Road to Challenge Aarhus: Can You Do It?

In this post I’ll cover learning and observations from a self-supported half ironman. I’ll relate it to the time I train and share what I plan to improve at the Challenge Aarhus half ironman triathlon in July 2011.

I think one of the most intimidating aspects of endurance sports on longer courses is the question that pops up every now and again with most people: Can I Do It?
That goes for any run distance beyond 10km all the way up to marathon and, even more so, ironman distance triathlons and ultraruns.

While I like a good challenge, I just don’t want to be toeing the line on raceday not knowing if I can do the distance. Therefore, if I have the chance, I put in a race distance training of my own to confirm to myself that I can in fact do the distance. In addition that’s an excellent way of checking your weak spots or things that don’t work, like nutrition, pacing, etc.

On 16/4 I pulled myself through a half ironman triathlon (70.3 to some) on my own – with a bit of help on the run. It was a great experience and important for me to highlight what will and what will not work at the Challenge Aarhus half ironman in July this year. This is the full race report including things I learned.

Got the day started at about 6:00 a.m. with a huge bowl of oat meal. Wanted to make sure to get enough carbs in long before the start. This worked well for me!

The swim got started at about 09:30 and was fairly uneventful as it should be. I did a pool swim, so that will be different in Aarhus. I think the waves will be limited there, though, and it’s a wetsuit swim too, so if anything it should be easier. I just very much dislike swimming far in salt water. The salty taste just gets in everywhere. Here’s my time for the swim.

Having finished the swim, I did a brief shower and changed into my trisuit, went to “T1” (aka my car), got the bike out, put on some cycling specific clothes to keep warm, and then left. That transition took about 23 minutes.

For the bike I had myself a plan of staying calm, keeping the heart rate below 140. That worked well – I managed to resist the urge to start hunting down other cyclists. In addition the nutrition plan was to take in 500ml drink every hour and an energy bar every 35-40 minutes. That worked well too, and I had no energy dips while on the bike. Interesting, as always, to see the heart rate increase temporarily around meals. Did start to feel a bit tired when I got within 20km of T2, so I had an extra energy bar and reduced speed to give the body a break before the run. Here’s the time for the bike.

Back at T2 I took the front wheel off the bike, put it in the car, changed from cycling top to running top, running shoes on and grabbed the drinks, gels, and some salt tablets for anti-cramp purposes. It wasn’t a hot day, but I wasn’t sure if I’d cramp up, so before the run I had a single salt tablet just in case.

Now info tue run. Immediately felt a bit of pain in my left leg which quickly subsided. The pace was relatively high for being about 4 hours of activity into the event, and things were looking pretty bright. Had a gel around the 5km mark and continued to follow my nutrition plan and drink energy drink from the fuel belt bottles. Shortly before the half way mark I noticed that I had started to look more frequently at my Garmin 310xt – I took that as a sign of getting more tired. At this point I should have probably gobbled up another gel, but I didn’t.
The next 8-9 kilometers I kept pushing out sub-5:30 kilometers, but with energy stores being depleted it was only a matter of time before I would crack. On kilometer 20 I couldn’t keep it up any more and dropped the pace by 30 seconds per kilometer, while watching my Garmin all the time. Needless to say these 2.1 final kilometers were the toughest of the entire day. Here’s the time for the run.

I made it!! All sorts of triathletes had told me I should NOT do a half ironman as part of my training due to risk of injuries and too long recovery. But all that is important experiences for me to have, so I needed this training. Now that I have it, I know a few pitfalls and how to avoid them. I know the distance and that I will make it. I know the energy food and how I react to it.

In so many words, I know how to be better on raceday than I would have been if I hadn’t tested myself.

If you’re wondering how I train to get the result above and to put things in perspective relative to training volume: I train just about 5 hours per week. Right now I have a swim session, two run sessions and maybe a bike session per week, but that could change. The reason I mention this is that most triathletes will tell you that 5 hours per week is not enough to do a half ironman.

