……A not so short story of my journey thus far in long-distance triathlon.

This is not intended to be a race report on Challenge Venice, although there is a fair amount of information on the race included in the text by default. It rather set out to provide some observations and opportunities for my own self-reflection on what has been a long journey from when recovering from a shoulder operation, I vowed to try and do an Ironman “before I got too old”. That was 4 full distance races ago now and injuries permitting, I’ve been happily in-training ever since.

The Ironman myth of “ I couldn’t possibly do one of those….could I?” had been well and truly debunked after my first effort in Sweden, then South Africa and Austria, but it’s not in my nature to enter another race just for the sake of it. Of course I love the training (most of the time), travelling to new places, the excitement and circus of the race itself and of course the satisfaction of finishing. But I don’t need to prove that I can finish any more so my reasons for doing IM have shifted over time. I feel it’s nice to progress and always set personal goals in my own mind, things that are important to me and things that give me the drive and motivation to go out and try and achieve what I’ve set out to. I know I’m never going to break any records, but it’s nice to see quantifiable improvement and with it, a great deal of personal satisfaction and sense of achievement. After all, it seems I do love a challenge!

So, PB, or not PB….. seemed to end up being a shortened account of my journey after my 3rd Ironman race,  Austria last year…..

 

 Life Before Challenge Venice….

 

IM Austria was great! Despite not being on top running form (at all), I managed a pretty good PB and mashed my previous time from South Africa the year before. The swim was steady away, bike good, run was pretty mediocre and combined they gave me a respectable time of 11 hours 34 mins.

I suppose I should have been happy with a PB in the swim and bike, not to mention shaving around 30 minutes off my previous best finishing time and I guess for a while at least, I was. 

What I couldn’t help thinking about though, was what could have been and I started doing my usual what ifs…”what if could knock say 5 minutes off my swim, that’s doable right? say 10 minutes off the bike although I’ll have to push it and let’s say 20 minutes off the run, no problem, I’d be well under 11 hours” and in my mind at least, a time of 10 hours anything, even 10 hours 59m 59s , is better than 11 hours anything, any day of the week.  This, is what I wanted.

I felt it was really possible especially considering Austria was a non-sea swim ( I’m not a good swimmer so favour the more buoyant sea swims), the bike course was fast but hilly and I walked a great deal on the run due to prior injuries stopping me training properly. So, my next step was to find a race to do it in. The usual research took place and I opted for the inaugural Challenge Venice. It was about a year away, which would give me plenty of time to train, the course was flat and being at the beginning of June, the timing was almost perfect for training meaning I didn’t have to sweat buckets right through the heat of the summer here in the UAE. Decision made, I entered and the long journey had well and truly begun.

Sarah incidentally had vowed “never again” after Austria, but caved in after just a few weeks and decided it was a good plan after all, so she entered too!

 

Build-up to Challenge Venice……

 

Post Austria, my Achilles’ (both) continued to play havoc and I wasn’t able to run for 7 long, long months. I was under a daily physio regime of between 40 minutes to 1 hour at home, on top of my training and while this helped my right Achilles tremendously, it didn’t seem to do much for the left. On a more positive note, the strengthening work I’d been doing in my core, glutes, thighs and calf muscles was noticeable. Add to that my new-found love of Pilates (it’s amazing by the way, just try it!) and I definitely felt more stable when I eventually did start running around the end of February.  

In the period I wasn’t able to run, I obviously couldn’t enter any full races but did 70.3 Bahrain where I was supposed to do the swim and bike and Alice taking the proverbial baton over for the run. With the swim being cancelled and not having to save anything for the run, I pushed the bike pretty hard in some windy conditions and managed 2.27 which I was pleased with although I have to say I was really glad when T2 came into view and I could pass the timing chip onto a slightly “surprised to see me so soon” Alice. She did a fab job on the run and we finished in the top ¼ of the strong field.  Long way to go but the training wasn’t going too badly apparently!

My swim training was also going well and although it was down to a lot of hard work, the time invested was definitely paying dividends with my times decreasing and my stamina also improving. I don’t come from a swimming background at all and have never really been any good at it, or even enjoyed it.  But increased proficiency saw me for the first time ever, actually looking forward to going swimming, definitely a totally new and welcome feeling. I was feeling good about it.

I had decided that to try and get some race practice in before Venice (it would be a year without a full race of any description otherwise), I wanted to enter the last 2XU Mamzar Olympic race at the end of March and asked Coach if I could also do 70.3 Vietnam early May as a warm-up to Venice, which he also agreed to.

