3 of 6 London Triathlon – Lesson Learned
As I sat at the ExCel eating a handful of dry muesli cereal post race (don’t ask… I surpsased myself today), I felt decidedly flat and uninspired. Surprisingly not because of the “Muesli Episode” but due to what I felt was a bloody poor performance in todays race. My worst case consolation prize (bronze) goal was a sub 1:30 time and I didn’t even manage that (1:32:24… was going to have to say it at some point so may as well get it out now!).
Having consumed sugar virtually all the way home, I decided to reflect and see what lessons I could learn. After all I had a plan so I should be able figure out where this went wrong and adapt my training accordingly.
So buckle up, get a nice mug of tea and let me bore you with another post race ramble…
The London Triathlon
My second year at this event, so I guess that it is self evident that I like it and enjoy it! OK the £20 car parking charge is a bit of a rip off, but it’s the ExCel so what do you expect. It’s a big two day event, if you like ‘scale’ then this is one for you. Variety of distances from Super Sprint to Olympic. You won’t get your endurance race here, but you can thrash about with some short course racing!!
It’s well organised and very efficiently run. No shortage of people to help in terms of event crew and as the transition and race ‘village’ are inside one of the halls of ExCel there is a ton of space. The finish is indoors, red carpet and proper ‘ironman quality’ event finish line.
The swim is in the Docks which sounds and looks a lot more troublesome than it really is. OK the water is not crystal clear, but compared to my local open water (Box End) its vastly better (in my opinion!). By which I mean at Box End everything feels dirty to me!! From the smelly changing area, dirty showers and weed infested ‘lakes’ with god only knows what living in them. Frankly I hate going there and can’t wait to get home and get clean afterwards… The London Docks, no weeds and ‘relatively’ clean feeling water. It’s just an opinion, I’m sure both pass all applicable health and safety requirements! But there are large ships moored in Dockland and the banks are very industrial. So it does have a bit of an intimidating feel I suppose.
The bike course is pretty much flat and fast on closed roads. Well laid out, well marshalled and good crowd support. It’s in Central London so not an interesting course, but it is bloody fast and if you fancy road racing then you will enjoy it. Apart from the mobile hazards this year created by some nervous / inexperienced cyclists who were ‘having a go’ at riding there bicycles. Now don’t get me wrong I am the last person to be elitist or try and exclude people (honestly!!)… But if you are going to rock up at an event like this I do feel that you need to be able to ride at a speed above 12mph and if you are going to be slow then stay to the left and ride in a straight line. Don’t randomly veer across the road, wobble and generally be a danger. There were several bad accidents today, one of which I witnessed and I would not be surprised if the others weren’t caused in a similar way. This was also a problem at Blenheim Triathlon earlier in the year. Of course I want more people to get involved in the sport. And yes everyone starts somewhere (as I know only too well!!!), but learn to at least ride your bicycle safely before the bloody race!
The run is dull and essentially a 2.5k loop. It’s along the edge of the water which sounds nicer than it is. But it’s flat, it’s fast and well supported. Cruelly you are taken to the edge of the red carpet before turning left away from the finish to go out for your second and subsequent laps. There is not much to say about the run course really… It’s a bit dull but it is what it is.
So to start analysing where today went wrong and how it turned into a car crash… I was planning to swim between 16min and 18min. I actually did 17:54 so that must be OK! I started near the front of the pack. Pretty much held position and got overtaken and kicked a bit. Then overtook others and kicked them. Felt like I was in the race and no goggle issues after the last fiasco at Centurion… Sighting could have been better and integrated into my stroke which would have speeded me up. Also my technique fell apart a bit and there were a few reversions to breast stroke to catch my breath and sort myself out. Honestly I do feel that I am more than swim fit for this kind of distance, but what I’m not is familiar and confident with the environment (open water). So the take away lesson for me here is really simple; get over myself regarding my deep dislike of the disgusting Box End open water and make myself go there and swim in it much more often. Yes it will be horrible, but so is a lack of progress in my results. And I can always get some appropriate disinfectant to use in the shower when I get home 😉
I keep telling myself, and everyone else that is too slow in escaping, that I am OK on the bike and its my best discipline… I was looking for 35min bike sector, max 40min today, but ideally I wanted to try and do 30min split. My bike time was 40:11 so turns out that I’m not as good as I thought!!! OK there was some time lost being held up by ‘moving novice hazards’ but even so. The real problem is my bike handling is not up to scratch – I brake too often, don’t corner skilfully and generally waste energy by being over cautious and scrubbing off speed and then having to work harder again to get the bike moving.
