This year has been a year full of Personal Bests (PB) and also a recognition that I need to get faster on the run. I had already signed up earlier in the year to compete in the Amsterdam Marathon. This will be my first “true” marathon race that I’ll compete in. I’ve technically already completed a marathon as part of my Ironman last year, but this is totally different. 

So, I started thinking to myself about my goals for next year. I’ll be posting later about what they are specifically, but let’s just put it this way, I need to do a 1:23 for my 21.1km run as part of my half-ironman. Seeing as that’s my goal, it only felt natural that a 3hr marathon time should be within reach. Well, I should at least be pushing to do that by the end of this year so I can set myself up nicely for next year.

I found a nice plan online that gives me a solid 8 week plan to get my time down to 3hours. It’ll include doing 5 runs per week for a total of about 60-80km (roughly 35-50mi) per week. I’m already one week in and feeling great after 40km of running. With my Half-Ironman this weekend, that should bring it to 60km for the first week of training. Not bad.

My first few runs have been pretty solid. Averaging about 45-47min on my 10km runs. Feeling confident! Let’s see how this goes…

Awesome time in Spain, racing, training, and getting Philip up to speed on the sport. Awesome time in Spain, racing, training, and getting Philip up to speed on the sport.

Awesome time in Spain, racing, training, and getting Philip up to speed on the sport.

It’s been too long since I’ve written on my triathlon blog. So here we go…

First things first. I missed making the British Age Group team…by a lot. actually set out to compete in the Aquathlon originally, but scrapped it because I wasn’t all that motivated to just do a swim/run event. Just some background before I go into details. My focus has always been on long distance triathlons. Previous to this season, I had only finished one Olympic distance triathlon and two sprints. It’s taken me 2 seasons to figure out long distance, so this would be my first season really taking on the shorter distance. It’s a good thing I loaded up my schedule. 

The good news is that I’ve learned more and more about what is required to race at each distance. Let me just say this, sprint, olympic, half-ironman and ironman are all very different in each of their own rights. Mainly this is due to nutrition and it’s impact it can have on your race. The biggest lesson learned has been that poor preparation can have a massive effect on your race. When it comes to the shorter distances, a massive effect can normally be a difference of 30-60s, which in the world of triathlon can be the difference between 25th place and 15th. 

So here are my races and a quick brief about each:

Nottingham Triathlon / BTF Sprint Championships

http://racetimingsystems.net/Results/IndividualResult.aspx?Id=611453&Round=2170&Page=1&Search=bestvina&Theme=onestepbeyond

750m swim: 11:02

T1: 1:01

20km Bike: 31:06

T2: 1:04

5km Run: 20:16

Total: 1:04:29

This is the first time I’ve been somewhat serious about a sprint. I knew sub-1:06 was attainable simply by the numbers, but wasn’t sure how deep I could go. My swim was alright. I’ll take 11:02, but know with my fitness that a 10-low is more realistic. Due to my allergies (which I’ll address in depth later) this means both my performance is hindered and I’m increasingly exhausted during transition. Once again, I’m an idiot and my bike post was way too low. I suspect that’s easily worth a minute. Doh! I was very tired during the run and mentally gave up after my poor bike session. I know I’m capable of a 18-high (I did a 18:40 in the first 5k of a 10km flat), so just need more work on my bike->run bricks. 

Dambuster Triathlon

http://www.racetimingsystems.net/Results/IndividualResult.aspx?Id=645717&Round=1698&Page=1&Search=bestvina

1.4km Swim: 21:01 (conditions were bad so they made it shorter)

T1: 0:49

40km Bike: 1:14:12

T2: 0:47

10km Run: 41:55

Overall: 2:18:44

This was the first Olympic distance race since October of 2011, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The swim, despite it being shorter than normal, went surprisingly well. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep up with the main swim pack and was the “arrowhead” of the chase pack. Not good, drafting on swimming is essential…especially when I’m skilled enough in swimming to do it. Holy god the bike course was not suited for me whatsoever. First, it was super windy and second it was super hilly. Not just like big mountains, but just constant up and down. I’m a terrible climber, didn’t trained properly (at this part of the season) for hills and got absolutely killed on the bike. I knew my race was over at this point. I pushed pretty hard at this on the run, even though I already knew I was nowhere near the front in order to qualify. A 42m run ain’t bad and was a good wake up call. 

