Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Triathlon preparations

The triathlon debuted at the Olympic games in Sydney. I had just finished a year in New Zealand and was on the way home, but first a 2 week stint in Sydney for the Olympics. Via the web I managed to rent a room in a killer apartment with two Australian girls overlooking the marathon course in Paramatta, the complex even had a hottub. There was this mad deal where people with foreign passports could buy tickets for events every morning from consignments of tickets returned from abroad. It was nuts, the queues were not that big. I used to make a judgement call and sometimes pick up tickets for the parents of one of the girls in the apartment.

Myself and McG went to about 20 Olympic events. Each night I would spend about an hour detailing what I saw and cataloguing the results on my laptop which I had been given when I left my job in Colorado 2 years previous. Within 6 months the laptop was stolen by a professional train gang on my first day moving to Amsterdam. I had wiped a CDRW of an old backup the night before I left to make space and never managed to do a new backup, so all my diligent chronologiciling was lost. A painful lesson. The triathlon was one of the first events and we did not need a ticket, it was a gorgeous day for the men's event which Canadian Simon Whitfield in a time of 1:48:24.
Simon Whitfield wins gold

The first triathlon took place in 1974 in California. The event itself, like say athletics, does not equate to distance but comes in many forms and many names. There is the long distance, iron man or full (3.86k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run), the middle distance or half (Ironman) and the Olympic or standard (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run), among others. People new to the sport usually start with a Sprint (half Olympic) and Athlone also offered a Tri which was a Sprint with only a 200m swim. Since I first heard about the Sport, Triathlon has always meant Olympic distance to me. When applying for 3rd level education coming out of secondary (high school) in Ireland one fills out a CAO form with 10 ordered choices of courses in various institutions. Depending on the points obtained in the final leaving certificate examination you get offered a place or not. When I was applying there was only one thing I wanted to do and the points were relatively low so I filled out one course on the CAO form. Now I was doing a triathlon, there was only one for me, I registered on line and paid the 54 euro. Separately one had to pay 15 euros for a 1 day licence to be able to compete (email evidence shown here).

On the Monday of race week, I cycled the 20k round trip to work, went for a 8k jog at lunch and went for a 1k swim that night in the pool. My plan was to go running on Tuesday at lunch time, do an Aquathon (750m swim, 4.2k run) on Wednesday night and then rest up for the race. Normally I rely on the internet for research but I did not look at it in my triathlon preparations, I turned instead to friends who had done tris and multi sport events. McG had advised not doing anything the week before a race but conceded he had in the past and not regretted it. I had a series of great advice emails with Kev on Tuesday morning and coming out of that I decided to pull up my training and not do the lunch time run or the Aquathon the following evening.

The lads were all talking gels. I never had tried one before but it seemed the way forward. The main advice was never try anything in a race you had not in training. I paid another visit to the trizone store to look at the gels, I bought 2 different ones and went for a light 20 minute jog Thursday morning to test them. I downed the first gel at home and it tasted nasty but I didn't have a reaction jogging. Down at the end of the lane I sucked down the GU chocolate gel, it was like chocolate mouse, grand. No bother with the jog. I picked up a handful of those at lunch, the instructions said max 4 a day, each gave 20g of carbs. McGs advice was to tape some gels to the bike, sounds good. Talking to Kev he mentioned storing them in a tri pouch which goes on the cross bar. I had picked up one when I bought the bike having seen one of the club riders with one on my first ride with them. Not knowing the proper use I had been using it to carry a spare tube and my alien tool set. The tri-pouch is for the gels and energy bars, the tube and tools go in the pouch under the saddle, right on. I dredged though my bike crate and found the saddle pouch I had bought for Christine's bike but never fitted, it went on like a glove.

