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Ironman 70.3 Pays dAix

Ironman 70.3 Pays dAix

The day finally arrived to experience a middle distance Ironman race and i wasn't disappointed with this event. It had great atmosphere, good competition and some hard racing with about 1900 athletes entered. This is a beautiful part of France and the weather was ideal. 

Taking down an 800 calorie breakfast was interesting and so was discovering I had somewhat outgrown my wetsuit from last year! However the goal of this race was to finish strong and positive, test out the nutrition strategy with a view to making the full distance Ironman Nice next month a less daunting prospect.

Swim
(1.9km) - Set in a lake about 30mins by car north of Aix which made the logistics of the event abit cumbersome due to having two transition areas, however it was good nonetheless.  The usual  washing machine affair during the first half, stayed calm, got some space and focused on good navigation and preserving my energy. Fortunately no contact.

Bike
(90km) - Felt pretty good after the swim but was cautious not to push too much on the bike, wanted to finish strong on the run. Time flew past on the ride and I learnt to be careful pacing against others since many were doing the relay and were much fresher, it was reasonably hilly with one 500m climb about 80km in, but what goes up must come down and there were some fantastic fast downhill sections afterwards. Finished in good shape for a strong run.

Run
(21.1km) - Oh dear....legs feel great, lots of energy, however my lungs seemed to have stopped working. It was about 24degrees but felt alot hotter for the 4 x 5km loops in the centre of town. I'm not sure what my problem was, i now suspect the wetsuit was far too tight and compressed my chest and maybe this was the after effect but nevertheless I had to back right off and fortunately the great atmosphere from the crowd around the course (and my lovely wife) meant i finished. Whilst I would have liked to be 25mins quicker on the run, I know this will serve as motivation for the next one.

Result:
Swim(39m), Bike(03:13), Run(01:56) = 06:00

A big thank you to MSTC whose coaches have been very helpful the past 12 months.


<<<photo to follow>>

Anthony Vince

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon has a special place in the marathon calendar and for good reason.  It is the longest continuously running marathon, starting in 1897 and now on its 118th edition. It is also significant because almost all of the field have to achieve a Boston qualification time (a "BQ" in the language of American club runners) to get there. And clearly this year's Boston marathon also took on more significance with the Boston bombings in 2013 that took the lives of three spectators and injured or maimed race participants.


My journey to Boston was on the Saturday before the race on Patriots Day (Monday 21 April), but - to pardon the cliché - the journey had started a long time before that.  My original intention was to BQ at the Rome Marathon in 2006!  Unfortunately, I was just outside 3:10 qualifying standard and after a break I returned to marathons in 2011.

Various 'failures' at Brighton 3:24 and Portsmouth suggested my times were going south of my target.  Finally, I got the time at Chester in 3:02, and again at Manchester 2:58 which now meant I had to apply.  (Note: In the end the number of qualifiers achieving the 3:10 standard for my age group was quite high, so the cut-off ended up being 3.08 for 35-39 year old males - which could have been quite disappointing had I training to get just within 3:10).


The build up
The build up for the race had been fairly good for me averaging 35 miles per week, although I lost a block of time in the 'peak month' before the race with a tonsillitis/scarlet fever combo and my preparation races - Hastings Half and the Worthing 20 were a bit down on the year before. Nevertheless, I had the feeling that I was good to scrape under 3 hours.  This was not least because I thought that the net elevation drop on the course meant it would be a fast course (how very wrong was I).


Given the costs of the flights and accommodation I decided to go out on my own.  This was a blessing in many ways as it meant not having a three and five year old with me that might not understand the finer points of different time zones or rest before a big race! I stayed at a hostel in downtown Boston which was superb as it was 5 minutes from where I needed to be on race day and was filled with other marathoners from around the world. 
 
With the excitement of the race in my mind I walked to the expo for number pick-up etc. This meant passing the finishing line, which had already been set up. It was a sight to behold due to the hundreds of people milling around taking shots.  I'm not sure many races would generate so much interest. The next day was spent chilling out around Harvard trying desperately not to do too much. 


Before I knew it race day was on me. The race is not conventional as you are taken in buses from Boston Common where the race starts 26 miles west to the race start in Hopkington in rural New England (lots of trees and nice wooden boarded houses as far as I could tell). I sat next to a guy from San Diego who stood out as he was wearing 'Google glass' specs that had a built recorder he used to video the race.  After the usual conversations about what races we'd done, worries about the race, and what we wanted to do we eventually got to the start.


There was a lot of security about but luckily it wasn't too in your face (although someone afterwards pointed out that they saw snipers on the roof overlooking the race village!). The problem, as with many marathons, was waiting for race start in the cold very early in the morning.  Luckily the organisers were giving out space blankets and I was thankful for it despite having purchased a thermal top for $4 that I could chuck away. 


The race itself
Thanks to my qualification time I was in the first wave of runners that got to start at the same time as the elite men (although it still took 2 minutes to cross the start line from the gun going).


