It’s hard to follow up with another post about mundane life after the Leanda Cave tri camp earlier this month.  But this is what has been going on:

1.  Marathon training.

In a big way.  I’m following London Heathside‘s amazing coach Jacob’s plan, and it’s not for the faint-hearted.  While I’m not following it to the letter, it still makes for big mileage, fierce tempo runs and really really long long runs.  Jacob has produced countless sub-3 hour marathoners; he knows what he’s doing.  I certainly don’t have any aspirations to join that club yet, but I’m still trying my best.  Last weekend’s long run was 22 miles (35.5 km) and the distance is still growing.  Worse yet, soon it instructs us to do the middle 6-10 miles at marathon pace.  I managed it last year running with London Heathside’s fast group – I’m not sure how I will manage to do it this year by myself.  I’m hoping Tom will be in full running form by then and can at least pace me for the faster segments.  The tempo runs are also pure agony!

Ben, who is willing to share the pain with me!  22 miles on trails last weekend.

Ben and me after 22 miles on trails last weekend.  Can you smell us?

2.  Old friends!

My best friend from schooldays, Alex, was visiting for a week with her 7 month old baby, Will.  I swear, he didn’t cry once (at least within our earshot) the entire time he was here.  He made best friends with Haile and was pretty much the star attraction for the whole week (oh, it was good to see Alex too!).  We went to the beach, we walked through gator-ridden trails and bird sanctuaries, we did baby yoga.  Amazing.

Does it get any cuter than this?

Does it get any cuter than this?

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The dog beach was a revelation in itself.  Haile loved it.  We will be back.

3.  Winter came, then left

We had a few days of relatively cold weather.  Yes, it even got down to freezing for 2 nights.  We had to bundle up in jackets for our dog walk and wear gloves when we went running.  I forgot how to dress for cold runs.  I get so hot that I don’t actually need to wear that much, especially when the sun is out.

We got hot.

It was cold.  We got hot.  Those are my gloves sticking out of my waistband.

The cold was actually a true blessing for running.  It’s a whole lot easier to run when you’re not sweating 3 pints’ worth the moment you press start on your Garmin.

And when the cold left and the heat returned, well, we had to celebrate with a nice cycle to the beach:

4.  I cantered down memory lane

Horse sport was my original passion, once upon a time.  It was pretty much all I lived and breathed up until my 20s, and I spent a great summer working as a rider/groom in Ireland.  When I was in law school in the UK, we somehow managed to get funding for a polo club and I got to play heavily subsidised polo for 2 years – so much fun.  And then after that, zilch.  I used to get the occasional pony ride when visiting family, but I hadn’t jumped in probably around a decade or so.  Well, my sister wasn’t feeling well this week so she asked me to exercise her mare Zoey for her.  Next thing I knew, she was setting some jumps and I got to relive my youth.  Zoey took good care of me.

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I rode her again the next day and then went to a track session.  I tell you, doesn’t matter how much sport you do – do something different, using different muscles, and wow, you’ll be in pain after!  Or is that just me?!

We also discovered that fearless Haile thinks it’s great fun to chase the horses’ tails as they canter along.  Thankfully Zoey is super good-natured.

5.  Haile, Ballon. Enough said.

I keep sharing puppy photos, but did you know I also have the most beautiful cat in the entire world?  Her name is Ballon and she is International Feline of Mystery.  She is originally from Ireland.  She had a very serious accident there that resulted in 2 broken back legs.  She was flown to the UK for surgery by the wonderful charity Cats Protection.  3 major surgeries and a year later, she found a home with us in our London flat.  She walks a bit crooked and can’t jump, but that doesn’t stop her.  Now she lives with us in Florida and enjoys sunbathing and getting Haile in trouble.

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Ballon actually had an incredibly intense fear of dogs, but Haile seems to be winning her over (when he isn’t chasing her).

6. And finally, training in general

There have been some laments that I haven’t posted my normal weekly training updates – but I don’t want to bore you.  For those that are interested, I’ve put the usual weekly calendars below.  I had to take a disheartening chunk of time off due to some really seriously bad asthma issues, quite scary actually – but I’m pretty much back to normal now.

