Nathan takes on the world..!

Nathan Pask enjoyed his first taste of international triathlon representing Great Britain at the World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand.

The 36-year-old Londoner toughed it out in windy conditions to finish 39th (4th British finisher) in the hard fought 35-39 age category, Olympic distance event.

“Based on my results throughout the year I had a very conservative swim by my standards. The conditions were tricky. I made up for it with a solid bike leg and then finished it off with one of my best ever runs to date.”

Like many age-group athletes Nathan, a chartered surveyor and company director, fits training around his busy work and social life.

GB triathlete Nathan balances training and working life.

GB triathlete Nathan balances training and working life.

“Having a coach has really helped me go from a weekend warrior to competing on behalf of Great Britain, which in Olympic year makes me really proud.”

As an established runner, the main aims of Nathan’s training were to develop his swim technique and his power on the bike.

“It’s been a very successful first season. Nathan has achieved all his objectives and is really beginning to develop as a smart athlete. I’m really looking forward to working with Nathan in 2013 as he continues to develop his ability to compete on the world stage.” said his coach, Toby.

Chris podiums..!

On his way to his first Ironman next year, ONEraceTEAM’s Chris Wilson scored his first podium, with a 3rd overall place (1st, 30-34 age-group) at the AustralianMurrayMan last month.

Like many of the age-group athletes in ONEraceTEAM managing training and a busy working life can be a tough challenge.

“Working full time and studying for my professional accountancy qualification means I’m pretty time poor. I simply wouldn’t have the time or knowledge to invest in putting together a robust plan like Toby prepares for me.

“I have a tendency to over think problems with training, especially if I have missed a session. Toby is a calming influence on me and seems to always know the right thing to say to bring me back down to earth! This whole experience would have been much more stressful without him!”

Chris fits his training around management accountancy

Chris fits his training around management accountancy

Proving that coaching is truly a global business, Chris lives and works in Melbourne as a Management Accountant.

“Being in Australia, we’re obviously on the other side of the world from each other, so communicating face to face can be difficult. Skype sessions really help with this and make the coaching relationship much more practical.

“Using Training Peaks is a brilliant aid as well. Toby can set up a period of my training and I can keep up to date online or through their mobile app.

“These bits of technology have really helped maintain the communication between Toby and myself and give me everything I need to be able to train consistently week in week out.”

As he continues his preparation for Ironman Melbourne next year, Chris’s next test isCanberra 70.3.

Time to Plan

Coming to the end of a calendar year can be an ideal time to take stock, look back on what you have achieved, celebrate your successes and plan for next year.

The media is full of stories about more and more people taking up sport and leading a healthier lifestyle. This is particularly evident in the UK at the moment, where the success of the British Olympic team, especially in cycling and triathlon, has meant an increased interest in these sports with events selling out faster than ever before.

Don’t miss out

Last year, Ironman Melbourne sold out in record time, many of the legendary trail runs have decade long waiting lists, sportives have huge waiting lists.

From personal experience, I just missed out on registering for next year’s Vitruvian triathlon, by two days, which now means the earliest I can do this event is 2014..!

Create a wish list of events

Since 2008, I’ve had a list of events/races/courses that I would like to do and have fortunately been able to tick a number of these off every year. The list continues to grow and event priorities change due to my circumstances.

The main point being, start a list and capture every event you’ve ever wanted to do. Research the sports that you like and pick out events that appeal to you, your budget, family, travel, etc.

Chart your events

The next step is to write all the events down by month, day on a page of A4 or next year’s calendar if you have one. Depending on your sport and race season(s) you’ll soon notice popular months.

Categorize

When I’ve put everything down I then assign an A, B or C category to events based on my desire to do the race, travel, family commitments and a whole host of other personal circumstances. If you have a coach talk to them at this stage and together agree the objectives for these A races and what the training implications are.

Working backwards from my A events (I usually pick two or three per year), I can start eliminating events that will interfere with the necessary training plan. For example, if you want to be competitive at Ironman Wales then you won’t be doing Challenge Henley, which is on the same day, but The Dragon Ride could be an option if worked in to your training plan.

Talk to your partner

Before I start paying for events, travel and accommodation, I always ask those around me that might be impacted by my decision to do a race. This should be your partner but may also include your wider family and friends if you’re planning to stay with them because they are close to the start line.

Get help from your coach

When creating your plan get input from your coach who will be able to give you ideas about training implications and what other events might fit around your A races.

