Race Reports

Tour de Murrieta – First Race and First Win of the Season

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We planned a long break down in San Diego and it was a perfect excuse for some training in good weather and at the end, slip in a 3 day stage race in Murrieta, California with my elder brother, John. Here is how the event unfolded…

Stage 1 - Individual TT

This was a short stage, only 4.1 miles long, rolling to start with and then uphill for the final mile on a "well kept" but unpaved road.

We got there fairly early to ride the course and more importantly test the off road climb. We quickly found out that "well kept" had been highly exaggerated, coming off line was treacherous and dangerous. Small boulders littered the road along with deep, eyeball rattling ruts with the only safe-ish place being the sand on the far right. This meant taking each of the corners extremely tight otherwise you could end up being thrown from your bike quite violently which I nearly found out when practicing. It seemed you would lose time by attacking this climb and bike positioning was far more important, it got better towards the top where gravel lined the road.

Although short, this would be challenging and exciting due to the different nature of the course. My plan was to hit the paved section hard, recover up hill and empty the tank for the last 500 meters and it worked! I placed 1st, earning 20 points and the lead of the GC but what a strange feeling it was - overjoyed at the win, but it seemed like there was no glory. You just wait to see if your time is bettered and you obviously can't celebrate as you cross the finish line!

Stage 2 - Criterium

Both myself and my brother had never raced in a criterium and with 6 right angle corners over a 1 mile course it made it fairly technical. We were also both in good positions in the GC and both not sprinters, so limiting our loses and sitting near the front was the aim of the game.

The race was 35 minutes long and as expected it was fast and frantic with a number of crashes, popped tires and everyone fighting for position. Coming to the last lap I managed to find myself in a strong position in 2nd wheel going into turn 2, but the rider in front overcooked turn 4 and went skidding across the tarmac causing some panic in the peloton.

With us entering the back straight, a powerhouse with thighs the size of tree trunks went shooting buy and with two corners to go and I felt I had to go for it in the hope I wouldn't fade. 200 meters to go and one rider went past, then another and I was clinging on and with only 50 meters left I was expecting the rest of the field would come screaming past in a frenzy of extortionate speed which would leave both of us outside the points. But to my astonishment and surprise I finished 4th, with John 5th! I had managed to keep hold of the GC, going into the final day - a 40 mile rolling road race of 11 laps, but only by a solitary point. All we had to do was finish ahead of Festina from San Diego Bike Club (SDBC)…

Stage 3 - Road Race

Looking at the course profile we felt the rolling course suited us and was ripe for a breakaway. Moment Cycles approached us and an alliance to suite all parties was made - I would secure the overall GC, John would finish on the GC podium and Moment would win the stage. The plan was sound - after 7 laps the Moment team would up the tempo, force some gaps in the peloton then sit back enabling myself, John and a couple of Moment guys to get in a brake. We were desperate for it not to be a sprint finish and felt it suited us if we went longer.

It was cold at 7.30 am, very cold, but it would warm up soon towards a sweltering 30 degrees and as we rolled to the start line the commentator let us know the state of play with Festina requiring 2 points to secure the GC.

Gently we all rolled out, but within 5 minutes the first crash happened with someone hitting someone else whilst climbing out of the saddle, I thought this will be a long day if this carries on! And for sure it did, a rider inexplicably cut me up which almost ended my race and half of the peloton, with his side swiping, erratic move my front wheel was taken from me, my back wheel lifted into the air but somehow to my relief I stayed upright!

As planned on lap 7, Moment sent some guys to the front and the tempo was upped, but it wasnt us that made the break and instead of chancing it we sat back thinking they had broke too early and would never hold out. Little did we know though, that the 6 man break formed themselves into a strong unit and organised themselves well. Their lead steadily grew lap by lap and with time running out, Moment and ourselves were the only people interested in bringing the break back and with no other help from any team the break deservedly succeeded. The peloton was therefore left to fight it out for 6th place onwards.

Going into the final four corners, the sprint started early with SDBC getting Festina into a good position, with the rest of their team (as predicted) blocking my way around I lost his wheel. After fighting passed I had caught up by the final corner but by then I had used too much energy and was unable to contest the sprint. I managed 8th, Festina 6th and the GC was his and SDBC's, no win for Moment and John secured 4th in the GC. All of our targets missed, from the high of winning Stage 1 to the low of this. But, I would by lying if I said I would not have taken this result before the race started!

