Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Half Challenge Barcelona - Finisher

We started the day with the alarm clock going off at 5am.  My wife and I had our daughters sleep at my in-law's hotel room so we could leave early in the morning.  After a quick breakfast at the hotel,  my very pregnant wife and I walked the 400 meters to the bike area.  I had already left the bike on the bike park the previous evening, so all I had to do was put my bags in the transition tent, and tape my gels to the bike!
As you can imagine, I was very nervous leading up to the race, but I surprisingly got calmer as the start time approached.  I placed my bags in the tent and headed to my bike to put my gels on the bike, and I noticed I had two gels less than what I needed. I headed back to the hotel while my wife waited for me at a bench by the transition tent. I got the gels, ran back, and I still had time to hang for a while with Sonia as my wave was about the 6th to go out.

At about 7:50am I got in the water for a quick out and back swim to feel the water temperature and to loosen the muscles a little bit. The sea was flat as a pool, and the water was perfectly clear and I could see the bottom of the sea till about 60m out.  As I was swimming on my way out I banged head first with another guy on his way back in! "Damn this is a bad way to start the day" were my thoughts at that time. Anyway, I shook it off and got back to shore to stretch a bit more and be with Sonia.

As my start time approached I kissed Sonia goodbye, kissed her BIG tummy, and headed out to the start area with the rest of my age group.  As I mentioned before, I was surprisingly calm at this time! I really was expecting to be shitting my pants right before I got in the water (literally), but I suppose I had done all I could up to that point and now I only had to try and complete the distance.

At 8:20 the gun went off and we hit the water! I started on the right hand side, towards the middle of the pack, and got in the water with everyone around me. To my surprise there were no kicks, punches or elbows! 
I got to the first buoy easily enough and then made the right turn for the long stretch to the end. This is where things got a bit crazy! I was with a group of guys on the buoy, and as I made the first 200m swim away from the buoy I became isolated and noticed no one near me! I stopped for a second and looked around me to see I was heading towards the beach and was not following the swim line, like everyone else. 

I got back to the line and headed towards the turn buoy after the 500m stretch and made a left. and then another left for the 750m segment. The same thing happened here and I also started veering to the right away from the beach and as I made the correction to come back to the swim line, I (literally) got swum over by the wave after mine! It's a bit frustrating, I know, but my plan was to take my time on the swim and just do the distance as I am aware of the fact that I am a crap swimmer and it is the one point need to trow money at with some lessons when I get to Cape Town.

I make the last left turn towards the shore and this felt like and eternity as there was a current which took us sideways and I could see the sea floor and how quick I was moving to the left of where I needed to go.  I finally make it to shore and try to keep my composure and not stumble as I get of out the water!

 OFFICIAL SWIM TIME: 48m:14s (my goal was 55mins) 

Transition 1
I get out of the water as quick as I can and I head out up the tent to get my my wetsuit off, place it in the bag, and head out with my bike gear. 

OFFICIAL T1 TIME: 4m:36s (goal was 3mins)

As I head out of transition I followed about three guys on their bikes through the streets of Calella, but as we hit the N-II I got off the saddle and just took off.  The bike course was awesome as it was flat with some rolling hills. 

I was feeling well on the bike and I passed lots of people. The conditions were great as there was no wind and the roads were closed and wide enough for everyone to feel comfortable.  I felt great on the E118.  On the first 1/4 of the course I noticed my saddle was moving and I thought about stopping at the bike support tent to get them to tighten it a bit, but I was able to manage with it like that.  Im sure this happened because I stopped by my LBS to setup my XLab Turbo wing on friday before the race and the mechanic had issues installing it. He must have loosened the saddle to get the bolts on, and either forgot to tighten them back on, or didn't do it hard enough! 

I had my watch going off every 15 mins for my nutrition plan but, for some reason, it didn't go off (time to get the 910XT).  Since it was a two loop course, I timed my gels and saltstick pills with landmarks, so every time I hit a turnaround point I would have a gel, half way through I would have a salt stick, another gel at the turnaround at the other end, so on and so forth. I decided to have my energy drink randomly and not synchronize my every movement. I did, however, run out of my drink and on my way back from the second lap I had to grab a bottle of water from the aid stations.

I managed to keep a good pace of 32.4Km/h for it to be my first HIM.  I was able to avoid being passed  by anybody else, apart from Stanyslav Kyrilov who was the 2nd pro overall.