Register as soon as possible

Once I have all my races down on paper, decided which ones I really want to do and got agreements from my support crew then I set about registering.

This may not always work out, as you may find you’re too late, in which case go back and re-assess your priority races, Challenge Henley might now be possible.

Once you’ve registered your A races the next thing to do is book accommodation (or make sure there is availability at the same time as this may decide whether you do a race or not). Being close to the start line will ensure you get as much sleep as possible. Being close to the finish line will mean less faff and a quick getaway if this is important to you.

Find out when registration opens

It’s a good idea to research your desired events years in advance and find out when they open for registration. My calendar is populated with events I’ve registered for or the date registration opens with calendar alerts to make sure I don’t miss opening times, which can be midnight, 4am, 9am, etc. the day after the event finished that year.

In the UK, for cycling, triathlon and ultras my current thinking is to start trying to register for next years’ events on 1st October the year before.

I was a little late this year and paid the price but having now drawn up my plan for 2013 I’m looking forward to the exciting challenges ahead. I just hope it keeps me motivated through the British winter.

Watts Happened

Price being the main hurdle, it has taken me years to commit to buying a power meter and like so many riders before me, I wish I’d done it earlier. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been training and racing with a power meter.

If you are ever looking to buy a pair of race wheels, buy a power meter instead. Instead of a new bike, buy a power meter. In fact, I would go so far as to say, if you are considering a Time Trial bike/frame buy a power meter for your road bike and convert it with clip on aero bars.

That is if you want to be a better cyclist.

A power meter will improve your riding more than a new bike could. You will go faster on your current bike with a power meter than you ever will on the latest Pinarello. A power meter won’t necessarily make you look good but it will make you look smart.

A power meter isn’t magic, you still have to do the training. But, training with power is like being on the inside, being more grown up, there is a certain ‘Ahhhhhhhhh…I get it now’ and that is a great feeling to have.

There’s some essential reading to get to grips with to ensure you understand what you are doing and to help you improve.

Cutting-Edge Cycling
Training and Racing with a Power Meter
The Power Meter Handbook

Reading the books and completing some of the simple tests will give you an understanding of the rider you are (strengths and weaknesses), how to become the rider you want to be, whether that’s a climber, sprinter, time trialist, etc. and they provide plenty of training sessions to improve specific areas of your fitness.

In less than a season I am already a better cyclist and triathlete. Over the coming months I’ll write more about training and racing with watts to convince you it’s the best investment you can make.

To whet your appetite though, how about…

– Why training with power is better than training with heart rate.
– Why power beats RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) as a scale.
– How a power meter helped me know that I HAD returned to fitness.
– Beating the weather using power.
– Using power in a triathlon.
– Testing with power.
– Better pacing, climbing.
– Better coaching.

Gardner achieves Iron vision

Last month, James Gardner from Danville, San Francisco (California) conquered the 140.6 mile Coeur d’Alene course in 12 hours to become a first-time Ironman.

Like many age-group triathletes James had never followed a structured training plan before but knew he needed to if he was to juggle family time, career, business air-travel and a house move, if he was to make the successful leap from short course and half-iron distance racing to a full Ironman.

James with family in San Francisco

James with family in San Francisco

“As a family-man time is precious and I just needed someone to take care of the planning and make the necessary adjustments to my training should something come up”, said the 39 years-old marketing vice president. “Toby kept my training consistent, which meant some creative sessions given the limited facilities in some hotels. Communication was key, I told him in advance when issues arose and he tweaked my plan to keep me training.”

Training consistently is key to a achieving success no matter what the distance. If you don’t train consistently then a coach can’t plan appropriate progressions and you won’t continue to make the necessary adaptations to increasing training stimulus.

If you’re trying to juggle family, a busy working life and your training, cheap off-the-shelf training plans don’t work. A coach is there to revise your plan when your circumstances change.

James with his marketing team

James with his marketing team

“Long distance training can be quite a challenge. It’s good to know someone’s got your back, has managed training and a stressful job himself and is there every step of the way with you. I’d often just pick up the phone and chat just to make sure I was on the right track. You can’t expect your family and friends to understand what you go through if they’ve never followed a proper training plan before.”

Achieving that Iron dream is a team effort and like all successful teams, two-way communication plays a key role: 1-2-1 training and meetings are not always possible, but email, Skype, videos of training/racing, data uploads and qualitative feedback all go towards tailoring a plan that works for each athlete.

Review: Orbea Ordu

My review of the Orbea Ordu SSJ-SE for 3GO Magazine, July/August issue.

