Will Thames

swim, bike, run, tech

North Face 50km - Mandatory Kit

Now that I’ve entered the North Face 50km, it’s time to track my mandatory kit. I don’t want to have any expensive surprises (or even any cheap ones that I realise too late)

  • 1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item.
  • 1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped waterproof seams and hood (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) - I probably need a lighter and more compressible coat than my ski jacket or Rohan coat
  • 1 x beanie, balaclava or buff
  • 1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 –D/N Class for day and night time wear. It must be made of a combination of retroreflective and fluorescent materials. This is not a running vest but a workwear vest. It can be purchased at hardware stores or workwear stores for about $20. Your vest must have AS/NZS 4602:1999 or AS/NZS 4602:2010 as well as Class “D/N” on the tag. This must be worn on road sections at night. The vest must be clearly visible from both the front and the back, even when wearing your backpack so you must have an oversized vest that covers your whole torso AND your backpack.
  • 1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)..
  • 1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network) - I have a phone, but not Telstra. But I can get a SIM for $30, or it might be worth getting a cheapy PAYG phone rather than risk my smartphone.
  • 1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any small compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.
  • 1 x whistle
  • 1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent
  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). - need to check the contents of my first aid kit
  • 1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)
  • Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles) 1.5l
  • 2 x bars / food portions - need to decide what to take here!
  • 1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish
  • 1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact - I should have one somewhere!
  • 1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers in your race pack). You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item above)
  • 1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers in your race pack)
  • 1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers in your race pack). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

I’m going to likely need a new backpack to put it all in too - can’t see that all fitting in my current Salomon bag!

2012 Is Dead. Long Live 2013

2012 in retrospect

2012 was a year of change having got to Australia just before Christmas 2011. I’ve tried my hand at a number of things, including brewing, and various tech things that I’ll discuss shortly. I’ve barely cycled or swum since around April, and again, the reasons are worth mentioning.

I think my philosophy has changed somewhat, in that it’s very difficult to do many things well - one should instead focus on the most important aspects. Although I enjoyed the results of brewing, and it is difficult to get the kind of beers I like in Australia, it’s not impossible and I can pay people to send me beers I like from the other side of the country. At the moment it’s pointless brewing due to the heat anyway, but once things quieten down again I hope I’ll devote some more time to it.

For swimming and cycling, I decided in April that I was going to focus big style on my running. With four days a week running, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for other exercise - but if I really wanted to, I could find time, I’ve clearly chosen not to. The swimming pool closing over winter, and the swimming lessons stopping over winter don’t help. I imagine if it gets much hotter I may be replacing runs with swims soon though! I’d like to cycle a bit more but it needs time to do well.

As for tech, I’ve really tried to pare down my interests this year. I’ve decided to limit myself to one language (python) rather than looking at everything. So for web apps it’s been django and flask rather than rails or node, for configuration management it’s been ansible (I’ve made a number of contributions which has really helped my python and my ability to contribute to open source through git and github). I’ve looked at data analysis using pandas, although I really really rate D3 for client side rendering using javascript - and indeed the training log entries on this site make extensive use.

The move of this site to Octopress was half pragmatic (keeping drupal up to date was a chore) and half research - how to publish a site using just git and heroku using markdown for rendering. There are a few minor tweaks I’ve made using ruby under the hood (in particular the training pages) which might seem to break my python-only rule, but it really was minor.

For running, this year I’ve made personal bests at 5km (by over a minute), 10km (by three minutes, but I’m not happy with either of my 10kms) and the marathon (first by 7 minutes, then by 17 minutes). I also finished my first ultra run with a 50km run at Glasshouse. Time wasn’t great, and I had some routing problems, but I did it nonetheless. I’ve done a lot more trail running this year, racing at Pinnacles and regularly attending Bunyaville Trail Runners. I’ve also attended more parkruns this year than other years, and the birth of Sandgate Parkrun has found me volunteering more too. I also volunteered at Wild Horse Criterium, and while I fancy doing that race this year I do want to ensure I contribute to the trail running community too.

