Saturday, January 25, 2020

A long and busy week - Part One

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It hasn’t exactly been your average week in terms of training and racing. Last Sunday I kicked off a new strength and conditioning combined with nutrition program with Simon De Burgh.  Just like the plan, the reason for working with Simon is twofold – 1. I suspect that a weak(er than ideal) core is slowing me down on the run and swim and 2. I know I’ve not been eating very well lately, too much junk and convenience and not enough focus on the basics or indeed the nutrients I need for endurance training.


I’ve tried working with nutritionists before and, while they no doubt knew their stuff and were very nice people, I found the plans too rigid – eat this then, buy this now. For someone like me who travels a lot for business and fits in training around childcare, it was all-too easy to lose touch with the program.  Thankfully, Simon has made things much simpler to accommodate my needs – with a set of guidelines rather than rigid rules (these will no doubt be sorely tested as I work in Chicago later this week!).  Simon has also given me some advice on supplementation to help me get the most out of training and ensure I recover as effectively as possible. It’s worth pointing out that supplementation is just that – an added extra to eating properly, not a replacement strategy.

Simon was keen to supervise me in the gym for the first S&C session. After all, with light weights and specific multi-planar movements, it’s all about form. So on Sunday afternoon we headed to my local gym for 30-40 minutes of work. There’s no doubt I was working hard, but it was good to be doing exercises designed to help my sport, rather than my usual habit of falling into working the vanity muscles!

By Monday morning, however, I was beginning to regret the gym work. My legs were shot. The shock of farmer’s walks, Bulgarian split lunges and more had really taxed my quads, hamstrings, glutes and adductors – far more than it should have, in my opinion! Clearly I was going to have to ease up on the weights for the first couple of weeks, until the muscles get used to the extra work.

White Horse 5km round 2

With the legs feeling no better on Tuesday, I was looking somewhat more like a wooden mannequin than a finely-tuned athlete when trying to climb the stairs in the house. My quads had eased, but the glutes and adductors were still screaming at me.  This was especially troubling as I was already pre-entered to run the second round of the White Horse 5km series in Gloucester later that evening.  So a light spin on the Wattbike in the morning and a short swim at lunch were all I dared do to try to loosen the legs ahead of the evening’s punishment.

Arriving in Gloucester for the evening run start, what had threatened to be a stormy day had instead turned into a bright and hot but muggy evening.  Warming up ahead of the race my legs felt like lead, I had no idea how I was going to even complete 5km, let alone ‘race’ it!

Learning my lesson from round one, where I lost 10-15 seconds in the first kilometer having to weave around slower runners, I positioned myself much nearer the front this time and as the gun went I tried to contain my usual over-enthusiasm and settle down into a smooth quick rhythm.  It didn’t quite work! The first kilometer was dispatched in 3:30 – a good 30 seconds slower than the leaders, but the fastest start to a 5km I’ve ever done.  But I compounded my error by then setting PBs for a mile (5:43) and two miles (11:53 – not so sure this is an actual PB, but Strava says it is…).

My coach Dave Newport was stood around 2.5km into the course and I think he was surprised at how far up the field I was. I think he could also sense impending doom as his first shout to me was “settle down Matt! Fall in with Martin…”.  Great, but who the heck is Martin and where is he?!

A couple of hundred meters later and a small group eased up on my shoulder on a downhill (one day I will learn how to run fast downhill!) and I assumed ‘Martin’ was in this group.  However, the damage was done and I’d blown up.  I tried clinging onto them, but they slowly eased away over the next kilometer.  Having run the course previously, I did at least know when I was into the last kilometer and prepared my all-or-nothing finish for the last two minutes.  I crossed the line in 18:51, a ways off my PB and with legs that were not interested in taking a single extra step.

The Garmin stats reveal the horrible truth – the first kilometer really screwed me (3:30) as I then slipped down to 3:57 for kms 3-4 before rallying slightly for a 3:51 last kilometer.

It’s fair to say that both Dave and I were both peeved. Had my legs not been shot there’s every chance I would have PB’d (I was only 20 seconds off).  We did both identify, however, that my breathing is a real issue when I’m on the red-line and is something we need to work on.

So neither of us was happy with the end result on Tuesday, but I take some small comfort from the fact that I’d still managed sub-19 on battered legs and that I’d definitely put in the effort (average heart rate for the race was 180bpm!).

The Ben Owen 10

Skip forward two days to Thursday and I had foolishly volunteered to represent my new cycling club, Newbury Road Club, at an inter-club competition up in Oxfordshire.  When I’d originally volunteered, I’d mistakenly thought the race was on the Thursday of the previous week, I hadn’t intentionally offered to race a tough 10 just days after a 5km and days before a triathlon!

Worse still, having thought I might just scrape into the club’s B team, I then found myself in the A team. No pressure then!

Arriving at the venue and warming up, I did my now-familiar Team Sky 20-minute warm up (I know there’s debate how good this warm up is, but there’s something comforting in the familiarity of it) on the turbo (yes, doing TTs is now becoming as much of a logistically nightmare as triathlons – you don’t just turn up with a bike and a helmet anymore!).

I still managed to run out of time and have to rush to the start line, minus shoe covers… doh. Oh well. Off we go and I put in a solid effort to get up to speed before trying to calm it down a little on the unfamiliar course. Like Tuesday, it was another warm and muggy night.  The road surface wasn’t the best, and there were a couple of corners where caution won over bravery and I came out of the tuck lest I find myself in a hedge or worse, in the face of oncoming traffic.  I knew the roundabout that was to be the turn point was over halfway, so after 8.5km or so I started looking for the signs.

Arriving at the roundabout, the road surface was shocking – there was no ‘line’ to be taken, it was more a case of dodging the potholes and executing a 180-degree turn without puncturing! About 500m into the return leg, I had a problem.  Slowing down for the roundabout had disturbed / lessened the airflow into my Kask Bambino and the muggy conditions combined with my profuse sweating were now causing the visor to fog. Badly.

A kilometer further down the road and I could hardly see a thing, I was having to lift and tilt my head to see out of a portion of the visor that hadn’t yet fogged! I did consider ditching the visor, but remembering that they’re £40 a go brought me to my senses… But it wasn’t safe and it certainly wasn’t fast.

Eventually a trickle of sweat fell onto the visor and cleared a tiny channel that was enough to squint through.  Right, let’s do this… I crossed the line in 24:01, a pretty poor show but probably a fair reflection given the still-battered legs and complete lack of visibility on the last six kilometres. I did at least manage to post the second-fastest time for our team, and am reliably informed that it’s a very slow 10 course, a good 60-90 seconds slower than some of the other courses in the area.

So that was an interesting week, then!

But wait, there’s more. We haven’t even got to the Bristol Harbourside triathlon yet!  But more of that in the next post…

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Tagged in: 5km Ben Owen TT white horse

Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs