Posts Tagged ‘ironman’

Outlaw Triathlon

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 | Sport

Outlaw is a full distance triathlon that takes place at the National Water Sports Centre. A 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre cycle and 42.2-kilometre run around the scenic Holme Pierrepont country park and wider Nottingham region. What better way to spend a Sunday?

The swim

The swim takes place in the regatta lake which seems to be some kind of water-based plant nursery. I was swimming quite far out and I was still grabbing handfuls of the stuff at points.

It was long and hard. I had a wee panic attack on the out lap and had to switch to breaststroke to get my breathing under control. Having dealt with that, I allowed myself a quick look at my watch only to discover I was only 36 minutes in! Thankfully, I managed to settle down and the return leg was a little easier.

My intention was to speed T1 up a little (by my standards). I had gone with my tri shorts so that I could wear them for the entire race (previously I had done a full costume change). Somehow, I took longer. It did not help that transition was over 600 metres long: 1,300 athletes were mostly on two rows of racking that stretched along the lakeside. Wrestling with my top, applying sun cream, taking care of my feet and snacking on non-portable foods added up quickly. I did avoid sunburn, though, so probably worth it in the end.

The bike

The bike starts with a beautiful lap of the lake before heading out onto the roads. These were great. They’re not fully closed World Triathlon Leeds. But we did sometimes have a lane coned off, or the roads were quiet, and at almost all of the junctions, they had traffic management stopping cars and giving us priority. I think I only had to stop once at a roundabout and then only for a few seconds. There were a couple of roads where cars were holding me up but it usually kept moving as side roads were closed to stop them from turning.

I was religious with my nutrition and made my way through OTE, Clif, Haribo, Torq gels and several bottles of Lucozade.

The course was fast and flat. Technically, there was one hill in it which briefly maxed out at 11%. But nobody from Yorkshire would describe it as a climb. I spent a lot of time on my aero bars simply because it was more comfortable: the lack of elevation meant I could spin at a reasonably high cadence and protect my lower back.

The discomfort was mostly in my bottom from being sat in the saddle for so long. That and a kind of low-level-pain boredom. Only in full distance can you get to the two-thirds point, 120 kilometres in, and think “only the last little bit to do now” and yet still have two hours of cycling ahead of you. I might need to look at my cleat position, too. It was stressing my plantar fascia and for a nine-kilometre stretch, I unclipped and rode on the flat side of my pedals so I could move more onto the ball of my foot.

I stopped at aid station four just to try and kill the loneliness and take a minute to just not be on the bike anymore before taking on the final leg back to transition. T2 was a much-welcome sight. I took almost as long in T2 as I did in T1 and I have literally no idea how because I can’t really remember it. I didn’t eat anything or change my outfit (other than my shoes) but the time just disappeared.

The run

I walked the first few hundred metres as I ate some crisps and then set off in earnest. Some on-the-run maths suggested that if I ran a 4:17 marathon I could finish in under 13 hours. I had no idea how possible that was. I ran a 4:40 marathon at Yorkshireman but I was on for around 3:40 at Evolve Trio when better rested. I thought if I kept myself roughly in the game we would just see what happened.

What happened was it hurt. A lot. I was somewhere in the 5:30-6:00 range, plus walking the aid stations. I grabbed a High5 energy drink and a slice of orange at each one. My plan was to make it to 20 kilometres before moving onto coke (sweet caffeine) and for once I made it. By that point, I was doing High5 and coke at most of the aid stations as I could feel my calves tightening up.

Around 12 kilometres in my stomach started churning. I found a portapotty but I was so dosed up on Imodium that it didn’t help. I kept running. With it being a two-lap course, I was expecting to spend the first lap being overtaken by faster runners on their way to finishing their second lap. But almost nobody did. Most people were walking. A few were running at a much slower pace than me.

Despite a constant feeling that I was slowing down and that there was no point trying because I would never manage a 4:17 marathon, I kept trying to accept the pain and keep moving in the hope that it would pass. It did not pass but my watch kept saying 6:00 per kilometre and I reached the 32-kilometre mark I at least gained the comfort of “only one more hour of this”.

