Sunday, September 11, 2011

28.08.11 - Uster Triathlon Race Report


Although I had this race down on my schedule since the beginning of the year, come the beginning of August I still hadn’t signed up and wasn't sure if I would bother doing so, but as I talked about in this post, I knew I had to sign up and get some training done.

A view of the Alps from grass and blue skies.
The thing is no matter how hard I tried, I didn't manage to get much training done in July (7 Hours) or August (9 Hours) at all. The goal for Uster was to try and knock out a PB (PR), which, when considering my previous PB of 2 Hours 54 Minutes set at Zug in 2009, shouldn’t have been that difficult.

Check-in zone, found in a barn, out in the sticks for this Tri.
Thing was, with very little training I was not confident at all, add to this the fact that the Greifensee water temperature had been up to 26 degrees (78 Fahrenheit) during the week leading up to the race, it was clear it would be a non wetsuit legal swim.


The swim did turn out to be non wetsuit, I can honestly say the idea of 1.5KM without a wetsuit was not a pleasant thought, especially as I had decided beforehand, wetsuit or no wetsuit I was going to as hard as I could for the full distance, this would be a first for me, I’d never gone out hard from the onset before.

That's me, stretched out bottom left, black tri suit, Garmin 310XT in swim cap.
From the start I set myself just behind the front row of swimmers and got stuck in, people often talk about the “washing machine” at the beginning of the swim, this isn’t something I get involved in because I’m normally at the back, like below:

Start position in 2009, right near the back, that's me centre, black and white tri suit.
This time for the first 100 metres I was in the "washing machine", it’s a pretty intense experience, but I was soon dropped by the stronger swimmers. I went hard as I could and soon found myself surrounded by a pack of swimmers who I stayed with until the last few hundred metres, The hard work paid off as when I exited the water my garmin gave me a time of 34:53 (2009’s time 39.38), a PB over my previous (and only) wetsuit 1.5KM swim of 36.48. 
Garmin data (310XT in swim cap) for my swim split...

My bike has sucked all year, so I thought it was about time I hit it as hard as I could, over only 40KM I thought I could at least throw caution to the wind.

The transition zone, pretty cramped, nice wooden racks!
Thing is Uster is a pretty challenging course, for me at least, with a fair bit of climbing, it’s not the climbs are steep but they do go on for a fair distance.
Höhenprofil Uster Triathlon
Bike course Profile.
The profile of the course only tells half the story, the flats aren’t real flats, as you can see below from my Garmin data.
Bike course profile as per my Garmin 310XT data.
From the very start of the bike my legs felt dead, and I was soon be passed left, right and centre, and then the climbing started, I just tried to keep in the highest gear I could and grind it out. You can get a feel for that in the GoPro HD video I made below..

When I hit the “flats” at around 28KM I banged on the pedals as hard and fast as I could and hit some decent speeds for me, I finished in 1:17:44 (2009’s time was 1:23.23, which is my quickest time at the 40KM distance) another nice PB.

Garmin data for my bike split...

I felt pretty good coming off the bike, my transition was pretty quick and I went off as quickly as I could, at 1KM into the run I really started to suffer and started to consider walking, it was like this for the remainder of the run, it was warming up and I was suffering.
One thing I decided to experiment with during this race was biking and running without socks, the idea being I could improve my terrible transitions times. This had worked well on the bike, but 4KM into the run I could feel soreness on the arches of my feet, the insoles where rubber against my feet and with each step it was getting worse (at the finish when i took off my shoes I had a nasty blister on both feet).
I managed to stick it out to the finish, putting in a 10KM split of 46.51,9 (2009’s time and previous PB of 50.41), another PB.

The finish line in the distance, post race.
Garmin data for my run split...

So, three PB splits, and a new Olympic distance triathlon time of 2:42.51,5. (2009’s time being 2:59.13) over my previous 2:54.02 time in Zug which was a wetsuit swim and a very flat bike course in comparison, an 11 minutes PB.

That's 2011 over for me now, as far as triathlon is concerned, I'm happy enough with what I've achieved, but I know I can go a hell of a lot faster if I can find the right balance of training and the will to push harder, as long as it's fun I'm going to keep going. One thing is for sure, I'm not going to start setting myself unrealistic goals, it has to be enjoyable, if I can't improve I'll be finding other activities to occupy myself with!
Cheers for reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 Ironman Switzerland Race Report


The time between finishing Ironman 70.3 Switzerland and the week leading up to Ironman Switzerland had flown over, due to both personal and work obligations, and a  few other issues I was dealing with, keeping to my training plan had “not been possible”.

Coming into the week of the Ironman I was completely disorganised, everything was left to the last minute, to the point were I only realised I had missed the obligatory race briefing, and the welcome meal, Friday afternoon and evening respectively, on Saturday morning. Not a big deal, but a shame nevertheless.

