Wednesday, 31 December 2008


so to 2009.

I've got through a fantastic period of downtime and Christmas with only a few extra kilo's and hopefully not too much lack of fitness. I picked things up again in mid December with some easy running and swimming. Christmas week I'd hoped to ramp things up a bit in the work downtime but I got a decent dose of Man-Flu, so I've spent the last 5 days housebound.

After a good chat with coach Dave in December the plan is to take the fitness from Arizona, add a bit of strength and then build on it as mush as possible to really race Switzerland. Looking at previous qualifying times (and I have good experience of how dangerous that can be), it's looking like I will going to need to go sub 9:20 and realistically under 9:15 at Switzerland to stand a good chance of getting a Hawaii slot this year. The bike at Switzerland is undoubtedly tougher than Arizona, so I'm looking at having to gain 33 mins over a tougher course.

6 hard months ahead then...

The next 3 months are really going to be about strength, working on my core, running and swimming. To motivate me on the running I've entered Barcelona Marathon on the 1st March, which I intend to run as a confidence booster and a motivator to keep consistent 80k+ weeks going through this tough time of year. If I can run under 2:50 at Barcelona then going under 3:15 off the bike in Switzerland shouldn't seem impossible?!

That just leaves 5 mins to find on the swim and T1 and another 15mins on the bike!

Happy New Year...

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ironman Arizona

The days before the race I sorted out a couple of minor problems with the bike (thanks to a local bike shop and the guys at Isaac UK for the last minute headset help!) and I was good to go. Then with 3 days to go I woke up with a stinking head cold. I blame the flight…9 months without so much as a sniff. Then I ease back on the training and bang I’m full of cold. By race day I wasn’t too bad, plenty of caffeine and adrenaline and I certainly wasn’t thinking about it.

The Race

The sun was just coming up as we were called into the water at 6:45am. The locals were moaning about the water temperature, 19C, but it felt fine to me. I got in, got happy with my goggles and took a gentle swim over to the far side of the start. For those that have never experienced an Ironman swim before, imagine 2,500 human sized animals all thrown into a lake at the same point with only have one way out - 2.5miles the other end of the lake. The first minutes can be hell and truly terrifying, they call it The Washing Machine and it is. All of a sudden 2500 friendly swimmers change from chatting nervously treading water shoulder to shoulder to lying horizontal and thrashing like mad to swim in one direction - there is a lot of overlap. And that means punches to the head, neck, back, shoulders, legs, hips everywhere. Your legs get grabbed, other swimmers take a stroke and their hand lands in the middle of your back, in their eagerness to get themselves safe (a natural reaction) they push down into the middle of your back to propel themselves forward.
I’ve done a lot of work on my swimming and I can generally get ahead of the worst of the washing machine. My plan was to take off hard and try and stay ahead of the main bulk. Talking to many other participants after the race it seems I was one of the few for which this tactic worked. I tore off the front at a stupid pace, got 3 minutes out and did everything I could to relax and get into my rhythm without slowing too much and letting the throng behind me swim over my head! Apart from the startled safety canoeist who didn’t hear the hooter that I had to duck dive under. It was a dream swim.

Miraculously within 5 minutes I found myself on a great line, following the guide buoys into the rising sun and spent most of the first half hour in clear water, with the throng behind or to my right hand-side. The course was a huge ‘U’ shape out and back, I hit the turn in 28 mins (just under half way) and was over the moon as I knew if I kept the same pace on the return leg I should exit very close to my one hour target.

The swim back was uneventful, I spent a lot of time trying to keep my breathing regular and maintaining the effort levels. I struggle to maintain pace within the swim leg more than any other time in the race as you get no feedback on pace. No mile markers or bike computer to help.

I got heaved out of the water by a couple of the 4000 Ironman Arizona volunteers at just over 1 hour and crossed the timing chip for a swim of 1:00:31 and 229th overall. I had no idea of the swim position at the time, but judging by the crowds around I knew there were plenty ahead. As the swim is my weakest discipline I was always going to have plenty of work to do.

A quick jog through the park to get my bag of bike clothes, a few minutes in the changing tent and I was out onto the bike course, incredibly I'd moved up to 198th - people really are slow in transition.

The bike has historically been my strongest discipline but the tactic for Arizona was slightly different from normal, rather than using the bike to get back up towards the head of the pack I was to keep it as steady as possible. The target time of 5:15 should have been attainable without taking too much out of my legs, allowing me to hit transition 2 and the marathon fresh enough to run a fast(ish) marathon.

The bike leg at Arizona really suited me, it was 3 out and back lap into the desert, on dual carriageway style roads with only a slight hill in the last 3 miles up to the turn around. I hired an SRM for a few months up to the race and had exclusively ridden my low profile time trial bike so I was conditioned to be comfortable in a low aero position for the duration. It turned out on race day there was quite a head wind going out to the turnaround, making the first half of each lap, up the hill, a lot slower. I used the SRM and heart rate to moderate my effort and took it steady for the whole ride. I went through a lot of riders, but quite a few went through me, noticeably a large pack of riders in a group. I had a good scream at them for cheating – the bike is meant to be non-drafting – so each rider must maintain several meters between them and any other rider. Thankfully several of the cheaters got drafting penalties, including one guy who got a 4min penalty whilst sitting on my wheel.

