Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some photos...

I've circled myself in red

My position on the bike wasn't bad, all things considered

Amazingly, they managed to identify me from this photo

I'm holding Neil's photo

Monday, May 30, 2011

The race

I started to get nervous just before the bike check in, which was (for me) between 7 and 8pm - a bit on the late side, considering I still had to have dinner and be up by 4am the next day. Apparently they were not letting people check in before their strictly allotted time. The check in made me realize the scale of this thing. You feel like a celebrity with so many people fussing over you. One guy had the job of asking everyone which brand of shoes they ran in. I was proud to be the only one to run in Pumas. It passed in such a whirlwind that I couldn't help having the feeling that I had forgotten something. Suddenly I was overcome by an irrational fear that my protein powders, the sachets of which I had already cut open and left on the bike, would absorb the morning dew and become an unworkable sticky mess.

Just think how much money is sitting here
Incredibly I went straight to sleep at 9pm and woke only once during the night, at 3:57am, three minutes before my alarm.

Carlos and I went down to the bikes to pump up the tires. Both of us were using disc wheels (well, mine is a disc cover really) and, to cover up the hole they have allowing pump access, we used a couple of "Invizimals" stickers that the kids had been collecting and who I had asked to choose some cool ones for good luck. My brain was still asleep at this point and, somehow, I managed to lose one of my cereal bars while I was filling up my water bottles. We then went back to the house that Carlos was renting which was when I realized that I no longer had my goggles or my numbered swim cap. It was now 6:30 - only half an hour before the start. I felt like I had shit for brains, literally. Luckily Carlos had a spare pair of goggles and a cap from a previous Ironman.

Did someone nick my goggles and swim cap?
Once we got to the start we made a beeline for the nearest race official who turned out to be the sourest grumpy old bat of all the volunteers I came across. She gave me a white, unnumbered cap and impatiently snatched the one Carlos had lent me out of my hand while I tried to explain that I wanted to give it him back. After a comical scene of us both stretching the cap in a tug-of-war, I eventually won and handed it to Cassia, Carlos' wife. There we said our final goodbyes and I could see tears in the eyes of Cassia's Mother's boyfriend (the whole of her family came to support us) and it made me get emotional. It was the only time that I really got emotional in the whole race. The view of 2,000 athletes in red caps with the sun rising up over the sea was really quite spectacular.

I went to the front of the pack to try to get into the water and get used to the temperature. People were eyeing me up, clearly thinking "Who is this guy?". It was only later that I found out that the white cap I was wearing was for the professionals. You'll be able to spot me easily on the photos because I'll be the only "pro" taking the long way round.

The start was less fraught than I expected it would be and I quickly found my own space. It was impossible to sight the first red buoy - with the waves, if it came in to view it was indistinguishable (for me) from the red caps of swimmers stopping to check their line. Instead I choose someone who looked like they knew what they were doing and tried to follow them. Trouble is, anyone slow enough to swim at the speed I go at most likely doesn't know where they are going either. Before long I was all alone and wondering if I was last or lost. At the buoy I was relived to see that I wasn't so far behind as I came back into contact briefly with a number of other athletes who were bunching up at the first turn.

The course is basically the M of the "M dot" Ironman logo (just as well they leave out the dot). The diagonal stretch takes you back to the beach where you get out briefly and realize how tired you are. It was on this leg of the swim that I managed to have a full frontal collision with another swimmer who was starting the second half of the swim and who had similar navigational skills to me.

Getting back into the water for the second half was much harder than it looked; by now there were some of the biggest waves I'd seen since we got here. I got knocked off my feet several times but managed to hang on to my (I should say, Carlos') goggles.

My Garmin beeped for the fourth time, telling me I'd already swum 4,000 meters of the 3,800 - in total it reckoned my swim was 4,500 meters. Eventually I got to a point where I could put my feet down but the waves kept picking me up and shoving me in the direction of some nasty looking rocks. I finished the swim in 1:15, almost to the second what I had predicted to myself.

One nice thing about an Ironman event is that there are volunteers to help you off with your wetsuit: you just lie down and they pull (I accidentally kicked one of them in the face - it's not a maneuver that I had practiced in training). I wobbled off to where my bike was racked.

If the swim is a warmup for the bike, the bike is the prelude to the run. The idea is to start the run with as fresh legs as possible. My ride didn't get off to a very smooth start. I couldn't shift up to the big ring and when I shifted back down, the chain came off completely. I dismounted, put the chain on the big ring and started off again. I was able to adjust the gears on the go and they didn't give me any more problems. This was when I realized that I had forgotten to put on my race number. Thankfully, the umpires were not anal about applying the rules (unlike the sprint triathlon when I got fined 2 whole minutes for approaching my bike from the wrong side of the rack). I must have left it in the bike transition bag. I spent many kilometers fretting over whether I would be able to get it during the transition to running or whether I would have to ask my wife to get my spare number from the hotel.

I wish I could say that it was an emotional experience but the reality is that the overriding emotion was one of boredom. Something my eldest son, Luca, had taken to saying lately got fixed in my head "Daddy, I'm just bored". I entertained myself for a while looking at other people's bikes and tattoos and deciding which of each I would get. In Brazil there is no middle class so everyone was riding super duper aerodynamic triathlon bikes, even if it was in a sit-up-and-beg style. Sometimes I would look at the scenery or watch kids (from the other end of the socioeconomic scale) collecting the water bottles we were throwing from the bikes. I saw a couple of billboards along the way - one was an advert for Ironman II (sorry, but there will only be one Ironman and this is it) and another was a sign saying "Men at work" which seemed equally relevant.

I think I was pretty well behaved on the bike: despite the temptation to go faster to get this thing over with sooner, once my heart had settled down after the swim I kept it at around 135 bpm as agreed with Jonathan. I made an exception when overtaking in the narrow stretches and when riding up hill (allowing a maximum of 143 bpm) or into the wind. More than anything else, the sensations were good - my breathing was not noticeably more laboured than at rest and my legs felt fresh, not stressed as they had been in Lisbon. My back started to ache, though, after more than 5 hours hunched over in the aero position. I actually looked forward to the hills as a respite from the flats.

My favourite bit of the course was going through a tunnel (which we went through no less than 8 times). Here we were sheltered from the wind and I was on an even playing field with those in a more aero position. According to the Garmin, I clocked an impressive 60 kph but this may be due to losing GPS signal half way through. It may also account for the 4 extra kilometers of the bike course that the Garmin claimed. Maybe someone who rode with a wheel based speedometer can confirm this...

The only time I spoke to someone on the bike was when a Brazilian turned to me to comment on the strong headwind. I told him that at least he had a nice view. I suppose it must seem very chauvinistic and pathetic, but when you are suffering like this, it is refreshing to see a girl ahead pedaling in a skimpy pair of bikini bottoms.

