Five weeks to go: Recce Trip to Barcelona

The race is getting closer and it seemed the right time to check out the Barcelona Ironman Course with a bike route recce.

I left off last week’s post having already started the five-week countdown with a long swim and bike session, then a day off on Tuesday.  On Wednesday I worked hard all day and then finished the day off with a Zwift session of 1:45. On Thursday morning I hit the park for a pre-travel day set of intervals, ran at what was not a slower than usual pace, but it was better than just running slow. The journey to Barcelona was long! BA had a number of issues, so we spent six hours at Gatwick getting on and off the plane, and didn’t arrive at our hotel in Barcelona until 2am.  It was actually quite relaxing at the airport. I had a slightly ill feeling and enjoyed just zoning out, and I managed to finally get to read Chrissie Wellington’s, Life Without Limits (inspiring!).

We had a lovely lazy beach day on Friday, and then having mustered up some energy got into the sea for a planned 3K swim, I heard the announcement that the water quality wasn’t good today and that the yellow flags meant that you swam with caution. I didn’t really think much of it, until Chris stopped and pointed out a dead bird. He swam over to investigate, but soon realised that it wasn’t a bird. It was a rat, and there was another one close by. I’ll be honest, I wimped out and swam straight back to shore after just 650M! Later we saw more rats washed up onto the shore. I spoke to the lifeguard who explained that the problem was that there had been a big storm the day before (the same thing happened in Brighton back in the summer). She expected the sea to be rat-free in a couple of days.

Rats in the sea

That night as the rain lashed down, lightening struck and thunder clapped, we agreed that rats might be making a comeback. After some red wine and a late dinner, we were still optimistic we’d do the long bike ride and run in the morning.

Saturday started a little slower than planned, the travelling, the lateish night, and for me, just being tired, meant it was hard to get going. We went for a beach breakfast first, and finally set off on the ride around 11. But things didn’t start well. We hit a cycle path that was overcrowded, soon after Chris got a puncture, then a second puncture. The C02 canisters weren’t working so we had to back-track to Decathlon. Chris is a much faster cyclist than me and we were both tired now. I suggested he go off and do the bike ride work out the course and I do a run. It worked!

Tweaking the plan (again!)

I headed off through a hot, humid and very crowded Barcelona seafront, combing sightseeing with slow running. Chris worked out the route on the pre-recce recce, and did one lap, out and back (57 miles).

Barcelona sightseeing run

On Saturday we ordered room service and watched Netflix. We had a good sleep and even though we didn’t exactly bounce out of bed when dawn broke, we were on the road by 10, both ready to complete as much of the 2.5 lap course as we could.

The course is, as we were told, flat. There are obviously a few minor inclines as you go in and out of the various seafront towns along the N11 route. A fairly busy dual carriageway at first felt daunting, but I soon noticed how courteous  Catalonian drivers are. It seems Barcelona is made for bikes, as well as bike lanes in and out of town, there are instructions for drivers to allow 1.5M for cyclists. And there are lots of cyclists going in both directions. We took it very steady, stopped for brunch in Callela (where the race starts and finishes) and then stopped for coffee near the finish. All along the course I was tracking my friend Tori and her girlfriend, and a friend from Eastbourne, as they took on Ironman Wales – and knowing we were all cycling together in real time I was inspired by their valiant efforts. For me the day was just about completing most of the course (100 miles) and saying goodbye to my bike demons and getting used to the tuck position, all of which I managed.

Bric and Trip

We headed out for a short 5K seafront bric run when we got back. I managed to trip up as soon as we were out the door on a small hump at the children’s playground, the bit where the kids land off the slide. I thudded down hard and hit my right shoulder (my broken collarbone side). After a check to see if I had knocked the plate or to check if a screw was sticking up, we started running again. I felt totally fine doing 5K and could have done the hour, but we agreed it was time to eat.  By the time we’d showered, changed, scoffed some crisps and found a restaurant it was 10pm. But the food was worth the wait. A short cab journey had taken us to a lovely burger bar.

Down but not out (again!)

 

And relax…

Start of the four-week countdown

Monday morning started in Barcelona.  I looked out of the hotel window from the 13th floor, and saw a slightly less manic city start to London or Brighton, and lots of cyclists! We managed a seven-mile easy run, with a little bit of pace at the end. It was the final session of our recce trip. We considered swimming but now there was a brown foam, as well as yellow flags, so we decided to have some holiday time instead.  We walked another five or six miles, meandering our way into the gothic part of town, into churches and shops and stopping for tapas, juice, more tapas. Again, with a quick google search, we found a gem of a restaurant for dinner, Canate. We waited an hour for a table and drank red wine, observing a constant flow of people, some with reservations, some not.  But it was worth the wait, and after five or six tapas dishes and the best tiramasu I’ve tasted, we headed back to the hotel waited and ready to pack up bikes and suitcases.

Keep consistent and keep going

I’m now home and at the start of four weeks to go. Today marks another day off as I’ve travelled, washed and unpacked. My shoulder is now stiff and achy but I’m hoping it will ease off – swimming will be interesting. The plan for the week ahead includes these core sessions:  swim/bike/run bric at the gym; bike 5.5-6 hrs steady pace throughout but last 15 mins of every hour slightly overgeared + bric run 60 mins easy pace; long open-water sea swim. It’s not time to taper just yet, it is time to continue and be consistent.

