Kona: So you’ve qualified…

What had once been a distant dream was now only two months away!

After I qualified, things calmed down and real life swallowed me back up. My ego deflated and I no longer expected cars to stop and let me cross the road because I’d just done something amazing. Let’s face it, in the outside world only a handful of people even know about Ironman. The dust had settled.

The problem with qualifying so close to Kona (apart from the challenge of finding accommodation on a very small island) is that there is very little time to sit back and enjoy it – it’s straight back into planning and training.

Research says it can take a month to recover from a marathon. But this was more than that. In a perfect world I would have allowed myself more than four weeks recovery. Then if you add in acclimatisation training, travel and a taper suddenly there was no time at all.

I had been one of those people that said it was all about qualifying and I was just going to go to Hawaii and enjoy it! Ha! I’ve learned that I’m not built that way. I admit it – I am competitive and I want to do my best. Not necessarily win, but to give it everything and be happy with my own performance. My first hint of this was using The Vitruvian half-ironman as a ‘training’ event in the lead up to Bolton. As much as it gave me vital data that I used in Bolton, I did come away from that race feeling that I would have liked to have done a lot better.

After Bolton I took a week off. No watch, no power meter, did what I wanted, when I wanted, which wasn’t much. Regression versus recovery…recovery should always win.

This recovery time did give me a chance to think about my objectives for Kona, and how I wanted to approach it.

Enjoy it versus compete overall..? Well I wasn’t going to win, so this objective was out.

Enjoy it versus compete in age group..? Again, perhaps not this year!

Just enjoy it? But what the heck did that mean in the context of Kona? I was enjoying it already and I hadn’t even reached the start line.

I had read about the island, the build-up, the race – but what was enjoying it for me…?

I decided to give this some thought, do some soul searching, go back and review all the efforts over the years to get this far in triathlon.

For me, I want to perform my best in each element and sew them all together with equally good transitions. That’s why I do triathlons. It’s about the component parts and doing all of them well. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Bolton made me one of those lucky triathletes that can say that on that one day I put it all together and had a perfect race. It had never quite happened before and who knows it may never happen again.

Racing at Kona for the first time was going to be daunting, no doubt about it.

The biggest names in the sport were going to be there. The best pros. The best age groupers. No-one was training through. No-one was going to be holding back. Everyone would be tapered and everyone was bringing their A game.

This made it exciting and intimidating. To cut through all this noise…I decided to focus on my own race, me against the elements and my own time goal, which was to break 10 hours.

Thinking fit world qualifier

“Forget gym membership, get a coach” is the view of 36 year-old, Dr Rachael Addicott who has just qualified for the 2013 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships (4km swim, 120km bike, 30km run), 1-2 June Belfort, France.

Rachael, originally from Melbourne, Australia has dual citizenship and has been living in the UK for eleven years. She was keen to race on an international stage, but qualifying for the Australian national team meant competing in her home country, something that Great Britain doesn’t insist on for the long distance team.

She said: “I just want to see how far I can take this. It’s a shame I can’t wear the green and gold of Australia. With the success of the Olympics and the popularity of triathlon in England at the moment, getting in to the GB team is a real achievement.”

Like many city workers, Rachael used to suffer running to try to shed the pounds and was very image conscious.

“Now I’m more interested in how my body works rather than how it looks to others. I still feel like my legs are quite big, but I am more concerned about whether they can get me up hills rather than into a pair of jeans”.

Rachael qualifies for the GB Long Distance Triathlon Team - Big Kahuna, California 2012

Rachael qualifies for the GB Long Distance Triathlon Team – Big Kahuna, California 2012

“When you work with a coach and have a plan then you are training with purpose not just jogging around a park at the same speed, frustrated at not getting any faster”.

“I used to enter events like ‘Run to the Beat’ and the ‘Nike 10k’, which are great, don’t get me wrong. But now I have a plan I’m more race focused rather than just turning up and surviving it along with thousands of others”.

Like many age-group triathletes, Rachael fits her triathlon training around a busy working life as Senior Research Fellow at The Kings Fund, a health policy think tank.

“I used to dream about being able to do a triathlon but the swimming held me back. So, when someone pointed me in the direction of city-based swim coach, Stephanie Ellis from Stroke Works, I decided to learn to swim (properly!). That was three years ago and now I’m competing on a world stage. No-one’s more surprised than me”.

“These days I’m 10 kilos lighter just from following my weekly training plan not by counting calories like I used to. I now look at the skinny girls in the city who I used to compare myself to, and just smile. As a woman, I feel very liberated by sport and as a bonus…I know that I’d kick their arse..!”

Iron Lady Pamela

Heart stopping moments for friends and family (and a coach) as pharmaceutical sales rep Pamela Finney from California crosses the line with five minutes to spare at Ironman Arizona last month (18 November 2012).

The Oakland based, 44 year-old was attempting to overcome a disappointing DNF in her first attempt at Ironman in Nice, France the year before.

Aware of just how much this meant to Pamela, her friends and family gathered around their laptops to cheer her on via the Ironman Live feed.

Rough conditions meant the swim was slow but she made it with over 15 minutes to spare.

Then the fun began… as usual there were a few technical issues with the live feed. For a considerable amount of time during the bike leg there were no split times. For those watching it seemed like another DNF, but just as laptop lids were closing a split time appeared on the screen and hope was re-born.

The drama continued as Pamela pressed on narrowly beating two bike checkpoints at 76 miles (by 20mins) and 93 miles (by 4mins) to finally hit T2 with a minute to spare!