It was my first ever outing at Mamzar and although the swim and bike were ok, my performance was  nothing spectacular, which was a bit disappointing. I’d had a bike fit (well, a tweak) a few weeks before and it just wasn’t working for me. On race day, I came off the bike with cramps in my calf muscles and very numb feet and subsequently struggled for a fair few Kms on the run.

Considering everything though, I managed a 53 minute 10k run and had to be at least a little bit pleased with that especially given the length of time I’d been off running and racing generally. What was even more pleasing was that the big guns in my age-group had kindly stayed away and I ended up winning the thing, which was as flattering as it was hilarious! I’ll take it though and obviously the training was going OK, but there was still a long way to go.

Another 5 or 6 weeks on with fairly consistent training and Vietnam came around. The training seemed to be going well, I’d had a new bike fit (tweak) and I was now much happier in my position so that was all positive. My running wasn’t amazing but at least I was up to distance now and overall, felt quite confident.

I’m not sure why exactly, even now, but things didn’t go that well on the day.

The swim was a disastrous 38 minutes and I was hoping for, no, expecting 34. I just couldn’t get going somehow and my breathing was all over the place. Although the swim was a “self-seeding” rolling-start, it turned out to be a little farcical with around 36 people being allowed to start at the same time instead of the 6 that was planned. This made it more of a mass-start feel and the poor self-seeding element meant that I had to contend with over ambitious newbies, breastrokers, slow(er) swimmers, thrashers, bumpers and just about everyone else you could think of next to me, in front of me, behind me…. It’s my problem, I realise that.  I just need to try and become comfortable with contact in the water….just something I don’t seem to be able to get used to no matter how much I try. Regardless, I struggled and came out of the water disappointed with the time to say the least.

The bike was really hot and quite windy so relatively pleased with 2h 37m but my gosh, I found the run to be brutally hot and I just struggled, walking a lot and finishing in 2h 10m (officially 2.13 but I had stopped to help Sarah get on her way after the awful crash she had). 

While I had a brilliant, brilliant time in Vietnam, I was a bit deflated if I’m honest and probably left the race wondering what had happened and how on earth I could possibly even just complete double that distance in less than a month’s time, let alone reach the ambitious time goal I had set myself. Still, I had finished without any lasting injuries (unlike Sarah bless her) and plodded home to resume the last few weeks of training before the big day.  

 

In Venice…..

 

The build up to any Ironman race is tense and often stressful. Your body has been training hard and with the tapering, is highly strung, chomping at the bit and just raring to go. There’s so much to think about, your mind is full of umpteen things, slightly cluttered and desperately trying to stay organised so at least nothing major has been forgotten.

Obviously you want to do what you can to minimise any unnecessary stress, but clearly some things are simply out of your control. The whole build-up turned out to be a bit of a comedy of errors and just added to an already tense few days.

I lost my bank card the day before flying, flight delays, flight connections nearly missed, bike not turning up, public holiday on the Thursday, tram breaking down on the way to the race briefing, BTF cards turned up at the last minute (long story). Also, I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t fly until Thursday as this really only gave me Friday and Saturday to get everything sorted and for me at least, it’s not enough time. When the bike didn’t turn up with me on Thursday, Qatar only have one flight a day leaving Friday as the last chance for it to appear, otherwise I’d miss racking on Saturday. No stress there then!

Registration at the “village” was an easy, relaxed affair and a quick survey of the swim exit and a practice ride (on Sarah’s bike) around some of the run course revealed it wasn’t quite as flat as I was hoping!

By the time Friday had come around, we still hadn’t been onto the island of Venice, just happy to potter around Mestre on the mainland, which was very nice I have to say. Nothing too amazing but a nice European feel to the centre of it and plenty of great pizza and pasta to be had (goes without saying!). We had an apartment no more than 3km from the start line and it was easy enough to get around on the tram once we’d figured out how to go about getting tickets etc.

The bike turned up on Friday late afternoon and I had just enough time to get the thing built and go for a wee test ride. All was good….

 

Challenge Venice….. 

 

So the course had changed a couple of times in the build-up to this inaugural event and the swim was now rather excitingly, starting on the island of Venice and was a straight 3.8km or thereabouts back to the mainland to transition, bike racking and where both the bike and run courses were to start and finish.