By this point, I could have potentially done some run-walking. But not much of it and I wanted to allow some time for emergency toilet breaks, the course measuring as longer than 42.2 or any cramp that would force me to slow down. So, I kept pushing knowing that if I got to 40 or 41, the adrenaline would push me through the final 10 minutes.

The finish

They should make the finish chute a kilometre long. A whole day of suffering for a finish that lasts 30 seconds. There were 30 great seconds, though. There was a big crowd cheering me down the line. It is impossible to take it all in. I wish I could freeze that moment in time, or at least remember to pause and walk it, but I was so fatigued, caffeinated and excited that it was difficult to think straight.

You might expect that crossing the finish line is the end of the suffering. But (in my experience) that is not the case in long format racing. If anything, it gets worse. my body stiffens up and it is hard to get up and down. And I just feel ill. It took me two hours to stomach anything and that is a surprisingly quick time frame compared with previous races.

My final time was:

12:50:05

My splits are below. While I am counting this as my fourth full distance triathlon, I compare it to my first in the table below. Both Woolenman and Evolve Trio are more recent but their event format was slightly different so Yorkshireman is the most compatible.

Discipline Outlaw Yorkshireman
Swim 1:37:20 1:59:17
T1 18:05 16:11
Bike 6:31:33 7:31:12
T2 17:00 8:23
Run 4:06:07 4:40:07
Total 12:50:05 14:35:12

That was good enough for a top-half finish: 502 out of 1053. My run split was the 136th fastest. And nearly 200 athletes took even longer than I did in transition 😂.

What’s next? I’m not sure. I have IRONMAN Copenhagen booked but I have also got everything I wanted out of full distance triathlon so not particularly inclined to do another. Time will tell.

Evolve Trio

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021 | Sport

Evolve Trio is a new event for 2021 run by the Blue Lagooners team. It is designed to be an accessible form of triathlon with the swim, cycle and run split over the bank holiday weekend with one on each day. Additionally, the course is split into four laps and athletes can choose how many laps they do, making the distance standard to full.

The swim

22 of us were on the start line on Saturday for 1-4 laps of the one-kilometre swim course. The swim is not my strong point: I did a four-kilometre swim in the pool before Yorkshireman, as well as a 3.5-kilometre open water swim in which I got cramp, then I did the Yorkshireman itself, which I also cramped and found pretty traumatic.

After that, I decided I would get in the pool and swim four kilometres every week. Then COVID happened and no lake or pool opened for more than an hour. So, my preparation was not where I wanted it to be. However, since the pools opened last month, I have managed to fit in 23 swims including a 10.5-kilometre week as part of the 7in7 challenge.

As a result, I was sure how it was going to go. But it went well! I got around in 1:35:58. That was good enough to pick up the lanterne rouge by 15 seconds. Potentially, I could go faster at Outlaw given the course is 200 metres shorter and there may be less stopping for snacking (may!). 12 of us completed the maximum four laps.

The bike

Sunday brought the bike course. It should have been 1-4 laps of a 45-kilometre loop. However, roadworks added an extra 47.2 kilometres, making it 178.8 kilometres in total. Officially it was sportive rules so it wasn’t cheating when a bunch of us were drafting a tractor. But tractors also go slower than we can cycle. There were other riders for the first hour but after that it was lonely. Thankfully, there were race vehicles on the course and the marshals cheering us on.

Womersley is flat so I was able to get plenty of speed. I went through the first 30 kilometres in under an hour and averaged 29 kph. Part of it was also increased power: at Yorkshireman, I output 153 Watts and averaged 25.3 kph and 156 Watts with an average of 24.4 kph at Woolenman. This time I output 188 Watts so I like to think that had something to do with going an hour faster and finishing in 6:37:46. Seven us of completed the maximum four laps.

The last lap was hard. Despite constant eating, I was still hungry and probably quite dehydrated by then. Or maybe the sunburn was kicking in on the few areas of skin that I missed, despite sun creaming three times. The final time I did while cycling: new skill!

