It's that time of year again, and it's into my second Ironman 70.3

For last year's race build-up and report, click here

This blog is written by me, for me, to record my thoughts as I head towards and through race day. Feel free to read through it, send me a comment by clicking here, or move on to something more interesting - like that site on paint drying.

For my personal selection of triathlon gear, and hints and tips from an amateur, overweight triathlete, click here
So, what happened since the race last year?
I competed in the Singapore Triathlon, an Olympic Distance race, and had a Personal Best with 2:43, but the Achilles still ached.

I then headed to Bintan in Indonesia, and raced the Olympic Distance triathlon there - I've done this race many times, but only the Sprint Distance. As I left transition, my seat-post finally had enough, and collapsed - 40Km of hilly terrain with my knees around my ears - nice! That effort seriously impact my run, and I just missed out breaking the 3 hour mark, in 3:03.

The Achilles by this time was worse than ever, so I went to see Dr. Ben Tan who diagnosed Achilles tendonitis - serious down-time!

I finally got the all clear on 23-Feb-2011.

I also received a new frame for the bike, and had an upgrade! Components from the last bike were kept, but the frame is now a Felt B2 Comp.
20-Mar-2011: Race Day
The morning seemed to come around far too quickly. Set the TV to record the rugby, and went to bed around 11pm, but couldn't sleep - I obviously did drop-off, as the alarm brought the task ahead into sharp reality. Toast and coffee, some carbo-loading drink, and a few toilet visits and I was all ready - so watched some of the rugby while I covered myself in suncream. Caught a taxi, and turned up at the car park while still dark - on the way to the transition area, there was the most enourmous moon just above the horizon. However, being on the equator, by the time I was standing in-line for body-marking the sun was up. Entered transition and set-up my bike, shoes, energy gels and drink, race number and checked and double-checked everything was in place. Wandered over to find Kyle and pass him some clif bars and have a chat - we then split-up to finish our various preparation tasks, and after another toilet stop, we hooked-up at the beach, meeting Mark; chatted to a few other mates and watched the pros head off.

The various age-group waves then went off, Mark and I were green caps, meaning we were the last wave off; Kyle was off in the wave before wearing yellow, so we gave him a shout as he headed into the water. A quick application of more suncream handed out by volunteers at the start, and then it was across the point of no return and into the holding pen. Shook hands with Mark and wished each other the best of luck and I then pushed a little more forward than him into the mass of triathletes. Two minutes called, the usual shake of hands with the people around you - one minute - and into the water!

The usual carnage of flailing arms and legs, and into the first turn. There just seemed to be no way through the crowd of people, it was buoy-to-buoy of swimmers. Nothing to do, but just keep spotting gaps and going through them - which detracts from the acutal swimming. Before the second turn, I was up with the yellow-caps, and still no sign of clear water. Half-way point and out of the water, across the sand and back in again - I know from experience that this increases the heart rate, so a steady swim for a while to settle back into it. I was now in amongst some purple-caps who went before the yellows - and grrr! Breaststrokers! I have decided that I really detest breaststrokers! You have to go wider around them to avoid their flailing legs - one of them kicked my fingers, which bent them back - ouch, another kicked me in the legs - and at one turn, a breaststroker caused a huge bottle-neck as people tried to go around him. After 1.9Km of crowd-swimming I was out of the water, up the beach and into the run to transition - it was quite a way! I felt good, not out of breath, not exhausted, but comfortable. I had swallowed a few large mouthfulls of water on the way around, and wondered if they would cause an issue later.

Didn't put socks on for the cycle as my shoes are quite comfy, and best keep them dry for the run (top suggestion there Kyle me old mate). Sunglasses, helmet, shoes, race number, slurp of drink and out to the transition exit. There was a no-overtaking area, and in typical fashion someone cut-up the inside, almost hitting the rider I was near and causing a crash - the crowd shouted at him, and he got a good swearing-at from me. Got into my new ride position and starting cranking - felt good! Down the airport road was into the wind, but I was cruising nicely. On the second lap of 30Km I was convinced the wind changed direction, as it seemed to be harder going the other way. The first two laps were pretty uneventful, I averaged 35Kmh on the first and 34.8Kmh on the second, but on the third the fatigue crept in from nowhere - if felt like one minute my speed was good, and the next I was struggling to keep near my average. The neck ached, my shoulders ached and the legs were tiring - I had been eating and drinking earlier, but then slowed my intake not to be too bloated for the run. For the last 10Km, I was really looking forward to getting off the bike!