The Boston is known for a fast start and I had read that the route drops quickly in the first four miles. However, even at this stage there were some short sharp rises that interrupted the downhills.  Pacing was extremely difficult as was trying not to go into the red on the uphill but also to keep things relaxed on the downhill so my pace varied significantly between 7:30 to 6:30.  Unfortunately, with a large pack of similar standard runners, the downhills were difficult to navigate, there were a few nasty falls by runners clipping each other, and in the congestion I was braking (wasting energy) rather than letting gravity do the work. 


It was great to be running however as the crowds were already amazing even in the early stages, especially going through various small towns such as Ashland and Framingham.  These were on the 'flat' part of the race, but there never really was a section of level ground. 


Even in the early stages of the race, which started at 9.30, the sun was pretty strong and I was having to take on water at most of the water stations at every mile.  But I was ticking along nicely and in the first half of the race I was consistently on sub-three pace. I passed the half-way point at 1:29:30 feeling ok but not super. 
It was just after half way that I heard the 'scream tunnel' - this is the section of the route where the Wellesley College Girls are out in force.  It was certainly high decibel and high frequency for a significant amount of time. It is Boston tradition apparently to stop for a snog and there were many amusing signs inviting runners to do so, but with race times still on my mind and, given the ages of the girls, concerns about scarring them for life I pressed on through the hormone highway.    
 
Between miles 13-16 I was drifting slightly above race pace and started to have the nagging doubts about what was to come. 


In the run-up to the race I had heard a lot about the difficulty of the Boston marathon due to infamous 'Heartbreak Hill' at mile 21.  What proved to be the killer for me though was the cumulative effects of the ups and downs already in my legs; the heat which drifted up to over 20 degrees on the day; and the Newton Hills, a series of tough uphills starting from mile 16 onwards. My goal pre-race had been to allow my pace to drift up and get enough back on the downhills and the last five miles after Heartbreak.   
On the day however this wasn't going to happen as the uphills were far tougher than I had anticipated (at least in terms of running at the pace I wanted to).  


Check the profile (in grey) for yourself!
Boston.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 


At points my pace was painfully slow drifting above 9 minute pace and by the end of Heartbreak I was totally shot both mentally and physically as I was no longer on target for sub-3 hour and there was no getting that time back given my legs or the weather. But halfway up Heartbreak Hill I was determined to carry on running hard and just to enjoy the atmosphere. I got a bit of a kick out of the crowd and just looking around at the suffering on everyone's faces.  There were sub-3 hour guys and girls all around me, some walking the hills (with 5 miles still left) and others pushing through and me somewhere in the middle.


I was now nearing the centre of Boston with crowd noise seemed to increase exponentially. A combination of American's outgoing nature (unlike Brits who might politely give a "well done" or clap, they cheer at the top of their voices), the passion for the event after last year, and the constant ringing of cow-bells made it almost over whelming.  By that time it was a pure pain but at the same time the emotion coming from the crowd kept me going. It was unbelievable to see so many top runners stopping, limping, and walking at that point in the race, which pays testament to the difficultly of the course.
Finally however I made it onto Boyston Street, turning a left hand corner for a 500 metre 'sprint' to the line.     


Post-race was a mix of joy (at finishing), tinged with mild disappointment at my time (3:12), and the agony in my legs (the worst ever).  Nevertheless, as I reflected on the race over a couple of beers immediately after the race and my time became less important. I realised that Boston Marathon was so much better for its difficultly. With the defiance of the city after last year's bombing, it was also great just to be part of an experience and to understand the "Boston Strong" motto the city has adopted. This will stick with me far more than my results sheet. 
 


Boston1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2014 by Kevin James

Beacon Rouleur

93 miles !!!! seemed like a good idea when I entered months ago!

Considering I hadn't ridden that distance since I rode across Australia in 2001, I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew!!!

I went to bed Saturday night secretly hoping that it would be raining so hard in the morning that I would have an excuse not to ride!!! Well it wasn't raining in the morning but it was very windy as I made my way to Burgess Hill to the start [ by van as I didn't want to add even more miles!!!] .

Once I got signed in there was turning back and before I knew it I was on my way. After about 5 miles it was time to tackle Ditchling Beacon, followed by a fast descent down Coldean Lane. Then it was up Coombe Road , Bear Road and onto the coast road through to Newhaven before heading inland via Lewes.

The route then took us out to Laughton and continued through various villages and MANY hills heading towards Mayfield. At one point following the "arrow signs" I took a right turn and after about two miles of going down a lovely hill I realised that I hadn't seen another "arrow sign" and my fears were confirmed when I saw a sign post for Battle and Hastings!!!

A quick consultation with my map and I had to ride another two miles back up the same hill I had just flew down!! As I passed the turning I had previously come out of I realised that the wind had turned the "arrow sign" completely the opposite way!!! [ or did I have a C.R.A.F.T. moment!!] Oh well I thought what's another 4 miles on top of 93.!!!!