As everyone had to be transported across the water in plenty of time for the start, transition opened at 3.45am which meant we got up at 2.45am, which in my book was ridiculously early! Anyway, the plan was to ferry everyone across, but I think the water levels were too low so they had arranged buses to take us across the causeway. This worked perfectly well with no last minute panics or dramas and everyone getting across to the island of Venice in plenty of time.

There was about a 15 minute walk to the start line area, the air temperature was just perfect and the water calm with virtually no wind and it looked like it was going to be an amazing day weather-wise. Considering some of the big thunderstorms that had been around the previous few days, conditions looked favourable at least. Venice was empty of tourists at that time of the morning and looked a real picture in the early morning light. Exciting!

However, by this time things were somewhat tense for me, I was nervous and had possibly put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to do well. My wave start was last (bar a few relay teams) and the swim was to be a rolling start.  It’s a little difficult to explain, but we were kept in a courtyard and until your wave was called, you couldn’t actually see the swim start, only hear the commentary over the Tannoy. I had a vague plan in my mind about where to position myself in the water, but once our wave was called up, I caught sight of the actual course and all the swimmers already in the water way ahead of us, I knew I had a definite plan. 

The water was pretty calm and it was literally a straight swim in a “channel” about 20 or 30m wide, lined on the right with large marker poles which a lot of people were swimming close to. I guess for them it was easiest to handrail them, keep them close by and not have to do any sighting at all. Made sense, but I instantly decided to stay as left as I could go to avoid the hoardes and also try and go into the water last, so I wouldn’t have people trying to swim over me or even close to me. This had unsettled everything for me in Vietnam and I was keen to avoid a repeat performance.

Beautiful swim star

As soon as I got in the slightly murky water, I realised the temperature was perfect for swimming and I immediately felt good. My plan seemed to be working too as I found myself in totally clear water and subsequently my breathing was under control. It was brilliant! There was nobody, not one person within metres of me and as the marker poles passed, I remember noticing a number 12 on one of them and 13 on the next. I wondered just how many there were and with nothing better to do, I guessed at 60 so I could try and keep myself amused on the long swim ahead (it turned out to be more than 70 I seem to remember!).

My conscious plan before the race was to concentrate on 3 things in the swim. Keeping my usually slow cadence up, not lifting my head when breathing and ensuring my left hand was below my left wrist and that was below my elbow etc. I just felt good, in control and very relaxed. Things were clicking for me and I started overtaking quite a lot of people which was a novelty and more than a little confidence boosting. As the marker pole numbers got into the high 60s, we made a turn to the right and the final few hundred metres.  I’d had a completely clear, straight and untroubled 3.6km or so and it was just about a dream start to the race for me.

Suddenly, there was no water! I don’t mean I’d hit land but the water was so shallow, maybe 2 feet deep at the most and each stroke meant your hand and halfway up your forearm were deep in sludge! It was difficult to swim and I tried to stand up, but just sunk up to my knees in it and quickly got myself horizontal again. Maybe it would be deeper to the right? I moved over and cut my hands on some sharp rocks so moved back again. Everyone was in the same boat and I have to say I’ve never been happier to be hauled out of the water by the volunteers at the steep platform exit as it had been a desperate, lung-bursting thrash around for the last few hundred metres.

With my previous swim best of 1.16 or thereabouts, my goal was to swim 1.11 or 1.12, figures carefully plucked out of nowhere in particular but I knew I was swimming well so had thought it possible. Well, how about 1.05 then!! Chuffing Norah! I was gobsmacked and ecstatic all at the same time and I nearly cried with happiness as I jogged the 600metres to the transition area. Maybe I was really on for a sub 11 hour time, I was stoked!

Incidentally, I have to say I was slightly suspicious of the time and for a while thought the course must have been short. Garmin said 3780m, so did another competitor’s watch and when I checked,  the top 3 Pro men “only” swam the course in 54 – 57 minutes so I reckon it was probably about right otherwise they would have swum it much more quickly. I worked hard for that and I’m having it regardless!

T1 was a record time for me too and just seemed to go really smoothly so 2 x PBs so far!

Then of course, there was the little matter of a 180km bike ride. Generally, the course was roughly 30km out, 3 loops of 40km and 30km back. For all you guys in the UAE, a little similar to doing the stick, 3 x loops and back down the stick again. It was pretty much totally flat but quite technical in places and was a mix of great tarmac and really bumpy, lumpy, humpy stuff.  

Oh, and the first 4km and the last 4km were through a park, over kerbs, down pavements, up over flyovers across major roads and generally pretty bumpy and slow. So bumpy in fact that my 3 gels I had stuffed into my crap Profile Designs aero bottle cage, were catapulted out at some point without me noticing and I was left short. Not good, definitely, not good.