Introduction…

When I started in triathlon nearly ten years ago I remember making a trip to my local bike shop to check out the new stock. It was then that I ogled the black stealth-like appearance of my first Orbea frame suspended in all its angular glory from the shop ceiling.

The shop owner – Dave, (because you learn that it is in your best interests to be on first name terms with your local bike shop owner – you never know when their future generosity may stretch to a 4mm bolt ‘on the house’), took the frame from its shrine and allowed me to cradle it. The moment was brief, before Dave snatched it back, but not before I had been wooed by its stand-out aerodynamic sleekishness and vowed that we would meet again one day.

Several years have past and I have never held an Orbea since, let alone ride one.

So, when the offer to test one came along…I jumped at the chance.

The Bike:

The Orbea Ordu SSJ-SE comprises the Ordu Silver frame, made of high modulus carbon fibre and comes with an increasingly predictable entry-level selection of Shimano Dura-Ace (bar-end shifters and rear derailleur), Ultegra (front derailleur), and 105 (cassette) 10-speed drive-train components.

Perched on a Selle Italia SL T1 time trial-specific saddle, you will steer from an alloy Profile Ozero base bar/ZBS extension handlebar assembly, whilst spinning an FSA Gossamer alloy crank to drive Shimano R500 wheels with Vittoria Rubino Pro tires.

The Fit…

After years racing triathlon and now coaching, I have my position pretty much dialled in for different distances, terrains, etc. tweaking the setup in favour of aerodynamics for short course and tweaking towards comfort for long course.

I’m 5? 9? and 145lbs so, when it comes to bike fit, for once, I am happy to say that I’m Mr Average and with just a few tweaks in the 76 degree effective seat angle (there is an alternative 74 degree seat angle as well) I wasn’t surprised that it took a short time before I was comfortable and ready to ride.

Again predictably, the frame design features an interrupted seat angle. This means that if you’re a vertically challenged rider you will need to trim the seat post. If you take the bike for a professional fit – as you should do – your fitter may be able to do this for you. In a “plug and play” world, be prepared not to ride it away from the store when you first buy it.

But, once I started riding

The ride…

As I rolled out, this is where all the above predictability ended…

The first thing to surprise me about the Orbea was that it was unbelievably comfortable. Any initial disappointment about low-end specification on such a great looking frameset began to disappear with every mile I rode.

As it was a nice windy day for testing, I took it out on a favourite local training route, which is a mostly flat to rolling course with variable wind direction. On the flat sections it felt smooth and very stable. Out in the open the flattened down tube was unaffected by crosswinds and passing trucks, which is always re-assuring.

On this particular route there are a couple of fast downhill sections with some patchy uneven road surface where, when cornering, you need to hold your nerve if you’re going to stay in the aero bars. I was really surprised how well the bike handled and never deviated from the line I chose. This made the bike a big hit for me, to descend at speed is about trusting your machine and the SSJ-SE filled me with growing confidence the more I pushed it.

Another confidence booster is that the brake levers feel re-assuringly solid and offer great stopping power working well with the Shimano R500 wheels. The wheelset itself is best suited for your training miles, which it will handle comfortably. For racing, investing in a pair of race wheels will definitely take you to the next level and help you to climb a few places in the results table.

The Selle Italia seat was more comfortable than I thought it would be, but again you may want to swap this out if you don’t get on with it – matching butts and bike seats is a pretty personal matter.

Continuing with the test ride, another pleasant surprise for me was how easy it was to hold speed over small to medium-sized rollers without having to break the aero-position by sitting-up or standing. The comfortable position made it much easier to maintain power.

But, it was on larger climbs, when I was forced to stand, that this bike truly excelled. Granted, it’s not the lightest in the Ordu range, but it handled with ease and I didn’t have to wrestle to keep the front-end under control – as I’ve experienced before with other triathlon/TT bikes.

If you train in the hills or like your racecourses lumpy I would recommend that you check out the Ordu range as a triathlon/TT bike with an ability to handle well, whilst climbing.

For all bike manufacturers’ hype, I think Orbea’s claim that they have designed an aerodynamic bike without compromising stiffness is spot on.

Cabling…

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the little things that disappoint you the most and in the Orbea’s case it was the cabling.

The internal routing through the top tube, down tube and chain stay is as you come to expect of modern day aerodynamic offerings. Aside from the odd rattle here and there, it was the cable exit points that were the issue for me.

These days, I want the cables around my bars hidden away neatly not twisting all over the place like the back of your Grandmother’s television cabinet.

