Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My 5 2015 triathlon related resolutions

Here's the five things I want to do in 2015 to help me towards my season goal of racing the best I can for Team Guernsey at The Island Games in Jersey.

  1. Eat peanut butter sandwiches with every "at my desk breakfast" after morning swimming sessions.  And add a protein recovery drink.
  2. Run sub 17:00 on the 5k in the Park course in Guernsey's Saumarez Park http://www.leemerrienrunning.com/park5km to make sure I have got my run to where it should be.
  3. Practice transitions again as I was loosing "free" time on them in 2014
  4. Diligently foam roller my lower limbs at least three times a week, and don't shy off doing some extra calf raises. Know your weaknesses.
  5. And finally - one to please my yoga teacher, persevere with handstand practice - just because it is a challenge. Power Yoga Guernsey.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Riding west of Bordeaux

This holiday had been a 2 centre holiday where we spent the first part of the holiday near the Atlantic coast west of Bordeaux.  This part of France is characterised by one very large beach that runs down to the Pyrenees and consists mostly of sand dunes and pine forests.  A bit of a simplification but nevertheless fairly accurate.  

The inland lakes at Lacanau and Hourtin offer the contrast of flat water and strong tides of the wild Atlantic coast.  So for a triathlete on holiday it is just about a perfect spot for some open water swimming.  In July the lake was at least 20 degrees so non wetsuit swimming was fine.  In fact idyllic, the campsite we were staying on meant I was 75 metres from bed to lake!  Perfect for an early morning swim before the heat of the day builds.

There is a network of bike paths through the forests which is a good thing as the road network offers fairly limited choices - a big contrast to the Vendee ride.  In particular the stretch between Hourtin and Carcans was very busy with traffic driving up to the ferry to cross the Gironde to Royan.  It was however very flat so you could get your head down and minimise the time on the road.

This ride was about 90km and fairly hot.  Going north was fairly undulating and I managed to get on a dedicated cycle path between Carcans plage and Hourtin L'Ocean which was an old departmental road closed to traffic rather than one of the narrower purpose built cycle routes.

A nice ride, but you have to plan your coffee stop(s) carefully as there aren't many villages to pass through.  You'll get to see a lot of pine trees and sandy dunes and tracks, hear plenty of crickets and in summer you feel the warmth.  Go well prepared with drinks. 


The vast Atlantic beach - HourtinL'Ocean

Hourtin Plage (the lake)

The marina at Houtin Plage

Carcans Plage

Not many roads to pick from
Ticking a few more boxes for making a great holiday location, this campsite also enables me to rekindle my love of windsurfing with the added benefit of rigging up the sails at the beginning of the  holiday and leaving them rigged until it was time to go.
Time to windsurf on the lake.
Great Bordeaux wines to enjoy too!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Riding in the Vendee

One of the great things I really like about holiday's when I can take my bike with me is the freedom to explore roads that I've not ridden before, enjoy some great weather and seeing new landscapes.

This ride was a 94k loop around the Vendee - west France, starting near Olonne sur Mer heading inland through the Marais - the salt marshes / salt harvesting flats and into the interior before heading north and west to come back to the coast.

It was an early morning ride just after sun rise so the temperatures were pleasant before the heat of the day set in. Here's a few pictures I took as I went along.  Next I'll post up details of a ride I did near the Atlantic coast west of Bordeaux.

The marais

A ruined windmill

It wouldn't be France in July without sunflowers

Hill top chateau

St Giles de Croix

The route at Map My Ride

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Swim Smooth CSS based swim training

As part of the build up for the 2015 Island Games the Tri team took part in a technique analysis and coaching session with Steve Bailey, a Swim Smooth Coach.  This was made possible thanks to a bursary from Generali Worldwide, the Guernsey Island Games Association sponsor.

A write up of the weekend appears on Guernsey Tri website

For me the feedback on technique was invaluable and has given me a number of things to work on which I am trying to put into practice in each session.   Added to it is a 10 week swim programme which is based around Critical Swim Speed paced sessions and use if the Finis Tempo Trainer.  Each week our target pace per 25mtrs increases fractionally and the challenge is to stay ahead of the beeps.  Two weeks in and on the challenge session I'm winning 2-0, but I can see that the little yellow tempo trainer is going to be doing it's best to torment me each week. 

Having a clearly defined programme and a bunch of team mates who are highly motivated to improve is certainly working wonders, but it is only the second week of the programme.  The mark of the athlete will be those who can stick with it as the going get tough. 

This little yellow device is set to torment me over the 10 week programme.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

End of season open water swimming

It's been a real joy to get out of the pool and into the open water regularly in the last month.  The weather has been pretty good and the swims really social with team mates from Guernsey Triathlon.  This week I took my GoPro out and took a few shots.  See them on my Flickr page here.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

10mile Time Trial

The race was most memorable for Nick Despres' fantastic shot of me riding and looking like a pro.  He's an award winning professional photographer so it is no surprise he creates a great image.  You should check out his work via his blog linked above.  Despite being the last weekend in August it was a dull morning with misty rain and a gusty force 6 cross / head wind which made handling the bike a bit sketchy due to the deep section Zip 808 front wheel.  This was made worse by also having a loose tri bar - the gear cable running through it was the only thing stopping it falling out.

