Friday, April 27, 2012

II Carrera Solidaria Santander (10K)

Two days into my "sabbatical" from structured training and competition and already a race that I just can't say no to. Last year I was unable to take part because it clashed with something but, given that it is a race organized by my employer in which they are attempting to muster 9,000 runners (across Madrid, Valencia and Santander) as well as the proceeds going to Unicef, it is hard to find a reason not to run this year. Last year's race was won by the eltie duathlete, José Almagro, who entered it as a "training run". The standard otherwise was a bit lower than the usual popular races round here but that might well tempt higher calibre runners this time around. The race isn't until the 10th of June so I have a bit of time to prepare...

End of term lactate test

I did a lactate test last night so that we would have a reference point for when I go back to competitions and structured training after the summer. The tests also form part of a scientific study that they are doing in the Universidad de Europa (la UEM) which aims to link lactate levels with race performance. As you can imagine, they are not the first to do this study but my understanding is that the existing studies have all been done with elite runners. This seems to me a bit like doing a study comparing horses with the longest necks to giraffes with the shortest: my point is that elite runners are, almost by definition, "freaks" (sorry, I mean this in the nicest possible way). They are outliers. (By the way I recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell's book of the same name.)

Anyway, back to the test. The protocol had been changed slightly: this time it involved four laps of 350m before each measurement (yes, the running track is unfortunately a bit short because there wasn't enough room to build a full sized one) instead of 2 sets 1,000m at each speed with a lactate measurement after each one. This perhaps accounted for my slightly higher pulse rates (that, and the can of Diet Coke I had just before) - in any case, these heart rates were much more in line with what I have seen in training. What was a big surprise, however, was to see how low my lactate level was running at 16kph - it was the same level of 2.7mmol/L that I registered running at 15kph in November and significantly lower than the level at 16kph of 3.9-4.4mmol/L just before my spectacular Personal Best time in the Getafe Half Marathon at the end of January. The full results were

Post Madrid Rock 'n' Roll 10K

Speed (kph) Lactate (mmol/L) Heart rate (bpm)

15 2.2 159

16 2.7 173

17 7.0! 181

You can clearly see where my lactate suddenly rockets, although it would be interesting to know exactly where between 16 and 17kph this happens. The level of 2.7 is extremely low for the pace at which I ran the 10K on Sunday of 3:45 per kilometer, although the slightly hilly course should be factored in (I ran the Getafe Half Marathon at virtually the same pace corresponding to 3.9-4.4mmol/L according to the test). On the other hand, it's clear that my pace for a 10K race is definitely not 17kph (or 3:30 per kilometer), at least not at this moment in time anyway. Perhaps that first kilometer I ran in 3:32 on Sunday made my lactate level shoot up and affected my overall time; or, maybe, I was able to metabolize that lactate aerobically and bring the lactate level back down. Unfortunately, the only way to measure that sort of thing would be to have some sort of device plugged in intravenously while you ran: we are still far from having an extra field on our Garmin watch that tells us our blood lactate level... Still, we can but hope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First day of sabbatical

Normally my triathlon bike only gets to go out at the weekends - if at all - but I thought I would take her out during the week and, as a special treat, I would show her where I work. Not the most sensible plan to commute to work by bike given that I had a meeting planned to start at 7pm and perhaps even less so to go on a time trial bike with a disc wheel and tubular tires but, hey, it's what I most felt like doing trainingwise and, after all, it is my sabbatical and I'll do what I want to...

Another reason why it wasn't such a great idea was that it was a particularly windy day. At lunchtime I took her out for another spin - from Boadilla to Brunete and back. With the wind behind me on the way back there were times that I ran out of gears on the flat (and I'm running 53-12). At one point I overtook a "roadie" - one of those who are too cool to wear a helmet but too cold to not wear some kind of hat - and I obviously upset him because he made a show of sauntering past me on the next big hill which I was struggling to climb. I'll be honest - when I saw him in the distance I thought "Great! Someone to overtake" but I didn't (consciously) change my rhythm. I wonder why it is that road cyclists in particular are prone to "picarse" as we say in Spanish - or to succumb to the temptation to race each other. Imagine if you were jogging along and happened to pass another jogger only to find that two minutes later he was sprinting past you with a smile on his face trying not to breathe hard? I suppose it happens because as soon as you have something powerful between your legs your hormonal instincts take over.

