the first half of the race was mainly uphill so it was tough going. We didn’t really know how hard to push it, but in all honesty when going up hills you don’t really have much choice as you have to attack them.

We worked well together and gradually started to pick off some of the other cyclists as we climbed to the highest point. The views were pretty good, although the weather wasn’t so we couldn’t really appreciate them. We arrived at the half way point pretty tired but with the knowledge that there was a lot more downhill than uphill on the way back and how this showed in our times. Our average speed was around 11.8mph on the way out, with many miles averaging over 18mph (one at 22.5mph) on the way back. I really enjoyed the way back, including one really tough hill, which I had forgotten we had gone down on the way out.

We eventually finished the road race in 2 hours 9 minutes. But it wasn’t quite over – as you entered the Herne Hill Velodrome there was a separate timed race of the Olympic track. So not only have I taken part in my first ever Cycling Road race I have also taken part in an Track Cycling race.

It was great to finish and Katie came in shortly after. It was a great day, really enjoyable, well organised and definitely something that I will do again.

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14th challenge completed – Cycling track

The London 2012 Olympics was an amazing experience and my only disappointment was not being able to secure any tickets for the velodrome. Luckily the legacy plan has fully kicked into action and we attended the official opening of velodrome as part of the Lee Valley VeloPark. The first event was the ‘Revolution’ cycling series on 14th March, which included the likes of Jason Kenny and Laura Trott.

I had never been to a cycling track before and was amazed and how steep the sides were, the TV really doesn’t do it justice. The thought of doing it myself made me slightly nervous.

During the racing the atmosphere was incredible even for this low key event and I couldn’t help thinking what it would have been like during the Olympics. I was buzzing when I left the velodrome, the Olympic spirit had been reignited in me.

So today, Rhian and I went to VeloPark to take part in a track taster session. Thanks for Jan Steen for an awesome Christmas present. We didn’t know what to expect and in truth I half expected to end up cycling round the bottom for a few laps and that would be that. Thankfully I was very wrong.

There was about 12 other cyclists, most in a similar situation to us just wanting to give it a try but there were a couple of keenos dressed up in their full Garmin gear. We had a short briefing, picked up our bikes and helmets and started on the track. Unlike most bikes, track bikes are single speed and fixed wheel. Essentially this means no gears and no brakes – a new experience for both of us. We started on the lower level for a few laps just to get used to the bikes and the racing position. From this point on, every time we passed the coaches they encouraged us to go faster and higher. It was ok at first but as we got closer to the blue line (about half way up) my heart started to beat a little bit quicker. It didn’t seem logical that the bike could travel round on such a steep incline without slipping off. After a while my confidence grew and I reached the top of the velodrome and started to really increase the cadence. It was an amazing feeling, especially to be cycling in the venue where we won 8 gold medals.

The entire session was 1 hour long and we must have spent around 40 minutes cycling. Great day and I can’t wait to have another go. On my way back home I also picked up my new bike in preparation for the Thames Turbo sprint Triathlon series on 25th May.

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Biyak

Had a little kayak and mountain biking taster last week in Greece as part of an organised “Biyak” trip. Think I’m going to enjoy the kayak slightly more than the mountain biking. There were some seriously fit people on the holiday. We must have cycled about 2 miles, mostly downhill. One of the other trips was a gruelling 80km ride. No thanks.

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