Well, last week I entered my first half Ironman, the 70.3 New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon. That’s 1.9km of swimming, 90km of biking and a half marathon at the end. It’s obviously my biggest challenge to date – much longer than a marathon. Mum and I decided at the beginning of this year that if she didn’t qualify for the Olympic distance World Championships in Chicago, we would do a half ironman together. If she did qualify, I would do an autumn marathon. Well, she didn’t qualify, which means she can go to my cousin’s wedding and that we have to do a half ironman! (argh!) The bike course cut-off is 5 hours from the race start, which means I will need to compete it in well under 4 and a half hours, probably under 4 hours. That’s 22.5kph. Should be completely fine, in a relatively flat race with no stopping for traffic lights etc … but I have to make sure not to really push myself all-out on the bike so that I can run a half marathon afterwards! The rules say this:
“On New Forest Roads you will encounter ponies, cows, pigs, deer & Sunday Drivers—all of which have no road sense—watch out for horse riders, shout a warning ahead and give a wide berth when passing.”
I have been trying to find some kind of elevation chart but can’t find any anywhere as there was a new course route in 2014. If anyone comes across this blog that knows of the 2014 elevation I would love to hear it! Anyway, training began today with a 90km bike ride. I have quite a strong base level of fitness already after training for the last few months for an Olympic distance triathlon, so the goal now is to build that more into endurance, and I quite fancied starting with a shot at the 90km distance, knowing I wouldn’t have to run afterwards, but trying to take it easy and keep my heart rate below 80% of max. Sadly a combination of hills, heat and headwinds (the three ‘h’s!) meant that my heartrate stayed a lot higher than I would have wanted – Strava gave me an “epic” suffer score of 263, with almost 40% of the ride spent above 80% of max. However, my average heart rate for the whole ride was only a few beats above where I wanted it so I’ll take that. It was the same route I’ve done before, except further. This time I made it out from the bike lane that runs alongside the motorway, through the small town of Soto el Real and up towards Miraflores. There looks to be a great route in the mountains I’d love to try at some point but it will either involve getting a train, or will be a long, hot and hilly 100 miler so I may have to think about that some more. I was feeling relatively pleased with my progress on the way out, especially knowing that it is overwhelmingly uphill – over 600m of elevation gain on the way out compared to just 300m on the way back. And turning around for the trip home, for the first half of the way I was really enjoying myself. On the way out it’s the kind of rolling uphill that you don’t really realise just how uphill it is, until you are going in the other direction and literally flying by. It was lovely. I was overtaken by a swarm of cyclists in a pace group who beckoned to me to join on the end and that was fantastic as well. As I always ride alone or with just one other person it was a great experience … for all of two minutes until they were turning off to go home to Colmenar Viejo while I continued on the lonely road back to Madrid. It was atthis point that the full force of the headwind hit me. I wish bike computers had an ability to tell you the strength of the wind but this one was strong. And the heat was over 40 degrees by this point. The wind was like standing right in front of a fan oven. I was not happy. As this was the part of the ride I had done twice before, I knew how I should be feeling – I should be flying! Every little uphill should have been immediately swallowed up in my momentum from the previous downhill. However, the headwind meant that it was just not happening for me – I couldn’t go fast enough downhill and so had to grind up all the little inclines. Getting home I was exhausted, and fully aware that I would need to cycle faster in order to make the cut-off point, AND run a half marathon at the end. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. But the training has only just begun, this is the starting point, AND the race will be less hilly, and a whole lot cooler. Bring it on!