As we enter the final days now in the run-up to Challenge Roth Triathlon, our intrepid iron-men are tapering their training. But first Wave describes his peak training.
We have been making some good steady progress up here in Yorkshire since the Monster Mojo. My coach, Suzie, has been pushing me a tad harder than I had in mind when I recruited her, but it seems to be doing the trick. One recent week looked a bit like this:
Mon – 2000m recovery swim
Tues – 2hr 15 min bike ride, including 30 min hard warm-up for a 10-mile, eyeballs-out, hilly time-trial
Wed – 11 km steady run, plus 2250m club swim session
Thurs – Rest day, just 1hr Pilates
Fri - 2hr turbo session with big gear sweet-spot efforts, then 1hr race-pace run off the bike
Sat - 2800m open water swim, plus 24km run straight after the swim
Sun - 3.5hr bike ride
This took me a little by surprise as it was a big step up from what I had been doing. And then I realised I was entering an Olympic distance race, the Wetherby Triathlon, immediately after it. In a panic, I emailed Suzie, assuming that she must have forgotten about my scheduled race, but “No”, she said “I want you to know what it feels like to race fatigued…” Bloody hell, I’m 59 years old… I’m always fatigued!
But then, bizarrely, having flogged myself during the week doing all that training, I produced my best ever Olympic distance: 2:26. I was 4th in age category, so I just missed out on a podium spot. But hey, the three people in front were cheating really, by being much younger.
Onwards and upwards. We were building to peak training volume, so the following weekend included a 100-mile time trial, followed by a 10-mile run straight off the bike. It all went pretty much to plan, apart from the torrential rain and a puncture. (Control the controllables, they say).
My last big session was last weekend. It comprised a 4,000m open water swim and then a 100km bike on the Saturday, followed by a 30km race pace run on the Sunday. I was also to practice my race nutrition plan, using the same products that I will on race day. For the 100km bike ride I downloaded a circular route to my bike computer as I was in unfamiliar territory. All very sensible… until the computer battery died about 2.5km into the ride. I’m not quite sure why (perhaps I had a premonition), but I was carrying a hard copy of the route with me as backup. Even more fortuitously, I had decided to wear my reactolite varifocal glasses, without which I would have had no chance of reading the aforementioned map anyway.
The route was quite complicated, so there were lots of wrong turns, U-turns and map stops. Not much of a race simulation, then. And during one about-turn, as I picked up the bike to spin it around, my front wheel caught in a rut in the tarmac. With one foot still clipped in and the weight on the wrong side of the bike, there was only one outcome. And down I went, in slow motion, praying that neither body nor bike would sustain serious damage. I was lucky for a third time: I was left with just a few holes in my elbow and a sorely dented pride, as I avoided eye-contact with the curious onlookers. Controlling the controllables is all very well, but there’s not much you can do about a flat computer battery causing you to fall off your bike whilst stationary.
I’ve just entered my 60th year, which is a bit of a blow given that I’ll be pitted against young whippersnapper 55-year-olds in my age category. On that basis, I’ve reluctantly taken the “…if you can’t beat them….” approach and resorted to Ric’s obsessive marginal gains tactics. I almost treated myself to some super-duper race wheels for my birthday but a very generous friend from the triathlon club has offered to loan me his – what a star.
I have, however forked out for a pair of red-hot Continental Grand Prix TT tyres to put on them. The total retail value of that little package would be about £1,900 but should, according to Ric, save me at least 10 minutes on the 112-mile bike leg. Great value, then, at £190 per minute.
I will, however, resist the urge to wear a silly pointy helmet as I don't want to look like a complete, er... Ric.
A slightly cheaper way to go faster is to lose weight and, as a result of all the training, I now find myself to be lighter than I have ever been, which should help.
Roth is starting to feel all too real now. It’s only 18 days until race day. We’ve been allocated our race numbers and start times.. And tapering has begun. We’re past the point of useful training - it takes 3 weeks for training to impact fitness, so nothing we do now will actually make us fitter for race day. The next 2½ weeks is about maintaining fitness levels whilst not over-stressing the body and, above all, avoiding injury.
An important note, though. Triathletes are to be avoided at all costs during this taper period. They are typically grumpy because they feel they should be doing more training, they are paranoid about catching other people’s germs, they spend their whole time writing lists, race plans and nutrition plans and they are generally stressy and unpleasant to be around.
Bring it on.