Ok maybe a bit more...
After Kilkee, I had a heel issue due to landing awkwardly off the bike in T2 or stepping on a kerb it seems. Had a week or so of gentle running on a changed gait to keep weight off, used my calves more which defo helped run form and speed but also put more strain on the calf muscles obviously so was a delicate one.
Anyway, I upped biking a bit in that period and by Mid July was feeling strong and starting to see some positive numbers on the power meter.
I had planned an FTP test before holidays but it didn't happen so in Mid July I was off to Thailand for just over 2 weeks.
Epic, beautiful country, loved the heat and humidity, so much to see and do and travelled to lots of islands and had a brilliant time. If you haven't been, get it up there on the must do list!
I took this as a mid season break, this was tough as my bike fitness was improving and run was showing some progress but a holiday is a holiday and I was here to enjoy it.
Most of the hotels had gyms so I managed to keep a moderate level of fitness and conditioning as well as not really put on much weight thankfully. I didn't get to swim as much as I thought as it wasn't suitable in a number of the islands, I biked next to nothing as spending more than an hour on a gym bike is the mother of all boredom and even for a turbo lover like me it was painful! I ran and did a few core/conditioning sessions and kept fit basically - maybe 7-8 hours a week and all easy due to the heat!
Towards the end of the holiday we were staying in Phuket and it turned out to be quite near Thanyapura - this is a serious training facility that I knew about from Chris McCormack and most have probably heard about it by now. What a place, 25m pool, 50m pool, huge gym, 500m track, tennis courts, trails, hotel, restaurants, classes on all day you name it. Serious place to go for a training camp, granted a tad far from Ireland but if you can do it.
What was most interesting was the daily sessions, there were 2 x mind sessions per day every day. I didn't get to make these but shows the priority and focus at that level.
I did manage to get there for a decent swim and track session one of the days and was very happy I did. Got beaten up at a swim set and was just what I needed with a 5k set, 20 x 200's off 3:15 which I wasn't going to hold but managed off 3:30 with a nice blow up near the end!
That afternoon I made the track session, this was coached by Ben Hammond an aussie resident coach there and I got talking to him and was fortunate to get some sound advice which I've been applying.
I told him I was struggling with my tempo runs and he asked a few questions and advised me to dial back my easy runs and most of runs and be fresher then for tempo session.
Makes sense, very easy to say but from my perspective I had been trying to bring my run pace down for most of my runs as thought this would show progress.
I've seen others who are much faster runners than me train with a lot of intensity, and this works very well for them. I now know from my own training that I cannot sustain this, and need to do a lot of my running easier in order to hit proper efforts at tempo and speed runs which are where I seem to gain progress and need.
This requires patience, when I'm seeing some of my competition with great run pedigree do their easy runs at 4:30/km pace, or long runs even faster and I think I need to gravitate this way.
Not so, I cannot sustain enough volume or intensity when I train this way.
So the patience for me is in slowing down on easy runs, not just recovery runs and even on long runs. And I mean slow down, talking 5-6min/km pace and concentrating on form.
So I have been doing this for near 3 weeks now, and it is paying dividends. I am hitting my tempo pace runs at least, I am training at higher volumes and perhaps most importantly, I am enjoying my training more than ever.
I got a few technique tips also from Ben Hammond and they have definitely been helping, my form seems improved and ultimately running feels better and easier which is always a good sign.
Time will tell if this makes me a faster runner, but in training it seems to be helping and so I am happy to continue on this path as the more intensive one tried a couple times and failed miserably both times setting me back!
So I enjoyed the holiday, had cocktails, delicious food, desserts, more cocktails and some more cocktails. Loved it.
I returned seriously refreshed and eager for a big training block ahead of my next race, but more importantly a big ironman prep block.
So that takes me to August, and the first 2.5 weeks have gone very well.
My volume, consistency and technique has seen improvements and I'm happy and on track I feel.
My bike numbers feel back to where they were in mid July and fitness feels improved.
Both swimming and running are showing progress and on track I hope for Mallorca in 5.5 weeks time.
I'd like to do an FTP test but won't fit it in before Kenmare Half Ironman so I'll use these numbers and try fit in an FTP test in the week/two afterwards to clarify my FTP ahead of Ironman Mallorca.