The obligatory racked bike photograph - a nice grassy transition zone
I hadn't even given any thought about what time might be possible, a few people asked me and I answered “no idea” to which I got the reply “yeah, right, you must have some idea, you must want to hit a target”, all I wanted to do was finish and pick up that finishers medal. My boy and his Mummy had said they would happily come along and watch me finish, so I had to quickly put my thinking cap on come Saturday night and come up with some timings, this is what I wrote down for them:

The swim will take me between 1:20 and 1:30 Hours
The bike will take me between 6:00 and 7:00 Hours
I think I'll be starting the run after approximately 8:30 hours = 3:30pm
The run will take me between 4:00 and 5:00 hours 
So I’ll finish between approximately 7 to 8:30pm

This put my finish time anywhere between 12 and 13 and a half hours, but in truth I had no idea, I was even joking about rolling in at 11pm, the cut off hour, with a time of 17 hours. Now, of course, they could just have used the Ironman live tracking…and that always works, right? ;-)

I was up at 4am on the morning of the event, finally arriving in the transition area just after 6:15am, luckily for me a kind fellow triathlete pointed me to the correct train from Zürich station to the start near Wollishofen, otherwise I may not have been on the shores of lake Zürich come the swim start!

The transition area on the morning of the race..6:30am, perfect conditions
After arriving with little time to spare I realised I had made some real mess ups in the transition area, I still hadn't attached my gels and energy bars to my bike (which I could have done that the day before, doh!), this involved taping then to the bike stem with masking tape, the other issue was that the little case for my GoPro HD camera, that I use to make my bike videos, was full of condensation and I “had to” waste a load of time drying it out before loading my camera (results show I wasn't very successful drying it 100%, doh part II).

The results of all this messing around in transition meant that by the time we were called down to the swim start I was walking whilst trying to get one leg into my wetsuit, luckily again another triathlete helped me zip up, and then I found myself holding a spectators coffee while he returned the favour to my second saviour of the day.

I had to push my way through the crowd of spectators to get into position, and there I was, in amongst 2000 triathletes, all sporting yellow Ironman swim caps standing on a little piece of sandy shore, at the crazy time of 7am.


The days prior to the Ironman I'd been trying to get confirmation of the swim circuit, the pdf detailing the route had been taken down from the official website with no word as to why, from what I had seen previously it was a crazy triangle shaped loop, I'd grabbed an event program on the Saturday and inside it confirmed this, although looking out into Lake Zurich it was very difficult finding the swim buoys in clear view and as it was impossible, due to safety issues, to swim out into the middle of the lake to check, navigating on the day was going to come down some on the fly decisions, as it turns out I wasn't going to make many good ones ;)

My swim tactics were to start mid pack, go at my normal leisurely pace, pushing best I could, and hopefully finishing around the 1 hour 20 minute mark. Things were going pretty well and I was soon approaching the first buoy, I could see plenty of swimmers around me and no big scraps in the water. Now I have to make an confession here, I never got around to swimming more that 3KM in my training leading up to the event, in fact the furthest I had ever swam up to this point was 3KM, so I was heading into the unknown big time!

Ironman Switzerland 2011 Swim Start

One thing I noticed from the start, and continued throughout the swim start was the complete lack of markers on the water, buoys, boats, canoeists, no much at all, it made navigating a real challenge, excuses, excuses ;-).

I was solely navigating using the larger orange buoys I could seen on the horizon, the orange buoys I had seen on the maps published in the official event program, as I approached the first turn I also noticed a yellow inflatable triangle on the water, I'm assuming it was a powerbar advertisement but as I was concentrating on not doing the drowning maneuverer I can't be certain, anyway, as I got near to the first turn I breathed to my right and noticed all of a sudden that 95% of the swimmers had decided to turn at this "powerbar" inflatable, cutting a massive 30-40 metres off the corner of the first turning point. I’ve put together a canny little diagram to highlight what happened at this part of the swim, check it out ;-)

GPS from swim loop with details on my swim course mess ;-)
Now I don't think anyone purposely avoided swimming around the first official buoy, more that, as I've mentioned, the turn was not clearly marked, and from what I could see there was only only guy in a canoe floating around it, no way he could have got anyone's attention by shouting out "er, guys..erm..wrong way..go back, quick...ahh feck it"...I stopped for a second wondering if I should follow and then decided that there was no way I wanted to get to the end and find that my Garmin (which was snug under my swim cap) gave me a distance short of 3.8KM, which is ironic considering what my Garmin told me come the end of the swim! ;-)

So off I swam, around the first buoy, and now I was out in the middle of nowhere away from the main pack of age groupers, the next 1KM or so was trying to ensure I wasn't going completely off course now I was away from the mass of yellow caps. It took me till the first turn over the island at Mythenquai before I was again surrounded by the yellow caps again.

As I got back into the water for the second loop I was greeted by an older guy in a nice pair of speedo's, doing breast stroke, uhhh, had I suddenly gone of course and bumped into a Sunday morning swimmer....nope..unfortunately not, as I passed him I saw his yellow cap, talk about moment of realisation of how much of a terrible swimmer I am, and massive kudos to the dude swimming in cold morning lake water, in speedos, doing breast stroke, and still the bike and run to go, and kicking my ass into next week! 

Island at Mythenquai, it's crossed at the half way point. 
I'd now got the navigation locked in, and the second loop was much smoother, the Garmin data shows I got the lines right, as I approached the shore for the final time, with about 400 metres to go I was amazed when my Garmin vibrated in my cap (sounds so wrong) for the 4th time, uhh, that's 4KM I swam already??!! my first thought was that I had used the wrong buoys at the turning points, and obviously that's the organisers fault!! oh well, not my fault, and as I exited the water, I took off my cap, pulled the Garmin out and hit the lap button, the time 1 hours 30 minutes, not surprising since they messed up the marking on the swim course, right??!!