 

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Six weeks to go: Endurance, Cyclists’ Hand Palsy, lost Garmin and other fun!

End of the summer (but not the sun – or the endurance)… Monday 27th August–Tuesday 4th September (& that’s taken me into the final countdown!)

The week:
Six weeks to go and with the shoulder healed, I’ve been able to train properly – and that’s meant, I’ve been knackered as I continue to test my endurance, and my mettle!
On Bank Holiday Monday I was at my sister’s house and nipped out pre-party for a 3.1K in the local pool.  I hadn’t planned the session, so decided to try and work on breathing on my left side. Not only is this my now slightly less mobile side, it’s also a side I don’t use when breathing! So I made myself do a length of breathing on the left, a length on the right, and then mixed up the breathing (every three, four, five, six, and seven strokes), and then tried kicking hard on every fourth length. It helped pass the time.
On Tuesday I was supposed to ride two hours easy outside, but got too into work (after four days off) and opted for the Turbo at 8pm! I managed 1’20 on Zwift.
On Wednesday I felt tired but made myself go through the motions on the turbo (inside as it was raining), then a bric run with some ‘fartlek’, 10 laps lasting between 34 seconds and three minutes! I managed 45 seconds at 6 min mile pace – a short-term goal is to get back under six for those shorter reps.
By Thursday with a Turbo session and long two-hour bric run planned, I had to dig in mentally. I decided not to get up super-early. Being self-employed, I can structure my day how I like, and work later in the day – which I did, and stayed awake! Friday was a lovely long sea swim of 2.1K,  by myself, and then Saturday was the big bike ride…

The Big Bike Ride

The plan was a big endurance session, 4.5 to 5 hours on the  bike a 20-30 min bric run and I had hoped to do a swim too, (but ran out of time for that).  I was tense from the off, still feeling nervous (visions of being flung over the handlebars) about the TT bike and long rides, as well as tired. But I decided to grin and bear it, and just do it.
One thing that was bothering was the time it takes to do a long ride. I’m very inpatient and hate wasting time. I’m also a slow cyclist and the idea of being out all day didn’t feel me with glee, especially as I had to drive to Watford for a big family do straight after. As Marianne reminded me after, ‘if you are tense and rigid on the bike it is really hard to pedal fluidly and efficiently. ‘
Early into the ride, as we headed out of Brighton I looked down to check my pace, I was feeling more relaxed and pedalling well at this point. No Garmin Edge! I rode to catch up Chris and we spent the next half hour looking in vain for the missing gadget.
This was a 50th birthday present from my family. Losing it, and time, sent me into a negative spiral. A meltdown of industrial-sized freezer with door left open all night proportions kicked in. I told Chris, ‘I f**kin hate cycling and I’m not doing the Ironman.’  He suggested going back and trying out the turbo, and then when I started to calm down reminded me it’s called Ironman for a reason. I pulled myself together and off we went at a reasonable pace.
In gritting my teeth and just doing it I think I’d tensed up my entire upper body. On the downhills I kept my right hand held onto the bars and my left arm in TT tuck position. I’m quick to recover from bad moods and broken bones, but I hadn’t noticed that I was still holding the tension in my body!
After the ride I managed a 2.5 mile bric (how am I going to do a marathon?) and more searching for the lost Garmin, then I was in and out and on the M25 for a long car journey up to London.  A brilliant family do with dancing followed and I got to bed at 3am. It wasn’t difficult to take Sunday off!

Five weeks to go

At the start of this week I was understandably tired. Sleep-deprived I still woke up at 5am and got on with Monday. Training was good, a 4.1K swim, followed by an hour on the Watt bike. However, I noticed in the pool that my right hand which had been feeling a bit numb and tingly now had a renegade little finger, which wouldn’t move back and join the rest of the hand, making my swim interesting.
A bit of googling and I found exactly what I had – cycling hand palsy. It can be down to bad set up of the bike, but as I had a professional fit, I believe it’s because of bad posture and positioning due to my tension. I said to coach Marianne that I think the wavy finger is symbolic – reminding me that I need to stay tuned in and listen to my own mantra, relaxed, controlled, smooth and fast… As I was cycling on Saturday I had realised that the negative spiral was all about fear and it was up to me to control that, not the bike.
Triathlon has forced me out of a decade long comfort zone of identifying as a marathon runner, I even made my work as a content & communications specialist reflect all of this (She Runs She Writes, Running PR, The Running Ed). But change is growth and sometimes a bit uncomfortable, with unexpected hurdles (broken bones and stray fingers). I love trying new things, and I have fallen for triathlon, but I’m reminded that commitment is the bit that counts. A quote from a  programme on Radio 4 on Monday morning (Morality in the 21st Century) stood out for me:

‘My favourite definition of commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behaviour around it for the moment when love falters.’ Training, eating well, staying positive, and sticking with it!

P.S. Tuesday was another unplanned day off and so now I’m swapping my training around. This was partly due to a disjointed day including a chunk of time out to go to the hospital for my X-Ray. Check out the before and after pics: no wonder it hurt.