Wednesday, 26 October 2016

ITU Olympic Distance World Championships - Cozumel, Mexico, October 2016 - Val Place

posted by COREtriathlon's Val Place....

This year is was not about going long, but getting faster-so after 2 Ironman races in one year an Olympic should be a piece of cake!
Qualifying race for the world champs held in Mexico was at St Neots in May - having been for 1 dip in Haysden Lake the week before I knew it was going to be a very cold swim 12 degrees but luckily one of the warmest days, so after a breathtaking swim it was nice to jump on the bike and warm up immediately 1st time on the tt bike and it felt good. 
Run went well and I was gaining on 2nd place 20seconds behind.
Qualified 3rd so job done and now I had a focus.
Cozumel:- booked with Nirvana who sourced fantastic accommodation and organised transfers - booked flights and grabbed a bargain.

I had the chance to do the world aquathon champs which is a great warm up race 4 days before standard tri. 
This was 2.5k run- a dive into the ocean off the pontoon! (Not dived since I was 10)-1k swim then 2.5k run again this went well and managed 5th place.

It was very hot and learnt that I would need to hydrate well wear a hat and use ice to keep cool when I do main race. 
Sunday morning -race day up at 4.30 early breakfast.

Headed to transition put water bottles on bike ( 2 needed as it was hot) pumped tyres and out by6.30am 
Race start was 7.50 and it was announced that there was a strong current and swim may be shortened. 
No wetsuits as water was 27 degrees. 

Swim was tough - current strong was hoping to be out in about 25-27 minutes so was shocked to see 35 minutes on my watch! 

T1 was fast and I was off on the bike it was flat and fast and I was soon overtaking lots of ladies and men by halfway I had finished one bottle of energy drink so topped up and  got back to pushing hard on the bike averaging just under 23 mph -I was happy with that and entered t2 passing another USA athlete in my age who I recognised from previous races seeing her on many podiums. 

Running was so hot and was not going to be fast. Making good use of the icy water I filled my hat and kept my head cold 2nd lap and was still passing athletes collapsing, walking and generally wobbling ! I felt fine and started to pick it up not my best 10k but finished standing and felt fine!
Lots were taken to medical for  iv fluid suffering from heat stroke and dehydration.

Checked results to see I had come 5th in the world and 2nd Brit just 17 seconds behind 4th. Was thinking when looking at the athletes in my age group that 10th would be a good achievement as 2 athletes had a podium at Kona last year and another couple had won medals at itu events previously. So very happy with 5th. And more important I had a great time and a great holiday and met some great people. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Race day plus one

Slept solidly but still woke pretty early. Ravenous!

Packed up bike & baggage, called home then showered.

Met with my adopted family (Lloyd & Jane) and headed to the local IHOP!

BTW, let me introduce L&J. I have far too much in common with these guys, we have formed a good team out here and have comprehensively conquered the Oklahoma's dining scene.

Meet Lloyd & Jane - Kindred spirits!

If you have never been to an IHOP, it's totally American, totally no thrills and you are totally likely to be served by a girl called Tammy Lee. Despite the plain demeanour of this place, the food is sweet, calorific and more-ish.  Went for variety & quantity and washed it all down with an unnecessary amount of coffee (with hazelnut sweetened milk of course). Cue the obligatory food pictures.
That hits the spot!

Best thing about an IHOP is its safety..... they make it very clear, your Kalashnikovs have to stay at home!
Just incase...

Belly full, we took the 'lovers canal' to the expo to attend the awards ceremony. It was a bit of a anti-climatic affair (perhaps that's a bit unfair - this whole ITU gig just doesn't compare with the Ironman theatre). It was a shame there wasn't a bit more time to showcase just how some of the AG battles went down.

The 45-50 mob

Nevertheless, medals were presented and photographs taken. GB did remarkably well for its relatively small representation. 
Team GB's medalists

Bit of Bronze

From here, we all walked (shuffled.... apart from Lloyd, who following 3 bags of saline, could probably skip) to a local Mexican eatery, where nacho's, beers and sangrias were consumed.
Makeshift sharing table - just don't sit down!

