17 days to Sevenoaks Sprint Triathlon
19 days to Ultra Trail Run (tbd)
7-8 August, Lichfield UK
Despite a busy month that’s left me feeling a little jaded at what is potentially the start of a 5-month Double-Ironman Programme (more in another blog), I’ve come away with very little (specific) training. It took a week to recover from the Enduroman weekend (below) which included a very disappointing 5km race. Then from 14 Sept I left London for a 2-week camp/hike with my brother Dean across the West Highland Way (96M) and Great Glen Way (73M) in Scotland.
It’s been an awesome month overall and I’m now looking forward to getting settled back into coaching and developing my own training. 2010 has been a slightly disappointing year and a step back from 2009. A lot of it comes down simply to training time. I’m still stuck on an average of 14hours/week, just like the previous 2 years. I can hardly call myself a full-time athlete on these hours, but at the same time I’m still excited about what I could achieve should I build to the kind of hours my peers are hitting week in, week out.
Enduroman is a business run by Steve Haywood and Eddie Ette, providing ultra-distance triathlon races across Europe. This is the third year they have run an event(s) in Lichfield. In 2008 they held the UKs first Double Ironman-Distance event. They did the same in 2009, but this year they introduced the first Triple Ironman-Distance event. Next year they are expanding even more by introducing a Deca Iron event which will comprise of an Ironman-distance race every day for 10 days! I competed in the Double-Iron event in 2008, coming 3rd overall. In 2009 I was made a race favourite and, despite going strong throughout the swim and first half of the bike, the weather and an underlying illness conspired against me and I had to DNF on the run.
The Lichfield Double Iron event started in 2 waves on Saturday 7 Aug (11am and 2:30pm) consisting of:
7600m pool swim (wetsuits optional)
224mile bike (14 x 16mile out and back laps)
52mile run (40 x 1.3mile loops)
I had four coached clients (Rachel and Steve, Karl, Scott) competing in this years event, and I have to admit I was probably more excited and apprehensive than if I’d been competing myself! They’d all had their ups and downs throughout the year as I built their Ironman programming to a level that would get them through the Double-Iron event. I had podium aspirations for one or two of them, but at the same time I had to keep reminding myself just how tough the event is on a mental level. You can come up with a rough pacing plan, but once you get into the second half of the bike you can throw it all out of the window as it comes down to grit and determination. It suits some people better than others.
I was crewing this for Rachel and Steve Slack with my girlfriend Yve, but had an eye on Karl (crewed by his girlfriend) and Scott (crewed by his wife and friend Pete Cusick – experienced ultra-triathlete to international Deca-level). The job of the ‘crew’ is important. From the setting up of tents the night before, to the provision of nutrition, clothing and any other gear required during the event. You have to be on hand at all times. As I found from my own experience, it’s just as important what the crew say as what they do. Generally you have to keep them moving along, but at times a little pat on the back and a few choice words during the bad patches are really important.
Rach and Steve have both provided race reports on tritalk.co.uk (Events thread), so I won’t reiterate or elaborate too much on these. It has been interesting for both Yve and me to read about how they felt the race went, and what went through their heads particularly during the second half of the race when the going got tough. Steve completed the event, but unfortunately Rach DNFd towards the end of the bike section. As a coach and friend I was gutted, and can relate to what she must have been going through, having been in the same position the year before. In hindsight I don’t think Yve and I could/would have done anything differently for her.
The whole weekend was an amazing experience. We arrived on Friday night to attend the pasta-party and pre-race briefing with the other athletes and crew. A great atmosphere, and if the athletes were nervous they certainly didn’t show it. We set the tents up in the evening and then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. We were up early as Scott and Rach were both doing the earlier (11am) wave start. So we all headed down for breakfast and chilled out for a while:
There were a few minor issues around the swim-bike for both Rach and Steve but generally it went very well. Despite a worry that Rach was getting a little close to the swim cut-off time (3:30), she was in control the whole time. She was actually enjoying herself! Steve (2:30pm wave) buddied-up with Karl as they were in the same lane. This was perfect for both of them as they took it in turns every 500m to draft off each others feet and save energy for the bike. Steve came out of the swim looking very red and dehydrated, so I made sure I added a little salt to his drinks and offer the odd salt tablet for the first few hours of the bike which seemed to do the trick. Scott had an awesome swim with the fastest split of the day (although he ruined it by spending an age in the pool changing room before stepping over the timing mat).
Rach was out on the bike a few hours before Steve and the weather looked promising. She was a little slower than I expected from training sessions (100m+ bike rides and long bricks) which concerned me a little. We had to limit the feed-stops for her to start with, but made sure she had enough time to take a breather and get on board an adequate amount of nutrition. In fact she was impressively able to eat and drink everything we gave her, with a big smile. Steve on the other hand was struggling a little bit with food later into the bike – normal for most. After several hours swimming and cycling, consuming just high GI sugary sports products, the body starts to close-in on itself and cry out for something different. We included some savoury products and high fat snacks – basically whatever Steve and Rach desired at first so they had something to look forward to at the end of a lap, while still keeping the electrolytes coming.
