Friday, 30 July 2010

ITU Hyde Park Triathlon Race Report

ITU series Olympic Distance Triathlon
Hyde Park, London

Having competed in this event in 2010, I was quick to register when 2011 entry opened. Although my focus this year has switched to 70.3 the location, the chance to better my time over the same course and the fact that this is a great event for supporters meant I was quite excited about taking part.

With my next 70.3 in mid August in mind, I viewed this as a great chance for a competitive, race scenario training session. I didn’t really break my training stride, just having slightly easier days on Friday and Saturday before the event. When I checked out the course, I realised that the swim, bike and run all followed slightly different paths from last year (with the bike coming up a few km’s short of 40km) meaning I wasn’t going to have comparable times, but in fact all the changes were for the better and I’m sure someone else will be writing about the changes so I won’t bother with the detail but the jist is: faster & less confusing.

Now, while having friends and family there to support you at events is great, I learnt the hard way that the competitor (me) should avoid being the one responsible for getting the supporters (my mother and sister) to the venue. Their sense of urgency is unlikely to match yours and the concept of adequate prep time doesn’t seem as important to them. The result of this pissing about was that I had to run to the swim start and arrived mid-briefing (which to be fair I wouldn’t have heard anyway due to the excellent but really loud Mars Volta track that was booming out of the speaker right next to us) and slightly sweaty from the 200m jog. Not the best prep to say the least, and an annoyance turned into a disaster when I was pulling my wetsuit on and the seams on one sleeve split right up both sides from wrist to elbow. “Shit!” pretty much sums it up.

I got into the water and soon realised that doing nothing was going to mean swimming with a small parachute attached to my arm – not good. I figured I had 2 options:
1. Get out, ditch the wetsuit and swim without it. The water was certainly warm enough and I wasn’t to daunted by a non-wetsuit swim.
2: Roll the sleeve up and tuck it out of the way.
The decision was made for me when the starter announced that we were 15 seconds from the gun, so I quickly rolled it up and tucked the flappy bits under as best I could.

Then we were off.

I would have thought that the problem with the suit would be a real head-messer, but I found that I embraced the challenge. I was treating this race as a training session, and I also thought that it was a good opportunity to cope with something unexpected – this was bound to happen eventually so now was as good a time as any.
The roll/tuck plan proved to be a ‘fail’ and after a few minutes, I was flapping like a hen at the knackers yard. “Fuck it” I thought, “Just get on with it”. So I did.
I felt like I was going OK – pretty strong and nearer the front of my wave than the back. The suit probably cost me a little bit of time, but I posted a good time for me – the lessons have definitely paid of so far.
Time: 25:50 (207th overall)

A long (350m) transition was made eventful by the sigh of my cheer squad holding a massive banner – “Go Paul Go!!” which really made me smile and was very much appreciated.
Time: 3:08

I love being on the bike, probably because it’s my strongest event. Plus I have a pretty frickin’ cool bike. I had the shoes already on the bike and it was a very smooth bike mount which was good – the last race I did wasn’t so smooth so that felt like an improvement. The course was 5 laps and technical in that there were 2 x 90 degree turns, and 2 very tight u-turns around traffic cones. But I spend the whole bike leg picking of people ahead of me and passing which is a feel good thing. I think I was only passed once, so not bad.
Time: 0:59:26 (42nd overall)

Time: 01:50

In 2010, the run was always a struggle and a disappointment. This season though, I’ve been working on this myself, and with The Running School and it seems to be working.
A completely different and less dull run course from last year, this was 4 laps around the Serpantine Lake which meant that the finish line was in sight for most of the run. Splits for laps 1-3 varied by about 40 seconds, but the last lap was almost 30 seconds quicker than any of the others and I definitely felt like I had left a bit of energy on the course, so I need to work on pacing a bit more. Still, a decent time posted and it was the run that brought me closest to my supporters, now joined by a few wives of friends who were also competing. They were about 300m from the finish so I got a really good boost and lots of nose as I came home.
Time: 42:17 (193rd overall)

Overall: 02:12:29

My final time put me 12th in my age group and 79th overall which I have to be happy with. PB’s in overall, swim and run were good too but I have to admit to being a little disappointed as I think if I had really gone for it I could have ended a few places up and well in the top 10 in cat. Looking at the splits, it’s clear that working on my run and swim times is important but I’m doing that and definitely improving, so heading in the right direction. I’ll just keep working and with luck, improving.

