Saturday, 9 March 2013

Mallorca Day 3 - 7

Time certainly flies when you’re having fun.

Tuesday saw the arrival of the first Tri Camp Mallorca group. The hours leading up to their arrival were spent doing the last few bits of admin and getting teas/coffees ready.

17 smiles greeted me, all excited about their week ahead. I’m sure going to be a master at remembering names after this 10-week stint.

I awoke to the pissing rain on Wednesday morning but got out for an 8km run regardless. Thankfully it stopped before the group rode down to the pool for their swim analysis session.

I joined the group for the afternoon ride to Lluc, making sure to smash myself up the climb. The beauty of riding climbs with varied abilities is that once you get to the top, you drop back down to the last rider and ride back up. It’s a great hill session.

Thursday’s ride is fairly flat and fast. On what we call the Reed Road (road is flanked with reed beds), I got down on the drops and started a great little chain gang. We kept at around 45km/h for what seemed like ages.

The 60km ride ends at Port de Pollenca, met by the van carrying our wetsuits. It was sunny but the water’s still too cold to be in for longer than 20/30 minutes. Getting a taste of the salt water was just enough.

Friday is a big ride day. Sa Calobra. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful mountain climbs in the world. It’s like a kid took a black crayon and scribbled on the side of a mountain. Switchback heaven. At the end of the day, my Garmin read 80km ridden, 2,000m ascended. That’s mega.

With the weather coming to the party, we declared Friday evening braai evening. Naturally the South African in me couldn’t resist volunteering. No pressure.

I needed to get a long run in this morning. Fortunately a few of the group were keen too so off I went with 6 others.

I’ve pretty much spent the rest of today drinking coffee at a café (free WiFi) then lounging next to the plunge pool on the roof terrace. It wasn't all rock n’ roll as I had a mound of laundry to sort out.

That said…la vida es buena.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Mallorca 2013 - Day 1 and 2

There’s a definite calmness to this place. Possibly because most people arriving are holidaymakers, but most certainly because it’s an island. What island isn’t chilled out?

It can be quite freaky coming from the hustle and bustle of London, especially when you’ve spent the night before at the Fez Nightclub in Putney – pure chaos.

Squeezing our way through the streets, we arrived at the villa in Pollenca. What a beauty! It’s open plan, rustic, filled with solid looking décor and multi-layered. A rabbit warren of sorts with multiple staircases leading to the same place, interlinking corridors and rooms without doors. 2 days here and I’m still learning my way around.

The best way to find your bearings at a new destination is to go for a run. So that’s exactly what I did.

After surfacing from an 11-hour sleep (obviously still recovering from the Fez), I took to putting my bike back together. A meticulous task that should take about 30 minutes, but goes on for 3 hours. Tinker, tinker.

It’s not simply all fun, so time was also spent getting the house ready for the Tricampers arriving on Tuesday, talking logistics and showing off my fire making skills. I do love a fire.

With only a few hours of sunlight left, it was time to ride my bike. I headed straight for the climb that’s featured on the Mallorca 70.3 race and immediately fell in love again. The roads are marble smooth, empty and switchbacked. Like being acquainted with a long lost lover, I was soon out of breath, smiling a mile wide.

There’s something very spiritual about riding up a mountain and my head swarmed with thoughts. With the sunshine in my eyes and sweat dripping off my nose, I reached the top of the climb. In a matter of minutes I was back at sea level, having dropped like a stone down the descent.

Braaing for the TriCamp staff on the roof terrace closed out a close-to-perfect day. Only having a few special people here would have made it absolutely perfect. But that time will come.

Mucho amor.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Challenge Roth 2012 Race Report

“Where am I?” “Why am I lying on cold tiles?” “Am I that tired that I fell asleep on the kitchen floor?”

These were the first thoughts that entered my head as I opened my eyes. Then the sinking realisation hit. “I’ve fainted!”

Two weeks out from the race, chopping carrots for dinner, I sliced my finger. Taking a look at the damage made me feel a little light-headed so I took a seat at the kitchen table. Queue faint, fall over, smack face on floor and a nice little visit to A&E. Sitting in the waiting area, I started feeling an ache down the back of my right leg, making my calf hurt like a bitch. I limped out of hospital with a bandaged finger, not having a care in the world about my digit. I could race Roth without a finger.


