Sunday, 18 December 2011

2011 year Review, 2012 plans

Ok so it's been a while since I did a blog post so said id make an effort before the year is out.

It's been a busy and progressive year and has gone about as well as I could've expected.
I had some basic goals heading in to the year, but overall was to complete the National Series and set a base line for improvement and see how I get on.

It was my first full season of triathlons, I completed my first Olympic Distance race and a few more, first near middle distance (1.5, 100, 10), along with a couple run races and first Duathlon and first marathon.
Who knew they'd all be so enjoyable and fuel my addiction even more eh?!

I managed to do 8 National
series races and though I started off around the 100th finisher, I managed to progress through the season to finish in top 30 in a couple races (CK & DCT).

That's perhaps what I'm happiest with, showing progress as the year went on and I got fitter and more experienced.
I also managed to avoid injuries, and transform my heel striking run technique to a near mid foot strike. This is an ongoing work in progress!

Looking at my training, I averaged around 8 hours a week, more in non race weeks (up to 12) and sometimes less in busy weeks.
I didn't have a specific plan, just did up a spreadsheet with basic swim or run or intervals or long session and that was it. I didn't use HR zones nor power.

I did manage to improve my swimming to be able to complete a full swim in front crawl, something I couldn't do at my first couple races!

Onto 2012...

So, where to go from here...

Well, I've learned I absolutely love triathlons, training and am very much addicted.
I've also learned I want to improve, be competitive and get faster.

So it's on to the next level.

So what is the next level and how do I get there?

I see the next level as breaking into top 10 at NS races, hopefully better. I know this will be hard, I see the same names for the last few years there and it'll be hard to make such a significant jump. But I'm going to try my best...

How is a combination of the following:
- dedicate more training hours
- structured training and tracked via Training Peaks
- coached training plan
- power meter for bike
- use proper HR zones
- planned A, B and C races
- consistency, probably key!

So I've applied the above over the last period.
I took 3 weeks off after DCT for September (bike slide cut foot).
Started back into prep then for 6 weeks, did the Dublin Marathon in middle of that and eased back running after that.
So back proper training about 8 weeks plus now.
Thankfully, I've noticed decent swim improvements and hope to continue this.

I've started training with a power meter on the bike. It really does bring effort to the next level in my opinion. I'm using a Computrainer as a trial, and looking to purchase the Garmin Vector in March hopefully. Alternative being a Powertap on race wheels but would prefer the Garmin solution if it's proven and accurate/consistent as can be used for all training and racing.
A solid will answer this for me and many others come March!

So I'm into Base 2 training now and things are going well.

I've my race calendar planned out and just making final decisions for next year.

So onto Xmas period where hopefully I don't eat too much treats and still get some training in.... ;)

More blogs to be added more regularly.



Monday, 15 August 2011

Race report - Caroline Kearney Olympic

So onto race 11 of the season...

Caroline Kearney Olympic Triathlon is a lake swim around Lough Ennell in Mullingar, followed by 2 laps of a relatively flat bike course and a 10k run around again relatively flat.
So a nice course then, and a good one for my first race on my Tri bike I picked up recently.

I registered Friday to drive the bike course as there were a few turns to be aware of and I wanted to check road surface and how tight the turns were.
Nothing major to report so down Saturday morning to a slightly misty day.

The swim was uneventful and I started in wave 1 but went offline to the right on way out, and again to the right on way back. So taking the long way again and I know I must work on my sighting more often in open water.
Out of the lake and look back to see a few, check watch at 27odd and relatively happy. Into T1 and wetsuit a little slow to remove but out into the bike. Now I had put my sunglasses on as it was slightly raining. this turned out a waste and after first couple k I removed them and stuffed them into my mini side pockets. They had misted up and the rain was hampering my vision so I was better off without.
There was a slight wind and I felt a few gushes to the 808 front but nothing uncontrollable.
My bike went to plan, I pushed and had my gel at 10k and kept up a good pace. A club mate was watching and gave me 17th after lap 1, so I pushed some more and came into t2 around 12th from first wave. Now one of my goals this season was a sub 65min 40k in Oly race. This was achieved in around 1:03 but my bike split was 1:07 due to the extra 2k - total bike 42k.
So I took the few seconds to put on socks as it was a 10k and I had new runners.
Out on the run and my feet were a little numb to start but I was maintaining sub 4min/km's so on target. Blood flow returned and I kept up the pace. I got passed by some here from about 5k onwards as the fast runners took me out. I maintained my goal pace though and delivered a sub 40min/10k for the first time in a race so I was happy.
So that was 2 goals achieved, another was a top 25 finish in a national series and I had crossed the line around 16th from wave 1, but still wave 2 to finish with some fast guys doing well so it would be close. Luckily I placed 23rd so 3 goals achieved now.

