Thursday, 3 October 2013

Hever Castle Triathlon 2013 – Race Report(s)

28th - 29th September 2013

Olympic, Sprint and Kids triathlon.

Also racing in the Sprint with Faye, were Natalie, Angie & Tork. Racing the Kids tri with Elliot, were Mungo, Meno, Ryo and Charlie and Rob’s kids (along with a world record beating 1300 others).

Faye and Elliot had their 1st triathlons booked for some time, I signed up for my race last minute as an end of season blow out to see if I had lost/gained and sprint fitness after a years endurance training. Besides that, I wasn’t quite ready to hang up the aero helmet just yet.

Faye’s Race
Anne Boleyn Sprint S 400M, B 20K, R 4K

Here we go
Faye kicked off the day along with Natalie, in a woman’s only wave of the Sprint distance race.

She swam in my old (pretty threadbare) Blueseventy Helix wetsuit, cycled on her old (fairly weighty) Decathlon mountain bike, complete with cable tie locked forks and wore an old tri suit which had previously been relegated to my ‘training pile’ of tri clothes. 

on to the 12.5 mike bike route
Now it’s fair to say Faye was dreading the swim, having not had a chance to get any open water experience in before the race, infact she was only recently swimming 50M freestyle in the pool. However Faye was pretty sure she could breast/back stroke just as quick if needed (that stubbornness kicking in). She put on a brave face as she entered the water and I must admit, when I saw the rescue boat bring a few swimmers in, I was looking out for my old wetsuit! I needn’t have worried as Faye exited the water quicker than expected, unbelievably still smiling, no doubt pleased that the only leg she had any doubts about was over.

on to the 4K run
looking good

The smile continued through the bike and run legs and then transformed into the ‘game face’ for the finishing straight.


Faye finished 66th out of 126 in her Age group

Elliot’s Race
Henry VIII - briefing

Elizabeth 1st S100M, B 4K, R 1.3K

After lunch it was Elliot’s turn to race. It’s a great tri for kids as it is an open water swim and the bike/run legs are both within the grounds of the Hever estate. After receiving a briefing from Henry VIII, Elliot took to the swim. 

Bring it on!

Despite being a good swimmer, Elliot wasn’t too keen to keep his head under and decided to swim a medley of strokes to exit within the first half of his wave. 


Now where's that bike

Elliot sped through T1 like he had done it a hundred times before, was assisted out of his wetsuit and sprinted off with his bike.

He looked all too casual on the bike (perhaps time for a bigger – faster model, dad?) and it wasn’t long before he rode back to transition. Here he picked up the pace, recording the fastest T2 split of team Weeks.

Just the run to go
ready for the ride

Elliot took the 1.3K in his stride (a tiddler for him), and seemed to get faster as he got closer to the finish, running through the finish arch like a rocket.


Elliot came 164th out of 500 in his Age group

Elliot was pretty shattered but had no time to rest as he had to go straight to the District Cubs swim Gala, where won a silver medal in the Backstroke final. 

Race fuel?

My Race
Olympic Distance

After the stress of Saturdays family athletic endeavours, I wasn't exactly feeling on fire for my race, in fact the support group elected to stay at home and have a lie in.

I had decided to race in the 'opt in' wave as I thought I may have a shout at a top 3 Age Group finish (going by previous years results) and besides it would be great to be in the same race as some pro's (there were 4 from team GB and 4 from team France). I had previously ridden the bike route (on road bike and on TT bike) so I had a good idea of how fast I could go and I also had a fair idea of my xc running pace over 10K. With the long transitions and a quoted lake temp of 15 degrees I cas pretty sure a sub 2:20 was out of the question but having not raced the olympic distance for some time, I was confident I could still get a PB.

Glad to get out the murky water
The briefing (and map) suggested that the 2 lap swim turned around at the 4th buoy but as we entered the water the race director changed this to the 5th buoy, causing a lot of confusion amongst us swimmers. It was a wide swim start line so the risk of a swim fight was reduced and I decided to stay to the outside (swimming a slightly longer but cleaner line). The water didn't feel as cold as expected but was certainly murky - you couldn't see your hands under water! It took longer than usual to settle into a pace and was sighting far too often, however I felt I was moving well. I was hoping for a 23 min swim leg and i'm pretty consistent with my swim times so I was a bit disappointed with my 26 min split. I have a niggling doubt that the course was long (in fact no one, including the Pro's broke 20 mins). The 4th - 5th buoy potential additional length equates to 3 mins at my swim pace. Still no complaints, it was the same for us all.