Came into transition, put the bike into its slot, swapped shoes, sun-visor on and ditched the sunglasses, they were so filthy after the cycle I couldn't see anything through them! Race number onto front and out of transition - legs felt wobbly, but that's the norm. Set-off at just over 6min/K, but I slowed - something wasn't right. I didn't feel like I was energy-depleted, but I did feel bloated, irrespective of my careful fuelling on the bike. My head was splitting in two though, with a blinding headache, and I felt that all my "go" had disappeared. I tried really hard to suck it up, and get going - I focused on my form, my breathing, I chugged water at the hydration stations and got as many cold sponges on my head as possible - but the fluid hitting my stomach made me feel more bloated, so I stopped and tried to chunder, but just dry-wretched. I started picking targets: run to that sign, then walk to the bench, then run to the footprint mark on the road. After a few Ks, and near a pub, was Kym and the boys - so great to see them - I picked Rhys up, and spoke to them. Andy was also there, pint in hand - good lad! My headache was getting worse, so I decided to stop again and get some fingers down my throat to sort it out. I went through the motions, but nothing would come up - however it did make my head feel ten-times worse! Something wasn't right, and I felt like jacking it in - I was so close to just stopping, and wobbling everywhere - but decided to keep plodding along. I passed Kym and the boys again, and told them I was in big trouble, but then, with about 5Km left to go, I suddenley felt better, the headache was still there, but I felt I could increase my speed - so I did. Those last 5Kms were the fastest of my run - very weird! At the last turn, there was Kym, Rhys and Tomos again - so I swept up Rhys and ran with him to the finish line. I was completely bolloxed - I had nothing left, and was very pleased to reach the end!

I did get a personal best, as did Kyle and Mark, but it was nowhere near the time I was aiming for. I'm in two-minds about the race: disappointed with the run and my overall time; pleased with my bike, and more importantly, that I managed to keep it together to cross the finish line.

Compared to last year, I liked the transition lay-out and the bike route was easier. Irrespective of the bad run I had, I really didn't like some of the route - it's the same route that many other triathlons in Singapore take. The problem is, is that it goes through one of the most populated Singapore family-day locations on the island, meaning there's kids on bikes and scooters, families wandering with no awareness that a race is going on. The volunteers do their best, but it's still pretty busy - and apart from that, it also makes the race feel "nothing special" - that may sound odd, but in a race, it's nice to feel that you're in a race, as opposed to it being the same as a training run through and around people.

I'm still pondering what went wrong, and will discuss it on Friday with the boys when we meet for a celebratory beer. The lack of run-training due to the injury didn't help, so that's a factor. Did I go too fast on the bike? I think that had an impact, especially as how I tired at the end - but it didn't feel like I was pushing it. Over-fuelling on the bike? I don't think so, but I did feel bloated on the run, perhaps that salt-water did have an impact. De-hydrated? That's the obvious one for the headache, but I did drink on the bike, and bloated seems to be a sign of being too full. Under-fuelling/fuelling incorrectly - this could be an element too - I read that the winner was carrying 15 gel packs on the bike! I had four, but I did have Clif bars and Clif shots, but perhaps I didn't eat enought of them. Wrong fluids? I don't think so, although I am going to swap-out the SiS Electrolyte drink and go back to Nuun, but keep the SiS PSP22 for carbs.

Another one? Oh yes! I have a time in my head I want to beat.

What next? A Sprint Duathlon soon, then a Sprint Triathlon, then The Bintan Olympic Distance triathlon, then the Singapore Olympic. I want some personal bests in those races!
The Final Month
Picked-up Kyle and went to transition to drop the bikes off - no queue thankfully! Took a walk to the swim area - there's quite a run from the beach to the transition. We both looked at the finishing tunnel, and commented how good it will be to see that tomorrow.