Bumpety bump over the first and last 4k

Anyway, I have to admit that conditions were nigh-on perfect. There was a good cloud cover to shield us from the potentially hot sun, only a very slight wind and I was feeling on top of things, so pushed on.

A couple of things I’d like to say about the bike course. The main one is that there was a lot of cheating going on, I mean a lot. Very blatant drafting with individuals tucking in behind some faster person in front, groups of 3 working through and off together (even the pro men seemed to be drafting), large pelotons of riders just all benefiting from being in a pack of thirty and then of course there were us guys trying our hardest to stick to the rules. I’m not whiter than white and the lanes were very narrow in places so it was difficult not to bunch up at times, but a lot of what was going on was blatant. I’m not sure why I got so wound-up about it but bloody hell, I found it frustrating. This happens to be a photo of me, seemingly oblivious that there were more than a few limpets behind me!

Secondly on the bike course, they had advertised GU gels as being available at all aid stations which was perfect as we use them all the time here for training. Basically they didn’t have any until the last aid station so I messed up on my nutrition. I ate way too many of the stupid, airy rice crispy “energy bars” they provided, got fed up with bananas and the Mule Bars I was carrying and although I felt fine on the bike, was going to struggle later on. Oh, the prosciutto baguettes they had were amazing by the way but again, I wasn’t really used to eating them or so much solid food, so only managed an enjoyable 2 or 3! I couldn’t stick to my plan of alternating every 30 minutes with gel then solid food which was disappointing.

So, about 90km in, I was doing well. I whooshed into an aid station and the road was quite narrow as it was in a lot of places on the course. I picked up a drink, in the cage. Picked up a banana, in the pocket.  Grabbed a bar and ….the bloke in front of me stopped suddenly, pretty much in the middle of the road….FFS.

Now I know why Brits have the front brake on the right.

I never hit him as I slammed on the left brake, which up until recently was the back brake,  then stupidly decided to return it back to its original state a month or two ago to tidy up the cables…..but I was over the top and on the deck. Bad one I’m afraid. It was a big clunk and the first time in my life I’ve actually seen “stars” like in the Tom and Jerry cartoons.  I was pretty dazed and after what seemed like an age, the stars stopped and it seemed my only concern was getting back on the bike and getting on with it. My stuff was all over the road and with a bit of help from a volunteer,  a great deal of swearing, swaggering about,  a lot more cursing, putting spare tubes, repair kits and the like back on the bike, swearing even more, finally, I did get going, stupid I know, but it was a race after all.

As I got back on track, I realised my knee was bleeding, as were my hands all over my brand new and shiny white bar-tape. My forearm and elbow were too, but it was my left shoulder that was hurting a lot and I’d cracked my head and seemed to have a rather worrying lump on it near my temple. I think I was a bit more broken than I realised at the time.

Stupidly, I didn’t check my bike or anything else before I got on my way again, I was too dazed and confused and just trying to figure out what the heck had happened. But what I did have, was the presence of mind to realise if I started to suffer any loss of mental capacity, blurred vision or anything similar, I would stop at the nearest house and ask for medical help.

For the first few tentative kilometres, I was really quite concerned that perhaps I wasn’t doing the right thing by continuing. So to test how my mental capacity was, I thought of an old Queen album and started singing the songs in my head and trying to add the lyrics on the basis that if I could remember all the words from such a long time ago, there probably wasn’t much wrong with me!  It seemed to work and after a while, I just carried on where I’d left off and was soon whizzing along nicely, so relatively happy. I quite enjoyed reminiscing to the music too and it definitely helped to pass the time!

Whose fault was the crash? I have to accept that it was mine, at least mostly. I mulled this over for a long, long time, a good few weeks actually, but at the end of the day, I should have been able to stop no matter what and I couldn’t….you live and learn as they say and I do hope I’ve learned from that. I don’t ever want to experience that again, either the crash itself or the weeks of discomfort and grinding in my aged body afterwards. Anyway, it can’t have been that bad I suppose as at least I was able to carry on…..