In previous Ironman races, I hadn’t done much planning in terms of goal setting. With a 10:07 in the bag (Outlaw 2010) I decided I needed to push the boat out. Set an A goal with a back up B goal should things not go to plan. In hindsight, I think this is a really good strategy. It means you’ve still got something to push for should things go tits up. I see it often when someone misses their goal, they simply give up; stop trying.

So, my A goal became 9:30 with a back-up sub 10:00 the B goal. I knew achieving the latter would still be remarkable and highly respectable.

The road to Roth

I could write a whole story simply on this trip. Paul (@smernicki), Jamie (@jamiewardell) and I did the 12 hour drive from SW20 (London) to Nuremberg. Passing through four countries made the time fly by. Paul was absolutely legendary, taking the whole drive on while I tweeted, sang and pretty much filled every possible silent moment. Jamie supplied snacks.

Staying in Nuremburg is pretty much the only option unless you book accommodation two years in advance around the Roth area. Our hotel was totally suitable. They had very good looking receptionists.

Route recce

Driving into Roth the following morning trying to find the swim venue was somewhat surreal. Roth is a highly documented race, so I’d see many videos and photos. Suddenly we were here, about to take on Roth ourselves. After getting a little lost, we eventually met some mates and did a swim recce on the canal. Distance over water is horrible. Thankfully an upbringing racing canoes on rivers has allowed my mind to get over the head-f*ck.

The days preceding the race involved reccing a small hilly section of the bike course (road surface like a snooker table), tinkering with our bikes (many hours worth), the pasta party and racking our bikes.

The buzz, tension and excitement of race morning is part and parcel of IM racing. And Roth had it in spades. Matt Malloy (@ahoysavaloy) described the Roth vibe perfectly. It has the feel of a small local race but there are 4,000 international athletes in attendance.

I’d been allocated the first start wave. Yip, me and the pros. And the other age-groupers in my start wave obviously. But sitting in the water, awaiting the sound of the starter cannon I thought, “It doesn’t get more big time than this.” I’m lead to believe only the start at the World Champs in Hawaii feels ‘bigger’.


I’d neglected my swim. The ROI on swimming is crap. I’m a decent swimmer so I’d got by on two swims a week. It’s such a small part of an IM, I’d made the decision to focus on areas that count. Because of this, I made the call to start out easy. I really didn’t want to be breathing out my ass 200m in. Surprisingly, after a minute or two, I felt in the groove. Like I was being sucked along. The effort felt easy but I wasn’t losing position or being swam over. The perfect beginning I thought.

After what always feels like a lifetime, I reached the turnaround buoy. Mentally it’s great to turn for home. Approaching the final turnaround, I made the error of assuming the buoy was under the bridge. Wrong I was. Lifting my head, I noticed a few more buoys heading off in the distance. Not great but I put my head down, kept calm and reached the final turnaround happy in the knowledge that the swim was nearly over.

My watch read 56 minutes as I exited the canal. A massive mental high five. Picking up my T1 bag, I tried to sneak a view of Jamie’s bag (meaning I was out ahead of him). I was 99% certain I saw it still sat on the floor. Another mental high. And I mean this as a compliment to Jamie. In the weeks leading up to Roth, whenever we swam, Jamie kicked my butt. Historically, I own the swim. It’s MY thing. But Jamie had worked hard at his, so I genuinely thought I’d come out behind him. For those who don’t know me very well, Jamie is my best mate and training partner. Which means we’re SUPER competitive. That said, IM is a different ball game. It’s each to their own. Something I repeatedly told myself. “Race your own race, not Jamie!” Anyone who has their own ‘Jamie’ will know this is easier said than done.

T1 was a bit of a mare. Arriving at the mount line, I noticed I hadn’t put my race belt (which holds my race number) on. So instead of a flying mount, I had lie Felty down, whip the belt on, and once again get going.

Bike time

The first section of the bike course is amazeballs. At the start it’s lined with cheering spectators. Crossing over the canal you can hear the music from the swim exit still pumping and as the music fades, the course drops into a few fast, sweeping bends. Within three minutes the speedometer’s reading 55km/h. I used the first 30 minutes to collect myself, sip some nutrition and mentally prepare myself for the next five hours. I don’t own a powermeter (gasp) so my goal was to try average 36km/h (5 hour bike split) and ride to perceived effort. Listen to the engine. It’s hard to remember most of the bike. I was super focused on hitting the numbers, pedalling smoothly, taking on nutrition, and monitoring how I felt. The crowds through the little villages were great, clapping, cheering and generally spreading their positive energy. I distinctly remember certain events or points but placing them in order is impossible. Except for the Solar Berg. SHIT A BRICK.

