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I am an Outlaw!
Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:16 pm JWP1969
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12:03:35 Finish time.

After the race, I find out that one of the guys from my tri club (who qualified for IM Kona this year - so knows a thing or two about iron distance races) measures success in an iron distance race by going Sub-12hrs combined with a Sub-4hr marathon. I wish I knew this before. I failed on both counts. Ah well, it gives an incentive/motivation for doing another one.

The finish time is a bit of a mixed bag of emotions. Before the race, 12hrs was the quickest I could conceive of completing it - cognisant that it could easily go pear shaped resulting in me staggering in at 15+ hours. So on this basis I should be chuffed. In the event, half way through the marathon I was on for a finish of 11.5 hours. I blew horribly in the last 10k - in fact, I believe a 600lb gorilla jumped out of the crowd and beat me with a piece of 2"x4". I'm surprised no-one spotted the gorilla. The worst of it is that I knew I was going too fast at the start of the run, my Garmin told me so, but I felt so good, and the running felt so easy, I pushed on. I'm usually better at managing myself than that, I'm also naturally conservative - if anything I usually race too conservatively and leave too much in the tank. I didn't this time - there was nothing left at the finish line - my leg muscles had fatigued to failure - not helped by battling leg cramps all day. Hence the mixed emotion, as I know that if I set off a little more conservatively, I would definitely have gone Sub12. Whether I would have gone Sub4 hour marathon as well, I'm not so sure - but I suspect so. Looking back on the race, I have to be happy, because I made a number of school boy errors during the day - and I think only going too fast at the start of the marathon really manifested itself.

What did I learn, to be used for future races:
1) Set lots of alarms - believe it or not, I actually overslept my alarm call at 0400 - only by 30 mins - but not ideal.
2) My breakfast was a couple of bowls of muesli, I don't suffer with stomach problems - so the fibre wasn't a concern to me, however, I hadn't counted on the milk being partially separated and congealed. It tasted alright, blobs of milk (probably curds - but not exactly sure what curds are) was not the most appetising. I didn't have anything else as alternative - so down it went - with a banana and a couple of gels. Next time - better planning of breakfast.
3) During the swim, I had to stop 5-6 times to empty my goggles. For whatever reason, I could not get my goggles to seal properly - tried and tested many times before, I'm still not sure I understand what went wrong. Next time - get in water earlier to test goggles are in correct position.
4) 10-15 mins into swim, the cramps started in the legs. In all, I had 3 or 4 incidents of cramp attacks in the legs during the swim. I don't recall stopping for the cramps - but undoubtedly it did affect my progress. Next time - try and resolve why I get cramp so much.
5) The bike section went well. I decided to go for high cadence, low gear "spinning" approach - which is not how I'd trained. This was a calculated gamble. I'd read that the iron distance marathon is more a strength exercise, an test of muscular fatigue rather than a test of speed. Therefore, my thinking was it was better to cycle with a high cadence, low muscular stress (torque) rather than low cadence, high torque approach in order to leave the legs fresher for the marathon. I got off the bike feeling fresh in the legs. For next time: practice long rides spinning - to confirm this is the way forward.
6) I took High5 Zero tablets with me to add to water at the feed stations - in belief that this would control cramps. At first feed station, I attempted the manoeuvre of being on the tri bars, unscrew the feed bottle lid, take a tablet out of my plastic bag (to protect the tablets from getting wet from the rain) and not drop anything. I succeeded the first time - but thought it a recipe for having a big wipeout if repeated at each feed station - so changed strategy to having a banana at each feed station - they work for me. Next time: find a suitable way of taking Zeros during the race.
7) I set off on the marathon at 5:00min/km pace. My long runs had been done at 5:30min/km pace - these were at a very easy pace. I'd never done a long brick to confirm my pace off the bike after my bike fit. Before the bike fit, when trying to run off the bike, my back was too sore to run further than 500m. I knew I set off this pace, because my Garmin said so. I still didn't slow myself done. I overtook one of the member of my club - who I ran into 2/3 way through the cycle section - he said I was going too fast for him - I didn't slow. I ran with a chap from Edinburgh for the first 5k - he said I was going too fast for him - I had been chattering away easily - so I figured I wasn't working too hard - I still didn't slow myself down. When the muscles in my legs were cramping in the first half of the marathon - I didn't slow - I just pushed through the pain. When the cramps remained for about 10k in a variety of leg muscles from 21k to 32k I slowed. When I got back to HPP for the final two laps of the lake, I didn't slow because I was walking, because all of my leg muscles were cramping and the pain in my quads when attempting to do anything other than walk was like knives being stabbed into the legs. Crisps, water, High5, banana - nothing was touching the cramps. Lesson: Long brick run to prove running pace - and then stick to it. More runs in hills to improve muscular endurance (rather than just on flattish roads).