Liverpool British Championships

http://www.racetimingsystems.net/Results/IndividualResult.aspx?Id=682504&Round=2356&Page=1&Search=bestvina

1.5km Swim: 24:57

T1: 2:26

40km Bike: 1:05:18

T2: 2:08

10km Run: 40:02

Overall: 2:14:52

Having amped myself up mentally since doing poorly at Dambuster, I set out with a mixed attitude of “yes you can do this” with that of a “well whatever let’s just see how this goes”. My training going into it wasn’t great, but I thought it was adequate enough. I decided due to the 21-degree (C) water that it would make sense to go non-wetsuit. Bad idea, allergies hit me hard (but wasn’t unbearable). I went faster in my 1.9km swim at Mallorca than I did in 1.5km!! I’ll talk about my allergies later (and have talked about them before), but I really struggled with them this race. I got on my bike and just had nothing in the tank. I was so sluggish and couldn’t produce any energy to push me through. I knew I was physically capable of hitting 40kph, but couldn’t bring myself to it. Oh well, let’s just test out how I can transition into the run. My run was OK (well much better than before) and really pushed myself. Although some people said it was a fairly short course, I was happy to split a 40m 10km. I know I can go faster, but again I think it was because of poor training going into. 

Wild Wolf Triathlon:

(results don’t have a direct link)

1.5km Swim: 27:35

T1: 1:31

40km Bike: 55:22

T2: 1:25

10km Run: 47:55

Overall: 2:13:49 

This was a bit of a less serious and more “fun” triathlon. First, it was non-aero bike, but drafting legal on the bike. Second it was non-wetsuit. Once again, my allergies hit me (alongside having trained very poorly for swimming) and went 27min! (only barely beating my 1.9km at Mallorca) Now for the bike…let me just say this - drafting legal races are awesome. I know now why so many people complain about drafting measures in non-drafting races. This is a huge (and controversial) issue in the sport and don’t see it going away anytime soon. Anyway, I crushed it on the bike (55min!) as I got so spend a solid 15min sitting on the back wheel of the race leader. Unfortunately, I was an idiot and didn’t bring enough water on the bike. I was so dehydrated when I got to the run I thought I was going to faint. So I spent the first 5km just trying to drink (split about a 27min) and then when I came back to my sense was able to put some serious track down (negative split a 21min). Too bad because that woulda meant a solid 2:05-ish finish. Again, all in the preparation. 

Lesson Learned

Cold Urticaria - I have a hard time explaining this to people, but in the past 3 years I’ve developed allergies to cold weather. Go ahead and laugh, but it seriously sucks…especially if you like triathlons. It’s gotten worse and worse despite my best efforts to circumvent it. To date the only that slightly works is to take anti-histamines. I (finally) learned this season I have to take anti-histamines 2.5hrs before I get in the water. This means I have to wake up earlier than normal, which makes me more groggy for the race. Despite doing this, it still affects me. I’ve now slowly learned that I need to do a pretty aggressive warm up to basically temporarily get my body to it’s allergy-reactive state, so that I can then bring it back down to normal so that I can then race. I did this at Mallorca and it worked pretty well. Also, it does help to do a longer race where laggish transition times aren’t  as detrimental. I really to have something be an excuse for my poor performance, but this is totally out of my control…and IT SUCKS. This tends to then leak into my mentality (“oh no, here go my allergies, can’t perform this time”) and then really affects me not only physically but mentally. It’s frustrating and I know it will always affect me, but I’ve learned that no matter what I cannot let it affect my confidence. I just have to be 15% faster than everyone else in order to compete at my level, as I will always have something physically hold me back. 

Training - My training has been massively up and down since Mallorca. I thought that some of the training would simply “carry” it’s way through the season, but that’s a pretty stupid way to think about it. Good lesson learned - training requires discipline throughout the whole season. 

