Sunday, 30 November 2014

Open All Hours

I ended my season on a high note having been denied the opportunity to race the nation’s finest (ft. Commonwealth Games stay overs) at the British Elite Triathlon Champs. After making the trek to Liverpool to race I was thrilled the weather spared me the embarrassment of having my self-esteem demolished by some of the world’s best. Although common sense prevailed and the race organisers realised that the majority of Triathletes are incapable at riding deep section wheels at the best of times (let alone in gale force cross-winds), it was a frustrating waste of time. Plus, I forgot my wetsuit so it was kind of convenient. And I met Gwen Jorgensen, so that was alright.

After another small block of training I had my last race of the season (Cambridge Triathlon) cancelled too because of ebola or something in the river. Love it.

Following all the end of season drama, my sports science support team and I (me) made the executive decision to fatten up for winter and find my some motivation for winter training.

Dusk Till Dawn
Having signed for Primo Cycles RT for an undisclosed figure (I was promised a bike, lights, bacon and a camper van) I was drafted in to the all night MTB relay race and rocked up less than an hour before race start in Tom’s Dad’s car with my tesco value flapjack. Despite Tom, Luke and I being consistently fast we were let down by Charles (who was actually miles faster than us) who had the only MTB experience in the team. The majority of the ordeal was endured spooning Tom in the back of the car, cuddled under old curtains designed to protect our filthy bikes whilst Charles had the time of his life.

Not having any idea what we were doing tactically, we asked our CCC neighbours how to negotiate the 12 hour race most effectively, and didn’t stick to any plan, randomly ordering our turns based on who fancied it (generally Charles).

We survived to finish 8th which was respectable for two Triathletes, a retired U23 and an ├╝ber keen 17 year old. Our combined total of MTB experience*, at the time, was 0 hours.
*excluding Charles
 BUCS Short Course
A six man ARU team headed up to Ponds Forge for the BUCS short course swim champs. Assembling last minute at Cambridge Station we left on time to arrive in Sheffield with plenty of time, having irritated the majority of passengers on board.

Karma would eventually catch up with us as we bundled a weekends worth of kit for 6, and 6 swimmers into the back of a taxi. After convincing the driver where we thought our hotel was we got going before coming to an abrupt holt at a junction somewhere. One can only presume the driver anticipated the car in front trying to sneak through the amber light, but he didn’t. Our taxi slammed into the car and Tom and Danny flew towards us. Always wear your seatbelts folks.

With a substantial amount of oil leaking from the front of the car, we were stranded in the middle of a busy dual carriage way, without a clue where we were. With a vague point from the angered driver we dodged cars and tried to find a path to guide us in some sort of direction towards the hotel.

Having composed ourselves we took a more successful taxi ride to Ponds Forge and prepared to race. I won’t mention the ARU relay team being DQd for multiple offenses in the 4x50m freestyle relay but my 1500m wasn’t much better.

Slowed to a 17.27.19 1500m having derailed somewhere in the middle of a boring 60 lengths. I was, however, more proud of my transition and run to the station with Chrissy D to catch the last train home. I arrived at the station with two minutes to spare, still in my wet racing trunks, having been in the pool racing 10 minutes before hand. Fortunately a long transfer at Leicester allowed me to escape my trunks and breathe again. Sitting on a train in skins for an hour is far from pretty.

St Neots Half Marathon
Jogged round with Mum cos I cba.

Hereward Relays
After being drafted in last minute a kind favour became a ‘you owe me big time’ as I lined up at the start of the Hereward relays. It was well cold, and pissing down with rain. No part of me fancied smashing nearly 11k but I managed to pull a reasonable performance out the bag. I owe a lot to Christof for pacing me round a perfect even split and the words of encouragement making a bleak, long, straight, slog bearable.

In spite of the ordeal, watching the three other 20k legs brought a warm smug feeling to my heart knowing I had the least mud and shortest leg *thumbs up emoji*.

Most rewarding was handing over the imaginary batten in 10th, in front of the rest of the Tri Club boys. Friendly abuse will be heading James and Stu’s way.

Despite the promising start, all Cambridge Tri Club teams (including both Women’s teams) over took us. Although Alex brought us home with a decent performance, he paid the price for  his brother’s first run in a couple of years and was forced to belly slide of the finish line.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Pain In Spain

After slogging through a winter full of 4:40am starts, sweaty turbo sessions and late nights at the track, a week of training in sunny Spain was a worthy reward for six months suffering at the mercy of the British elements. Ironically, we left the U.K in fairly decent weather with our cheap EasyJet flight providing us with a priceless sunset.

Vuelta a Andalucia
The prologue began at gate 21 of Luton airport where James won the race to the window seat only to be disqualified by the commissaires. I was swiftly given the imaginary red leader's jersey and the coveted  view. Protests continued long into the night, much to the frustration of every passenger on the plane (I presume they found him as annoying as I did).

The Actual Prologue was a relatively tame 48km loop that was a complete waste of time, even on acclimatisation day. An early puncture from the only person (who shall remain nameless) with race wheels on delayed the ride, not that any one cared at 24°cNot satisfied with the traditional stage 1 'Quarry Ride' I extended the ride to feature a naughty little climb nicknamed the 'church of pain' because of the monastery that greeted you at the summit. The road itself ascended 169 vertical metres in just over a kilometre and certainly woke my legs up. The 12.2k/h ascent called for a photo break before imitating Valentino Rossi on the way down. Having descended back home I called it a day at 77km, just shy of 3hrs in the sun.

