Sunday, 1 June 2014

Stirling Triathlon 2014

First up, great big thank you to all the organisers and volunteers at Stirling Triathlon Club - another great event, smoothly run and highly enjoyable. I had a great day, cheers.

Sadly, my race didn't go to plan today. It was never going to be a particularly fast one today as I've not trained all that much recently, but, acht, I'm frustrated. The morning started well, early up, picked up Craig and then off to Stirling Uni to register and rack up. I did the normal faffing in transition and ended choosing to leave the shoes out as I haven't done much shoe in mount practice this year and the last couple of races I tried that, the heel got hooked in behind my heel & stuck there the entire race. Anyway, that done, it was time for the race briefing then into pool side to get ready for my heat (heat 3). I started doubting the wisdom of my swim time that I'd put in when looking at the people who I'd be swimming along side.

Somewhere in amongst that activity, I started burping. A lot.

It didn't go away. I got in the pool, got the 50m warm up out of the way fine, then when we set off, I needed to burp. I let one go at the far wall after the first length, and it was like a switch went, making me feel nauseous and that my power output was significantly cut. But I was never going to give up (even though the thought did run through my head several times), so I soldiered on, getting lapped twice by 3 swimmers and once by the other, burping away at numerous turn points, finally crawling out of the pool long after the rest of the heat were on the bike route. An unspectacular T1 followed (the less said about running past my bike the better), onto a lackluster bike leg. I couldn't get properly comfortable on the bike and just toiled. I saw someone in the distance heading towards Tullibody, and used him as a target to reel in which helped me to keep pushing on, and I caught him in Alva. After that it was just more of the same, struggling through, unable to stay tucked onto the aero bars for long before the rough feeling in my stomach made me sit back up. Heading through Menstrie I started to actually feel a bit better, but climbing up the hill to the back of the University, my stomach started to churn and I was back to square one.

Dropping down towards T2 I eased my feet out of my shoes, intent on nailing the running dismount, and finally something went right for me. I dropped off the left pedal into a run, and it felt good. Bike  racked, helmet off, shoes on then off out of transition, with a shout out to Craig who'd finished (my first of many complaints to friendly GTC faces about my shocking swim and stomach) and then a flagging run, where a number of competitors from later waves over took me. Every time I tried to push on out on the course, I could feel the nausea pressing in on my stomach again, so just left it with a plodding pace, until the last stretch, I managed to wind it up for a fast finish.

So I'm left thinking, was it something I ate, or was it in the head? Did I have too much pasta last night or something? Nothing I ate last night or this morning I haven't eaten before a race, so did I have a bad batch of something, or did I psyche myself out poolside and get some a dose of anxiety fueled gas? And why 10 hours later am I still burping like a fiend? Is it really just indigestion? Or does the fact that I still managed a fast finish without the urge to puke point more to some kind of anxiety, that I had talked myself into a negative state, and the finish line relieved that? Or all of the above?

Its not all bad; there are plenty of positives to take from today for me - I had a great day hanging out with club mates, after marshaling two club races I was totally on for a race and got that fix, I felt rubbish throughout but could still keep moving, I had enough left to wind up for a strong finish and my running dismount into T2 made me feel EPIC. Oh yeah.

So back to the drawing board with diet and my head, and a lot more training for me. Bring on Aberfeldy Middle Distance in August!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Playground

Anyone that lives in the UK knows how wild the weather has been the last couple of days, but given that I'm meant to be doing an Ultramarathon in a matter of months, I figure I need a big dose of MTFU so got myself out into the driving cold rain Christmas Eve and Christmas day for a couple of 5k loops.
Cold, wet, windy, the rain drops whipping in to sting my eyeballs like little hail stones.


It was magic :)

This is my playground.
What's yours like?

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Choking on a Climb - Self analysis