Bike Saddle - Once again, I’ve had issues with the height of my bike saddle. It was way too low for a few of my events and I started to get sore in my lower back (basically because I was forcing my lower body to use muscles that I never developed properly before). IDIOT MIKE, IDIOT! I check this before every race now and have properly documented the right height.

So that’s it. All in all, I have technically gotten faster (the races I thought got easier and easier anyway), but I’ve learned so much about how to race the shorter distances. I now have a good idea for my goals for next season and have already started putting in some items in place to make sure I have as much success next year as I did this year. 

I’ve got two more races left (one being a PB-type-course for a half-ironman) and I’m really looking forward to planning a good off-season this year. 

Want to know what I go through in my events? Here ya go…

Goals are important for anything in life. Sports are no different. If you follow my blog, I wrote back in November about my goals for 2013. I also recapped my season last year with the goals I had set before. I also set some goals literally a year ago when I competed last year:

30:00 Swim
6:00 Transitions were fine 
2:40:00 Bike
1:35:00 Run

The difficulty with setting goals that far in advanced is that there are so many variables that can happen that achieving long term goals become increasingly more difficult than short term ones. I’ll slightly modify the famous saying - It’s an Ironman, not a sprint. 

My most important goal for this year was to go under 5 hours at Ironman 70.3 Mallorca this year. Even though this is the beginning the season, it was still very much an ‘A’ race for me. Not to mention someone who has a lot of difficulty handling the cold winters here in London, the odds were stacked against me. It’s only May and my training season has had it’s massive peaks and troughs. From the terrible winter rides were my allergies forced me to stop early to the big 3 week gap of no training back in March, it wasn’t easy. Luckily I re-focused at the right time and my training has been superb over the last 5-6 weeks. I learned possibly the best lesson about my training in the 2 (going on 3) seasons I’ve done triathlons - you have to consistently train hard week over week in order to perform. This means quality over quantity. Too many people think this sport is about just hammering your body to no end. It’s not. It’s about discipline, dedication and consistency. 

So here it is, my race report of the race I’m proudest of. 

Morning started off nice. I woke up with the normal anxiety I have going into my races and chowed down on as much food as I could. I decided to make a change to my pre-race regiment and forced way more food than I was hungry for before the race. I’ve learned that nutritionally, I can eat way more than I think and need to in order to prevent bonking (which happens to me way more than I care to think). 

I arrived to the transition area probably earlier than just about everyone there. Everything was sorted and I was prepared as I had ever been. I also had plenty of time, which was good considering I needed to get a nice swim in before my race. 

Once I was all done and everything was set up properly, I headed down to the water for my prerace swim. This is one thing I’ve understood about my swimming performance is that I absolutely need to get in 500m of swimming before my races. I easily save 1-2 minutes from making sure I’m warmed up properly. I also made sure I took some anti-histamines for allergies. Luckily my reaction was very very minimal, which meant my performance wasn’t going to be impacted. I swam out about 200-300m (way furtherer than anyone else doing a pre-race swim) and just sat there floating for a few minutes. I was comfortable in the water, no allergic reaction and my right arm was properly stretched to prevent any discomfort I normally get. It was all in my head at this point.

I swam back to shore, watched the pros set off and then got in the queue to the swim entrance for my age group. I had some time and wasn’t in a rush so I tried to scurry around looking for Philippe, my competitive counterpart, to do my pre-race Mallorcan ritual of wishing him luck before our competition. What I probably haven’t stated on my blog, Philippe and I are very competitive with each other. Last year he beat me at this race by 3.5 minutes. He’s a hell of a cyclist, but I am a hell of a swimmer. Our running ability is somewhat on par with each other, but is very dependent on our nutrition and post-bike ability  So our races tend to be very competitive. It was a goal of mine to beat him, but I knew the only way to do that was to simply focus on what I had to do. 

Anyway, race kicked off and jumped out to the top 10 position right away. I had done some drafting exercises the day before with Andy Brodziak, which massively helped. Growing up swimming, drafting, even between lanes isn’t uncommon, so the technique wasn’t necessarily new to me, but just practicing made all of the difference. I got comfortable in the first 200-300m of the swim, which I normally don’t do well. Once I established my spot, I latched on to a few guys in front of me and drafted for nearly 800-1000m. I was absolutely cruising. Also, because I’ve worked on my swim technique (elbows up!) I was able to swim much straighter. I barely had to look up to see where I was. 