I left the party early to visit the 'All about'  one last time for coffee and pecan fudge cake (oh and a chicken wrap to go - to be consumed at the airport).
Gonna miss this stuff!

I said my goodbyes to the GB AG's and was taxied to the airport.

All pretty straight forward, delays on both flights and after every hour feeling like two, grabbed a bit of sleep & eventually made it to Heathrow T5 and the familiarity of the Audi's driver seat.


I had found it difficult to motivate myself for this race but unexpectedly came away with a bunch of experiences. The comradeship of team GB was very impressive, the support from BTF and Nirvana (company who put together the package) was thorough and efficient, the residents of Bricktown and the race officials were welcoming and the weather just magnified the race experience making the outcome all the more satisfying.

I was able to witness just how close we endurance athletes are willing to fly to 'the Sun' in pursuit of personal physical fulfilment. Lloyd's efforts, instincts and stark demonstration of 'fight or flight', most likely made the difference between hospitalisation and being able to skip down that canal path. - Looking forward to training soon Lloyd and seeing you crack the Kona nut.

What's next?

Family time!
Let the blisters heal, get some comfy run shoes, stay strong, eat well and devise a long term plan to return to Kona....

Race day overview

After crossing the line I was tipped off that I had placed well but really had no idea although the finish & transition areas were very quiet. The online tracker was unreliable but the event timing print out stated bronze and 39th overall.

I grabbed my bike & T1-2 bags then accompanied Lloyd & Jane on the 1st bus back to the hotel. 

Had some great face timing with folks back home (I was flying high from all the sugar). Then showered & straight out in the search of quality re-fuelling Okie style.

I played gooseberry to Lloyd & Jane one more time as we visited the Brickhouse Brewery. Loaded Nachossurus for starters and 'Big Mikes Meatloaf' for main. (I suspected Big Mike rode around on a chopper and dinned exclusively on the stuff). I had an apple crumble sizzler with ice cream all washed down by a blueberry ale! 

Closest thing to Apple Pie I could find

Back to the hotel via another coffee (of course) at the 'All About' coffee shop, had a bit of a race debrief with Barron (BTF team manager), then hit the sack, room lights out at about 10:00, my lights out a minute later!

Rough swim, rolling ride & relentless run

Race Report
ITU Long Distance World Championships - Oklahoma (September 20/6/16)

It may have been short of iron distance but conditions at the ITU Long Distance World Champs - Oklahoma, certainly called for an iron effort.

This was my 'A' race for the year after qualifying @ Frankfurt & Kona last year. The 03 race distances differ from Ironman with a longer swim, shorter bike and shorter run - it actually sits nicely between Half & Full Iron. It was my first opportunity to see how the LCHF way of eating has affected my endurance capability.

Despite knee surgery in February, training has gone pretty much to plan this season and I arrived in Oklahoma fit and raring to race.

I had increased my carbs in the 2 days leading up to the race (not a hard task in the US) and had a relatively light race morning breakfast. Transition set up was routine and the '3 dump' plan was dutifully executed. The race officials left it to the last hour to announce that wetsuits would be forbidden in the swim.
Coiled springs!

1:26:28 (13th in AG)
The swim start started with us standing waste deep in the water. I went out as hard as I could and found plenty of free space. Good start, I thought. Now to say the water was choppy really doesn't explain the conditions. The Waves were constant and both breathing and sighting was extremely difficult. The water was only about 3 feet deep in a couple of places and your hands would occasionally scrape the lake bed. Everyone walked over the shallow sections. I cut both my hands and feet in the process. One saving grace was that standing gave us the opportunity to get our bearings in order to swim to the next buoy. A water polo swim technique had to be employed in order to maximise sighting potential, this was tough on the neck & shoulders and made the legs sink, killing swim momentum and tiring the lower limbs. The buoy placements were such that swimmers who strayed just a meter or so, faced head on collisions with swimmers coming the other way. I was lucky enough to avoid the head butting but is was bloody close.

A conservatively paced non-wetsuit 4K swim should have taken about 65 mins. My swim split measured 4.25K and took 86 mins. It was clear that the end buoys had drifted and it transpired that several safety kayakers were pulled out of the lake as the conditions were too difficult for them. The 2 hour plus swim cut off was extended by 30 mins but there still a large number of athletes who didn't complete the swim.

