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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Training during race season

One thing I've learned this year is it can be very hard to train the planned hours as well as race many races.
Now this being my first season I wanted to experience as many races as I could and also learn as much as I could from racing.
So this season started early for me with Abu Dhabi in March, followed with a duathlon 1 week later but then a 6 week break to first national series race.
As it stands my season contains:
5 x sprint triathlons (3 national series)
5 x Olympic triathlons (all n.s.)
1 x 1.5k/100k/10k (abu dhabi)
1 x duathlon (4/20/4)
1 x 5mile run race
1 x Half marathon
1 x full marathon

So 15 events and pretty full, I have completed 9 of these with my 10th this Sunday.
The half and full marathons are achievements I want to include this year and focus next year on important triathlon races.

Training can be very hard during race season due to recovery and planned rest days before next race etc especially if doing races in a row - has happened a couple times with 3 weekends in a row being races.
Also due to happen again in August before my last tri this season. So the day/2 after a race it can be hard to fit in the planned hours when still recovering from the weekend especially if travel included.
I've been conscious to listen to my body, and there have been weeks of just 7 or so hours instead of planned 12+ as it's just not been practical.
I'm sure an element of this is me still building fitness and recovery abilities, but even so I know next year will see fewer races with more intense focus and plan for A and B races etc. I enjoy racing but am more determined to reach higher placings next season.

The half and full marathons are to focus me on running more as well as achieve goals here. I plan on running more in Sept and Oct to prepare for this as well as focus on running in general to improve.

What I do feel I've done well is avoid injuries. Considering this year has seen a big jump up in fitness and activities instead of my usual gym 3 times a week I think I've listened to my muscles well and rested when needed.
I've had a couple tweaks and calf strains but those seem mainly from me moving to a mid/fore foot running technique from a heel striker.
There's no doubt running is the most injury prone of the 3 disciplines, and I've been conscious not to overdo this and build up slowly.

So in summary, 2/3's of events done and happy with progress and season so far. I feel I've learnt a lot in terms of training, technique, racing as well as individual improvements in each area.

I'd advise any newbies to steadily increase training each week, especially for running, and to listen to their bodies and muscles as recovery is as much an important discipline as training.

Now I'm off to rest before race 10 this Sunday - my 12 month triathlon anniversary!

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Race Report - Frank Duffy 5 Mile Run

So as part of registering for the Dublin Marathon this year, I also registered for the Dublin Half Marathon, and 5 mile race. There is a 10 mile race too id have done but it clashes with a triathlon.

My goal for my first running race was simple, use it as a fast run and continue my training.
5 miles is 8.1km so I wanted to race at 4 min km's or under for the distance. So my target was sub 32 mins.

I arrived to mass queues and managed to grab a parking spot in the Phoenix park. Grid lock isn't the word and you really need to get in early to grab a parking spot.

Into wave 1 then and I was maybe 20metres back from the leaders. Unfortunately there were a number of slower runners in front and I had to zig zag through them at the start. I found a space on the grass verge and hurried on. I knew I wanted to maintain sub 4 min km's and was happy with my first one in 3:50 despite traffic. I held this pace and followed a few similar pacers and came home in 31:15. Very happy with this as it shows I can run a sub 40 min 10k now. In fact 39 mins most likely.
This was 45 odd at the start of the year so decent progress in 6 months.

Also an interesting note from this. One of the pacers I ran with I recognised from a triathlon. We crossed the finish line at same time so I checked for names I'd recognise. Yes it was Jennifer Duffy, one of the top female triathletes in age group and I had matched her time.
A quick check back to Kilkee Hell of the West where she passed me on the run showed she ran a
Solid 41:42 for the hilly 10k - beating my 45min at same race.
So now I had matched her time and felt good run progress made here.

Next run race is the Dublin Half Marathon in September where I'm aiming for a sub 1 hr 30 min.

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Race Report - Tri Athlone Sprint

So onto Athlone, with an impressive line up of the top pro's in the country out to win the National Sprint Championship Race.
Gavin Noble lined up with his specialized a couple bikes up.
He was in my swim wave too so good to compare exact same conditions done by a pro!

The swim was changed to an all downstream one but there was no current to speak of.
I started reasonable but felt myself fade a bit from my main bunch in my wave. Out of the water and a little run up to the timing mat to show 14.5 mins, not what I was hoping for especially as I swim 750 in the pool at sub 13. Anyway, something to work on now into transition. I dropped my hat and goggles on the way up to timing mat so had to run back to grab. I take these off and hold in my right hand as I pull my right hand out of wetsuit. This normally means the goggles and hat then stay in right arm of wetsuit but not today.
No harm anyway a few seconds is all, transition was ok and out onto the flat out and back bike course. Gavin Noble was in my wave and I wanted to see him as I neared turnaround point to gauge how far back I was. I missed sighting him so just kept my head down.
The bike was quite flat with a headwind going out.
I enjoyed this and made good progress. The weather was perfect and I enjoyed the bike on closed good roads. Into T2 and a good transition. With the run a 5k I left the socks out and set off. The run was a few laps through the streets with massive crowds the whole way. This made for a great atmosphere and a nice run.
I set about applying my mid/fore foot technique where possible and stuck to 4min km's.
Quite surprised then when I ran past 5km and still had a bit of a lap to go.. The run ended up being 5.75km and I was happy with it. I finished in 1hour 13mins and very close to my club mates. I felt I had made progress here in my run mainly and raced pretty hard.
I finished somewhere in the top 90 or so and a good 15mins behind Gavin Noble, race winner.