The best part of my swim was that I was comfortable throughout. I didn’t feel like I was panicked, my allergies weren’t a problem, and I actually felt powerful. The last 500m I decided to kick it in to high gear, and got off the drafting train and decided to power through to the end. Unfortunately this plan didn’t work so well as I was constantly being stopped by the slower women swimmers. Not gonna complain, it’s part of the sport, but definitely would have shaved some time off had they not been in the way.

I was fairly slow coming out of the water initially as I caught my breadth, but then chugged forward.

Estimated swim time: 27:45 (I’ll get in to why this was estimated later) 

I did transition fairly quick and noticed I passed up a few people that I was running next to. Hopped on my bike and I was off. 

My right leg had a little bit of a niggle as soon as I got on the bike. My right leg was fairly tight, and couldn’t explain why. From previous experience I knew I just needed to power through and push. Unfortunately this more or less lasted through the first 25km, into the first big hill climb.

I also remembered what I needed to do in terms of nutrition. This is the difficulty in the sport - you have to force yourself to eat when you’re not hungry. So there I was trying to force a protein bar down my throat. It was extremely difficult and puking was definitely imminent. I pushed through and was able to get the protein bar, two gels and some carb-gummies in the first 1.5hr of the race. Spot on to where I need to be. 

It was about halfway up the monster hill when I heard a familiar voice yelling behind me. Oh crap, it’s Philippe…and he caught WAY quicker this year. At this point I had a major cramp in my right side. I stayed with him for a bit and then he took off. The kid can climb! I had to remind myself - do your race, don’t worry about Philippe - come back strong in the second half. So I stayed on my pace and chugged up the monstrous hill. I don’t think I did as well as I would have hoped, BUT more importantly I wasn’t disastrously tired. So I knew I had to do one thing - beast the second half of the course and get my nutrition right. 

Halfway through, again feeling fine and not hungry, I knew I had to force my big gel down my throat. Banana taste…ewww. Got it all in my mouth and forced it down. Probably the hardest part of my race! 

I kept visualizing all of the areas that I got killed on the year before and telling myself that I needed to push harder. I knew what I did poorly last year and that was primarily the consistency I held on the last 40km. So all along that way I had to constantly remind myself to just hold a steady race and not hit spikes. I was averaging a cool 35-40kph, which was much better than my times last year which were sitting around 32-36kph. Also, looking back at my Garmin, I noticed so many spikes the year before. This year my performance was very smooth. I owe a bit of that to the TT bike that I’m now on. It easily added 2-3kph during the last 40km

The most important part - I didn’t bonk in the slightest. I wasn’t tired and had consistent performance throughout. Long story short - my bike leg was perfectly orchestrated. Now it was all up to the run to see how I would hold up. 

Estimated Cycle Time: 2:41

Hopped off the bike in a nice transition position and ran straight through transition in a pretty quick pace. Started the run off and my quads were absolutely on fire at this point. Again, I reminded myself it’s just a niggle, it’ll work itself out. Sure enough, about 3km in and the discomfort went away. 

Since I didn’t bonk on the bike, this was the first time I was able to consistently run past water stations. In fact, this is the first half ironman I actually passed an aid station! I only ended up stopping twice and it was only to chug water down due to dehydration. Other than that I was flying through aid stations with ease. It also meant I wasn’t frantically trying to pour carbs/caffeine down my throat because I was uber hungry. 

I was struggling to do better than 5:00min/km towards the middle and really had to to dig deep to push myself. I noticed Philippe was only about 2-3min ahead of me and mentally blocked the fact that he was going to win and had to focus solely on my own race.

I knew throughout the race that I was going to have to negative split if I was going to safely get under 5 hours. I was fairly certain after a strong bike and swim I would be close, but couldn’t be sure 100%. So the last 3-4km I went into beast mode and went all out. Looking at my times, I was able to get myself back down to 4:40/4:21min/kms in this last push. As I was chugging along, sure enough I say Philippe’s head as we entered into the final push of the race. He’s DONE, I thought. I had still had it in the tank and he didn’t. He was DONE, this race was mine to lose now. I sprinted past him, said a quick hello and he gave me a nice bit of encouragement realizing he wasn’t going to beat me at this point.