For the Coosan charity swim I got a loan of a 2XU tri wet suit from Trizone. It felt fantastic in the water. In the shop the lad demoed to me that it used rudder band technology so that as one turned and stretched in the water the other side of the suit was acting like a rudder. But they cost 250 euros and there were no deals on eBay. Andy M, who recently completed the 70.3 in England with 6k climbing on the bike and 1200m climbing on the run, advised to just use the gear I had for the first triathlon. In trizone I was looking at tri-suits as well, one piece jobs you wore under the suit which encompassed bike shorts, they started at 90 notes. One of the lads in there echoed Andy M and said not to spend money on gear for the first tri but use what you had/borrowed. I decided I would use the wetsuit I had and go topless underneath with bike shorts on.

Having decided to skip the Aquathon I needed to practise getting out of the wet suit, the first transition. Kev, gave some gems of advice here.
Get the arms out, pull down on the legs to start getting it off, and then...and this is the funny kinda take it off like a bold kid getting undressed...put one foot on the free leg part of the other leg down near your toes, and then pull against that with the free leg - this frees about one foot of leg at a time, and alternate from leg to leg. It kinda looks silly, but its the quickest way. The suit wont/shouldn't rip. If you are down there with your hands you are going about it the slow way!

I set up my station in the garden as kev had told me, bath towel spread out to stand on, gear lined up in the order you are to put on, starting from the feet. The lad in trizone had told me about iBungee stretch laces, replacing the normal laces with elastic ones so you would not have to fiddle tying. Some people used the same shoes for cycling and running, others, trizone told me, had the cycling shoes pre-clipped to the pedals with elastics back to wheel nuts holding them level. I decided to but the bungee laces on both my cycling and running shoes and to tape the Velcro straps on the cycling shoes out of the way under the shoe. I set the flip rolling and ran to my station, unzipping the wet suit as I ran. Getting it off as Kev describes was brilliant, the natural way to do it. I still needed to help it off around my ankles with my hands but it was dead handy. No need to dry oneself you'll be dry on the bike in ten or fifteen anyway. Except the feet, have a hand towel beside the shoes for that, I used a small chammie I have. From talking to everyone most people seemed to bike/run without socks. I was concerned about blisters and taking on board the creed not to try anything new on race day that you had not practised, I was going with socks. I had them sitting ready on the shoes, pre-rolled so I could just stick in my toes and unroll the sock onto my foot. Helmet was last, you don't want to put that on before your top says Kev, he had learnt that from experience. For the second transition, bike to run, the sensible thing was just to change the shoes for me, keep going in the bike top.

I was concerned about sighting in the water, i.e. checking the direction you were going in. At the swimming lessons Charlie had suggested to sight every 6 strokes. I found it very awkward having completed the breathing to then turn the head back the opposite way to sight. I never copped it to sight first until Andy M and Kev explained it to me over email. Andy M likes to breath every stroke, because if he breathes every strokes he gets hypoxic. By breathing every stroke he can sight by simply turning his head forward with just his eyes above the water, one can miss a breathing stroke without too much impact. Kev said sighting in a river is easier that pure open water because you take plenty of sneaky sights to the side on every stroke and if you are maintaining your distance from the bank you are probably going straight. The efficiency trick is not to raise your head and body too much out of the water when sighting as this will create a big drag. With this little glimpse you may well not see your target, but ignore it and carry on. Try again on the next stroke.

It was time for lists, I needed to find my waterproof watch which I had for yonks but rarely used, where was the small plastic jogging bottle with a slot in the middle you could grip. The lads were advising 2 bottles on the bike, one water, one isotonic. I needed to find another drink cage, maybe take one off my mountain bike. Kev said all these gels and drinks are meant to supply you with salts (electrolytes). Apparently your muscles won't work without the electrolytes in there, and with all that sweating you will be losing a lot of salt - making replenishment mandatory. Kev said he believe it leads to crampsville when they run out. Buy Lucozade Sport, was added to my list.

I had my wheels trued only a few week before but going back into my estate on the Saturday run I went over a wee manhole than I knew had buckled the front wheel slightly. The bik4work scheme purchased through Halfords included a 1 year service plan where one only pays for parts. The way Boardman does it only mechanics who have had specific Boardman training to work on their bikes in Halfords shops. I rang the Longford shop and Shaney was working Thursday, finishing up at 6, he was happy to do a tune. I made it up at 10 to 6 and he was dead sound, going over and beyond polishing the bike for it's maiden race. Talking to one of the lads up there who was getting out 3 times a week now, he was averaging 25kph, I would be happy with that in fairness.