I finished in 2:16 and some 10mins behind the winner. So solid progress made compared to the start of the season.
Comparing 2 top guys in particular to 2 previous races this season:

Valentia Sprint NS:
Mark Horan - 3rd - 1:04:30
Andy Kavanagh - 1st - 1:03:50
Me - 85th : 1:18:25

So down 14mins over a sprint in first race this year!

Athy Olympic NS:
Mark Horan - 4th - 2:08:40
Andy Kavanagh - 6th - 2:09:50
Me - 83rd - 2:28:30

So 20mins down over Olympic in early July.

Caroline Kearney Oly NS:
Mark Horan 3rd - 2:05:57
Andy Kavanagh - 5th - 2:07:01
Me - 23rd - 2:16:30

So now 10 mins down over Olympic distance.

So that's some measurable improvement since the start of the season for my first year. Now a Tri bike has definitely helped, but also more specific technique and run track sessions as well as other training.

This was definitely my best race yet and a nice course so I'll be back next year.

Hopefully I can stay on track or even better in Dublin City Oly Tri and then start off season training after a short break to see if I can increase my pace all round for next season...

So 9 triathlons done this season and just 2 more left now. Or 11 of 15 total races inc duathlon and runs.

Last 2 triathlons are Tramore this Saturday (did this last year and also local to home town Clonmel). Then last race at Dublin City in 2 weeks.

So I'm off to the track for a pyramid pain session now.

Cue rain...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tt/Tri Bike Research = New Bike!

Howdy all,
So since maybe my 3rd or 4th triathlon last September I've known it was only a matter of time until I got a Triathlon specific bike to use instead of my road bike.
The benefits are widely researched, more aggressive position enabling better power,
Better aerodynamics, saves legs for the run etc... Lots of articles to cone across like from bikesportmichigan, bike radar etc.
Now time improvements seem to vary from a couple mins to more depending on ability, and potentially same on run.

So I set about initial research, and have pretty much continued that for the last 6 months or so!
Now budget is always important, with Tri bikes retailing between €2k and €10k without wheels it wasn't going to be cheap. Some club mates suggested keep eye out for bargain second hand bikes as you can save a lot. This is easier said than done though and also a bike is a personal thing and you need to love it and want to train on it is my view.
So the shortlist then:

Cervelo P2C €2.5k

Amazing what a set of wheels can do for a bike..

Cervelo P3C €3.5k/€4k+

Kuota Kueen-K €4k+

Orbea Ordu Slt €3.4k

Felt B10 Di2 €4.2k

So some pretty good bikes there and in the middle range of pricing.
I was open to others if I came across any but that was my shortlist.
Mainly looking at middle range frames with Ultegra or similar components. Wheels would have to come separate as I want some Zipp tubulars.
So with test riding being very difficult, it would be hard to know I had made the right choice.
I decided to keep looking at second hand bikes and maybe test a couple to see what I could learn.
Firstly though I went to see if I could find some of my shortlist bikes to get a better look at them. has a great stock selection and had most of the felt range there. The b10 was there and I wasn't blown away, mainly as it seemed heavier than I expected. now felts are also very popular at irish races and everywhere so I was less convinced and kept looking. Despite the fact di2 was specced and I liked this a lot it just didn't float my boat.
I'm used to my Kuota Kharma being relatively rare at races and I like that.
I did up the numbers and the P2c was coming in at best value easily, and with good solid reviews and reports it seemed a safe bet. I got my measurements checked from Dom at who confirmed the P2 in a 51 would be bang on, as would an Orbea in a small etc. Orbea's had less reviews and feedback and I wasn't sure about it. But it was a nice bike and I continued my searches. So my shortlist remained unchanged and I continued looking for reviews and also checked a few sites for second hand bikes for sale.
Around here I came across a Cervelo P4 second hand for sale online. I contacted the seller for a viewing and it was in my size. This was exciting as it is a superbike and price was around the €2.5k mark so in budget.
I took it for a test ride and did have a couple issues - the oval bars were flat extensions and felt weird. Also the P4's hydration bottle was not the easiest to remove/replace.
None the less I put in an offer as it was perfect size, decent spec and a superb bike. I ended up losing the bid by €100 and that was a shame..
However, all clouds have a silver lining and the seller had a Ridley Dean that he was keeping over the P4. He said he may sell it at end of this season and would decide in a couple weeks and let me know. I could have first refusal if I wanted.
So after researching the Ridley, I arranged a test ride and was very very impressed. Both with the spec and the ride, not to mention the mint condition of the bike.
This spec is basically as good as it gets before DI2.
So he thought it over and decided he'd sell it. We agreed price and also negotiated on Zipp 808 Zedtech Tubulars which I was after so a deal was agreed and I paid the deposit.
This was always for the end of his tt season in August which suited me fine.