My family was diligently waiting for me in Jurere both times and I waved frantically to them as I passed and tried to smile and look like I was at least enjoying myself. I measured out my time counting how long it would be until I saw them the next time. The bike took 5:30, again, more or less as I had envisioned (give or take the extra 4 km).

In the transition tent I was able to recover my race number, so that was one less thing to worry about. I started the run well. I ran at around 150 bpm, well under my "budget" of 160 bpm. Even so, this felt hard enough and translated into a good speed of around 12.5 - 13 kph. At this rate I would do a good time and, more importantly, it would be over sooner.

I started to wish that I had made a toilet stop in the transition area. Then I saw some portaloos and thought that I would hang on until the next ones but, suddenly I felt an "apretón" and I virtually had to sprint to the cabin. Wow, I felt so much better after that. By the way, there was plenty of toilet paper in case you were wondering.

There were a couple of ridiculous hills on the course that you were a fool to climb doing anything but walking. After about 13 kms, I suddenly remembered Pablo's pledge, to sponsor me an extra euro for each kilometer run at 12 kph (5 minutes per km) or faster. Apart from the hills I already had at least 10 under my belt and now I was motivated to bank the rest. I saw my family at the Half Marathon point and smiled at them and blew them kisses - I was going well and continually passing shuffling people who had overdone the bike. I must have looked so good that the race officials insisted on sending me on the third loop before I had even done the second - either that or, what is more likely is that they mistook my white sleeves for the hair bands they gave out on completion of each loop.

At some point the kilometer splits suddenly took a turn for the worse and - even though I felt like I was running just as hard and fast as before - I was now taking 5:30 to cover one kilometer. Never mind, I thought, I'll still get a good time at this pace. This is the thing about the Ironman, you start with some dreams and aspirations and you spend the rest of the day revising them, in my case, downwards.

I don't believe in God or Heaven, but I started talking to Neil, dedicating kilometers to him and apologizing for them being slow ones. 5:30 soon became 6:00 and 6:00 became 6:20 per kilometer. It was clear: now it was a question of finishing. I tried pushing a little - my pulse was lower than ever - but the twinges of cramps warned me off (in spite of the 20 salt tablets I had swallowed). I had been carefully pacing myself all the race, waiting for the moment to really grit my teeth and so it was frustrating not to be able to dig deeper, to feel as though I was pushing myself as hard as I could go (even though the incipient cramps assured me that it was indeed the case). My stomach also started to protest and I swallowed down very little of the (now) sickly warm gels that I had picked up for the second half of the Marathon in the Special Needs stop.

The organization of the event was impeccable and the island really lives the whole Ironman experience so I was really surprised how little the crowds cheered. In Madrid, there is more support in a local 10k race. Of course, 8-17 hours is a long time to be clapping. As this was Brazil I expected a Samba or Batucada band but there was no music. Still, I've learned something about why I race. It's the same reason why I love deejaying: I get a real kick out of the crowd and I thrive off the positive feedback loop. What was excellent, though, were the food and water stops that were scattered every couple of kilometers along the run course. I would drink either coke, water or both at every stop and throw an ice cold cup of water over my head and down my back.

One kilometer to go. Now I felt I could let myself enjoy it. I repeated to myself "I'm going to be a f***ing Ironman! I'm going to be a f***ing Ironman!". I took out the little photo I had of Neil, climbing a steep hill on his bike in readiness to hold it up for the finisher's photo. There was my family! The boys ran with me to the line and I had done it, I had f***ing done it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, about 10,000 kilometers away, a group of Neil's deejay friends were celebrating his life at a nightclub in Gateshead, playing out all his favourite and highly sought after tunes.

The medal is the coolest medal I have ever seen
Now it was time to try to repair the damage I had done to my body. My pee was brown which means that my body had started to break down muscle fibers to feed off the proteins they contained. If you want to get a six pack in a single day, then do an Ironman - I looked like an escaped prisoner of war:

I may not look it, but I am pleased
Carlos came to find me in the survivor's - I mean finishers - tent. He had broken the ten hour barrier (last year he was off by 23 seconds)! My other friends also did well - Christian did a jaw dropping 9:12 and will almost certainly be selected for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and Michel did 13 and a half hours. A long but good day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


...to my wife and kids (not to mention my boss) for putting up with all my hours of training and occasional frequent bad moods
...to Jonathan for designing a brilliant training program, for the moral support these last three years and for helping me go from being a boom bust runner to a steadily improving triathlete
...to Carlos and Cassia for the support both logistically and emotionally

(and in no particular order)
...to Mario Pessini for putting me in touch with Jonathan in the first place
...to Luis Gutiérez for helping me acquire a reasonable swimming technique
...to Simon and Sonia for looking after the kids on a critical weekend when I had 11 and a half hours of training to do and my wife was away in Africa
...to the tri4life crowd José Juan, Lola, Inés, Ferrán, Nacho, Silvia, Ricardo, Alberto, Alex, Eloy, Ana, Quique, Pedro, etc., for the company on the few long rides I didn't do alone (and for putting this crazy idea in my head in the first place)
...to Diego from la Universidad de Europa for patiently doing all the physiological tests on me
...to Paloma for sorting out my back as well as various other problems along the way
...to Fernando and Marta from A Manos Fisios for helping me out with my shoulder
...to Juan Gutiérez and Manolo and other (anonymous) cyclists who have helped me fix punctures and get on my way again
...to Emilio for his sound advice (Santías, not Botín)
...to my work colleagues (John, Juan Porras, ...) for giving me a lift home on the days when I ran in but didn't have (or want) to run back
...to the guys (Marcos, Paloma II, ...) in the work gym for letting me use their locker to hang up my spare suit and for turning a blind eye every time I took two towels instead of one
...to Victor for letting me park my bike (and hang my sweaty kit out to dry) at the back of his parking space
...to Santander for being a company which puts value on exercise and being healthy
...to the folks at Zermatt bikes in Pozuelo for "tuning" my bike and to the guys at Chousa, also in Pozuelo, for indexing my gears to perfection
...to Angel Pérez for helping me choose my bike in the first place
...to my fellow triathletes at Aguaverde for helping me get started in triathlon
...to my non-triathlon friends who I have been neglecting
...to all those who have been following my journey and especially those that have left comments on this blog
...to everyone who has sponsored me on behalf of the British Heart Foundation
...to the Suddes Family for allowing me to do this in Neil's memory
...to Neil Suddes for being an inspiration in my life

To become an Ironman may be a solitary pursuit but it is one that is impossible to do alone.

Mission completed

I am an Ironman! I did a time of 10:45 in the end. Full report to follow soon...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Floripa part II

The whole island has gone Ironman crazy. It's virtually impossible to find someone who is not wearing the yellow wristband

and even the waiters and waitresses are all wearing t-shirts with the M-dot logo or some reference to triathlon. At a time of year that would otherwise be off season, the islanders are happy for the business that the Ironman brings and it shows in their hospitality and enthusiasm. I can imagine that Kona is like this, only more intense.