I completed the course about 30 seconds slower than my season's best - most of which I put down to bike handling - or an in ability to!  Average power was good showing that I still have some good form.

Nick Despres Blog site - Nick Despres Wedding Photographer website

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Riding on the back of Bertha

For me Island Games qualification came down to having to get a result ideally in the top 4 in the last selection race of the season - the Pembroke Olympic Distance triathlon on 10th August.  I was as ready as I could be but just one thing hung like a shadow over the race and her name was Bertha.  

Tropical storm Bertha was a Category 1 Hurricane that still had plenty of energy by the time it reached our side of the Atlantic - fortunately Pembroke is a sheltered bay for westerly winds and swells but the strength of the wind still whipped up a decent chop and swell.  I came out of the swim well placed in 5th and then set about minimising losses on the bike.

Bertha tracks over the UK gusting to 108 mph
Riding the west coast was hazardous with storm debris littering the road and a gusty wind making bike handling sketchy - I'd put a spoked front wheel on the Boardman to give better control and provide a better braking surface for the wet conditions.  Battling the headwinds was one thing, but the strong tailwind and wet roads made the down wind return leg up the coast road scary - going into corners with way too much speed!  

Photo by Nick Despres Photogrpahy.

The bike went well and although I had dropped one place I was still in top 6.  Getting off the bike the legs felt pretty good and despite the lashing rain and squally wind I ran myself up to finish and 3rd place and secure my Island Games place.
Race results here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Feins Triathlon - un jour sans

Not quite sure what happened, had an amazing swim - loved it - if bit of bish bash bosh in the first 200 then a great swim out in 9th - 7th in official results. Water was a lovely 22.7 degrees - a lot warmer than the 17 degrees at home!

Usually I move through the field on bike and run.  This time lost loads on the bike and ran very slooow. Finished 18th out of 200.

The French have a nice phrase for it : Un jour sans - a day without.

Still holiday followed and all is good.

My family shot some video and took some stills so a video. This is what it turned out like:

Race Stats 

18th (4th VM)2:14:04
Swim : 21:53 (7th)
T1: 1:29
Bike: 70:16 (39th)
T2: 1:34
Run: 38:53 (18th)

Race website: Feins Triathlon

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Guernsey Easter Running Festival

I targeted the local Easter 10km road race as a test of form ahead of my first tri of the year at Rennes in May.  With little specific 10k work under my belt but a couple of 5k run outs completed it was difficult to know just how well I would go.  With a noticeable breeze into our faces over the first half of the course, I had planned to run a negative split and so it worked out.  Seemingly fellow triathlete Matt Dorrian had similar ideas and was also on a similar schedule - around 35:00.

So we got to to the 5k marker just before the course turned for home and the pace increased noticeably. From that point onwards Matt just continued to apply the pressure and the elastic would stretch as we overtook some other runners.  Inside the final 1k the elastic finally broke and Matt sneaked ahead by 4 seconds at the finish.  I crossed the line in 34:14 for 9th place and first vet.

I also turned out in the cross country relay but my legs were still empty after the efforts of the 10k. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

English Schools Cross Country Trip

Channel Islands Junior Girls Team
Alternatively planes, trains and autombiles, plus boats and buses!
Following from the previous post, just getting to the race venue proved a major challenge as a couple of days of fog left flights in disarray and our flight to East Midlands Airport was duly cancelled.  Ironically the race venue at Castle Donington was actually at the end of the runway at East Midlands Airport, so what should have been a nice relaxing journey delivering us right to the door then turned into a logistical challenge.

Firstly we booked onto the ferry to Weymouth, the hire car was cancelled and a new one re-arranged with a pickup at Weymouth.  Then the ferry was delayed with the volume of passengers and speed was reduced due to the fog.  Still we would have a long drive into the night and still get to the hotel by midnight.

Then it transpired no car hire was available in Weymouth.  Now we were really getting stuck.  We walked to the train station and caught a train, the guard was going to sell tickets on the train as the queue for tickets was long and the card payment facility was broken!

Once on the train my wife in Guernsey managed to book a hotel in Eastleigh and a hire car from Southampton the following morning.  So an early start and then a minor panic as the hire car company didn't immediately have the car we had booked.  Transpires 7 seaters are by special order with 48 hours notice - but no one told the website !  Fortunately they had a car with pop up rear seats that made a 7 seater.  Not long after we were on our way. 

The drive was un-eventful until the traffic jam at the venue.  But I got the athletes there, they raced and then i took them to Manchester and we flew home as originally planed.  A bit tired, with mixed results but with lots of smiles and enthusiasm.

Results and more photos linked from GIAAC website post

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The youngsters would seem to have it all...