I gave literally everything my legs, body and mind could give in the last 1.5km. I don’t think I’ve ever dug that deep in a sport before. It felt great coming into the finish. I was disillusioned, knackered, shattered…nothing left to give. I was fairly confident I hit sub-5, but wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter at that point - my legs were shattered. I had used every last once of power they had left in them. 

Estimated Run Time: 1:38:29

I tried to regain strength and then saw Philippe come in. Gave him a nice big hug, for a job well done. It’s been great training and competing with Philippe. It definitely helps to have someone who is on par with your abilities. Also it’s very beneficial to both of us that we have weaknesses where each other has strengths (swimming an cycling), because it makes us much more motivated to get better in those areas. Philippe destroyed his swim time this year and I destroyed my bike. It all came down to the run and I had just enough to get him. I’m looking forward to seeing how he doe at IM Austria because he’s gonna absolutely beast it. 

I scurried around trying to find my phone so I could check my results online. Did I get sub 5? Of course I got sub 5hr, but by how much? Na, I didn’t get sub 5? This was all running through my head. I checked online - no results. What the heck? So I look down at my leg. My leg band was still there..but wait a minute no chip. SHIT. Alright, well I know I beat Philippe. What’s his time? 4:56:56

YES. YES. YES. YES. YES.

I got under 5 hours. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED. And well shit, I took a few minutes off of that too! I had to end up doing some investigations to figure out what my times were. 

For the swim, I found a picture of me:

image

Bernardo Low-Beer was the gentlemen in the red on the left (his body only showing half) and he went a 27:40 on his swim. So I assume I went about 27:43 (I’m standing 1m behind him)

Here is my finishing pic: image 

and behind me is a guy named Raphael Gabel: image

Here is his time: 4:54:29

For my total time, I think 4:54:25 should be about right. 

5.5 minutes under 5 hours! BOOM! Ya, I’ll take that.

So what’s next? Maybe qualify for Vegas Champs next year?

Ironman Mallorca 70.3 race day. She’s all ready to go. All in my head now. Ironman Mallorca 70.3 race day. She’s all ready to go. All in my head now.

Ironman Mallorca 70.3 race day. She’s all ready to go. All in my head now.

My training is going amazing right now. PERIOD.

I hate a major snag about a month ago due to major changes in my work life, which made scheduling everything very sporadic. On top of that, the weather has to be it’s worst ever in the history of time in England. We’re barely cracked 3C for the longest time. Luckily the last two weeks have been anywhere between anywhere between 10-20C. 

Looking back at my Garmin calendar, there is this huge gaping hole for about a month in between Feb and March. Luckily I’ve still steadily put in training when and where I can. Now that I also have stability in my life, my training has gone up massively. Some of the highlights of the past few weeks:

Latigo Canyon Ride in Malibu, California

Really solid ride and good workout. Unfortunately, bonked hard half way through as I didn’t really prepare enough fuel (water and gels) to get me through the whole ride. Very important lesson in nutrition though.

Ride to Windsor (actually was about 100km)

10km Run Brick right after 100km to Windsor

10km portion was clocked at about a 47min!

Tonight I clocked a PB on my 15km Richmond Park Ride as wel. I dropped nearly a minute off my time and everyone said that the conditions were the worst they’ve ever been! 

I tested myself in a 1.5km TT swim session and hit a 24:32. Not great, but not bad. In fact, I’m pretty sure I did extra distance, as I’m pretty sure I held 1:30/100m pace. I just need to hit 3 swim sessions per week and that number should be more like 21:30

The biggest things that have changed for me this season:

  • I no longer have issues with my back, and therefore stretching hasn’t been an issue once this year
  • I haven’t been sore ONCE this year. It’s really bizarre. Maybe I’m not working hard enough but I haven’t had that ridiculous leg soreness you get from a massive ride or run yet this year. 
  • I started my training in Jan (and slightly arguable in Dec of ‘12)
  • I’ve done more bricks in the past 2 weeks than I’ve done in a full year

So, things are good right now. As long as I hold consistent training for the next couple of weeks here, I am confident I’ll go sub 5hr. If I go sub 5hr, I’ll be a very happy boy. 