The first 150km or so of the bike course was quite kind weather-wise, but the last 30km or so was directly into the wind and I bent over and gritted my teeth. It seemed that that’s when a lot more of the individual drafters came out of the woodwork. I passed people, only to find they had clung on to my back wheel a km or so later. I started off by asking people politely not to draft when I noticed and generally after I’d asked, they dropped back which was fair play. However, there were a few persistent little limpets who were just intent on clinging half a metre off my back wheel. No matter what I seemed to do, they hung on and there was one guy who was so close he was making me nervous, I had to growl at him to “just f*** off” and I was very happy when he did!  It was somewhat annoying and dangerous too especially, if you don’t know someone’s on your wheel. If you don’t know, you can’t make allowances for it. If I’d stopped or slowed suddenly and without warning, it would put both of us in harm’s way. A quick swerve or lack of concentration here or there, means wheels can touch and I really didn’t need any more incidents.

Anyway, there I was plodding away happily down an empty country lane and just to rub salt into the wound, a wasp or bee or similar flew into my head with quite some force, poor thing. I thought that was the end of it, but it was just the start as somehow it had got wedged in-between my sunglasses rim and my forehead. Jesus!  I swerved a couple of times as I tried to relieve it of its (and my) predicament by brushing it to freedom. It didn’t work though and instead of stinging the sunglass rim, the bloody thing stung me on the eyebrow which apart from nearly making me crash into a dyke, was pretty painful!!  I haven’t had a very good history with bee stings and I briefly wondered if I’d keel over somewhere by the side of the road, convulsing and foaming at the mouth, in a deep anaphylactic shock while all the cheating drafters who I’d previously managed to get rid of, stuck two fingers up at me as they sailed on by!! Happily no permanent damage though and I continued on to the last 4km….

Bumpety bump over the kerbs, pavements, flyovers and the last bit through the park and I was very, very pleased with 5h 16m on the bike. To be fair, I think it was a couple of Kms short but actually not giving too hoots, it was a big PB (previous best was in Austria at 5.34) and I’ll take it any day of the week especially given the flyovers, kerbs, pavements etc. of the first and last 4kms…and of course the fact that I’d crashed….. I know I was smiling when I got off the bike!

Into T2, my thoughts and mental calculations were running at fever-pitch now. I “only” needed to run about a 4.30 marathon to get under 11 hours and I could feel the excitement pushing me along. Again, another PB in T2 and I was on my way. 4 PBs out of 4!!

I felt ok actually and whilst I knew I wasn’t going to break any records on the run due to Achilles’ stuff, 4.30 was still SO doable, it’s just a plod and I was really made-up with a quiet, positive air of confidence, determination and excitement. I could hardly contain myself and was grinning from ear to ear….Game on!!

The run course was 5 (yes five) laps around a mostly flat, quite exposed parkland, on a very convoluted trail (maybe it was supposed to resemble spaghetti?!) with some deceptively hilly bits hidden in there too. Now that was a test of mental endurance if ever there was one!  I guess at least one of the theories behind it from the organiser’s point of view was to make it easy for spectators and maybe it did, regardless I can’t say they were exactly out in droves.

Spaghetti x 5 loop

The sun also decided to come out in force making the conditions a little testing as there was very little shade to be found throughout the park.  As I plodded on, just happily grinding out the kms, the first 10 were done in 1.03 or something unremarkable like that.

I was on target which was brilliant!! But I am a realist and it quickly dawned on me there and then that there was no way I wasn’t going to slow significantly over the next 30km. I felt sad, hollow and a bit helpless and try as I might, I was bonking a bit too. The Gu gels which were supposed to be at the aid stations had somehow been replaced by Powerbar gels, which are really yuk. Bananas weren’t doing it for me as I’d had too many already during the race, the rice energy airy things were next to useless and I was struggling. I got through it and plodded on, you know how it is, but my target time was looking less and less likely. After  dragging myself round 3 loops, it was somewhat soul-destroying to realise I still had 2 loops left, but to further add to the situation, I then hit the wall, big time.

I felt I had tried every permutation of what they had to eat and drink and it just wasn’t happening for me. I walked to the top of the “hill” where there was an aid station and just sat down. At that moment, I wasn’t able to carry on and needed fuel from somewhere, so just I started eating. Anything to hand was stuffed in, I didn’t care what it was or if my stomach was going to feel bloated, I just needed to get going again.  My Garmin (God love it!) tells me I only stopped for around 3 minutes, but it felt like an absolute dog’s-age at the time. Race time was ticking on and time was exactly what I didn’t have any of in reserve.