A short run through the olive tree fields followed which James (2nd at -29km) reclaiming about 50m  of his deficit following an attack out of a small ford (river crossing) within 1k of the finish.

Stage 1 was quite a treat, a 7km climb with millions (21) of hairpins awaited us nd da Mersey Tri massiv (I think that's how they talk up there) joined in da fun, in it. We chucked all bottles in the support van and got serious. Back at the IdleBreaks ( hq a leaderboard should have bared my name, but as I was not a paying guest my name wasn't permitted to grace the list of pro Cyclists and Triathletes. I'll be back. 

After 23minutes of climbing I reached 1085m above sea level, collected my water, phone and food and waited to take this picture of James. The descent was probably the most fun I've ever had on my bike. The GoPro footage was taken down from YouTube after someone named Vincenzo reported it as a fake.

After the feed station (extended tea-stop) we moved out of the valley and on home. James took a pretty nasty tumble through the Olive tree fields within sight of the finish having gone straight on rather than negotiating a slight bend. Fortunately it was within 3k of the finish and no further time was lost in the GC race. 

Distance: 108.13km
Time: 4:05:53                                      
Elevation Gain: 1668m
Average Heart Rate: 148bpm       
Normalised Power: 249W                  

Stage 2 wasn't as spectacular but was harsh enough to completely break James on the way home. Despite my honest attempts to revive his legs, he wouldn't accept my emergency wine gums to fuel the last descent home. To keep the post suitable for all ages I won't quote any of his opinions. We eventually made it home in 4:18:32 having ridden 110.92km. Finished the day with a gentle 2k warm down in the pool.

Stage 3 was a 10k pre-breakfast run which saw some tricky off road descending which, in the absence of James, was safely completed only to find more challenging obstacles ahead. Hills provided the perfect opportunity to test (in some cases destroy) the legs before running back up the valley on the road. Although the 46:23 it took to run doesn't sound impressive, I feel as though it was a decent run, all things considered.
3 lane 25m pool at the IdleBreaks facility 

After breakfast we took to the pool where coach Tapley (James) lead my session which included 5x400m as follows: 

400m off 5.45: (5.06)
400m off 5.30: (4.56)
400m off 5.15: (4.55)
400m off 5.00: (4.47)
400m: (4.45)

Thanks for the insults, bro.

With the rest of the Tapley household wrecked, I took the afternoon to explore the local scenery and climbed one of the mountains surrounding the house. There were no tracks what so ever so it was a scramble up the rocks to the top, which was worth the struggle. Took a selfie to prove it.

Stage 4 was brutal. We rode down to Malaga with a pair of Spanish locals and a couple from Yorkshire (who were equally as difficult as the Spanish to understand). It was all very well and easy when you're staying at 700m above sea level cycling down to a city on the coast, but coming back home was horrific. Straight out of town was a 14km climb that went from sea level up to 900m. Getting my head around riding uphill for 45minutes was bad enough without averaging 311W all the way up. On arrival of the cafe at the top I ordered and downed my Fanta lemon before the rest of the crew arrived. Relatively average ride home brought the ride up to 116.13km in just under 4:15hours.

Day 5 began with what was supposed to be a scenic 7km run along a trail that finished up at some fountains in the middle of nowhere. We were most disappointed (not) that the trail was only 2km. The fountains were genuinely disappointing, so much so it wasn't worth a picture. Made the run up to 9km before heading home.

No one else had the legs to ride after the king stage the day before so I rode on my own. Took my second helping of the 'Church of Pain' at an average of 350W and hit 81.1k/h or 50.4mph on the way down.

Stage 6 was pretty big. Over 108k with another monster climb, peaking at 1104m above sea level. I'm told it recently featured in La Vuelta (the writing on the road was a give away). Apparently Mark Cavendish didn't enjoy it much, and neither did I.

Again, chucking stuff in the van at the bottom of the climb was nice (and probably cheating) but on increasing tired legs didn't take a second thought. We were joined by a couple of guys from the U.S which broadened the range of accents in the group that had had its fair share of 'English' throughout the week. It was, however, nice to have some fresh faces to chat to complimenting the delightful roads, traffic and scenery.

Concluded the day with a short session in the pool:
Main set:
400m off 5:30 (5.05)
400m off 5.15 (4.55)
400m off 5:00 (4.48)
2x200m off 2.30 (2.22/2.21)
4x100m off 1.15 (68/70/70/68)

The last challenge of the day came in the restaurant where I took on a fine slice of wild boar. I just hope it wasn't contaminated like Alberto's. In all seriousness, there was not much seriousness as we enjoyed a nice evening of banter with the guys from Yorkshire. Banta banta banta.

Stage 7. The finale wasn't as glamorous as I'd hoped, burnt pretty much every match in the match box and struggled round the final 100k in 3 hours 32. The 1174m of ascending justified the slow pace.

I had such a brilliant week of training in Spain made by the support and generosity of Andy from IdleBreaks who introduced me to the best roads I've ever ridden. Having trained in Mallorca I thought roads couldn't be smoother and there couldn't been less traffic but the region exceeded the highly rated island. This place, and Andy's place are hidden gems in the vast world of Cycling and Triathlon and I look forward to going back in the future. It was hard leaving, not only because the Cambridgeshire fens have nothing on this area, but mainly because I had could hardly walk.
The view from the house (