Last weekend's World Indoor Athletics Championships provided some great viewing and a reasonable medal haul for GB, despite some disappointment for athletes like 800mtr runner Laura Muir who going to Sopot was ranked third fastest in the world and a medal prospect. A bump and barge and she was eliminated in her heat and did not get the chance to run for a medal.  But at 20 her time will surely come.

Letsrun.com in their weekly round up page focussed on the age of the new champions and also put in some added perspective of  the ages of World and American record holders.  It seems that 26 is now old for a middle distance athlete.

Bernard Legat's silver at 3,000mtrs at age 39 ( after his gold at age 37) does give hope that there is life after 26!

It serves to remind us our prime athletic years are relatively few in number, even though we can potentially perform at a high level for many years. Our young athletes need to appreciate that they have no time to waste in their quest to become the best athlete that they can be - not to waste a year, a season, a month or even a single training session.  You never get that time back.

This weekend I am taking six of Guernsey's best junior endurance athletes to the English Schools Cross Country at Donnington Park.  They'll get an amazing opportunity to test themselves against the very best runners in the country and to experience the thrill of a major event.  Among the runners will be the future senior elite runners of the future. The future elite may not win, or even place highly this weekend, but the event can create the inspiration and determination to apply themselves and strive for their goals.  Seeing athletes enter into a cycle of become inspired, committed and getting rewards for their hard work is also truly rewarding for me as a coach, which is why it is great to be able to take the athletes to these events.  What is harder to impress on the youth is that they have not got long, so they should make the most of moment and not let the future happen, but make it happen.

Junior boys stream towards the finish line at the 2013 English Schools Cross Country.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Winter Training Break - Club La Santa, Lanzarote

It was my first time visiting Club La Santa in Lanzarote for a training break though I have been very aware of it as a destination for both pro and recreational triathletes or many years.  Specifically I went as part of a group of four to help prepare one if our runners for attempting to get a qualification time for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games before the Guernsey CGA's qualification period ends in late March.

Hurdles set up for drills at Club La Santa
For me it was the chance to put in a good block of training.  The holiday itself had been motivation to train solidly such that I could make the trip worthwhile and be able to accomplish a decent amount of training whilst there.

Weather was a bit cloudy and cool for the first couple of days but then the sun shone progressively more and the temperatures rose.  Lanzarote is known for being windy and that certainly made biking challenging as the road network is quite limited which makes for routes that can have very long slogs into the wind.  Add to that some decent climbs and we had a great set up for general conditioning training.

Having all of the training facilities to hand without having to drive anywhere plus classes and gym to choose from along with treatments including massage and of course relaxing areas by the pool made for a very nice break away from the usual routine.

I clocked up about 16.5hrs of swim / bike / run in the 6 days and that included a couple of easier days so it proved to be a good block of training.  Included in the running was two track sessions - the second along with 2013 Hawaii IronMan winner Frederick van Lierde - so you never know who you are going to be rubbing shoulders with !   he was doing a 10k volume progression running session with hos coach periodically taking bloods to test lactate levels in preparation for his first race of 2014 in Abu Dhabi. (He placed 4th).

We also took the time to video running styles and running drills so as to work on detail technique - just the sort of things you need plenty of time and a warm environment for.  Do I think I'll go back? - quite probably !  The club is being extended with 2 further 50mtr pools (yes 2!) , more apartments and more sports facilities.

Sun beginning to set at the end of another day at Club La Santa

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cam and Richie’s excellent adventure

Guernsey professional cyclist Tobyn Horton posted a link to this story by Richie Porte and Cameron Wurf - two Pro Tour cyclists (Sky & Cannondale respectively), where to celebrate Richie's 29th birthday they completed an epic 400+ Km training ride.

It is a fascinating read : http://cyclingtips.com.au/2014/02/cam-and-richies-excellent-adventure/

To me there were two standout messages that came out of the story :
  1. Chunking - they didn't verbally express to each other that they were going to do a 400k ride, but rather they broke down what they knew would be a long day into smaller more manageable chunks.  100k or so chunks were easy in their eyes and then it was just a matter of putting them together after ticking each one off.  The process of chunking whether against long term goals or an individual challenge is a great way of managing any situation which at first seems to daunting.
  2. Mental Strength - the ride was a huge physical challenge, but to athletes of their capability and training history it was within their capability.  However they doubted themselves and needed the buddy factor of reassurance to help themselves through it and used the chunking method to take them through the challenge as a process.  Whilst they will have gained fitness benefits from the ride, the benefits will be outweighed by the mental strength that they will have gained from completing the challenge.  This will go on to serve them well through this racing season and beyond.
From time to time in a training cycle it is really good to do an unusual session which serves a number of goals but whose immediate benefit may not be completely obvious.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Smoothie time

My yoga teacher has been running a really popular detox programme this January and as part of it she is producing absolutely these absolutely gorgeous smoothies. They are certainly a great way of kick starting the day - or just as part of re-fuelling after a morning swim session.

I really enjoy the yoga workouts and the Budokon style provides strength, agility as well as flexibility - this video of our class gives a great idea of what it is about.

PowerYoga Guernsey Website