As I slowly picked myself back up again and plodded on, I felt determined to just tough it out no matter what. Hey, we’ve all done it before and I was all too aware of what was involved, but that’s exactly what IM is about and that’s exactly what I ended up doing. Sheer stubbornness, bloody mindedness, never say die attitude, call it what you will….I just kept going and ended up running/walking in a quite unattractive but effective manner. Each of the numerous turns became a milestone and when I’d finished my fourth lap, suddenly 1 loop didn’t seem so far to complete. Now, with every turn, happily it was the last time that I’d ever had to see that part of the course again and it spurred me on from seemingly the depths of despair!

Even though I’d known deep down for a few hours that I wasn’t going to make it, I was desperately disappointed as the clock ticked on relentlessly past my magic 10.59.59 and I tried to find reason and consolation in my muddled mind. Right now though, I only wanted to finish and be done with it, get it over with, and get over it.

Going down the finish chute was a good feeling, it always is, but 11.21 wasn’t. 

So…PB or not PB……If you count the swim, t1, bike, t2, run and overall time as separate entities (so 6 timings), I achieved 5 x PBs which is fantastic…..I just wish I was happier with the result.

…And it was at that precise moment, I knew I could do a lot better and would do, one day. Dammit!

There are no words I can think of right now to let you know just how I felt at that moment other than sheer deflation, but what I do know even to this day, is that I wasn’t tired. My legs were fine and after I’d had some “proper” food, I felt good to go again. It might sound strange, but I know I hadn’t reached anything like my limits, I had just messed up my nutrition on the day.

The timing format wasn’t the best, but my calculations suggest that in my age-group of 74(ish), I was about 17th on the swim, 10th after the bike and a miserable 22nd after the run.

 

After Challenge Venice…..

 

The current thinking is that it’s time for a break from full distance racing, there’s just too much time commitment, unpredictability with injuries and in comparison, 70.3 is easy peasy and just as much fun with the training, travelling and racing!

Several weeks on from the race, my shoulder is grinding and sore but on the mend and my bike has just come back from an expensive carbon repair to one of the seat stays which was impacted in the crash. I’m already rapidly piling on the kilos and I’m looking forward to getting back to training, but just trying to give my body and mind a decent amount of time to recover before I get back into a routine again.

So, just a couple of observations on the race itself…. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  It was the inaugural Challenge Venice, so there were bound to be some teething problems but surprisingly very few. The setting for the whole race was great, starting from the island of Venice itself was awesome and the course as a whole was/is definitely a fast one.
The volunteers were amazing even though the crowd support was lacking a bit throughout and the feel of the race was a lower-key Challenge Family type event, rather than the hyped-up circus that is Ironman and actually it was a really nice change.

The glass crafted medal was unique and very typically Italian ie stylish, as was the finisher sports t-shirt. The obligatory bag was a genuine TYR bag and a real quality addition to the swelling collection.
Anything else has probably been covered in the body of the text although Challenge have announced that the bike course will only be 2 loops in the future, which is a deliberate and positive move to combat the drafting problems they had this year.

We did get to go to Venice finally the day after the race and do a bit of sightseeing and eat some yummy food and drink wine, a fabulous experience.

Huge thanks go to Sarah for putting up with me on this long journey (and massive congrats to you for qualifying for the Championships!!!), Merle for waving her magic wand and definitely to coach Paul at F4L Coaching for everything he’s done for me over the past 4 years or so, but particularly for always getting me to the starting line in the best shape I could possibly be, given my circumstances at the time.

It was a brilliant experience overall and a thoroughly recommended race, but what did I take away from the journey to Challenge Venice?

1)     You don’t have to run a marathon, or even long distances in practice to do one

2)     You don’t have to do umpteen long bike rides to do well over long distances

3)     Slow down at aid stations!

4)     Stick to the nutrition you know, especially on the bike as you’ll need it for the run (be more self-sufficient?)

5)     I need to do more swimming in a pack to try and become more comfortable with it (lack of race practice?)

6)     Being lean(er) = fast(er). My lowest weight in the past 20 years was building up to IM Austria where I was about 65.5kg and for this race, I was nearly another 3kg lighter.

Proper personalised coaching plans work and I’m more than delighted to have a coach that believes in quality sessions over quantity.  For one, it saves me a massive amount of time for which I’m very grateful and it also reduces the chances of aggravating old injuries and bringing on any new ones, which definitely works for me.

Just for the record, on this occasion my longest training week was just a little over 11 hours. I did one long bike ride of 5 hours and other than that, rides were generally in the region of 3 – 4 hours and I had just 2 x runs of 2 hours (deliberate given my Achilles situation).

PB……

Very, very happy days 😊

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