My meeting went on longer than I had anticipated. The worst thing about meetings that start at 7pm is that you can hardly get up saying that you have another meeting to go to because no-one would believe you. My palms started to sweat just thinking that every extra minute that passed meant I would have to ride even faster to get home before it got dark (I had no lights on my bike). Somebody mentioned something about a football match that was about to start for and then the meeting was soon over. I took the shortest route by road back home and made it just in time. As I was pedaling a rather morbid thought came to me. I remembered a friend once telling me that he had stayed back late one evening a number of years ago to work on something that his boss had said was urgent. On his way home he had an accident on his motorbike, one in which he completely lost the use of one arm. He told me that after months of rehabilitation when he was finally able to return to work, he asked his boss what came of that piece of work he had stayed behind to finish. "Oh that? Oh we didn't need it in the end." I couldn't help thinking, "If I have an accident now because I haven't got lights, I'll always remember* that meeting but no-one else will." (*Assuming I survive the accident...)

I thought afterwards that had Jonathan put 2 and a half hours of cycling, of which at least an hour was at medium intensity, down for a Wednesday, it would have played on my mind the whole week and caused a certain amount of stress. However, that was exactly what I ended up doing of my own accord. It's all a question of perspective.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


The facilities in the Universidad de Europa

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed a bit of a trend lately, one in which I have been losing a bit of motivation, am a bit less hungry for competition and more concerned about training "stressing me out". I think it is for various reasons. Firstly, work is more stressful and so I have less capacity for stress to spend on training: these days, if I have noticed my training is making me more stressed rather than less, I ask myself if it is worth it. This, I think, is a sign of maturity! Also, it has to be noted that I have achieved the goals I set myself (Ironman, sub 3-hour Marathon) and I have sensibly resisted escalating these goals (so far) in difficulty. But I think the most important reason (though perhaps not the most significant) is that I have reached a point where I can trust myself not to fall into an abyss of over-indulgence if I have not the discipline that an upcoming competition imposes on me. Along the lines of the post I wrote some time ago, I have reached the phase of enjoying training for training's sake.

Put another way, training has helped me outrun the midlife crisis that struck 5 years ago and now I don't think there's any chance it can catch up with me again (well, not this crisis anyway). And, much more effective than spending money on psychologists or psychiatrists, has been investing in a running coach. So it was with some emotion that I told Jonathan today that I was planning to take 6 months off from following a structured training programme - in other words, that I would be going solo for a while. Jonathan has been a tremendous support to me over the last 4 years and it feels a little bit scary to not have someone I can call on but, being rational, I don't really need him for moral support any more; another thing altogether is trying for a personal best in a competition. Another aspect I miss is that of belonging to a group, even if I hardly ever saw any of them. In practice, it is easier for me to organize group rides or runs with people that I work with, who are subject to more or less the same constraints that I am.

In any case, I am being sentimental - it's only "hasta luego" not "adíos". On Thursday I'll go for a last lactate test (for now) to use as a reference point for when I go back in September, when we'll start preparations for the New York Marathon. In the meantime, I have set myself the following objectives:

1) Get better at swimming
2) Enjoy training - more variety, spontaneous outings with friends
3) Maintain my level of fitness as much as is possible

So the idea is to try to fit into each week

- 2 swimming sessions (one of which is a class)
- 1 weights session
- 1 commute to work (by bike or on foot)
- 1 long ride / run at the weekend, the other day off
- 1 hard workout (series)

Instead of planning ahead and thinking "this week I have to do such and such" the idea is to look backwards and see what I have managed to do and use that to help decide what to do each day, without worrying about making up quotas. I'm fairly used to how the weights sessions, the long runs and the hard series build from one week to the next, so I think I should be able to manage to make something up reasonably well. It's nice to be able to think "Hmmm, what shall I do tomorrow?".

I've felt less hungry for competition lately but you know what the good thing is? It doesn't worry me. Maybe I will decide not to compete so much or so furiously and that is perhaps a good thing. And if it does come back, than so be it.