I was squeezing in the pasta meals in the evenings, eating bread, carbo loading like the lads said. I was drinking water not beer. I was getting to bed by 23.30 latest, early for me, plenty of rest they said.

Sounds like you're taking this event pretty seriously, said Andy M after my endless email questions. Hmmmm, I guess I was.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

BIKE: A wet training ride

It was the weekend before TriAthlone and Martin & Nessa were home from London to Dublin, where Nessa was throwing a surprise 40th for her bro John. They were making the most of being home and inviting a few of their mates too. It was to be our second night out together since Cadhla was born. But Saturday night in Dublin meant no Sunday morning training ride in Athlone, I'd have to squeeze one in on Saturday morning. First we had to leave early for a family months mind mass. It was a brutal morning and I put on the gortex overshoes over the hiking waterproof pants. One of my least favourite things to do is to get wet, except of course in more temperate climates.

8.15 out of the house and with the rain belting I turned out the top of the road onto the bike course, the old Galway road passing our new estate leading westward and usually into the prevailing. I looked at the odometer on my handlebars, finally I knew that the changing speed was toggling between average and current and it was not malfunctioning. I had downloaded the manual at work the other day and managed to get 5 minutes to read it, the original jumbled somewhere in the massively unorganised, just moving in and sorting out office at home. Manuals, one of the necessities of my life. I thought about the reverso that I carried in my climbing bag and taken out the last couple of climbing trips, never knowing how to use the simple device and mentally checking to read the manual when I got home but never doing. Now I knew how this worked and had even reset the wheel size that morning.

I figured I needed to be back at the house at 10 since we needed to leave by 11, maybe I could cycle out 15k and then turn around. I cycled along into the driving rain and started for the first time to break down the race the following weekend. Averaging 30kph meant doing 40k in 1hour and 20minutes, no way, any of my commuting training rides, 10k each way on the same bike, were averaging in the 22k range. Averaging 25k meant 5k every 12 min, so that's 94 minutes, if I could do that it would be ok, I reckoned. My thought process in the rain gradually came to the conclusion that I should try and see how long it would take me to do 40k this morning.

The road was quiet with not much on it, Duffys Discount and storage was coming up, almost exactly 10k from the house. I had got to know the proprietor Joe recently. We were due to move house Easter weekend and the day before we were meant to get the keys the landlord pulled out, though I had signed a contract and paid 600 euros a month before. He decided we would be too difficult tenants since we wanted the ash removed from the fireplace, the gook cleaned in the over and the dried powder cleaned off the washing machine darwer. With no time to find a place we found this storage option and rented 2 rooms from Joe for a month as well as his van and 2 sons who helped us move the stuff to storage. Was that only 3 months ago, damn it had been a mad time.

The rain pelted on and I said sure I'll go another 5 and then turn and have it at my back. McG said it didn't matter if it was blowing on the way out in relation to your average speed as you you would gain it on the way back in, tell that to my legs! It was not long before I was passing the top of our estate again. I took the next left out towards Glendeer pet farm, my first time up that road since I had jogged up that night and had my hubcap adventure. I passed the road towards the megalithic tomb and there the pet farm was, a relatively nondescript building pulled back from the road, with room for coaches to pull in. I turned around and reversed my route. Passing the top of my estate again, I was on 38k and just over 1 hour and 40 minutes. Could I average 30kph for a 1km up the road and back to get me home for 1hr 45.

100m up from my estate entrance the back tyre went flat. First puncture on the new bike. Damn, I had not put on those Ultra Gator Skin tyres I had been advised to upgrade to and did a deal for when I got the bike. I had my tyre levers and spare tube and changed it in under 5 minutes, imagining myself getting one in the race. Flipping the bike back over I realised that the weight of the bike on the cycle computer had pressed the 2 buttons together and reset the device. Time to get home.
Subscribe via FeedBurner