Rounding a corner, the course suddenly funnels into barriers and at the end of the barriers, there’s no visible road. Only people. Then suddenly a Mexican wave forms and a gap only wide enough for my bike opened in front of me and the sound of HOP!, HOP!, HOP! filled the air. Heart rate through the roof! Pure exhilaration. It’s going to be hard to beat that experience.

Hitting the 90km mark I’d managed to keep a 36km/h average and hit 2:30 on the clock. But I was on my limit. The memory at that moment sticks and saved my race. “Well played Troy. You’re on your way to a solid bike split. BUT…this feels like I’m racing a half Ironman.” And that’s where perceived effort comes in. I knew I couldn’t maintain this without the risk of a massive bonk or terrible run. I decided then to drop the pace. Not by much but enough to save my race. The second lap was hard. The wind had raised its ugly head. Why did everyone say there’s never wind at Roth?

I’d prepared myself for the horrible no man’s land between 100 and 150km. Sure enough, my low patch came around the 110km mark. I think it came earlier because I’d pushed too hard in the first 90km. I forced myself to eat (mood always indicates low nutrition levels), read what I’d written on the bottle sat in front of me and reminded myself I’d prepared for this point. I’d prepared well.

The only negative (and it applies to all races that do it) of Roth is having to deal with the relay participants on the second lap of the bike. There are LOADS of them. It’s annoying but I totally appreciate it’s all part of the event and allows a greater number of people to get involved in our beautiful sport. I only wish everyone was as honest as I am when it comes to drafting. I simply don’t do it. You’re only cheating yourself.

With about 50km to go, I felt the signs of needing a pee. I waited for a nice downhill section, checked behind me and let rip. I’ve never been more satisfied to see golden liquid streaming down my leg and spraying into the air. It honestly saves minutes and plenty energy.

There’s a great point on the bike when you know the end is in sight. It’s normally with about 30km to go – generally indicating less than an hour left. It gave me renewed energy and focus.

The panic set in coming past the T1 exit for a 3rd time. Knowing it was a two lap course, starting effectively a third lap really threw me. Had I missed the turn for T2? I looked ahead and all I saw was relay riders who were all starting their second lap, giving me nobody to follow or question. I suddenly felt massively despondent. All this effort to make such a schoolboy error. I ‘soft-pedalled’ not wanting to get too much further into the lap before maybe having to turn around. I got to an intersection manned by a couple German police officers, clipped out, and held up my Garmin which read 171km and asked if I’d missed the T2 turn. They looked at me blankly. Understandably they probably didn’t understand me. Fortunately a spectator shouted “Keep going, the turn for T2 is still coming!” What a relief! Boy did I put the hammer down. Coming around a corner I'd been around twice already, I saw the sign pointing out the right turn I needed to take. Why I hadn’t seen it on the first two laps I have no idea. I can only blame focus. Most of the ride I was head down, hammering.

Arriving at T2 all I could think was “I can’t wait to run this marathon”. Running a sub-3 at London in April was a huge boost and I knew my running was strong. I’ve honestly worked hard at my running and I’m just loving it. I felt excited about the run.


A couple days before the race, I heard Matt Malloy mention that race organisers, Challenge, allow competitors to run listening to music. It’s quite rare, mainly due to it being a safety issue, but with totally closed raods at Roth, it isn’t. I’ve never raced using music and rarely train with it. Oddly enough, when I unpacked my race shoes, my Shuffle dropped out of them. I hadn’t intentionally packed it so saw it as a sign and included it in my run pack along with some salt tablets and ibuprofen.

Run Troy Run 

The constant fear I had on the bike was that I’d start running and my ‘injured’ carrot calf would flare up, reducing me to a walk or even worse, a DNF. I’d made my mind up that no matter what, I would finish. Even if I had to walk the 42.2km.