The rear derailleur cable exiting out of the chain stay was more a hindrance than unsightly. My right heal kept catching the cable with every rotation- no matter how many times I bent it inwards. As Mr Average, I have size 10.5 feet, no toeing out and with my cleats set all the way back it was quite a surprise to be reminded of a rear derailleur cable an average of 95 times per minute during the ride.

Cockpit comfort…

For entry-level bikes, I’m a big fan of Profile Design and the alloy aero bars are solid and do the job. The downside with this configuration is that the armrests are fixed. This for me is an issue, as I like to be able to move my pads (forward and back). This will effect the front end of your bike fit and ultimately may effect your riding comfort for 70.3, Ironman and long time trials.

Also if you’re considering this bike for going long, S-bend bar extensions, whilst they look good, may cause wrist discomfort especially for first-timers. So, for long course you might be better off with a more comfortable set of bar extensions.

In summary…

The Orbea Ordu SSJ-SE is great looking frameset that rides much better than the specification suggests.

As an entry-level bike it was extremely impressive to ride. The bike feels very sturdy, which would impress much larger athletes than myself. Not the lightest in its class, but once you get it up to speed it holds momentum over hilly terrain extremely well.

As it should be for a TT bike, the ride was solid and smooth in the aero-bars – a good first-timers’ race bike or for those who are perhaps a little bit nervous riding and descending in the aero bars.

Maintaining position and speed over rollers coupled with exceptional handling when standing means that this bike will shine when it is time to climb!

If you buy this bike as an entry-level triathlon or TT race bike, when you develop and progress as an athlete you can add upgrades so it will accompany you to the next level, matching your physical performance as you advance in the sport.

Should I part with my hard earned cash…

The price point is about $200 higher than most of its competition which come in at between $2500-2800. But, if you’re price sensitive over a few hundred dollars then triathlon is probably going to be the wrong sport for you!

Budget considerations to one side, the most important thing in cycling is bike fit and for this reason alone you should test ride one of the Orbea Ordu range.

However, as Cervelo add a fifth P to their marketing mix, it means you can now pick up a full Ultegra version of triathlon’s most popular P2 for $2400 whilst the Ultegra version of the Orbea Ordu is $3400!

Build your base

Training and working with athletes this year I’ve come across a couple of interesting issues around base training and testing.

Like a lot of European/US endurance athletes my Annual Training Plan (ATP) is made up of periods or phases (see Sports Periodisation and Tudor Bompa), typically Preparation, Base, Build, Peak and Taper.

My Preparation phase for the 2012 season began in November and transitioned into the Base training phase (see Base Training through the winter months. I tend to have a month off at the end of every season, so the preparation/base phases help me to slowly get back in to training, preparing me (mentally and physically) for harder work to come.

Whatever you use to measure your training effort (Borg’s Rate of Perceived Exertion – RPE, heart rate, power, etc.) the Base training phase is basically the time to keep things nice and easy (lower RPE, HR Zones 1 and 2, etc.), focusing on perfecting technique and improving biomechanical efficiencies (single leg drills, skip drills, finger drag, etc.).

Surprisingly, over the years, I’ve found that Base training seems to conflict with the human psyche. When I’ve been discussing it with others, whether on group rides, whilst coaching or in the pub. It often amuses me how many people aren’t convinced.

In an increasingly impatient, ego-driven global culture, convincing someone to take their time to slowly build their fitness over 20-30 weeks can be very difficult. Unless that is…they have ever followed a plan before.

Working with athletes that have never followed a periodised training plan is a challenge for athlete and coach. Typically, the first thing to do is convince them that their Zone 4 lunch time blasts around the local park, not getting passed by another runner; and weekend club rides, beating Dave to the top of a climb and ascending theStrava rankings, are at an effort level that is not required to build their aerobic endurance base. In fact, early high intensity efforts carry a high risk of injury before the season has even started.

Walk before you run…literally!

Base training is the most important period of an endurance plan and should not be reduced, rushed or corner-cut. Even if this means being overtaken by one or two joggers with purple-rinses from time-to-time or giving up the group ride in favour of non-stop constant efforts rather than drafting in the bunch and waiting for Dave et al at rest stops or at the top of a climb. Think how much more satisfying it’s going to be to be passing people on race day – there are no prizes for beating a mountain-biker up a hill on an average Tuesday afternoon.