Well, unfortunately for me, I had to swallow some humble pie when I finally had a look at my Garmin GPS data after the event, as it turned out on the first lap I hadn't swam in straight lines, more swimming in curves, adding the excess on myself, I was to blame..oops :)

Here’s the garmin data for anyone interested…

After seeing my swim time, and I had really been expecting something around 1 hour 20 minutes if I'm honest, I wasn’t too concerned, if anything it just relaxed me for what was ahead, slowly the time was becoming even less important that it already wasn't ;)

Transition was a normal affair, punctured by a call of nature I headed to the lovely portaloos, two minutes too late to use the waterworks in Lake Zurich hehe, where a nice security dude couldn't help but try and usher me towards the bike do you say "I need a piss?".

My location from the bike exit from Transition one
I did consider putting my shoes on and running out with the bike for this event, as I was right next to the exit, but in the end fixed my shoes to the trusty D6 first thing that morning, so it was a simple case of grabbing the bike and straight out onto the road, I jumped on, a few peddles down the road and my right foot was in place, I went to grab the fastener on my left shoe and disaster, the strap came away from the fastening and the velcro snapped shut, basically my foot was in the shoe but the strap was loose.

For a moment I tried to unloosen the strap and thread it back through the fastener, but I soon realised I just wasn’t skilled enough to do this while keeping momentum and not falling off the bike, so in the end I just left it as it was, deciding that if it became an issue I would just have to pull over and sort it out, luckily I didn’t notice it once during the whole ride, but with hindsight putting the shoes on before mounting the bike would have saved me a load of bother!

Bike shoe as ridden with for 180KM
The first half of the bike was pretty uneventful, because I was so slow on the swim I managed to pull in what seemed, and turned out to be, hundreds of places, I was passing people every few kilometres and making up for lost time, my heart rate was low and I was averaging a steady 30 km per hour pace, just as I had hoped before the race, and I felt in good enough shape to hit 6 hours for the 180KM.

Footage from the first lap of my bike split

The thing is, both in training and racing, I had only ever biked for 3 hours 30 mins tops (and that was on a indoor turbo trainer ;-)), or 80KM in distance, not exactly Ironman preparation, I've got a number of excuses as to why I never put in any longer rides but the fact was once I passed the half way point, after heartbreak hill, I was into unknown territory, this is were the bike started to go wrong for me.

Heartbreak Hill 2011..not filmed by me and I'm not in the video either ;)

There’s nothing like a long list of excuses, so here are mine.. : –)

First up, the right hand side of body, from the knee up to the hip and lower back started to ach badly, the same side I had issues with during Ironman 70.3 Switzerland, getting down in an aero dynamic position became more and more difficult and more and more painful, I spent most of the second loop having to stretch upright to stop my lower back from shooting pain through my body, I was trying to ignore it and get down into an aero position and push hard, but the thing was I was also cooked, I’ve always wanted to say this “I got the nutrition on the bike all wrong” I was all out of energy, I’d lost track of when and how many energy gel’s I’d consumed, and got sick of the taste of the high caffeine powerbar gels I’d taken with me (note: mix the flavours or prepared to want to puke for three hours).
Profile of one loop of the bike course, with my favourite climb to Egg ;-)
The second bike loop was slow, and as I hit the second climb up to a little town called Egg, feeling rather eggy myself, I did something I’ve never had to do in any triathlon, I took a bottle of coke, no, not the drug…that would be cheating ;-), the sugary caffeine filled caramel stuff, and drunk it in one, without a doubt it got me to the end of the bike and from that point till the final few kilometres of the run I was powered by coca-cola!

Full Garmin stuff here:


I've already said I didn’t have any time goals, but one little personal goal I had set myself was to actually run the run, no walking, stopping, to keep plodding along till the finish line, this was going to be a task within itself.
I managed this for the first 10KM before fatigue started to kick in and my pace started to slow, as my Garmin alerted me that 10KM had past I looked down and saw the last 1KM had taken me 5 minutes 59 seconds and straight away all hope of posting a decent marathon time were gone, which wasn’t entirely true as a 4 hour 12 min marathon wouldn’t have been that bad and would have put me quiet a few places up in the rankings.

It just goes to show how much you can “suffer” mentally during an Ironman, trying to work out timings on the fly was impossible, and I started to be convinced that I would be finishing with a 14 hour total on the clock or even worse.

At this point I had to have “a word” with myself, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, I looked around, people were suffering, it was now raining and there was the occasional sound of thunder nearby, but one thing remained the same, the people supporting from the side-lines and the volunteers were all trying their best to have fun and seemed to be enjoying themselves, it suddenly hit me, I had signed up for this because I wanted to do it, no one was forcing me to take part, I wanted to experience it for myself, to have fun, and pick up the medal, I couldn’t help but have a small chuckle and all of a sudden I had a smile on my face…it was helped in some part by the decision to take a Redbull shot, something that nearly made me throw up, but once it was in my system I was buzzing away. ;-)

From Kilometre 11 onwards I began to alternate between brisk walking and running the best I could, every 1KM or so I would put in a run as quick as I could to ensure I didn’t slip back to far. I had a few laughs with the volunteers, screamed and shouted along with the supporters and thanked anyone who shouted out my name in support, it was a blast, it was exactly what I had hoped for, I’d turned around my mood and increased my energy and I actually started to feel like I was throwing out some quicker run splits as well.

