Swimming Intervals

Got my backside in gear a little more this week and started doing some turbo work. The bike is definitely my worst discipline so it needs the most work. Coupled with the fact its the one that also covers the most distance, I really do need to concentrate on it. At the minute, I’m just doing some turbo sessions to get some miles into my legs, I’ll start properly with a structured training plan after Christmas.


I’ve also got an off road bike now, and I’ve been messing about on that. Its good fun in the mud, harder work than on the road, or at least it feels like it is. Its also helping with my biking skills which need all the help they can get.


The one thing I have started properly is my swimming. I used to be quite a strong swimmer in my younger days and I’ve been quite impressed how I’ve been able to pick it back up. I’ve done the IM distance of 2.4 miles a couple of times in the pool, so the swimming is probably the one I’m most confident about, which is usually the opposite for most triathletes.


The thing I’ve noticed most is for the majority of my swims, my time hardly changes for whatever distance I do. I’m generally locked into the 2 minutes per 100 metre speed, and just keep at that all the way through my swim, regardless of distance. I need to try and gain some advantage going into the cycling so if I can gain 5 minutes on the swim, that’s me hopefully a couple of kilometres or so up the road from everyone who will be much better cyclists.


I’ve signed up for a 6 month training plan, and looking at it, the best way to increase speed is interval work. Oh good I thought, so after an hour in the gym on Wednesday, I still had an hour and a half to kill so I did some swimming intervals. It was hard work but hopefully if I keep it up, I’ll feel the benefit. I did a warm up of 600 metres, then 10 100 metre swims with a 45 ish second break between them, followed by a 400 metre warm down. I wasn’t sure what time to aim at with the 100 metre swims, so aimed at 1 minute 45 seconds. The pool was a little busy but only had to take avoiding action once thanks to a couple of older ladies just bouncing up and down the pool. They managed to create quite a swell as well, so it wasn’t just a nice, calm pool!! All my swims bar the one I mentioned above were below 1.45, in fact 7 were below 1.40 so next week, I’m aiming to keep all below 1.40.


Really felt like I’d been in a session when I got out, which I guess means it did some good!!

You’re doing what???

Something I’m sure anyone who does a triathlon gets asked on numerous occasions, closely followed by the “Why?”


For me, it all started from a drunken bet at Christmas 2009. I got an email from an old mate who just said “Here’s the link, if you dare”. It was entry to the Wilmslow Half Marathon, so having some pretty decent wine sloshing about in me, I put my name down. I was going to the gym then, but not really seriously so this would be quite a step up for me.


To be fair, I did a reasonable amount of training for it, and when race day came round, I was confident that I would at least finish it, which was my main, initial aim. I did it but had to have two or three walking breaks around the course. I finished in about 2 hours 25 minutes so nothing special, but I got a real buzz out of doing it. I’d never done anything like that before, and really enjoyed the experience in some sort of perverse way. Twelve months later, I was back, determined to beat my previous time. As I remember, I probably didn’t do as much training for this as I’d finished the year before so that was one thing that was out of my mind, not finishing. I plodded round the course, probably only had a couple of walking breaks but didn’t beat the previous years time, which didn’t impress me at all.


In the October of that year, we went away on holiday, and when I saw the pictures of me by the pool, something clicked inside me and I just thought I had to get my arse into gear and do something about my weight. At that point, I was nearly 16 1/2 stone. My wife mentioned she had talked to a lady at one of these lunch things that she went to about a diet that was very strict but it gave results. After some prompting, I discovered it was called Lighter Life and there was quite a local rep. A couple of days later, I’m having my “consultation” with the local rep. Yes its very strict, but if you have the will power, then it gives results. I wont harp on about the rights and wrongs of how they do it, all I will say in the 6 months or so I did it, I lost 4 1/2 stone, and that weight has stayed off. I’ve tried other diets but this is the one that worked for me.