Get used to long solo efforts to build your base

Get used to long solo efforts to build your base

If you want to be successful in endurance sport you better get used to your own company. Riding solo is the best way to maintain steady constant efforts. Unless you have a training partner that is doing the same race and following the same plan, but even then there’s still the issue of drafting. If you’re disciplined enough you could practice riding the draft legal distance when training with others.

From experience, your ‘bank’ of base training will come back in spades on race day when it matters most and you realise you have the aerobic endurance to run that marathon, or complete that Ironman. It will be especially noticeable towards the end of your race when you are passing other competitors that have not invested the time to lay their fitness foundations earlier in the season.

Be careful what you wish for…

Another amusing observation I’ve found is when athletes approach a testing week. This is the time to test whether you are improving and all the previous hard work is paying off.

With experience, I look forward to these weeks less than I used to. Basically, I recognise a testing week for the catch-22 that it is.

“Great, it’s a reduced volume week (more rest/recovery! I can catch up on things, etc.), but I have to go all out to get some data to measure. Ahhhhh, but the test is only for a short period of time, that’s okay”.

So, you test in each sport and the good news is…your times improve; the plan is working; etc. Now, for the bad news…your next month’s training zones increase and the next three weeks sessions are all going to be harder!

And then…joy! Finally, it’s time to go in to the Build phase. You can finally show the purple rinses what you’re made of and Dave’s going to get spanked on the climb of his choice!

“But hang on…you realise the sessions are harder, faster, testing is brutal and you don’t always get a better result!”

Training properly (in Build) can be…on your own, in the rain, grinding in to a headwind, gritted teeth, snot all over your face, burning pains in your legs, back, arms, neck…desperately trying to maintain the effort of your fourth two-minute rep in a set of ten during a muscular endurance brick ride of five hours as you pass a car full of pointing and laughing teens.

It is at these times that you are further tortured with memories of your base training, and reluctance to follow your planned easy long slow ride in Zone 2 and the promises you make to never go harder than you need to, ever again!

Yet, we still, foolishly, wish away our base training days in favour of faster, harder sessions…and why…because (un)fortunately…pain has no memory!

Perhaps an answer to this might be to write two sessions into week one of next year’s plan right now…a 45-minute Z1 easy trail run versus a five hour-hour muscular endurance ride, with 10×2 minutes hard efforts.

Test: Running

Every month during my recovery week I test myself in each sport to set my training zones for power, heart rate and pace for the coming month.

This is an overview of this month’s running test.

Without an assistant, the test I often use is Joe Friel’s CP30 Test. Once I have my average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of the test I drop it in to Training Peaks (the web-based planning application I use with all my athletes), which calculates the zones for me. Then whenever I upload my data from a run the program logs and calculates the time I spent in each of my heart rate zones so that I can manage my training load over time.

It’s important to replicate the conditions for each test as closely as possible. Trying to get the same amount of sleep beforehand, eat the same foods prior, test at the same time of day, same weather conditions, wear the same kit, use the same course, etc. Of course some of this is in, and some of this is out, of your control. The closer you can replicate each test the more accurate and comparable the results.

The results (using my Garmin 310XT):

Garmin File: CP30 Test, Running

CP30 Test Data in Garmin Connect

CP30 Test Data in Garmin Connect

50 miles of RnR

I think I’m currently moving towards ultra-distance racing in a transition away from triathlon and more towards running again, and more specifically mountain running.

Last year’s midnight Caesar’s Camp Endurance Run and this year’s Lakeland 50 may become pivotal races that spawned my love for ultra-running. Only time will tell.

Having now completed the toughest iron distance races on the planet and some unfinished Deca business but still finishing five iron distance triathlons in five days, I am keen to be able to compare an iron distance race with that of 100 mile ultra-run. Which is tougher?

Knowing that I was moving to California and with one eye on filling the 2012 race calendar, I found the Rock ‘n’ River 50. A qualifying race for the legendary Western States 100 (or at least finishing it under 11 hours would give me a 10:1 chance of getting a slot through the ballot). If I did get in to the Western States 100, it would fit well, coming six weeks after Ironman St George (an A race for 2012), but will probably compromise Vineman 70.3, which is two weeks after, but a B category race.

Providing I paid particular close attention to my recovery, the timing of the Rock ‘n’ River would coincide with the ITU World Triathlon Championships three weeks later (I’ll let you know whether this was a good idea) and act as my last long run.
The race also happened to be on part of the Western States route so doubled up as a partial recce as well.

The race is an end-to-end course and like many similar ultras had a coach laid on early in the morning to transport runners to the start. As Rachael was supporting by driving to aid stations along the route, we decided the extra sleep would be more important so we booked a hotel in Auburn near the start.