On the positive side, the two of us, Team Newsome outscored SDBC over the 3 days of racing, the biggest bike club in San Diego!

Nice Cannes Marathon 2014

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If you're up for a Marathon abroad this could be a good choice, it's growing in popularity and is the second biggest Marathon in France outside of Paris now, this year had 14,000 entries and you can enter the 1/2, full or team relay. It's a very scenic run that starts on the promenade in Nice and ends up in Cannes with 95% of it run by the coastline. It's flat with 'only' a 30metre elevation gain just when you don't need it at the 30km mark! They have 6 pacers in 15min intervals from 3hours to 4h30 which have big flags attached to them so you can stick with them and run to a time if that's your motivation.

For more info goto www.marathon06.com

The weather has been a shocker down there recently and I was hoping for some cool dry conditions without the strong mistral winds we got last year, in the end the temperature was just right with some rain to keep cool, although it got alot worse after I had finished.

If any of you guys are looking to do a 1/2 or full Marathon and have the inclination to follow a training program I can recommend the Hanson's Marathon Method, see the book by Luke Humphrey. I followed the Advanced program over 18 weeks and it worked out. It's alot of running, effectively 6 days a week however the longest run is no longer than 16 miles. In a nutshell the idea is that you run Mon Easy, Tues Speed intervals, Wed OFF, Thurs Tempo run, Fri/Sat Easy, Sun Long. A tempo run is done at your goal race pace.You follow that cycle for 10 weeks and the speed intervals turn into strength runs which are longer intervals at 10secs/km faster than tempo pace. You only get 1 day off a week so it uses active recovery on the easy runs, whereby you have to slow down, stay aerobic and burn the fat. The tempo runs are a good idea, since you pick your goal race pace and train accordingly, if you can't finish them then you probably need to revise your goal slightly. Most runs are 6-8 miles and the idea is that you get cumulative fatigue over weeks of training, whereby your legs never feel great, in fact it's trying to simulate what the latter part of a Marathon is like without the injury risk of long runs.

I felt pretty good going into the race I tapered slightly more than the program suggested based on feel, my plan A was sub 3hour with even splits, plan B was to beat my 3:20 PB and plan C was to fake an achilles injury. About hundred of us stuck to the 3hour pace maker which slowly whittled down to about 20 or so at the 30km mark with the 30metre hill destroying a few people's races. With 3km to go I dug very deep and dropped the pace maker and finished in 2:58 (173rd). Fortunately, i didn't hit the wall like Brighton earlier this year and the training definitely paid off, the Marathon is all about the final 10km!

Ironman Florida 2014 - 7:43 minutes from Kona

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Pre-Race

A year ago I punched the air with delight having managed to register on-line for this race, which sells out in under 60 seconds. A flat fast PB course in the lovely location of Panama City Beach on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Heat-acclimatization training was done in Mid Sussex (with lots of warm layers on) plus IM Barcelona, Disney World Orlando and Apalachicola (Florida) Marathon. It was roasting hot for 2 weeks in Florida prior to the race and sea temperature was 78 Fahrenheit  (above 76 is too hot for wet-suit racing). On race day we had an angry sea with rip-tides, 40mph winds and air temperature 10 degrees Celsius.

Swim

We all froze on the beach before dawn, especially those who got wet doing a swim warm-up. At dawn the decision was made to cancel the swim. Even we poor swimmers were a bit disappointed, because we wanted to do a proper triathlon. The sea had been too nasty even for the safety kayaks to be deployed.

Cycle

Spent a couple of hours trying to keep warm until it was my time to start cycling. There were nearly 3,000 of us setting off one every couple of seconds. I had a cycling jacket and a couple of space-blankets but some people had just a tri-suit.

The gusty wind played havoc with the deep wheel rims and I had to resist the impulse to stop for a bike check. It was like riding with loose skewers or headset, quite apart from getting buffeted sideways and having to react to avoid collisions. Fortunately, the course is separated from traffic and American roads are very wide.

Nice single loop course, mostly on flat good surface roads. A few undulating bits and one section on cracked tarmac that was rather bumpy.

