A very patchy couple of weeks

It wasn’t really too bad – finally got a win against the Filth, even if it was Veteran’s Boat Race, courtesy of an Oxford crew that went off way too hard and paid the price, and some utterly imbecilic coxing. Then a few lazy weeks in which no training was done at all, other than some very lazy runs whilst Britta and her parents were over.

It’s not even a choice. Of course I’m going to spend time with her and with them.

And then starting a new job, which is not leaving a huge amount of time other than to be exhausted. A good thing, then, having read Matt Dixon’s “the well-built triathlete”. It clearly doesn’t refer to me, I’m just fat. But he talks a lot about the load the body and mind can handle, and that that is a function of everything going on in your life. Commuting, life, relationships, work stress, all of that. So from my low base, it was just what I needed to hear.

The pattern over the last few weeks has been: M/W/F run, Saturday swim with Cambridge Triathlon Club. Which has been nice.

Two weeks ago: 30 min runs capped at 142 HR, 32*100 on 1*55. I liked that. Cruised very much so that I sat around 1:20-1:25 for an HR that didn’t seem to get above 130. Running speeds – slow. 5:55 to 6:10 kms. I’ll live with that, build time and then speed into the routine.

This week: 40 min runs capped.

Monday went to 50 mins because it was a public holiday and I was having too much fun. Friday – best run of the week, first 4k at 5:50 or under pace. I’ll take that. Slow, but not breaking a sweat.

Saturday swim: a variety of drills to warm up, then 30*50 on 65 seconds. Goal was to pick a time range and swim fast and hard. If you miss a time, you recover for a swim or two. Swam 30 between 34 and 36 seconds. It got hard towards the end, but never unmanageable. Positively, got told by one of the guys that, “you need to move to the fast lane. And not the back. In the front half”. Nice feedback, but I’m still desperately unfit.

Sunday: Finally got a bike, so dived out onto the guided busway and rolled out 40k or so, pretty cruisy. No HRM, but in windy conditions and nose breathing and not sweating, averaged 34 km/h. Including a roll around St. Ives looking at things. That is positive. I didn’t feel like I couldn’t have done that for a few more hours. The more I think of it, I know that there is so much work to do, but given the only aero thing I have is aerobars, I’m pretty sure that given a decent race suit, helmet, and a borrowed set of wheels (there’s a house in Surrey that I have a key to with a nice Zipp Sub-9, Hed tri-spoke, and Conti GTs. Or I could just pony up and buy some cheap deeps and run them tubeless.) that I can cruise along to a 4:45-4:50 split. We will see.

Beer and Sunday afternoon sleep now.


Weekend done, and so little done

Training wise, that was.

5 sessions coached, 90+ km on the bike, and a lot of pints.

Monday – rest day. Notwithstanding not training over the weekend, I was feeling a bit cooked and had to assess the rest of what I needed to do work wise.

Tuesday: coaching in the morning, recovery jog in the morning, then back home. Panic because I’d forgotten lunch in town with a mate. Great chat, and pounded down a burger and a (half) pint in not much time at all. Both mistakes. The burger and the pint, that is. For I was turning up for the first time at Cambridge University Hare and Hounds (Cross Country Club) interval session at 1500. The session on the board was 2*(8*75 seconds on/45 seconds off), with 3 mins rest at the end of each 8). Phil, the coach, had enough experience to recognise a fat, unfit, novice when first he saw one, and suggested that I do every second one. First one, fine, not dropped too much. Second one on 45 secs rest, OH GOD. Took the 2 mins rest as suggested. Then kept getting my arse handed to me each time, 50 + meters each time. A bit of an eye opener, really.  I was told afterwards that the two top guys are GB U23 champ in the 5k, and the quickest 1500 runner at the Varsity Match in the last few decades, but hell.

