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Sunday
May272018

Challenge Lisboa Half (19.05.18) 

The last blog was September last year? Ok, well let's time-hop past Kona, Christmas, off season skiing and training, and zip straight to recent events at Challenge Lisbon. It's not that I haven't wanted to blog through all that time, but there is only so much personal (and professional) revelation that I felt was appropriate (Ha!) and so I've held council somewhat and resisted the urge to bear all on social media. I might come back to it at some stage, but for the moment I'll focus on the recent positive events in Lisbon. 

I certainly didn't think that the win was on the cards. Does anyone, ever? It's never been my experience to feel that way going into a race, but maybe I've just not been winning enough! In December of last year I decided not to accept the offer of another contract with Pewag; in addition, Brett and I decided that we had come to a natural conclusion in our coach - athlete partnership. Integral to these changes, I decided to take the step of coaching myself for the 2018 season and see how I could put into practice everything that I've learned so far from working with Brett Sutton on one end of the 'use of data' spectrum, and David Tilbury-Davis (my coach prior to Brett) on the other. If I'm honest, there was a real fear the day before and the morning of the race that it might all be a hideous mistake and it was all about to come to light. Urgh! On the flip side, with the performance and result that I had, I feel that I can now take confidence in my training and coaching, instead of doubting myself. Of course it is one race, but indications are that I'm moving in the right direction. 

It shows on my face?! Photo: Darren Wheeler

On the swim front, I turned out exactly the same time as I did on the course last year with a time of 27:51. One of the things that I have missed from not being at camp with the Sutto setup early season has been the swim squad. Every morning, 06.30, you are up and at it with other athletes who are in a similar mindset to get the work done and do it with good humour where they can. Back at home where I'd opted for no winter training camps, restricted swimming pool opening times, local pools closed for refurbishment and repair and coaching myself; swim preparations over the past few months have been very different. Nonetheless, I can see that the changes have not had a negative impact and I'll persist with the work and tweak a few changes going forward.

One of the (many) lessons that came from Brett (and before that David, Darren Smith and Ray Gibbs!) was that although it would be great if I was swimming faster, actually, if I am swimming at the same pace, with less effort and therefore able to bike more strongly, that would also be a good aspiration for my swimming. Based on my swim and bike performances last weekend, I'd say my swim is doing ok. 

Out of T1 and I was given a heads-up that I was 9th and 3.5min to the front. I spent the next few min trying to remember how many women were in the field. I thought it was more than 9, but I'd not counted the bikes in transition in the morning, so I was trying to work out if I was last. Eventually I acknowledged that thought process was somewhat self-defeating and in fact, I should be totally focussed on moving forwards through the field. So I ditched the 9th/last  thought and knuckled down to overtaking the two women that I could see up the road in front of me.

I really like the Challenge Lisbon bike course, it is four laps on a closed dual-carriageway road, so it has plenty of space for all riders and there is no question of traffic on the course. There is an incline at the 'out' turnaround point which gives you the opportunity to sit up and shift your position on the bike, as well as attack the terrain and your competitors a bit. Otherwise, it is head down and TT all the way. My kind of bike! Due to the bottle set up on my (new) bike, I'd made the decision to tweak my 70.3 nutrition plan. I still had the same number of calories, but I'd shifted towards a couple of extra gels, and reliance on fluid/water from the course as well as the CHO in my drinks bottles. One of the changes was that I would take a gel earlier in the bike leg - essentially I'd planned to try and get it down me as soon as I felt I was settled on the bike, could divert some focus to fishing it out of the feed box (again, a new bike so requires just a little bit more focus not to make mistakes), biting it open and then getting it down my throat without dropping it or gooping all over myself. In previous half distance races I've relied more on fluid carbs, and this shift to gel+caffeine worked well for me and gave me a boost part way through the first bike lap and into the second.  Keeping an eye on my Watts, (as per coaching with DTD) I was tanking along with a higher than 'normal' power, but (as per coaching with Sutto) I decided to go with it and see if / how long I could maintain it for. Lap on lap I dropped a consistent 2W/lap, but overall, it was still my highest power for for a half distance race, and I was happy with the effort. With my bike time of 2:14:32 I managed to swipe 7min from my performance of 2017 (with similar race day conditions). If I can transfer that improvement across to the full distance as well, I'll be very happy. 

Going into the run I wasn't sure how much time I had, but with two dead turns per lap it was very easy to take my own time splits on the women behind me. I came out of the gate a touch fast for the first km, but settled into the half marathon effort and started counting kilometers and the amount of time to the next water station or slurp of gel. Each turnaround indicated that I was maintaining (and building) my gap on second and third place and so my attention was on holding good run form, rhythm and focus on nutrition. While I'm definitely happy to take the win, I'm not so willing to 'take' a 1:15:12 half marathon run split - I'll spill the beans and confirm that the course was short. Having said that, with an average of 3.56/k, my run is definitely moving in the right direction as well. I'm working with Tim again and taking his advice with regards to my run training and I'm confident that we are on the right track.

I was sorry not to be sharing the win with Rob, but since one of us has a real job, he unfortunately had to work over the weekend so couldn't be in Lisbon with me. If I'm fortunate enough to have another win, I certainly hope that we can celebrate it together. Post race, I had a stupidly early fight in the morning back to the UK (it always makes better sense when you book it than when you have to check your bike in!) and then I spent a few days with Alex at the Drummond Clinic to straighten out any post race kinks. Next up in 4 weeks I'm aiming to race at IM Nice, one of the classic French races that I've not had the opportunity to do, so I'm very much looking forward to it.

I'll wrap it up here, I've blog-a-logged on long enough. Hope you enjoyed the read, I hope your training is going well and you are looking forward to your own races! C. 

 

 

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