We called in at packet pick up (timing chip, race number and goody bag) and pasta party on our way to the hotel. We had a couple of questions about the legalities of pacing and on course assistance, none of which we could get an answer to.
Those getting the bus were up at 3am, we got up at 5am.
A 10-minute drive to Auburn Dam Overlook Park and I was donning my race kit in the dark and walking to join the others at the start line. It was dark and cold at the start, so I had a long sleeve top and head torch.

Ready for the start

Ready for the start

There was a short race briefing, which said to follow pink ribbons that marked the course and we were off, 06:30.

My strategy for this, my second 50 miler, was to run the whole distance or as far as I could before adopting a run/walk strategy. The course is downhill and I was concerned how my quads would hold up. I had contemplated quad guards but was unable to sort this before the race.

I started out at a 6-7min/km pace and had the usual smile as most of the field charged past me with their over enthusiasm.

After about 2kms we began a steep road descent down to the river. It wasn’t long after that I could hear shouting ahead followed by more and more people slowing to a group halt. We had gone the wrong way…already..!

Amused, I stood watching the carnage as runners went too and fro, up and down the hill searching for a pink ribbon. The majority of the field was lost. At times like these it is better to conserve energy (do not go charging up and down a very steep hill) and not to act on bizarre comments from those panicking around you, such as: “It cannot be this way”, “It must be this way” or other non-constructive, non-factual, irrational utterances.

In the end, myself and a couple of others amused by the headless chickens, decided to retrace our steps by walking back up the hill. It worked, we found a ribbon (we whistled and shouted to say we had picked up the route) and after 17 minutes we were back on course and I was back to 6min/km pacing.

Soon after, the road wound down to the river and I decided to save my quads and held back as I witnessed a lot of runners opening their gait and hammering down the hill. Perhaps due to the earlier mis-direction and people getting fired up but again I was astounded as to how many runners were thrashing down the hill. So much so that an older runner commented to me, as we were both getting passed, that he expected some people to be suffering later on. I agreed.

We eventually joined the American River and ran alongside it and around Folsom Lake, which was the best part of the course for me.
At the first aid station, the sun was rising so I got rid of my head torch and long sleeve top (in hindsight I shouldn’t have bothered wearing it).

I held back for the first two aid stations and then began to pick up the pace as I was enjoying the trail and fantastic scenery to my left. Unfortunately, picking up the pace meant I had to now go passed all those that had charged from the start line, those that charged after getting lost and those that charged down the descent. This was a lot of people and a lot of calling out, waiting, then passing. I wasn’t consciously racing but testing whether I could run the whole thing, so to keep things positive my thoughts were that if I got held up by slower runners it was probably for the best and I would benefit from it later.

I always test kit as much as possible before using it in a race and for this race I was introducing The North Face Enduro 13 pack (two bottle carriers instead of a bladder, quicker to fill), Injinji Performance Mid-weight Toesocks (my toes beat each other up and my thoughts were if they were individually wrapped it might delay the damage),Saucony Peregrines (grippy and light, even with my orthotics). I wanted to trial this kit but if I were doing this race again because the aid stations are so close together I’d carry a single bottle (either handheld or around my waist).

There were a few inclines along the river route but nothing that caused me to walk (long training runs up Mt Diablo on the Summit Trail served me well). I was going well at around 6min/km or under so continued at this pace.

I walked aid stations eating half a PowerBar (20g of carbs), swapping a full for empty bottle of electrolyte (Heed) and then having two Gu Roctane gels (25g of carbs) per hour aiming to ingest about 70g of carbs per hour. I started this after sipping only water for the first hour. The aid stations were well stocked and managed. Towards the end of the race I was drinking cola and stuffing ice down my front and back to keep my core temperature down (the good thing about wearing the TNF Enduro 13 is that the chest straps held ice on my front and back whilst it melted).

I started to feel some cramping in my quads in the late teen miles so downed aSalstick Cap, which did the trick. The route now joined the American River Parkway for the last 19 miles, which meandered along the Jebediah Smith Memorial Trail, which was a tarmac bike trail all the way to the finish. You could run on the crushed granite to the side if you didn’t want to run on the tarmac. Knowing the surface was going to change, I switched to a pair of Brooks Ravenna 2s, to enjoy a bit more cushioning.