The run

Finally, the run. Getting up at 6am was not my ideal bank holiday but it comes with the territory. The other days started at noon and 11am which gave my stomach time to settle. The early start was harder, though, and my stomach felt uneasy the whole way around. I still managed to eat enough, though and kept a good pace the whole way around.

Because of my sunburn, I decided to run in my Under Armour HeatGear base layers. Luckily, it wasn’t too warm and went between sun and shade most of the morning. I started feeling good in the final two kilometres when my mind settled down and focused on how close the finish was.

I finished the run in 3:38:30, more than an hour ahead of my Yorkshireman time and even further ahead of my Woolenman time. Six of us completed the maximum four laps.

The result

My total time was:

11:52:13

Officially, it was a personal challenge and there were no prizes. But unofficially, that was good enough for third place out of the six of us that completed all four laps of all four disciplines. Which meets my fifth place at Hubble Bubble.

Although it puts me over two-and-a-half hours ahead of previous full distance triathlons they do not directly compare as I was able to rest between each discipline. Also, the swim course was 200 metres longer, the bike course was nine kilometres longer but had much less climbing, and the run course was shorter. Still, it has been a big confidence boost for Outlaw.

I got a different medal for each event and they fit together like a jigsaw.

A big thank you to Bev, Morg and the whole team down at Blue Lagoon for keeping us safe and looking after us for the entire weekend.

The Iron Stomach

Friday, March 19th, 2021 | Sport

James Lawrence, better known as The Iron Cowboy, is the triathlete that completed 50 Ironmans in 50 days (the 50-50-50) and is now on a new challenge: #Conquer100. Which, as you might guess, is an attempt to do 100 Ironmans in 100 days. All of this is amazing and in this post, I want to focus on just one area of that amazing which is how much he needs to eat.

I don’t actually know what he is eating other than a few social media pictures but just calculating the numbers makes suggests that his is truly a test of GI tract endurance. Here is why.

Calories burnt

Lawrence is posting his Garmin workouts as he goes and he is burning around 5,900 to 6,800 kcals per triathlon, which is taking him somewhere between 16-18 hours. Then there is the 6-8 hours he is not racing, most of which is sleep, so we can assume another 600 kcals of basal metabolic activity on top of that. Therefore, he is probably burning through around 7,000 kcals per day.

Which means he needs to eat 7,000 kcals a day. And because he is mostly racing when he is not sleeping, most of that needs to be done while he is doing the triathlon.

Could he run a calorie deficit?

One option would be to eat less than he is burning. Except this is not an option in Lawrence’s case. Because he is doing it for 100 days.

Even a modest deficit of 500 kcals per day (modest when you are burning 7,000) would cause him to lose 0.5 kg per week. But he is doing it for 14 weeks, so that is 7kg he would lose. He probably only has around 7kg of body fat on him at most and we need some body fat to live. Men can get down to around 2-5% and still be okay, but when you only have 10% body fat, you cannot lose 10% body fat and except to survive. Of course, he could also lose muscle but that is a pretty bad idea when you are trying to do an Ironman every day.

In any case, he isn’t going for this strategy as he has been posting his weight in his daily updates and gained a little bit of weight over the last week.

Okay, so gels then?

One of the big challenges is that he needs to eat a lot of this while doing the triathlon.

Typically, we would minimise eating while exercising because the body needs to shift blood flow and energy to the muscles and so if we try and force it to digest food at the same time we end up with stomach cramps. To offset this risk we would typically use gels: they are made up of glucose and fructose that the body does not need to break down because it is usable energy.

In comparison, we would avoid eating protein because proteins are long chains of amino acids and so the digestive systems need to break these down into individual amino acids before it can use them.

But in Lawrence’s case, gels are not an option. First, his body physically could not process them fast enough. The perfect ratio is a 2:1 mix of glucose to fructose that allows us to take up 90 grams per hour (360 kcals). To get through 7,000 kcals per day, he would need to take a gel every 20 minutes for 20 hours per day. He is not awake that long.