Well, I say it is – if you train smart and injury free. We’ll see how things go in Aarhus.

Road to Challenge Aarhus: Nailing 70.3 Nutrition?

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Yesterday evening I spent some time trying to get my nutrition for the upcoming self-supported 70.3 half ironman triathlon on 16/4 right. It’s a pretty tricky calculation when you’ve never done it before. As ever so often with these kinds of things, I set up a Google Doc spreadsheet to help out with the numbers.

As previously explained I’ve never really had a go at this distance, so making a nutrition plan that works is unlikely. Another good reason to try things out beforehand. I’ve now settled with about 560 grams carbs for an estimated 7 hours of activity. We’ll see if that does it. Either way I should bring some extra energy onto the bike.

In order to have everything nailed there’s one thing that I haven’t calculated: my hourly sweat rate. Without that, I really do not know how much I need to drink or how much salt I need to take in. I’m just going to have to wing that one, but I’ll bring 3 tablets for the run to avoid cramping as I had some cramping issues last year going from bike to run in the Aalsmeer Sprint Triathlon.

For final prep I need to pack the whole thing, check the bike, pack the clothes and God knows what else to finally be ready for the start on Saturday morning.

Road to Challenge Aarhus: Self-supported Half Ironman

The Start Location at the Pool
Where the Madness Begins

This week is going to be mostly about getting ready for the self-supported half ironman distance triathlon I’ll be doing on Saturday 16/4 as prep to do Challenge Aarhus. You can join the event on Endomondo. Yes, it really is a triathlon even if Endomondo lists it as “other”.
Also join the event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=124035681003753.

If you’re in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday 16/4 you’re free to participate in any part of the total distance and any amount of disciplines. If you join the swim you should expect to cover the (tiny) expense on your own.

Here are a couple of probable start times:
Swimmers: total distance is 1,9km.
Start time is around 09.00 at Sportfondsenbad Oost:

Bikers: total distance is 90km.
Start time is around 10.00 at Sportfondsenbad Oost: same as above.

Runners: total distance is 21,1km.
Start time is around 13:30-14:00 at Sportfondsenbad Oost: same as above.

So, the things that need to be prepped are:

  • Pack my swim-gear
  • Check the bike to be race-ready and pack all that is required for a 90km ride;
  • Pack my running stuff (Thursday or Friday)
  • Go through the checklist at http://triathlon.racechecklist.com to make sure I have it all.

 

Road to Challenge Aarhus: March Training in Review

Beautiful Views on March Morning Runs

What a month. After February I had a few things to get working on and in March I have definitely moved closer to half ironman fitness. One of the things that all endurance athletes struggle with is time. After February I figured that adding 10 minutes per training would take the training volume up by about an hour on a weekly basis. By and large that has worked out pretty well. Where February ended up being a 14 hours 24 minutes training month, March had another 12 hours in it. It was especially the two first weeks that were really good. The two next weeks were pretty OK, but with other commitments the bike had to suffer and that took total training time down.

I learned a few things too that I’d like to share. Maybe they’ll prove useful to you:

  • Forefoot running training from zero to long distance takes long! I’ve had to set my sights on 5km forefoot running this year. Maybe next year I’ll be able to do 10km.
  • Nearly doubling training volume from month to month is a bit of a stretch. Be cautious and make sure to be listening to your body to avoid over-training. This goes for all sports, but especially for running!

Also, March seems to have been a bit of a strong month for social training platform Endomondo. I at least started getting invitations from people I connect to on Facebook, LinkedIn and from people I just haven’t heard from for years. That way I get to know another side of these people, which has been very interesting so far.
The weather has been very mild too so more and more people start training outside – also very encouraging!