2013 Goals

I have a vague goal of doing something like Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc by the time I’m 40 (or given it’s in September, just after my 40th). So many of my goals will be not only to qualify, but also to prepare. Right now I wouldn’t stand a chance!

Runs I plan to do in 2013:

  • Brisbane Marathon (a new PB would be nice - so sub 3:30)
  • Oxfam Trailwalker 100km (sub 20 hours seems possible but depends on team and me)
  • Wild Horse Criterium (considering the 60km or even the 80km as it approaches Trailwalker)
  • Any timed 10km that fits with the rest of my schedule to get the kind of PB I’m theoretically capable of (below 45min seems reasonable)
  • On that note it would be good to get a new half marathon PB too, although it’s not letting the side down as much as the 10km.

I also want to significantly reduce my 5km time - but suspect it’ll need a cool windless day before that happens - my usual time right now is 90 seconds longer than PB!

With our recently bought house I really want to dedicate time to improving it as much as is sensible and affordable (not exactly a smart goal but without the advice of experts I don’t know what is sensible or even possible).

I also want to carry on learning - I have a few home monitoring projects that will require some Arduino investigation.

Hopefully I’ll brew the awesome Sorachi Ace Imperial IPA that I planned last year and never got around to.

Training Log Data

I’ve really wanted to be able to take more control of my data for years. In recent months this has become more concrete and I’ve focussed all the time I have to dedicate to coding to just working on the visualisation of my training data.

I’ve strived to favour shipping over perfection - various choices that I’ve made have been short-term so that I can get something out there. At present I have to manually run a script that takes binary formatted data from my watch and turns it into JSON. Octopress can do the rest, with the help of a plugin I wrote to generate the three types of ‘pages’ that power the training log: the training log entry itself, the data behind that training log entry, and the index of all training logs.

I have made incredibly heavy use of other people’s work. For dynamic visualisation, d3 is pretty much the best thing out there - it does all kinds of graphs, tables, maps and much more. For mapping, I used Leaflet, backed by the tiles of CloudMade, which rely on the data of OpenStreetMap.

To be honest, the results aren’t much different to what I currently get from Garmin Connect, but this is just the first step.

There are bugs. If the training data doesn’t show first time, just refresh. I think that’s a fairly normal Javascript script loading ordering problem, that I haven’t fixed over shipping (and writing this page). The time x-axis is currently in seconds (I’d rather have 1:00 than 3600 but I haven’t yet worked that one out).

Other things on my list include publishing the script I use to convert Garmin FIT data to JSON, based on the fitparse library, plotting lap markers, having lap popups. It’s quite exciting, the possibilities are endless. Oh, and the training log index needs some styling applied. But at least it has some entries. The most recent training entry seems to have a duration of 4.5 hours. I know why it thinks that (it’s rendering the data I present it correctly, and the start time is correct so what I think is the end time might be something else). Hopefully that’ll be fixed soon.

Key Workouts

It’s been a while since I’ve added anything, which is a shame with a shiny new blog platform and no new content. There have been other focuses, on which hopefully more soon, but for now here are my four run types that I’m practising

Long run

Not exactly an unknown - but I don’t really bother with long slow distance running. My long runs start off nice and easy, ramp it up to comfortable in the second third, and then build the pace for the last third, finishing strong for the last km or three. It’s a difficult one to get right at first but after a while, I found I could manage the last few kms at a minute faster than the first few.

Tempo run

Very much like the long run, but much shorter and much faster. I find the first few km allow me to get into my rhythm, loosen up, to such an extent that I’ve got close to my 5km personal best on a number of occasions over the second half of the run. It’s impossible to compare the two, with differences in adrenaline and pressure in the race but with the possibility of wind assistance on a 10km out and back, but it does show a strong, fast finish.

Hill sessions

One alternative is hill intervals - I find a hill that takes nearly a minute to run down, just over a minute to run up. The downs are supposed to be fast and the ups are just recovery. I can do this 20 times in 40 minutes, and then head for a 30 minute run after that.

However, these days I just tend to head to my local hilly trail run once a week, which pretty much becomes a hilly fartlek style run. Again I try and run fast down the hills, and just try and maintain a steady rhythm going up. The idea is not to walk (although in a race I’m happy to walk to conserve energy, here I’m trying to improve my hill stamina) if I can avoid it.