One last point (I think I've painted the picture by now). The first pro was out of the water in 57 mins (10 mins slower than their typical pace).

I survived!

1:14 (not too shabby)

3:25:29 (4th in AG)

 The bike route was a one loop out and back with 2 small loops at the end of the 'out' section. Very fast going north, very slow going south. It was best described as rolling with sketchy road surface and the heat of the day made for a tough ride. Water at the aid stations was in cheap flimsy 750ml bottles, that didn't fit the bottle cages and the crap nozzles allowed half of the water to drip on my legs, soaking my feet.

The lack of fluids was a real issue and cause for concern in the high temperatures. I experienced repeated vomiting on the bike but thankfully was able to re-swallow the fluids (yuk).

I managed to overtake great number of riders and wasn't once overtaken myself. 

The 76 mile ride seemed a lot longer and I was pleased to hop off the bike with an average speed equivalent to a 5hr IM bike split.

4:00 (inc. big wee and debate with official)
After my porta potty pit stop, I was confronted with an official who stated that "she was told" that I unclipped my helmet before entering T2. Complete crap and pretty much impossible. In fact I mistakenly had my helmet still on as I ran to the loo, and doubled back to the bike once I realised, only then removing the helmet to place it in the bike.

2:25:18 (3rd in AG)
The 30K 3 lap run snaked alongside the  concrete lakeside path and offered no shade from the sun
My plan was to run Lap 1 @ 7:30 min miles, relax things a tad for the 2nd lap and then pick things up at the end of the last lap.

This was pretty much achieved, lap 1 - 7:40, lap 2 - 7:39, lap 3 - 7:26.

My feet blistered in mile 1, mainly due to my soggy feet. Keeping cool was difficult until the ice turned up mid way through the run. I progressed well through the field and was only overtaken by some pro's. 

My legs felt great, in fact the only limiter was the foot pain - really need to sort this running shoe puzzle!

I took my mind off the foot pain and livened up the run by a touch of pro spotting, GB cheering and as much high 5ing as possible. Really pleased to have paced well enough to negative split the last 5K. I was breathless after crossing the line but felt great a minute later.

Had a nice chat with 9th place Female Pro, Brit Catherine Jameson, who finished 40s before me. Great insight into the life of a neo-pro.

I met up with fellow GB Age Grouper and Okie cohort  Lloyd, who I assumed had had a cracking race. He had actually been very ill (carried over from sickness suffered at IM Weymouth a couple of weeks previous). Lloyd was the lucky recipient of 3 bags of IV saline and was on the mend. He really did leave it all out there on the bike course!

On the whole, the race proved to be an awesome experience and I had to negotiate a number of curve balls which in retrospect was where my achievements satisfying. Many suffered out on the course, I suspect the DNF rate was high.

So the stats:-
Finish time:- 7 hours, 22 mins, 27 seconds
Overall position:- 39th
Excluding pro's:- 10th
M45 Age group:- 3rd (Bronze)
1st British Male - I guess the fast guys are saving themselves for Kona in 2 weeks...

The good
Great prep (physical & mental)
Overcame the frankly ridiculous swim conditions - everyone (inc. pro's) suffered out there!
Torq gels were awesome
Salt supplements possibly worked (didn't cramp!)
Run pacing was spot on
Held back bike power - didn't get carried away

The bad
GB kit not really up to long course
USA supply crap bottles = wet feet & hydration problems
Gotta pee on the bike (should I practice?)
New shoes - Hoka time?

Friday, 23 September 2016

Kerb crawling, mud trawling & sleep stalling

Very early start, up at 5:15 to eat then to meet Lloyd for short walk a few blocks to the bus pick up which was scheduled for 6:00, giving plenty of time to get to lake for swim practice. 70 mins later - no show. Two buff athletes with shaved legs on a dark street corner and not even a car horn or wolf whistle.... losing my touch.

Managed to get a lift from another team GB athlete and the day was saved.

The lake was 26.5°C (wetsuits being forbidden over 24.5). Murky shallow water. The murkiness being a blessing in disguise, as not seeing the lake bottom hid the fact that it was only about 5' deep in places and you could stand up. Water was choppy but this will suit me if conditions remain. ITU still insist we show up tomorrow with with wetsuits, I'm guessing in case it snows overnight? Or the race director has a neoprene fetish?

