Training Review 2018

Last Christmas (I gave you my heart…)… sorry, couldn’t resist, especially after the year I’ve had!

Let me start again.

Last Christmas, I got a free glittery notebook from Cath Kidston with an order. Being a
former teacher, I love a good notebook and unhealthy amounts of stationary. I had itchy feet to write in it – but what? I left it to the side until one day, I decided that I was going to keep a physical, rather than just digital record, of my training year.

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The cover of my new compendium definitely reflects my love of swimming!

Inside it was entitled; ‘Rach’s Compendium 2018’.

In it contains a review of 2017 in terms of distance and time for swim, bike, run and yoga, as well as a record of races, body statistics (yes – weight and measurements of all sorts body related – big drop in the summer), books read, goals (I achieved none of them!) and a monthly overview. In the monthly overview, I noted anything in particular the stuck out training wise, note on injuries, who I rode with, sportives – anything that took my fancy. I managed to keep it up – although at the back end of the year this has trailed off a little bit. Its a bit like a training diary but looking backwards rather than looking at what I have planned.

I want to carry this on, so I have a new compendium for this year – it is still glittery but slightly bigger. I will be using this alongside trainxhale.com and Endomondo (as well as Strava – but I don’t use Strava quite as religiously).

So what are the final results for 2018? Has it been a good year training wise?

2018

It has certainly been an interesting one.

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My swimming this year, screen shot from just before I hit the 160km mark on New Years Eve.

When I look at my stats – overall, 2018 has been a good year training wise. The stats are also a good representation of what has gone on in my life. In particular, my swimming stats. I have struggled over the last 18 months to get to the bottom of my swimming injury and resulting tightness. Swimming has also helped me meditate/switch off and help me recover from a horrible break up, my endurance is just about back, I just need to work on my speed). Cycling too – being dragged out to Time Trials in the aftermath of the break up brought on my cycling no end – in fact, if anything, the break up has massively contributed to me becoming more focused on me, my training, and doing what I want to do.

So distance wise – what have I done?

Cycling – (including turbo kms too) 2468.25km

Swimming – 160km

Running – (including treadmill) – 438.85km (considerably less than last year)

Total time across ALL activities – 14 days, 20 hours and 18 minutes – give or take.

When I reflect back on this, I am very conscious that a lot of this has lacked focus, so yes I have put the hours in and I have made a lot improvements (especially in terms of cycling), but I think I can do better.

I have done so much in the last six months because it has been all about me and doing what I love. I’ve probably pushed myself harder too. Reflecting on the year is rather good, as I know that with a focused training plan and getting in some decent base training, I stand a good chance of making some good improvements next year. I need/want to mix up my training, as doing the same thing won’t help me get better. I need more sessions where I push myself out of my comfort zone, but equally I need more sessions at lower intensity.  Put basically – I need to keep mixing it up.

I am not sure what my biggest achievement sporting wise has been this year – but the two things I am most proud of I think involve my swimming come back and my new love of Time Trials and desire to improve and get better.

Targets and Goals for 2019

I do this every year and rarely meet any of them – or give up the ghost a bit but… if I write them here, in 12 months time, hopefully I will be able to tick them off!

  • Swim more than 160km
  • Get my CSS down to 1:55/100m or less.
  • Sub 30 minute 10 mile TT (I was VERY close this year)
  • Improve my average speed on the bike.
  • Cycle at least 2000 miles, if not more.
  • Run 1000km.
  • Run a sub 28 min 5km
  • Run a sub hour 10km
  • Learn to look after my bikes better!
  • Enter a CX race

 

2018 has been a rollercoaster year – roll on 2019 and the start of something truly epic!

Looking forward to 2019

I have to say, I am rather excited about 2019, and looking forward to waving 2018 goodbye. I cant say I have had the best year ever but I have definitely had an interesting and emotional year.

2019 will be something epic I think.

I’ve started to get some routine back with my training – this is definitely contributing to my current happiness and wellbeing. I’ve done two big weeks of swimming without any major back issues, even nudging 20k running this week over three runs and managed to go out three nights on the trot. My base training is starting to show results and I am feeling positive and motivated (long may this last – however, like all things, I know there will be highs and lows). I read a quote about every action being a small step towards that elusive looking goal. Holkham is my A race, and Coniston End to End swim in penciled in. These are my two main goals – with the aim of getting a reasonable decent time and enjoying them.