Also, who could stomach 60 gels per day? And no, he can’t mix it up with anything else because nothing else has the magic 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose. Start eating sugar out of a bag, for example, and it is not as effective because its a 1:1 ratio and the body needs to cleve the table sugar in two to get each part.

The only way to get the energy content in then is to rely on protein and fat to avoid the 90 grams per hour barrier.

Second, a pure sugar diet would not work because he needs to rebuild the damage in his muscles constantly. Typically, we would go out and do a hard race and worry about eating protein after as our muscles recovered. If this process took a few days, it no big deal because our races are widely spaced. But if you are doing nothing but sleeping and racing for 100 days, you don’t have this luxury. The body can only handle 20 grams of protein at a time and functions best when it gets these protein shots 5-6 times per day.

The iron stomach

In summary, he needs to eat around 400 kcals per hour, every hour, from a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates, and leave himself enough energy to digest all of this while swimming, cycling and running.

While 400 kcals is not a heavy meal, it is clearly a meal, compared to an energy gel (typically around 100 kcals) or energy bar (maybe as high as 200 kcals if you get a big one) and then he has to race on that basically all of the time.

IRONMAN Certified Coach

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 | Sport

I’m now an IRONMAN Certified Coach. I am already a certified coach with British Triathlon, but it is reassuring to know that my coaching skills also extend to looking after long format athletes and that I am not just winging it based on my personal experience completing full distance and 70.3 races.

I might write up a proper review of the IRONMAN U programme later but in the final assessment, your skills get put to the test when you have to design a detailed training plan for a fictional athlete looking to complete their first full distance event. It was tougher than expected but the work apparently paid off as I achieved 98%.

Can you train for an Ironman in 6 weeks?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020 | Sport, Video

Many athletes spend years preparing for a full distance (Ironman) triathlon. But what if you only have 6 weeks? In this video, I’ll give it a go. To be fair, I wasn’t going from a standing start. I spent the first three months of 2020 on my training plan. Then COVID-19 happened, all the races got cancelled, and I spent the next few months running the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee.

Then, six weeks before the race, Dalesman announced they were going ahead with their full distance race. So, I thought I would give it a go. Is it enough time to get ready? Let’s find out!

Skip to 8:15 for the sexy training montage and 15:57 for some race day footage.

Woolenman Triathlon

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 | Sport

Back in March, when all the races started getting cancelled, I decided that if all else failed, I would do a self-supported race which eventually became known as Woolenman. Last weekend, I

The plan

With Outlaw and Ironman Copenhagen cancelled, I wanted to go full distance. But with some changes.

Several races, including Dalesman, changed their swim course to a 1,000-metre loop and allowing athletes to choose how many loops they did before getting on the bike. I adopted a similar plan. My swimming pool is still closed so it had to be open water, and the lake I use is only open for an hour so my swim would be capped at that.

Next problem: the lake does not open until 9 am and that is way too late to start a full distance triathlon so I would have to start the bike before that: making it bike-swim-bike-run.

The start

I got up at 4:15 am to have breakfast. The choice of champions, of course: toast, an apple, juice and plenty of Imodium. I set off just before 5:15 am. This meant I was setting off in the dark and was able to watch the sunrise as I headed towards Methley.

I completed the first 75 km without too many problems. There was some headwind coming back towards Ledsham but it certainly did not feel like the 60 kmph gusts that were promised.

The swim

After racking my bike, I headed down to the lake and set off on the swim. I decided to do 3 big loops and 1 little loop, which should have been 1,750 metres, plus getting to and from shore, should have been just under 1,900 metres (half distance). My watch only registered 1,690 metres but it’s often not accurate when swimming.

I did think about getting out early, especially as I typically have stomach issues after swimming in open water, but I decided it might feel like cheating if I only did 1,000 metres and still called it a full-distance race.

The bike

After the swim, I headed home. I was cold by this point, probably because I went home in my wet tri shorts, so I tried to warm up and eat something before jumping on the bike.

