Wednesday, January 22, 2020

T-minus two weeks and counting

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Is it really less than two weeks until my first big race of the season? Jeez, that came around quickly!

Nonetheless, it is indeed just under two weeks until Mallorca 70.3. At this point, I have stopped worrying about how fast I can swim, bike or run; stopped fretting about how many hours training I cram in each week; stopped concerning myself with how I’m going to last at least 4.5 hours of racing without needing a pee!

The fact is there’s literally nothing I can do now to make me have a better race.  The shape I’m in is the shape I’m in.  Worrying about things now or trying to cram in last-minute training is more likely to do harm than good.  So now I have to put my faith in my training from the last few months and my coach (and his last two weeks’ training plan).

I still have my concerns, aspects of my performance I’m not satisfied with or problems I am worried I will encounter on race day. But overall I’m looking forward to it – the week in the sun before race day will definitely be welcome, anyway!

Newbury H25/1 Time Trial

Yesterday saw me finally get the first 25-mile TT of the year under my belt.  The weather wasn’t ideal, with a mix of sunshine, heavy rain, hail and a biting 23km/h wind throughout my time on course (my shoes are still drying out in the airing cupboard!).

I started very late in the running order, 64 out of 70-odd.  Still I managed to screw up my schedule for the day and ended up arriving sufficiently late that I had to cut short my warm up and pre-race rituals.  Still, down onto the start line and I felt pretty calm.  My main thought was to ensure I “managed” the race effectively so that I didn’t blow up half-way, but also didn’t save so much that I finished with anything more than an empty tank.

Time to go and I ramped up more gently than I would for a 10-mile TT, but checking the bar-mounted Garmin about a minute or so into the ride I could see my heart rate had already hit 168 – somewhat high for a 25.  Still, it felt controlled and so rather than ease off I just didn’t push any harder, settling into a rhythm.  I passed a few guys with mid-twenties numbers on their backs (on their second of two laps) who weren’t going particularly fast.  I wasn’t sure if this was because they simply weren’t that strong or whether they were showing the signs of the previous 16-or-so miles!

Regardless, I decided to stick to my game plan and just keep a constant effort level.

The first 180-degree turn demonstrated that my 47km/h+ initial speed had definitely been wind-assisted.  Going back up towards the M4, there was a definite headwind, combined with the occasional side-gust.  The rear disc combined with new 80mm FFWD F9R front were a little bit of a handful in these gusts, but thankfully the A4 is sufficiently wide that most cars give you a decent amount of space.

I caught my first minute man (63) at about five or six miles into the ride, a bit later than I would expect but of course you never know who’s in front of you and what their performance will be like.  Shortly after, I was myself passed by a guy with ‘30’ on his back – closing in on his finish, he was flying (he finished with a 58-dead).

It was on this leg that the heavens opened, first with stinging hail (thankfully the Kask Bambino covers most of my face, so my cheeks and nose were unscathed!) and then with a sharp shower that didn’t last too long but left the road soaked.

The rest of the ride was reasonably uneventful, I was just trying as best I could to maintain a constant effort level and keep my cadence in the sweet zone so that I didn’t spin out or try too hard to grind too big a gear. I caught number '62' with a little way still to go (but then got passed by the overall winner - number 70! - in the last three kilometres). Back into the headwind for the last 5-6km and I knew I was up against it – it would be touch and go whether I’d squeeze under the hour.  I was a bit annoyed with myself; I hadn’t judged it quite right and therefore hadn’t pushed hard enough.  I was getting cramps in my hips and had horrible pins and needles in my hands (the A4 road surface isn’t the best).

I tried to dig a bit deeper to get my speed back up but I was struggling. Dropping a gear to get my cadence up didn’t seem to work, and grinding a bigger gear caused my hips to cramp up again. My heart rate had dropped to 160-163 and wouldn’t budge above that.  I didn’t feel aerobically exhausted by any means, I just couldn’t push out any more power for whatever reason.

Into the last kilometer and it was ridiculously close. A final all-or-nothing push and I crossed the line.  According to my Garmin a 59:57, an official 60:00. Slightly annoying – especially as I could see people on the side of the road in various states of exhaustion… I, on the other hand, was merrily pedaling my way back to Race HQ at 30km/h.  I clearly had not worked hard enough.

The main positive I take from this, however, is that while I screwed up my 25-mile and maybe threw away up to a minute, I think I’m in pretty good shape for the 90km bike leg in Mallorca.  As long as I can exercise good judgment on pace, I’ll do a decent enough bike time without killing myself ahead of the run.

Back to Race HQ and, just to show off in front of the hardened TTers, I slipped on my run shoes and did a 15-minute run, building up to just under half-marathon pace.  Shoulders felt tight (I’d been gripping the bars too tightly into the headwind, I think) and calves weren’t great, but overall the pace was there and heart rate was nice and low. Good.

Today saw a gentle 20.5km run polished off with no fuss – a good chance to do a final check of my run nutrition strategy for Mallorca and check the legs are okay.  They are (well, as okay as ever, the knee always hurts).

So that’s it.  One more week of ‘proper’ training then it’s off to Mallorca next Sunday for some sun, sea and tapering. Oh yes, and a little 70.3 race!

See you there!

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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