I started running and felt great. Running next to a fellow competitor I commented that we were going too quickly. My watch read 4:15/km pace. My race plan was 4:45s until halfway and after that try not let the pace go slower than 5:00/km. Mentally I also broke the run down to 4 x 10km. The run at Roth is a 1 loop affair, in the shape of a T. The majority of it is along a gravel towpath that runs along the side of the canal. I’d been warned to prepare for the long straight section where you can see about 10km of the course ahead of you.

Over the next few hours, I simply concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. My stomach stirred around the 10km mark and I made a beeline for the closest portaloo. This resulted in a slow kilometre (because of the sit down) put I steadily made the time back.


Turning at the first end of the T shaped course, I looked forward to spotting mates. This allowed me to take my mind off the pain. I was taking gels every 20 minutes and the aid stations are brilliant. Sponges, water, coke, sports drink, gels, chicken soap and a lot of food. I’m not sure what food was on offer as the thought of food made me feel sick. I did see bananas. My nutrition plan included gels (Gu), coke, water and salt tablets only.

At some point along the canal, I decided to stick my music on. It was a dance (proper doff doff stuff) album and it really helped me zone out. (I ended up listening to the same album three times over.)

The first person I saw was Matt Malloy. He was absolutely flying and looked well on his way to a sub 9. Next came ‘danger man’ Paul Burton (@Pablo_Burt) who was looking good, followed by Paul D (@Deenzy1).

When I spotted Paul S, it lifted my spirits and I let out a massive yell of “P-DOGG!” Being Paul’s first IM, I was desperate to offer him encouragement. He looked great (still early days) and we exchanged a high five.

The next section of the run is a blur really. Most of the time I was doing math in my head to ensure I was still on sub 10 pace. Reoccurring thoughts were “I’m so glad my calf doesn’t hurt” and “Where’s Jamie?” I was worried he’d had a mechanical and just hoped to hell he hadn't. Normally he catches me on the bike.

The mind really does wander when running and I just let it go, thinking of various people in my life, what I’d been through, all the training I’d done, how lucky I was to have my health and mostly how much I love my family. I thought of the people willing me on, knowing they’d be tracking me online and drew on their energy. I’m a big believer in energy. I really felt it out there.

There he is! 

As soon as I saw him, I felt a massive sigh of relief. I could tell Jamie was suffering but he still smiled. He asked if I was on for a sub 10 and with my answer being a firm “YES”, I felt a surge of energy come over me. I was STILL on for sub 10!

When I hit the 32km mark, I started counting the kilometres down. And down they ticked until I heard the announcer. The last few kilometres of the run course pass the finish (sadistic bastards) and into the town of Roth. It’s a lovely part (even though you’re in the hurtlocker) of the route as there’s loads of people, music and cheering. It's like running through a beerfest. I actually sped up through the town and pushed hard for home.

The red carpet

The finish arena is AMAZEBALLS. It’s a purpose built U shape arena with grandstands surrounding it. Hitting the red carpet, I didn’t feel a thing. All I wanted to do was finish.

And finish I did. In 9 hours and 41 minutes. Across the line, I did a little fist-pump and let out a massive “YESSSSSSSSS!” I was blown away. Even writing it now, it doesn’t seem real.

I’d love to include how everyone else’s race panned out but I’m sure not many people have even made it this far into the race report. Thankfully, everyone finished, rather spectacularly I must add.

Thanks to everyone who played a part in this journey. My biggest thanks to Jamie, P-Dogg and Nico (@EnduranceHero). They’re the guys I spend most of my training hours with and who inspired me most.

The boys!

Final splits.

More photos here and here.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tips for a First Time London Marathon Runner

This weekend sees me standing on the start line of the London Marathon yet again. I can't bloody wait. I'm aiming for a sub-3 which is going to hurt. If however, this is your first London Marathon, I hope the below helps. Best of luck!

So, you’ve done the hard bit (well nearly), you’re fit, healthy and raring to go. Obviously stick to whatever you’re used to and only take advice on the things you might find helpful. Get a good night’s sleep on Friday, it’s the most important night. Stay off you your feet on Saturday (you could go for an ultra slow 15 minutes jog), drink water (don’t glug it down, it will only make you wee it all out) and relax on the couch all day!

• Pack your marathon bag and lay your race day outfit out, the night before. It will help you sleep as you won’t be thinking about what you need to pack/remember.

• Take your race number, scrunch it into a small ball and then open it up fully again. Making it crumply stops it from acting like a sail while you’re running. (Trust me, this is one of the best tips I’ve ever been given & I do it to every single race no. I get.)