I love chatting about training and future plans with friends and comparing notes, pencilling events and debating what to do to help support my training. Coniston 14 is one such event, at the end of March. A friend is trying to talk me into doing some crazy 24 mile run/walk thing in February and another friend has talked me into doing a bed race in June. Edinburgh running festival has been mentioned as well as a few Epic Swims up in the Lakes (excellent training again…). I am so excited about what is to come and figuring out what I am going to do – maybe boys will have to take a back seat for a while!

 

Testing Testing….

As I am actually beginning to take my winter training a bit more serious, I thought I might as well do a couple of baseline tests. This was also triggered by a conversation with one of the coaches in the club as we were discussing doing a CSS (Critical Swim Speed) test set at the next swim session. I also decided I might as well do an FTP test on the bike too!

Swim Test….

CSS stands for Critical Swim Speed – it’s essentially the pace you can maintain for a continuous 1500m (or hour), but rather than do a full 1500m continuous swim or an hour time trial – you can work it out from a 400m TT and a 200TT (go check out Swim Smooth here). Most of my plans and races next year are longer than the 400m swim in sprint triathlons so for me, working on my CSS pace is a good aim – I’m not too worried about my shorter distance speed (although I won’t be ignoring speed sets). I cant even remember the last time I did a CSS set so Friday morning I set out on a mission to work mine out.

I had an idea before hand that my CSS pace should be somewhere around the 2min/100m mark. I used one of the club sets – braving the longer set. I did my warm up, including a bit of speed as well as a bit of pull. My 400m time was 7:46:06 – respectable considering my swimming has been hit or miss in the last year due to injury. My 200m time was 3:49:06. I was genuinely over the moon with this as my last sprint triathlon swim time was 7:32:00 and that was at my near peak swim fitness. When I got out of the pool and plugged the numbers into the CSS calculator on the Swim Smooth website – CSS pace – 1:59m/100m – BOOM! Sub 2 minutes! Not as great as it used to be but I am still happy with this as a starting point – I’m planning on swimming four times a week!

Cycling…

FTP – if you cycle regularly or have a turbo trainer, chances are you have heard of an FTP test – Functional Threshold Power – the power you can maintain/produce – over an hour. Quite similar in some respects to the CSS really in my eyes. I had a debate about this with my mate and how accurate my turbo would be in comparison to the Wattbikes at the gym. But considering I’m using my turbo for my training, I decided that I would just keep it to the turbo so it was all consistent. I signed back up to Zwift and this morning decided to have a go at the FTP shorter test. It’s a while since I’ve done that too!

Forty-five minutes of sweat and hurt. I followed the FTP shorter test on Zwift – the 20 minute section from which they take the average for your FTP averaged at 164 watts – Zwift take this and work out your average watts at 95% of that (which is similar to how the CSS worked out with me). 157 Watts was declared as my FTP score – with my weight this works out at 2.5W/Kg – which, according to Zwift is Fair to Moderate fitness (see here for details from Zwift on this – its quite interesting!).

So what does all this mean?

It means that my Zwift sessions will reflect my FTP – helping make my turbo training more efficient and hopefully less dull – as I’ll be focused on following a plan. It might not be particularly accurate or my real actual power output but its a starting point. In swimming, it means that when I’m working on my threshold and endurance, I’ve times to go off – such as 100s off 2.10.

it also gives me a nice data point to refer back to in a couple of months to check on my progress.

Fingers crossed the training will kick in and I’ll see some results!

Velodrome Fun

I’ve been on a mission to do and try new things and so when the Velodrome at The National Cycling Centre was mentioned – there was no chance I was going to miss that!

I had debated staying in Manchester last night and having a mooch around but decided a 6am alarm and picking up friends for a road trip was a better idea. The car was backed – cycling kit, helmet, bottle of water, baking (obviously!) and said friends picked up – the velodrome awaited.

It was eerily quiet there actually. We were early but not quite the first there – hiring shoes and waiting for everyone to turn up, chat turned to nerves. We got changed and headed to get our bikes and as we walked up in to the middle of the velodrome nerves really hit as I saw how steep the banking was. The same nerves as I get before a race. We all got track bikes, put our shoes on and headed up on the the side of the track, lined up along the grab rail and were given an introduction to track cycling.