So there it is, my first iron distance event - a great event, thanks to the supporters, volunteers, marshals and fellow competitors......really enjoyed it. Want to do another to get the Sub12/Sub4 criteria addressed.

Currently I have the Great North Run booked for Sept. I'm targeting 1h30. I'm undecided about doing a half iron distance event the week before - it's the last opportunity of a triathlon this season - but I suspect I will end up with two mediocre results, as opposed to if I concentrate on the GNR, I reckon 1h30 is realistic.

A quick look forward to next year, for a triathlon target race, reveals that I am offshore for most of the big British races, except for IM Wales. I wonder if it is possible for me, 46year old, 13.5 stone engineer, working away half the time, to go Sub12/Sub4 at IM Wales........more importantly, is it possible to run past the Fish and Chip shops in Tenby during the marathon?

Numbers and nearly there.
Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:15 pm JWP1969
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As an engineer, I live numbers. I loved maths and science when I was young, because of the absolute answers. Recently I've come across Training Peaks, via Joe Friels webpage, and have pondered the TSB, ATL and CTL of my training and how my work rota affects my training. In the last few days, I've downloaded the Training Peaks app and added the last 3 months of data (TSS was estimated from the workouts - using guidelines available on Joe Friels website). The 90 days of data covers 2 complete work rotas (I work on a 6 week rota). More by luck than judgement, it seems that the enforced reduced training whilst on the platform just brings my TSB into the positive, which apparently is the ideal situation going into a race. My graphs from Training Peaks show that for 4 weeks of my rota, when I'm at home recuperating from work (in reality......doing long, slow training ssessions), my TSB sits around -50. I've no idea whether this is good or bad, but I'm guessing it means I'm flirting with overtraining. The two weeks on the platform is then the perfect antedote. My TSB is currently just positive, and the sessions I'm doing now, during my taper for the Outlaw, I feel strong and fresh - a feeling supported by numbers on Strava. What I do not know is whether I have the stamina, as it is 3 weeks since I've done a proper long 5 days, I will have the answer.

During the Outlaw bike phase I am planning to use my Heart Rate to control my effort, or rather, to provide feedback on the effort. I have my heart rate target set in my head from my 6 or so 85-100 mile rides. However, a seed of doubt has come to pass. I have found that spinning at higher cadence increases my heartrate, but reduces the stress on my legs. This would indicate that the muscular fatigue on the legs will be reduced by higher cadences, but, will shift the energy source from fat burning to carbo burning. In the last week before my A race for the season, I'm not about to change my approach, but it will be something to test after the would be interesting to see what happens at high cadence over 5 hours........perhaps the benefits I currently see are only because I am well rested.

I haven't even done the race yet, and I'm thinking of the next target.......IM Wales jumps out of next years work schedule as a potential target........its a shame the IM races in the UK sell out so quickly, that one needs to make plans for next year, before the dust has settled on this season.......or indeed the A race is run. As an engineer, I like some time to ponder and gather feedback, to make the necessary changes to improve next years performance.

5 days to mantra for this week is "Dance with the one who you came with".

Finally, having just read Chrissie Wellington's biography, if she has "If" by Rudyard Kipling as her inspiration...........then I have "The Man In The Arena" the speech by Theodore Roosevelt as mine.......look it strikes a chord with me, as I'm imperfect.........but trying nonetheless.

See you the other side of The Outlaw.