• Smear your feet (esp. toes) in Vaseline when you put your socks and shoes on in the morning. It will feel squidgy for a few minutes but then your feet absorb it and it stops the blistering. Honest.

• Pack a loo roll to take with you to the start. Loos there will ALWAYS run out.

• Rather get there early and sit around at the start than have to jog to the start if you’re late. It’s a bit of a walk from the station. Going early also means you might get a seat on the train on the way there. Rest those legs, you've to 42.2km coming up.

• Take an old ‘throw-away’ t-shirt and a bin bag (cut 3 holes for head and arms) to wear once you’ve put your finish bag on the truck. If cold, run with them on for a few miles until you’re feeling warm and then bin them. Don't waste energy trying to keep warm while you wait in the start pens.

• Take water to sip and a banana to eat before the gun goes off.

• Stretch a little before the start but don’t worry about doing a jog to warm-up. You’ll have plenty time to get warm.

• Make sure you run self-sufficient. Don’t hope to receive something from a supporter/loved one. If the trains have issues and the person isn’t where you expect them, you’ll be stressing. It’s a bonus if you do get something extra along the way but don’t rely on it.

• Don’t stress if the going is slow at the start. Think of it as a blessing as starting out too quickly will come back to haunt you later on. Seriously don’t worry if you feel the pace is too slow. Because you’ve trained well, the first half of the race will feel easy. It’s the second half that you’re saving it for.

• Run consistent. Stick to your mile splits but if you feel it’s too hard to keep reaching them, slow down a few seconds and reassess your goal time. (Better to slow down than blow up.)

• Take water from the end of the watering tables. It’s less busy. There’s so many watering tables, only drink when you feel you need to, not at each one. Don’t carry the water you pick up. Take one, have a few sips and throw it. Energy is wasted carrying it.

• Most importantly, enjoy it. Soak up the atmosphere. It’s incredible! You’ll get goose-bumps. It’s like running in a stadium for 26.2 miles. People will shout your name; raise a hand and smile (if you can). It’s so much fun, but don’t get too excited in the first half. All the adrenaline will make you want to run faster. Save it for a sprint finish.

• The last bit on the Mall will blow you away. Tears will flow, you’ll feel as light as air, and that’s it, you’ve done it!


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Did someone say FREE speed?

[Pete Jacobs riding to 2nd place - IM World Champs, Hawaii]

I’ll admit I’m a bit sceptical when it comes to tri gear and gadgets. I’m from the old school of hard work/more training equals results and all too often in the sport of swim, bike and run, I see people with all the gear and no idea. The sport of triathlon is a marketer’s dream so it’s hard not to get sucked into the mayhem.

That said, I’ve reached a point in my triathlon journey where the margins for gains are getting smaller and smaller, and the little voice in my head questioning what if? What if I’m not riding in the optimum position to allow me to run efficiently off the bike? What if I reduced my bike split by 15 minutes? What if I could run a sub-3:30 Ironman marathon. What if I could be faster?

So I took the plunge. It wasn’t hard to decide where to go. Word-of-mouth talks.

Arriving at Freespeed’s premise on Power Road (surely a good omen!) I was filled with excitement and hesitation. £180 is a lot of tin and couldn’t (shouldn’t) I figure my set-up out on my own? The small voice had returned. A few moments on from meeting Richard, all my concerns were squashed. Just in the early exchanges we had, he put my mind to rest, without him knowing what my concerns were in the first place.

So onto the fit…

Starting with questions around my triathlon career goals and results we moved into simple flexibility testing. All the time explaining the reason behind the stretches. Even without getting on the bike, Richard made a crucial change. Convinced I’d set-up my cleat positioning correctly, Richard showed me a brilliant foolproof way to be sure. Sure as shit, I was proved wrong.

Freespeed 1 Troy 0.

Unlike the rest of the SBR world, I’m not a numbers person. This angle, that reach, blah, blah, blah. Get on your bike and ride. But spend 10-12 hours a week training and this data does become important. After being ‘noded up’ to resemble that of a crash test dummy, I set about doing the pedal interval tests. Seeing the Boeing 747 cockpit like set of numbers show up on the big screen in front of me was slightly intimidating, but Richard talked through all the data (without the jargon) explaining the figures and where he wanted me to end up.

