It may have been a couple of weeks ago, but due to moving house I haven’t had the opportunity to review one of my big races for the year: the first GB qualifier for the Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championships in September.
Going into the race I felt prepared. I’d had a brilliant base training period over the winter, managing to avoid major illness and injury and had built my pace at my MAF heart rate from 8.40min/mile to sub 7min/mile. On top of this I’d had 6-8 weeks of training that had incorporated some anaerobic stimulation, fine-tuning my body with more intense efforts to simulate race-conditions and race-pace.
To qualify for the Age-Group World Championships as part of team Great Britain, I had to come in the top 4 of my age-group, the 18-24 category. When I set this goal at the end of last season, I knew that it was going to be a big ask. In my first (and only at the time) Olympic distance tri from 2015, I had finished in 2h34. Based on last year’s GB qualifiers I knew I’d need to finish much nearer a sub-2h05 time, certainly sub-2h10 – I was asking a lot of myself.
I had broken this down into a target of a 23minute 1500m swim (down from 34mins in 2015), a 1hr-1h03 40km bike (down from 1h14, and a 37mins 10k run (down from 43mins on a short run course), plus a couple of minutes for transition, for goal race time just over 2 hours.
Was this a realistic target? Probably not. Doing 100m/200m intervals in the pool at 23min swim pace (1.32/100m) had been tough; I’d managed to average 24mph (38.6kph, or a 1h02 40k bike) at a Sprint distance race a few weeks prior, but that’s only half the distance. I had set a new 10k run PB during a half-marathon in March at 37.40 though, and my training had been going well so I was at least confident of a good run time.
What I ate before the race: 2 eggs, beetroot, 1 banana in a smoothie + rice pudding 3.30-4hrs before
Nutrition during the race: 2 x High 5 energy gel; 800ml water w/ 2tspn of honey
|My Time||Qualifying Time|
Generally I was pretty happy with the race. As you can see in the table above, my swim and runs were on target and were in-fact new personal bests. I actually stopped my watch coming out of the water in 22.30 (but the timing mat was at the top of a hill entering transition). However, my bike was disappointing. My legs hadn’t felt brilliant but after 5k on the bike, and the first time we’d got out of the wind, I heard a horrible rubbing sound coming from my back wheel. I’d looked back and could see that one of the springs on my brake callipers and come loose and the whole calliper had been pushed to the extreme right, and that I had one brake pad rubbing the whole time. I quickly jumped off and tried to readjust the brake to no avail. I even disconnected the whole rear brake, and completed the rest of the ride with no rear brake function (except the permanent rubbing). Mentally this was a struggled to get over, and keep pushing through. But also, after checking the results at the end of the race, I calculated that if I’d hit my target average speed on the bike, I’d have been around 30secs off a qualifying spot for the World Championships.
This was incredibly frustrating, knowing how close I could have been, but it’s now a motivation. Looking at how far I’d come from my first race, and seeing how quick I was now, I can be confident in my MAF method of training, and can be sure that it isn’t just a weight loss technique – it will allow me to race competitively. Also, looking at my splits compared to those that qualified, I can see that my swim and run were relatively competitive. My swim is down, but always improving, and my run was in fact faster than two of the guys that qualified. I can be confident that if my training goes well for the next few weeks I’ll be in a great position to challenge for qualification in my next race in mid-July.
Lessons from the Day
- Rice pudding works for me as a lower fibre (easier to digest), alternative to porridge oats.
- Give yourself plenty of time to set up your bike and get ready for the race – I was delayed and didn’t get a chance to check my bike was working, or to warm up before the swim. I almost missed the start! It’s not worth the extra 30mins of sleep, or jeopardising the months of training – get yourself to the race on time.
- Just the one bottle of drink and two gels worked well for my nutrition during the race.
- Sprinting the first 100m of the swim to find the feet of the fastest swimmers massively improved my time – it’s my first time trying this strategy. After you’ve found their feet just hold on for a new PB!
- Pushing the first mile of the run to hit your target race-pace. Yes, your legs will feel terrible coming off the bike, but they’ll come back, I’ve found. If after a mile I couldn’t sustain the pace, then I would have adjusted.
- Don’t be intimidated by other people’s nice bikes – stay confident in your own ability and your own training.
- Set yourself big goals – you’ll work for it if it’s exciting enough!