At the moment I’m aiming to improve my 5km race pace so that I sharpen my race pace. I’m hoping to get down to 20 minutes, which means each kilometre should take 4 minutes. The last couple of times I’ve done a 4 or 5km warmup and then run back the same distance with a minute recovery in between each km. In theory I should be able to get to 4 minutes per km, and then reduce the intervals in between. I’ll see how it works in practice!


The details of the first three of these sessions were first suggested to me by my former coach, Mad Dog Mike. Should you wish to have a more detailed plan1 tailored to your abilities, check out his website and get in touch with him, he’s a nice guy and he’s not expensive.

1 there are two sides to a detailed plan - it’s great to know what you’re supposed to be doing but it does make training weeks less flexible. In the end I chose my own plan for flexibility but would consider being coached again if I wanted to succeed in a concrete goal.

Tech Behind the Blog

I’ve moved the blog from willthames.org.uk to reflect my new location and just for an opportunity for a refresh.

I was relatively happy with Drupal’s flexibility but just didn’t need that much power. Also, something a lot simpler means that I can customise it that much more easily.

In the end I went with Octopress using the Drupal migration for Jekyll. Currently it’s only migrated my posts - not my race reports or training log. I’ll worry about that later. Using octopress allows me to store my blog posts in git and then upload them to Heroku - so free blog posting in quite a simple fashion. The only thing I don’t like about the combination is that I have to keep the generated pages under version control, but the opportunity to use and learn a bit more about Heroku was more compelling than just using github pages.

For theming, I really wanted to keep the left hand bar, and I just couldn’t easily work out how to do it using octopress’s default theme. The bootstrap theme for octopress was a lot easier to customise, mostly because Bootstrap is so simple to use. I’ve made a few of my own tweaks (most of which I’ve submitted as a pull request) and some simple CSS customisations on top.

I’ve also changed the tag line from “swim, bike, run”, to add the word tech. I imagine my blog will remain more about running than anything else, but there will definitely be the odd technical post.

Glasshouse 50km

The day didn’t start well - my alarm was supposedly set for 4am and I was awoken at 5.20am by Peta asking if the alarm should have gone off yet. It was going to be a rush to make it to the start…

However, I left just after 5.30am with just a chocolate milkshake for breakfast, and headed north on what I thought would be a tight hour drive - in the end, it was closer than I expected and I parked at around 6.10, and was registered, numbered and ready to go at 6.20.

At 6.30 we got to see some of the longer distance runners go past after their first lap (as we would do around an hour later) and then we were off. I kept my pace as gentle as I could, not trying to keep up with the faster runners and letting people go in front if they wanted.

I settled into a rhythm, and kept it very easy uphill (I ran almost no hills the entire day). The first loop was relatively comfortable.

The next bit was the run up to the carpark at the base of Beerburrum. This was again pretty easy if you walk it. Once at the car park you get to run straight back down again, past all the runners behind you. I made the most of this section and just opened up, enjoying a quick descent. For some reason I thought that was going to be the worst of the hills.

The next hour was pretty much fire trails with no significant terrain at all - but I must remember to keep an eye out for route markings - I was lucky to only go 100m or so off course before meeting other people coming back. A narrow escape for me.

At checkpoint 4 I took on some more nutrition - a pikelet, some chews, coke - a quick stop before continuing. I was still doing very well at this point, the first two hours I did 22km.

Between checkpoints 4 and 5 is really where it started to go wrong. It was mainly the ascents that hit me hard, but also the increase in temperature. By the time I got to checkpoint 5 I was definitely walking a lot more often!

At checkpoint 5 I took on some more food and also refilled the camelbak before heading on for the next epic bit. I made a catastrophic error at what was termed checkpoint 6a - I thought the sign was pointing to it, not saying I was there. For the next hard 5km, I was convinced I’d missed a checkpoint. This had a very demoralising effect - I was concerned I’d be disqualified. I found it very difficult to stay motivated and my walking became more frequent. In addition, the terrain was very tough - steep descents down dusty trails, tough climbs that were hard enough even to walk.