Back to the hotel for a race briefing from the ITU GB team manager. Bit confusing, generated more questions than it actually answered. We slag off the Ironman brand but they really know their shit when it comes to race organising and this has become really obvious here. 

Another bus to get bikes to the lake for check in. Packed in like sardines but got there eventually. The race organisers paid lip service to checking bikes & helmets - another example of poor organisation.

Had brief chat with Jodie Swallow about her race and Kona before letting her grab a photo opportunity with me and my GB Age Grouper brethren.

Hopped back on the bus back to race registration to get race belt number swapped, (all athletes had the wrong name - another f**K up). 

Also blagged some nice food from the VIP area which took the edge off my hunger - a bit.

Took a coffee stop on way home and topped up glycogen stores with chicken and bacon croissant. Then back to hotel to fill race nutrition bottles and prep gels etc...

Resisted the temptation to take an afternoon nap.

A bit of e-research highlighted 'Zio's' Italian restaurant as being a sure bet for a spot of light carb loading. Jackpot. Warm fresh salty white roll with herby olive oil. I gobbled it down and, bugger me, another one took its place. This was accompanied with Baked Chicken Cannelloni with bacon, onions and an artichoke dip. Whoa. 

Wearing an Ironman T-shirt to an Okie restaurant in event week has its perks, better not tell them I'm a fireman, I will never fit out the door let alone race tomorrow!

Pretty confident I have over eaten today (ya think?) shouldn't need (or want) too much for breakfast.

Finally managed to escape and returned to the Holliday inn to settle down for an early night eased with a couple of podcasts.

Less nervous for tomorrow's race than races before. Really raring to go. 'Fired up' is an honest understatement!

I will give it everything tomorrow and I plan to cross that finish line totally empty. It's a foreign distance, sitting somewhere between half & full Ironman (except the swim, which exceeds iron distance). Pacing will be a gamble and I will risk going harder rather than going conservatively which may very well be a painful mistake. Ultimately though, the weather may have the final say. Here we go again!!! 

As always, thanks for all the awesome support, see you on the other side!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Bag pick up, recce and a load more food

The Holliday inn is in the Bricktown district. So called as most of the cafe's and restaurants are in brick built warehouses abandoned since industrial decline in the 1960's but recently renovated.

Home for the next 3 days

There is now a man made modern twisting canal which twists through the district which is fed from a huge rowing lake and kayaking rapids centre. This is where the expo and race HQ is located.

I woke ridiculously early this morning with an eagerness to explore. Had 1st Bagel in a year but balanced the guilt with eggs n bacon - naturally!

Little stretch in the gym then walked the canal path over to the expo/registration site. 

Met with fellow M45 athlete Lloyd & his long suffering supporter (wife Jane). Turns out he has too much in common with me  - very spooky. He also qualified via IM Frankfurt 2015 is the same age and uses a similar spec of Tri equipment.

After registering, I spoilt Lloyd & Janes romantic canal walk back to the hotel by tagging along but made amends by shouting them a coffee at a great cafe opposite the hotel, where we met the Team GB event manager.

I hopped on the bike and executed a solid TT test ride on the roads leading from downtown Okie. Just like Frankfurt last year,i somehow managed to end up on a motorway (sorry, freeway), bit dangerous especially avoiding the shredded truck tyres on the hard shoulder. Good speed/power - the carbs are kicking in. I just felt I had an extra gear! Got back in one piece and ran a 5K brick in the heat of the day. Legs are all good.

Quick cold shower and chicken, almond & pesto salad at my new favourite coffee shop before heading over to race HQ where I met with 30ish other GBR AG's for the opening ceremony and parade of nations. GB were the 3rd largest contingent, behind USA (10 times as many yanks) and China. Had a chat with Ben Hobbs of TRS Radio (I rocked the cock Grant) and had the obligatory GBR team photos taken.

Rocking the cock

Just in case 

Another coffee on way back then out for pizza. I asked the girls on the Holliday Inn front desk for their recommendation and 'Knucks Wheelhouse' didn't disappoint. I had pork rinds for starter, then a Mediterranean pizza - only a medium and it nearly beat me.  (Won't be needing pudding, or breakfast for that matter).  

