When will all this cold weather end? Well, for me it will be on Thursday (2nd April), as I go to Lanzarote for four months of training; it turns out that I just cant take any more of this cold weather!
As a cyclist you are always looking at the wind direction, and it's so annoying to think that had the wind we are having at the moment was coming from the west and not the east, it would probably be 10 degrees warmer! So after battling though a hard March... with some great epic sessions in there! My longest ride has been 206km, just over six hours... it was a great ride. I've been hopping on the Cervélo S5, which I have set up as a TT rig, and riding from York over to Bridlington and Scarborough. It's nice to go somewhere rather than just ride near home in the lanes, and then after I have seen the sea I can loop back home. You always feel you have done a long ride - as a child it always seemed to take ages in the car to get to Scarborough for a day out, now it takes me a couple of hours on the bike over the stunning Yorkshire Wolds.
Run wise things have been going well too, my long run is up to 32km, indeed I ran around my easy 70min cycling loop the other Sunday, it made it easier on the mind, I just imagined myself cycling really easy at 15kmph and sometimes I even forgot I was running!
Anyway, hopefully I can put a huge block of training in when I'm in Lanzarote, it will certainly be great to ride in shorts and a jersey rather than still going out in full winter kit at the end of March, not even a leg or arm warmer in sight!
Well, the first triathlon of the 2010 race season is under the belt. Abu Dhabi was always going to be an interesting race for many reasons, placing where it is in the year, the distance and the sheer strength in depth of the competition. I'm not sure what it looked like from the outside, but I can say that I actually never got bored on the bike - it was a lot of fun! I know many people were hugely hyping up the laps around the F1 circuit and going into the race I was thinking, it's just another bit of road to ride on. But oh my... what an experience!
The whole of the race has an individual atmosphere, very like Hawaii has its own identity and although ultimately I did have a kind of shocking race (more of that later), I do think that Abu Dhabi could in years to come challenge Hawaii. It is such a surreal race, the pictures I have seen of the race so far tell their own story, coming out of the swim with the high rise buildings in the background, pictures from the F1 track, it really is a photographers dream! To cap it all off we as athletes were looked after so very well by the guys at IMG, a huge thanks, they made everything so easy we could just concentrate on racing and try and put on a good a show as possible which, as always, I tried to do. Well, to the best of my ability anyways!
Race week was a very interesting affair. I had very different goals for the race then I had from any other race I had ever done. I wanted to banish some Hawaii demons and try some different things in my preparation and racing. It was quite clear that some people were trying to stir a bit of a thing up between me and Bjørn Andersson which was fine from my end - it was actually quite funny - no one knew what was going to happen in the race so really, it was anyone's shout!
I'm not going to say what i've done differently the past couple of weeks as prep but it has been a marked change from what I would usually do. I'm still young, learning all the time and want to take the opportunity to try different things, experiment if you like, even if there is some 'hype'. It's just nice to mix things up with all these athletes who were just names who I saw as idols this time last year. Well, they still are idols, i've not changed!
Sharing a stage at the press conference with Faris Al Sultan, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Virginia Berasategui, Raynard Tissink and Bjørn, it was amazing just to see them all racing never mind chat to them! What on earth was I doing up there, a 20 year old Yorkshire lad who likes his pies, chips and battered sausages!?
To be honest, I could write my dissertation about the past week and all the fun i've had, some of the interesting interviews I have done and the people I have met - it's been an amazing experience! I did one very funny interview where I was asked if I could invite any five people to a dinner party and they HAD to come who would I invite - these things take a lot of thought! In the end I settled on Lance Armstrong, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Kylie Minogue and Jennifer Aniston. The last two are fairly self explanatory!
So, race day. After getting up at stupid o'clock on race day morning (4am, that's earlier than an Ironman), we got the packed coach to the start, not one spare seat. It has come to my attention I'm somewhat the baby of the long distance tri world. I sat next to Dirk Bockel's wife and we had a good laugh, it's such a close knit community it is something special to be part of. Anyways, the 30min trip to the start went far faster than I actually wanted it to and after the usual warm up, delay to the start, pre-race equipment checks etc we were on the start line on the beach. Now, this beach start somewhat concerned me, my sister had got battered at the World Junior Champs in Oz last year and that was her first beach start and I had never done one. Thankfully, people decided to leave me alone and before I knew it I was swimming at the front, there was a line of about four of us swimming not so hard. I decided to have a bit of a chill and sit in third place chugging along nicely until we got out after the first lap.