When I reached the road, I decided to head back to find 6a (not realising I’d already been there). This added an extra couple of km (although it felt like more) - when I arrived and discovered I’d misunderstood, I was merely a little deflated, and just headed back on the run back to 5 along the short path. At this point a marshall was driving past, and was concerned I was going the wrong way. I explained the situation and that I’d already done the hard bit and he drove me back to where I’d rejoined the trail - that probably saved my mental state no end! It does make my pace look a bit odd for 1 km where I do 40km/h!

After checkpoint 5 it was a quick descent past the Glasshouse Mountains scenic viewpoint and a chance to get some quick kms out - unfortunately my body just wasn’t that willing to cooperate and while my legs could do some quick bits for a few hundred metres, there were no more fast kms after that. Occasionally I’d round a corner to get a blast of heat.

At checkpoint 2 it was good to take some water on again for the last 5km or so. There were some tough times but I bumped into a couple of people on the way - noone seemed to be having much fun! There are some questions to be had regarding my hydration strategy at this point - I was drinking plenty but it didn’t seem to do much good - perhaps I’d have been better pouring some of it over my head, especially in light of recent events

The last couple of km seemed to take forever, considering I’d already run the same course in the first 10km, but in the end I was caught by surprise by the very end as I just wasn’t sure how far it was one minute, the next it was 200m to go!

In the end it took 6:07:13, two hours longer than the winner. But I can console myself with being middle of presumably a reasonably elite group (there’s not many people that would start a 50km run), placed 32nd out of 64 starters. Had I not had my route error, I would have saved the 20 minutes taken there, and any time lost to due to loss of focus at the time.

I was very happy to finish, and I love my souvenir ultra finishers mug! (the qualifier is important as I think I’d have done far better on the 30km run, but I wouldn’t have got the mug!)

So. Would I do it again? Yes. I’d hope for a cooler day (but realise I could get a warmer day). My goals of going longer in 2013 have been cut back - I may well have a couple of cracks at the 50km distance again, but I’ll concentrate on improving upon that distance before going any longer. And I can definitely improve just by trail running more frequently, even at the shorter distances.

And finally, the Garmin data. Obviously the bit where I go 40km/h (and indeed the following km where I go sub 5:00/km for the only time) should be ignored.

Bridge to Brisbane 10k

I had high hopes for this race - I’m pretty well trained, I ran 10k in training on Wednesday in 48:30 and doing an iconic race should have given me the motivation to do well.

I knew that I had to get near the front or a lot of energy would be wasted getting past slower runners. However, never did I expect what actually happened.

Shuttle buses from the finish to the start were between 4:45 and 5:30, so I figured I’d aim for the 4:45 buses to get me there in plenty of time. I left home at 4:30, and got to about 500m away at about 4:50. I then sat in traffic waiting to get into the car park until I finally got parked at 5:25, at which point I rushed to get to the bus for 5:30. When I got to the bus queue it was snaking around the finishing area - there were a few concerned people around me that we might not make it, but I remembered I just had to be in the queue at 5:30.

Finally got onto a bus around 5:45, which drove the 10km to the start - at 6:10 we were still on the bus, but I knew that there was a staggered start, so I just hoped I’d catch a later running wave.

The crowd just kept moving and then pretty soon we were across the start line and racing. Along with everyone else - the joggers and the walkers had already started.

My entire race was pretty much spent running at full pelt whenever I had space, often having to weave around slower people, cut through small gaps, brake hard to avoid groups of walkers in a line across the road. I don’t think I’ve ever sworn so much during a race, either at the race itself or at fellow ‘competitors’.

I don’t know - I guess I just don’t understand ‘fun runs’. Runs aren’t supposed to be fun - if you’re not suffering (at least by the very end), you’re not going fast enough. The idea of entering a run to walk 10km seems slightly ridiculous to me. The notion of walking while wearing a top saying ‘Pain is temporary, Pride lasts forever’ or whatever to me seems laughable. And then to not at least have guidelines to suggest that walkers stay on one side of the road or something to allow faster traffic to pass seems bizarre.