Wednesday: Didn’t quite have to walk down the stairs backwards, but I could feel the running. Rode very slowly to coaching, for a very good session indeed. A second 8, but one that worked very well together. Off for a swim. A compromised one indeed. I’d forgotten the luxury of squad swimming – not for the crowding or otherwise, but for the fact that everyone is trying to leave off the same interval, for the same session. So, approx 800 warmup of swim, drills, and pull. Not so bad. The enjoyable part was the swimming – not much faster, but a little better for perceived effort and the occasional feeling of actually being able to swim. Main set: 4*(3*150 FS with 50 back stroke). 1,3 swim, 2,4 pull. The 150s were off a goal of 2:30 send off, all at 2:10-2:15, which I was reasonably happy with. Sharing a lane with people a lot slower in the advanced lane, but both they and i were fairly patient and the session went OK.

What I was NOT happy about was the influx of schoolkids at 1000, which took up another lane, and pushed 4 lanes into 2. The speed delta was bad enough with 3 people in a lane, but 6? In a “fast” lane with people swimming over 2:00/100s and others swimming breastroke and keeping their heads dry? I left at speed. Not even worth trying to round out for 3k for the session. No weights session today, as Skyping the family.

A month gone and so little done

Going home to see my fiancee and my family was the best possible Christmas present that I could have had, but it kicked my arse in terms of doing any training. It becomes a pretty easy choice, especially when it’s stinking bloody hot, of staying in with the woman you love, or being with your family and friends, vs. training. So, I only accomplished a few swims while I was out there. No riding, no running, no erging or weights.

Coming back was a bit the same, 30 hours’ travel, then a day’s rest with a lazy 40 min run, then 18 hours on a bus to coach a rowing camp, with a week there. Managed a desultory run or so in the ice and snow, a few Wattbike sessions on one with a busted monitor, playing with a position that I think I can implement and hold when I finally get a bike, and one erg session to make sure I could still beat all the kids I coach.

Back off the bus, I needed a day of rest, so slept for two. I don’t sleep on transport, and doing a long distance flight and two long distance bus rides in ten days beat me up.

Tuesday am: erg coaching. My lads had some testing yet to be completed, so ran that for a few hours, then off for an easy 8k run. Had to consciously hold myself back as I’m desperately unfit and slow. Felt good though. Could happily have done 50% more, which is not such a bad position to be in.

Tuesday pm: rowing erg session. I’ve said I’ll race Veterans’ Boat Race (Oxford Cambridge for  graduates over 38, mainly used for bragging and drinking rights, and for the BBC to test their cameras and OB facilities), so I figured I’d better do a few erg sessions a week until April. Unlike everything else, pretty much, I’d rather do 2-3 sessions a week hard on this. 5k warmup, easy. HR was bloody high for what it was. No surprises there. Session – 1 stroke on/1 stroke off up to 20 strokes on/20 strokes off, capped at 32 SPM, with the goal of being around 1:30/500 for this. This did not go well. Sore legs from running, perhaps, or just the effects of not a huge amont of carbs. I saw sub 1:30 on about 5 strokes. Ah well, a man has to start somewhere. Then a few hours of coaching


Wed am: coaching: 15-20k easy pace, and I mean EASY on the bike. I might start doing these running, for the moment. Sat in the coffee shop admiring the bikes hanging from the ceiling, and rather enjoyed myself. Then a swim, about 1100 warmup, various drills, swim, kick, pull.  Main set of sorts, due to interruptions in the “advanced” lane, where people think it’s appropriate to push off as you’re coming in halfway through a piece and swim breastroke with their heads above the water. Wankers. It’s not like I’m that quick, but…

3*100 on 15 seconds rest, all around 1:30s. 400 pull (pull bouy, band around feet), 30 secs rest, 200 swim, 15 secs, 400 pull as 3/4/5/4/3 stroke breathing pyramid, didn’t break 6:00 for this ,but HR about 125, 30 secs rest, 200 swim, 15 secs rest, 2* 100 pull at 1:30 pace, 200 swim easy, 4*50 on 1 minute as 37.5 easy, 12.5 @ race pace, 25 easy, 25 RP, 12.5 easy, 37.5 RP, 50 RP, last one just over 40 seconds. Not hard, but 1:20s for a 3800? Not in my most fevered dreams. Yet.
No warmdown, easy ride home through the insanity of Cambridge cycling/pedestrian traffic.