Photos from Madrid Rock 'n' Roll 10K

As I mentioned in my report, I had a photo taken with the Mayoress of Madrid, Ana Botella, because I was right at the front and happened to be standing immediately behind her. I haven't seen this photo anywhere - I was hoping it might make the newspapers - and I have an inkling why. I remember that I had just put one of those nasal strips on my nose but, as usually happens (for this reason I always take two to a race), it had started to come unstuck. Not wanting to spoil the photo by fiddling about with my nose, I tried not to think about it but found that I couldn't resist looking at it. I expect that they decided not to use the photos of Ana Botella in which a big guy standing right behind her was pulling a cross-eyed face.

I must run with my eyes practically closed most of the time because that's how I came out in most of the race photos. Another unfortunate potential photo spoiler is my tendency to accumulate large amounts of spittle in my beard as the race progresses. Here are some of the better photos

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Feeling crap today...

Seems to be a bit of a pattern emerging here: just like in the Valencia Marathon in November, an OK but not overwhelming performance followed by a day of feeling ill. Not sure whether the effort yesterday and stuffing my face afterwards is what has caused it or whether it was something lurking under the surface that was just waiting for my body's resources to be otherwise employed before pouncing.

Results from Madrid Rock 'n' Roll 10K

In the end I must have made quite an effort today because I feel really knackered. Must have been all those hills and perhaps the little bit of extra weight I had to carry up them since I last raced. In the end my time was 37:35, a whisker faster than my best standalone 10K time of 37:45 but only a few seconds faster than the time I passed the 10K marker during my last Half Marathon. Even so, I was 69th out of about 7,000 runners and 13th in my age group. I expect most of the faster runners were competing in the Marathon.

I'd forgotten how much a 10K race can hurt... If only there was a race as short as a 10K and as intense as a Marathon...

Mission accomplished

The executive summary: I managed to qualify for the International San Silvestre but with a not particularly spectacular time of about 37:30 in the Madrid Rock 'n' Roll 10K. For those of you who like the gory details, read on...

There were about 19,000 runners of whom 7,000 were competing in the 10K, the rest in the Marathon. Unlike Valencia, there was no separation at the start between runners competing in the different distances so I made sure I got right to the front. In fact I was in the very first line behind the elite runners. As a result  I got to shake hands with the Mayoress of Madrid and wife of our beloved ex-President, José María Aznar, and had my photo taken with her (I should say I was right behind her, with another 18,999 people behind me). They were pretty lax about allowing people into the different starting boxes but, for once, I wasn't hindered in the slightest at the start.

In fact, it was very exhilarating to run the first 500m or so right up there with the head group. I've often thought it might be fun to sprint in front of the leaders just for a few seconds, perhaps dressed as a gorilla or something... That feeling of being with those extraordinarily talented runners for just a few minutes while thousands of people were toiling behind me was incredible. Of course, it was sort of cheating as I was only running the 10K race. I clocked the first kilometer in 3:32, just under 17kph. Unfortunately, just as I did in Seville, I pressed the "stop" button instead of the lap button, so this made it pretty much impossible to see how I was doing for time during the race. A bit annoying as my objective was mainly to get a sub 38 minute time.

The first 4 kilometers were uphill with one bit that was quite testing. A number of runners passed me on that hill but I caught them back up on the downward slope. Just as we parted company with our fellow Marathon runners, I was overtaken by a woman (running the Marathon) who looked a bit like Paula Radcliffe, except that Paula would have been running a lot faster had it really been her. It was still impressive though.

The next four kilometers were primarily downhill and I ran them at under 3:40 splits. The last kilometers, though, were a killer and I lost quite a bit of time there. I didn't feel I was being tested cardiovascularly but I felt like my legs weren't strong enough. This is a feeling I can remember complaining about a couple of years ago.

To be honest, I don't think I really wanted this race enough. I ran well but I didn't push myself nearly hard enough. Partly because I hadn't really trained for that distance - one where you have to be red-lining pretty much all the way - and partly because my real objective was not too hard. My pulse rate was consistently well below where it should have been if I were really pushing the envelope. Having said that, it was a tough course as they go, certainly not one for a personal best time, so I suppose I can be pleased to have done a good time (which, as it happens, is a personal best time for me, just not really in line with my Half Marathon performances).

After the finish, I jogged back a couple of kilometers to the start along the course. Some of the runners who were still finishing shouted out that I was going the wrong way. I finally got to the place where I had stashed my warmup t-shirt (I didn't bother with the cloakroom service - this would have meant leaving stuff at the finish line before the race started) and I was pleased to see that it was still there.