I was starting to wonder if I would remember everything. We set off, one by one. Pushing ourselves off with our left hand and turning the pedals. Its the first time I’ve been on a track bike but also the first time on a single, fixed speed bike with no brakes. Bit of a shock to the system. Two laps on the concrete later and we stopped again – next bit of knowledge before being allowed on to the boards.

I did a couple of laps on the light blue boards at the bottom and slowly ventured up, moving up on the straights. Oh my! You are convinced when you look at the banking that you will never be able to get round or that you’ll have enough grip, but the more you go round, the braver you get. It actually didn’t take long for me to start sneaking up the banking – I even made it to the top – it was so much fun. Hard work but fun.

The nerves went and I spent the whole session wishing I was as fit as I was at the end of TT season. Flying round the track knowing I was no where near as fast as the pros has given me a new found respect for the professional track cyclists. The space of the velodrome and what we were doing just seemed so special – especially when doing it with a bunch of mates. One friend, who was so nervous, spent quite a lot of time on the light blue boards at the bottom but eventually braved moving above the black line and towards the red and blue – I was so proud!

‘I’m off to the gym’

‘I’m off to the gym’ are words, that once upon a time, I’d never dreamt of saying. Even when I first started running/swimming/cycling regularly. I didn’t see the point. I could cycle at home or outside for free, and run outside for free. I caved eventually and tried out one of the local small gym’s on a three month membership, and in all honesty, started off fairly consistently but then I came down with cold/ongoing illness that I couldn’t shift and didn’t go enough to warrant it so never renewed it. It also lacked a pool. Lesson learnt.

After this I was still a bit reluctant and put it off again for a bit. Until summer, when I started to debate that actually, it might be wise to join. I was spending £50 a month give or take just to swim – that’s a gym membership without the benefits of classes! Still I put it off, remembering my last experience but knowing full well I would need a gym with a pool if I did go back.

Then he left me.

I didn’t want to risk bumping into him while I was swimming (even though I knew he’d likely swim at the same pool as his new girlfriend) and I debated long and hard about what I wanted to do for me. There were three realistic options for me:

  • Local county leisure centre – some advantages and very reasonable price, but wrong direction and too many public/open sessions in the pool.  (£30ish/month)
  • The local university sports village – again, reasonable price, especially with corperate membership through the club, but too much public sessions in pool – which is often closed as well. And equally, too many students. It’s also the closest to home and work but wasn’t really a place I wanted to spend time. Too clinical. (£42/month)
  • The most expensive option – the private club/gym, further up the road. Dearest by far (£77/month!). I had more close friends here, it’s got two pools, including an outside pool – no issues with it being closed for gala’s or any club sessions. A lot of choice in terms of classes, a good cafe/restaurant and places to work if I’ve time to kill and work to do. And a place I actually want to be.

I chose the most expensive option. Naturally. Initially I signed up for the three month trial which was more expensive but meant I could drop out without being tied into a 12 month contract. I wasn’t sure how consistent I would be in going and how well it would work with work and like but I’ve been so much better at going and making the most of the stretch classes (See my post on swimming for why!)

When I joined, I will be honest and say I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but it’s gone so much better that I thought it would that I’ve signed a 12 month contract. Why? There are various reasons I think why joining the gym now, and this particular gym have worked for me now.

  • I’ve mates that are members – so often we go together, especially as we are both entered for the same races next year!
  • There are some really good classes! At times that fit in with work/life.
  • Its a place I actually like to be, from the lounge and business hub – which I have used several times, to the restaurant/ lounge area.
  • The staff are good – welcoming and friendly.
  • It’s clean and rarely so busy that you can’t get in/feel packed in.
  • It’s still close to work and has decent opening times. #6amclub anyone?

So yes I forked out, yes I do generally feel I get my money’s worth out of it, and yes I did it for me and love it!

Next season I shall be coming back to racing stronger, fitter and a lot happier.

 

Swimmer’s sorrows

I love swimming.

Anyone who knows me, will tell you that out of the three* disciplines of triathlon, swim is my favourite and strongest discipline, although over summer, cycling nearly won out on that. I am happiest near, in or on water (and preferably a mountain/hill or two dotted about). I swear I was a mermaid in a former life. Those same people will also tell you have frustrated I’ve been with my swimming in the last 18 months.