Rach was starting to slow on the bike. She mentioned in her report the fact that her lights were failing a little. We didn’t know this at the time and I wished I’d paid a bit more attention. The lights and back-ups were on, so I presumed this was covered. After about 9 laps she was sick. The food she was taking on board was not being absorbed, which was worrying and this would have contributed to her slowing down on the following lap. I had a text msg from a friend who was marshalling a t-junction on the bike course to say Rach was trying to sleep on her tri-bars! Yve and I were really worried at this point as it was 2-3am and still going to be dark for a couple of hours (the roads were generally not lit). I didn’t want Rach falling asleep on the bike and risking going into a hedge or worse. I walked over to Eddie Ette and told him the situation. Rach had already spent 1hr30 on the lap (35mins slower than her first laps) and he told me to give him a shout at 1hr40 and they’d go look for her. Rach came in a few mins later and looked very tired. We all discussed with her what would be the best decision. Unfortunately she now had to do close to 1hr/lap for her remaining laps so I knew that if we put her in the tent for a rest that that would be it, the end of her race. So a rest was also a DNF as far as I was concerned. But at same time, she couldn’t cycle in that condition. She agreed to take a rest and Yve took her back to our tent.
The Double-Iron would take most of the athletes around 25-30hrs to complete. That’s a lot of time for the crew to think about how the athlete’s race is going, get gear available, and make various contingency plans. At this point in time I had to make some quick decisions. There was nothing more we could do for Rach right now, but her husband Steve was about to come through on his next lap (in fact we were prepared for both of them to come in at the same time which would have been interesting). He had already been asking after his wife on the last few turnarounds having seen her struggling on the course. Steve had his own race to complete and I know Rach wouldn’t want to affect it in any way. So Yve and I had to think about what we’d say to him. I have been on a course in Sports Physcology and have been coaching triathletes for 3 years now so felt this was a good test. I wasn’t going to lie to Steve, but at the same time I didn’t want to dwell on what had happened. I can’t remember my exact words but I told him Rach was fine and was taking a little break in the tent so nothing to worry about. Then I told him to get on with his own race. After the following couple of laps when he knew she was still in the tent and probably DNFing, I just told him to get through the bike as quickly as possible so he could then chat with her in T2. I don’t know if this had an impact but he posted some decent splits from that point considering how many miles he had in the legs. I’m not sure how Scott was getting on in the bike, but he seemed to spread it out well and looked comfortable enough. Karl was pacing himself too and although had dropped a few places (just inside Top10) I was confident he’d reel some people in on the run as he’s a born ultra-distance athlete!
Rach was out of the tent a little later and helping Steve get through the event. We just left the two of them together in the tent as he got changed for the run. Rach was enjoying the atmosphere and is an amazing character. She never felt down about the experience at all, at least she didn’t show it and was keen to see her husband complete the distance. The atmosphere throughout the Sunday was great. All crew and supporters were getting together and cheering through the single, double and triple (yes there were people racing a triple and wouldn’t finish until Monday evening!) athletes.
Karl was the first to come through. His girlfriend Fiona and I were pestering the guy in charge of the electronic tagging/timing system for some updated results and positions. Unfortunately it was very difficult to work out the positions of both waves combined and I misled Karl into thinking he was just a couple of laps behind the 3rd placed male. It certainly didn’t do him any harm from a mental perspective as he knocked off some decent splits from this point (I may use this again in the future!). He ended up 5th overall and just 50secs off 4th. Amazing achievement though and looked the most solid runner out there. Steve was struggling in the run and was rejecting sports products for just sips of water and nuun (salt tablet). He wasn’t getting a lot of energy on board, so we took a few time-outs to shovel in some carb food and I tried to mix up some interesting concoctions later on that contained a little redbull or coke, water, salt and sports drink. He was able to drink these and I wish I’d supplied these cocktails a little earlier in the run. Apart from that, and a few breaks and buddy runs, a 10min physio treatment on a sore knee, we got him through the event. Like the other athletes and families, the finish was always quite an emotional experience. Scott finished a little later but seemed to be in control all the way through the event.
Yve and I could hardly complain about our own fatigue but suffice to say for the next few days I felt like I’d run a very hard Ironman or Ultra Run on the road. We were up for a total of 41hrs which included a drive back down from Lichfield to London where I had to stop at a few service stations to down wake-up drinks! It was a bit risky and the most sensible thing would have been to sleep in the tent at the venue or stay at a local B&B. We arrived home at 1am Monday morning, having been on our feet from 7am Saturday. My legs were very sore and stiff through the rest of the week and I tried to compete in the Civil Service Track and Field Champs – 5km and Javelin. I was average in the Javelin (although 10m less than I could achieve years ago) and the 5km killed me. I tried to stay with the lead group from the off and posted 73secs for the first lap. I was supposed to pace to 78-79secs/lap. So with this and Enduroman in the legs I went backwards from that point on and slopped to the ground just past the finish line. I had about 5mins to recover before the 4x400m relay. I didn’t want to let the team down so I gave it my best and I think I was around the 60sec mark although I pulled my hanstring after 250m and had a worrying final sprint/limp. We came away with the Bronze. I love the Defra AC meets, a great bunch. A few days later I was off to Scotland with my brother – next blog…
Enduroman is an epic experience for both athlete and crew. I recommend checking it out next year. Website: www.enduroman.com. I’m keen to take part in the Lanzarote Double Iron on 4-5th Feb 2011. It’s recently been added to the IUTA (International Ultra Triathlon Association) so it should have a few decent Europeans turning up. I had a productive 2-week ‘training-holiday’ in Lanza last Feb, so I’m keen to go there anyway….it would be rude not to join in the fun!