One year I really will have to run the Madrid Marathon...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Goodbye 30s, hello 40s!

Watch out all you forty something age groupers, here I come as the baby in the group! In Spain they talk about the "crisis of the 40s" - just as well I already got mine out of the way five years ago, so now I just have only the positive things to look forward to like, er, getting greater respect from youngsters, have people take my opinions more seriously and that sort of thing. Best comment of the day was from a senior manager at work who congratulated me and said that he had a ten year advantage over me. Definitely the best way to look at getting older.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mr Schmid

I always feel nervous if my loved ones are away from home, so I was glad to get my Triathlon bike back from the menders today.

There's a new bike shop in town. It's just by the Cercanías train station in Pozuelo. It's called "Mr Schmid" after a trail in Cercedilla which is where their first shop is. Interestingly, they rent out up to quite fancy Trek bikes with double suspension. I thought I would put them to the test by seeing if they could fix up my Giant Trinity Advanced bike, which is about as complicated as bikes get. The rear brakes hadn't been working at all well lately - I noticed that the brake levers didn't return to their initial position - and I'd also noticed some disconcerting clanking noises coming from the nose cone every time I stood up on the pedals and started to torsion the handlebars. I asked them to be honest about their capacity to fix it and, at first they seemed a little unsure, but they suggested I left it there for the chief mechanic to look at on Wednesday.

I got a call today to say that it was ready to pick up so I ran down to the shop (literally) with a pair of cycling shoes in a backpack for the ride home. When I got there they explained that there had been a screw missing in the nose cone assembly - it's hidden from view by a rubber plug and probably worked itself loose and fell out onto the road. They also found that the brake cables had not been properly fitted in the first place: as the cables go inside the frame, there is a wire which runs through a plastic collar. The plastic collar wasn't correctly fixed to the frame so, after a while, the cables slipped further into the frame. They told me that I could also do with changing the brake pads for cork ones, which supposedly brake better on carbon surfaces. I told them that I wasn't planning on braking too much...

To be honest, I'm thinking that it was very lucky that I didn't take part in the ICAN Marbella Triathlon, because I would have been doing some crazy descents, going faster than most with my weight and my aerodynamic position. Not having reliable brakes could have been a big problem. Also, all the climbing would have meant a lot of standing up on the pedals and twisting the handlebars - perhaps the only screw that was holding the nose cone in place would have also worked itself loose and who knows what might have happened then.

Anyway, it seems that Mr Schmid have passed with flying colours. I'm very glad to have a LBS (Local Bike Shop) that I can trust to tend to my baby. Now I know where to go if I have any more doubts like, for example, how to pack the bike in a bike box, which is a little problem I hadn't got around to trying to solve yet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ready to Rock 'n' Roll...

I had a great workout last night. I suspect it is one of those which are designed to make you feel good and ready and that that is why Jonathan set it for me in the days running up to the race on Sunday. In spite of a slew of hard workouts last week, I felt pretty strong going into it. The workout consisted of running 3000m, 2000m and then two sets of 1000m, all at above anaerobic threshold. This is why it is a "feel good" workout, because each set is significantly shorter and therefore much more tolerable than the one before. Now, either I ran them hard enough - even though my heart rate didn't agree nor did my perception of effort - in which case I can be pleased with my mental toughness, or I ran them too easy in which case I can be pleased with my physical form. Either way, it was a great confidence booster.

I've started to think that having a treadmill at home has been one of the biggest contributing factors to my increase in speed over the last year or two. The fact that I can set it up with a huge industrial fan and that I can run in just a pair of skimpy shorts means that I don't suffer unnecessarily from overheating and I believe that running fast on the treadmill helps improve running mechanics. Of course, one should also run fast outside - I'm not claiming that the treadmill is a panacea - but, in my case, it has helped me reliably complete my hardest workouts. I think that running series has several benefits. One is that your body adapts to metabolising the lactate produced by high intensity efforts more effectively because you have a window of rest between each set. Another is teaching your body to run well at high speeds - as Chrissie Wellington says in her autobiography, if you always train slow, you'll end up racing slow too. I also believe that good running mechanics at high speed can lead to more economical running at slower speeds. Lastly but not leastly, I think that you get to prove to your "Central Governor" that you can run at those speeds without keeling over. This last point is very important because, according to the theory put forward by Timothy Noakes and company, having a more lenient Central Governor allows you to effectively push yourself harder in competition before reaching the point at which you are ultimately forced to slow down. By this token, it is very important to complete the hard workouts because, by giving in to your Central Governor, you are perhaps telling it that it is right to hold you back.