Improvement today in that I was at least watching power, but stupidly looking at average for the ride… More useful to look at that AND the current 3s average.
Would I have been faster on my TT bike. Yes. So why did I take my road bike? Simple; even though I wanted some pics of me on the Felt (it’s all about the social media right !?!?!?), I have yet to master eating and drinking on a TT bike (without becoming a mobile hazard myself). So I decided that being able to take on some calories during the bike was more important. Decision made.
There are some very clear take aways for me from the bike today; which boil down to (1) get better at cycling (2) having bought a TT bike learn to fucking ride it!!! This then translates to spend more time on the road, make that time count (less easy time), keep the turbo sessions going as I definitely can see the improvement in my power output.
Taking this a step further I need to start making myself ride with people that are a lot faster and better than me. I too often take the soft easy option and ride with people that let’s say “won’t stretch me”… Great for an ego massage, naff all good for getting my cycling going! I need to deal with putting myself in a group that I will properly struggle to ride with, and frequently get dropped from. I then DO NOT want them to wait or pick me up. If I get dropped then I get the ride shame back on my own and eventually I will stop getting dropped (because thats how my little head works!). Lets face it, it’s not going to be anywhere near as unpleasant as going to Box End and putting my face in that disgusting water ewwwwww.
So if the swim was to plan and the bike was off but not tragically so, it must have been the run that killed my race? Well apparently not!! I was targeting 28min to 30mins with a very slow first kilometre. Actually I ran a 27:14 and my first kilometre off the bike was as fast as I normally run a standalone 5k… 🙂 The second was slow, but only because I looked at my pace and told myself to slow down incase it wasn’t sustainable (idiot – it’s only 5k!!). Then I remembered to switch to HR not pace as I had planned and that showed I was well within my ability. So each kilometre got markedly faster there after. I could have done more. I was still able to speak and I didn’t throw up at the end… So I know there was more there.
I’m actually very pleased with my improvement in running. By chance (long story) I find myself doing a track session fortnightly with some people that are WAY faster than me. I can’t even nearly match them, but I keep trying! Also the Wednesday Olney group I run with are all faster and more capable than me. I really struggle to keep up – but I try and I get a bit better as the months go by. It’s essentially the same strategy as will be used for the bike – train with people that will properly stretch me and then use my bruised ego to drive the improvement 😉
So enough of the love in with my run performance. If the Swim, Bike and Run were all OK after a fashion what the fuck happened that led to a 1:32:24 ??? Simple dear reader, TRANSITIONS happened! I spent 7 minutes in T1 and T2 combined.
I always gloss over transitions. I practice BRICK sessions (and that has paid off!!), I practice each discipline in a structured way (after a fashion!!), but I just ignore transitions… Which is stupid really as people that actually know what they are doing and are good at this tend to NOT ignore transitions.
Considering I am a detail freak I am amazed that I have not thought about this. But maybe part of the benefit of having a plan is that you can more objectively deconstruct what happened? Until I looked at the actuals against the plan, I had no idea (as I sat there with my dry muesli) that transitions could be a big part of the problem!
For instance; could I have got out of my wetsuit quicker? Well certainly hard to see how I could do it slower! Did I run with the bike as fast as I could (considering it was a massive transition area)? Probably not I had cycle shoes on. Was I well practiced and drilled as to what went on in which order? Not really I was having to consciously think…
There is clearly another takeaway here and it doesn’t involve buying more carbon wheels for my bikes!
I had a bloody nice day! I was privileged to do something I enjoy and indulge myself in. A day of fun me time, made some new friends, ate cake and drank coffee. Had an amazing time doing something that I am finding addictive and I absolutely love. I say all this as you could be mistaken for thinking that I was unhappy having read all the above!! I most certainly am not. But I want to be the very best I can be and so part of the ‘fun’ is pushing to see what that could be.
There are some clear things I need to do and build into my plan. Those that know me personally will know that without fail these things will happen. Also the discipline of having a plan…
There is such an irony to that. As I sit here on this Sunday evening I have three days left to go in my old ‘corporate life’. A world that was dominated by plans and managing targets, goals and strategies… About to embark on a whole new career, based around fitness, and I ‘discover’ planning and goal setting as if it is a revelation… DOH!
Makes you wonder what other skills might be ‘transferable’ going forward. But that dear reader is for another post!