Unbeknown to be the Ironman live tracker had stopped working for my chip, and this was causing panic within friends and family, had I dropped out, was I spread-eagled eagled at the side of the run course get CPR!! I had a good chuckle at the mass of messages on my Facebook wall when I returned, and was a little concerned there would be no record of me finishing...

The run consisted of four laps of approximately 10KM, 4KM into which you are handed a different coloured hair band to put around your arm to signify you have completed the previous lap, now I can’t for the hell of me remember when I got which colour, or off the top of my head which colours they were, but I do remember jokingly begging the volunteers for the remaining bands when I came in for the second lap, which got a few laughs and lightened the mood, I also remember coming in for the last band and being told I had “6KM to go, so go for it”, for the last 6KM I tried to pick up the pace and by the time I could see only 3KM to go I was pushing hard and making a sound like a mating donkey (probably ;-)), as I reached the finishing chute I went a bit nuts…and why not, if you’re going to finish any Ironman distance event why not celebrate like you’ve won it!!
Running up the finishing chute..woop woop
Finally I had that medal, a title of Ironman and a not too shabby time of 12 Hours 48 Minutes and 13 Seconds, considering everything I would have happily taken that at the start of the day!
Medal around neck, erdinger and finishers t-shirt in hand, and  more importantly family next to me :-)


If you've read this far, Thank you ;-).

The week after the race I went away to Lisbon on holiday for 6 days, which was great, however, after the flight over there I got to the hotel, looked down at my ankles and realised they had swollen up to Elephantman style proportions, not a good look, a quick massage and they soon returned to less freaking looking size and by next morning they were normal again. However at that point my sciatic nerve problems flared up and I spent the next four days in real discomfort…not nice, but also not the worst thing in the world.

I’ve had plenty of time to consider my experience and what I got wrong during the event, so here are a few things which might be of use to anyone planning to take part in their first Iron-distance triathlon anytime in the future
  • If the swim has a weird course layout, try and practice on it before hand or replicate it at another location, navigating on the day could really screw with your timing
  • Is putting the shoes on the bike and mounting out of Transition 2 worth it to save a few seconds, I’m in two minds now, base it on where your bike is located in relation to the bike exit
  • Get the nutrition on the bike right, it can mess up the whole day, the only way I can think this is possible to test/try different combinations of gels etc. on a proper 5 hour plus bike throughout the training period…this isn't something I did and I lost so much time on the day. (yep, it’s a no brainer to all you coached/club athletes I know ;-))
  • Don’t be shy to walk on the run, if you get it right you probably won’t loose time anyway…example, walk the aid stations and refuel properly
  • coca-cola works, bike or run it kicks ass, use it, I also recommend Redbull shots although they did give me a lot of stomach reflux haha
  • Enjoy it and look around on the run, if you don’t you will miss a lot of fun/support which will give you a lot of positive energy when you need it.
  • When you cross the line celebrate, for fuck sake you just paid a lot of money for the pleasure of suffering, show everyone how much it means to you to finish ;-)
See you at the next one, Challenge Henley-on-Thames for me :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 Ironman 70.3 Switzerland Rapperswil-Jona Race Report


First up, just to say, I am planning a “review” IRONMAN 70.3 RAPPERSWIL-JONAof the event as a whole later in the week when I have more time. Rapperswil-Jona is a great event, pretty spectacular in my view, so if you’re thinking of signing up for it don't think twice, it’s worth it!

Secondly, as I have been “complaining” about all last week, due to the fact I managed to ”crash” on a training ride I was unable to do any tapering, tapering was mainly sitting on my ass hoping the wounds on my right leg and butt cheek would heal in time for the race.

Unfortunately I still had the wet sticky leg wounds come race morning, luckily I managed to get some nice waterproof plasters which covered the largest gash in my leg, and although it was uncomfortable there wasn’t any real pain, so, no excuses then ;-)

The swim start

I got down to the swim start about 30 Mins earlier than my age group (35-40 years) started and had a bit of a splash around, getting used to the water conditions, getting my breathing in sync and all of that, it was perfect conditions for swimming, as everyone started to move into position with around 5 minutes to go I made some decisions...

1. I was going to stick to a path right next to the orange buoys lining the route (approx. 1KM into the centre of obersee and 1KM back)


2. I was going to get right in amongst the pack and have a battle with anyone who was up for it.

Looking out towards the swim course, start at the first orange buoy
I’m not sure where decision 2 came from, I am by all accounts a terrible swimmer and getting into any “rumbles” in the middle of the lake used to scare the crap out of me, but all of a sudden I was up for it, maybe due to my experience at Frauenfeld a few weeks previously.

