The Training Works - First Race of 2016

Photo: Triquetra Photography / Stuart Gillespie
Some of you will know I'm training for my first Ironman ("and your last", says Liz), writing about the experience in a separate blog here.

Yesterday was the first test of almost eight months of winter training and I'm pleased with the results. I took part in the LochLoMan Triathlon, a middle distance event with a 1.2ml swim, 53mile bike and 13ml run.  That's roughly a half-Ironman distance.

I knocked 16 minutes off my previous half-ironman time at Lanzarote, improving in the splits in all three disciplines.

I ran the half-marathon in under two hours, a personal best and something I've hitherto been unable to achieve in competition. (Open to read more)


But still I can't get a helmet to sit square on my skull!  Thanks to Stuart Gillespie of Triquetra Photography who took all these great photos of the event for capturing my wonky head...

The run was surprising because, since twisting my ankle last October, I haven't run much all winter, certainly nothing over 6ml.  The last time I ran 13 miles was at the Lanzarote Ironman 70.3 in September and that took 2hr 9min.  However, my coach Joe Beer has had me deep water running in the pool and every bike session has been followed by a short session on my feet - either walking or jogging.  Clearly it paid off.

The swim was 10.7C so neoprene caps, gloves and booties were mandatory.  I wore two pairs of booties and my Zone 3 neoprene vest under my wetsuit plus some ear-plugs.  Swimming every week through the winter in Loch Sunart clearly paid off because at no time did I feel cold.  The extra neoprene might have slowed me down, but the gloves worked like mini-paddles and improved my catch.  However, low morning sun made sighting an issue.  Take a look at the GPS track below - we swam anti-clockwise.  
Swim

The first two sides of the 'square' were fine, but during the SE short side, close to the shallow coast, it was almost impossible to see the buoy even though it was huge!  second time around, when my goggles had really steamed up, I just followed the middle of the pack in front and hoped they could see where they were swimming.


Bike

My two trips to recce the bike course paid dividends because I knew to pace myself on the hills and then give it full gas back down Glen Fruin.

With 4,900ft of ascent it has more vertical climbing than the full Ironman I've entered!  I was overdressed in my Castelli Gabba whereas most other riders were fine in Tri suits.

The forecast at 4:30am had predicted some heavy downpours which in the end we were lucky to escape.

I don't think the Gabba was a mistake, I was just a little unlucky, and at no time did I overheat.

Incidentally, the bike route had more climbing in it than I'll face on my full Ironman.  It was a rather hilly course.

Then came the run - two loops of out-and-back.  The front runners experienced quite a few problems because a second event put up their signage which directed the leaders of our event off our route and onto theirs.  I believe this caused the organisers a lot of stress on what would otherwise have been a good event.  It probably meant some lead runners didn't make the podium, but the course had been described in detail in the athletes notes for which I had been able to complete a full recce.

Run
There were niggles about the event, but nothing more than that.  I'd certainly do it again.

* The run Aid Stations were not located where the athletes notes said they would be - at the turn around points - they were some distance before.  One was missing altogether.
* One of the turn around points was so badly marked lots of runners missed it, me included.
* Those Aid Stations did not have the goodies that were promised and which I'd expect form other races - no pre-mixed energy drinks and no gels (warned about the day before the event by email).  Instead it was water, coke, bananas, biscuits and cake-things.  I was pleased to be self-reliant and only took water.
* There was an assumption that "it's all in the athletes' notes", when it wasn't.

As I say these were niggles, not complaints, and points from which I learnt.  Indeed, I learnt an awful lot from the event, so much that  I've written a detailed debrief to myself, one you really don't want to read.

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