T1 & T2
Another worry was my transition times, both 2 minutes - and I mean exactly (suspiciously) 2:00 minutes. I really didn't feel like I was hanging around in transition! Anyway enough winging - on with the bike.

Out on the 2 loop (40K) bike course
I had taken the disc wheel covers off the rear wheel as I didn't think the aero advantage was greater than the possible hill climbing weight disadvantage. I had also minimised the tool kit and nutrition.

I started the 1st 20K lap pretty hard but didn't really get into my stride until 20K. I managed to claw back a few places lost in the swim but the roads were very quiet. The 2nd lap was much busier with cyclists from the next wave on the course. This made the racing more interesting and I may have also gained a few more of the lost swim places. I wasn't overtaken on the entire bike leg, which was a good mental boost.

I was pleased with my bike effort, I feel I had pushed consistently hard and still managed to fuel for the run. As I turned into the castle grounds, I slipped my feet out of the pedals and then realised I had another 1/4 mile still to go to the dismount line and it was a smooth transition out to the run.

Finish line sprint

The run course  followed Faye's 4K trail with a 1K deviation and this was obviously doubled for the olympic distance. It was all off road with a mixture of grass, mud and stone underfoot, ant it was definitely not flat. Like the bike, I wasn't overtaken on the run (except for being lapped by 2 pro's), I ran alone for the first lap and passed some runners on their 1st lap when I was on my 2nd. The two pros that passed me were being filmed by a bike cameraman. Now big BMW road bikes are not meant for skinny muddy trails. I was quite expecting to skip over rocks and the odd log but not motorcyclists stuck under a bike - I think it was only their pride that was damaged.

I held on to a good pace for the run leg (6:53 min/mile) but was surprised to pass a 10K marker, with half a kilometre still to run (in a 10K race). I managed to finish with a sprint and went through the arch with the clock saying 2:22. I received my medal from Anne Boleyn and took a sip of the non-alcoholic pint of beer I had been handed (not what I really wanted after a race) and got my time split's printed by the Stuweb (race timing company) guy which had me at 2:24. The Stuweb guy said I was currently 18th in category with later waves still to come in, so i collected the bike from transition and skipped the prize ceremony and went home.

As it transpired I was 2nd in AG (V40-49) and 25th Overall with 808 finishers - 3rd percentile. So despite it feeling slightly disappointing at the time it actually was a good performance. Now to smash the time I need a flat fast course with short transitions - Eton Dorney - September 2014!

Age Group result on STUWEB site

Monday, 26 August 2013

IM Sweden - Post Race

You are made to feel very special at Ironman, I was given my medal and taken into the finishers area, there I had an Ice bath, wrapped in a foil blanket, given a pizza (I took two - one for the kids you understand) and a cup of coffee as well as being given your finishers shirt. You pass a lot of other finishers who all have the same expression of relief and satisfaction about them. I met with Faye and the kids and walked slowly back to our apartment cheering on finishers as we passed them.

The next morning after packing up the car, Went to the ironman World Championship slot allocation ceremony, where the fastest in each age group get an invitation to race at Kona, Hawaii in October (this year). If the winners decline (may have previously qualified or just can't go) the slot rolls down to the next fastest. There were 6 slots in my age group (Mens 40-44). The 6th person declined and the 7th got the slot! I was 11th place which was only 4 mins off of 7th. 

I now have a new goal, (this has been decided by Faye & the kids - as they want a holiday in Hawaii. its just a little matter of training harder/smarter for the next race - whatever and wherever that is. Realistically there would only ever be a slim chance of qualification (and only by roll down), but its the thought that if the perfect storm occurs, I.e. right course, fitness peaking at the right time and half a dozen faster athletes turning down the slot, there is at least a theoretical chance of qualification. This may be the motivation needed to train/race that little bit harder.

After the race we spent a few days in Copenhagen, doing lots of walking which went some way to the sore quads. There was also a great gym with £££'s worth of shiny chrome equipment that I ignored in favour of my trusty floor mat.

Copenhagens inaugral IM took place on the Sunday, a Day after Sweden's IM. Lots of the athletes were staying at our hotel. Already my IM seemed like old news. Despite the 4 hour drive from Sweden, we still couldn't escape shaved legs and carbon bikes! We visited the Excellent Copenhagen Zoo and were really impressed with Danish attitude to a healthy lifestyle, with cycling taking a priority over cars (and pedestrians it would seen), open water swimming areas in the rivers and the popularity of running (all ages, shapes and sizes). 