As it is winter here, it gets dark really early. In fact, if I want a finisher's photo without flash, I am going to have to finish in less than 10:15! The advantage is that it has been really easy for the whole family to go to bed at around 9pm and get up at 6am, so an early start at 4am shouldn't be a problem - maybe the family will accompany me to the start after all.

The last of my pre-Ironman duties is to do the bike check-in. I have been assigned the last slot of the day - 7pm to 8pm - which is a bit on the late side, so I'm going to try my luck at squeezing in to an earlier slot. I want to be already sitting down to dinner at 7pm. At the check-in, I have to present not only the bike but the transition bags which must contain everything I will need for going from the swim to the bike and from the bike to the run. I won't have access to these tomorrow before the race so I'd better not forget anything! I don't think I will bother with the "special needs" bag for the bike but, in the special needs bag which you get handed at the half-way point in the run, I'll put some spare salt caps and two small bottles of isogels.

Yesterday we watched the DVD of the race from 2010. It may be a predominantly flat course but the hills that there are are real hills, with a gradient of about 20%. I'll just have to keep an eye on my pulse and walk up them if necessary.

I've been trying very hard not to spend too much time, energy or money in the expo. Luckily everything is at least twice as expensive as back home otherwise I might have fallen foul of the temptation to by a cool 3 or 4 spoke aero wheel (shaving a whopping 30 seconds from my time no doubt) or worse. While I was waiting for the official store to open, I asked someone standing next to me in Portuñol if he knew when they would open; he said "Hey, you're Rob, right? From Rust to Ironman!". It was Christian, who I had yet to meet, the one who took us to my fundraising target of 3,000 pounds.

By the time I next post, I will be an Ironman!! By the way, this is the tattoo that won my tattoo design contest - I think it is great but now I just have to see whether I have the balls to actually have it inked...

Friday, May 27, 2011


We spent the day lounging by the beach, trying not to get sunburnt. It's one of those beaches that is so perfect it seems as though it has been manufactured for Disneyland - the sand is so fine it actually squeaks under your feet. We had lunch with Carlos and his extended family in a Picanharia where you eat what you like and pay what you weigh (the food, that is).

Of course, the very first thing I did on arriving to the pousada was put the bike back together. The idiotic baggage handlers hadn't been so careful after all and had bent the quick release skewer of the front wheel. Just as well that I had used a couple of spare skewers for exactly that reason.

It was time to try out the bike and it seemed fine except that it wouldn't shift up to the big ring. I took it to Kona Bikes at the Expo and it turned out that it had taken a little knock after all. They noticed that the small ring had actually been installed backwards!!! That explains why it was sometimes slow to catch on when shifting down.

If the muscles on the transit bus were intimidating this was nothing compared to the pure sex of the bikes blatantly on display. I think mine is the only non-triathlon specific bike of the lot! Although it is a damn good one at that.

It's hard to put my finger on but there is something about this event, the organization, that just puts it on a different level from anything else I have ever done. Maybe it's just that everything is so damned expensive! No, it's more than that, this is The Ironman. Everything is branded, down to the various plastic bags you fill before the event with the things you will need at the transitions and at the "special needs" stops along the bike and run courses.

It seems like everyone on the island is competing - every hotel room has a bike poking out of it, people are running and cycling up and down the main drag, others are wandering about in wetsuits. It's a shame that the roads are not better quality - I can just envisage my water bottles being ejected on every bump. Also, it doesn't look as though it is quite such a flat course after all - the map is very misleading - but at least it's the same for everyone.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The journey

I spent most of the day meticulously packing my bikebox and my suitcase (which is mainly full of gels that I won't be taking home). In every place I have been in the last few days, I have found myself thinking, "Next time I'm here I will be an Ironman TOUCH WOOD!".

Just as well we arrived at the airport 2 hours before the flight to London - initially we were on standby due to overbooking. Maybe Grimsvötn was to blame. Amazingly, the bikebox with bike, wetsuit, casual clothes and water bottles only weighed about 18 kilos but it still cost 75 euros to send as oversize baggage. To be honest I prefer to pay extra as it probably increases the chances of it arriving in Sao Paolo in perfect condition. The journey is a long one, of Ironman proportions in terms of time, but I'm reading Lance Armstrong's "It's not about the bike" which I had been saving to keep me inspired.

I started to get paranoid on the plane hearing everyone coughing, sneezing and spluttering, that I would pick up some virus through the air conditioning. I even considered getting a mask as a first line of defense! My wife is currently suffering from some kind of virus so I just hope the incubation period is long enough or that my body can fight it off at no extra cost...

The flight to Sao Paolo actually left ahead of the scheduled time. That's the first time it's ever happened to me, and I have travelled a fair bit (not all that long ago I had a platinum Iberia card!). Now the trick is, how to sleep on the plane when they insist on keeping the lights on and bothering you every five minutes. In any case, the idea of being able to just wake up in Brazil is too exciting. My family has already conked out. The time in Floripa is 5 hours behind Madrid which means that getting up at 4am on Sunday is like having a lie in. (As I write this, I realize that 9am on a Sunday counts as a lie in when it wasn't so long ago that I might get up at 11am or later at the weekend.) Rather than trying to adjust to the time difference I'm going to adjust to only 2 hours difference and try to be in bed by 9 every evening (provided we can find restaurants willing to serve dinner at 7pm which, in Spain, would be mission impossible). Trouble is that the kids are harder to trick into going to bed while the sun is still shining. In the end I managed to sleep reasonably well and even watched Brighton Rock, getting tantalizingly close to the end before the seatbelts sign came on.

I felt my adrenaline levels noticeably rise on the transit bus on the way to the Floripa flight: there were an unusual number (even for Brazil) of tanned, toned and muscular bodies and the M-dot logo was everywhere you looked. It made me think of the first time I went to Brazil, over 10 years ago, when I was embarrassed to go to the beach with my soft, white body. At least this time it's not so bad but the psych-out factor is there all the same.

I was so relieved to see that the bike had arrived intact and without too many signs of abuse on the outside of the bikebox. Now, it seems, I have no excuses left but to DO THIS THING!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ash Wednesday

I just heard that the bloody volcano in Iceland is once again spewing it's aircraft unfriendly ash into the atmosphere and that some flights out of the UK are already being cancelled. Guess where we are making our first stopover tomorrow? Yep, you guessed it - London.

The bastard volcano already screwed up my birthday last year, leaving me stranded a week in London and Paris but I did make it to the Half Ironman in Lisbon by the skin of my teeth.

If I can't get to Brazil on time I swear I will do the Ironman on my own, swimming in a lake and riding and running around here. Nothing is going to stop me, not even you, Grimsvötn!!