I trained ridiculously hard and consistently over winter 2016/17 on my swim and in the run up to ITU Leeds Standard Triathlon, I was managing 7:30 400m – NOT majorly fast when compared to the speedy club members but a huge improvement from the year previous. I’d moved up the training lanes to sit comfortably in the top half of the club, and even managed to be 4th out of 12 club members racing in the Standard distance tri at Leeds that summer (31 min 1500m swim – it was a novelty overtaking people!). This came with a cost. Not enough S&C work resulted in a rotary cuff issue that put an end to my swimming for quite a while. This, over time and with some enforced rest of sorts, improved but the issue moved to my thoracic spine and lateral muscle area – tightness and soreness, that has made me really weary of swimming and aggravating it – however… I think I’ve got the solution and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What’s changed?

I’d tried sports massages (which have helped massively and still do) and I’d tried resting it, with no real improvement. I’d tried cupping and other things too but no joy. I joined the gym to try and get on top of my S&C – started to help but I’ll admit I got lazy – I know its a necessary evil really but such is life (I will get back on it, even if its only one or two sessions a week). So what did actually change?

I’m guilty of not stretching enough and I do get so tight! Looking through the gym classes – I’m a big fan of yoga and I’m not really being one of these Les Mills Grit session girls, I signed up for the Pure Stretch classes. Wanting to make the most of my ridiculously expensive gym membership, I decided to give them ago. Well what a revelation they have turned out to be! Stretch classes have massively helped the back/shoulder issue. It’s not completely gone but it has helped so much more than I ever thought. Although at the moment, I’ve been going 3 to 4 times a week – well it is the off season so to speak. I know I am rubbish at doing it on my own so just going to a class and doing what I’m told has really helped. Although it was helping – I decided after bashing it out on a bouldering wall I should really go see a physiotherapist again and self-refereed through the NHS – I got an appointment in two weeks. I suppose it was really for reassurance that I hadn’t done the damage that I thought I might have. I did, and got some new stretches to help and told that muscular issues like mine do seem to take forever to heal but if the stretch and massage was working to keep with it.

This was all I needed and I bashed out a nice 2.5k set on Wednesday and felt that maybe the time was right to start thinking more seriously about building my swim fitness and speed back up – especially as my back didn’t hurt! I also swam with a mate last night which pushed me, simply because I know I’m a generally better swimmer than him and had that reputation to maintain (he whoops me on the run and bike so its my only wee boast), and reminded me that I need to get some speed sets in.

This has all made me a very happy swimmer this week and I have taken the swim sets from IronFit Triathlon Training for Women and typed them up, printed them and am about to laminate them, to help me sort out some sort of training plan for my swimming so it isn’t aimless. I am so excited about the prospect of getting back to swimming three to four times a week again. As one of the swim coaches at the club sessions keeps reminding me, swim 2-3 times to maintain, 4 times or more to improve! I’ve also found some other training sets this morning that I think will be useful. Tied in with a better S&C routine, I feel excited about winter training. I just need to figure out HOW to fit in the running and the cycling now. Maybe some run/swim sessions and maybe swim/bike sessions – just to mix it up!

*four disciplines – lets not forget transition!

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Hills, hills, hills

‘Running hills breaks up your rhythm and forces your muscles to adapt to new stresses. The result? You become stronger.‘ Eamonn Coghlan

This quote feels like it should be about my life – the last few months have been an uphill battle to some extent, finding myself again and working out what I want in life but thats all to deep for this time of night!

Training! That’s where it’s at. I’ve been a bit lax recently, it being ‘off season’ so to speak but I am starting to find my mojo again I think.

I swam this morning – 2.5k in 58 minutes – which I was quite happy with. Arm/back isn’t too sore at the moment, and nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. That was a silly o’clock alarm.

img_0040Tonight I ran. I very nearly didn’t go but sitting on my backside isn’t going to get me any better so I dragged myself up and out of the house to meet other club mates for a run – hills, hills and more hills, with some drills thrown in for good measure! This is my third hill rep session – next month the focus changes but as you can see from the picture, this run is starting to trend faster. As anyone who trains know, actually seeing progress makes such a difference to attitude and thought process. Hills and drills are clearly paying off. Its motivating to actually see progress and feel it too. I ALMOST enjoyed running tonight.

Talking of motivation, I am off to a talk by Nicky Spinks tomorrow night – I am all for looking for sources of inspiration and mojo! Should be good. Ive seen her before but she’s done so much since too! Looking forward to that one!

I have a real love hate relationship with running and having September off was amazing but equally as much as I moan about running, I make a rod for my own back – I do run better though when I a) run with others and b) commit to running with others – its makes me go and do it.