A little tinkering here and tailoring there left me in a position both of us were happy with. But for me, aside from the Retul technology which many bike fitters use, Richard constantly added tips, tricks and advice to be more aero, faster and a better rider. It’s these ‘value-added extras’ that really impressed me and have stayed with me. Richard has a genuine want to share the knowledge and insight he’s gained through experience over his impressive career. This passion can be seen in the brand he’s created. It has a huge ‘giving back’ feel about it. I’ll certainly be following Freespeed’s development with great interest.

The point of this post wasn’t to give the in ands outs of a bike fit (that’s Richard’s job), but more a feel for why I think it was money very well spent. In the sessions I’ve done on the turbo since (frothing to hit the road but these Northern Hemisphere conditions don’t allow for a TT outing), I can notice the difference. No numb nuts, less tightness in the hips – the list goes on.

In summary, I should have gone ages ago. If you’re going to invest time and energy into a sport you love, it’s worth it. As Richard himself said, getting a bike fit won’t suddenly turn you into Fabian Cancellara. But what it does do is give me the confidence to train and race as hard as possible, knowing I’m getting the best out of what I have.

Got to run. I have a turbo session waiting.

Some images ‘borrowed’ from the Freespeed website.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Swashbuckler Middle Distance Triathlon


Other than not being able to run as much as I should have due to allowing my calf to recover and repair, I was raring to go. Swim training had been good, if not great. Same for the bike.

So going into the race, my only worries were:

1. Would my calf hold out?


2. Would my legs handle a half marathon with the minimal running I’d done leading up to the race?

Funny how sometimes the things you worry the least about, trouble you the most.

Race morning

Is there anything worse than diving to the start of a race in the pissing rain? Added to that, the trees looked like they were lying flat on the ground. Oh, and did I mention it was 3:30am? Yip, due to tides, kick-off was at 5:15am.

I’d planned on racing with my newly purchased aero-wheel cover. With the wind blowing a gale, I chickened out and removed it before racking. A decision I’m still regretting. This was a ‘B’ race and as such I should have tested the cover. Live and learn.

Setting up in transition the rain and wind started to ease slightly which was great.

Race time

Getting into the water I was frothing. It’d been ages since I last raced and I was keen to give this a proper go. Being a strong swimmer, I positioned myself on the front of the start line. There was a slight current running meaning an easier swim to the turnaround buoy but then more effort required for the return. It’s a two-lap, course.


The siren sounded and I put in a few hard strokes to get things going (Sounds like the opening line of the World Wanking Champs – ha ha ha). After a few metres I noticed a large pack coming past so drifted towards them. They were going quick and it felt too early to be pushing that hard. Mistake 1.

I kept a steady pace but in doing so didn’t sight as much as I should have. Mistake 2, a schoolboy mistake! When I finally looked up, I noticed I’d swum too far to the right. I tracked left and got to the turnaround buoy. For the rest of the swim it just felt like I kept losing places. On reflection, I lacked the speed. I’ve got too used to swimming ‘long’ at a nice steady, comfortable pace. In a half Ironman it’s full gas from the word go. 1,900m is short and should be raced, not just swum. Hard lesson to learn but glad I learnt it on a ‘B’ race.

I may come across as being too hard on myself considering I came out 13th (unlucky number alright) but being my best/strongest discipline, I’d hoped to be inside the top 10. Including transition, I swam a 32:49. A below-par result.


After a quick T1, I hopped onto Felty, looking forward to a ride around the beautiful New Forest. The morning rains had left the roads soaked. Starting out, it felt like I was riding with the brakes on. Having only taken the aero-wheel cover off minutes before racking, I thought maybe I’d knocked the brake onto the rim. My first thought was to stop and check but then thankfully I remembered there’s the option of opening up the brakes by turning the small knob on the brake callipers. Even after opening the brakes up, it felt like I was riding through hummus. It then suddenly stuck me. Wet roads = sticky roads. I had a small chuckle to myself and pushed harder on the pedals. I couldn’t help giggling as I passed at least three guys stopped on the side of the road spinning their back wheels thinking they too had brake issues. Another great lesson learnt and one for the Experience Bank.

The Swashbuckler bike course is breathtaking. Not only because my heart rate was sitting at165bpm, but because of the pure beauty. Open space, wild ponies and quiet roads. It’s a big chain ring course but with the wind up, it was tough going. I tried to pace off other riders (not daft – I NEVER draft), with the occasional rider flying past me. But I generally held my position and hammered away.