Following the Ironman

So after months of preparation and discomfort there stand only a matter of hours of hard labour before the euphoria of having achieved something incredible. I am, of course, talking about my brother's wife who is at the point of giving birth to my first nephew. Wouldn't it be great if he popped out just as I crossed the line? ;-)

I'm not sure what kind of live coverage there will be during the Brazil Ironman but you might want to try logging on to this website on Sunday from 11am GMT (12pm Madrid time). It might also be worth looking at the official website for the event which has been updated in the last few days (it's still a bit crap, I hope no reflection of the organization of the event!).

As for news about how I fare (not to mention about my nephew) I'll try to post something here as soon as I possibly can.

The weather in Floripa

When I was growing up, the weather was the butt of many jokes - "The forecast says it will be sunny so we'd better take an umbrella", etc. Somewhere along the way, it seems as though either the forecasts have got better or we have become more gullible. I've started to watch the weather forecast much more often lately as there have been days that have started off sunny and ended up with a storm - not fun if you are halfway through a long ride and without a jacket. But it still seems to be fairly unreliable. I often wonder whether someone has ever gone to the trouble of benchmarking the various weather forecast providers against what actually happened in reality - it wouldn't be such a difficult thing to do.

So here's my attempt. Above is the forecast for race day in Florianópolis, one week before the event. Let's see how much it changes between now and the day in question! It looks like it could be quite windy which is not ideal but the relative humidity is much lower than I have seen it (yes, I've been following the weather in Floripa for some time now...). (By the way, the times look as though they are according to the Spanish clock which is 5 hours ahead. This means that getting up on race day will be like having a lie in!)

Week 19 / 20

Just as well that the blisters I incurred in my ill advised 30km run without socks in brand new trainers have healed nicely.

On the other hand, a taxi driver very nearly put an end to my quest to become an Ironman yesterday: I was bombing along on my Mountain bike when I was almost "doored". This is when someone opens a car door in a parked car onto the road without looking and you ride straight into it; a variation is when the evasive action you take to avoid said door leads to another (potentially more serious) accident. I am normally quite careful not to ride too close to parked cars - you have to have a sixth sense, always imagining possible scenarios ahead - but it was at the end of my ride and I guess I was tired by then. One of the good things about having grown up in Cambridge, where everyone goes around by bike, is that my sixth sense is quite well honed, as are my reactions. One time I got cut up by a car that turned left (remember, in the UK, you drive on the left) without having seen me in its wing mirror - I slammed on the breaks, somersaulted over the handlebars and landed on my feet!

Today I only ran an hour at the heart rate Jonathan suggested I run the Marathon in the Ironman. I didn't fly as I have done in the training I did just before the Half Ironman or the Marathon I did last year but it wasn't too tough to maintain either. I am just hoping that I get that magical effect I have had in the last three races of being able to run so much faster than in training, of being very pleasantly surprised by the kilometer splits I obtain for the perceived effort.

Next week I hardly have any training scheduled - it's pretty much freestyle. I'll do some swimming and, once we get to Floripa, a few short runs and rides to get to know the course and check my bike has survived the journey OK.

Summary of all the training I've done

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's the point?

I don't know why I have bothered doing all this Ironman training for an event which takes place after the end of the World on the 21st of May (shit, that's tomorrow!).

A number of weeks ago I noticed an incredibly cheesey billboard by the side of the road on one of my rides and made a mental note to look it up. It looked like the sort of thing a mate might knock up in his lunch break on his computer, except that it was blown up to gigantic proportions. Of course, by the time I got home, tired, I forgot and since then it's been replaced by another advert after their funding presumably ran out. It's only now that I've seen the news (where have I been you ask?) that I remember that it said something about the 21st of May and something about "Family Radio" but it was the fact that whatever it was was "guaranteed by the Bible" that really caught my attention. Now I see that this is in response to an 89 year old man, Harold Camping, who believes that Jesus Christ will rise up on this day and "rapture" the true-believers to Heaven. Sounds quite pleasant but the question is, what happens to the true non-believers and will I have time to do my three hour cycle ride beforehand or not? I had to actually look up the word "rapture" to make sure my understanding of it was right - it's hardly a word you use everyday - how is it that there are so many words that are essentially religious duplicates of other, perfectly acceptable words (e.g., right / righteous, wrong / sin, etc.)?

I'm actually genuinely surprised that this prediction has gained any traction in conservative Spain: the Catholic Church is not really the sort of fickle Institution that would be given to such dabblings in clairvoyance. Or seen another way, it's not really in their interest for people to know that Harold Camping got the news before the Pope, who supposedly has a direct line to the Almighty One.

Well, I don't know about the end of the World but it's certainly true that the website where you can find out all about it has already collapsed. We're doomed I tell you! Doomed!

Nice surprise...

I just got an email from Carlos (Kaki) who is on his way to Brazil right now (lucky sod). His wife has made us all (kids included) a t-shirt especially for the event!! What a great idea...

I'm already so excited I don't know how I am going to get through these last few days!

Results of lactate test & Ironman race plan

At first sight, it looks as though I have got worse since the tests I did back in December and January. But the main purpose of this test was to measure the blood lactate levels and this meant that the steps in the "ramp protocol" were much coarser. That is to say, the Watts at which I was pedaling were incremented by 50W every 3 minutes and I ran a whole kilometer at a pace that was increased by 10 seconds per kilometer each time. The important point about the test is to try to establish the pace / effort for which I should aim to do each leg of the Ironman. All we can really be sure about is that my heart rate should be somewhere between my Aerobic Threshold (AeT or UAE) and my Anaerobic Threshold (AT or UAN) - the question is where? Overcook it and the punishment will be severe!

On the other had, I scored very highly on efficiency on the bike. According to calculations done by Jonathan and Diego, this means that I am able to convert a remarkably high proportion of the energy I metabolize directly into Watts on the bike ergometer. I suppose that is what one should hope for after all this training - I can't expect to be especially powerful as that is not the aim but I should be efficient.

So I've just been to see Jonathan for the last time before the race. We sat down and poured over the numbers from this test and the tests I had done previously. Here's where art meets science and years of experience (and, particularly, years of experience of coaching me) comes into play. We decided to take the upper threshold on the bike (AT) from the previous test because it seems too low, especially considering that - if my reading of the random heart rate profile from Lisbon is roughly correct - I was cruising along at about 150bpm which would be over my AT according to this test. We also took the AT for the run from the last test as this time we didn't go as far as this. He did say that my lactate levels were some of the lowest he had seen in any athlete(!) which indicates that the training has replaced many of my muscle fibers with the slow twitch endurance kind. (By the way, as I understand it, you get DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness - after either a very intense activity or a low intensity prolonged activity: both produce micro tears in the muscle fibers which must be repaired. The rebuilding of the muscle gives the body an opportunity to change the fibers from one type to another although it is widely believed that many of our muscle fibers are of one type and cannot be commuted to the other.)