In the middle of this, Wilmslow Half appeared. At this point, I’d lost about 3 stone, so by not carrying that round, I beat the 2010 and 2011 times by 15 minutes to do it in 2 hours 10 minutes. The thing that impressed me most was I did it without taking a walking break. The next target had to be beating 2 hours so I entered the Tatton Half in November. Like an awful lot of races, this was billed as “the flattest half in the country”, pity they forgot to mention the last couple of miles was up Tatton Mile, or all the railway bridges we went over. Anyway, managed to run it all but just missed the 2 hours by 2 minutes. That gave me confidence moving forward as I’m not the fastest by any means.


While all the running was going on, I was at the gym 3 times a week with a trainer. This helped the weight loss obviously but also started me thinking about if I could do anything other than running. One of the other trainers had done some Iron Man triathlons, so we got chatting and he suggested that I give a sprint tri a go. Swimming has never been a problem, running I can get away with so it was just the bike, how hard can it be? There’s that phrase, “You never forget how to ride a bike”. That may well be true, but what the hell have they done to the gears in the past 30 years since I rode a bike!! And you clip your feet in now? Sod that, I’m going to wobble about looking like a mobile accident, which pretty much I did. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and that brings me round to actually answering the questions, “You’re doing what?” and “Why?”


The first question is easy, I’m doing a triathlon. The only difference in the answer is the distance, be it a sprint or Iron distance. To be honest, if its a sprint, people tend to understand it and don’t query it, I’ve had more “Why”‘s since I decided on doing IMUK than I’ve ever had.


For me, I’m doing it to see just how far I can actually push myself, not just physically but mentally. I know my body will be able to take it, its just whether my brain lets it. I’m sure it will be nice to have the kudos of telling people you’ve done an Iron Man, assuming I finish but I just want to prove that I can do it to myself. And most of all, I just want to experience the emotion of running down that final few hundred yards and as I cross the line I hear “Malcolm, you are an Iron Man.”  

Post Capesthorne

Had a nice week doing pretty much nothing, but got back into it this week.


Been messing on my off road bike in the mud. Great fun, wish I’d got one years ago now. Its not a full off road mountain bike but it does everything I need it to do so I’m like a big kid with it. I’m quite lucky where I live as we’re in the middle of a lot of stuff, but ride out for a couple of miles, and I can be in the countryside. I’m also very close to the River Bollin so its great to be arsing around on the banks through the trees and mud. Just need to watch out for any enthusiastic dogs, or protective owners. Never seem to have much of a problem when I’m out running but when I’m on a bike, it seems different and they want to have a pop, the dogs that is.


Also done some swimming for the first time in a while. A couple of short ones, but one biggish one of 1.8 km, which is the half ironman distance. Felt quite good doing it, although wasn’t particularly quick. Enjoyed doing it and the fact that I could just get in the pool and do it gives me a lot of confidence, although I realise pool swimming and open water are two different things. To be honest, swimming isn’t really my worry for IMUK, its the bike which is why I’m going to concentrate on that for the Winter.


Looking back at the HM last week, learnt a couple of things. Think the main one was not to use the gels that I did. They gave me some really bad stomach pains and was very relieved it wasn’t too far to drive home after the run, even so, only just made it home!! Little bit disappointed as they’re the gels at IMUK in Bolton so was rather hoping to be able to use them, will just have to use my usual ones instead. Might trial some others before IMUK but at least I know mine work.


This was the first time I’d properly had a plan for a race, and it sort of worked. I knew what time I was aiming for, and what I had to do each mile in. I’ve always just put my head down and run beforehand and got through it, this time I was a little more scientific and felt better for it. That’s what comes of reading too much on t’interweb I guess. Needed better preparation but that’s down to me and I’ll sort that next year. 


Just looking at other events for next year now, will hopefully put an update on what I’m going to shuffle round next year later this month



Capesthorne Hall Half Marathon

Sat in the car this morning in a muddy field, rain belting down and wife and kids still tucked up in bed, really did question what I was doing. I spose I should have been happy that I thought I was fit enough to do this half, with the 2 weeks lead up giving me a bad cold and some major nipple issues, was hardly ideal preparation.