Finally here’s a run-down of how I think March was per sport and what needs to happen over the next 3 months prior to Challenge Aarhus:

Swim: No real change since February. Still have to watch my left shoulder, so my number of swim sessions will stay flat until Challenge Aarhus. The required 1,9km is not a problem at all, so the swim is still on track! Learned in a podcast from TriSwimCoach that it could well be very smart to do a very relaxed swim in order avoid getting out of the water with a too high heart rate.

Bike: Weather was mild in March, so I’ve been outside a few times. Right now it’s a bit dark in the morning, but soon I should be able to do a morning session on the bike. This is probably where I need the most improvement, but we’ll see about that in April. For sure I will have to add kilometers to the cycling.

Run: March was an excellent month for running. Did my first half marathon in training in a time I believe is a personal best (note to self: check that on Athlinks). That said I probably can’t recommend doing three times the training volume month over month.
Now that the half marathon distance is in place I have started working on speed. For April that will mean shorter runs with 1km intervals at race speed or faster. Race speed is the pace I need to maintain to run “Broløbet” on the 28th of May in less than 1 hour and 45 minutes.

As a final challenge for April, I’ll be doing a self-paced and self-supported half ironman on the 16th of April. Standing at the starting line of a race without knowing that you can make it, doesn’t seem like a good idea…
Experienced triathletes have advised against doing half ironman as part of my training, but it just feels like the right thing to do. Therefore the week from 9th to 16th will be extremely relaxed with just a few relaxed and relatively short runs. After the half ironman the interesting part will be: how long does recovery take.

In other words: An interesting month lies ahead! 🙂

The #1 Most Important Advice for Endurance Athletes

Just a few days ago an old colleague of mine asked me what my #1 tip would be for someone who had recently started running and was now aiming at half and full marathon distances.

My response was pretty brief and I’ll share it here and elaborate on it a bit further.

The #1 advice to endurance athletes is:

Don’t get injured!! Whatever you do, train smart, don’t overdo things and through that, avoid injury!

You’ll likely want superman (or -woman) fitness and strength, run a marathon, do an ironman, and all that very quickly – but especially in endurance sports things take time.

Instead you will want to take it slow. If you can slowly build your endurance and keep on building then that really long race you want to be able to do will eventually happen.

Personally I didn’t always know this. I would sign up for races in the way to near future and try to do them being semi fit for the event, injuring myself either during training or during the race.

Since the beginning of 2010 I try to go about my build-up in a different way. I try to follow some basic rules that will leave me free of injury:

  • never add more than 10% to individual runs. Another version of this rule says you shouldn’t add more than 10% to weekly running volume and some even go on to work with months and quarters.
  • if you feel pain, never try to push through it. You might just be making things worse. Yesterday was such a day for me in the pool. I had to back off from getting better 50m swim time as my left shoulder started hurting. That swim was ended about 15 minutes early to avoid injury.
  • avoid going all out in sports your muscles are not used to. This goes for cross-training, gym sessions etc. which are part of your training plan, but also for the occasional game of football with your colleagues.
  • if you train or race with someone else who’s above your level – get them to perform at your level. Don’t try (too hard) to follow theirs as that could well be too much for you.

Following these rules has served me well so far. Only had few minor injuries over the past 12 months and every time they’ve been a result of not adhering to the rules outlined above.

Train hard, but train smart!

Announcing Self-Paced Half Ironman Triathlon

2011 has got to be the year of the half ironman distance triathlon for me, and the training is aimed at being able to swim 1,9km, bike 90km, and run half a marathon on the 3rd of July. Last year I did just a single sprint triathlon at 500m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run, without having any particular problems with the distance. Before that sprint triathlon I did a self-paced sprint triathlon of the same distance to better understand the distance without participating in an actual race.

In a half ironman a lot more unknowns enter the game. For instance:

  • nutrition
  • can I do the distance? In time?
  • which effort can I sustain over such a period of time?
  • what kind of training do I need?
  • what’s my current fitness level for this distance?
  • what do I still need to train?
  • all the stuff I haven’t thought of…

To have answers to have all these questions when I toe the line on the 3rd of July, I’ll be repeating a self-paced triathlon this year – except this time it will be a self-paced half ironman distance triathlon.