The strategy is to do the swim at "A2", which corresponds to half way between my AeT and AT for swimming; as I don't really have any reference at this point other than the training I have done, I will swim as hard as I can while maintaining what form I have, as I did in Lisbon. I've a feeling that if I try any harder I'll actually end up going more slowly, not to mention blowing up.

Jonathan says that I should be on the cautious side on the bike: after all this is double the distance of a Half Ironman (duh!). My Achilles heel is heat and humidity tolerance and I have had a couple of races where I have overdone it and ended up suffering at the hands of the dreaded cramps. On the other hand, if I don't push it too hard, the run has every possibility of being fast and, perhaps more importantly, actually enjoyable in a sort of Ironman kind of way. All the same, I'm still not as confident with my heart rate zones and exertion on the bike so the idea is to not strictly adhere to a pulse rate but to go by feeling to some extent. Being prudent, this feeling should correspond to about a quarter way between AeT (128 bpm) and AT (156 bpm), or about 135 bpm - or, in reference to my training, half way between where I did 90% of my rides and the medium intensity (CMED). There are a couple of small hills on the course, which are pathetic by Madrid standards but can, nevertheless, send your heart rate spiking through the roof: for the hills, I can permit myself to go up to but not beyond my AT (156 bpm). In the Half Ironman, I remember that from a cardiovascular point of view, it was not too taxing on the bike - I was breathing about as heavily as I would on a prank call if if ever did such things - but the legs felt constantly tight and uncomfortable and I even wondered how it would be to run on them afterwards. As we are talking about doing twice the distance on the bike this time, before embarking on the Marathon, my legs should not feel so stressed.

The run is where I can hopefully let rip. The idea is to keep my heart rate between around 156 and 161 bpm. In any case, I have much more intuition for how to pace myself running, even if it is after having swum and cycled. More than anything else, I just hope I can get into a good rhythm. There's a certain running speed which may not be the fastest at which I can run a particular distance that just feels like the natural speed for me to run at: any slower or faster feels wasteful. I don't think I can realistically think of running the second half of the Marathon faster than the first, or even at the same pace, but I'd really like to avoid hitting any kind of "wall" if I can help it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last long run

This is what I wrote this morning:

I had planned to do this run before breakfast but it didn't seem wise after not having digested my dinner properly last night. Instead I decided to do the run after work. My Vivobarefoot Ultras arrived this morning and it seemed as though the stomach upset was conspiring to tempt me into trying them out for the first time on a 30k run, less than two weeks before the competition. This is where I have to use my head and be sensible. First impressions are that they are ridiculously light and fantastically flexible, although the sole looks much less durable than the (heavier) Evos I bought last year. They look as though they could be my competition shoes just in time for my worn out Puma Cosmos to be replaced by the brand spanking new pair that I have saved for the Ironman.

And now:

Of course, once I tried the shoes on, they felt so comfortable I couldn't resist the temptation to do the run in them. They come with a removable sock which attaches securely to the shoe and has a kevlar like puncture proof sole and the idea is that you don't need to wear another sock inside this one. For the first 10 kilometers or so they felt great on tarmac, on the trail, on the level or going up and down hills. After about 15 kilometers, though, I could tell that some blisters were working themselves up on some of my toes. It's not surprising, my feet are not used to these shoes yet. It was a bit of a risky thing to do so close to the competition but a bit of judicious lancing and draining has left my feet in a perfectly servicable state - in any case, my next run isn't until Sunday. Although I like the Ultras a lot, I'll be sticking with the Pumas for the race - there's simply not enough time to build up hard skin where it needs to be.

We did it!

We managed to hit the target I set of raising 3,000 pounds for the British Heart Foundation!

Thanks so much to everyone who has donated - and if you were thinking of donating but didn't get around to it, there's nothing wrong with going over target! Neil's family will be pleased when I tell them. I really believe that this is a good cause and I hope our little "drop in the ocean" can help us understand heart defects and heart disease better and avoid these tragic and shocking deaths as a result.

I have to say a special thanks to Christian Petersmann who was the one to take us to the target with a very generous donation indeed. He is also competing in the Ironman in Brazil, although I suspect he will be already having a beer at the finish line by the time I get there.

Anyway, that's one target met, now I just need to meet the other and for that, it's down to me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not again...

So much for my Ironstomach... I was all set to get up at 6am and run for 2 and a half hours before breakfast and work but now that doesn't seem like a good idea. I was already in bed by 10:15 but as soon as I lay down, I could hear bubble bubble toil and trouble coming from down below. I hope it's just something I ate and not another bug like I had a few weeks ago. (The instructions on the packet of quinoa did say something about rinsing it thoroughly first but I didn't bother.)

Ok, don't panic - I'll jiggle the remaining workouts around a bit and see if I'm up to doing the run on Thursday.

Location:The toilet


I thought I'd better check that the bike fits in its box well ahead of the flight because, if it didn't, well, I'd be screwed and have to blag a bike bag from someone else. I had to take it to pieces as you can see in the photo, but it fits easily with room to spare. It's not to heavy, either, and what might be seen as a disadvantage of the box - it not having a handle you can put your hand through - is, I think, an advantage: it will be that much harder for the baggage handlers to throw it carelessly on the pile of suitcases. It is semi-rigid so it should be OK (TOUCH WOOD) but will it get lost in transit, only to turn up on Sunday afternoon??? I even considered packing my iPhone in there with it, so I could do a "where's my iPhone" in case it got lost. But then I'd have to have the phone turned on in the airplane and that's supposedly dangerous (although I'd hate to think that airplane instruments were really that sensitive to interference).

If I'm honest, I had an ulterior motive in packing up my bike so far ahead of flying. It's true that I don't have much bike training to do before I go but I still have some (2 and a half hours today, 3 at the weekend) and I just feel like doing it in the relative comfort provided by my Mountain Bike. That way my backside should be in perfect condition to hunker down for 5 hours plus on the Big Day.

Ah, I must remember to let down my tires before putting it on the plane (otherwise the lower atmospheric pressure would lead to them exploding). For now I am keeping them pumped up, just to gain the confidence that they don't have a slow puncture.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monte del Pilar in Pozuelo de Alarcón / Majadahonda

That boy looks like he means buisiness
I discovered that I am not alone in my rant. Pozuelo is up in arms about the forest near my house that I cycle through on my way to work!! How exciting in a suburban, middle class kind of way. There was a demonstration on Saturday that I was unaware of otherwise I would definitely have attended.

The problem is that the land is owned by an extremely rich, influential and slightly scary Spanish family (maybe it's just me, but "The Legionaries of Christ" makes me think of bad 70s horror films). The Oriols - who made their fortune in the energy business, now Iberdrola -  have recently decided, after years of it being open to public use, to fence most of it off, leaving only one path through the forest. Apart from destroying the feeling of being out in the open, the "path" is so badly eroded from the security cars patrolling up and down that, when it rains, the puddles extend from one fence to another, leaving no option but to get off your bike and wade through the water. From a legal point of view, it seems hard to challenge them, especially as they have left a public right of way. Also they have a tangible reason for putting up the fence: to prevent damage to their grounds now evidenced, unfortunately, by people having torn down the very same fence (it wasn't me, honest!). The worrying thing is that it looks as though they might be planning to develop something on that land. After all the backhanders to re-qualify agricultural land as suitable for urbanization and its corresponding contribution to the Spanish housing bubble, I sincerely hope that the politicians have more sense now than to grant them planning permission.