From Copenhagen, we moved on to a resort like a mini-centre parks called Middlefart (no typo there). It was a little down trodden but it was quiet (only 2 other families, both having kids E&E,s ages), had a great outdoor pool and excellent trail running through Deer country... Like a flat Knole Park - perfect IM rehab country.

IM Sweden - Lessons learnt and looking forward

Smarten up the weekly routine, make sessions either strength/hills, speed/intval or easy/long
Continue with core sessions but introduce leg and shoulder strength
Improve swim form
Continue with plan - IM Sweden's plan was effective in preparing peak race fitness.

Get the toilet issues sorted (it was only a wee I needed).

Closer ratio cassette for flat courses as 11-28 too large
New Garmin (as HRM function packed up)
Larger rear tyre - may save numb bum
New base bar to improve handling and aero at front

A pair of trainers for training & racing (one that saves the big toe).

Try to find a more palletable pre race meal - the current one, despite being effective is not enjoyable
Plan to lose rear bottle? And possibly bento box?
Re-calculate calorific requirements based on IM Sweden and how I felt 

Ironman Sweden 2013 - 17th August 2013


if this doesn't work - on some smart phones for example cut and paste this file into the youtube search engine     


"You are an Ironman"

Short version:

Last minute injuries didn't hamper what was a happy IM debut experience.

Swim - rough water and rough swimmers made for hard swim
Bike -  head and side winds tried to out do the tail winds
Run -  fast start but gradually ran slower/smarter leaving a bit in the tank for a PB sprint 

Long version:

Pre race
The preparation for this race started in earnest back in November 2012, where I transitioned from good experiences in half ironman racing (Mallorca & New Forest) into the endurance of Full IM training. My plan was to just maintain the swim form and to work on bike/run endurance and strength as well as trying to nail the nutrition equation. A bike fit early on in the season was designed to eliminate any chronic bike pain that may occur as the ride mileage increased. The journey of trying to find the perfect running shoe was taken (and still continues).

2/3 of the support crew

This race was picked because last year's IM Sweden was fast flat and just as importantly fell in the school holidays. By coincidence I knew 2 other local Brits racing, Charlie (one of Eve's classmate's dad) and his mate Rob. After 2 weeks taper from a long build and longer base phase of training, the lazy days driving and laying in bed on the ferry (I'm not a salty sea dog) felt just too sedentary and left me chomping at the bit. Two days prior to the race, I was able to swim one loop of the swim course which was notable in its speed and calmness and the amount of jellyfish in the Baltic Sea. I had a swift 5K run home from the race briefing on the same day and a 20 min ride on the bike on the Friday just to check the bike was road worthy after re-assembly and prior to racking. In the evening, the obligatory pasta meal was consumed and 21:00 hrs bedtime obeyed.

My tried and tested race morning feeding strategy was put into action with a 1200 cal feed of 2 x syrup porridge, peanut butter bagel, banana & Protein shake at 03:00 am and then back to sleep until 05:00, up for stretch, shower and dress before the last hour putting the drink bottles on the bike in transition and having that all important LMD. (I will let you work that one out). I met Faye and the kids by the pier side, zipped up the wetsuit and queued with 1750 other athletes to get into the sea. Elliot and Eve had written words of encouragement on my wrists and the soles of both feet. I'm not a superstitious person but I was grateful for any mental stimulant.

WEATHER for Saturday 17th August 2013

SWIM 3960 metres (1:03:16)

The swim was of the mass start variety and started at 07:00, the pro's going off 5 mins before. The mass start was self seeded, so I opted for getting in the front of the 1:05 pace wave, rather than the 0:55 pace wave. The thinking was that I'm faster than this wave and I could draft of the faster swimmers in front. 

Now I've been in swim scrums before but I've not swum this much breaststroke since school nor have i ever had to 'fight' to stop being swam over. I'm not sure how much of the Baltic Jellyfish cocktail i drank. The Sea itself was very choppy from the wind which was in total contrast from Thursday's practice swim making holding a good swim rhythm and sighting a lot harder. After the first half lap I sacrificed the racing line to resort to swimming wide to stay out of trouble. It wasn't until about the 2.5K point where I was able to swim comfortably back in the racing line. from here I was able to resume race pace and head for the swim exit. 

I was convinced it  was a slow swim being way over the hour target that I had hoped for. All things considered (Swim scrum, wind & distance a bit longer than IM distance) I was happy with the time considering the effort I had put in. A pace of 1:35/100m is pretty good for these conditions (adjusted 3800m time - 1:00:43).


There was no reason for T1 to be slow.

Pick up Blue bag, into tent, wetsuit off and in bag, put 2 x gel flasks in Tri top pockets and put race belt on, dump blue bag, run to bike, helmet on and go.

