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2012 Review part 1

So, following on from my previous post reviewing last year’s racing, here is a review of 2012.

It’s been an up and down year. I had some fantastic results early on in the season, but after those early successes, the year petered out.

As you may remember (or not, especially as there’s probably not actually anyone reading this other than my Mum), I got myself a place in the Virgin London Marathon ballot (henceforth to be known as VLM).

I discovered whilst training for Chester that the key to keeping my focus in training is to have a “scary” goal. That is, during 2010 I was running, and had loads of races where I wanted to do well, and had the weekly target of lowering my parkrun PB, but I regularly went through periods where the only run I would do would be that week’s parkrun. For example, during June and July I only ran 12 times, and 8 of them were either local club races or parkruns. Having gone from couch to 5K, I was now in the comfortable position of being able to blag my way round a 5k or 10k in a semi respectable time, on no training. However Chester was a scary prospect, and I had to make damn sure I trained, as 26.2 is a fracking long way.

Baring in mind the mistakes I made with my Chester training plan, I marked all of my races on my training plan, and rearranged my long runs. That meant that I would often be doing a Long Run on a weekday, instead of the traditional Sunday, so that I could race on the Sunday. I also factored in my shift pattern a lot more. In the Chester build up, there were some days where training just wasn’t a realistic possibility, eg on a Tuesday after an early shift.

The training plan called for a mid January Half Marathon, and so I returned to Helsby. I went into the race wanting to go under 1:40, and I felt that it was definitely within my ability, however the conditions weren’t as favourable as last year. It was still cool and overcast, but there was a vicious wind, which, due to the circular nature of the course, was never blowing in our favour. I finished in 1:41:48 which was a 40 sec PB. Not as much as I’d hoped for, but solid given the conditions, and an indicator of things to come.

I should mention at this point that as well as VLM, I decided to up my game with regard to Triathlon as well. I joined Manchester Tri Club as a Bronze member at the end of 2010, but never really did much with it, other than race under their name at the Tris I competed in. I decided for 2012 that I would up that membership to Gold, and go all in. A Bronze membership basically means that you can race as MTC, and you can come to training sessions on a pay as you go basis. A Gold membership gives you access to any and all training sessions, and is well worth it if you intend to do some structured training, particularly Swim training. In fact with 11 swim sessions a week, and only 3 cycle and 2 running sessions, you could argue, that Man Tri is a Masters Swim Club that happens to do a bit of cycling and running on the side :-)

Certainly, my swim speed and stamina improved dramatically when I started training with MTC 2 or 3 times a week. In February we had the MTC vs Trafford Metro gala, which gave everyone who wanted, the chance to compete in some sprint races (50s and 100s of the various strokes). It was fun to be swimming in a gala again, for the first time since I was about 15. I got smoked by the better swimmers, but I was happy with where my times were.

Into March we go, and on to the Winter Sprinter, a 60mile Cyclo Sportive. A Sportive isn’t a race, it’s an organised ride. The Winter Sprinter, organised by Polocini, was good value, with a great route, and some great food provided. The only downside, was the truly awful weather. It was around 3C, and raining almost all the way round. I forced myself out the door and onto this, as the bike is my weakest triathlon discipline, and I needed to up my game some.

After thrashing myself at the Winter Sprinter, something strange happened. On the Friday I did my second of the four 20 mile Long Runs in my VLM plan. On the Saturday morning I had to go over to Sheffield, and as you do, I ran the Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Now, given that I had run 20 miles the day before, I wasn’t expecting much, and decided to just go balls to the wall for as long as I could, and see where that left me. Well, that left me with a 17 second PB or 21 dead. That’s right, I PB’d for 5k the day after a 20mile long run. I still don’t know exactly how it happened.

Trafford 10K

Trafford 10K

Eight days later I had my next stab at lowering my 10k PB. However, this time I was cheating slightly, as I was running the Trafford 10K, widely held to be one of the fastest 10Ks in the UK (and certainly the distance travelled by some of the runners would bare that out). It’s flat, and very fast, with just two small speed bumps (small bridges over the canal) not long after the half way point. This had been a long time in coming, and I smashed it, 43:05 for a PB by well over 2 minutes.