So below is my TT/Triathlon bike:

Ridley Dean xs
Zipp Vuka aero bars
Zipp Vuma chrono crank
Shimano dura ace rear derailleur
Campag record front derailleur
Shimano dura ace tt shifters
Prologo Nago ttr evo saddle
Zipp 808 Zedtech tubulars with zipp tangent Tyres

The crank alone is worth big bucks as are the bars, so I'm delighted with the price I got it for.
As you can see I'm a black red and White fan which matches the Tri suit too so all boxes ticked for me and I really love this bike.

I'll even get in 3 races this year before it retires to the turbo till next season.

Check out the lower bars and angles compared to my kuota road bike with Tri bars...

Now for more training to justify the purchase!!!

Update - it's taken me about 3-4 hours to get properly used to the different position. I was going to get a bike fit straight away, but figured I should get used to the position first and then see.
I had discomfort in the groin and arms area on first few attempts so figured I'd try adjusting myself first. A number of Tweaks to saddle and stem spacers and I'm now very comfortable and power is there. I could go lower but will wait till I'm fully used to it.
Very happy with the transfer to tt bike and it seems a decent bit faster and more comfortable. I've done a few bricks now and my legs do feel fresher..
Proof is on race day though so we'll see how I go this Saturday at Caroline Kearney Olympic Triathlon. This will be the Ridley's maiden voyage, Aka Betsy (the bullet)...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Race report - Focus Ireland Sprint Triathlon

So Sunday 31st July saw me reach my 1 year anniversary.
Yes it was this race 12 months ago in Dun Laoghaire that saw me complete my first triathlon and get firmly hooked from there.

Focus Ireland is a noble charity that performs work in Ireland for the homeless, and so this was my worthy cause to enter the world of triathlons when a work colleague was doing it and asked if I'd join in.

So, here we are, assuming similar weather conditions I would finally get to accurately measure what 12 months had saved time wise.
The course was the same on closed roads early on Sunday, and the only variable was twice as many entrants this time so bound to be more transition traffic and also on the bike and run course (and swim depending on waves). Weather conditions

I was excited to measure my improvements, and also had this race targeted as a Podium result and one of my A races this year.
Training last week didn't go quite as planned - I did the beast of the east last weekend and the 10k run was done sockless which left a few skin grafts/blisters as wounds. a silly mistake and resulted in very little running training as I wanted the cuts to heal fully for Sunday.
Swim and bike were fine though, and I felt a bit of progress in the pool so was keen to see how I went.

Last years results below, with a light wind and short run.

Interestingly the guys in 2nd and 3rd were from Pulse Triathlon Club which I subsequently joined partly as a result!

So I did the bike course on Wednesday as a refresh, and to see time and I was done in 33 odd, which would have got me 2nd bike split last year. I knew my run would also be similar ranked and so I was aiming for a podium.

So early start Sunday and off to registration. I should add all things are equal in that I'm using the same bike (addition of Tri bars this year), same model runners even and so it should reflect time improvements in each discipline.

I was in wave 3 this time and this meant a bit more traffic on roads, but they were closed so shouldn't be a problem.