Should be loads of fun – you can come and join if you want – for the entire event or just part of it. Venues are:
* swim: sportfondsenbad Amsterdam Oost
* bike start: Sportfondsenbad Oost
* run start: to be decided

The event will take place on the 16th of April in Amsterdam, Netherlands for anyone who cares to join. The event can be found and tracked on:

http://www.endomondo.com/event/838098

2010 in Review

Ah yes… No end of the year without a proper review of the past year.

2010 started with a run on one of the beaches in Canun, Mexico. As I recall, it was a rough 6km run, which took me 40-something minutes. Rough, in the sense that I hadn’t really done the kind of training I do now. My fitness level was not where I wanted it to be and something needed to change.

At roughly the same time thoughts emerged on what my three main focus areas in life should be. Eventually I picked family, work as the first two natural choices. Training, finally was put in place as the third. That I wanted three main focus areas was no coincidence. Anything that you wish to do well requires focus, and cluttering your day with activities takes time and focus away from what’s really important. I started making a more serious effort to make my trainings and set two sports goals for 2010:
1) compete in a sprint triathlon;
2) run a 5km in less than 20 minutes.

Come April I had gotten doing the trainings down to being fairly regular and consistent. All three sports of triathlon: running, cycling and swimming was getting attention and improvements were being made. Also my media consumption changed and I spent more time listening to podcasts that were endurance sports related.
That lead to more and more input on the sport about training, racing, recovering and also about nutrition.

In May that lead to me dumping coffee altogether, which you can read about elsewhere. Either way we’ve now come out of 2010 without me having had any coffee the past 7 months.

I think it was during this time that Klaus, my racing buddy, brought up in conversatin that he had signed up for the Aalsmeer Triathlon and asked if I wanted to join. Shortly after I had signed up to the first triathlon since my debut in 2002 on the Olympic distance. My goals quickly became to beat Klaus, but also to beat the finish time for friend and ex-colleague Keld, who had raced a strong sprint distance at the same race a few years earlier. Also, I decided to change what happens on this blog. It used to be more about technology, and while tech is interesting it just isn’t one of my three focus areas and had to go.

During summer training went on and on race day in August I managed to keep Klaus just seconds behind me, but not beat the time that Keld had raced earlier (I still wonder how he managed such a strong bike leg).

Having checked the first box of my 2010, training focus shifted to running for. 12th September run in Haarlem. The 5km distance there was to be where I would see if I could break 20-minutes.
Eventually I did really well the first 3km, but started to fade on the fourth kilometer and finished with a time of 20:48 – just 49 seconds off my goal or 10 seconds too slow per kilometer. I’m confident I can reach that goal in 2011.

With all races for 2010 completed training focus moved to my weakest discipline and I’ve spent more time in the pool in the second half of 2010 than ever before. 2011 was comong closer and races started appearing on calendars.

So far I’ve signed up for three races. The first is the “Broløbet” in Denmark on the 28th of May – a half marathon across Storebælt on a highway bridge. My goal is to finish that race in less than 1 hour 45 minutes. I’ve also signed up for Triathlon Holten’s Olympic distance race on the 10th of July, but the big one for 2011 is one week prior to that.

The original plan was to gradually increase the distance of triathlons starting with sprint in 2010, do olympic in 2011, do half ironman distance in 2012 and then see what should happen after that. But when the Challenge organization came up with the half ironman distance race “Challenge Aarhus” in my birth city and what I consider my home city in Denmark, I couldn’t resist signing up!
The goal for my participation in “Challenge Aarhus” on 3rd of July is to complete the race and enjoy every minute of what promises to be a spectacular race.