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And the 2 weeks since the camp:

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Have you noticed I’ve not been foam rolling?  Why aren’t you yelling at me? Seriously!

 

16. February 2015 · Comments Off on Training with a World Champion: Tri Camp with Leanda Cave! · Categories: embrace the bike, Run, Swim, Triathlon · Tags: , ,

Back in November when I competed in Miami Man Half Ironman, Tom and I met 4 x World Champion Leanda Cave and heard that she was holding her first triathlon training camp in February.  We held a quick conference over our pre-race pasta binge at the Olive Garden and decided that this was an opportunity to learn from the best and we couldn’t miss it.

It was this past weekend in Port Saint Lucy, Florida, and it was absolutely fantastic.  Amazing.  A brilliant weekend – fun, enjoyable, a nice small group and we learned so much.

It was three days of sport, with swim/bike/run each day, plus extra sessions like strength & conditioning, nutrition talks, and swim video analysis. Leanda’s sister Mel Cave (also a prolific competitive endurance swimmer) and USAT coach Kris Swarthout were working with Leanda which meant that we had continuous feedback in all disciplines.

I can’t possibly tell you everything we did, but I’ll break it down to the key things Tom and I took away from the weekend.

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With Leanda before our brick ride

SWIM

We had a video analysis in the pool, drills sessions and an open water swim.

Leanda getting ready to spy on us from underwater!

Leanda getting ready to spy on us from underwater!

Tom and I had a swim video analysis done back in December 2013 so it was really interesting to see what we had managed to correct since then and where we still needed to improve.  If you’ve never had yourself videoed, I can’t recommend it enough.  You really have no idea what you are doing right and wrong in the water until you can see yourself – you will be surprised!

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Leanda and Mel teaching. Tom, Sam and me in the water.

If you care to watch our videos, here they are.  First, my video:

With additional commentary here.

And Tom’s video:

With additional commentary here.

I learned that my body balance and roll and positioning are good, but that I am lacking in power because I have no catch and am failing to lead with my elbows (or EVF for the technical term – “early vertical forearm”).  I now have very specific drills to knock this on the head, and hopefully after that I should have much more power (= speed!).  I’m hoping that if I can get this sorted out, maybe a sub-1 hour Ironman swim could be possible.

Technique is one thing, but open water swimming is another, so we had a session where we practiced sighting, turning around buoys, and beach starts and exits.  All things we never practice but have to do every single triathlon!  I had never realised there was special technique to swim over top of the masses at the swim turns (involving a single backstroke roll-over) and I can’t say that I’ve ever raced into the water properly before.

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Leanda and Mel demonstrate proper EVF

The Blue Seventy crowd: me, Leanda, Ken, Tom, and Adam!

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Leanda also told us she would like to see us swimming 5 times a week.  Eep – some room for improvement there!

wetsuits2BIKE

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The bike is my weakest of the three disciplines and Tom’s strongest.  We had three bike sessions, the first focusing on bike skills, the second a group brick ride along the coast, and the third a time trial session.

We worked on cornering, pacelines, and transition skills (I’ll look at the transition work separately).  The bike ride along the coast was fantastic – it’s not every day you get to draft off a world champion!

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Ready to ride!

The most exciting photo of the whole weekend:

Leanda and I leading the pack

Leanda and I leading the ride

My cornering skills definitely improved – hurrah!

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Tom’s cornering didn’t really need much work…

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While we were cycling, Leanda’s right-hand man Lou Cantin was busy snapping photos of us all, which he sent to us later – how cool is that?

 

TRANSITIONS

Again, like some of the open water swimming skills we did – transitions happen every race, yet how often do we practice the actual skills?  I do brick runs but it never occurred to me that I might be able to bring it to the next level.