I had my worst choke for a while today, mountain biking in the Kilpatrick Hills. Cycling up the hill, I dropped down a gear on a steep part of the climb, only for my chain to drop off into the wheel and jam and me to stack it sideways. A few minutes of turning the wheel and tugging the chain got it free, but now everyone was past me and I was off the back again (we'd been waiting for a couple of people to arrive at the bottom of the hill, but me and one other had started up as I know I'm fairly slow up the hills just now - severe lack of cycling this year is a big part of that). Once I get in a position like that I start to rush to want to catch up, which adds stress to a body that has already had a big dump of adrenaline, and as I cycled up to the next steep bit, my bottle just completly cracked. I looked at the hill and just had visions of me tumbling again because the gears would slip or the front would loose traction or I'd fall back or one of several other unpleasant ideas, so I pedalled across the path, unclipped and stepped off.
The top of this section of climb wasn't too far, so I pushed the bike, telling myself that once I saw the guys again I'd knock it on the head and go home, but at the top of the rise, the road just carried on up & around the corner, so everyone was out of site, so I just gave up and sat on the very inviting rock beside the track. I called ahead to the group to let them know I was turning back so that they wouldn't wait for me and I sat there and let myself feel the fear, anxiety and whatever other emotions that are in there and instead of always keeping clamping them down, I eased off a little and let them out allowing myself to cry for a while. For a guy that trys to keep emotions in check its not the easiest of things to admit to, but its part of the process of me trying to free myself of the baggage I'm carrying.
The last few weekends of mountain biking, I feel like I'm coming to an understanding about myself, in particular with respect to the fear I feel when on a bike. I'm too uptight, to tense, to scared to let loose and accept that I can't control everything, and unable to trust that my body and equipment can handle what its getting asked to do. I have the same thing with skiiing and snowboarding - during a week learning to snowboard I gave myself concussion, when I was standing up too tall turning onto my toe edge and fell backwards without a helmet. The nerves/anxiety/whatever mean that I was tensing up and pulling back and up, so I was never going to be able to flow into a turn like I needed to; equally I could never commit to putting my weight onto my leading foot, it felt counter intuitive to me and I put too much weight onto my back footand would lose control and would stack it. I think I do similar things here, I'm too tense, so I maybe even pull slightly on the handle bars which can't help, I'm hunching with the nerves and not keeping the strong core locked in and I'm possibly keeping my centre of gravity too far back which isn't going to help matters.
But for all this, when I saw two mountain bikers going past me up the hill (after I had lain in the grass for 10 minutes or so admiring the view of the Erskine Bridge), one of them pushing his bike even though he clearly looked like a decent biker, I figured I may as well at least go to the top before coming back down.
I reached the next gate while they were still getting through so I stopped and chatted to them for a bit. My idea of going back down the same hill was pointed out as being incredibly dull and instead I was pointed in the direction of some very easy single track down to Milton, so off I went - a rolling track beside a wee loch, dropping in through some woods, off track (and pushing the bike) down between some trees, then out into the open hill sound where I found myself relaxing a bit more and managed to get a bit of flow going. I still stopped more than necessary and going through mud made me edgy, but by the bottom I was smiling. Quite a bit actually.
From there I dropped down into Milton then cycled along the cycle path back to Old Kilpatrick chatting to a pensioner who'd been out up in the hills too.

I also take myself back to when I was snowboarding, and instructor the final group meeting at the end of the week telling me that I have guts - I'd got back out there over the next few days and kept at it and even though I had to sit out the last day (3 days after the concusion), I'd given it a good shot (and it was my knees that really stopped me - I just couldn't get comfortable on the board and skiing came much easier to me a couple of years later). And when I take the pressure back off myself, I can drive myself on and keep going. I think that is one of the keys though, taking the pressure off, so much of the pressure I put there myself, worrying about people waiting for me and all the things like that.

So the first thing I should probably do is get myself a decent pair of flat pedals - on the climbs I appreciate being able to use the full crank circle, but it feels just now like I'm trapped on as soon as anything starts to go wrong, so I need to free myself from that & get some more enjoyment. Next I'm going to change to the Adamo saddle off my road bike (or get a mtb one) as it is way comfier to me for anatomical reasons (I shan't go into that for you right now, but if you ever have issues with man bits and saddles, get an Adamo) and I think that discomfort is keeping me too far back when I'm climbing. Finally, I'm going to keep at it. There are moments of complete and total freedom and fun on the bike, and I found a few of them on the Crag circular route, particularly dropping down to Overtoun House; with more practice I can take those little moments and join them up into one big moment of ear to ear grinning.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Ayr Triathlon 2013

Its been a fairly quiet year for me on the Triathlon front, truth be told. This year has turned into a recovery year for me in many ways. I chose some races to keep me ticking over and give myself a wee spur on to keep at the training, so Ayr, being close to Glasgow and having fantastic write ups about the cakes in the end was one for me!

The forecast for today was not good - wind, rain, mediocre temperature - and the idea of giving the race a miss and going to watch the cycling in Glasgow instead did flit across my mind, but then I'd've been standing around getting cold. At least this way I would be moving and staying warm, wouldn't I? After a back full of procrastination, I packed up the car and headed down to Ayr. It was windy with a big layer of grey clouds, but no rain, and thankfully it stayed dry for the race. Registration was nice and simple, then it was a case of racking the bike & getting transition set up before donning the wetsuit.

The wind was up and there was trepidation all round about getting into the water; I had toyed with the idea of the neoprene cap under the colour cap provided on the day, but allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that most people were going in with just the single cap. As we snaked into the water, it seemed that everyone entering the water had a squeal of "oooh", "aaaargh" or "aiya that's cold", so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was warmer than Loch Lomond normally is. Don't get me wrong, it wqas a bit nippy, but at no point did I feel that my extremities were at risk.