2011 lies ahead and for 2010 I can only conclude that the season has been extremely
satisfying. I reached or gotnvery close to my goals and became quite fit in the progress. It’s also given me an opportunity to discuss health, sports, lifestyleand perspectives on life in general with old, close friends as well as more recent acquaintances. All of that has been very interesting and provided food for thought.

That’s a style and a focus I wish to continue in 2011 as I get started with new challenges in sport as well as professionally. It feels like I will have a good year.

Here’s to your 2011: I hope it will bring you health and happiness!

Challenge Aarhus, Half Ironman Triathlon: I’ll be there!!! :-)

I just had to participate in this one!!: The Challenge organization has come up with a new spectacular triathlon race. This is one is a half ironman distance race in my home city. Welcome to Challenge Aarhus.

The Challenge organization which also host to triathlon ironman distance and half ironman (70.3) races such as Wanaka, Roth, and Copenhagen is now getting ready to launch a new race: Challenge Aarhus !!

Challenge Aarhus takes place on July 3rd 2011 and is a half ironman distance race consisting of a 1,9km swim, 90km bike and 21,1 run. What makes me so enthusiastic about this particular race is that it takes place in my home town of Aarhus, Denmark, and the route is nothing short of spectacular!

That’s also why I’m very excited to have joined Challenge Aarhus, which will be my very first half ironman distance race – I simply can’t wait! It will be one of the great things of 2011 and I’m looking forward to it like a kid looks forward to Christmas. Just set up the event on Endomondo too and added the race to Athlinks.

The route promises to pass through spectacular sites. With start at Tangkrogen, which is also the starting point of the Marselisborg run and bike races, Challenge Aarhus will pass the Sculpture by the Sea on the swim, the hills of Aarhus on the bike, and then finally will pass through the ARoS Museum of Art as part of the half marathon route. Absolutely amazing!!

I’ll make sure to post more about the route, my training and thoughts on the race as we get closer to race day!!

Endurance Sports Content

Just spent some time reviewing this blog and upon reviewing it I’ve made some changes. As my motivation to write here is changing, then so will the content. As I’m throwing out a few non-family, non-work actitivies in order to make more time for sports it’s natural that the focus here changes too.

As of now this will become a mixed training log including thoughts about training, progress, and other items mostly related to endurance sports – and endurance sports gadgets as I’ve written about a few times in the past.

That should better support a few training goals of mine, notably half marathon and half marathon with a twist (more on the twist later).

Part of the blogging will be done on the go to keep blogging as efficient as possible, so you might experience a few typos, as my fingers get used to tablet computers on-screen keyboards.

This serves as a warning – let the training begin 🙂

Garmin confuses with Forerunner 110

Garmin Forerunner 110 is now available, but is the entry-level runners GPS-watch a good buy?

Some 4 weeks ago Garmin announced a new model in its lineup of heart rate, speed and distance measurement devices – the Garmin Forerunner 110. The 110 is a runners watch with no cycling support whatsoever. Sure, you can use it on the bike, but there are no options for adding cadence.

That pretty much seems to be the story for the Garmin Forerunner 110. It impresses with simplicity: the display holds less information than for instance the 405/405cx which has previously been written about here, there’s less of a setup hazzle and in simple terms you could this a back to basics design.

Comparing the 110 to the Garmin Forerunner 405 is fairly interesting. The 110 has a lot less features than the 405 and as far as I can judge only heart rate based calory usage is the only feature of the 110 holds that is missing on the 405.

Many have so far mentioned that they see the Garmin Forerunner 110 as an entry-level watch, but the price of around €229 for the version with heart rate is HIGH for entry-level! I have found the Garmin Forerunner 405 for just €259 with heart rate monitor. For just €30 price difference you’ll get a whole lot more with the 405, and so the conclusion must be that the Garmin Forerunner 110 will flop despite the nice marketing.

It’s a basic entry-level heart rate monitor with speed and distance and interesting features for the runners, but comes at far too high a price. Leave it and instead read a later review on entry level GPS, heart-rate monitors on this blog.