Transition was tighter with the extra entries but still fine.
It was here I met with John Connolly and Dermot Duffy. John came 3rd last year and has improves this year so I was up against it. He finished some 16+ mins ahead of me last year.
Turns out there was a few more from the club there and we got a couple snaps at the end.

So I started the swim near the front of my wave and went out well, stayed with the front to first buoy but tired and dropped off a bit then.

Out of the water in 14odd and up the steps to T1. I noted John and Dermot's bikes were gone so i had work to do! A good transition and I was out starting my bike lap 1 of 4. Now the bike is my strength and I go out hard and try to hold the pace. I'm monitoring my laps and making good pace as passing a good lot. At this stage I'm not sure how many are ahead from my wave but at least the 2 Pulsers, but race hard as I know a couple fast guys are here for glory.
Now it was much windier than last year and so the bike was slower.

I complete the bike in 34odd and dismount into t2. As i was entering t2 i hear the mc saying 2 pulse guys have started their run so not far ahead. I take the extra 10-20 seconds to put on socks this time and start the run lapping my garmin. I've targeted 3:45 or better pace per km and am pushing to reach and hold this. I reach the turnaround and see the guys are within catching distance. I keep pushing and chase Dermot down on lap 1 and try to catch John but not quite. There's a serious headwind on way back each lap and it slows me a good bit. I finish almost a min down from him and happy with my performance. My time was 1:07 which I thought was slow but it was much windier and a slightly longer run also.

Now the waiting game but it looks like I may be close to a podium.

We wait a while for the prize giving to find out the results. 3rd place Ian Farrell so I'm delighted, objective achieved. John won and finished under a minute ahead.
John's time is slower than last year representing the wind and longer run.
At a guess I've made around 15-18 mins progress over sprint distance in 12 months. Pretty happy with that.

So a great way to celebrate my 12 month anniversary and achieve another goal for this year. I win €100 voucher for Cycle Superstore and I'm
Actually delighted as 1st and 2nd got mountain bikes which I've no need for and prefer the voucher!

I'm also delighted at being so close to John. He did do an Olympic the day before in fairness so may have had some more in the tank. John beat me by 3mins in Athlone so I'm
a bit closer now it seems.
Great to have 2 Pulser's on the podium, and Dermot only just behind so almost a clean sweep!

Onwards and upwards....
And I still have to get a TT bike :)

Swim and run my main focus for next few weeks before last race.
3 triathlons remaining in my calendar so 2 hard weeks of training ahead now until
next race.

Below photo includes women's winner as 2nd place man missed prize giving.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Race report - Beast of the East

Ok so yesterday saw me do my first Beast of the East Olympic triathlon in Roundwood, Co Wicklow.

Arrived and directed to park in a field. Transition was set up beside the Lough Dan lake swim and bikes were numbered and in club order, all be it a bit tight.

It actually started misting as we were setting up but luckily dried up then. The swim was a rectangular course around 4 buoys. There were some fast fish entered and Bjorn Luddick and Stephen Early no doubt would lead out of the water.
Anyway, so the swim was a deep water start and I set off at a reasonable pace. I've been working on a better catch and more swim training so was hoping for a better result.
I did feel myself go off line but corrected reasonably early, but I definitely felt a fade around the 2nd and 3rd buoys. So better swim race pace fitness is required as well as technique!
Out of the water in 28odd which wasn't too bad but still around 40 ahead of me.
Massive difference to the 2 leaders in 19odd though! Hopefully I can bridge that gap in the off season for next year.

