Lucie, Andrea and I discussed a winter training plan to overcome firstly my shortcomings on the bike and secondly a programme that would include mostly (what turned out to be a complete) indoor winter. The other main goal was to race at 65kg's, considering I'd raced Kona at about 72kg's this was going to be a challenge without losing power.
During October I invested in tests, equipment and software to ensure each and every session would be tracked and analysed. During November, December and the first half of January I trained. I worked hard but allowed myself to enjoy my training. Sessions were moved around to fit my day to day and work travelling. I'd say 90% of the sessions were completed but I never stressed if I missed one or had to cut one short. Time was spent training with Andrea, swimming with the club and running a few off road lanes. Basically I loved training.
Focus started 12 weeks out ( 13 if you include the last taper week ). Nutrition, sleep and training sessions took precedence and I fitted the rest of life around this.
Nutrition is the easy part, you have two choices when you walk into a supermarket. You just make the right one. I do have help in this regard but anyone can find this out. Simple little test, if it can be left in the cupboard instead of the fridge its probably the wrong choice.
Sleep or rest and recovery I believe is the major difference between a Pro and an Age Grouper. I read a blog by Jodie Swallow where she commented she was up to 11 hours of sleep a day. I'm lucky to get that over 2 days. The final few weeks I really did try though. Again its about choice.
I love my training sessions, they are not always easy but that feeling of achievement once they are done is what keeps me coming back.
I came over to South Africa early because I was concerned that 5 months on an indoor trainer had not helped my cycling at all. The first weekend I felt amazing on the bike and by Tuesday after a time trial session I knew I had nothing to worry about. In fact I was very confident I'd made positive strides forward.
My second week in South Africa was the longest of the 12 weeks, just over 28 hours. In total however I averaged only 16.5 hours per week over the 12 weeks. 50% of that was on the bike, 37% running and 13% in the pool.
Finally race week was here. Travelled down to PE on the Wednesday, had a swim and a run that was cut short by a irate bee. Thursday was a windy ride along the first part of the bike route and back to the hotel for a 20 minute run. Registration at 9, a quick look at the expo and then back to the hotel. Friday and Saturday were quiet and focused, some would say anti-social (apologies for that).
Race day started at 3:30. After a really good sleep I woke up fresh. Coffee in the room and then down to breakfast. Plain oats, 3 eggs, more coffee and a muffin. Was into transition just after it opened to pump wheels, add nutrition to the bike and walk through the plan one more time. Sipping a bottle of Hi 5 to keep hydrated and fuelled.
With the rolling start I'd made a conscious decision to start a few waves behind my competition. Reason being from past races I believed I'd be about a minute or two faster them. So hopefully I'd come out of the water just ahead and be able to control my pace on the bike. The plan worked but T1 was a bit of a mess.
The swim was okay. Felt like it took forever to get to the turn around and managed to get a good few mouthfuls of water. Doesn't really bother but not that pleasant. The swim back was quicker so happy it was probably just a current.
A marathon is always going to hurt, never mind one after 180km bike. I'd decided to give the walking through water points a go. Again a conscious decision to start a 10-15 second walk after about 18km's at every second water point. This worked a treat, gave me a breather plus the chance to ensure the nutrition was actually going down and not being splashed all over my trisuit. Will certainly add this into future race plans. The water tables were great on the run, the sponge water was freezing and cooled the core down really quickly. Water, wet socks and long distance running make for an interesting foot reveal. I think the massage ladies comment was "oh gross". Luckily just one small blister to speak of though.
By the time I got to the red carpet the emotions were back in control and I was able to enjoy the moment, taking my time to walk over the line and soak up the last few seconds of what was truly an amazing day.
To everyone out on the course, to my friends, family, team mates, fellow competitors, Lucie and Andrea I just want to say thank you for all the wonderful support you've given me over the years. I do believe I'm still capable of more but know that I just need patience and time. The dream of a sub 3 hour marathon and sub 9 ironman may still just be that but its something worth working towards.
Heard a comment the other day, "Sacrifice a race or two to invest in the equipment"
Indoor Trainer - With ANT and a power meter. I have a Tacx Vortex and the more advanced Taxc Genius at home. I mainly use the Vortex, so do some homework as better will not always suit the requirement. Watt Bikes at a gym are an option but I've been on 2 bikes next to each other with a 40 Watt difference in readings. Not sure if they are ever calibrated.
Power Meter - Again do your homework. I'm using the Powertap Pedals which calibrate in 5 seconds before every ride.
READ!!! - As much as you can. No point in having all the equipment and having no idea what the numbers mean and more importantly what the numbers mean for you!
Test - Get the tests done, in a lab.
VO2 Max for both the bike and the run, they WILL be different. These will also give you your Heart Rate Zones.
FTP for the bike. No point in having a session at 70-80% of FTP and having no idea what your FTP is. FTP should improve over time, make the adjustments every few weeks.
Sessions - Spend a few minutes thinking about the session before you start. Even though I have my watch, HRM, power pedals its still good to visualise how your session should feel. If you've done this you should never have to take a swim session on a piece of paper with you to the side of the pool.
Quality over Quantity - Every time, all the time! Unless you have the time like the pro's to recover. An Aerobic set is also a quality set.
Make the correct decisions around nutrition - This is actually the easiest part of this whole process, takes no additional effort but is probably the biggest failing.
Patience - I think the biggest learning is trusting a coach. Yes I've questioned quantity, quality and weekly sessions but in the end followed the programme to the letter. No extra sessions, no longer sessions and no excuses.