Cycled well for 4 hours, managing to avoid drafting penalties and keep a decent pace. You have to surge past packs of riders and raise the heart rate temporarily, even though that's bad for burning energy reserves. If you stay with the pack you may get a penalty and faster riders will keep overtaking and force you further back. After that, I eased off a little (maybe lost form from a fortnight's lack of cycling or maybe just hurting too much from relentlessly battling the wind and keeping the aero-position for so long). Completed cycle in 5:22, though it was unclear if that was good or bad given the conditions and the rolling start.

Run

Excellent enthusiastic support on a good flat 2-lap course with varied views and lots of shade. No need for the ice that was provided as it remained chilly throughout, despite the sunshine. A real boost having Helen and our two sons on the course to cheer me on. So grateful. Worth around 10 minutes off the finish time I reckon.

1:42 for 13 miles then completed strongly for total run time of 3:26.

Post-Race

Felt great finishing with a sprint. Kissed Helen and got medal. Given a results card stating I was 3rd in age-group. A few minutes later, my position was down-graded to 5th due to the rolling start and a couple of finishers coming in having started after me. Not bad considering 241 in 50-54 age-group.

Attended Hawaii World Championship Kona Slot Allocation Ceremony, but there were only 3 slots for 50-54 and the top 3 all decided to take those places. I missed out by 7 minutes 43 seconds.

My AWA (all world athlete) ranking improved from 10th to 5th on the basis of this Florida result. Shame they don't presently use the AWA rankings to determine who gets Kona slots. AWA ranking is calculated from points scored in the 3 best performances for each athlete each year.

Ironman 70.3 Miami - October 2014

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We picked Miami 70.3 as a destination event to mark Mike's 50th. The aim was to roll together a weekend city break, hot weather, beaches, and cocktails with our first half ironman. A good question could be why bother with the last bit. But as the club T-shirt says, if you have to ask you will never understand.

Anyway, with the benefit of having done the event we have tried to come up with our top 10 reasons why:

  1. Ultimate bike racks. Where else can you lock your bike to a palm tree while you go for a practice swim off the beach?
  2. The weather. Hot and sunny, perfect for lazing around on the beach sipping Margaritas. But for doing a triathlon? You've got to be kidding. Fine if you're from the Sunshine State but If you're used to the rather cooler Sussex climate? Boy was it tough out on that run! They did have ice at the water stations though. Nice touch.
  3. The atmosphere. Wow. 3000 competitors and a build up like some major sporting event, national anthem, flags, completely over emotional commentator getting everyone thinking they are about to do something glorious. Complete load of tosh and we loved it.
  4. The swim course. With dolphins. Yeay, everyone likes dolphins! And jellyfish (and Emma can show you proof that they were of the stinging variety).
  5. The warm water. Nice, very different to Ardingly in October. But wetsuits banned! Meaning slow swim time for Mike with Emma coming in a few minutes ahead. Better not ask Mike about that, he's still coming to terms with it. He's trying to claim that the current was stronger for his wave.
  6. The super flat and fast bike course, closed roads marked by traffic cones for the entire route and hundreds of state police manning every road junction. Pity about the headwind though. And the really long, boring straight bit in the middle (from about mile 5 to mile 51).
  7. The run course. Spectacular scenery with palm trees, skyscrapers, blue sky and sparkling sea. Completely flat too. That's according to the race guide. Whoever wrote that forgot to mention the MASSIVE road bridge over the harbour (with one very real hill) that we had to run over FOUR times.
  8. The friendly atmosphere. Great to chat to other competitors from all over the world (particularly Latin America), even shouts of "go mid sussex" out on the run course from some chap from Brighton.
  9. The medals. The best (and biggest) ever.
  10. The party afterwards. Under the palm trees on the edge of the harbour, free beer, music and new friends. And more dolphins. And margaritas.

IronmanMiami2014-Finish

So who's up for it next year??

PS. for those that want to know how we did, we both got round more or less in our target times. Emma in 6.30ish and well inside the top half in her age group which was an outstanding result given that 95% of her group had carbon TT bikes (she was on her trusty aluminium road bike) and that all the photos show that she was enjoying the event WAY too much. Mike came in just under 5.30 despite a shocking 53 minute swim and managed a not unreasonable 10th in his age group.

36 mins off AG win at Ironman Barcelona 2014

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Background

This was the inaugural "Ironman Barcelona" with a massive field of 2,600 athletes. In previous years this race was branded "Challenge Barcelona" and had half the number of athletes. Evidence of the Ironman/Challenge turf-war that is underway.