If this wasn’t enough, bringing us all even further to the edge of our seats promising early run splits began to slow to a walking pace and the final midnight cut-off was hanging in the balance.

The live feed again added to the drama by giving a final split time of 16h 11mins. This meant that with 3.2 miles to go and everything she had already been through, Pamela had to dig deep…and run!

For those watching it meant turning our attention away from the splits, and to the final nail biting moments live through the finishing time gantry as ‘The Voice of Ironman’ Mike Reilly welcomed home the final finishers to huge cheers from the local crowd. And then, with five minutes to spare Pamela thankfully turned the corner and was roared over the line in 16:55:54 to achieve her dream of becoming an Ironman.

All smiles down the finishing chute for Pamela at Ironman Arizona.

All smiles down the finishing chute for Pamela at Ironman Arizona.

Coach Toby says: “Completing an Ironman is hard enough, doing it in 17 hours takes a different kind of athlete. Such mental toughness not to step off the course and to keep going is what endurance sport is all about. Doing the training is one thing but if you’re not mentally tough enough then you won’t make it.

“When you’re at the back of the pack chasing cut-offs is extremely hard both physically and mentally. You have to come in under the checkpoint time but you can’t exert too much that it jeopardises your entire race. Maintaining her nerve when faced with such difficult circumstances was truly admirable. She’s an inspiration!”

Pamela Finney - You are an Ironman..!!!

Pamela Finney – You are an Ironman..!!!

For most people completing a single Ironman is enough. But, Pamela is not ‘most people’.

Buckle up everybody…

“My plan for 2013 is to train hard and complete Ironman Nice on June 23rd which is also my birthday! I attempted this race before and didn’t complete it and am going back for some retribution so I plan on taking my experience from 2012 and using it to the fullest to complete Nice! I’m very much looking forward to the whole adventure of it too!

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.

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!

Canary triathlon knockout

To give something back to the sport I volunteered at the Canary Wharf Super Series at the end of June. Canary Wharf Triathlon

The evening event took place in the heart of the business district. A series of eliminator heats for international elite athletes and a corporate race.

Triathlon in the heart of London's business district.

Triathlon in the heart of London’s business district.

The Wharf was lined with spectators enjoying a pleasant Thursday evening after work drink. The weather threatened but it remain dry, which ensured the crowds stayed in to the evening cheering on the athletes.

Transition - Channel 4 cameras capturing the action

Transition – Channel 4 cameras capturing the action

The Aussies dominated with relatively comfortable wins for Erin Densham in the Women’s race and Brendon Sexton in the Men’s race. Brits Holly Avil (2nd), Jodie Stimpson (3rd), Aaron Harris (2nd) and Matt Gunby (3rd) put in great performances.

Triathlete Europe Article

The men’s final:

The women’s final:

I worked in transition guiding athletes out of the swim and on the run course. Because there were a number of quick heats lasting about 30 minutes our main role was to get the bikes out of transition after T2 and in to a holding area for the athletes to pick up later.

Transition - Elite men's holding rack waiting for collection.

Transition – Elite men’s holding rack waiting for collection.

The format of the event meant that the action was fast, furious and very entertaining. For me, it was good to work in the heart of transition where a lot of the action was.

All the volunteers were well looked after by British Triathlon with food, drinks and a free event t-shirt. I’d definitely recommend watching or volunteering, a great evening.

Deca Update

Unfortunately, I had to withdraw from the UK Deca Ironman due to a busted achilles (right) that I picked up towards the end of Day 3. Having won the first three days and comfortably leading the event, it was an extremely difficult decision to make.

However, as a coach I think it’s important to know when it is time to take the sensible option to preserve yourself for future races. It got to the point where I had to take a lot of painkillers just to get around the course. Masking injuries in this way is never a sensible option and you’re only setting yourself up for permanent damage.

Having decided this, I took the bike easier and walked the marathons for the next two days to achieve the quintuple ironman, which is a fantastic achievement I’m very proud of.

I went to the hospital yesterday and they have confirmed a minor rupture to my achilles and said it could take up to 12 months to recover. The pain I am now in when trying to walk is further testimony to the fact that I made the right decision.

Guy's lent me some crutches...

Guy’s lent me some crutches…

Anyone who has had to pull out of an event will understand what I went through. I sat in my tent on the morning of Day 6 listening to those (now friends) still left in the deca go down to the lake for the swim. I thought about joining them and lost it when I heard my name being called out by Steve taking the roll call. Thankfully, I had Rachael there to re-assure me (stop me) that I was doing the right thing. If I’d have gone down to the lake that morning I would have seen the pain the others were going through and forced myself to continue. We band of brothers (and sister!)…

Would you believe it..!!!

Would you believe it..!!!

We didn’t have a great web link in the New Forest, which made uploading to a daily blog a bit difficult. I do have lots of notes, pictures, videos and experiences to share so I’ll put these up over the next few days/weeks as I recover (it’ll give me something to do now that I can’t train).

aaaarrrrggghhhhh – 2 days to go

Two days to go…

As always you have a long time to prepare and everything is in control but then nerves creep in and it feels like a rush.

During the event:

– you can follow me via a live tracking system.

– if you’re coming down to watch contact Rachael on: 07789860937

– if you’re driving down the sat nav postcode is: BH23 8EE. There is a car park for visitors. You won’t be able to use the main driveway as that will be part of the bike course. Any problems call Rachael and she’ll guide you in. BRING PIZZA..!!!