In hindsight I know I should have left home 30 minutes earlier - all my issues with the race stem from that. Next year I will qualify for the sub 50 minute starting section too.

I wanted to do sub-46, in the end I managed 48:15 - my GPS suggests I ran 10.25km which I could well believe with the weaving (although it’s not really outside the GPS’s margin of error either). Slowest km after the 1st km going over the bridge was the 5th, which was when the road narrowed significantly. Fastest km was the last, but that’s not too surprising as it was entirely downhill!

Anyway, another 10km in which I got a PB (the last was a hot July day with a hangover in 2009) that falls well short of what I suspect my potential should be.

Graphing Performance

I’ve been getting into data analysis and training performance is a perfect target for such analysis.

Using pandas, along with matplotlib, NumPy and SciPy, I can graph the number of hours run

The python I used for this is

(Note that I had to use ImageMagick’s convert -trim +repage to remove unnecessary white space for display here - I’m sure I could have fiddled more withpyplot for a while to achieve similar results)

The data comes from my training summary, a drupal view I created to produce a CSV of my training log for such purposes (importing it into excel and playing it with it there was my original analysis method)

Getting Faster

With less than three months to go until the Gold Coast marathon, a progress update is long overdue.

I’m running four times a week (consistently - I rarely miss a planned run, even though I almost always schedule my runs for the end of the day), I’m up to 24km on my long run, I’ve done intervals, hill sessions, boring loop repeats with tempting ways out (e.g. 4 x 6km loop at no point more than 2km from home).

I’m suffering from very few niggles - occasionally my left achilles or my right knee let me know of their presence, but I’ve not had to suffer through. Most excitingly, after Sunday’s run, I noticed my hamstrings. I never normally notice my hamstrings, I just don’t make them work enough (even though I should) so I’m glad I was working them for a change.

Today I did 6 x 500m with 1 min SR. Because of the foreshore wind, which typically gives me a tailwind running west (away from home) and a headwind running home, I alternated them running out and back. My 1st interval was after the warm up, so probably least rested of all of them, the 3rd effort was fast as expected, but interestingly the 6th was the fastest of all - by this time I was sheltered by the Shorncliffe cliffs, but I could really feel my body start to loosen up and just run.

My technique tends to improve at speed - my heels come up, I drive through and behind (at least I do these days, I don’t try and gain speed by launching my leg in front!) and my strike is very midfoot, and will probably naturally move towards front foot as the pace increases. I’m no longer so bothered by forcing my form to improve - I think focusing on speed naturally helps.

So my fastest effort today was at 4:16/km for 500m. Ideally I’d be able to sustain that for 2-3km to be able to beat my 5km best. I’m definitely feeling that the speed sessions are helping, and that I’m improving week on week.

Let’s hope I can sustain the work through until July without any injury, and keep getting faster and faster.

I know I can beat my London time, and probably by ten minutes or more, but that will depend on staying healthy, and good conditions on the day, and continued improvement between now and then!

Happy New Year - Now Back to It

I haven’t updated this blog since Challenge Henley. I’ve barely trained since Challenge Henley.

Three months off has done me no good at all. Drinking and eating my way through a north American winter and then landing in an Australian summer has done me no good at all either.

My plans for 2012:

  • Complete a triathlon
  • Lose 8kg and 2in (the impact of just three months slacking)
  • Start shaving significant time off my 1500m swim (sub 30?)
While completing a triathlon might not seem much of a goal for someone with two Ironmans behind them, I really have got so far behind in my training and I need to start learning to race in the Australian summer (not to mention calm my fear of jellyfish/sharks/blue-ringed octopus).

NB: my training log is not up to date as the USB stick for data transfer from my watch is hopefully in shipping (if not it’s lost) - either way the total is 1 run in October, 4 in December and 1 in January. Not great.

Challenge Henley and On

So, results are in: Swim: 1:19 !!! T1: 00:09 Bike: 06:33 T2: 00:05 Run: 04:36 Total: 12:42

Not quite as planned, for the run at least. A quick summary before I go onto the lessons learned.

Swim was lovely. Bike was pretty solid. Everyone said I looked good during the run, the trouble was I was stopping a lot for aid or toilet breaks and when I was running, I really wasn’t running very fast.