A pleasant wet-suit sea swim with a dry start from the beach. The bike course is fast, flat and hot with an all-closed-road cycle on good surfaces. The run is also fast, flat and hot but offers some shade along tree lined beach-front promenades.

The start is in waves with 3 mins between age groups, which allows a bigger field with less congestion on cycle as less athletes exit the water simultaneously.

Venue

The race venue is the lovely beach resort of Calella, which is 80 minutes drive from Barcelona. A bit like hosting an Ironman in Brighton and calling it Ironman London. Catalonia is terrific with great climate. Autumn poolside breakfasts and outdoor suppers in the numerous restaurants.

Hassle-free registration, briefing and racking with everything within a 1km radius. Lots of good value hotels nearby. I used "Hotel Mediterrani Express" costing 111euros in total for 3 nights, which seemed insanely cheap to me for what was superb accommodation within 300 metres of start and within 800 metres of Transition. Nice quiet room and a good pre-race sleep.

Roasting hot in the days prior to the race with heavy thunderstorms forecast for the race itself.

Pre-Race

Lots of texts and face-book messages from well-wishers. Massively appreciated. Thanks everyone.

Heavy rain with thunder and lightning on race morning. Got soaked inflating tyres in Transition and the disc was too wet for the valve patch to stick on, but faithful duct-tape came to the rescue as usual.

Put wet-suit on in the dark because the generators kept failing (probably flooded) then trudged over to swim-start through muddy puddles.

Did a warm up swim and was ready to begin when announcement blared out that there was a problem and more news would follow in 2 minutes. Being a poor swimmer, I was almost hoping for a cancelled swim due to electrical storm risks. However, I quite fancied the wave-start swim and the water was rather nice. Announcement then declared the race would continue as planned with just a 30 minute delay.

We were all starting to get cold by the time our wave marched to the start-line. Limbering-up started in earnest and the Frenchman in front of me suddenly did some elaborate clenched-fist arm movements, landing a direct hit on my chin. Maybe I should change from triathlon to boxing, because I coped with that punch quite well and regained consciousness in time to sprint into the surf.

Race

A nice swim with the added interest of getting swum-over every 3 minutes by the aggressive elite swimmers from each of the wave-starts that followed ours.

Wasted some moments in T1, putting on a rain-jacket for the cycle. Further rain was predicted and I thought the jacket may reduce road-rash if I came off (like I did at Bolton a few weeks earlier). Sun came out and I roasted in my jacket but I was not prepared to waste more time removing the jacket. Got lots of comments along the lines of "are you warm enough Englander?...ha…ha…ha". Blasting past at an average speed of 22mph for 5 hours was the only answer I needed to give.

It was a nice cycle on 90% flat surface. The slight inclines and descents were very welcome, because its rather painful being on the aerobars constantly.

Delighted to enter T2 without mechanical problems or punctures. Started the run with just 6:37 on the clock, which was uncharted territory but something I had fantasised about. Sub-10 hours seemed off the menu but my PB of 10:57 (Challenge Roth 2012) and even Lawrence Wintergold's club record of 10:37 (Outlaw 2010) seemed within range. Small matter of needing to avoid bonking on the run like usual.

First mile was the slowest at 8:28, whilst the sun-cream was applied. Managed sub-8 mins for mile 2 to approx mile 18, then started to slow down as usual. Took a salt tablet every 10k and paid attention to fueling/hydrating. Pace never dropped off badly and by mile 23, I was confident of hanging-on.

Practically sprinted the last 800 metres and felt terrific (stored that memory to dip into next time the going gets tough). Tears of joy finishing in 10:07 with a 3:30 marathon. Actually thought I may have made the podium.

Post-Race

Felt great and scoffed lots of free food plus a free beer. Collected my stuff and texted my lovely wife, Helen, who informed me I was just 36 mins slower than the age-group winner but I was placed 13th. The top 3 had all finished in practically the same time, which must have been a bit of a scuffle.

The top guys had taken 15-20 mins off me on the swim and maybe the same amount of time on the cycle. However, my run was second fastest with just one guy in my age group being just one minute quicker.

I don't see me becoming a good swimmer any time soon, but I reckon I could risk pushing harder on the cycle now that confidence in my run has increased.

Florida Marathon in 3 weeks then Ironman Florida the following week. Bring it on!