Hydrate and carbo-load, hydrate and carbo-load.
OK, the throat is now winding me up - it's on the mend, but still sore - and I've started sneezing.

Meeting Kyle and Mark to pick up race-packs later, we'll have a sneaky beer or two (it is Friday after all), and then go to the race briefing.

Starting to get nervous - I had a dream last night that I turned up at tranistion, and my bike wouldn't rack, I couldn't find my swim goggles and there were no race numbers available! I actually think I'm more nervous than last year, as I've put pressure on myself; last year there was no expectation, it was going into the unknown. Now that I know I can finish the distance, know what's coming in terms of fatigue and pain, and wanting to put in a Personal Best, I'm thinking about the whole thing a lot more.

Now, do I or don't I shave my legs? It makes no difference to speed, but it does help if you crash as the wound heals quicker, easier to put suncream on, is cooler, and apparantly it feels like you glide through the water better - and its a triathlon thing. Downside, it's extremely girlie!

Weight: 89.8Kg
Woke up, test swallow - damn it, still there! Energy levels higher though, so went for a late run - just 5Km. Started off steady, but then got into my stride and increased the pace. Finished the last Km fast, and in a total time of a few seconds over 25 mins. I'll take that, still not 100%, and a slow start, so not too bad for me.
Still got a sore throat, and got that "just not right" feeling. Debated trying to run it off, but the energy levels aren't high - think I'll leave the body fight this thing for another day.

Started setting-up all my gear on a table, divided into swim, T1, bike, T2, run. Think I've got my feed and hydrate strategy thought out:

T1: SiS PS22 to clear the mouth from the salt water - I'm guaranteed to swallow some!
Bike: 2 x Clif Bars, 2 x Clif Shots, with 4 x SiS Isotonic Gel packs. 1Litre of SiS Electrolite drink on the frame and 740ml of SiS PS22 energy drink behind the saddle - I'll keep the other one empty to pick-up bottles from the drinks stations.
T2: A quick glug of that PS22 bottle, as I should be down to zero fluids on the bike when I finish.
Run: 2 x shots and 4 x gels.
<insert swear word> woke up with a sore throat and that "cold coming on" feeling. This is not what I need 5 days before the race. I'm hoping it's a 24-hour thing, but at the moment, it's not good.
OK, enough slacking off. Hit the road for a tough 60Km ride around Kranji. More hills than the airport route, so more of a challenge - quite a bit of lorry traffic in certain parts, but some of the lanes were nice to cycle through. Picked up a nasty downpour on the way home, and that just isn't nice when mixed with Singapore traffic. The new bike set-up is good, and I could put the hammer down and get some decent speed up at places.
Received an SMS from Mark, and he's really ill, so called off the bike ride. I thought of contacting Kyle to join his ride, but as it was late I didn't want him to re-arrange his plans around me. Set the alarm for 5am to ride on my own, but woke up and hit the snooze - decided to watch the rugby instead. Nice win for Wales, but not happy with the way they're playing, there's urgency in defence when our backs are to the try line, but we just don't seem to have any flair in attack, it just seems pedestrain and predictable - suspect sneaky try, but a win is a win.
Rested, as a long bike ride planned for tomorrow with Mark. Kyle was going to come along, but it's a long way from his home, which is a shame as we haven't had a training ride together yet. Wanted to watch the Wales v Ireland rugby game, but as it kicked off at 1am, recorded it for post-ride enjoyment.
10Km run, at race-pace. Well, I should say wishfull thinking race-pace. I'd really like to run at 6 mins per Km, but I know that's a big ask after the swim and bike. I ran the 10Km very easily, and could have gone on and gone quicker, but I was trying to run steady and "feel" the pace - positive thinking and all that.
45 minutes on the bike trainer again, focusing on the one-leg pedal.
Went to see the Bike Butler after work, who checked my bike set-up - it took over 3 hours, but was very worthwhile. After many measurements of my build (my body's dimensions are the build of a sprinter - not conducive to cycling, or distance running - great!) I sat on the bike and did some peddling. Mervyn immediately saw that the way I cycled was wrong, in that I didn't bring major muscle groups into the work, and ended up using more of my running muscles - my glutes weren't being used at all. To fix this, I needed to rotate my pelvis by bringing the upper part forward, and the lower part back - at the same time moving forward in the saddle - effectively flattening my lower back. The bike was adjusted accordingly: saddle more forward and extending the reach by lengthening the stem - my aero bars were made wider to alleviate the shoulder-strain I suffer. The next issue was that my foot's contact with the pedal wasn't even - the area under my little-toe had more contact than the area under my big-toe, so wedges were placed under my shoes to compensate. We then moved onto reviewing my pedalling: I'm only pushing with my pedals, and not lifting, thus reducing my efficiency. Mervyn had me doing one-leg cycling, which emphasises the need to lift - and it shows how little I'm doing this, due to the rapid tireing of my hip-flexor muscles - something I really need to work on. Next, lasers were shone at white dots placed on my knees (there were two big mirrors, one to my side and one in-front so I could review things myself). It was clear that my knee wasn't performing a clear up-and-down motion, but twisting outwards - more so on my left side - again a sign of weak hip-flexors. Mervyn then replaced my pedals with some device which had chop-stick looking things sticking out. These asses my foot position, and it was clear that I pidgeon-toe during the rotation - again, more with my left. My cleats were adjusted, and then we did more spinning so I can see what difference it made.