One other good thing was that my recovery was quick and with an easy day following the race I’ve gone straight back into my training schedule with no problems – in fact, I feel great.

Roll on 70.3 Germany!


Swim Finish 00:25:50 25:50
After Bike Start 00:28:58 03:08
Bike Check Lap1 00:30:48 01:50
Bike Check Lap2 00:42:13 11:25
Bike Check Lap3 00:53:43 11:30
Bike Check Lap4 01:05:12 11:29
Bike Check Lap5 01:16:32 11:20
After Bike Finish 01:28:23 11:51
After Run Start 01:30:12 01:49
Run Check Lap1 01:40:46 10:34
Run Check Lap2 01:51:33 10:47
Run Check Lap3 02:02:25 10:52

Finish 02:12:29 10:04

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Thinking Big - Setting a Goal.

I was lucky enough to have an email exchamge with Chrissie Wellington recently. I know....that's a bit mental. In the course of this I disclosed for the first time that my blue, blue, blue sky goal would be to qualify for the GB age group team at half/70.3 distance. This was her response:

"My blue blue blue sky goal was to wear the GBR vest as an age grouper. and look where i am now. Dare to dream BIG Paul, and you never know what photos you will be showing your child(ren) in a few years time. And , if nothing else, you will have an awesome time trying - not to mention some chafing, tan lines and a supersized appetite. all the good things to come from this obsession we called triathlon!"

How inspring is that? Pretty inspiring as it turns out. It prompted me to get in touch with British Triathlon and get some info on what is required and where to start. I was extremely impressed to get a reply within a couple of hours from Adam Elliot, Performance Age Group Administrator at Brisitsh Triathlon. He explained:

"As British Triathlon we look after Age Group events that are run by the ITU. These events are not 70.3 as that is a brand term used by Ironman but are of similar length. There are 2 Long Distance championships in the calendar, the ETU European and ITU World championships. These events alternate (in theory) between being o2 (double Olympic), and o3 (triple Olympic) distance.

The process for gaining a place on one of these teams is similar to standard distance racing but without qualifying events.

As there are no set qualification races, athletes are required to submit their own performances from any race within 18 months of the qualification process at longer than Olympic distance. So Ironman, 03, Half Ironman, 02 etc. To qualify, this performance must rank you within 115% (Worlds), and 120% (Europeans) of the winner of your Age Groups time in the race you use. You put these races in the space provided on the registration form (online – log in to membership page and select ‘Age Group Team Application’ from the left hand side)."

So, unlike at sprint and olympic distance, there are no specific qualifying events. So, I thought I would calculate my time from Austria 70.3 as a % of the winner in my age group to see if I was even anywhere near the level of performance required. And shit the bed - my time put me within the 120% required for consideration for the 2011 Europeans. Now, there are other criterea to fill, and a very limited number of places available so I'd say it's highly unlikely I will get in for 2011, but I will apply and this news combined with the amazing pep email from Chrissie Wellington has given me a huge boost and led me to officially declare my intent: I WILL ONE DAY REPRESENT GB AT AGE GROUP LEVEL.

There. I've said it. It's out there. I'll look a twat now if I don't give it my very best shot. And as a dad, I would love to be able to tell my son that his old man did what he set out to do - that is motiviation enough!

There is loads of work to do, and in a funny way I'm slightly looking forward to the end of this season so I can really start planning my attack. But the journey starts here, and I'll blog about it, warts and all.

By the way - I don't have any warts.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Getting Stronger.

I've been doing some realyl good coached running sessons at Running School in Chiswick, London under the guidance of Mike Antoniades. He and his team made some immediate changes to my technique that have resulted in improvements already. One of the key topics we work on is engaging and strengthening the glutes and core - soemthing often overlook by triathletes and runners. Here are some great med ball drills that are easy to do at home and seem well worth the time investment.