Week 10 in Boulder

Monday started off with a little bit of everything, the hardest session being the run which had some short intervals above 5k race pace.  During a short easy ride I had my first puncture since arriving in Boulder.  I suppose one puncture in 10 weeks isn’t bad going, especially considering the amount of riding I’ve done.  Even my trusty Gatorskin tyres were no match for the staple that ended up in the bike lane.

On Tuesday Scott and I went out for a ride, and we headed out with Australian professional triathlete Paul Ambrose.  After a solid warm up, I got the meat of my session done, which was a 50 minute tempo interval with a power spike every 4 minutes.  It was about as comfortable as it sounds! 

2 weeks ago, Wednesday was my ‘big run day’, and so it was again this week.  After a light breakfast I tried to get ahead of the sun and start early, but even at 7am it was hot.  I had a 2h15 run in store and it wasn’t going to be pretty!  I decided to loop back to the house twice during the run, allowing me to refuel and rehydrate.  Brian has a plan for every session and within today’s long morning run I had a 35 minute tempo interval, just above Half-Ironman pace.  An effort like that requires a lot of concentration and takes its toll physically, so needless to say when the session was over I was more than ready for a lie down.  I had a big breakfast to replace the nearly 2000 calories that I’d burned, and after a few hours of relaxing, Scott and I went for lunch.  In a moment of weakness I chose a burger, which unsurprisingly, turned out to be huge!  God bless America!

I didn’t feel too bad though, as I’d need the energy later on.  That afternoon we got in a swim session at Flatirons, before my second run of the day – as if 2h15’ in the morning wasn’t enough!  I had a 50 minute run planned at a steady effort and even though I was starting at 4:30pm, the sun was still scorching.  Considering the morning’s training, I felt pretty good and not nearly as sluggish as I expected.  After getting a little lost on one of the trails, the run turned into 55’ for 3h10’ of running that day.  After a quick shower we met up with some other British triathletes in town for pizza, and boy were they good!  Finishing a ‘large’ turned out to be a training session in itself, but us boys all finished our large pizzas, with the girls making us look rather greedy as they struggled to finish the ‘normal’ size! 

On Thursday I had a 4 hour ride with some 12 minute intervals, which turned out to be a lot tougher than I imagined.  It was a lonely day in the saddle and another hot one, which meant I had to stop to refill the drinks bottle halfway through.  The upside of this is that I had a Coke, which is a real gem in the middle of a ride.  Feeling a bit worn out from the ride, I was less than enthusiastic about swimming and running, but it was one of those days where you just get it done.  Friday was a lighter day with only a swim and a run, and the day seemed to pass by quickly.  The highlight was heading into RETUL HQ in Boulder for an appointment with British bike fit specialist Michael Smith.  It was a great opportunity to look at my bike fit and ensure that everything was right.  My current position was established when visiting the Drag2Zero wind tunnel in April in the UK, and Michael was happy with my position, making no changes at all.  Great credit goes to Drag2Zero, where aerodynamicists make a conscious effort to put you in a comfortable and sustainable position for the duration of your event, taking not only aerodynamics into account, but also biomechanics. 

Saturday’s 3h ride included 2x 20 minute intervals at threshold (approximately the maximum pace you can sustain for an hour).  Whilst holding threshold watts for only 20 minutes may sound easy, any athlete will tell you that it is far from it.  After struggling through the first interval, I had just 2 minutes recovery before starting the second.  A battle of will commenced, and in the next 20 minutes I went through ups and downs, really toughing it out against myself.  I’d averaged 96% and 94% of FTP respectively for the two intervals, which was a little disappointing, given that I always like to finish stronger than I start.  Unfortunately the hard work wasn’t over, as I still had a 30 minute tempo interval to do within the ride.  After lunch I went to Boulder Reservoir to watch the Sunset Tri, where Renee Baker was racing.  It was fun to be a spectator for the afternoon, other than having to seek shelter during a brief storm that passed through.  It was well worth going as Renee pulled out the goods, taking the overall win! 

Later that day I had another hour run to do, by the end of which I was feeling pathetically low on energy.  The week’s heat and hard training combined to put me to the test, but I still had Sunday’s training ahead of me. 

A short 30 minute run started the day off, and again even a 7am, it seemed ridiculously hot.  I knew how I felt during that short run, and it wasn’t good.  Unfortunately it was an indication of what was to come for the ride.  I headed to the café for a strong coffee and a croissant, trying to psyche myself up for the scheduled 4 hours ahead of me.  An hour and a half in, I knew things weren’t feeling as good as they should, or as good as I’d want them to.  I started one of my intervals and was really struggling to hold the lower end of my target power.  The trend continued and as I continued to feebly pedal, I decided to throw in the towel and call it a day.  Was there any point in continuing with the session knowing that I wasn’t doing it properly?  I thought not.  Still, I find this one of the hardest scenarios to face as an athlete.  When should you stop and when should you push on?  The desire to quit midway through a session occurs regularly, especially when you’re doing a lot of intense work.  But knowing when is the right time to stop is a hard call.  It’s the first time in a long time that I can remember not completing a session, but the guilt was eased knowing that I really had nothing to give and that resting ahead of Las Vegas next week was probably the right call.

Week 9 in Boulder

After Steamboat I had a few easy days, more-so to absorb the running miles that I racked up last week than to recover from the race itself.  Physically I was feeling pretty good at the start of the week, but I knew that a few easier days would really help to nail the training sessions for the back end of the week.  On Wednesday I was back into the normal routine, with a hard 90 minute run with a 30 minute interval thrown in the middle.  90 minute runs are just about my favourite duration – long enough that it feels you’ve got a good long run in, but not so long that you start to get bored and mentally tired! 