My final long run of the VLM plan was a 22 miler. The Tuesday morning run it’s self went fine, and I had no problems however I woke up the next day with a sore achilles. In fact, a very sore achilles. So much so, that I could barely walk for 2 days. Not good, three weeks out from the VLM. Doubly not good as I had my first Triathlon of the season booked in for that Sunday, the Pwllheli Sprint Tri. The soreness in my achilles subsided during the week, and by Saturday night I had decided that I would race. I was itching to put my swim training into action, and I needed the distraction from the VLM. However, I made a deal with myself, it would be stupid to ruin VLM over a little sprint tri, so nail the swim, nail the bike, and phone in the run. Anyone want to guess how long that plan lasted?

Sunday morning saw me set off for deepest Wales for what turned out to be one of the most, er, interesting, Tris I’ve done so far. Upon arrival at the Leisure Centre, we had to wait for the staff to turn up and let us in. Working on the other side, I can only sympathise with his embarrassment at being late. Once we finally got inside the fun started. Firstly, there was the briefing. As is customary (and probably legally required) the briefing was done in both Welsh and English. I can’t help but get the feeling that it would have gone quicker if they had just done the briefing twice, once straight through in Welsh, and then again in English. The constant swapping between languages made it hard for me to follow, but also, confused the frack out of the briefer as he kept loosing his place.

Pwllheli Sprint Tri

Pwllheli Sprint Tri

The Triathlon was being put on by the local council, and fair play to them for doing something like this. However, there were some tell tail signs that a local council was involved. Firstly there was no tumble-turns allowed in the pool, and then you found out that running was banned. That’s right, you weren’t allowed to run. For safety reasons. Thankfully that rule only applied to Transition. But still, it’s a fracking race and you can’t run! So much for the 4th discipline. In case you’re thinking that maybe we were tight on space in transition, and therefore they wanted to avoid an accident, you couldn’t be more wrong. We racked our bikes at the side of the centre’s rugby pitch (well, it was in Wales), hanging our bikes on the hand rail around the edge of the pitch, using the pitch side of the rail as our transition space. That’s right, we had a whole rugby pitch worth of room.

Pwllheli Sprint Tri

Pwllheli Sprint Tri

The race it’s self went well. I was very happy with a 400m swim time of 6:03. The bike course was nice, a good little climb out of Pwllheli, with a nice fast section back into town, and the run was an out and back along the harbour wall. For those in any doubt, my plan to “phone in” the run lasted until I left T2, at which point I got carried away and went for it (go hard or go home!). My achilles didn’t like it, and I paid for it for the next couple of days, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been earlier in the week, and to be honest, gave me the confidence that with some rest, I’d be OK for VLM. I came 35th out of 152, my highest placing to date in any Tri (although to be fair, the standard outside of the top 5 was hardly stella).

Next up was a TT. Running has parkruns to keep you sharp, cycling has TTs or Time Trials. Known as the “Race of Truth” by the more militant Testers, they are a great way to see where you’re at on the bike as they mimic the bike leg of a Tri – you set off a minute apart, strictly no drafting if you catch the man (or women) in front. I entered the Abbotsford Park Open, a 10 mile TT on course J2/1. The CTT (UK time triallings governing body) uses course codes such a J2/1 to name the courses. This all stems from the days when Time Trialling on public roads was illegal, and so you couldn’t really name an event the Chelford 10 TT as it would give the authorities a rather big clue as to where to look. I quite like the fact that they have kept the old naming system, but it can make finding out basic information about the course you’re about to ride on (such as where it is!) quite hard.

Lining up alongside me was Sarah Storey. A former gold medal winning and world record holding Paralympic Swimmer, she turn to Cycling a few years ago, where she continued to dominate, winning various Olympic and world titles on the Track as well. Not for the last time this season, I was left for dead by a future London 2012 Gold Medal winner. I was quite happy with my time, as it represented a decent improvement over my one and only “10” time from 2011. (edit: just announced in the New Year’s Honours – DAME Sarah Storey)

That’s it for part 1. Stay tuned for more!

Posted in Cycling, Running, Triathlon.

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