I decided to run the first set of 3000m and the second set of 2000m at 16.5kph (17kph according to the treadmill) and the last two sets of 1000m at 17kph (17.5kph according to the treadmill). It felt like a good workout but it wasn't a struggle to maintain by any means. Perhaps it was aided by the fact that I wore my "competition shoes", the Vivobarefoot Ultras: I weighed them the other day and they came in at 130 grams per shoe compared with 230 grams for my regular training shoe, the Soft Star RunAmocs (which are still very light as things go). To put this in context: if I run the 10k on Sunday at 16.5kph then that equates to a time of 36m22s; if I run it at 17kph then I'll finish in 35m18s. If my heart rate from last night is anything to go by, then at least the first of these is certainly possible. According to the tables based on my Half Marathon time of 1:19, I should be able to break 36 minutes, but this assumes that I have been training specifically for the 10k distance, which has not been the case.

The first 4 kilometres of the race are uphill along the familiar route of the Castellana up to the Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium; the next 4 kilometres are back downhill, with the final two leading to the Retiro park being uphill again. Should be fairly conducive to a good time, as long as I grit my teeth for those last two kilometres - and that will depend on my motivation which will, in turn, depend on whether I see that I can get below 38, 37 or 36 minutes. The plan, in any case, is to focus on breaking the 38 minute barrier - which I know I can do - while using my heart rate as a guide to how hard to push. This means keeping my heart rate at or below 178 bpm until the last two to three kilometres. 10k races were my strong point a couple of years ago, relative to my times in longer distances - it will be interesting to see if all this long, steady Ironman and Marathon training translates into speed over a shorter distance.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Better the devil you know...

Actually, the Spanish phrase is a bit closer to what I want to say: "Better the known bad than the good you have yet to know". Not that the Lisbon International Triathlon is bad, far from it. This year I thought I would try a different Half Ironman after having taken part in the Lisbon Half Ironman the last two years and it ended in disappointment. So I am going back to the fold and I have just taken advantage of an offer for previous competitors to sign up for 100 €. So that's my triathlon for 2013 sorted. The WTC 70.3 events look really cool, just either too hilly, too hot, too far, too complicated to get to... In the end, Lisbon is perfect: not too hot, good time of year, flat course, easy to get to, etc. I'm also curious to compare to last year, to see if (a) my swimming will have improved and (b) whether my super bike makes any difference on the flat out and back course.

VAM bang thank you Ma'am

I felt a bit of a pang of regret yesterday, as I thought of the ICAN Marbella Triathlon that I could have been taking part in. Lot's of people went from work and have all come back saying that, in spite of it being very tough, it was a great experience. Still, I think I did the right thing: apart from having saved quite a lot of cash, I've also saved quite a lot of energy which I need these days for more important things, like family and work. I'll put my thinking cap on as to which triathlon to do next year: I'm torn between doing a 70,3 event run by the WTC (official Ironman organizers) and just doing Lisbon again, which is fast and logistically relatively easy.

In the meantime, as you may remember, I just have this little business of a 10K race to do next Sunday, one that runs in parallel with the start of the Madrid Marathon. I'm aiming to break 38 minutes - which shouldn't be a problem seeing as I already did this halfway through the Half Marathon I ran in January - because this is the qualifying time for the International San Silvestre that is run on New Year's Eve. For that race I will try to go for a best ever time, especially is I will be in good (fast) company and the course is slightly downhill for the most part.

In order to try to convert these months of triathlon training into running speed, I have been doing some workouts at "VAM". I'm not even sure what it stands for - something like "Velocidad Anaeróbica Máxima" (Maximum Anaerobic Velocity) - but, for all intents and purposes, it means as fast as I bloody well can. The first VAM workout was in Asturias: 12 one minute sprints uphill. I remember thinking "Oh, this should be pretty easy". After about 40 seconds my legs would start to feel empty and I would have to make a concerted effort to maintain any semblance of speed; after stopping, I felt like I was drowning, wheezing and gasping for air more quickly than my lungs could deliver. It reminded me a little of that time when I was learning to dive and took my mask off underwater, the freezing cold water making me inhale water through my nose and panic: I simultaneously felt like I was drowning while intellectually I knew that I was not swallowing water and I could go without breathing for longer than this. Hopefully the training has taught my organism that I can run at those speeds without getting so short of breath that I keel over.