On Thursday morning I had a really hard session planned – 4 hours with 90 minutes above half-ironman pace.  I knew that this would be a struggle, so I managed to drag Scott along with me for company.  We cycled through town and stopped at North Spruce for a strong coffee before getting on with the ride.  For the 90 minute effort we went from Lyons to Ward, via Raymond, which was a relentless climb.

The last 20 minutes was hard – really hard.  With 10 minutes to go I nearly threw in the towel as I had nothing left, but somehow we made it to the end of the effort and enjoyed the descent back down to Boulder.  For the last 90 minutes we were barely turning over the pedals, with both of us absolutely smashed from the session.  When we eventually got back to town we refuelled with a burrito and relaxed for the afternoon.  That evening we went to the final Stroke & Stride aquathlon of the summer.  I opted for the 750m swim, going without a wetsuit in preparation for a non-wetsuit swim in Las Vegas.  The swim was good fun, although a little choppy on the way back to shore.   The 5k run was good fun, taking the first half nice and steady, finishing with a negative split.  Later that evening a few of us went out to town for dinner and a few drinks at a rooftop bar in town.

After a late night (by triathlete’s standards), Friday turned out to be an easier day, with just an afternoon run planned.  This was just what I needed after the previous day’s effort on the bike.  That evening we went for dinner with a few friends, then went to a see some live music at a local coffee shop.  It was a nice relaxed evening and fortunately we got back a bit earlier, making sure we’d be ready for Saturday’s training schedule.  On Saturday morning I had a 2h30 ride planned with a hard 30 minute block in the middle.  Somehow Scott hadn’t learned from his mistake on Thursday, and he agreed to come along again!  It turned out to be a great ride, exceeding the target watts for the interval.  Later that afternoon I got a swim in, followed by one of my stock standard 7 mile runs.

It had been a challenging training week so far – mainly on the bike – but the work wasn’t over.  On the cards for Sunday was a 4h30 ride with vo2 repeats and a total of 2 hours at half-ironman pace.  One thing for sure was that I’d have to start the day in the right way, so again we went to the café for a double shot latte and slice of banana bread.  We were joined by Brits Rachel Joyce, Brett Hedges and Emma-Kate Lidbury and after catching up, we all rolled along the highway to get the ride underway.  After a decent warm-up I headed off to get my session done, for most of which I felt great.  But the last two 20 minute intervals were tough – mentally and physically.  Once I’d eventually got through them, I stopped in town for lunch.  It was one of those days where you dig really deep to get through it, and I’d given it everything.  I was sitting in a daze, hungry but unable to eat.  The thought of the slow 10 minute ride home seemed like an overwhelming an insurmountable task, but after a long sit down and counttless drink refills, I was ready to go.  I had one final evening run to cap off the week, which was primarily focussed around a few key sessions on the bike. 

With less than 2 weeks to go, I can’t deny that I’m upset my time in Boulder is coming to an end.  I like to think that I’ve made the most of the opportunity of spenging 10 weeks here – and I think I have.  What’s in store in the coming months is equally exciting, but Boulder is without doubt one of the most idyllic triathlon training locations I could imagine.  But I won’t get too sentimental just yet as I’ve still got 12 more days to enjoy! 

Steamboat Olympic Race Report

We stayed just a few miles from the start of the race at Lake Catamount, which along with the 8am start meant we had a leisurely alarm call at 5:30am  - late compared to most race days.  Something I hadn’t considered when driving into the Rockies was how cold it might be in the morning.  Having been used to warm Boulder mornings, I was totally unprepared for temperatures around freezing, walking around in my shorts and flip-flops!  Fortunately it started to warm up gradually and by the start of the race I could just about feel my fingers and toes.

I’d decided to try and be a bit more aggressive at the start of the swim, with the intent of keeping in touch with the leaders.  The 1500m swim was a triangular clockwise swim, with the first leg heading directly toward the rising sun, making sighting difficult.   I followed feet and soon reached the first turn buoy.  From there on in there were quite a few surges and breaks in the small packs that had formed, but I managed to keep up most of the way, coming out the water in 21:22. 

I’d also been a bit sloppy in transitions over the last few races, so this was another area I hoped to address.  Once on the bike I was soon at the front of our wave, probably until around the 5 mile mark where I was passed by the eventual race winner.  I tried to stay as close to him as I could, without encroaching on the draft zone.  I passed for the lead just before the turnaround point, only to stupidly be confused by the road layout, costing me valuable seconds.  Before I knew it he passed me again and was heading off into the distance.  From there on in I raced solo, continuing to lose time, which was made worse when I missed a turn when a marshal was looking the other way.  Fortunately at the end of the day it turned out to be insignificant.  I came into transition with a 57:51 bike split (those ENVE wheels are FAST!) and went with a flying dismount, going way too fast and nearly ending up on my arse!  Fortunately I didn’t…

As soon as the run started I knew I was going to struggle to have a really good run split.  It wasn’t that I felt bad, but there just wasn’t any spark.  It was lonely too, being around 3 minutes behind the leader starting the run.  The first 3 miles ticked by quickly and for the second half I picked up the effort a little, managing again to negative split the run.  At the halfway point I had a two minute lead to third place who was running well, so I had to work hard to hold him off.  My 38:24 run split managed to do that by just 18 seconds as I finished in 1:59:12 for 2nd overall. 

At the end of another good week of training I was pretty content with the race and the effort I put in.  It was great to come away with a sub-2 overall finish time at my first Olympic distance race in two years.  It had been a long week, a long weekend and a hard morning of racing.  There was still a 4 hour road trip back to Boulder – I was flat out!