The second half of the bike was a longer segment. The weather was mixed: the rain started and stopped and sometimes it was light enough to stay in my jersey and other times it was heavy. I stopped to put on and take off my rain cape multiple times.

My lower back tends to suffer on the bike but I held up reasonably well until towards the end, maybe Otley, when it really started aching. I was pushing to make sure I was well within the cut-off and hoping to start the round by around 4 pm and caught between wanting to keep up the pace and mounting fatigue.

Gels were not sitting well with me so I hate a lot of Haribo, flapjack and jellies. Once I reached Bramhope I knew I was on the home stretch and headed down the hill, via Burley Road and Kirkstall Road back into T2.

The run

Only a marathon to go. I laced up my shoes and put crates of nutrition in my car that I was using as an aid station. The run course was a 5km loop that I used for Endure24. On the second loop, I encountered some stomach issues and had to return home for a break.

Things didn’t get much better after that. I walked most of the third loop and felt exhausted, so I decided to break out the Red Bull a loop early than planned. The fourth loop was tough, too, but after this, the caffeine and extra food I was eating kicked in and I picked up the pace. The next 15 km went well, and I put in some 5:30-6:00 kilometres.

As I reached the last 7 km, the sun had gone down and the rain started. I put on my rain jacket and switched to my B loop: around Leeds Dock and back through town where there is street lighting. Even the food and caffeine could not save me by this point and I walked the first 6 km with a bottle of coke in my hand.

Eventually, the coke drunk and realising I was a final kilometre from home, I managed a gentle run for the final 6-7 minutes to arrive back at home.

The finish

You might think it feels amazing to finish a full-distance race. But honestly, it usually doesn’t. Anything long-distance: marathon, ultra, middle distance, full distance: you’ve just given everything and are totally drained. This one was a weird one. I think if the run had been 32-37 km, I would have felt great as I rode my caffeine high. But, by the end, I was back to feeling like death.

Still, it felt good to cross the makeshift finish line and put on my medal.

I managed to each some sausage butties after the race and in what turned out to be an excellent move, I used this special triathlete muscle recovery gel that you mix with hot water in a large tub.

The timings

Working out timing is difficult. My bike computer says I started at 05:11. My watch says I stopped running at 21:29, so the total elapsed time was 16:18, a good 42 minutes ahead of the traditional 17-hour cut-off for a full-distance race.

My swim was 52:15, which is pretty slow although a good 4-5 minutes of that was getting in and out of the lake. And marginally faster than the 3:08 I swam at Yorkshireman last year.

My bike time is anyone’s guess. My computer said it was 7:39:64 but that was with auto-pause on. So, we could look at the elapsed time, but that was 10:24:39 because it had a swim in the middle. Also, Garmin added over 45 minutes and a phantom 6 km while I was swimming, so my moving time was sub-7 hours. Average moving speed was 25.9 kph. This is slightly better than the 25.3 kph average moving speed I did at Yorkshireman over the same elevation (roughly 1,200 metres).

My best guess for actual time on the bike was 2:51:46 in bike 1, and then roughly 11:15 to 15:35 in bike 2. That makes a total elapsed time of roughly 7:12:00, which is exactly 25 kph. Who knows if that is accurate, though, because I have no real way of telling if 11:15 was an accurate time for when I got back on the bike. My average speed over elapsed time at Yorkshireman was 23.6 kph accounting for stops to stretch my back and trying to help another athlete unjam their chain.

My run time was 4:56:30, but that is with some pauses to account for getting to the aid stations that would usually be on-course. Elapsed time was 5:14:04. Either of these values is notably slowe than the 4:40:35 I ran at Yorkshireman.

So, what do those numbers mean?

Well, if we move this data to Outlaw, I would have hit the cut-offs. I was on for a sub-two-hour swim, 7:12:00 bike split and 5:14:00 marathon. At Copenhagen, it would have been close: the cut-off to start the run is 9:30:00, so I would have had to go through transition in under 20 minutes. That sounds stupidly easy, but I was 15 minutes each at Yorkshireman! I could easily reduce that by moving my bathroom breaks onto the bike and run course, and by just getting a move on.