With the wind behind us on the way back to transition I knew as soon as I got to the 3rd turnaround it was going to be a cruise, so mentally it felt like a 90mile bike leg with a 20 mile cruise, which was fantastic. I stuck to my eating strategy, taking on a gel or bar every 30mins and drinking like it was going out of fashion.

Avoiding the temptation to push the last half of the final lap I rolled into transition 2 with a 5:11 bike split (21.6mph average and 189th overall on the bike). Applauding the crowd and getting a shout from Lynz and Anna boosted me as I quickly changed my socks and got out onto the run.

Leaving transition 2 in 6:18 and 146th position overall and 18th in category. I saw Lynz and Anna again and they let me know I was 18th in my age group, with only the top 7 placers guaranteed a slot at the Hawaii Champs I had my work cut out on the marathon.

After a few hundred meters sorting my number belt and gels out, I took a gel and got down to the business of running 26 miles. The agreed target was to run a 3:30 marathon, so 8min miling, but I’ve been running well through the lead up and thought I might get closer to 3:15 (7:30min miles). After an overly excited 6:10 first mile I settled into averaging around 7:30’s. The run was three laps of 8.7 miles and I couldn't believe how good I felt, I went through the half marathon with a huge smile on my face in 1:39. At this point I still thought I had taken things easy enough to run a negative split in the second half of the marathon and finish in the low 9:30’s.

I’d been running cat and mouse with another guy for most of the run, overtaking him in the aid stations and then he’d catch me in the next mile. We got chatting which helped a few more miles pass, but by 20miles we had separated and I had slowed to 8 min miles - the smile was fading! I struggled for 3 or 4 miles, with the 23rd mile being my slowest, slipping over 9 mins. With 2 miles to go the crowds thickened, the smile returned and I picked things up, taking a few more athletes on the way. I had no idea how many from my age-group I’d overtaken, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t done enough. In the end the 2nd half marathon was 1:51 giving a full marathon of 3:30 and a finish time of 9:48:56, 96th overall and 12th in my age group.

Just 3 mins outside my target time, every part of the race went perfectly to plan: I have nothing to complain about. Phoenix was a wonderful location and we had a brilliant holiday afterwards.

I was 14 mins behind 7th place in my age group and qualifying, at the half way point of the marathon I still felt a 9:30 was possible, but on the day it didn't happen. On reflection perhaps I took the bike too easy. I certainly could have ridden under 5hrs, but how much would that have hindered my run? Maybe the head cold was worth a few mins too?

I learnt a whole lot from the race and getting a sub 10 in the bag has given me the confidence to actually race this distance - rather than survive. I’ve got a place at Ironman Switzerland in July so I can have another crack at qualifying there.

I want to take a moment to thank the loved ones, friends and colleagues who have offered me so much support and tolerance in the last few months/year(s)!

Special mention to my coach Dave Parry and the guys at Essex Uni Human Performance Unit- just 4 years of steady training and we're seeing some results. Ed for being at the end of the phone to hear my constant moaning about everything, especially training in the damned UK weather. George and Helen for making me swim faster, David for motivating me to train, mainly by guilt! Clare for some horrid massages and a dis-proportionate amount of dinner cooking! North Road and Darren for making me ride faster, GCR for making me run faster and my work for understanding my mood swings, tiredness and occasional poor performance!!…but mainly I must thank my fantastic girlfriend Lyndsey and my family for trying to understand something that is incomprehensible and not seeing them as much as I'd like...

See you in 2009!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Arrived in Tempe

Just a very quick note to make you all jealous...

The bike and I arrived safely at Phoenix last night. This morning the weather is calm and bright and due to reach the mid twenties. Forecast for Sunday is much the same, althoguh perhaps a little cooler.

My hotel is just the other side of the lake from the start / expo so full of other athletes and very convenient. There is even a gym with an Endless Pool - going to have to give that a try.

After a few weeks of feeling really heavy and groggy in my peak/taper I had a great sessions on Monday, pushing out a really easy hour on the turbo at 250watts, before a fast light run.

Today I'm going to take a little spin on the bike in the sun, get a haircut, shave my legs and generally take things easy... it's a tough life.

Catch up soon. Laurence

p.s. Don't forget you can regsiter to keep update on the blog - see righthand side.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Testing and final preparation for Arizona

I took a trip over to the Human Performance Unit at the University of Essex last Friday, to get a couple of benchmark tests done and see if all the hard work over the last year has paid off. Thankfully it looks like it has. i am still waiting for the official results, but my cycle ramp test showed a maximal increase from 435watts in June to 460watts. Better still my run endurance test showed an average increase of 1kph for the same lactate levels and exertion as in the same test in June. Great confidence building stuff for when I need to remind myself I am well trained for a fast Ironman.