10 weeks to go.
Sun May 17, 2015 5:55 pm JWP1969
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The count down inevitably continues. It feels close now, since I am just readying myself to go to my North Sea platform for the penultimate time before the Outlaw. In reality this means I have 3 complete weeks and one weekend of "proper" training, 4 weeks of training whilst on the platform (somewhat compromised), 1 week of training whilst in an Aberdeen hotel (again, somewhat compromised) and then 12 days of taper before the race. I am somewhat crapping myself now.

The good news is that I have swum the distance in one go in the pool. This took 1h 20mins and a few seconds. I usually swim a little faster / more efficiently in a wetsuit. I would be satisfied with this time during the race. I've also done several 30+ km runs - all indicating a marathon time in the 3.25-3.5hr range. Again, I'd be very happy with anything around 4hr for the marathon, (only 10% of the Outlaw field achieved that time last year).

The bad news is the cycling. Whilst I have done the distance (or very near), I am still in the order of 6.5 to 7.0 hours - with a sore back at the end of it! I want to get closer to 6 hours. I also want to be able to run after the cycle ride. This discipline will be the main focus of my remaining training time - with the running and swimming very much "taking a back seat". The plan is for lots of threshold/sweet spot sessions......I feel I have been doing too many slow and steady, long sessions.

The other bad news is that my weight has crept up to 90kg again. This needs some serious discipline to get it below 85 kg. More veggies, less fruit. Little to no rubbish.

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Umming and Ahhing over next years main race.
I've started planning next years main race, the one which keeps me going through the dark days of winter, the one which ensures that when my alarm goes off at 0430 when offshore, that I actually get out of bed and go to the gym instead of hitting the snooze. I need a target otherwise I bale out too easily.......I am mentally weak - I know this.

So, looking at my work rota for next year, I've found that it is one of those years where just about every event falls wrong. Of course, the balance of probability is always against me, in that there are only 33% of the weekends which are ideal for the main race - in a 6 week rota, two weeks are spent offshore, one weekend is sandwiched between spending the week in Aberdeen and flying out to the platform on the Monday morning, and the first weekend after my rotation I'm usually still recovering from 2 weeks of 15+ hr days and having not swum for 2 weeks. It only leaves 2 weeks for an ideal date. One of the constraints to be accepted and overcome when working offshore.

Anyway, looking at the races which do fit my rota, one jumped out and punched me in the eye.......IM Wales. Next year it will happen to be the week before our 10th Wedding Anniversary......its perfect. I did the Outlaw this year, so the distances don't scare me too much. The hills, especially on the bike course (2000+m of climbing) scare me witless.......perfect incentive to train and train hard. Of course, I mentioned IM Wales to The Boss - "No". Was the response. "Why?" I enquired. "You trained too much for last year's race, were too tired most of the time to be any use, and you were exceedingly grumpy (even more so than normal)". Mr Pin meet Mr Balloon.

To be fair to The Boss, I didn't discuss doing The Outlaw before entering, so I have brought this all upon myself.

A few days later she relented, and said that I should do it, but I had to promise not to be grumpy.......or too tired to help. Another constraint to manage. I explained that since she had popped my balloon, it was now somewhat difficult to put it back I'm still currently without a main race and therefore without a target for next year. I'm already feeling apathethic towards to training.........I still do it or I don't (if I don't fancy it) or I don't work as hard (if it starts to hurt). This might actually work out better - as I'm sure I made the amateur mistake last year of not resting / having easy sessions often enough.

If I don't do IM Wales - I suppose I will do whatever Standard and Half IM races I can find..........but none are really jumping at the heartstrings.

In the meantime, I've set myself some running goals. The first one was to get under 20mins for 5km.......happily this has now been achieved. Next goal is 90min half marathon. I did 97mins at the Great North Run, whilst taking the first 16km pretty easy - my run partner wasn't on best form - I gave the last 5km a good go though. I think 90mins should be doable by the end of the year. The target after that is a 40min, 10k.......that's the target for the New Year.

Watch this space with IM Wales........if there is any doubt that this is the last year of it being held in Tenby, then it'll need serious re-consideration.......I'll just have to be nice........could prove harder than the course itself.

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