It looks like this could be a clincher for the municipal elections next Sunday. On the one hand, we have Tomás Gómez (PSOE) who promises to be the "President for the Common People" and who poses on his pre-election poster gazing skyward, perhaps wondering if God will remember to vote for him; on the other, we have the Partido Popular (PP), which has the same slogan "Focused on you" underlining everyone's photo, except that of one person. His name? Narciso (Narcissus).

Anyway, if you happen to care about my little forest, you can "like" the cause on Facebook: it is called "Monte de Pozuelo - Monte para todos".


I just read that Sammy Wanjiru, the reigning Olympic champion in the Marathon and former Half Marathon World Record holder has just died, aged 24. He was someone to watch! At 24 to be one of the best Marathoners in the World, imagine what we could have had to look forward to when he was a bit older. Apparently he died in a fall (or possibly jump) from a balcony in Kenya. Sad, sad news indeed.

Although I suppose it is too soon to know for sure, according to the Telegraph, he had an argument with his wife after she found him in bed with another woman (oh dear) and he jumped out of the window in a rage. Apparently they had quite a stormy relationship - he was charged back in December for attempting to murder her and for illegal possession of an AK-47 rifle.

Half way there

As you may know, the reason this blog exists and the motivation behind my becoming an Ironman is in memory of my dear friend, Neil Suddes. I have been trying to raise money for research in heart disease and, so far, I have managed to get half way to my target of 3,000 pounds. Please at least read the following and consider making a donation - it requires just a few clicks and it is perfectly safe. Thank you to every one for their support, both in my fundraising target and in my personal target of becoming an Ironman.

[Scroll down for Spanish / Para leerlo en español, ver abajo]

If you didn't know Neil Suddes then all I can say is you missed out.

I first met Neil back in the 90's in a pub in called the Devonshire Arms which, known to us record-heads, was one of the few places you could go to hear good music in Cambridge in those days. Whenever Neil was on the decks we would try to keep the pretences of a conversation up while fighting the urge to jump up and ask what every "fookin' tune" he played was. Ironically, he probably found a number of them in a BHF charity shop for next to nothing.

For me, Neil personified everything I love about music. Sometimes the rest of us could get quite competitive over digging out that elusive tune gathering dust in some record shop. Neil had a brilliant ear and an amazing knowledge for music coupled with the luck of the Gods in unearthing rare records, and yet he was always humble and generous in sharing these with his friends. Above all he was so creative - a true original - and had a fantastic sense of humour which was definitely reflected in his music, his graphic design and his photography. After all, you should never take things too seriously...

I always felt as though I could pick up with Neil just where I left off so it was a terrible shock to hear that he had died, suddenly, of a heart attack aged just 41. You only have to type "Suddes" into Google to see that I was not the only one deeply affected by this loss.

I recently got into running marathons and triathlons and I know only too well that some people have a heart condition of which they can be completely unaware until a set of circumstances - heat, stress, a virus maybe - strikes them down. For this reason, I chose for the money I raise to go to The British Heart Foundation: in spite of having "British" in the name, it is an organization which funds life changing research with a global reach. Neil was a keen cyclist and I would have enjoyed having a geeky conversation with him about Campagnolo Record versus Shimano Dura-Ace. Instead it seems fitting to dedicate my efforts in the Ironman in Brazil 2011 to the memory of all those great evenings we spent together.

Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate - I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

So please dig deep and donate now.

Si nunca llegaste a conocer a Neil Suddes lo único que te puedo decir es que te lo has perdido.

Conocí a Neil en los años 90, en el pub “the Devonshire Arms” que, conocido por unos cuantos discófilos, era uno de los pocos sitios donde uno podía escuchar buena música en Cambridge en aquella época. Cada vez que pinchaba Neil, nosotros intentábamos disimular, manteniendo una conversación mientras resistíamos la tentación de preguntarle que c*ño era el temazo que tocaba. Irónicamente, es probable que, muchos de aquellos discos, los hubiera pillado en una tienda de charity de la British Heart Foundation por unos pocos peniques.

Para mí, Neil era la personificación de todo que yo amaba de la música. A veces los demás éramos bastante competitivos en buscar esa joya elusiva, cubierta de polvo en alguna tienda de discos. Neil tenía un gusto espectacular, un conocimiento asombroso de música y la suerte de un cabrón para encontrar discos y era, sin embargo, siempre humilde y generoso, compartiendo sus descubrimientos con sus amigos. Sobre todo era tan creativo – un verdadero “original” – y tenía un sentido de humor fantástico que quedó reflejado en su música, su diseño y su fotografía. Al final y al cabo, las cosas nunca se deberían tomar demasiado en serio…
Siempre tenía la sensación de que podía retomar mi amistad con Neil cuando quisiera así que era un palo terrible cuando me dijeron que se había muerto, inesperadamente, de un infarto con tan sólo 41 años. Con que teclees “Suddes” en Google, verás que no fui el único tan profundamente afectado por esta noticia.

Hace poco empecé a correr maratones y triatlones y sé de sobra que hay gente con una condición cardiaca de la cual ni siquiera son conscientes hasta que, un conjunto de circunstancias – el calor, el estrés, un virus tal vez – la pone en evidencia. Por eso, he decido recaudar dinero para The British Heart Foundation: a pesar de tener “British” en el nombre, es una organización que financia investigación que puede salvar vidas y que tiene un alcance global. Neil era un ciclista también, y me hubiera gustado discutir con el los méritos relativos de Campagnolo Record y Simano Dura-Ace. Como ya va a ser posible, me parece apropiado dedicar el esfuerzo que me va a suponer terminar el Ironman de Brasil en 2011 a la memoria de aquellas veces que pasábamos juntos escuchando música.

Gracias por haber tomado el tiempo para leer mi página de JustGiving.

Donando a través de JustGiving es sencillo, rápido y totalmente seguro. Tus detalles están en buenos manos con JustGiving – nunca los venderán ni te mandarán emails no deseados. Una vez que has donado, mandarán tu dinero directamente a la organización de caridad. Es la manera más eficaz de donar – recaudo más mientras la organización de caridad ahora tiempo y costes.

Así que, por favor, dona lo que puedas ahora.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week 18 / 20

This really was the last week of hard training (or at least time consuming), although it started off so light I was beginning to get impatient.