Went for a wander in between showers, and found a van that had a coffee machine in the back, but it was also grinding the beans there and then. Fresh coffee, result!! I hadn’t had my morning expresso for fear of waking everyone up so that was a welcome sight. Had that back in the car, listening to Talksport and having my traditional pre race banana.

Time to get ready. My major dilemma was whether to wear my running tights. To be honest, it wasn’t that cold, just windy and wet so I did without, which proved to be the correct choice. Hate getting too hot when I’m running and was just right today.

Ten minutes to off, so I wander up to the start line. My Garmin 910 was taking its time to pick up the satellites but eventually gets sorted. Everything nice and smooth, until I noticed the Garmin was locked. How did I do that? And more to the point, how do I undo that??!! Bit of a flap, pressing various combinations of buttons and a look around for someone wearing the same but no luck. 60 seconds before the start, get the magic words “unlocked” and I’m done. Hardly any time to breath a sigh of relief, and we’re off.

The start was a little chaotic. There were apparently nearly 1000 runners entered but the start had us running down what was quite a narrow path. If you stepped off the path, then there was a chance you’d go ankle deep into the mud so I tried to stay on the path, but to be perfectly honest, there were a lot in front who were slower than I wanted to go so I risked the “off road” track a couple of times. Good job I’ve done some running on the beach at Abersoch as it felt just like that. There was also some standing water on the track so there was quite a lot of bumping and barging as people tried to avoid the puddles. Guess it was running equivalent of the start to an Ironman swim!!

It did spread out a little once we got out of the Hall’s grounds but not before we had to filter over a narrow ish bridge. Personally, I like my own space when I’m running so I didn’t enjoy that first mile or so, and it was also a lot slower than I would have liked but I soon got a little bit of room and got myself into my zone. I don’t listen to music when I’m out running so I just try and enjoy the scenery, sing or talk to myself (in my head, not outloud!!) or give myself little targets to hit.

This is probably the first half that I’ve done where I’ve actually had a plan beforehand. I’m not particularly quick, my previous best was 1 hour 57 minutes so I was determined to keep under 2 hours, but ideally wanted to get below 1 hour 50 minutes. That meant keeping to round about 8 1/2 minute miles and after my first slow mile I was doing 8 1/4 minute miles which gave me some breathing space for when I slowed later. I also had 3 power gels that I planned to trial. These are the ones that are used at IMUK so may as well see if they agree with me, which again was another good choice looking back.

It was quite an uneventful run for me where I was. There were a few cars that came the other way but they kept to their side. The weather sort of held off, had a few little showers but nothing too bad, until I got to about mile 11 when it just dropped. I had a little bit of a wobble round about mile 3 but took a gel and a bottle of water from the first water station and seemed to cure it. Did worry me a little at the time but convinced myself that it was down to not having a great preparation and also not having enough fuel in me. Didn’t have my traditional pasta bake the night before as I was at a fireworks display. Round about mile 5, a load of cyclists appeared on our shoulders. Made a nice change for them to be stuck behind us as we were 2/3 abreast!!

Pretty much kept my pace up to about mile 10, then started to slow a little. Think that must be down to my preparation but was still ok. Took my last gel and had a mouthful of water from the bottle I’d kept from the second water station and tried to up my pace but struggled. Good job I kept that bottle as the last water station at mile 10 seemed to have run out. Although I wasn’t at the front, there were quite a few behind me so for the water station to run out of water is abit of a poor show.

Soon arrived back at the Hall’s grounds and this time, it was much easier going over the bridge!! Quite a small entrance to the finish but a lot of people there to give encouragement. Nice feeling to squelch over the line through the mud, pick up a drink and the goody bag with the medal and t shirt in.

Finished in 1 hour 53 minutes and 33 seconds, which is a PB for me, so not going to complain. Over the past 3 1/2 years that I’ve been doing HM’s, my time has come down from just off 2 1/2 hours to this so have to be happy. Having said that, there’s about 4 stones less of me to drag around the course now!!

For all my little criticisms, I enjoyed the day and will probably be back next year. It’s certainly a better way to finish my year on a PB for my HM than walking back to Wilmslow pushing my bike with 2 flats having dropped out of the South Manchester Triathlon.