Only at about 40km (of 80km) did I feel like I was ‘racing’. Up until then I wasn’t comfortable. It felt really hard going and my mood was very negative. Maybe it was a result of the poor swim, who know? But on a half, there’s no time to ‘get into’ the bike. It needs to be smash, smash, smash from the word go.

I can happily go so far as to say it is one of the best bike courses I’ve ever ridden. On some sections you could see for miles ahead with the guys all spread out. Boy would I have loved to have had a camera. And the time of course.

I fuelled well on the bike. Nearing the end of the ride I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. Again a result of the pan flat course which meant being down in the drops longer than any of the training rides I’d done. Time in the saddle doesn’t equate to time in the TT position. Some longer turbo sessions are definitely needed. The final 10km were brutal into a hectic headwind.

Bike split – 2:17:59.


The only hold-up in T2 was getting my socks onto numb feet. It was more annoying than time wasting as it probably only made a difference of the few seconds.

Having been worried about the run since the horn sounded, I ran out of T2 hard, hoping any problems would surface sooner rather than later (shorter walk back!). But as with life sometimes, the thing I was most concerned about worried me the least. Not a single grumble from the calf or legs for that matter, except for my hamstring attacking me. But that was self-inflicted. Let me explain…

As already mentioned, I ran out of T2 with numb toes. About a kilometre into the run, it felt like I had a stone or berry stuck under the sole of my shoe. I knew it wasn’t inside my shoe as I would have felt that from the first few steps, so I could only guess it was lodged in the sole. Without thinking, I stopped and very stupidly lifted my right foot up towards my face. The sniper rifle fired. Well, that’s at least what it felt like. My hamstring instantly cramped and I quickly shot my leg out into a straight position. I must have scared my fellow competitors as I screamed out in agony. I screamed LOUD. Instinct kicked in and I just ran. The cramp faded quickly but boy did it give me a massive fright. Another good lesson learnt – no quick, impulse movements when it comes to legs and their muscles.

The 22.5km run is a two-lap affair, passing the finish at the halfway point. Getting to said halfway/finish point involves a fairly steep grassy hill (which we also had to run up after the swim) but other than that, it’s a fairly flat course that’s best described as lumpy. There’s a 2 or 3km section of trail near the end of each lap, which I absolutely love. It’s through a tall tree forest with the Beaulieu River to the left. I embraced the scenery and told myself how lucky I was to be racing in such a stunning environment.

I tried my best to ‘race’ the run, going with a runner when they came alongside me for as long as I could hold on. I targeted runners ahead who I could see were suffering/slowing and made sure to pass them with a little spurt of pace hoping they’d not bother to chase.

I held onto a fairly decent pace, starting out at well below 4:30s but slowed to around 4:40 pace on some of the final kilometres. With not worries with the calf, I felt stoked to be running with confidence again. This really helped my mindset and I pushed the final 2km along the trail, around the corner and onto the grassy ‘knoll’. I crossed the finish line knowing I’d run to the best of my ability. A great feeling.

Run split – 1:40:40

Total time – 4:31:30

30th overall. 9th in age catergory.

So, I went into the racing wanting to smash the swim and bike. What happens, I smash the run and fluff the swim and bike. It’s a cruel old world. But that’s what keeps it exciting. No two races will ever be the same, and it’s the experiences and lessons learnt that make the next one that much better.


Five star. It can’t be easy putting on a race around the New Forest. They’re a vocal and understandably passionate community so any indiscretion (litter, dangerous riding, etc) gets the locals up in arms. The organisers put huge emphasis on this at the compulsory Saturday race briefing.

When being briefed, it was easy to tell that the Race Director has a genuine passion for the event versus it being just another moneymaking opportunity. They wanted to put on the best possible race they could. And they certainly did.

Along with the award for best bike course, they hands down win the ‘best medal’ award too. Not your run of the mill bronze medal. A lovely touch was the Race Director himself handing out the medals as we crossed the finish, thanking us for partaking in his race. We also received a great t-shirt, which I’ve used already to run in.

If you ever get the chance to race the Swashbuckler, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Entries sell-out fast so you’ll have to be move quick! But that’s the point.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Speedo Open Water 10km Swim

I sit here writing just hours after completing my first 10km swim. I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d share the experience.