Latigo Canyon - Malibu, California

Triathlete Secrets Revealed - Chris Kemp

I’m scared to type the next sentence simply so I don’t set myself up for failure, but I can’t stop from feeling this way -  this will be my best season yet. 

In a session run by Andy Brodziak (professional triathlete and member of OTRDS here in London), he mentioned competing in long distance triathlons requires a “2-3 year plan”. Crazy huh? This stuff doesn’t come easy and doesn’t come overnight. I’ve learned to take the overnight success that some people experience in this and other similar sports, as complete outliers, and just focus on my own experience.

All that being said, I’m now into my 3rd season, which means this where I need to prove myself. It’s also my last season in the M25-29 Age group, which means this is the year to succeed before I hit arguably the most competitive age group in triathlons. But that’s good timing too ;)

As I’ve stated before, I’ve had different goals each year and have managed to hit most, if not all of them. The first season was all about finishing (half-ironman), the second season was all about figuring out what I enjoyed most (half-ironman and olympic distance), and this season is all about proving myself (qualifying for worlds in olympic distance, and sub-5hr half-ironman time). My forward looking goal is to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 Championships in Vegas…but that might be a 5 year plan ;)

A couple of things have happened that are making this season already better than the previous ones:

  • Cycling - I have way more focus on cycling this year. My progress on the bike will be the deciding factor for my race success. Already I’m happily doing 2-3 sessions per week (mostly on the turbo) and I’m on a new TT bike. It’s the first season where I really feel I’m consistently hammering the bike. I’m still not ‘there’ yet, but my legs are getting very strong. 
  • Bricks - I’ve already done more bricks this year than I think I did all of last year. This has been my biggest problem in maintaing my running performance in races.  Just today, I ripped through a brick (1.5hr turbo ride, with a 10km run) and hit a 44min 10km, which included a slow warmup and about 6 minutes of jogging. 
  • Focus - I switched coaches this year to Will Usher and couldn’t be happier. My focus initially has been swimming and cycling, which is completely opposite to the large amount of running I did up front last year. I’m also doing a lot more swimming and cycling with specific targets and doing them with people around me. This has made hitting those targets all the more important. 
  • Swimming - I’m a natural born swimmer. It’s where I’ve always excelled, but I’ve never put in this good of training, this early. Just this month alone, I’ve put in the most distance in a single week (11.5km) and have logged 33km in total throughout the month. I just ran the numbers and this about 10km more than I’ve ever done in any month previous. I’ve gotten my 50m down to 32s and my 100m down to 1:15 in just 4 weeks. Now I just need to focus on maintaing speed in longer distance sets (200-500m)
  • Stretching - Stretching has ALWAYS been a big issue for me. I’m not stretching more often, more consistently, and smarter. It also has helped that I’m not hammering my legs so early running as I did last year. 
  • Progression - This is the first season I’ve felt my progression towards training has been 100% spot on. I haven’t had those dead leg saturdays that I normally get after a long bike ride, or the random niggles I used to get previously. I’m feeling confident about pushing my body to exact limit it can take without getting injured. 
  • Surrounding Confidence - My club was just informed that we were nominated for amateur club of the year in the UK. My teammates are super supportive, and challenging at the same time. This has ultimately lead to an insane amount of confidence for me personally. For anyone interested in getting competitive in this sport, the best advice I can give is to join a club or train with a group. It will help your performance tremendously. So much energy around our club and it’s members right now. Couldn’t be happier. 
  • Consistency - This is by far the most important factor for this year so far. With the exception of a few days where I’ve had previous obligations, my consistency towards the amount of training I’m doing has been spot on. I’m no longer hitting spikes (either up or down) of the amount of training I’m doing. Mentally, I feel so much better at the end of the week that I’ve put equal amount of training in each sport. 

I literally cannot stop thinking about Mallorca…and that scares me. Good news is, I’m one of the last people out there to let fear get to me.