Saying there was massive drafting on the bike is an understatement!! Unbelievable the pelotons I saw and passed on the bike! I did, however, see and hear the refs on the bikes whistling at people and giving them warnings, but, if anything,  the only negative thing with this course was the sheer amount of riders on the course, which obviously caused the pelotons, otherwise it was perfect.

Towards the end of the bike I was feeling my quadriceps tightening up and I was afraid it would get worse with cramps.  Hopefully the 4 salt stick tablets I had tacken during the bike session would do their job and stop my cramping on the run!

I hadn't seen my wife or daughters all through the race but it was my fault as I told Sonia I would be passing in fron of our hotel at each of the two laps, and that was not the case. I only passed in fron of our hotel as I was going back to T2 and I saw Sonia, my girls and my in-laws from a distance.  As soon as they saw me they starting yelling "GO DADDY, GO DADDY" and that put a massive smile on my face as I waved and yelled back at them. 

OFFICIAL BIKE TIME: 2h:37m:21s (my goal as 2h:30m)

Transition 2
As I approached the dismount line I see my good friend Jordi Casas yelling "Come on Miguel, Come on!!".  I was so happy to see him and I definitely noticed the burst of adrenaline I got from seeing him.  As I pass Jordi and approach the dismount line, I started to undo my shoes and swung my right leg around the bike to get off the bike whilst it was still in movement. There were a few of us arriving at the same time so it was a bit of chaos, but no accidents getting off the bikes or entering the bike park.

I ran up to my position and racked the bike and ran inside to the transition tent to grab my bag and change to do my running. I tried putting my socks on as quick as possible but the quicker you try to put them on, the more your toes get stuck on the socks. Anyway, finally got the socks on, shoes on, cap and glasses to hit the road.

OFFICIAL T2 TIME: 1m:50s (my goal was 1 minute)

I get out of the transition tent and as I headed out of the town of Calella I saw Jordi again yelling for me! I gave him a high five as I ran past him and I was feeling good for the run.  I looked at my watch a few times and I was running 4:30 and 4:35/Km, which was not sustainable for much longer.  My legs were surprisingly well after the bike, and I was not cramping which was great news at this point in the race.  
I eventually slowed down and maintained low 5min/Km pace for pretty much the rest of the run.  I was passed by a few guys but I was not too worried about that if I'm honest with you.  As I mentioned on my previous post, my main goal was to finish this race and set it up as a time to beat for my future HIM distance races.

A few kms after the run started I felt my arm sleeve was hurting me a bit so I removed them and placed them on my back pocket for the rest of the run.

My legs were fine, but I could feel the cramps wanting to come in slowly towards the second lap of the run.  I wanted to take some more salt tablets but I had left my saltstick on my bike, and even if I had brought it with me to the run I only had 2 more tablets as it only carries 6 in total, and I had 4 on the bike.  Well, 2 tablets would have been better than no tablets, but I had man up and put up with the pain!

I got my sports drink and my water at every station, but I made an effort to not stop or walk at any point during the run.  I did miss having my own sports drink on the run, but my drink bottle belt was too big to wear during the race, so I suppose a 4 bottle Fuel Belt is in order for the next race. 

As I got to the red carpet at the turnaround point to start my second lap, I see my wife, my daughters and my in-laws! They were all screaming and yelling for me "GO DADDY, GO DADDY" and that just made me push harder for the last 10.5Kms.  

The second lap was just dealing with the pain and trying not to walk, really.  It was as much mental as physical as my body wanted to stop but my mind kept pushing and saying "just a few more Kms, just a few more Kms".  I had a few guys on sight every few hundred meters, and I would try to catch them to motivate myself, and it worked.  I would pass the guy with the green suit, then go for the one with the black one, etc etc. Im sure I was also the target of a few people behind me, but I was not too worried about that this time around. 

As I got to Calella and I had the red carpet in sight I had a final burst of energy which pushed me all the way home.  As soon as I got to the grandstand area I saw my father in law holding Alexia up in his arms and I grabbed her as I ran past him to cross the line with her in my arms.  I did it, I finished a half Ironman race.
OFFICIAL RUN TIME: 1h:50m:11s (Goal was 2 hours)

OVERAL TIME: 5h:15m:46s
131/228 in Age Group
610/1360  Overall

My forerunner has been acting up and does not let me see the overal time in between sports, so I could only see my swim time during swimming, bike time during my bike, and my run time during my run. I was only able to see my overal elapsed time when I crossed the line and I hit the stop button, and I was so happy to have beaten the 6h mark

I never would have imagined I would complete a half ironman distance race back in March 2010 when I decided to sign up for a local triathlon to lose some weight.  It is a great feeling of accomplishment after all the hard work and training endured mainly in the past year.  