Great pizzas

Back to the hotel for a bit of blogging, social media reconciliation and bed.

Just in case you were tempted.

Planes trains and lost bike (nearly)

Never been a big fan of airports, especially connecting flights. Thankfully there was a sizeable gap between flights with time to kill in Dallas Fortworth Airport.

All went pretty standard, crap flight food, no sleep, couple of movies and touched down in Dallas. "Sorry sir, we don't have your bike box, please fill in a loss report". A stressful hour passed and I was located at the other end of the airport on another planes arrival carrousel.

Crises, diverted, I had time to relax with chips, dips & shredded Beef Tamales - queue the first food pics of the trip.  

Here come the carbs

Tamales - a new favourite

Slept the 1 hour something flight to Oklahoma, grabbed my luggage (thankfully), and got the transfer to the newly built Holliday Inn Express in Bricktown Oklahoma. Clean, spacious next to the gym/pool and can have bike in room.

Now r e l a x.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Blog time again...

After an amazing weekend supporting Grants 1st Ironman in Wales, I feel like I need to put my feet up, not get them running - being Grant's 'wingman' involved a lot of getting about the course (25 miles in fact), very little food and very little sleep! It was an awesome experience though and a real landmark in Grant's Triathlon journey!

Ironman Grant

I'm ashamed to say that I've struggled with motivation for my A race this year and the build/peak training sessions that I usually thrive on, have tested me mentally if not physically - but they are in the bag now and I'm in great physical shape for the ITU Long Distance Championship in Oklahoma (Saturday).

Similar to Kona last year, you have to qualify for this race and get to represent your country in the process (and pay a hefty £160 for the race suit). The distances are a little different to the 'Ironman' - 4K swim, 120K bike and 30K run. It should take me 7-7.5 hours, compared to the 9.5-10 for Ironman.

The race uses the 'Redman Triathlon' course and looks extremely ordinary, at least from the little I can research online. Lake swim (potential for non-wetsuit), very straight, rolling bike ride and then 3x10k laps along the lake. One interesting aspect may be the weather. 35°C and windy. This should suit me with my previous Frankfurt/Hawaii history.

Here is a short video of the event.....

See what I mean - not exactly Kona but hey.

So what's changed since Kona last October?


I've completely changed my approach to to eating both in everyday and training. Switching to healthy whole foods and drastically reducing the carbs has increased my endurance, smoothed my energy levels and reduced my weight a few Kg's - all of this should improve long distance race performance, the theory being, fat adaption will reduce my reliance on carbs for fuel, instead utilising my body's natural fat resources - this should ensure I can prevent late race bonking by not being reliant on carbs that the body struggles to metabolise. 


February's knee Op seems an age away now. I've raced the half iron distance well since the Op and other than 4 weeks of missed base training, I've got to be happy with my condition today. I'd have liked to have increased my fitness from this time last year but would estimate that I'm pretty much at the same level.


New wetsuit and few bike tweaks but no major changes.

Race ready

So prepared to be hit with Daily blog updates...... I fly to Oklahoma via Dallas tomorrow - here we go again, yee ha!


Monday, 23 May 2016

Marshman Half Iron distance - 2016

The Race
This is the 3rd time I have raced the Marshman Half, in 2014 I was 6th OA, 1st AG, in 2015 5th OA, 2nd AG so when I booked this years race I was hoping for the same sort of improvement. Then came the knee op at the end of February and my expectations were reset.
Initially I had written off the race, then as the knee improved and strength returned, a swim/bike/DNF run looked a good strategy for a long training session. The knee then responded better than expected and I was able to put in a few long runs and some short fast runs (just no long/fast runs).
At 12 weeks post op, I felt I could have a crack at the race and just see how the run played out.

Short Version
4th Overall
Age group winner (45-50)

Swim (3rd)
Bike (3rd)
Run (4th)
Transitions (nearly 30s slower than last year - bit confused) 


Long version

2014 was a very gusty and overcast, 2015 was sunny and still, this year was overcast, light wind with a few spots of rain - pretty good racing weather.