Being on a bike trail, I had to constantly look around so that I could take the shortest route possible, which only incurred the wrath of one path-user and I had to apologise to a couple of other cyclists for causing them to slow down and use greater caution.
At this stage, there were very few runners around, little shade and the heat was relentless. The great thing about this part of the course is that you receive a lot of encouragement from other park users, which really helps.

The good news was that I was holding pace very well and apart from the odd sloshing feeling, in which I backed off the liquid a little, my stomach was holding up great.

When another runner did come in to view, I stuck to my pace and would eventually reel them in. each one a great boost in the latter stages. It’s better to be overtaking than overtaken towards the end of a race.

When I stopped at aid stations, I didn’t check the mileage and didn’t ask for positions, times, etc. I had a rough idea from studying the maps but daren’t look at my Garmin in case it said I had longer to go than I thought. It was only at the 42-mile aid station when someone said: “only eight miles to go”, did I start to calculate possible finish times.

Running on the American River Parkway's granite edge

Running on the American River Parkway’s granite edge

Knowing the wheels can come off at any time during endurance races, I was happy with what I’d achieved up to this point. If I could hold on to the end, then…bonus! I’m sure there had been a significant amount of sub-6min kms and I was continuing to run strong, so I continued with the nutrition strategy and plodded on in the baking heat.

During the last five miles I was yo-yoing with a couple of runners, gradually getting closer and overtaking them. I felt really strong. The volunteers at the last aid station pointed out the finish line but explained I had two miles still to go, an out and back of one mile and I was done.

On the way out along the final stretch, I saw the next runner in front of me. She was returning to the finish line and I concluded I didn’t have time to catch her. We waved to each other as we passed. I rounded the final turn, one mile to go. During that last mile, I too saw a few of the runners behind me and we all saluted one another as we passed.

The finish was the usual low-key affair as a handful of volunteers and supporters clapped me in. I hugged Rachael, who’d been fantastic all day and headed for the river, where I stood up to the top of my thighs for the next 30 minutes. Total time of 8h 19mins, 6th overall and 1st in my age group.

The crowd filled finish chute

The crowd filled finish chute

There was a great spread at the end. I tucked in and chatted with other finishers as we waited for the drop bags to return. Great event.

Now this is who you should get a massage from...yikes!

Now this is who you should get a massage from…yikes!

ITU Long Course Recce

I recently spent a week in Vegas on a friend’s stag/bachelor party. Knowing that I was returning a month later for the ITU Long Course World Championships and to get out in the fresh air (smoking is allowed in the casinos!), I took my bike so that I could recce the course.

There is a lot of information (some more useful than others) about the course and what to expect, here:

2011 ITU Long Course World Championship website

The 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship was held on most of the course and useful info can be found here:

Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Lake Las Vegas

Also, YouTube has a collection of useful videos:

Ironman 70.3 World Championships YouTube clips

In addition to this I thought I would upload my own thoughts on the course having done a recce last week.

Swim:

This is a straightforward out and back course, entering from T1 and swimming under the arches to the start line. Keeping to the left of the bouys, it’s about 1.8km to the first right turn, 225m to the final right turn, then return to the Novella, under the arches and exit on the left with a run around the bottom of the lake in to T1. Flat, non-tidal but could get some wind chop depending on the strength of the wind.

T1:

Not that much to say on top of doing your own walkthrough of entry to your bike station, exit, etc. Quite a sizeable, flat run into transition and a good flat section to get your feet in after the mount line.

Bike:

A small loop around Lake Las Vegas, a climb from the roundabout near T1 all the way up to Lake Mead Parkway. We turn right initially and it would be worth doing a recce of the layout of the tunnel that will take us under the road to avoid making a left hand turn back towards the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Watch out for sand and rocks if it rains

Watch out for sand and rocks if it rains
Underpass to get on to Lake Mead Parkway

Underpass to get on to Lake Mead Parkway

At about 10km you’re at the highest point (about 2500ft) of the Lake Mead section, which is a thunderous descent for about 7kms.

Note: The whole lake section is very exposed and susceptible to gusting winds. When I recce’d I was into a head wind (and from the left) going along Lakeshore Road to the first turn point managing about 25km/h in some sections. Then after turn one, with the wind behind me, I was sat up and travelling at 70km/h+. Think Ironman Lanzarote and be prepared to change your kit on race day (make sure you can control that deep section front wheel!). Northshore Road is also exposed, helpful on the way out but after turn point two it was a grind in places.