The swim was in honesty pretty uneventful, a few kicks, punches, and as expected I had to give a few kicks back, I was happy to stick to my planned swim path and by the time I was at the turn was pleasantly surprised to still be surrounded by a big pack of swimmers, in fact when returning to shore I even spotted a few 30-35 age groupers (who started 30 minutes before us old men in the 35-40’s) and went right past them…take that young guns!! :-p

I was still feeling a bit sucky to be honest, and tired near the finish, I was desperate to get a look at my Garmin and compare to my time of 45 mins last year…so I was amazed when I got out of the water, looked down at my wrist, one finger poised to press the lap button and realised that my Garmin 310XT….was not there…all that was there was an empty quick release wrist strap…..obviously my quick release had been too quick to release and my Garmin was sitting at the bottom of Lake Obersee screaming for me “I’ve lost satellite signal”…I have to be honest, I looked back towards the swim exit and for a second I though “I wonder if I can find it if I go back in”…it took me a few seconds to come to my senses, and off I went, running blind, no checking heart rate beats per minute, pace, distance, damn…..I was going in solo…

The transition area early on Saturday evening


I’d set up my transition area a lot better then last year, so I was on my bike pretty quickly (for me anyway, no running with my bike shoes on anymore..nope) and from the off I didn’t have any issues with my wound inflicted right leg, obviously I had no idea what my swim time was, and now no idea of my cadence, speed or total time, I just switched off and went for it knowing that it was all about the run if I was going to PB (PR for you American folk, Personal Best for the rest).

The Bike was split into two parts for me, one part where I felt good, and part two where my right left and lower back started to complain, then bitch, and then scream, “please stop”, now Rapperswil has some nasty climbs, it starts with the “Witches Hill” and then continues with “the Beast”, I don’t like these climbs at all, in fact last year I got off for a bit on the second loop going up “the beast” and had a little walk about..ahem.
Ironically, the only reason I finished this year was because of the climbs, on the second loop I was able to get out of the saddle and stretch both my leg and lower back, completely taking the pain away…..unfortunately it didn't stop my bike time sucking (more on that later)…I was just glad to finish…and if you’re wondering what the 90KM is like…here it is in it's entirety (yes, that’s my scabby hand) condensed into 8 minutes 35 seconds…


So, on the run, again, I had no idea what times I was putting in, after moving into transition 2 I looked around for a timing display, a clock, but there was nothing, so it was just a case of putting my shoes on and going for it as best I could. One of the goals I set myself leading into the race was to actually “run the run” no matter how crappy I was feeling, to just keep going, no stopping, no giving in.

Triathlon runs are normally pretty straight forward affairs, fairly flat, a loop or two, Rapperswil isn’t an exception, apart from the lovely “Stairway to heaven” (this picture was taken in 2010 after the event)….yes you do have to "run" up this twice...

photo (2)
The "Stairway to heaven" ...or to Hell, depending on how you're feeling...
..just a few KM before hitting the stairway to heaven I managed to sight a clock near the train station, for the first time I had an idea of my timings and I realised if I around 1 hour 45 minutes to cover the last 16KM of so (easy peasy I thought ;)), a personal best time was on and all I need to do was keep running, no stopping, no messing around at aid stations, and that is what I drama, no races against time at full pace, it really was uneventful....sorry ;)

The finish line... unfortunately that isn't me there with the expertly tanned body..
..oddly enough, as I came to the finish I noticed that the timer above the finish line was not working, so although I had a rough idea what my final time was I still had to wait until picking up my diploma in the athletes arena before getting final confirmation..

At the finish..looking like that a smile of a grimace?

When I finally got my sweaty paws on my times I was happy to see…

Swim             00:40:10       (2010’s time:   00:45.01)
Bike                3:03:24        (2010’s time:   3:06.17)
Run                 1:56:03        (2010’s time:   2:15.25)
Overall Time   5:48:34        (2010’s time:   6:16.37)
Overall Rank      1064        (2010 Rank 1262)
Age Group Rank  191        (2010 Rank 308)

A PB by 28 minutes and 3 seconds, ranked nearly 200 places higher overall and over a 100 places higher in my age group (35-40) than last year, other goals set, staying on my bike ;), and keeping my legs actually running during the run. Happy me, no complaints at all, the bike split needs improving, in fact, it needs a massive improvement, I’m already thinking about next year! Next stop Ironman Switzerland, Zürich on the 10th of July, I’m buzzing already!!!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Triathlon Guide No. 1: What to take on race day (aka what not to forget)

Things have been quiet on the blogging front since the Frauenfeld Triathlon and to be honest I’ve been taking it way to easy, enjoying some of the finer things in life, like beer, pizza and cake…lot’s of cake, like this one…
and er, this one…
So, plenty of cake and only a paltry 5 hours training this week and 3 the week previous. All in all not really Ironman standard training numbers, especially seeing as I have the half Ironman distance Switzerland 70.30 in Rapperswil-Jona next weekend! 

However, this post wasn’t meant to be about training numbers and distances, I’m in desperate need of some organisation, and as the task is at hand I thought I would share with you the answers (or more specifically MY answers) to the question: what do I need to take with on race day.

As a wise man once said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and unlike some sports where you can simply turn up in your running shoes and forget every other piece of equipment you planned to take (gps watch, mp3 player, sunglasses, hat, water bottle etc…yes, I’ve done all of these things :- p) there are certain vital items in triathlon which can cause you so much trouble that they jeopardise you finishing the race. If you are a first timer then this may, hopefully, be very useful information I'm providing, any multiple finishers please look away now ;)

Firstly a disclaimer, I do not claim to be an expert and I definitely would not consider myself a veteran, the following information is from a very subjective point of view, and based on 2 plus years of triathlon experience, so please use it at your own risk ; – )

Let’s break it down. What type of triathlon is it, short, middle distance, long, Ironman? got an idea of the weather on the day of the race? are there changing facilities? is the swim indoors or in a lake or sea, questions like these are going to affect the decisions you make of what equipment and clothing you take.
My equipment for Ironman 70.3 Switzerland Rapperswil-Jona 2010

I’m not going to go into massive detail, because most of the items are self explanatory (if not leave a comment and I will gladly elaborate) and this blog post would become very tedious very quickly (if it hasn't already). Instead I will mention some of the items which I didn’t have around with me the first few times I raced and wished I had.
1. A big plastic container box

Imagine the scene, it’s a beautiful sunny day, you rack up in the transition, set out your running gear, bike shoes, towel to dry after the swim and you head out to the waters edge, the swim goes well and you're through transition 1 and out on the bike, then suddenly the skies begin to darken, crap, it’s now pissing down with rain, and after your 1/2/3/4/5/6 hours on the bike you get into transition 2, your shoes are soaked through, so is your towel, and not only that so are all your clean clothes and even though your bag is decent quality there is not one item which isn’t wet.