So into transition and over to my bike, bit of a slow removal of wetsuit and as I headed out I realised I forgot my energy gels. Ran back to get them and then out I went. Unfortunately the pockets in my trisuit are very small and as I shoved one into it it hopped out on the bike so I just had the one gel for the bike.
No harm as I knew I had another in transition by my runners that I could use on the run.
So out on the bike and a 2k climb to start the course. Lovely!
I passed a few here and made progress into Roundwood. I overtook the women's leader at this time (Derval Devanney, unfortunately crashed at end of bike but is fine thankfully).
From there it was a flat ish 10k or so into Laragh and then a left turn and about 8k of rolling hills and descents. Tough in parts and no real chance to get good speed up. The turn around point is at 22.5km and back to Laragh then. Now for the hard part!
As leaving Laragh there's a left turn onto oldbridge road. Straight into easiest gear and up the hill for a steep climb. This stretches and then eases before another climb and gentle descents.
This continues until the final hi at 37km. Heartbreakers just when you think there can't be anymore!
After this it's a sharp fast descent that was dangerous so it was a no pass zone. Into transition then and I had made up some more places. I made it around 32nd at that stage based on counting bikes ahead by the turnaround and passing a couple.
Onto the run then and I decided to chance no socks. I grabbed my last gel and as I was starting the run I tried to put the gel into my god damn small Pockets and again it hopped out! I left it and kept running figuring it would be fine. So again a 2 km steep climb before easing to gradual inclines. Tough way to start the run but I made up a place and kept going. The turnaround was at 4.5k and then a couple descents before another rolling hill then finish with a 2k descent. I made up another place but also got passed here too. Around half way I started to feel my feet blister. I cursed my saved 30 seconds for no socks and probably lost that and more from the pain. Could be worse though so I managed a sprint to the finish line.

Over and the times available straight away and saw:
28:45 swim
1:30 t1 (slow!)
1:13 Bike
:30 t2
44:30 run

2:29 finish time.

This ended being 29th and my best finish so far. Only 210 started though but still a good result. The winner was Brian McCrystal in 2:06 odd. Some motivation there as his swim was only 2mins faster than me. The man is an animal on the bike (trek speed concept with Zipp disc rear) and I think he's a cat 1 bike racer. Also a damn fast runner so he's the rare exception to the rule that you need to be a very fast swimmer to win.
Don't get me wrong his swim is good but there are guys like fish these days. Impressive to see him recover and beat a 5+ min deficit out of the water to Bjorn Luddick who's not too shabby at biking and running either and has a few race wins this season.

More impressive is that Brian works full time like most of us, and has a family so clearly he's a dedicated athlete to train and be able to produce at his level.

The beast of the east had some superb prizes at the end including Htc phones, garmin watches, zoot runners, bike fits, swim analysis as well as cash and vouchers for the age group winners. Fantastic for such a relatively small entry field.

It was a very well ran and organised event and despite being the hardest, was definitely one of the most enjoyable races this year.
I will be back again next year hopefully further up the field... Much further....

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Applying race learnings...

So with 4 national series races done, I evaluated my results and saw that yes I was improving, but more importantly it was clear my swim and run times were weaker than my bike and needed improving.
So I had a swim analysis done in and also set about joining group weekly swim sessions, though these wouldn't start for a few weeks.
There was no doubt I just wasn't putting in the distance or hours in the pool on my own and this needed improving.
For my run, I knew about forefoot running as I had tried it in the winter twice and strained my calf both times. Now however I had a bit more strength and felt a slower approach was worth it.
I only had a week till my next race in Athlone but wanted to try it as had 3 weeks off then till another race.
So I set about doing a few k's of my runs on forefoot. It was sore after but definitely felt faster
And more efficient.
I decided I would persevere with this slowly to transition towards a more efficient run technique.

So training continued and I Slowly applies this. I could see the benefits straight away in times but knew I couldn't use it totally for a while.

So onto Athlone for the national sprint championships - I had entered the sprint though there was an Olympic on too.

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Next up - Beast of the East Olympic

Ok so tomorrow is the Beast of the East, only a short drive to Roundwood and what is going to be a very tough race.
I've been up there and did a brick on the course on Monday and man is that bike tough!
Some tough hills and it's going to separate the good from the mediocre!
I biked 1hr 16 for the 38.5k and then ran a 45min for the 10k which has a couple hills.
Now this wasn't flat out race pace, but still showed it's going to be hard. And definitely a hard bike probably the hardest I've done yet and much harder than Hell of the West.
So I'm looking forward to it as the weather has brightened up and should be good.
It's an early start in a dark lake swim and I'm hoping to apply some swim learnings over the last few weeks.
I've been doing more distance and swims, and also believe I've diagnosed a weakness in my open water swims so tomorrow might tell.

I've just washed my bike, watching the F1 qualifying now and then heading to for Early registration and to get my stickers and swim hat etc.

Come in Hamilton for Pole!

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