The first reasonably hard session was of 2 and a half hours running at aerobic pace on Thursday. In fact, the directions were to run up to a maximum of 30km in those 2 and a half hours, very gently and even incorporating some walking if necessary. Me being me, I took this very literally and ran exactly 30km which took me from my house to the centre of Madrid and back. What I was particularly pleased about - apart from it feeling very easy - is that I did it on an empty stomach, drinking only water during the run itself. I believe it is good practice for training your body to burn fat but you have to be careful not to push it too far and "bonk",' as well as being extra careful to refuel properly for the next day's training.

Friday involved a mega swimming session totaling just over the Ironman distance but with loads of finickety exercises. I got so bored that I confess that I split it into two sessions: one at lunchtime and one after work. I think there is only a limited amount of improvement I can make before the race and it certainly won't come from swimming lengths in a pool badly because I am tired and fed up! I'm confident I have the stamina to do the swim leg in one go, but I am more looking forward to it being over than it starting.

On Saturday, the task at hand was to cycle 5 hours with at least an hour and a half at race pace, two hours somewhere between that an aerobic pace and the rest at aerobic pace. As usual I was on my own so, when I saw this little guy on the hard shoulder, I just had to stop...

I scooped him up and cycled to the Safari de Madrid from where I thought he might have escaped but no... Instead I took him to a nearby river where some locals told me that tortoises (turtles?) could be found in the wild. In all, I cycled at least 5km with the tortoise in one hand, some of the while trying to claw or even bite my hand - not one of my better ideas, but I couldn't rightly just leave him there in the middle of nowhere, the only prospect being getting wrapped around a car wheel. I have to admit I was quite tempted to take him home with me - if I could have found a cheap rucksack in a village along the way - but my experience with tortoises has been that their life expectancy drops dramatically from over 100 years to one or two once you try to domesticate them. And, if I'm honest, they were very boring (RIP).

As my wife is still away in Africa, it's just as well that the kids spent Saturday night staying over with a friend. On the one hand, I missed them especially after spending half the weekend on the bike (as usual) but it is the last time I'll ever have to fit in 11 and a half hours training at the weekend (even the Ironman itself I hope will be less than that, fingers crossed). Otherwise, I would have had to start off my training indoors on the turbo trainer and, as soon as my wife arrived from Africa, shoot out of the door to finish off what I had started. I think she is dying for me to cross the finish line more than even I am.

The other day I was trying to convince her that doing an Ironman was healthier than doing a Marathon - I mean in the holistic sense, not in terms of how physically fit you might be from all the training. "But an Ironman includes a Marathon so it must leave you even more wrecked..." My point is that you can get away with doing a Marathon "just" doing the training but the Ironman forces you to take care of all the aspects of your life - training, food, sleep and stress - ignore any one of these things and you will pay dearly for it. Time is such a hard and merciless master; it marches on relentlessly, irrespective of what we do (I sometimes get asked how much rest you get in between the legs of the Ironman and the answer is "As much as you like, but the clock keeps advancing regardless.") The Ironman forces you to organize your time and, consequently, make you aware of the value of every minute of your life: when you are training you should be training otherwise that time could have been better employed doing something else; when you are at work you should be working otherwise you could have been training; when you are with you family you should be with your family and so on. Although it will be nice to have much more time to spend with my family when this is over, I hope I can retain this value of time that I have now (perhaps without the stress that sometimes accompanies it when things are out of my control).

On Sunday, I did 5 hours on the bike at aerobic pace (averaging around 28kph, what with all the hills around here) followed by an hour and a half running, also at aerobic pace, at an average of 12kph. My butt was so sore from the day before it felt like I'd just escaped from a high security prison: I couldn't even tolerate a single minute in the aero position. Let's put it this way - I normally seem to favour sitting ever so slightly to the right of the seat and, this time, I had to consciously sit to the left. Also, I spoke too soon about my Garmin: it went back into random heart rate mode and I spent most of the ride wondering whether to wear two heart rate monitors in the Ironman or just one, or whether to trust the Garmin or to rely on my hardly tested budget Suunto. I'll take both to Brazil and decide at the last moment what I do but, in the meantime, it might be a good idea to test the Suunto in anger; after all, the Garmin has been fine for most of the 6 months that I have had it. What was gratifying about the training today (apart from being the last time I will probably have to pass through some of those remote places ever) was that - until the last 15 minutes at least - I felt like I could have kept on going indefinitely. Which is just as well really, as that is virtually what I will have to do in exactly two weeks from now.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Solomillo, sólo mio!

If you are a vegetarian then avert your eyes NOW!

One of the little treats I have been allowing myself during my Ironman training is to eat obscene amounts of red meat. Of course there are other ways of getting protein but nothing quite so delicious in my book. Triathlon is an expensive business but people often ignore the cost of food. On many days I burn as many calories in exercise as I normally burn just being alive; on these days I eat roughly twice what I eat on a normal day. Just do the sums... This beauty below cost about 20 euros for 450g - OK, it is an especially good cut from an especially "pijo" supermarket - and provides about 900 calories (enough to cycle at an easy pace for about two hours). I'll eat this in one sitting, grilling it lightly on both sides with a bit of coarse sea salt as seasoning. I've been getting through 4 or 5 of these a week (admittedly not all of them the same quality or price). That's a 100 euros a week right there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Been there, done that, got the tattoo

This is not my leg
I've always liked the idea of having a tattoo but I've never really known of what. Now I can't get the idea out of my head of having a tattoo to celebrate the Brazil Ironman supposing, that is, that I finish it. Unfortunately the Ironman logo is pretty awful but the tattoo would have to include that for it to have meaning.

Why the hell do I want to get a tattoo? It's not to brag, honest (remember the slogan for the Ironman: "Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life); I want to make this permanent. Been there, done that, got the tattoo and, no, I'm not going to do it again. I can't imagine doing a tattoo for a Marathon, for example, because then as soon as you run one faster, you're going to regret that tattoo. But an Ironman is an Ironman, there is a definite before and after: you are one or you are not. This is something I'm going to be proud of when I'm 99 (if I make it that far) even if it is a bit ugly and unfashionable in the year 2,071.

I've taken the first step towards actually getting inked and that is to start a competition on the 'net for the design that I will use. Digging around on the internet I found hundreds of tattoos, many of which have been compiled by this guy (who, coincidentally is also preparing for Ironman Brazil, but next year):

If you want to have a crack at designing my tattoo then click here and you could win $100, not to mention have the honour of being the creator of something I'll wear for the rest of my life... ;-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lactate test

Definitely one of the less unpleasant tests I have had to do. The first part of test involved cycling at ever increasing intensities (Watts) while my pulse and CO2 / O2 interchange were measured (as in previous VO2 Max tests) as well as my blood lactate concentration.

I'm smiling under the mask, honest!
Here's where the unpleasantness comes in: the only way to measure your blood lactate concentration is by measuring the lactate concentration in your blood - doh! In other words, every 3 minutes Diego would prick my ear and extract a drop of blood for analysis. Oh, and by the way, each analysis costs 3 euros (not Diego's fault, but just the cost of the patches).