The bad…

Stomach problems

I had to take several ‘pit-stops’ on two of the bike laps and three of the run laps. Without going into too much detail, these cost me time on the bike, whereas on the run the stops themselves weren’t much worse than a long walk through an aid station but the cramping probably didn’t do my running much good.

Lack of run training

I haven’t done anywhere near marathon level training in the past six weeks - if you look at my run log I was probably tapered four weeks ago.

Lack of brick training

I did one brick which was one lap of the Henley course after two laps of the bike course. In hindsight that should have made me revisit my expectations then, I put my slowness down to high winds rather than a tough course. More brick sessions would have been sensible.

Not race weight

I could have probably made more effort to focus on nutrition and drink less beer. That’s pretty boring, but sometimes so is a six hour bike ride and I accept that as part of the deal.

Henley run course is hard!

It’s a cross-country course in places, running on muddy farm tracks, up hills, down hills, across fields, even some of the tarmac is cross country!

The Good…


Ok, I’m still not very fast, but it was a gorgeous swim in cool, but not horribly chilly, conditions. Going sub 1:20 was a great result for me.


Without the stops I’d easily have done 6:30 or less, which is as good as my IMCH time last year, but with much more hills. I’m really pleased with the gains I’ve made with more bike focus this year, but there’s still room for improvement here! I overtook lots of aero bikes going up hills. Of course they all got me back on the flats and the downhills.

And onwards

I am not going iron distance in 2012. I am going to concentrate on smaller races, more often. I will join group sessions for added competition, and see if I can get smarter about my training too. I’ve got the discipline and motivation to do the training hours, I’d like to get more results out of them.

Less Than One Week to Henley.

I’m mostly glad it wasn’t yesterday! Hopefully Hurricane Katia will clear off properly and we’ll have a nice calm Sunday.

I’m a lot more confident that I’m ready to race, and with a sensible week tapering and resting I can only get more ready.

With that in mind, my hoped for race day looks like

Swim: 01:20 T1: 0:10 Bike 06:30 T2: 0:05 Run: 03:55 Total: 12:00

With good conditions the above is possible, although the run target is ambitious to say the least, as it’s the same as my London marathon time. However, I’m probably fitter now than then, and I’m hoping that it’ll be cooler. Certainly I don’t think my London time is anywhere near my potential best. Oh, the bike target might be ambitious too - it’s actually a quicker pace than the two-lap cycle I did a couple of weekends ago. Again, I’m hoping conditions are better on the day than they were that day!

I have my race day pretty much worked out in my head, so it just remains for me to hydrate and fuel pre-race ready for the big day!

Two Weeks to Go!

So, a fortnight to go until Challenge Henley. Some recent improvements to confidence, some disasters.

First, the good - 4km (ish) lake swim yesterday in 1:23. So I can do the distance in a time I can be happy with - can’t be 100% sure if it was 4k, but either way I should be in the right ballpark.

I hope I can convert that to a 1:20 swim in the Thames, although the flow of the Thames might have an effect.

I did two laps of the bike course yesterday in 4:30. It’s only slightly hillier than IMCH now, hence why I’m getting similar times. However, it is bloody windy at times - there were times when I was only getting 26km/h on downhills!

I’d like to shave a bit of time off there and get a 6:30 bike. However, with the wind blowing uphill, it could easily be a 7:00 bike.

I did one lap of the run course yesterday. It was horrendous (my run, the course was pretty enough). I might have been bonking by that point of the day, and it was very windy running back to Henley along the Thames, but if I run that slowly on the day (or, realistically, slower) then I’ll struggle with a 4:30 marathon.

So, I predict I can beat my IMCH time, but it may well come down to how well I run on the day. I’ll need to get my nutrition and hydration right, and be properly rested (although I don’t have much running in my legs to blame it on that) but it can be done. The question just remains, will I manage it. I’ll find out on the day!