Everyone who I speak to who is involved in triathlon agrees with me that this is an extremely addictive sport which leaves you hungry for more every time you finish a race.  It is all about new challenges, new goals to either beat your previous times, or to move up to longer distances.  So far, this has been the longest distance I have ever competed in, and I already have my goal set for the future, but that's for another post. For now, I want to enjoy the cramps I've been feeling for the past few days and pig out on some good old Spanish food.  Soon enough I'll be back to training for my next HIM in October, where, surely, a new personal best will be set in South Africa!

Lessons learned from my first half Ironman distance race
  1. Must improve my swim time. No surprise here, but my time really is embarrassing
  2. Always tighten ALL bolts before race, even if pros have looked at it before race
  3. Get the Gorilla Cage for my XLab Turbo Wing as I needed more drink
  4. Must start running without socks to see how I get along
  5. Carry additional salt stick on number belt for run next time
  6. Get 4 water bottles fuel belt to have own sports drink on run
  7. Definitely set myself tougher and more realistic goals for the future
******** QUESTIONS ******** 
  1. What was the toughest part you had to overcome when completing your longest distance race? Was it the mental or the physical side of the challenge?
  2. Did you have any mishaps during your HIM/IM races? What happened?
  3. What is your weakest discipline? Have you been able to improve it substantially since you started tri'ing?
  4. Your one piece of advice to me would be______?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Half Challenge Calella - Race Plan

Less than 10 days to my first half Ironman distance race and I can already feel the nerves and butterflies in my stomach. So many questions and so many unknowns, specially given the fact I do not feel I am arriving at 100% level to my A race of the year.  As I took on this journey I wanted to be cautious and not jump straight at an Ironman race as many people do, but rather climb up the distance latter slowly to eventually complete an MDot race.

The Half Challenge Barcelona race will be a good testing ground for my fitness level (or lack thereof), and will allow me to gauge what needs to change as I move to the ultimate distance, the full Ironman, in 2013.   Some of my worries, however, are as follows:

-Not enough time in the pool in training. Too much travel during Base and Peak phases lead to minimal time in the pool.

-Not enough open water swimming done. As of today I've been to the lake once to train this year!

My cycling and my running are quite strong and I feel much more comfortable with those disciplines, and I woud be lying If I'd tell you I'm not dreading the mass swim start with over 1300 people at the same time. Lots of punches and elbows will be thrown at me...but I'll make sure to throw a few of my own :)

My TrainingPeaks program suggested I'd jot down my race plan for the race so I will use this post to summarize what my intentions are for the days leading to the race and the race itself.

Tuesday - May 22nd
I have been in London by myself with our oldest daughter since my wife has already left for Barcelona due to her pregnancy.  We will be travelling from London to Barcelona on Tuesday 22nd of May in the afternoon.

Wednesday - May 23rd
On Wednesday I have a bike tune up scheduled with Guillermo from Argon 18 in Spain.  Since I am planning on bringing the bike in a Bike Box I will need help assembling it again and I do not want to mess it up right before the big race.  There is no one better than Guillermo to fine tune an Argon 18 in Spain so I am taking my baby to the man himself on Wednesday at 9am!  

Thursday - May 24th
On Thursday morning I will go to the American School of Barcelona as I have promised my good friend Jordi Casas I would visit the school where he works and where I also worked from 2000-2006 as a PE teacher.  I must say I am really looking forward to this and can't wait to see which kids still remember me! This ought to be fun!

On Thursday evening there is an annual reunion at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra which is where I got my MBA back in 2006.  I have confirmed my attendance but I will see how I feel that day. I would only go if I knew some of my classmates would be there as I looked at the programme and it looks a bit boring! Alternatively I will stop by the expo at the race which opens on Thursday as well.

Friday - May 25th
Check in at Hotel Maritim in Calella in preparation for the race.  It will be myself, my wife, our daughters and my in-laws staying there until Monday evening.  All going well I should be able to go out for a short ride to see the first Kms of the bike course, and a nice out and back swim of about 1Km to take it easy on the legs and arms.  After that I will potentially check out the expo again as there is always an awesome atmosphere at Spanish races.

Saturday - May 26th
Rest day, east pasta, and try to enjoy the expo with Sonia and the girls, and eat some more pasta. At this point all systems should be ready to go so I should try to relax and enjoy myself without any physical or mental stress.  I will need to have my race bag ready with all my transition needs and yes, I will have a proper checklist handy just in case!
At 10am I will have to pick up my race pack and attend the race briefing, and after lunch I will need to rack my bike in the transition zone, and get my bike and run bags ready.