Blood, sweat but thankfully no tears
After safely clearing my second threshold on the bike - the anaerobic threshold above which the energy metabolism is primarily from glycogen - it was time to go out on the track and repeat the same test running. I got quite a lot of funny looks from the people playing football on the pitch I was running round. On my back in the backpack was the little machine that measures my CO2 / O2 interchange and sends the signal by radio (what technology!) to where Diego was waiting with his needle to take yet more blood samples. I had to run around the track at a predetermined and ever increasing pace which is trickier than it sounds. To help, Diego had set a stopwatch to beep every certain number of seconds and my job was to make sure I was passing a marker at exactly this moment. We had a few technical difficulties with tubes falling out and stopwatches running out of batteries but it looks as though we managed to get some good data for analysis. The good thing is that the conditions were very similar to what I imagine Brazil will throw at me.

If you are curious as to what the point of this bizarre test is, have a look at a post I wrote some time ago in which I tried to explain the significance of the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, as well as the MLSS (Maximum Lactate Steady State) threshold. Hopefully I'll get the results in the next few days and they will give me an indication as to what kind of pace / heart rate I can aim for both on the bike and for the Marathon leg of the Ironman.

Before starting the test, I bumped into Carlos - who is also doing Ironman Brazil. He had just done his test and was happy that the pain he'd been experiencing in his leg while running over the last few weeks had finally subsided. So - TOUCH WOOD - it looks as though both of us are ready to DO THIS THING!

Unsung Heroes: Kilian Jornet

I'd say that Spain has more than it's fair share of elite sportsmen and women, probably partly due to its great climate. Rafa Nadal, Fernando Alonso, Severiano Ballesteros (RIP), the Spanish football team, Alberto Contador, Marc Gasol even Javier Gómez, the World Champion of Olympic distance Triathlon are all household names. Not so for Kilian Jornet, so he qualifies for my unsung section.

Kilian Jornet runs Marathons. In the mountains. He is an extraordinary athlete with a VO2 Max of around 88ml/kg/min which puts him at the upper end of all the values ever registered. He's already won the Skyrunners World Series 3 times not to mention being World Champion of Ski Mountaineering twice. Skyrunning, as its name suggests, involves running races in the mountains of 30-42km with at least 2,000 meters of climb (and descent - I'm not sure what is worse), a minimum altitude of 2,000m and, in some cases, including a Vertical Kilometer (R). I imagine you have to be extremely fit, lean and dextrous (and a little bit crazy, let's face it) to be able to compete in, let alone win one of these things.

What makes Kilian a "hero" in my book, is his dedication to what he does best without compromising his principles. He could no doubt get more attention and recognition (and more sponsorship for that matter) if he came down to Earth from his Mountains and competed on level ground but he sticks to his thing all the same. He is also very young indeed - only 23 years old - so who knows what he has ahead of him. I'd like to see him getting more coverage at least in the national press - he really is one of the best athletes this country has and he is right under our noses (or really above them I should say).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week 17 / 20

This week was an easy week in terms of load but a difficult one mentally, although it was nice to be congratulated by so many people at work over my result from Lisbon. What made it difficult psychologically was that my aerobic runs (at a heart rate of 150 bpm) were much slower than the week before and I started to "comerme el coco" as they say in Spanish, thinking that all those sugary gels I used for carboloading last week might have somehow "detrained" my fat burning capacity. The more rational and probable explanation is that I am simply tired and that my body is busy making adaptations to the stresses I put it through last weekend. This sort of worry is fairly typical when you are in the equivalent of the tapering period for any event - for example, when you've sent the invitations out for the wedding, hired the photographer, hairdresser, etc., and really there is nothing left you can do except worry. That's where Jonathan comes in, to put my mind at rest...

Another thing that made the workouts tougher than they really needed to be was the fact that, on Saturday, I had to do my 3 hour (only 3 hours - wahey!) ride in the pouring rain on my mountain bike and that, as my wife is away in Africa, the 1 and a half hour run on Sunday had to be on the treadmill while I watched a really crappy film ("Battle: Los Angeles" if you must know) and the kids watched another not so crappy one. Apart from the obvious tedium of running on the treadmill, I find the stifling heat that builds up almost unbearable, with not even the breeze coming from the fan making much of a difference. After a while, the belt gets so slippery from the stream of sweat that its just as well that I don't heel strike otherwise I'd probably fall off the thing.

By the way, I managed to sort out my Garmin which has been giving me dodgy heart rate readings over the last few weeks and especially in the Lisbon Half Ironman. It turned out to be the obvious: the battery needed changing. That's three euros well spent that I could have thought about spending before!

These days I spend more time than most on the hard shoulder of the motorway, usually pedaling but sometimes fixing punctures. It was only when my car broke down with the kids inside that I realized the difference four wheels makes over two: absolutely no-one stops. Unfortunately, the kids had run my iPhone out of batteries playing so many games so I just needed someone to let me use their phone. What is even more disturbing is that I ran to the nearest homely house (a big out of town garden store) and explained to a middle aged couple I found in the car park my predicament, emphasizing the fact that my kids were on their own by the side of the motorway. Now, I'd understand (but not necessarily believe) a "I haven't got a phone" or even simply a "No, sorry" but this guy actually sort of waved me aside, walking away without looking at me, as if I were a fly trying to settle on his food or a mosquito trying to suck his blood. Now I understand how it must feel to have to beg for money. You can imagine what I said to him - I was so angry and upset it all came out in English and he probably didn't understand a word of it but he will have got the message. I hope he drove past my car on his way home and saw the kids playing by the side of the road with debris from past car crashes and got an earful from his wife for being such a... Still, to be fair, he was probably scared I was going to rob his phone or rape his wife or both, such is the level of fear and mistrust these days; and it doesn't help that I sound like a foreigner (well, I am one). Instead, that would just make him an ignorant twat and means it's all the more likely that he will get his phone stolen one day. Had I been on the bike someone would definitely have stopped - in fact, I even thought about accosting a cyclist, knowing that they would be much more likely to help, but then I also know how much more effort it is to stop and start on a bike compared to a couple of movements of the feet and a slight rotation of the steering wheel required to bring a car to a halt. I finally managed to convince the people in the shop to let me use the phone and, by the time I had run back to the car, the pick up truck was only a couple of minutes behind. (As it happens, I saw a friend in the shop but I was already on the phone - he looked a bit concerned to see me sweating away in a bright yellow fluorescent jacket.) At least now I have a good reason to give to kids so that they don't play so many games on my phone. In the end, the kids were happy that they got off doing their homework.

That peak at the end is the Ironman itself - as you can see, roughly the same load as the total peak weekly training
Anyway, this week starts off with a lactate test - more on this later - and builds up into the last of the heavy training before the event. Not the best timing, what with my wife away, but where there's a will there's always a way...