If you got all your things tucked up nicely in this plastic container, just pull out your dry running shoes, a fresh pair or socks, dry yourself down with a spare towel (makes sure you take one ;-)) and you’re on your way…knowing you have some dry fresh clothes to change into later.

Now, before you say, it’s only some rain and I’ll be ok, who needs to keep this stuff dry, I have seen people unable to continue after transition 2 due to the fact they were both freezing to death and not having any dry kit to change into. It can happen.

2. A floor pump
I was convinced I didn't need a floor pump, until I used one for the first time and realised it was almost impossible to get the correct pressure into my tires without one. Of course you can inflate the tires on the morning of a standard triathlon and head to the event, but what if something happens during the journey and you need to change the tubes?

3. Little bag of Inner tube replacement tools

Catching a flat during a race is the biggest pain in the ass, especially if you’re not prepared and have to free wheel it through the second lap while young children laugh at your misfortune (yep….don’t ask!)
Most cycle shops sell the items you can see above, first you have a small tool bag, it’s big enough to fit one inner tube (not shown above, obviously :- )), a set of tire levers (blue, red, one plastic bits), and a couple of c02 cartridges and an inflator bit (on the far right). If you are not one for changing a tire yourself you can find more information about using the levers here and use of the c02 cartridge here.

4. Small form factor hand pump

Ok, so, you got your little bag of tricks above, you get a flat, the c02 cartridge and inflator bit can be used to inflate your tire in super quick time..but you put the inflator and the cartridge together push on the tire value..and then…this happens (watch it all the way though)…

Now if Chrissie Wellington can make a mess of it anyone can, and even with another spare with you are you going to chance it? the c02 is going to give you the pressure in the tire that you arte looking for, but it’s risky, that’s why I would also take the smallest hand pump and strap it to your bike.


5. A Bike lock

yeah, it sounds stupid, and if I'm honest I don’t always take one to smaller one day events, but bikes get taken from Ironman events regularly, don't trust that the security at these events means your bike will not be take if you leave it in the transition area over night.

6. Lubrication…

I’m talking about lubrication for the race not for the evening after, ahem., this is a simple one, a body lubrication product is going to 1. stop chafing 2. make it a hell of a lot easier to get out of your wetsuit and 3. give a bit extra sun protection for the bike and run…..I’ve been using body glide..

I will spare you the details of some of the nasty rashes I have had when I forgot to use it, let’s just say it stung in some very personal areas for many a day after! It just works!

So there you go, and that’s just for starters, and if this has been of any help to you, I’ve placed my full inventory here, over the next week I'll be updating and adding a little bit more information to the spreadsheet as a reminder to why certain items are optional, if that sounds useful to you keep checking back!

Monday, May 16, 2011

15.05.2011 - Triathlon-Frauenfeld Review & Race Report

Getting there, location and amenities

Frauenfeld is North East of Zürich and about 40 minutes by train from Zürich central train station.

The start/finish zone is slap bang in the middle of town, within walking distance of the train station and local parking, and as the swim is held at a local swimming pool, you also get the bonus of decent crappers (I’d give this a top 5 craps out of 5 rating when it comes to toilet provision), and also nice warm showers if you wish to use them are the event!

A word of warning, the changing area at the pool is communal, so when you step out of the men's showers, do so with a towel around your waist, not over your head, you might be faces by half a dozen women…ahem.

Amenities wise, a big, massive thumbs up, lots of nice food, including burgers, sausages and the like, quality!

The race format

Frauenfeld  has “Short” and “Long Distance” triathlons on offer, the "Long Distance" is a shorter Olympic standard triathlon made up of an 800 metre swim, 34km bike (2 laps of 17.2km) and a 7.2km run ( 4 laps of 1.8km).

Swimmers go off at 15 second intervals and starting times are posted near the start number pick up area

The swim is in a very nice heated outdoor 50 Metre pool, 16 laps (2 laps per lane). The lane dividers are pretty heavy duty so expect the occasional struggle moving from one lane to the next.
Swimmers start at 15 second intervals, and the start time order is based on your expected time for 800 Metres (which you submit when signing up for the event).
It's important you get this right, give a time too quick and you're likely to get over taken by the mass of faster swimmers, too slow and you're going to have to overtake a large number of swimmers in front of you, which i always find a right pain in the ass! Have a good think about this before signing up, else get ready to rumble and expect a few kicks and punches to the head, and yes..that's speaking from experience ;-)

The Frauenfeld pool, the short course athletes in action,
note on the far side that the swimmers have grouped together, swim rage!
The Bike

The bike transition area is your standard affair, nothing out of the ordinary, security is good and it's well marshalled, and as you need to show give back a strip off your start number bid before you can take the bike from the transition area no one is going to walk off with your bike while you're out on the run.