20 months

Apparently there is something about being more likely to reach one’s goals if one writes them down, more so if other people know about them. The nature of the internet is that it just lets me plaster my views and random thoughts, and if anyone wants to know them other than my unfortunate friends and immediate family, so much the better.

So, after not having done a tri this millenium, and even then only sprints, I’ve set myself an Ironman in 2018, and after some deliberation have chosen Ironman Kalmar. There exists a series of rationales here, being:

  • I turn 40 in 2018
  • Kalmar is the nearest thing to a flat Ironman outside of Florida, and as I live in the next flattest part of the world (Cambridgeshire), I was looking for some specificity
  • My wonderful wife-to-be is Swedish, and I love Sweden
  • Having basically not swum in 15 years, and never run longer than 10 miles, I’m going to need a lot of work to be somewhat satisfied with a result
  • Possibly most necessary, I have hit a point with rowing that everything I do unless I train full time will be downhill from here (and probably has been so for the last few years). I need to find something to get BETTER at.

There are a few obstacles that I need to surmount first (yes, another bullet point list)

  • At present I don’t even own a bike, let alone a tri bike, having broken yet ANOTHER bike. I’ve not had a bike since 1996 that I haven’t broken. Not crashes, just JRAs (Just Riding Along). The list is long and varied (2*Specialized broken at chainstay/seatstay junction, 2*steel road bikes with brands I cannot remember broken ditto, another composite frame broken ditto, Cannondale MTB broken at seat cluster). Taught me a little about good customer service – Specialized is bloody awesome. If i could afford a Shiv, I would.
  • My swimming has been problematic recently. The last three wetsuited open water swims I’ve done have incurred panic attacks, the last one at Shiplake last year I DNFd. Breathing and shortness of breath, whilst leading the swim. Practice and refamiliarisation, and returning to a sleeveless wetsuit.
  • Running, as mentioned, I’ve never gone longer than an hour. So to shift my 98kg frame (soon to be significantly less) for 26 miles is going to be an interesting one.

In my favour:

  • Good and very experienced people around to talk to about tris and preparation and training. If I can’t learn from guys who are going well under 9:00 at 40+, and others who have done bike course records, I’ve got to be dumber than even I can possibly believe.
  • I used to be able to swim pretty well – I don’t think I ever got beaten out of the water in a sprint, so if I can get back to 80% of that,  I’ll be OK.
  • Power output is pretty good – 350 watts for an hour on the rowing machine, possibly the most inefficient way of generating power ever designed, so I’ll be looking for an FTP of a bit over 400 watts. The latest TriathlonPlus mag suggests that if I’m aiming for a sub 10, I’m looking for 74-75% of that. Yep… good luck with that.
  • A few years of training background…


I’ll break up my ideas and conceits and plans later, but for today, the first swim session.

400 w/up as 100 free/100 pull/ 2*100 build each 25.

400 drills as 1 stroke/6 kicks, closed fist, fingertip drag, and something else which escapes me.

Main set

3*100 pull on 15SR, 2*200 swim on 15 SR, 1*400 pull on 15 SR


200 m as alt backstroke/free by 50s.

Notes: None of this was done on 15 SR – various others in the lane, and not being over stressed about when I started my next. Lapped around 1:28-1:31 very comfortable (120-130HR). Struggled with maintaining correction to the water – a lot of “slip” underneath the body, and really moving very slowly indeed. Added 4*25m sprints to actually wake up, all about 14-15 seconds, which is dreadfully slow.