The swim was a two lap swim in the River Doon, up against the current then back down with it. The first stretch against the current was pretty hard going, and I worried that I was pushing it too hard, but I was in amongst a lot of swimmers and just had to focus on doing my own thing. Before, if I've been in amongst people I have a tendency to freak out a little and loose my rhythm, but for the most part today, the proximity of people didn't bother me - I knew my swim was strong enough to cope with what was going on. The turn at the top was a little packed and a bit of a scramble, but again, I just held my line and swam strong to bring me round and away with the current. It felt like I was sailing back down to the bridge, and its when I really wish I had a waterproof Garmin so as I could've seen the difference in the splits for up and down!

Approaching the bridge, I was getting a bit tired of being in the water malarky, and my mind went into its normal stage of "look dude, there's the exit ahead", but I just pointed out to my mind that there was another lap to go and that it should just shut up and get on with it, which it did. The wind coming up into the mouth of the river sprayed the water back into my face every time I came up to take a breath which was different, but it was just one more thing to get on with. The swim back up river for the second time seemed to stretch on even longer than the first time, but the swim back down seemed even faster, so it wasn't that long before I was standing up and getting out of the water.

I had a bit of the shaky legs running up the bank to transition, but the wetsuit came off in a fairly timely fashion thanks to the body glide, then the hat, glasses and race belt were on and I was coming out of transition.I had opted for the shoes in the pedals approach, and it kinda worked out for me, though it took longer than I would've like to to get my feet in and I never got the strap as tight as I would've like it to have been, but that's just another thing I need to practice on.

The bike itself wasn't as bad as I feared, though it was still a wee bit cold (though bear in mind that I was just in my tri top and shorts, with no socks). The strong winds were mostly cross winds and never seemed to be head on, and there were a couple of points where it even felt like it even gave me a wee push from behind. The bike leg is clearly my weakest discipline at the moment, and I need to work a lot more if I want to get faster, but given the low volume of cycling I've done this year so far, I was pleased with my performance, even catching up and overtaking a couple of faster swimmers.

Heading towards T2, I slipped my feet out of my shoes, ready for a running dismount. As I got up to swing my leg over however, I could feel that the cold had nicely stiffened up my right hip, so I decided that discretion was the way forward, and left it where it was on top of the shoe. Even without the running dismount, I still almost stacked it swinging my leg over a static bike....

You see, that was the real problem today, the way the cold got into my feet and legs. Off the bike and into T2, my feet were numb and my legs felt heavy. I couldn't feel my feet as I fought them into my shoes and scampered off on the run. The winner streaked past me to the finish, so I knew I was about an hour on from the start gun. A couple of people overtook me early on, but I managed to fight down the urge to chase them and settled into as good a rhythm as I could with my legs in that nick. As I carried on, I could feel that my right calf around the achillies was very tight, so I focussed on keeping it steady & forgetting about trying for any heroics, just taking it as a race to be out there. The faster GTC'ers started heading the other way to the finish line and I started catching up on a few people, which cheered me up. Up to the turn, and my feet were starting to thaw. Everything was feeling better, but I kept it steady at the same pace until I crested the last hill. From then on, I started winding it up slowly, clocking someone in front of me and making it my aim to catch him before the line. I'm not sure if he heard me coming, or if it was just the proximity to the finish, but he upped his pace as well, so I dug into a final surge and sprinted to take him just before the line. Always try and finish with a sprint, eh?

The race was brilliantly put together by Ayrodynamic and hats off to all the volunteers that stood around in their winter gear in the middle of summer to stay warm; its much appreciated folks. Its a great route as well, and I would love to have a go on that bike route on a still, sunny day, though potentially I would have a slower bike leg, due to checking out what would be stunning views along the coast! It's definitely a race I will look to do again in the future. Finally, and most importantly, the cakes lived up to their billing.

See you another time Ayr!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Ever Improving Swimming

Well, it would seem that all the pieces are starting to come together and that my swimming has improved immensly (though I know I still have plenty of room for improvement). I can see where it all came from - the patience of Alex helping me rebuild my stroke from the beginning, the work with all the other coaches, the swim filming that let me really see where I was going wrong (and just as importantly where I was going right!), the yoga for core work and the recent circuits classes that boosted my upper body strength as well as the core. It really feels like a reduced training load over the winter has allowed my body to absorb what I put it through last year and to rebuild itself, stronger than before.