Sunday - May 27th  
The race starts at 8:20am and transition opens at 6am. I will need to wake up at 5 to be there promptly at 6 but I should be fine as the hotel is about 10 minutes walk from the starting line.  My nutrition plan is simple! Two Powerbars and a banana for breakfast! Some Maxifuel Viper Active to ease the solids down, and right before the swim I'll take a Powerbar gel (Mango, Passionfruit, Guarana).

Race Plan

Main goal is to finish! This will be my longest race EVER, and although I know I have done everything I could to get to this point fit, healthy, and mentally prepared, there are too many variables and unknowns that can just throw all the hard work off course.  Having said that, I would love to pull a sub 6h time, but I know it will not be easy, specially given the conditions under which I have been training (mostly cold), and those which I will face on race day (scorching hot).

However, I must set time targets as per my program and give myself a realistic time goal to aim at achieving.  Having looked at last year's results, this is my realistic goal:

Swim: Under 55 Minutes - I will start in the back of the pack and am expecting to get my goggles punched out of my face at least once.  I am also expecting to panic a bit so I want to be realistic rather than hopeful.
T1: Under 3 minutes - No major reason, just what I saw some of the average guys did on 2011's results
Bike: Under 2h:30mins - I think this is realistic and achievable. 
T2: Under 1 minute
Run: My fastest +20Kms run was 1h:48m for 23Kms at an average of 4m:42s/Km. That would have been a total time of roughly 1h:40m for the 21Kms. Obviously that was without the swim and the bike before the run, so it is not really comparable, but I will add 20 minutes for the tiredness I will feel, cramps, and hope to do a half marathon in less than 2 hours! Let's see how I get along :)
Overall: I would be happy to manage to finish, honestly! But anything under 6h:20m would be a plus! It is only my first half ironman race and I have time to improve so I need to enjoy myself out there!

Race Nutrition Plan

When I did the Ballbuster a few months ago I rode and ran on gels. I do, however, feel I will need to have some other source of nutrition, specially electrolytes (sodium and potassium) during the last two legs of the race.  I suffered from major cramps which prevented me from finishing within 4 hours, and I do not want the same thing to happen so here is what I plan to do:

Start of Swimming: 1 Gel
T1: 1 Gel, 1 Salt Tablet
Bike: I will set my Forerunner 310XT for an alarm every 15 minutes to follow this pattern of nutrition:
-15 mins: Drink
-30 mins: Gel
-45 mins: Drink
-60 mins: 1/2 Powerbar, Salt Stick
-75 mins: Drink
-90 mins: Gel
-105 mins: Drink
-120 mins: 1/2 Powerbar, Salt Stick

-135 mins: Drink
-150 mins: Gel
T2: Nothing. Grab gels from the running belt out on the run
Run: On my +20Kms runs I usually take 2 gels so I will do the same here. I will take one at about Km 5, and another at about Km 15 for the final push.

There is no science behind this, but rather what I feel my body wil need to cope with the 90Kms of riding, and to prevent the cramps on the start of the final 21Kms of running.  I'm sure by next time I will be able to have a better idea of what works and what doesn't.

All in all I hope to be able to enjoy my day out there. I know it will be hot, and I know it will be tough. I know there will be times when my mind will ask me why I put myself through this and there will be times my body will tell me to stop! But I also know the feeling I will get once I cross that line will be great, and I know I will be hungry for more afterwards. I know my wife and daughters will be waiting for me at the line... and I know I will do this! How well will I do?... well, that's a story for a different day!


  1. Do you usually prepare a race plan for your races? For all your races or only for the longer distance races?
  2. Do you follow a race day nutrition plan? 
  3. On your IM and HIM races do you do the full swim a few days before? Why?Why not?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kona Ironman Videos - Motivational Videos

There have been quite a lot of posts about Ironman motivational videos and Kona's world championship videos on the various tri forums I follow, so I decided to put together a post about the videos I have on my computer and Iphone which I use on the turbo trainer, and some other ones which are just inspiring and motivational.  All the videos you need in one spot...indulge yourselves! This is Turbo Trainer Heaven!