Later in the evening I did 30minutes on the trainer, focusing on one-leg cycling - it's tough!
10Km run. Didn't feel too good heading out, a bit lethargic, and not really looking forward to the run ahead. However, once I got going I settled into a nice tempo and came into the last 4Km feeling good so kept the pace up. Finished the last Km strong as well, which I'm taking as a sign that I'm getting better at pacing my runs, coupled with an increase in fitness of course. 10Km in 52:52 - very happy with that!
Planned to do a bike-then-run session, but work got in the way. Headed out for an hour on the mountain bike instead, same route as before, - think I'll call it the Sand-Pit Route!
2 weeks to go

Weight: 90.8Kg
70Km bike ride with Mark. Felt good on the ride, pushed it in a few placed, but an enoyable early morning cycle.
13Km run, taking it easy.
Happy Saint David's Day!

A quick spin on the indoor bike trainer for 35 minutes.
Got up early and took the mountain bike out for an hour - not a bad route, although you do pass what seems to be Singapore's supply of sand, meaning a gritty mouthfull to feast on.
Singapore Sprint Series Aquathlon 2011: 750m swim; 5Km run

My first race in the 40-49 age group. I was in the first men's wave (the Elite athletes went off first, then the women categories) consisting of the 50-59s, and some of the 40-49s.

Kicked hard at the start to get away from the washing-machine, and managed to pick up a draft from two other swimmers. Around the turn, and into the last 200 meters I kicked leaving my draft buddies behind, and came out of the water in 4th place in my wave (18th in the full age group). I then made a school-boy error, and hadn't paid enough attention where my gear was in transition - and then headed to the wrong exit. Really annoyed with myself, and that added an extra 30 seconds to my time. On the run, I was out of breath from the swim, as I'd given it a strong finish. I tried to keep the pace at 5 min/Km, but couldn't. I crossed the line in a total time of 40:43, 31st in my age group out of a total of 152. Disappointed I didn't break the 40 minute barrier, but I did give it everything.
1.5Km in the pool.
Went to the Doc today, and got the all clear on the Achilles.

Still need to take care of it and keep the treatment going, but the swelling has reduced and there's a better blood-flow.

Short 4Km run, but kept the pace up, under 20 minutes.
Happy 40th Birthday to me!

Racing in a new age category from now, people tell me it's more competitive - great!

Cycled into work on the mountain bike - it's not a long ride, but you have to carry the bike up-and-over a few bridges, which adds to the workout.
9Km run, just to see how the Achilles is going - nice and steady, completed in under 52 minutes.
One month to go.

An easy 5Km run, in just under 26 minutes - need to dust off some of those cobwebs that have been building up whilst out injured.
Weight: 92.0Kg-