If I were to guesstimate my FTP now, I'd say somewhere between 4.6 and 4.75 watts/kg. One of my season goals was to try reach 5 w/kg which is proving more difficult than I had hoped. Next ftp test will indicate if I'm closer or not.
I haven't done enough racing to gauge progress in other disciplines, and haven't done any TT's to track either which is a lack of planning on my behalf, but also been a necessary evil as I prioritise training over these and the races will be the real key.
I can't work out if Kenmare is good or bad timing so we shall see.
I'm finishing my 3rd hard week this week, having 1 day off and then 2 more key days before I have a short 3 day taper before racing Kenmare. This may leave me with fatigue in legs but the sessions are important to my training for the ironman and I'm happy to do them.
I will try and have a few days easy recovery after Kenmare, followed by 6-7 solid days and start a 2.5 week taper for Mallorca then. This is my guideline plan and of course subject to change.
I react to my body, a simple example would be this Monday I had planned a long brick session, but started and legs were dead. Changed plans, into pool for a decent swim, recovery run and then brick done on Tuesday feeling much better and hitting planned numbers.
There are still days where you get the session done and it's rubbish, but has to be done sometimes. I seem to have these in the pool more than elsewhere. Some days I'm flying and feel on top of the water. Others I'm swimming in treacle! I seem to be learning bit by bit and tweaking technique bits to hopefully become more consistent and efficient in the water. I'm still self coached and do most of my swims on my own so happy enough with my progress.
As I near my last 2 races I realise again I haven't done enough racing this season and I've missed it!
I didn't really nail an early season goal at all and had a few setbacks so wasn't in great shape anyway. I have learned an early season goal is quite important for both hitting the required training over the winter, and also getting in shape for race season as opposed to enjoying the summer for training towards and end of season goal as opposed to being out there racing.
I suspect next season will see me try get in shape for an early season goal all going well.
The flip side is I am feeling at my fittest now and this time last year I was getting weaker by the week! I'm hoping to land a few more watts, speed and consistency to be happy with my fitness for the 2 races ahead. Mallorca shifted to the priority early on and I'm on track for that. As I said Kenmare is funny timing so I will go there looking forward to a decent hit out in quite good shape and see what happens.
Last note - pre-ironman debut thoughts. "the fear"
It's still 5.5 weeks away so not really forefront of my thoughts other than mental focus in training sessions. My underlying thought though is on the marathon and the world of pain I will have to endure both physical and mental!
As seen recently, Shane Scully had the very poor misfortune to get a tubular puncture and dnf his ironman debut. This can happen us all and seems such a waste for an ironman after all the training, cost and preparation. Lousy Lousy luck but I'm sure it will turn around for Shane very soon.
So it's hard to go into an ironman knowing it will be such a long day and so much can go wrong. Some of these things may be minor and some major so who knows.
One can only control the controllables of preparation and hope all goes as well, at least mechanically well as possible on race day.
After that, then it's down to nutrition, digestion, heat affects, pacing, concentration, hydration, patience, fitness, execution and mental strength.
Right then, straight forward it is...!
The list above becomes more apparent in longer distance racing obviously and so I have no idea really what will happen. I've trained as many of these as I can but as we all know race days can be different.
I will approach the race as best I can, and hope to execute my plan with whatever happens.
I am excited to see how I race an ironman, react and experience what has been a long time goal up to now.
Some say enjoy your first ironman, but you could say that about any race. We all have different measures of enjoyment, be them time or discipline goals, maximising your own race day or even a placings goal.
For me, I do have 2 or 3 goals in the race itself, but the ultimate one will be to cross the finish line knowing I gave it my all on the day.
I don't see much point in publishing goals when this is my debut at the distance and as I've said before the ironman has beaten up many an athlete fitter than me.
I'd be lieing if I said I didn't have a time goal (or perhaps 2-3 versions depending on conditions/course etc), but I don't know if I can complete the distance at planned intensity levels yet so they are all somewhat goals to focus the training, but with the understanding anything could happen.
Anyway, back to the training for another while and hit out trying to find the lost sheep.