Full Ford Ironman Championship Videos
2012 Kona Ironman
2011 Kona Ironman
2010 Kona Ironman
2009 Kona Ironman
2008 Kona Ironman
2007 Kona Ironman
2006 Kona Ironman
2005 Kona Ironman
2004 Kona Ironman
1995 Kona Ironman
1992 Kona Ironman
1989 Ironwar
Dave Scott v. Mark Allen

My top motivational Ironman videos:
Till I Collpse
Essence of Ironman
Ironman Inspiration
Ironman - You Will do This

Aussies Abroad
Chris McCormack

Aussies Abroad
2011 Kona Special

Aussies Abroad
Crowie Special

Ironman Brazil 2007
in Portuguese

Brownie28's Favourite

Epic Ironman Videos
Ironman - The Crawl
Ironman, Julie Moss
Paula Newby Fraser
Hitting the Wall

Lovely Rides
45 Mins
Fiesta Island
54 Mins
Klausen and Pragel

Which of these is your favourite? Do you watch it on the trainer or while relaxing on the couch on your latop/iPad? Any other videos you would recommend me to post here?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Today's Training

Nice and early turbo session at home:

Distance: 30Km
Time: 47 Mins
Avg Speed: 38 Km/h
Max Speed: 56 Km/h
Avg Watt: 206 W
Max Watt: 312 W
Avg Cadence: 94 rpm
Max Cadence: 199 rpm

23Km TT run session

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tonbridge Triathlon Race Report

Today was a great day for racing. The sun was out and not a drop of rain during the race. I couldn't believe it when I got up at 5 and opened the window to look outside.

I had prepared my bag the night before and, just in case, I was taking my rain jacket for the bike in order to avoid what happened to me at the Turbo Thames last month.  I got to Tonbridge school at 6:30 and since the start was from 7am-11am, there weren't many bike on the racks at that time.  The standard distance athletes started early and the sprint distance would start after us.
She is racked up and ready to go
This was exactly double the distance as last year's race meaning it was an 800m pool swim, a hilly 50Km bike ride, and a flat 10Km run.

I got to the pool and the swim was ok'ish, but still slow for where I would like to be. We were 3 per lane and my swim time was 16m:31s.

T1 was long because we had to get out of the swimming center, go to the other side of the sports center and find our bike in transition. Not opnly that, but I also had to put on my bike jacket as it was cold and Im not about to get sick two weeks before the half ironman in Barcelona. T1 as 3m:35s

I still remember the bike course from the previous year and I know it was going to be challenging. As soon as we get out of the school grounds, there was a short 2Km of flat surface and then it just hit us! See the graph of the bike course below:

2012 Tonbridge Triathlon Olympic course elevation profile

To be honest I actually did feel pretty good throughout the whole course and was only passed by three guys who looked like they were on the turbo trainers! Very strong cyclists. There were a few climbs were I could see people struggling and I actually felt quite proud of just going by them.  I can definitely feel I am in much better form than last year, but still far from where I'd like to be as I can see some guys with bike splits 15 minutes faster than me. My time for the 50Km bike split was 1h:47m:54s.

T2 was a bit faster that T1, but still not in the top 10 overall. T1 was 1m:30s.

The run was nice and flat around the school grounds and it was great to have a few people to chase.  I'm the type of guy who feeds off of people in front of me so having people on the course was great.  I must have passed about 30 people from different age groups, and I was only passed by two guys.  Total time for the run was 38m:07s at 4m:20s/Km pace.

I came out 10th in my age group and I can say I think it was a good race.  On a negative point, I lost my salt stick.  I took it of the bicycle to take one about 15 minutes before the run and I cold not put it back on the holder so I stuck it in my back pocket and, needless to say, when I went to check if it was there after the race it was nowhere to be found.  

 I was trying to take a photo with the reverse camera on the iPhone. 
Positives from the race
  • I was able to swim 800m with little/no rest
  • Felt really good on the hills. I feel Im a better cyclist that this time last year (9th in age group)
  • Run pace was good at 4m:20/Km (6th in age group)
Negatives from the race
  • Slow swim. Not in top 10
  • Slow T1, although it was a long transition and far from the swim, there were guys on 40s
  • Got passed by three guys on the bike. Im not doing my E118 any justice!!!
  • Lost salt stick on the bike course
Now I gotta taper (or not?) for my half ironman distance race in Barcelona in 15 days.  I just want to stay healthy and injury free at this point, but I would love to get my weight down to 75kgs by race day. That's 2Kgs in 15 days!... I should be ok.

Are Group position: 10th
Overall Position: 21st
Swim: 16m:31s
T1: 3m:35s
Bike: 1h:47m:55s
T2 - 1m:30s
Run - 38m:07s
Total: 2h:47m:32s