Wind aside, the two sections around the lake are a time trialer’s delight, rolling hills, nothing steep, fast smooth tarmac surface…enjoy. The main drag (which is steady) comes from the bottom of Northshore Road, right back on to East lake Mead Drive and back to Lake Mead Parkway.

Northshore Road descent, climb up to Lake Mead Parkway, Lake Las Vegas (left)

Northshore Road descent, climb up to Lake Mead Parkway, Lake Las Vegas (left)

Now for the interesting bit. We have to join the River Mountains Loop Trail (seriously worth recce-ing this section), something Alexander et al did not have to do during the 70.3 World Championships.

This is a very narrow eight-mile desert section taking us towards Henderson and T2. It has about three or four short sharp climbs early on, some fast descents with sharp corners worth noting, then mainly open and wind exposed long false flat sections. The field should be strung out by this time but bunches could form and passing will be interesting (pick your moments and be vocal, Brits remember that it is ‘on your left’ over here). Also, if it has rained or rains on race day, sand and stones do get washed on to the course.

These should give you an idea…

Sand on course, first short/steep ascent

Sand on course, first short/steep ascent
Sand on course, fast descent in to sharp left.

Sand on course, fast descent in to sharp left.
Tyre selection...some deep tarmac cracks in places

Tyre selection…some deep tarmac cracks in places
Second short/steep uphill section

Second short/steep uphill section
Fast decent, chicane then third short/steep uphill

Fast decent, chicane then third short/steep uphill
Third short/sharp uphill

Third short/sharp uphill
Steep descent with short/sharp hill

Steep descent with short/sharp hill
Fast descent with chicane, caution: sand on bend

Fast descent with chicane, caution: sand on bend
Very fast descent with sharp left

Very fast descent with sharp left
Pylon alley: Not my idea of a beautiful course

Pylon alley: Not my idea of a beautiful course
Long, long, long straight. If it's windy this will be very slow.

Long, long, long straight. If it’s windy this will be very slow.
Take a right off the trail

Take a right off the trail
Trail exit

Trail exit

After the desert section, we join the main roads, which get more and more suburban as we get closer to T2 (the only part that will attract the public’s attention).

The course goes along another trail for a short period, roll out the blue matting…

Let's hope they finish the course..! Left on to another trail before a railway crossing

Let’s hope they finish the course..! Left on to another trail before a railway crossing

The final section is made up of flats, some gradual inclines/declines, with a notable fast descent at 109kms for about 3.5kms before steadily rising again to the bike finish with plenty of time to get your feet out and spin.

T2 is a 21km drive away from the start and T1, map. Nothing much to add other than to recce as usual.

T2, Henderson Pavilion

T2, Henderson Pavilion

Run:

The most notable thing about the run course is that there is very little flat. We will be running either up or down on about a 2% grade. There is little to no breeze and when I ran it in 36-degree heat, I found it very draining. Don’t go out too fast, pace well as the incline and decline will add up over four laps. It doesn’t look much at first but it will be interesting to see how it takes its toll on athletes.

First turn out of T2 area on to Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

First turn out of T2 area on to Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)

Paseo Verde Parkway (downhill)
First turn point...it's all uphill back to T2 and towards turn point 2

First turn point…it’s all uphill back to T2 and towards turn point 2
Back up Paseo Verde Parkway

Back up Paseo Verde Parkway
Up Green Valley Parkway (as far as you can see and then some) towards turn point 2

Up Green Valley Parkway (as far as you can see and then some) towards turn point 2
Down Green Valley Parkway

Down Green Valley Parkway

Running around a new neighbourhood – it’s not going to be the most memorable of run courses, but may attract some spectators other than those you brought with you.

Overall:

A spectacular desert course that will be especially striking to European competitors.

An unusual eight-mile narrow track that will make things interesting.

The weather will be a massive factor on race day (wind and heat) and you will need to choose kit wisely (difficult with excess baggage charges these days).

You will not need a compact on this course. I’m not a strong cyclist and recce’d the course in a large compact chain ring easily. So, 53/39/25 but stronger riders may want to go bigger.

Wheels: If there is high wind, deep dish rear only. No wind, deep dish wheels or disc rear.

Time trial setup, aero helmet, etc. All the wind cheating accessories you own, you will need it on this course.

Plan how you will get to and from T1, T2 and team hotels. Swap mobile numbers with someone staying at the team hotel or the team manager so you don’t miss any notices going up on team noticeboards. I once turned up to race and the start time was put back an hour, I wasn’t staying in the team hotel so no one told me..!!!

I’m looking forward to the event, have a great race. If you have any questions drop me a line.