Why swim 10km?

I love swimming. It’s certainly my strongest of the three triathlon disciplines. Having raced two Ironmans over the last two years, I decided this year is about new and different challenges. Events that pushed the comfort zone or which a PB would not be possible. I’d got into a rut of only racing events where I’d have the chance to set new best times. Just the thought of swimming 10km in one go scared me, yet made me feel excited about giving it a go. So I did.


Not ideal but when is it ever? I raced a middle distance triathlon one week ago and raced it quite hard at that. It left me pretty knackered at the start of the week. I managed a 2.4km swim on Tuesday and that was that. No amount of swimming in the lead-up week was going to make a difference anyway. The other area of preparation I was clueless about was nutrition. How do you fuel before and during a 10km swim? Learning is all part of the fun I guess.


It doesn’t get much better than Dorney Lake. Venue for the Sprint Kayaking and Rowing events at the 2012 London Olympics. And to think, it’s a school’s facility. Those Eton boys have it good. Having done a few tri races there before I knew what to expect. The only difference this time was that we were swimming in the return/warm-up area that sits to the side of the main lake. Two feed stations were set up on pontoons in the water at each end of the course so we never needed to exit the water at any point.

10km course = 3 loops. Straight up and back.

The race

Being a 10km, I thought people would take the start chilled (which of course we all were due to the water temperature) but man was I wrong. Off went the siren and on came the boxing gloves. I stayed relaxed and never got agro. After all, there was a long, LONG way still to go.

Nutrition wise I had a gel 15 minutes before entering the water and left a juice bottle and two gels at the athlete feed station.

I found some open water, got my breathing regulated and got into some long gliding strokes. Breathing to my right it was quite enjoyable seeing all the spectators walking along the bank. It made me think that if you’d want to take it super seriously, you could get someone to walk alongside at a specific pace and stay with them.

A great surprise after about ten minutes was seeing some mates who’d taken a detour on their ride to come and lend some support. I acknowledged them with a devil’s horns hand signal, followed by pulling a tongue, just to make sure they knew I’d seen them. It was a great motivator and much appreciated as it looked colder out the water than in!

Back to the swim. Well, I just swam. I sighted every now and then, sat on a pair of feet and drafted at times but I can’t really think what else occupied my mind. I sang, thought about my breathing, pace, life and about a 100 other random things.

My pacing strategy was to try do the swim under 2h45m. This works out at 1:39min/100m pace for the swimmers amongst you.

Completing the second lap (6.6km mark) I was thinking about laughing off any nutrition. I was feeling strong, weeing quite a bit (which told me I wasn't dehydrated) and worried that stopping would lose me time and placings. But then a few negative thoughts started creeping in (a negative mood is my first indication of needing to get fuel onboard) so made the call to get a gel. The feed stop was quick and I never lost any placings – result.

With the final lap to go, I decided to up the stroke rate and push a little harder. It had felt easy going. Rounding the top buoy for the last time was a big boost. Roughly 30 minutes to go. And about 10 minutes later is about when I started to feel uncomfortable. Heavy arms, aching shoulders and core, etc. I concentrated hard on my technique but think at this point I was squirming around like an eel.

The best way to describe the final 15 minutes is to imagine hardener being added to a tub of resin. Slowly but surely the mixture starts to harden. It felt like the water was turning to jelly.

At 200m to go I kicked as hard as my legs could and finished with a ‘sprint’ for the line. Job done. 2h48m30s. Bleak not to go under 2h45m but overjoyed to have completed my first ever 10km swim.

I’ll definitely be back for more, but maybe that’s because I’ve got water on the brain.


Human Race run a slick operation. They’re a business and their entry fees reflect this. That said, their events are popular and professional. Plus the number of marshals and safety staff on course was praiseworthy. Thanks to all these people.

There were 750m, 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m swim options. Personally I think the starts could have been staggered better. I was very surprised at the number of 3000m competitors I caught and had to swim thought. This is always going to be an issue on a looping course and Human Race can’t help if people start breaststroking after 50m.

All entrants were issued with a t-shirt. Happy days. But no medal/finishers gift? Maybe I’m an endurance snob but I’d love to have been given something showing I’d done the 10km versus the 750m. A minor thing which shouldn’t overshadow a great event. Long may they continue to do these swim only races.