After we got out and dived back in I swam with Fraser at the front who, I have to say, had an immense dive back into the water at the end of the first lap. I was mightily impressed and it look a bit of effort to get with him, this was clearly a sign of things to come! After this it was a case of just making it to T1 without being drowned by the very low flying helicopter. I'm sure the TV images will be fantastic but it's not ideal having to swim at a 45 degree angle just to go in a straight line being battered by tidal waves! Fraser got a bit blown off course but there was really no point hammering it with six hours still to go. We just swam in easy, went through T1 as fast as possible, I put on the now obligatory socks and set out for a long day on the aerobars. After stuffing my face with a Powerbar ride shot kebab id made myself and a bit of course confusion, a huge pack of around 30 athletes made its way out to what I'm calling the 'Abu Dhabi Queen K' (or ADQK for short). This long stretch of barren road is just like riding at Hawaii, only it was about 10 degrees cooler and not as windy to my relief. 200km in Hawaii conditions would have been like riding 300km in Abu Dhabi! To be brutally honest, not much happened for the next two hours. We rolled along at 43/44kmph in a huge pack. A few gaps appeared which I had to chase as I was riding near the back of the pack (inexperience on my part), which stretched about 600m long, we had our little criterium race around the Yas Marina Circuit and then made our way back on the ADQK to T2 to start our second lap. Now usually, I get really bored and attack like a lunatic off the front so after sitting in for 90km I decided I would try and test a few legs and I attacked up the main hill on the course up a huge bridge (believe me, they don't do small in Abu Dhabi!). As I went past Bjørn I gave him an Armstrong Style 'look' (which I so hope makes the TV edit, it would look awesome), as I wanted to imply to him that this was it and I wanted him to come and help and keep me company on the lonely ADQK. He did come and join me but to be honest, I have no idea how much of a gap we got. I pushed on for about 10km, tried to signal to him to come and work (even sitting at 12m behind you still get about a 30W saving), but it was to no avail and looking back the now somewhat reduced pack was, well, not as far behind as I would have liked so I eased back, took on some food and sat 2nd wheel behind my Specialized team mate Jordan Rapp.
At this point I was feeling great; my legs felt like they could react to anything anyone could throw at them and even though we did let Raynard Tissink chip off the front and get 50sec he soon came back but it was a valiant effort. Whilst Tissink was off the front, by the time we got the F1 track for the second time people were hurting. I didn't really feel the pace was on that much but I could see huge gaps appearing, people were tired and the technical nature of the track coupled with the inevitable Andersson attack out of the circuit ensured there was carnage. Bjørn went hard, very hard! He laid his cards on the table but I was straight on him and from a group of about 20 there were now 6/7 of us left for the long trip back along the ADKQ. Bjørn's effort lasted for about 10minutes and then he just simply sat up; we went from doing 50kmph to doing 30kmph as everyone looked at each other. This happened a few times and the group swelled to about 8/9 people, my legs felt great and I was really looking forward to the run. We went through 180km in 4h 12min, what would have been a new Ironman world record split for the bike, an amazing feet with us still 20km to go and having gone wrong at the start which cost us about 2minutes!
Coming into T2 my legs felt great and I felt my nutrition plan had gone well (eat and drink as much as possible). One guy made a late bid for freedom but feeling good I decided not to go with him, something new for me, as I would have hurt running my legs more than I wanted. I knew he would pay for it later on in the run so I ended up second off the bike and out on to the run. Eneko, Rasmus, Dirk and Fraser were all quick to pass me but they didn't made the inroads I though they would. Fraser went out supremely strong and I found myself running in seventh tracking down sixth place. After 4km I was closing and I could see Fraser about 100m up the road in 5th. I was running amazingly well, about five seconds off sixth at 6km feeling great! Then the lights went out - big time! I just fell to pieces in such a short space of time it was incredible. One minute I was fine just about to bridge up to run on the shoulder of the guy in sixth where I was going to stay for a few km before I planned to make an effort up to Fraser. The next minute I couldn't even run, it was the biggest meltdown of my life! I couldn't even walk in a straight line, there was a point where if I had lied down I don't think I would have got up for a fair while. I'd probably still be there now burnt to a crisp!
I'm not going to dwell on the last 10k much, only that it took me 65min to do but I wanted to finish and that's what I did with Dann Brook whom kept me company on the last lap of the run. Lets just say we made it round, maybe not entirely in 1 piece!
So, a bit of disappointment in the end result but I was pleased with the race and it has given me a lot of confidence for the season to come. I raced well for nearly 210k, that's along way for my young legs, it's just the last 14km that's the problem at the moment but I have time on my side, it is early in the season and I know what I need to do in future (though I don't know how I made it round two Ironman races last year now). I've done some good training, had a few good races already this year which I can build on, I just want to get out there and race now. Oh, and finish my University degree, must not forget about that!
Feb 2010 - First race of the season is now in the bag!
I was supposed to race last weekend but the weather here in the UK has been horrific to say the least so was cancelled! It was pretty unfortunate that I came home from my training camp in Spain early to specifically prepare for what would have been my 1st race of 2010, a 10 mile TT, on a fast course about 1h away from my house but when the morning came, so did several inches of snow. So, I had to be patient and wait another 7days to ride the Shiv in anger for the first time in 2010, and looking at the forecast I prepared myself for another write off but luckily the weather gods prevailed and I managed to open the 2010 account with a win and a 20min 8seconds clocking over a cold and very windy 10 miles. There was no taper this week either, I went out with 'the lads' yesterday for a 110k smash up and had a little run off it so the legs were not feeling so great.
It was particularly reassuring that last year, on the same course in what I would say were easier conditions on the same weekend I rode 20.51, so to take almost 45seconds off where I was this time last year fills me with confidence going forward!
Hopefully next weekend I will be able to go under 20minutes and do that 30mph ride for the first time this year