Everything is looking good for the race next weekend, which really can't come soon enough. I am starting to lose my sense of humour with the dark nights and wet sessions ! I also seem to be very tired and have several niggles at the moment; a sore hand and a tight hip flexor - I guess it's only to be expected as the volume drops and my body comes goes into a bit of recovery.

I'm ready, the bike is ready, all the logistics are sorted, the weather in Phoenix has dropped from the 30's to the low 20's, so I'm good to go. 12 days to keep out of the way of sick people, wash my hands every 5mins, take loads of Vit C, keep drinking water and sleep a lot...

I'll try to post something ASAP after the race but Lynz and I are taking a few week holiday in Vegas and California, so don't expect too much!

On race day, 23rd Nov, you should be able to keep up to date at, via their athlete tracker

Wish me luck, Laurence

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Stevenage Half Marathon

As a final bit of sharpening, before IM Arizona, I raced the Stevenage Half marathon on Sunday morning. At the back of my mind I was hoping I might nick under 75mins (after my 1:16:23 PB in the Spring) and although my running has certainly moved on a level it wasn't to be this weekend.

After a little messing about queuing for numbers and timing chips, which delayed the start by 15mins, the Mayor of Stevenage set us off at the very respectable time of 10:45. I'd hoped the Stevenage route would be 2 fast, flat lap, but straight into it we were climbing and the course remained 'undulating' on cycle paths and included some swift changes in direction. I got in a nice little group, with some clubmates ( and others from our intervals session and training mate Pablo (The self proclaimed fasted Spanish

The pack stayed together nicely for the first 8 miles or so, ticking away the miles at 5:50 pace - rather than the required 5:44's. Around 9 miles things started to break up a bit. I'd just taken a gel and felt strong, keeping the pace steady Pablo and I drifted away from the bunch. Going through 10miles in 58:30 I felt great, but knew is was all over for the 75. Pablo and I pushed each other on, running side by side (well me on his heels) for the next 3 miles, taking the 8th place runner, we had a little dash around the track and I surprised myself by having enough in the tank to take Pablo. The last mile was undoubtedly long,taking 40 secs longer than all the others, with that an the extra 0.1 to take us to 13.1 I missed the PB crossing the line in 1:16:52. 8th place overall and a bronze in the county was a nice surprise, the 75 will come in the New Year.

Well done to a teamates and friends who came out and all the finishers (Special thanks to George for being mum; taking photos and holding our bags!).

All in all a great mornings work and good luck to Pablo in the Ballbuster next weekend

Monday, 13 October 2008

Wadebridge Sprint triathlon

At last, my first win of the season.

Though I had to travel all the way to Cornwall to get it. I went down to visit the parents, on a rest week after Ibiza Long Course and before the last big kick of training to IM Arizona. I took the opportunity to enter my (nearly) hometown sprint triathlon in Wadebridge. Apart from a very spacious, but rather slow, 2 people per lane limit in the 400m swim - which meant I had to wait nearly 3 hours for my wave to start - it was an absolute cracker.

Not knowing any of the names in Cornwall I had no idea what to expect from the competition. So I was pleased to come out of T1 heading up my wave. Within a mile, on the bike, I got into a battle with Rich Brady (, which would last the rest of the race. The bike course is 7.5miles out and back along the North Coast Atlantic Highway – fantastic name- up on the tops of the north coast overlooking Padstow.

So 7.5miles grinding up hill, and then 7.5miles flying back down to Wadebridge, I was averaging around 21mph at the turnaround and got that up to nearly 25 by T2, which gives some idea of the average speed on the way back, long periods topping 70kmph is a tad dicey with a big offshore cross wind and 808's. After a bit of cat and mouse I finally took the lead back from Rich in the last mile, to lead by 10secs into T2, just taking the fastest bike split.

By this stage it was a two man race, two quick T2’s and we had a 800m downhill run into Wadebridge town itself, over the bridge and out along the Camel trail towards Padstow. I hit mile one in 6 mins and knew that wasn’t going to be enough to hold him off. Sure enough a couple of minutes late he came past me looking to be cruising. By the turn around the he had me for 16secs and my training buddy Darren's comments about me never winning a race were ringing in my ear!!

I tried to relax and pick the cadence up, sure enough I started to creep back at him. I was within 5 secs by the town and then on his shoulder at the bottom of the hill to the finish. I sat on his shoulder for the 1st half of the hill, matching his pushes, then with 400m’s to go I surged as hard as I could. Thankfully I went past with enough pace that he didn’t respond and I was able to cruise home for a 10 second win.

I had a good chat with Rich afterwards and found out he is off to IM Florida in 3 weeks, just 3 weeks before I go to Arizona, good luck to him out there. It'll be very interesting to see how he gets on.

Seems there is a very healthy tri scene at home in Cornwall, I might get back for a few more races next year, if you’re down that way for a break check out for great races all through the year.

Me me it was a great confidence builder, it's good to see that even with all the training concentrating on long slow stuff I have picked a bit of speed up too.

Straight back to it now for a few tough weeks; a 200k ride and a 2hr bike, 1hr run, 2hr, 1hr run brick being the fun to look forward to over the next two weekends. Thanks Dave!