Trustworthy Data

I’ve been having problems trusting my gadgets recently. My new Finis Swimsense is meant to be the business in tracking swim sessions - it’s supposed to be able to determine stroke type and count lengths - in my 4km swim on Friday it was of the opinion that I did the last third backstroke and breaststroke (and at no worse pace, quite impressive if you’ve ever seen my feeble attempts at the latter). It has also miscounted quite a few sessions (my 4km came out at 4.025km, for example). I’m not concerned if it can’t understand my drills but I expect it to get the basics right!

On Thursday I went to Regents Park and did two laps of the Outer Circle, starting and finishing at the Hub. You wouldn’t know that from the map


Oh well, the swimsense got a firmware update on Saturday, and I’ll be more careful to check GPS accuracy before starting a run next time (not that that’s always a guarantee).

5 Weeks Until Henley

So, less than five weeks to go until Challenge Henley. My longest bike has been 137km, my longest run has been 26km and I’m unlikely to do anything longer now. At least I’ve done a 4km swim, although not in open water.

My target times remain a little uncertain - I don’t actually know what the ascent on the bike is like, particularly now they’ve changed the course. The elevation estimates vary from barometric altitude from the bike to the GPS course plotting estimates of e.g. ridewithgps.

Rough back of an envelope calculations from recent long hilly rides suggest each 10m of climbing adds about a minute, so I can expect to be 30 minutes slower than IM Switzerland if the ascent is 1500m. (This is demonstrably not actual science as that would mean a pancake flat course would take me 4 hours, at 45kph - which is faster than I can maintain for one hour on the rollers, which doesn’t have wind resistance. I’d probably need to solve a non-linear simultaneous equation to get a better model). That would assume I had no bike improvements in a year, however, so I’d hope to do better than that.

Also, we can assume that I did Woodcote at pretty much IM race pace - add a third again and you get 7 hours, but from my test ride Challenge Henley has fewer horrific hills.

So, to predictions: Swim + T1: 1h30 Bike + T2: 6h45 Run: 4h

This would make 12:15, two minutes faster than IMCH on a hillier course (I am assuming I can run ok after the bike there).

21 Days of Ironman Training

Since my two weeks off for Iceland and a busy period of work (and beneficial for full recovery from my running injury) I have been training every day for three weeks.

This is the most consistent period I’ve ever managed.

Weeks to goSwimBikeRunTotal hours

Blenheim Sprint Triathlon

My fifth and shortest triathlon in 3 seasons, I thought it was about time to give the sprint distance a try - I’m pretty sure I’m more competitive at distance, but sometimes a short race sharpens your fitness.

Blenheim is a spectacular venue, very well organised (both of these things are reflected in the price!). As a first event, I’d think it would be a hard one to start off with - the run from swim exit to T1 is pretty much straight up a steep hill - 20m of ascent in 400m might not sound much but you feel it. Similarly, for a looping bike course, the altitude change can easily cause you to blow up early on. And then the run isn’t much better - two loops of down from the palace to the lake and back up again.

For a first openwater swim of the season I did fine in the lake, I was pushing it quite hard by the end.

I was hoping to have a quicker swim and a quicker bike, and probably a quicker run (although the run course is long and slightly hilly, so that’s the bit I’m happiest with). I would have liked to have been far closer to 1:20 than I was, the wrong side of 1:30 was just annoying, especially since I probably lost at least 15 seconds in T2 when my stomach just locked up and I couldn’t bend down to tie my shoelaces! (oops should have had elastic laces!)

Challenge Henley - 18 Weeks Away

I’ve now done my second week of training towards Challenge Henley after my post marathon lull. If you look at my training against a normal Ironman schedule, it probably looks very light. But I’ve had some busy weeks with heavy social commitments, and expect to have some more. I’m also suffering from lack of endurance in sports that aren’t running. So I’m keeping it simple.

“Each week, do more than you did last week, in each sport”.

This is a remarkably simple strategy that should have me back to Ironman-type training weeks in no time. At the moment I can only do 60 lengths in the pool. In a couple of months I expect to be at double that.

Week one had just two full hours training - two runs at around 50 minutes total, one bike at 40 minutes logged (I was on the bike longer) and one swim of 33 minutes.

In this last week I did about the same running (I only got one run in of 52 minutes), much more bike (2.5 hours) and one swim of an hour. So already I’m nearly at 4.5 hours.