The second VAM session I did was on Saturday, on the running machine. This time 8 lots of 500m. I put the running machine on max speed (18kph, which is actually 17.5kph according to my measurements). It was too easy or, at least, I didn't feel that awful wheezing desperation for oxygen that I did in Asturias. I thought it might get harder after having run several series, especially as the day before I had felt very tired indeed after another tough workout. For the last 500m, I put the incline up from the usual 1% to 3% and now it started to feel like a struggle. Clearly, this is what I will have to do next time... One thing, I don't recommend drinking Coke in between series. (This was Diet Coke, so I didn't even get a benefit from carbohydrates.) While it didn't seem to a problem at the time, it gave me some evil farts the rest of the evening...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lesson 10: Four to the floor

So FINALLY i managed to get what Luis has been trying to tell me about the 4-beat kick all this time. Being a mathematician, I just couldn't understand how a 4-beat kick could make sense. If you have to coordinate the arms and the legs such that the pulling arm is on the same side as the kicking leg to facilitate rotation, then the only way to achieve a symmetrical 4-beat kick is to kick right-left-left-right, which doesn't make much sense. Luis showed me an incredible video of Sun Yang breaking the 1500m freestyle World Record, in which you can clearly see a 4-beat kick:

What is clear from the video is that it is NOT symmetrical. It is a combination of a half a cycle of a 6-beat kick on the side which he breathes to and half a cycle of a 2-beat ("Total Immersion style") kick to the other side. It means that there is a slight pause between each cycle of 4 kicks. It seems like it could be a good compromise for these kind of distances. According to a book I have on swimming, it says that studies show that taller swimmers tend to prefer a 2-beat kick as their longer legs would lead them to have too low a cadence if they were to employ a 6-beat kick, while more powerful swimmers with floatability issues tend to prefer a 6-beat kick in order to keep their legs up.

I think the point here is to have a kind of "toolbox" of different kicking patterns which you can reach into and use as appropriate depending on how tired you are or how fast you need to go to catch the feet of the guy in front. Even in a supposedly optimal performance like the one by Sun Yang in the video, you can see him seamlessly switching from one type of kick to another. He makes it look like second nature.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Change of plans

...and after
Thanks to the R souls who operate the AP-7 motorway, who decided allegedly at the last minute not to allow the ICAN Half Ironman to use their road this year, the bike route has had to be radically changed, as you can see above, from a relatively flat course to a very hilly one. This would be akin to changing a rowing regatta from taking place in a lake to the sea or moving a formula 1 race off-road. It may not seem like a big deal, but given that folks are willing to spend thousands on bikes that are specially set up to go on the flat (triathlon or time trial bikes) it would seem that it is for some. And that is not to mention the need to adapt your training to a more mountainous route and one that will take longer to complete.

Enough of my complaining. Hats off to those of you who are still competing. I just don't think I would enjoy it and I would feel silly riding my triathlon bike with a disc wheel up those hills. And, let's face it, my heart hasn't been in this competition since the beginning. I chose Marbella so my parents (who live in Malaga) would be able to come and watch and even they are not sure that they would be able to make it. Also, I think I have been following a strict structured training programme for too long. I'm fed up of having to do 99% of my training on my own, much of it indoors, and having to pass up the opportunities as they arise to go on a ride or a run with friends.

I was able to get my money back from ICAN and from the car hire (just) but ended up losing about 100 euros on the train. To be honest, I would have been happy for those 100 euros to have gone to ICAN, as I think they have been the losers in this story. Who knows? Perhaps there is more demand for hilly triathlons as most people have road bikes better suited for that kind of terrain. It's also a more Mediterranean style of cycling (although remember that drafting or riding in packs are still not allowed).