Areas for improvement

My swim was no faster than last year, but it was front crawl rather than breaststroke, so I feel like that is a much better base for getting faster moving forward. Assuming I don’t get ill with the amount of water I swallow, which has been a real problem with open water swimming for me.

I didn’t use the aero bars at all on the bike. I tried using them at the Evolve triathlon last week and I almost immediately started to get a lot of lower back pain. I got plenty of this last year too, but not this bad, so I decided to play it safe and not use them.

I have been stretching for 20 minutes every day since lockdown in an attempt to free up my hamstrings in the hope that would solve it. No luck so far (my hamstrings have relaxed a little but no change in pain), but if I can crack that, I can get far more aero and take a lot more time off the bike. Maybe I just need to buy a tri bike and get the better geometry, you say?

Conclusion

I’m now a two-time full distance finisher. I’ve officially proved it was no a fluke. Now I can chill out for the rest of the year and hopefully get some more races in now the season is starting to open up.

Ironman VR17 and Leeds virtual media

Thursday, August 6th, 2020 | Sport

Ironman VR17 was another race that I did finish but I was technically a DNF due to Garmin’s incompetence. I couldn’t access the .fit files to upload to Ironman Virtual Club so despite riding 160 km that weekend, I didn’t manage to get it into Virtual Club to record my result. Thanks, Garmin.

But on the plus side, my World Triathlon Leeds virtual challenge medal has turned up.

Garmin outage, Ironman VR16 and Leeds virtual

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 | Sport, Tech

As you may know, Garmin have had a massive outage. It went down Wednesday night/Thursday morning and started coming back online on Monday, so 4-5 days. It took out their website, call centres, Garmin Connection, production line in Taiwan and even services like flyGarmin and Garmin Pilot.

Garmin’s software is awful at the best of times. Syncs constantly fail with the Garmin Connect mobile app, there are a bunch of bugs in their website that have lastest years (I still can’t see my swim from Wetherby Triathlon) and a lot of stuff crashes and does not work as it should. Hopefully, this will be a kick up their ass to make things better.

As a result, this has put a lot of strain on the things that rely on Garmin.

I managed to record my World Triathlon Leeds virtual event and earn my certificate. I was less lucky with Ironman VR16. Unusually, Ironman was on the ball and extended the deadline but technical problems at Garmin’s end with synced rides going missing and activities not reporting correctly meant I gave up after an hour of messing around. Thanks for that, Garmin. Still, even if I do not have the badge, I know I was a VR16 finisher in my heart.

The cycle was particularly challenging. I did 120 km, but a third of the way through a bolt fell out of my cleat (see above) and I had to do the last 3.5 hours with one foot clipped in and the other riding the flat side of the pedal. Thankfully, there were no major climbs or descents.

Ironman VR15

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020 | Sport

I hsven’t been doing any fast running recently. The endless base miles for GVRAT have been slow plods and Ironman VR14 was an easy run, too.

However, I decided to do VR15 as a brick. Not the full 40 km bike and 13 km run, as I had already done 100 km on the bike the day before. But, as a warm-up, I did a 20 km blast up to Horsforth and back on the bike before setting off on the run.

The first two kilometres were a little sluggish but the rest were down around 4:40 per kilometre, finishing on a 4:05. Total time for the 10km was 47:12, which is one of the fastest 10ks I have ever run. So, pretty pleased with that. Although, there is an important caveat that I took a break at the turnaround point, so it’s technically a Ross Barkley time.

I was originally planning to do the 13 km as one fast block, but after stopping my watch and restarting it for the 3km, I realised I burnt my legs trying to get a good 10k time. So, I finished off the final 3km in a still-not-shabby 5:00 per kilometre.

Ironman VR14

Thursday, July 16th, 2020 | Sport

Now that I have my bike back, and have prep for Dalesman to do, I am back on the Ironman VR events. I did not feel much like running after GVRAT but luckily it was only a sprint distance, so a 6.5 km run combined with my existing bike rides did nicely.