This race is a must do. Great atmosphere and well organised.
I they got the run distance correct to 5km it'd defo be the fastest race I've done.
It's a fast flat course and my favourite so far.

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Race report - Kilkee Hell of the West Olympic

Well, onto what was billed as the toughest race of the season for me.
I was not particularly looking forward to the swim as it looked choppy and hard. But it was the same for everyone so hey.
The bike was billed as having tough hills and it was a longer bike at 45k before leading to a tough 5k uphill and 5k downhill run.

Now Kilkee is a long way away so our club had organised houses to stay at and we all headed down Friday for 2 nights to make a weekend of it.
Just as well as it took near on 3 hours to get there.. Arrived at race hotel for registration and met up with club mates staying in same house. The goodie bag was decent, a nice technical bike t shirt complete with rear pockets To mark the occasion. Snickers, energy bars, drink and the like made it up.
So race numbers and hat collected, off to the house for some pasta carb loading and sticker up bike.
Had a good laugh with club mates and we were all set. Up early for some breakfast and a peak out the window saw rain and wind in abundance. The view of the sea also suggested choppy waters so this race was going to live up to it's name!
We headed down to transition and set up our bikes. I got some elastic bands for my bike shoes for the first time as wanted all the help I could get. The swim started abruptly and then it was hell for leather. My goggles got knocked off twice, I tread water to fix and got shoved around. So that was the first 200m and it was quite rough out there. I got to the first buoy and wasn't sighting very well so Swam a little breast stroke to stay on line. Back to front crawl then and across to second buoy before returning to shore. This was a tough swim and I struggled. Out of the water in 30mins and off out on the bike. The elastics did their job and I started to put the power down and pass as many as I could. There were some clear drafters in full on groups but not much I could do about that just try to race my own pace. I found the bike course easier than I expected. Hills not as hard as billed and it was really the wind on the way back that was the toughest part.
I seemed to make good progress and into t2 in good time. Again on with socks as it was a 10k run and up hill for first 2k then eases a bit to the half way point.
Impressive views of the sea from the top as you run along the cliff.
I reached the turnaround point and the top 2 women had caught me and were chasing me down. This despite my 10min wave headstart! So I was about to get 'chicked' and though my legs fought a bit it was inevitable.
My run had been ok but not good enough. The good thing was no stomach cramps this time. I noted I didn't drink much of my 1 bottle on the bike, and had just 1 or 2 gels so this seemed to help.
I finished in 2 hours 37 mins and was relatively happy for my first hell of the west.

A great atmosphere at this race and many stayed for party afterwards. Worth the drive down and bad weather that's for sure!

My swim again being the main let down and run needing improving.
Armed with this info I set about trying to improve slightly for my next race (just 1 week away)...

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Race report - Hook or by Crook Sprint Tri

Onto my third national series race and second sprint race of the season.
This is based in Dunmore east and it was a lovely day again. The swim was in a bay and seemed calm enough. My goggles leaked water a couple times but I tried to fix it then just continued. Out of the water and a long run up a zig zag path to transition. Swim was timed at 18:45 because of this, it was a bit choppy but not much so into t1 then. I missed my bike and had to turn back. On with helmet and out onto the bike course.
This was a nice out and back with a gradual climb at the start. Again I was chasing a team mate and able to judge my progress at the turnaround. I wasn't far off and tries to keep the gas down. I caught him and passed him just before T2, however I lost time in t2 again and he led by 20metres out onto the run.
This run was a 7k route with the first 2k up hill. Pretty tough, I held on but wasn't gaining on my target. He pulled away then and I could only maintain my pace.
I finished in 1:27 odd and around 70th so not a bad result.
My bike and run splits were not available but my garmin gave me these so I saw my bike was good but more run work needed.
And then there's my swim of course!!

A nice smooth course that tests you.

This was a very enjoyable race, good location and a nice day.

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Friday, 22 July 2011

Race Report - Tri Athy Olympic

So billed as Ireland's fastest triathlon this was a race I was lookin forward to. flat and with an easy swim it should suit me and my weaker swim skillset.
I arrived on a glorious day to set up.
This attracts a large entry of around 2,500 athletes and is well organised.
The swim was an upstream and back downstream one with not much current. I faded a bit here and came out of the water in 30mins, not the worst but hoped for better.
A relatively good transition and then out into the bike course. Now this was billed as the fastest as in previous years the bike was an out and back the main road so perfect. Not this year, it turned off the main road at 5k and included some inclines, hairpins, turns etc before back out to the main road and out towards turnaround point. Still a decent bike course and I came in around the 1hr 8mark. I took my time in t2 putting socks on for the 10k run and headed out along the river for it. I was chasing a few club mates but they has stronger runs and I couldn't gain any ground.
My run split was 44mins and nottingham best. Stomach cramped a bit here and I'm not certain why but will try adjust nutrition in next race to see.

Total time 2 hrs 27 mins and an enjoyable day.
It is a good race and I recommend it to all. I'll be back next year to better my time!



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