My first thought was to sign up for another Half Ironman: the agreement with my family had been to do one a year after all. I looked into the new 70.3 Ironman in Norway that looks great if not a bit remote. But then my wife reminded me that it wasn't the race itself that was the problem, just the training, and she wasn't happy about me spending another couple of months preparing. Then I got a brainwave: why not do the Lisbon International Triathlon again this year? That was nice and flat and around this time. In fact, I felt stupid for not having thought of doing it earlier. Then I found out that registrations had already closed. To be honest, it's a bit of a relief. I can't face doing any more 3-4 hour "brick" (bike-run) sessions.

So what now?

I've got the 10K race on the 22nd of April, that runs alongside the Madrid Marathon, and is my chance to qualify for the International San Silvestre. It's also the first race I will run in the 40+ age group. I'll focus these last two weeks on getting some speed in my legs. Although I have just come back from Asturias* and found that all the sea food, cider and wine has tipped me over 90 kilos... Then I'll have to see how I feel about things. I'm thinking of continuing to work on my swimming but to use running and cycling just to keep fit, at least until I start to prepare for another triathlon. I'll probably keep up some kind of weights programme as I do think this is important. Right now I'm not feeling the bug to compete, maybe I won't again, maybe I will... Whatever happens I want to keep on enjoying being fit.

* By the way, in some tiny village in Asturias a guy stopped his car and got out to ask me something... He said, "I saw you running the other day - who makes those shoes you were running in?"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Guess where I am? Yep, waiting for my delayed flight home this time - hopefully it won't be as bad as last night's five hour delay... Got to the hotel at 4am so I'm feeling a bit worse for wear today.

This morning I received an email announcing the last minute unforeseen and unavoidable change to the bike circuit in the ICAN Marbella triathlon next week. If before it was slightly borderline as to whether a tri bike was the thing to pack, now at least it's patently clear that a road bike would be much better suited to the two 560m climbs which have been added to the route. Given that my only motivation for doing this event in the first place was to give my tri bike and wheels a spin, I am now feeling extremely lazy about going. In fact, the only reason I am still thinking about taking part is because I've spent 500 euros on train tickets for the whole family

After my meeting this morning (during which I had to put all triathlon related disappointment out of my mind) I went in search of a gym where I could change from Clark Kent into, well, TriMan. For 17.50 euros I got access to the changing rooms and gym but no towel; in the end I had to use a roll of paper towels to dry myself off after the shower. In spite of being tired and grumpy, I did as the Doctor Jonathan Esteve said and completed two sets of 8, 7 and 5 minute runs at 16.5-17 kph. At least my speed is still there in spite of all this triathlon training.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week 5 / 7

I'm writing this in the airport, waiting for my very delayed plane (thanks to strikes in France, again). I'm off to Brussels for the day - thanks to minimalist running shoes I'm able to pack a spare shirt, toiletries and full running equipe in my briefcase.

Workouts this week worthy of mention, in no particular order except the order I did them in... On Friday I did series of 4 minutes hard on the spinning bike. The last one I really went for it and finished at over 170 bpm, which is very high for a bike workout. Amazingly, after just two minutes (my watch measures this automatically), my heart rate had fallen to 60 bpm! Normally my heart rate stays around 80-100 bpm for some time after a hard workout. This is due to a phenomena called EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption). I've seen one workout programme designed to give you a "six pack" based entirely on maximizing tho effect.

On Sunday I went for a long ride (120 km) in Ciudad Real on my triathlon bike. Without too much effort I was able to average 32 km without being sheltered by the peloton of a group ride. It was fairly flat and I managed to stay in the aero position most of the time. At one point I ended up going through a village - the one that Pedro Amoldovar is from, in fact (Calzada de Calatrava) - and almost collided with a bunch of people in cloaks and pointed hoods getting ready for the Semana Santa procession.

Normally I cut the week there, but the brick (bike-run) I did today was a left over from last week, which I had to jiggle around because of my trip o London the week before. As I took today off, I could afford to spend 3 and a half hours training although, to be honest, I would have rather spent more time with the kids. It was a pretty tough one with lots of medium and some high intensity, most of which I did inside. It's left me struggling I replace the fluids I lost in sweat and with a bit of a headache, which isn't predisposing me well towards the French and their plight right now.

If I'm up to it, I'll try to find a decent gym tomorrow and do my hard workout. If not, I'll run around Brussels a bit and see what I can see. I can always do the hard workout another day and better to do it when I can be sure to do it well.