Pre race
I carbed up the day before and tried to get an early night. Ate (too much) carb based breakfast, and drove Grant & I down to the race! The finish line had moved to the lake this year and the last 3K of the bike route was clipped as the road surface was poor. The general registration was way better this year and in the absence of supporters to take care of valuables - a secure bag drop off was really welcomed.

Swim 28:47 (43 seconds faster than 2015) 
The water was pretty calm and a claimed 18 degrees (possibly a degree or too warmer on the start line - and a touch saltier too).
I got off to a good start, found clear water really quickly and never let the fast guys get too far ahead. I wasn’t able to take advantage of any real drafting as the swimmer in front just couldn’t sight! The swim felt pretty comfortable and coming out in 3rd just 87 seconds behind the leader was excellent although at the time, I had no idea of my actual position. 

T1 2:12
I was hoping for a faster T1 compared to 2015 as I had opted to ride with no cycle jersey.
I was really surprised to find out I was 24s slower??? I did toy with going sockless, I definitely will next year!

Bike 2:23:23
I have cycled this route enough times now in training and racing to know that the conditions make all the difference. Race day condition were good and I planned to shoot for a 255W Normalised Power (tried and tested in training). I went out pretty hard to catch the leaders so that I could hopefully benefit from a ‘legal’ group ride. I passed what turned out to be the 2nd place rider at mile 5 and I was a lot faster so just ploughed on putting out 260w for the first 15 miles. At half way I passed the leader (and eventual winner - Sam Begg) who had punctured, I offered a tube but he thankfully waved me on. I now suspected that I was leading as every time I passed a marshal, I was catching them off guard. I had a few vomiting moments on the bike (nothing new here), but only consumed one bottle of 750ml energy drink and one sports bar - seemed about perfect for this duration/intensity/temperature. I allowed myself to relax my efforts a bit as I was really comfortable and felt doing so would help the run, I also saw that at a slightly reduced power, I was still averaging good speed that would result in a reasonable bike split. My Normalised power for the ride ended at 242W with a variability of 2%, so less power than last year but smoother power delivery resulting in about 0.3mph less average speed.

T2 1:40
I entered T2 and the absence of bikes confirmed that I was leading the race —a first for me— My lethargy resulted in a 12 seconds slower T2 than last year, felt pretty slow too. I was absolutely busting for a pee (understand why now - explained later) and hit the porta - potty at the start of the run. 

Run 1:30:32 (including wee)
The 90 second Austin Powers wee relegated me to 2nd before I had even zipped up! and about 3 miles later I was passed again and now in 3rd. This wasn’t really a surprise as I know this race produces some fast runners. I tried to stay close to 2nd place but I was losing about 10s on him each mile so I accepted 4th place. My average pace was 6:40 min/mile at the half way point but just like the 2 previous years, I allowed this to fall. I kept glancing back on some of the long straights and I seemed to be a fair way in front of 5th so just held on until the end, just as my calfs started to tighten up. The usual routine of 3 gels and water to drink/cool worked well as before. Discounting my monumental wee, my average run pace was identical to last year - I was really happy with this based on a lot less training and obvious injury.

Finish Time
36 seconds slower than last year with a slightly shorter bike - all things considered - pretty satisfying.

Strangely, despite starting my Garmin as the gun went off and stopping on the finish line, my watch time was 4:22:37 - very strange (may have hit stop/start)

The good
  • 1 position improvement on 2015
  • Faster and easier swim
  • Less faff in T1 (but slower - confusing)
  • Bike pretty fast for the effort cost - and was very comfortable
  • Race nutrition was spot on
  • Missed podium by just 70s and was clear of 5th place by 8 mins
  • 1st off the bike (only as leader punctured - but still)
  • Despite being cold on the start of the bike, warmed up well - good suit choice 

The bad
  • Ate too much the day before (1500 Kcals too much - and still too little carb - love my fats)
  • Too much salt prior to race - this with increased carb = water retention, making me feel a bit bloated and giving a full bladder
  • Transitions need to be much slicker
  • Only need one water bottle (thats a 750g saving)
  • Raced at 74Kg - plan to reduce this by 3-4 Kg.

Podium next year???