 I especially like these wooden bike racks, once you rack up the bike stays up straight, no wibble wobble

The course itself is a killer! well it was for me. Check out the profile below, straight onto the bike and then onto an insane climb, it's not for the faint hearted....remember, you have to do this twice...and at 17km you're going to have to start climbing again, luckily the downhill parts are a blast..expect speeds of over 65kmph.

Elevation profile picked up by my garmin 310XT during the race..check out the climbs

Interestingly, I whacked the route into Bryton sports trip planner and it suggests the difficulty as category 2, the grading used by the Tour de France to rate courses in difficulty, see here for details. So, it's a tough one, enjoy it!

The Run

There’s nothing much to be said for the run, it’s a loop, up and down rolling course, and a lot of fun if you have some energy left, with the start times being staggered, by the time you get to the run there are plenty of athletes to race against/run with (including the Pros), there’s also one water/isotonic drink station just after the start handing out cups if you need them.

It's loop Jim, but not as we know it

Overall Rating

Simply put, it's an absolute blast, well worth the entrance fee, well organised, tough and challenging. Highly recommended. If you're new to triathlon and are thinking of doing this as a first race then I would suggest the short course version, you might well be thankful of only having to make those climbs the once!

My Race Report

The first Tri of the season is always an odd one, normally I go into an event with a goal, it might be just to finish, it might be get my transition routine running smoothly, it might be to hit a target time, but to be honest I could just not make my mind up, even up to the last minute before getting into the water I was confused as to what I was expecting of myself.

However, about 60 metres into the swim that all changed, after starting at my normal relaxed pace, I was over taken, by not one, but two swimmers, suddenly I was feeling a bit more competitive, and worried that I would get swallowed up by the faster swimmers starting behind me I pushed on, soon I had caught and passed one of the guys who previously passed me. It soon became very crowded, it was like swimming in the old "washing machine" and at around 200 metres in someone strayed into my line, a fist came down and I got a full force punch in the head, which was nice.

I am by all accounts a pretty crappy swimmer and I was going at it as hard as I could, taking a breath every stroke, I was convinced I would blow up in the pool, which would have been pretty embarrassing, amazingly it didn't happen, and although some top quality swimmers raced past me I also managed to pick off a few more myself and finished with a decent 16:37 split for the 800 metres.

Garmin GPS 310XT data in an outdoor gave a distance of 2KM ;)

As I've mentioned in the event review, the bike course is a killer, all I can say is I need to work on my bike strength, and having only been on the road once this year I can't complain with a 1 hour 13 mins split.

It could have been a lot worse, just before hitting the pool I double checked my bike racking and just happened to notice that the chain had come off the chain ring....doh...lucky, I only just avoided probably embarrassment when climbing onto the bike in T1.

how did that happen? must have been one of the Pros, worried about my infamous bikes skillz
The run rocked, I managed to hit around 30 mins for the 7.2km which was decent for me, but what was really pleasing was that my Heart Rate stayed well within reasonable levels, in the past the profile below would have been 190 bmp for the whole 30 just goes to show, training at low intensity can pay off, it's all about patience!

No more 190bmp+ heart rate when running at 4:30 mins pkm pace
My final finishing time was 2 hours 4 minutes 21 seconds, placing me 125 out of 203 and 45th in my age group (out of 83), not bad considering two years ago I was trailing in amongst the last dozen or so. All in all a very satisfying Sunday morning, followed by a large MacDonald’s and a couple of beers, what more could you want ;)
Here's my data from bike portion for reference...someone even said it was harder than Rapperswil..I'm not sure about that ;)

Monday, May 2, 2011

17.04.2011 - Zürich Marathon Review and Race Report

Getting there, location and amenities

Now normally for me, race day is a hellish early morning wake up call followed by a long, long, long train journey, so the idea of running the Zurich Marathon had always appealed to me, being as it was only a 15 minute train journey away.

Not taking into a account the fact that I DO NOT OWN A CAR (or a drivers license if truth be told) I would suggest to anyone planning to run this event in the future to use public transport. The start line is very easy to get to, if you don’t fancy the longer trek from the centre of Zurich, I would recommend grabbing the s-bahn down to Wollishofen Train station (1 - see map below). It’s in easy walking distance of the changing area and toilets found at Mythenquai bathing area (2) and from there it’s a stones throw from the clothes depot (Kleiderdepot 3), where you can safely stash any unwanted items before the race.


The Kleiderdepot is an excellent feature, a very large, draw string closing plastic bag is provided to each runner, on this you can place a large sticker, which has your name and start number on. Once over at the Kleiderdepot you simply place the bag into the corresponding train wagon, then after the race head back, show them your number and get the goodies back. For me this was excellent, something I hadn’t seen before, it meant I could take a lot of warm clothing, drinks, gels, my mobile, and wallet (although this was still a little risky). Another neat feature is they also provide a ticket, which could be given to a friend or family member, which allows them to pick up the bags for you way before the end of the race, meaning it was possible to make alternative meeting arrangements if you so wished!

View from Mythenquai bathing area on the morning of the Marathon, 7:30am, perfect!

In location, accessibility and changing provision I’m happy to say the Zürich Marathon gets the thumbs up. However, the start/finish area wasn’t so well thought out.