Leanda showed us how she jumps on the bike in transition:

While I wasn’t quite ready to try this, Tom was, with great success!  For me it was a major coup to learn to get my shoes on whilst cycling off:

Tom also mastered the moving dismount:

RUN

The run sessions were broken into a drills & technique session, a brick run, and a track session.  Leanda is an advocate of the Pose method, where you lean slightly forward and “catch’ yourself before you fall by placing your foot underneath you, with a high cadence.

We also practiced injury-prevention drills, some familiar, some not.

On Saturday we did a brick session – 36 mile ride along the beach followed by a 30 minute run.  We were to do 5 min easy, followed by intervals of 90 seconds hard, 3 min easy.  I ran with Leanda’s training partner Guido and the “easy” sections were definitely using that term loosely!  We ran just over 4 miles.

Post-brick smiles with Sam and Jen!

Post-brick smiles with Sam and Jen!

Sunday saw us at the track, which I love/hate (I love it because it makes you fast; I hate it because it hurts so much!).  I do track every week so it’s a familiar pain, but it was a different sort of workout from what I’m used to:

4*(100m hard, 100m jog); 4*(400m hard, 200m jog); 2*(800m hard, 400m jog); 2*(400m hard, 200m jog)

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Giving the boys a run for their money!

Leanda and Chris recommended doing track workouts at 8 weeks out to the Ironman to sharpen up speed.

STRENGTH & CONDITIONING

We all know we should do it, but how often do we do it?  I am going to start…this time I mean it!  I’ve just invested in some swim cords and a bosu ball.

THE REST

We spent a fair bit of time just listening and learning – both during the training sessions and in the education sessions:

Group meals helped us get to know each other while wearing a bit more clothing, and at the very end Leanda drew names out of a hat (or energy drink tin, rather) to win prizes kindly donated by her sponsors. Tom and I won matching Santini trisuits!  Thank you Santini!

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Such a small group meant that we got plenty of coaching attention

And a final picture of the great coaches and organisers of the camp:

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Leanda, Kris, Lou, Guido, Mel

All in all?

It was really remarkable to be learning from a world champion. That’s not something you can replicate. Having such high level coaching from the whole team and Leanda as real inspiration has given new life to both Tom’s and my training.

I now know exactly what drills will correct my swim technique and improve my speed.  The bike skills we learned will make a tangible difference to my times, and the strength training will improve my run.  I’ve come out of the camp knowing exactly what I need to work on to make me faster and stronger.  Above all for me, though, was getting the opportunity to work one-on-one with Leanda.  As a woman in triathlon – still a minority – it was incredible to be working alongside one of the best female athletes in the world.

Have any questions about the camp?  Let me know!

Back in October, I went through some metabolic testing at Sportstest in London.  It was truly eye opening.

I had wanted to get myself tested because I was trying to figure out why I was such a crappy cyclist.  Yes, that’s the truth of it.  I was running and swimming generally well, but my cycling consistently never matched the other two.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was putting in the time – I did Sufferfest sessions 3-4 times a week, I did long hours on the bike, including a number of Century rides, and I rode rain or shine, snow or ice.

Palace 2 Palace, 144 km cycle:  the only sportive where I finished ahead of the others. Because they all got lost… and I didn’t. L-R: Tom, me, Jojo, Dalia

And yet I sucked on the bike.  It was exhausting and disheartening.  Why was I always so slow?  Finally, metabolic testing with Dr Garry Palmer would reveal the truth.

The Test

Pre-testing, Garry discussed my training regime with me, my bike times vs my run times, and surmised that it was likely because I was training too hard on the bike.  Pushing too hard all the time, never letting up, always going for it, exhausting me.  Could that be it?  The testing would tell.

I won’t go into great detail about metabolic testing, but you can hear more about it from Garry himself here or read my friend Karis’s recent post on the subject. Essentially, Garry was monitoring my heart rate, my oxygen uptake and my CO2 production, first on the bike, the on the run.

VO2 max

Testing time!

I was in for a shock.

It was my “off-season”, I’d just had several weeks off after an intensive year of racing, and yet my bike results were good.  Very good.  My VO2 max was in the top-trained athlete range (61.19), and my power to weight ratio was very high (4.68).  What it boiled down to:  I wasn’t trying nearly hard enough on the bike.