I soon forgot my mishap and was making my way to the timing chip check point at Mayfield. A quick pit stop here and then it was only another 30 odd miles back to Burgess Hill!!! The hills and wind had been relentless so far and the same pattern continued all the way back to Burgess Hill and the finish.
                   

My riding time was 6hrs 53mins 41secs which gave me a Silver Standard, missing out on the Gold by approximately 10 mins, which I reckon was the extra 4 miles I done!!!!

 

Del

City of Bath Sprint Triathlon

City of Bath Sprint Triathlon

A glorious sunny day started at 5:15am in my own bed. For once the triathlon I was to attempt was within 35mins of my own house. My resident triathlon widow/driver for the day headed for the shower and I headed for the coffee and my oaty based breakfast+banana.

Prior preparation and planning had paid off for once, and though the use of a tri-kit check list developed on my I-pad following bitter experience, the car had been loaded the previous day and all items ticked off. It still didn't stop my pre-race butterflies worrying, but it helped to not do a headless chicken impression on the morning of the race.

The final pre race necessity was completed in the luxury of a non chemical environment and we were off in the car. We promptly became stuck behind the slowest driver in Wiltshire with an unbelievable amount of oncoming traffic preventing an overtake. At that point my butterflies started developing an unhealthy desire to possess and use automatic weapons.

Eventually we got into Bath and headed up the hill to the university. It took about 2mins to drive up the hill at 30mph - I sat contemplating a similar journey scheduled for about 2hrs time to be completed by bicycle, whilst my butterflies further developed an interesting Anglo Saxon vocabulary.

We arrived at the car park to the oh so familiar "pssst" sound of bike tyres being checked - another race season had started and it made me smile.

The car next to us produced a mountain bike accompanied by a beginner triathlete who admitted the bike was her sons, and whilst it had sort-of road tyres, she had not checked them and had never trained on hills. For the uninitiated, the CoB triathlon has 1,005ft of accent in its 23km bike course...

In a fit of decency I pumped her tyres up from 20 to 55psi (max on the tyre wall said 60), and we tried to encourage her to great things. At least I was unlikely to be last now.

Registration was completed, and our labels were a very professional set of bike and helmet stickers from sportstiks.com that included a "supporting 116" sticker for my triathlon widow. She declined to wear it, and I offered her the "bag label" sticker instead - and got "that look".

Bike racking followed, all organised and signposted, and we headed into the Olympic size pool for race briefing. The briefing was good with some humour to keep you awake. One memorable moment was when the race director confirmed that in the pool there would be no diving, bombing, or petting! On the bike briefing, we were told aero bars were prohibited for one of the downhill sections because of a sharp left at the bottom, but I rarely eat chocolate when riding, so ignored that advice.

We were split into groups of 8 for the swim and each group of 8 were given a lane to swim clockwise around until the magic 8 x 50m lengths were complete. Thankfully I was scheduled to be in lane 1 so would have a ladder to get in and out with - those in the middle lanes would have to clamber out over a foot tall diving plinth.

My start time came, the whistle blew, and off I went. I overtook the swimmer in front of me at the end of the first 50m, and at the end of the second 50m I felt a tap as someone wanted to pass me. I let him by at the end of the length, and he promptly went 10m and pulled up completely out of air as he had gone out too hard. Two lengths and two casualties - I am invincible!

One very slow swim later (9+ mins) and I am out and running to T1. All goes well and I am off down the road overtaking a lot of racers as I go. The course is well marshalled and I am working hard to keep the speed up and feeling cocky. The first decent (450ft) cures me of that - it is fearsome. I am doing 30mph and being passed by riders doing 40mph+ but I cannot take my hand off the rear brake as we twist and turn down the hill. At the bottom revenge comes my way as I power up the hill overtaking all the 40mph brigade and a few more for good measure.

Smile for the cameras, around the roundabout, and back the way we came. Down the non aero hill and up the other side overtaking others like the god amongst men I feel I must be. Back towards T2 and they sneak in a final hill I hadn't noticed on the way out which saps your legs just when you need them for running.

T2 goes well, and I perform the triathlete shuffle on shaky legs as I headed through run-out.

Ah yes, the run...

Now if on dating websites curvy=fat, then in triathlon "flat and on good ground" translates as steep accents through soft and occasionally mud filled woodland paths.

I took about a mile before I got into my stride, but once there I felt good and covered the ground well. At the 4km mark I realised it was on for a PB if I got my finger out, and I pushed on. At 100m to go I turned the corner to be faced with a 3m tall ridge we had to run up and across before the finish line would come into view.

Final dash to the line aiming for the photographer, and across we go with a new PB of 1:21:43 and I finished in the top third for a change!

Tea and medals followed with the usual post race bragging with my fellow athletes.

In summary it was a tough sprint race with good marshalling that I would recommend as a warm up for the Dambuster - if only because of the bike course. I even have a new favourite mug from my goody bag.

 

Andrew Lennox