For the next week, I have a busy weekend so will again have to fit much of the training in the week - so will aim for more runs, about the same bike and more swims. With that in mind, I will also set the following goal:

“Do two of each sport every week”

Again, I don’t expect to manage to meet that one every week either, but it’s a good target and achievable most weeks at least.

I’m really not following any particular training plan this year - my plan comes from needing to increase endurance to Iron distances, while maintaining speed. Simple sessions (e.g. one hour on the rollers, a 10km run, 100 lengths) are great for measuring progress, and make planning sessions easier.

My progress can be followed as ever by hitting Log at the top right. I’m usually not too far behind logging activities, although I only filled in May today.

London Marathon 2011

After twitter, facebook, work email, what else is left to say about my marathon race? I’ve repeated the excuses widely - I started off too fast, it was too hot, I pulled a muscle (twice - once at 8km, and again at 18km). I know I can do better than 3:54, but how much better I could have done on Sunday is debatable. While I set off too fast given the heat later on, I’m not sure it was too fast given the heat at the time. I’m very proud of my half split - I’d have been reasonably pleased with that, given my training, for a half marathon if I’d stopped at 21km.

My training wasn’t enough, I know that - injury caused me too much downtime - however, it wasn’t my injury that affected me at all on Sunday - my left leg was fine, my achilles giving its usual early twinges but settling quickly, as per normal. Of course I could have overcompensated onto the right leg, but I think I’d just had stiff calves all week and overused it or something - difficult to be sure.

All in all, it was a tough race, and the support at London is a double edged sword - if you’re low and need a boost, you’ll get one, if you’re low and just want to recoup and rest a little, it’s really difficult - there is almost no escape from the crowds. I’m not quite sure - I wouldn’t be surprised if I was motivated by the crowd urging me on, but some of my kms where I walked weren’t much slower than adjacent kms where I ran the entire length - sometimes a bit of rest is needed.

In the end, I’m glad I didn’t collapse for 2 hours in the middle of the race, I survived the event, I enjoyed some of it (probably the first 10km and the last 5km), my race didn’t meet strategy of enjoying it all or going it at 5:15/km, I know it’s not the best time I’m personally capable of, so I will have another go at the marathon, just not quite sure when yet.

Oh, and given the failure of my Garmin 405 (it got to 41.5km - out of what I think would have been 42.7km - it registered 40.5 as I crossed the 40km timing mat) I’m totally treating myself to a Garmin 310XT that can do 20 hours.

Interestingly, even with elevation correction, Garmin Connect thinks I ran up a couple of 100m hills in Canary Wharf - not sure if it just takes a sample of skyscrapers and land and averages it out!

Mental Plan for Tomorrow

My alarm is already set for 06:45. My backup alarm is set for 07:00.

I will head for breakfast, of one or two bowls of muesli and a coffee. After breakfast, I will change into my race kit, put on bodyglide and 24-hour sunscreen, attach my number.

By this time I expect it to be around 07:30-07:45. I will then head to the tube and use the free journeys to get to Charing Cross, before taking the free overland to Greenwich. I’d expect to get a train around 08:09 or 08:24 (earlier the better is good for train capacity, later is good for not hanging around too long before the start).

Once at the start I’ll aim to keep warm and hydrated for the hour or so before the race starts. I’ll also have an energy bar just after arrival with water. If there is the opportunity to warm up a little beforehand I’ll take it, otherwise the first km or so before I cross the start line will have to do!

For the first 5kms I don’t expect to do great pace, and will also contribute to my warm up, as there will be a lot of traffic and I’ll just go with the flow and try and pick up the pace as the people thin out.

I’ll hope to be doing 5:15/km on average for the race. My nutritional plan is to have a shot blok, washed down with water, every 6 or so km (water is every mile so may well be every 6.4km, going down to 4.8km later on), although I will have spare. I don’t plan to take on much water otherwise, unless for cooling purposes - however, I will drink when I feel thirsty, training suggests this is sufficient.

In the main the plan is to enjoy as much as the race, especially the iconic sights, as much as possible while getting the best manageably consistent pace throughout.