Monday, February 17, 2020

A win's a win, right?!

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On Saturday I had agreed with my coach, Mark Shepherd, to run the Newbury parkrun (Mark and Rachael Elliott run the event). As I'm currently living in Bristol, this means a 140-mile round trip (all for a 20-minute race!), so is no light undertaking.

I began my pre-race warm up and noticed that my Heart Rate seemed to be quite high, up into the 150s pretty much straight away.  Still, it 'felt' okay so did my 3km steady run and then some drills just to get the legs firing.

There was a bit of a delay to the race while some presentations were done, and it was then that I began to notice how hungry I felt (I'd gotten up at 6am).  I didn't really pay it much attention though, since I'd had an okay breakfast (or so I thought).

Eventually the race began and I somehow found myself in second place over the first 500-600 metres at a pace of about 3 minutes per kilometre. Oops; that's a bit hot for me. So I backed off a touch and let the other front runners catch me.  However by the end of the first kilometre it was clear something wasn't right, I just had nothing to give.

I tried to dig in to stay with the front 10 or so runners, but they just kept putting distance into me. I ended up running a pretty solitary race, until getting passed in the last 200 metres by a guy setting a new PB for himself (and looking far too happy with himself for my liking!).  Me? Well, I was WAY off my usual pace... 19:28 is NOT what I expect of myself in a 5km race these days.

The funny thing is that I wasn't angry or particularly upset. Just confused. What had gone so wrong that I was a full minute off my 5km PB (and 30 seconds off my previous Newbury time)?  Even now I'm not sure, but I think the following factors may have each played a part:

* I was hungry on the start line - had I really eaten enough breakfast?
* I didn't finish training till late on Friday night - so skipped the main dinner meal
* Those first 500m at 3-minute KM pace - did they cook me?
* I averaged 4:53 pace and 156bpm for the 3km warm up - Had I warmed up too hard?

Lots of potential reasons, but not firm answers.  If nothing else, at least I have some things to be mindful of the next time I go to parkrun.

Saturday was completed with a steady 47km on the bike (ave HR 137, 28km/h - nice and easy) and then a long-overdue visit to the gym for some upper body weights (I'm still feeling it now, maybe overdid it a little!).  Then it was pizza and cinema - both much enjoyed (although to be fair, I did stick with the Fiorentina pizza, rather than my usual 'all the meat you can fit on the pizza!' choice!).

Abbeyfield TTOn Sunday I had a choice of events - a local duathlon or cycling time trial.  After the disappointment of Saturday's parkrun, coach and I decided that a second poor run in a weekend might not be worth the risk and so a better option would be to beast myself on the bike for 30 minutes.

Packing the car in Bristol the sun was shining, it was shorts and t-shirt weather and wind was minimal.  All good! Despite not knowing the TT route, I'd looked at the course profile and knew there were two reasonably steep climbs - but I figured it was worth taking a rear disc wheel as the benefit on the flat would outweigh (literally!) the penalty on the climbs.  It seemed like a good theory...

Arriving at the race venue just outside Chippenham (30 miles up the road) the first thing I noticed was how much more wind there was.  Hmmm, maybe a disc wasn't the smartest choice (and like a prat, I hadn't packed an alternative rear in the car).  Then the sun disappeared and the temperature plummeted.  This is going to be fun!

As a day entry, I was scheduled to start last in the TT, which meant quite a wait while the riders ahead of me went off at three-minute intervals (the organisers obviously really didn't want any drafting!).

I was literally shivering to my core when I finally got to the start line. I had no strategy for the ride, other than I knew it was 21km long and had a steep climb about 2.5km in, with another at about 11km.  So I decided not to waste myself before climb #1.

Out of the school car park and onto the road, I settled into a rythm quite quickly and tried to get both my cadence and breathing under control. The little local country lanes made it quite challenging to get into a steady pace, with lots of tight corners to negotiate and not much room to pass oncoming cars.

Turning one of these tight corners I was presented with hill #1. Bloody hell; that looks a lot steeper than I imagined! I tried to hold the tuck as long as I could, but as my speed slipped to around 20km/h I stood and powered up the hill as best I could.  I could see two photographers at the crest of the hill (God knows what those photos are going to look like! One half-dead Matt!) and then concentrated on getting my cadence back up to 90+, settling back down into the tuck.  But I was fooled, it was a false crest and in fact there was more hill to climb yet. Bugger!

Coming down the other side would have been fun except the road was horribly narrow, the corners were mostly blind and there was gravel all over the place.  Bascially all the ingredients you need for a BIG accident.  I bottled it and had to cover the brakes, using them more than I would have liked.  The big 80mm front wheel was also catching the wind nicely, adding to my nervousness.

At about 7km the course joined a main road and I could see my three-minute man (the guy who started immediately ahead of me) coming in the opposite direction.  I knew there was a turn-around point, but wasn't sure how far away it was.  It turned out it was only about 600 metres down the road, so I was definitely gaining on him.  With the best part of 13-14km still to go, that was a good sign!

The next few kilometres were reasonably uneventful, I was able to negotiate a number of roundabouts without hindrance and by the start of the second big climb at 11km I could see the next cyclist again; he became my target.  I passed not only him, but also the two-man team that was effectively my 'six-minute man' at the crest of the hill and then just got the power down to take full advantage of the aero set up for the remainder of the course (I knew from the profile it would be pretty flat).  I admit I was a little concerned that the guy behind might try to draft me, but it turns out I needn't have worried.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful (apart from having to dodge a lorry in the last few hundred metres!) with my only frustration being a lack of ability to really get my HR up as high as I thought it should be (I averaged 162bpm over this ride, compared to 168+ on 10-mile TTs last summer).

I crossed the line pretty tired but also pretty happy.  I knew I'd done okay (well, I hadn't come last at least!) and that the effort was controlled.  There were a few raised eyebrows as the marshals checked my time - I took this to be a good sign! And sure enough, it was soon confirmed that I was the winner. Result! And not only that, I had beaten the next guys (a two-man team) by just over three minutes.  The next solo rider was a full five minutes behind me.

Now, let's have a reality check.  Most of the guys competing, even the two-man teams, were on road bikes (albeit with tri bars etc) and I was really the only one with a full TT set-up with deep dish front and disc rear. Had the race been contended by 'hardened' TTers I am in no doubt I would have had a much tougher fight.  That said, a win's a win, right?!

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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