The Start Line

I wish I had had the chance to take some photos to give an idea of how cramped the start area was. The streets along Mythen-Quai (4) are very narrow, normally on the runs I have taken part in the starting times are staggered, based on runners expected finish times. Runners group around the pace makers (for anyone who hasn’t take part before, basically, for each finish time, 3 hours, 3:15, 3:30 to to 4:30 or even 5:30 hours, two runners with helium balloons, with said time written on them tied around their waists, run together, you can follow these runners and try and hit your time). Normally, in 5 minute intervals, the pace makers plus the pack of runners with them, begin their race. For some reason the Zürich Marathon does not use this system, everyone goes off at the same time, which would be fine if the streets were wide enough, but unfortunately, for the first few Kilometres they were not, people were knocking into each other, tripping, and a few fell, heavily.
I would suggest if you are just there for fun, and not looking for a quick time, be very careful where you place yourself, many, many people were following the pace makers, if you plan to following one I would suggest running a few seconds ahead of time, and in front of the pace makers, until the marathon moves out of the city and onto the road leading down the east side of lake Zürich!

The Race

Once the runners spread out it was a very enjoyable run, and as it follows the lake it’s also fairly flat, this makes it, in marathon terms, a fairly “easy run”. Now, I'm not for one moment suggesting running a marathon is easy, just that, it’s easier, than say, the Luzern Marathon (the only other Marathon I’ve taken part in to date). As you can see below, the course rolls along, but with only a max elevation of 424 Metres and a minimum of 405 Metres, it won’t cause you too much pain!
Along the course you will find plenty of water/food stations, one cool feature is the use of small water bottles instead of cups. One word of warning though, the stations are not clearly marked out, and even the pace makers close to me managed to run past them at first, and had to double back to grab supplies. Make sure you study them well before the race, they are all located on the right hand side of the course
On a side note, I cannot stand water cups, in fact recently I have taken to using a Ultimate Direction thunderbolt belt, and instead of drinking from the cups I just fill my bottles up, that way I don’t end up with half the cup down my chin! This has worked really well for me, any water bottle belt would do, as long as it’s padded well and comfortable.

The Finish Line
I’ve got to admit, I found the finishing line completely underwhelming. Maybe I missed something, but there didn't seem to be anything around, there I was, expecting beer, massive bratwursts, and all manor of goodies…but alas..nothing. they could really learn something from the Greifenseelauf, which has a superb finishing area.
If you plan to meet friends or family here, plan well in advance and meet away from the initial finish line, it’s too cramped and with no high ground to gain a clear vantage point, almost impossible to pick anyone out in the crowds I was faced with.
One thing to note, remember to keep an eye on the roadways when coming back into the city, there are tramlines covering most of the course over a few Kilometres and it’s very easy to trip, I noticed this happen to a few runners in front of me.

Overall Rating
The Zürich Marathon falls short on some of the areas of highlighted, it would be nice to have a nice open spaced finish area, with a lot more amenities, I think if you had travelled a long distance for this race you may well be disappointed by this. Luckily for me I was only fifteen minutes from home, so I was straight home for a beer and pizza! :)
The course itself is nice and flat, and once the initial crush of runners has thinned out, there is plenty of room to to run! Along the course you’ll find plenty of water and food (gels/bananas) provided, the atmosphere is a good one, and occasionally there are bands playing and music, while the crowds in the Zürich are fairly large and enthusiastic at the finish line, a few might even call out your name, always nice.
I found there was something missing though, there weren't any special touches which made it memorable, I’d still recommend it to anyone wanting to complete their first marathon, the “flat” course make it perfect, and the 5 hours 30 minute time limit gives you plenty of time to get the end should you "hit the wall" early.

My Race Report
I’ll keep this short and sweet.

I entered the marathon with two things in mind, first was to get one more experience of running a full Marathon well before my participation in Ironman Switzerland in July 2011, and secondly, and not so importantly, I wanted to knock some time off my previous personal best, set at the Luzern marathon on 2010, of 3 Hours 58 Mins.
normally I’m in pain, sweaty and grimacing, so I though, what the hell! ;)

I had a good twelve weeks of solid “build” training behind me, so decided that a target of 3 Hours 45 mins would be more than doable. On the morning of the “race”, I set my Garmin 310XT to 3:45 pace and set out.

From the start of the run I felt good, I set myself snuggly behind the 3:45 pacers and floated along for the first 4KM, as I mentioned, so many runners were cramped into such a tight space that it started to become a little “dangerous” so I decided to move out alone in front of the pace makers. I soon noticed I had picked up the pace, and 10KM later I was all alone running at around 5:09 minute per KM pace (3 Hour 45 mins finish time being a 5:19 mp km pace), now previously I had been in Marathons where I had gone off way to hard and hit the wall at the half way mark and completely blown up, so I was a little concerned, but checking my heart rate I could see I was well within my limits, around Z3 (160bpm for me), so i just kept going, and going, and I have to say, it felt pretty easy until the last 4KM, where I really started to struggle, luckily for me by that time I was already into the city and the final stretch.

In the end I came in with a time of 3 hours 41 minutes, of which I was more than happy, in fact, I even had enough energy to do a little tribute to the Blazeman and rolled across the finish line, which got me some funny looks I can tell you!

Thanks for reading! the full Garmin gps data and stats can be seen below!