Killing five hours on the Turbo: three-week coundown

Last week was the three-week countdown, with promises of storms, wind, rain etc. I opted for a long turbo session on Saturday. Here’s how that five hours went (and the rest of the week).

Saturday was set up as my last long big brick training day before starting the two-week taper for Ironman Barcelona. After a slow 4K in the pool (setting goals like 1K continuous, 100s but no break etc), I came home and with my nutrition bottles full, snacks in the bento box, and race gear on, I got myself ready for a day on the turbo.

The Tacx turbo is currently on loan to me by Chris. He gave it to me to help get me going again after breaking my collar bone at the end of July. Do you remember? The heatwave! Last August I relocated to Brighton and downsized, so the turbo is squashed into a dark little section of what I laughingly call my ‘dining room’.  I’ve become accustomed to sweating it out in this small space, following fantastical, virtual routes on Zwift.

For someone who hates the treadmill, I’ve been surprised how I’ve come to quite enjoy training on the turbo. It could be connected to my general dislike of cycling, cars and all things mechanical. However, I think there’s also something in the masochism. In her book A Life Without Limits, Chrissie Welington talked about Brett Sutton’s unique approach to training, including putting his athletes into the training equivalent of a torture chamber, a treadmill in a room with no TV, no music, no windows.

Hungry after the swim I’d had a cafetière of coffee, and some marmite on toast, but I tried not to extend the already long transition (which had included a 20-minute drive along the A27 from pool to home). For the first 90 minutes I chose to listen to Graham Norton on Radio 2, a good interview with Lily Allen, and some banter, kept me ticking over.  I like the Watopia course as it makes it seem like I’ve covered a reasonable distance.

Inspirational Video

After one hour I got off the bike and searched Amazon Prime for some inspirational video. I’d watched Iron Cowboy on Friday night, about James Lawrence’s crazy 50 Ironman Races in 50 days! Yes 50! So, under the triathlon film section, the next choice was The Ultimate Triathlon, a documentary about Luke Tyburski’s  journey from Morocco To Monaco as a swim, bike, run, covering 2000km in 12 days. This was a handy 97 minutes, fitting in nicely with my planned break on the bike. After Luke’s epic journey, next on the list was the hugely inspirational Heart: Flatline to Finish, a story of six cardiac patients, followed over a year, as they take on Ironman. In between these films I’d treated myself to a cup of tea. Next up, I chose an inspiring endurance woman (who also happened to have a film that lasted one hour, just enough for my last section), Nikki Kimball’s 237-mile run across an impossibly hard trail, in Finding Traction: The Ultra Marathon Documentary.

And on I went…

 

With masochism on my mind, I kept going. Watching these individuals push the limits kept me pedalling. Luke repeatedly going unconscious after 15 hours of running, Nikki’s meltdown running 50 plus miles on no sleep, and the heart patients appreciating every second they had and the chance to follow their dreams.

The Why?

Of course these films, these stories, raise questions about the sanity and purpose of doing these things, including Ironman, and the reasons why? Watching as I rode, I was inspired by the heart patients who chose living over a death sentence and appreciated the social element and the support and camaraderie of doing triathlon (ironic as I spent all day on my own, but that will return). I won’t tell you the story, but one of the most inspirational of the group, who chose to coach as well as train, talked passionately about the chance to give something back. Similarly, Nikki a depression sufferer pre-ultra running, who questioned what the hell she was doing, and considered giving up, in that meltdown scene, was reminded of her inspiration. The next day she met a woman form the online community, Girls on the Run, a non-profit empowerment programme, inspiring girls aged eight to 13 through running. And to think I nearly gave up she said tearfully. And Luke, he simply said: If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.’

For me ‘the why’ is a whole other blog post – which I may come back to at the end of this training block.  I was brought up a Catholic and so of course 40 days in the desert, fasting, stations of the cross etc… have left a lasting impression! Somewhere, deeply embedded in my subconscious there was a belief that suffering and endurance will lead to some kind of spiritual enlightenment. But I feel for me that’s an old idea and I’m currently reviewing my policies. I can’t help thinking that the masochism and suffering is a bit unnecessary… However, I do also feel the experience of pushing your limits, of being consistent, of training, is transformational. And for me I  have a feeling of having come full circle with my challenging and changing.  I know it’s a good thing. But as I say, I’ll come back to that.

And back to the Training…

Five hours on the turbo was followed by a slow run in the park in the rain. I’d started training at 830am and finished up by about 7pm (yes, there were breaks!). On Sunday the planned long run started well, I felt physically good, but mentally a little weary. By mile 14 I hit the wall I was reminded of the films I’d watched.  I was feeling very spaced out, going pale, and slowing down to a shuffle, but as a nod to Luke and Nikki I remembered I wasn’t remotely close to a limit. I’d just got my nutrition wrong!

A summary of the week

Two days in London, half a day tidying up my very messy house, the launch of DrivenWoman and a lovely treatment with the brilliant Greg Funnell* at Optimum Muscle Care meant I only managed five days training, but 14 hours was satisfactory – and what I could manage.

*Thank you Greg – I swam pain free on Saturday for the first time since the CB break.

And that is that really. I’m now in the two-week countdown. This week I do have three rides, three runs and three swims planned, but all of less volume and intensity. There’s breathing space. The training now shifts to stretching, relaxing, preparing and getting ready to enjoy the big day!

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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.