It was all mental.

All the times I’d struggled in the sportives to keep up, all the times I’d been dropped by my friends – it was all because I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I generally pride myself on giving 110% effort, so this really was a surprise.  I think all the years of bike commuting just meant that I didn’t know how to suffer on the bike.  I had been coasting along in the “recovery” heart rate zone (or Zone 1) the entire time. I’d learned how to push hard on the run, but not on the bike.

We then moved on to testing my run:

The run brought fewer surprises, but again Garry identified my training zones.  We did establish that my running was ahead of my cycling – but not by that much.  It also showed that I was doing my “steady” runs far too easy.

The graphs

The various tests resulted in a number of complex graphs and numbers spewing out, one example here:

Test results

Test results

These graphs show the points at which you stop burning fat and only burn carbohydrates.  As an endurance athlete, the longer you can burn fat, the longer you can keep going.  Tom and I are both believers in fat-fuelled sessions (long and slow without taking on extra fuel so your body learns to burn fat rather than “hitting the wall”, which is what happens when you are burning carbs only and your body runs out of supplies).  Turns out pretty much all my cycling had been in the fat burning zone only.  For endurance triathlon, you ideally want to be in Zone 2 – where you burn both fat and carbohydrates.

The consequences

No more excuses!

If there is one thing I’ve learned doing endurance sports over the last few years, it’s is that the mental is more important than the physical, by far. This testing really brought that home.

Since the assessment with Garry, my cycling has improved 100%.  Don’t get me wrong – I still have a long way to go, but the improvement has been palpable.  I trust the numbers he has given me and I’ve finally learned to push hard on the bike.  My Half Ironman time has dropped nearly an hour (5:58 in Norway in 2013 to 5:01 in Naples in Jan 2015), with my bike split going from 3:22 to 2:42, 40 minutes! (granted, Norway was hilly, and Naples was flat)!

It’s true that it’s pancake flat here, unlike hilly England.  So perhaps I can’t put everything down to trying harder, but I’m definitely pushing more than I ever have before, and it feels good.

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All in all, I would highly recommend getting yourself tested if you haven’t done it already.  And I am continuously amazed at how much of this sport is mental, not physical.

Have you ever has a metabolic assessment?  Did it help you?

 

02. February 2015 · Comments Off on Ten fun things that happened · Categories: Run, Trails, Weekly Roundup · Tags: , , ,

TEN fun things that happened this week:

1.  Brunch with my sister (and brother-in-law, not pictured).

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2.  Tom came back from California and we had our first ride together in a month! Oh, how I missed that sweet drafting pull!

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3.  We took Haile shopping.  Here he is enjoying his first ever ride on an escalator.

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4.  Tom bought some crazy shoes.  Hoka Bondi 4.  First time trying Hokas!  And I also bought crazy shoes – On Cloud!

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5.  We cooked up cat for dinner.image

6.  We watched some polo and then ate BBQ’d lobster.  I know, it’s a tough life!image

7.  I ran 27.5 km along the Apoxee Wilderness Trail with Ben, which was so so fabulous.  I love trail running, and this was a great trail with great company.  The miles flew by.  I wish every long run could be like this.

  

8.  Tom and I did yoga.  With candles.

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9.  We had a puppy play date with Ben’s dog, Alice (who is crazy fast!).  Haile conked out for the ride home!image image

10.  We generally eat pretty healthily, but sometimes you need to just go for it… and Sunday night we gorged on veggie cheese burgers with avocado, onion rings, sweet potato fries, baked beans and vanilla milkshakes!  It was definitely worth it!

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How was your week?  

Weekly Update

I am now starting to focus on training for the London Marathon, which means less cycling and swimming.  That results in less time spent training in general, but more time spent doing nasty things like tempo/threshold runs.

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Totals:  14:23

Swim:  0

Bike:  38 km, 1:19

Run:  73 km, 6:38

And….

Totals for January:

Swim:  8.04 km, 3:07

Bike:  412 km, 13:39

Run:  222 km, 19:54

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