Anyway. Tonight I went to the earpier swim session and stepped out of the first lane into the second, as I need to be pushing myself properly in advance of the race season, and tonight it worked. It felt like I swam harder, faster and more consistently than I have in a long time and most importantly it felt like I was swimming more efficiently, particularly when I was tiring, than I have ever before. Breathing out through the nose is coming easier and I'm much less prone to getting panicky. Better and better. I did gas badly towards the end, so my power output plummeted and the last 400m of the set were on cruise control. But the most pleasing thing there is that those last 400m were still pretty decent by my standard. I may have gassed, but sessions like that are going to improve my strength, so hooray for me! Though I clearly need to consider what I eat before a swim session more carefully!

Songs to find:
Hooray For Me - Bad Religion
L'Ecole de Micro D'Argent - I Am

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Old Man of Stoer

Every since my first trip up to Ullapool to visit my wee brother I've had an urge to run out along the cliffs from the light house to the Old Man of Stoer; yesterday that urge was satisfied in style.
I woke to clear blue skies, blazing sunshine but with a crisp 2degC air temperature.
The scenery round here is stunning, so the drive up was filled with "wow!" moments coming round corners. I drove along an A road, turning off just before Lochinver onto a single track road where the frequency of those "wow!" moments was cranked up further; hills, lochs, cliffs, white sandy beaches - all in there.
I parked up near the lighthouse and had a wee blether with the lady opening up the coffee shack to get an idea of conditions. I was advised that the ground was crisp underfoot and way drier than normal for this time of year, so I opted to leave the Mudclaws behind, wear the Bear Grips for the first section and the Roclites for the rest, the selection turned out to be sound.
While the temperature had risen during my drive, it was still cold starting off, which was straight up a wee incline, so it took a while to get wqrmth into my calves. The ground felt like a top layer was frozen but that it wasn't too deep, so it had a slightly springy feel to to it underfoot, which was comfortable enough in the BGs, except when my landed on some shurned up mud that had frozen solid...
Running in the sun, a couple of layers had to come back off sooner than I expected, and it finally felt like spring has arrived.
When the Old Man first appeared, I edged out along a short knife edge spur to sit, exposed on a little peak, soaking in the scenery, before heading on round to get a closer look at the stack.
As I was the first visitor in the car park, all the way out on the run it was like I had the entire headland to myself; just me, the sea, the sky amd the ground I was running on. I wove along the paths, up grassy slopes, swooping down hills, scampering rouns the rocks and opened up my stride as the ground levelled out towards the top of the stack. This is running at its finest to me.
I changes into my Roclites at this point, as I had enough wee niggles to remind myself that I'm still working on strengthening my feet. The extra support given by the shoes meant I did run much more confidently the rest of the way, but I do hope to be doing runs like todays run entirely in the BGs in the not to distant future.
After an appropriate amount of time gawping at the Old Man (fnarr) I carried towards the tip of the headland to get other views of the stack. By now I had an unobstructed view across to the snow topped Sutherland hills. More gawping at the Old Man and then on out to the very tip of the land, where it felt kinda like I was standing at the edge of the world.
The sun had melted any ground frost so the running was now onto ground that had more gice and was a pleasure to run on. Up through the heather I ran, up to a trig poing indicating the highest point out there for a gobsmackingly beautiful 360 panorama. Words can't do it justice.
From there I dropped down off the path to run through some boggy heather as it looked much more fun than sticking to the path (it was), leading me down to a beautiful wee pool before I joined the road from the radio mast back down to the car park.
Just stunning. If you are ever up that way, make sure you have your trail shoes....

Friday, 15 February 2013

Returning Sunshine, Returning Spirit

So, for a variety of reasons my training over the winter has been pretty limited, so over the last couple of weeks I've been easing myself back in, catching a couple of the club run sessions, a ride along the canal path, an off road run and a circuit session (which *HURT*). Today, the sun shone and it was verging on being warm; the miserable weather of recent weeks melted away under the suns gentle smile and life felt good. So I got home and immediately signed myself up for 3 triathlons; Bute Sprint, Ayr Sprint & St Mary's Standard.
I've never raced at any of these locations (the St Mary's one is new but from the same location as the Durty), so looking forward to them all. Spring is in the air.

I totally burnt out after Roth last year, I just hadn't set up the mechanisms for allowing my body to recover after the beating I gave it round the course, so I plan on doing things for fun this year. Don't get me wrong, I still want to train hard and push myself on, but in reality I'm still relatively new to this training  malarky, and my body is still adapting to being treated in this fashion, but its definitely getting used to it. I was running the other day & complaining that I was so out of shape after being off the training most of the winter, until I thought about the fact that the run session I was doing would've broken me 3 years ago, rather than just leaving me a bit short of breath. My sub 40min 10k still remains a goal out there, but I want to let the next few months roll out naturally and get myself back into better form before I start targeting it. I'll take stock in a couple of months.

2013, I look forward to your challenges!

Amon Amarth - Cry of the Black Birds