I mounted cleanly, slipped into my pedals and was away. I heard Faye and the kids but couldn't spot them.

BIKE 180.2Km (5:08:50)

Kalmar's bike course consists of 2 distinct loops.Over the 6km bridge to the island of Öland for 120km and back over the bridge again for the remainder on the mainland. The ride over the bridge suffered from side winds but this didn't really hamper control although the speed did suffer a bit as expect. Öland was pretty barron with only farms and small villages for company. The ride out was into a strong headwind and the route across the island had side winds, the road back benefitted from a nice tail wind giving me a break before crossing the bridge again. 

The mainland had bigger crowds and generally less wind. There were several out and back sections where you could see other faster/slower riders which was both a boost and a reminder of how slow I was travelling compared to the fast guys.

This race provided my first experience of the perils of drafting. When overtaken, you have to drop back 10 metres, so its frustrating when you get overtaken and that rider then slows down, because you have to too. When the race marshal (on a motorbike) is right by your pack (as he seemed to be most of the time) the only way you can visibly drop back is to stop peddling - which really ruins your rhythm. The worst case scenario is when you are overtaken by a train of several riders, as it just takes kills all momentum. The only way to counter this, is to be the overtaker, which comes at a cost of working too hard.

Overall, other than a numb bum (bearable), the need to wee from about the 120k point, and a slightly sore right knee, the ride wasn't too hard and I was happy to average 21.8mph. I drank less than the 4 x 750ml anticipated with the last two bottles being cola and water. 

The 8 x gels went down well but I only managed one energy bar at mid way as planned. The water instead of the energy drink for the last bottle meant I probably went into T2 hydrated but carb deficient.


T2 came up quickly and only watching the rider in front, reminded me to get my feet out of my shoes in time for the dismount line. I walked to the bike rack (legs not quite ready for running), helmet off and jogged to the porta-loo. Despite the unpleasant environment of the loo, it still seemed preferable to a marathon and I probably stayed on the seat for longer than necessary. I did what needed to be done and took a little extra time to calm down/stretch for the leg workout ahead. 
After I collected my red bag, it was back into the tent to re-stock with full gel flasks and to put socks, run shoes and visor on. Then it was bib no. to the front and out into the sunshine for the run.

RUN 42.2km (3:28:28)

The marathon run was of 3 laps and relatively local to transition. The sun was out and the temp was about 22 degrees which was fine with the now slight breeze. It felt hot enough for the need to seek the shade where it could be found. I managed about 7:30 min mile pace for this first lap (8.75 miles) which was faster than I knew I could sustain so despite the body feeling o.k, I dropped this to about 7:50 pace for the second lap. 

The crowds around the run course were excellent, they were shouting your name as you passed. The phrase "Heja Tony" will be etched in my mind for ever!

By the third lap when I met the support team again (F, E & E), I took a moment to stretch my right ITB as my knee was starting to get sore, also Elliot and Eve took turns slapping my face as part of their pre-planned pep talk, admitedly wasted seconds, but it really did break up the monotony of the run. My calculations told me that I could afford for the pace to slip a bit for the last lap and sub 10 hours would still be achievable, this uncharacteristically mature approach made the last 15K easier than it could have been and I found the running experience much more enjoyable.

 I knew the 'virgin' ironman experience was coming to an end and I wanted to savour every bit. I high five'd kids as much as possible and forced a smile out from behind the grimace to every "Heja Tony" that I heard.

I was lapped by the 2nd and 3rd male on one section of the run, I was amazed how much faster than the rest of us they were running and just how much pain was showing on their faces. I yelled "Go Jodie", when Jodie Swallow GBR (women's eventual winner By over 20 mins) went past. I can't remember if she replied "Go Tony". 

I used ever one of the aid stations with the following routine; cup of water for head, one down the back one down the throat, with a gel every 3 miles. This worked well but I got sick of the gels after the 2nd lap so substituted this with coke.

With 10km to go, I knew I could afford to calm down a bit further and still run a 3:30 marathon. I focused on my running form from my feet up and tried to keep the cadence high. When the finish arch came into view, I was relieved to be able to put on a sprint to the line, I had no one to catch and was clear from being caught myself. It wasn't pretty but after 9 hours, forty seven minutes and fifty two seconds it was all over and for the next few days, even walking was going to be an effort.

Overall position 70th out of 1606 finishers (before the 16 hr cut off)

Age group position 11th out of 311

5th Brit

Positions and time away from WC qualification (after roll down) 4 places - 4:35 mins