Derby Triathlon Club

‘A tale of two world championships’ and a bit more, my 2013 season by Chris Nicoll

2013 has been a good year of racing so here is my personal review.

Planning

2012 was something of a recovery year after being ill at the end of 2011 - 6 months off racing and a cautious return was ‘doctors orders’. Winning the DTC 2012 summer series was then a confidence builder and 7th Vet 40-44 at the World Duathlon Champs in Nancy France was good. Winning the Tri 247 UK Triathlon League was something of a fluke with only the bare number of qualifying events completed. The year’s highlight being at London 2012 – awesomeness indeed!! However, a 2:45 marathon in rainy October finished the season really well. So at this time last year (October) plans for the 2013 season were being worked out (as I am sure you are all now doing for 2014…).

Having already qualified for the 2013 duathlon worlds (in Canada) because of previous results qualifying wasn’t an issue this year, but a national age group gold had eluded me (4 silvers at duathlon and tri was getting annoying). Looking at the previous winning times I believed I could win or at least get very close again as long as I had good prep, no injuries and no recurrence of health issues. The world triathlon champs were also announced for Hyde Park, home turf really, and being a London 2012 Games Maker in Hyde Park it was too good a possibility not to try and qualify! So that was it, national duathlon champs in March, national sprint champs as the qualifier for London at Notts in May, throw in the club trip to Majorca 70.3 in May as a bridging event, a London Marathon entry in April (if ready), Alpe D’uez short course tri 2 weeks before Canada, and some others to fill in along the way. We had a plan!

National Duathlon Champs Rutland Water - 9th March

Holding the national duathlon champs in the first weekend in March is a stupid idea because it is the first race of the year for most and is quite questionable weather wise. I have complained to the BTF! What it means is that some serious training is required all winter, in the cold and dark. The 2012-13 winter training programme began with - 3 weeks rest. The idea is you start training completely rested after 6 months of continuous training and racing. Unfortunately I then fell victim of a ‘go on then’ race, being the Dovedale Dash a 4mile cross country run in early November, which I pushed too hard on unnecessarily and pulled a hamstring, meaning an desolate 1mile walk back to the finish, and an even longer rest. Physio and more gym work and a steady return through swimming and cycling meant by Christmas the hamstring was ok again and I was training properly again (though I still feel it now almost a year later), and I hadn’t put too much weight on. A chest infection the whole of the Christmas break was a real set back too, so much so that I was worried I’d run out of time to get fit before the duathlon champs in March.

Winter 2012/13 you will recall was very cold and snow filled with weeks of little chance of much outdoor training. This meant careful planning was needed day by day to get the time in and I can say I have never done more indoor training, much of it crammed and rushed and late in the day. Working fulltime and family commitments meant training includes cycling to work, running at lunchtime, gym work including treadmill running and lots of turbo training. Strength and cardio-vascular base work were sorted then but lacking on much stamina work. But throw in a few Derby XC League races and a few of the Derby Mercury chain gang rides for speed and a fair few brick sessions and I knew progress was being made. I really knew I was on track with a good XC race in mid Feb (6th place). The following week I did the Blackpool Half Marathon after a good bike ride to the start, and in near perfect conditions did a 1hr 14m and 1st vet, just short of a life time best time. The following Sunday was one week before the duathlon champs and the last XC event, which I won without much trouble (hurrah!). I would have preferred another couple of weeks but I went to the Dambuster National Duathlon with some confidence, my only real question was stamina at race pace on the bike, and how would everyone else have fared over the winter???

The race was held in near perfect conditions at Rutland Water (very lucky timing a week later Clumber Duathlon was cancelled due to snow), and there were lots of familiar faces. I had a really good race. Racing (at this level) and course experience was a real help here, because in mixed age group wave starts you can get carried away that those blasting off from the start will be brilliant cyclists too, when consistency and a strong finishing run wins the race. Anyway the run was good if not lightening quick (34min run) - don’t panic! So I reckoned I was 3rd or 4th. On the bike I went for the ‘go hard from the off and hold on’ approach and I knew on the lumpy course I had taken a few places within 5miles and was in a medal position (but which one?). I then had a real ding-dong with a guy (Lee Piercy) clearly in my age group. I got past him on a climb and then he came past me on the flat (I later found out he had a 55T chain ring). I was already cramping up on the bike with a few miles still to go…After transition Lee was ahead but I started steady letting the running legs warm up, picking up the pace, within 500m all ok, head down, concentrate! An out and back course, so you can see at the turn the runners ahead coming back. How many are there, there are other age groups mixed in too??!. Well that guy looks like a vet and Lee is still ahead also but yes the gap is closing! Well I caught Lee with 200m to the line and didn’t hesitate kicking past and went clear. Ah well another silver I thought! But asking about…no, there were no other V40s, so maybe….. 20 mins later it was confirmed, gold by 20seconds! I’d given it everything I had and was chuffed to bits, and top ten on GC!

Majorca Trip 1

A couple of weeks later Gav Fletcher and I went to Majorca for a short week to recce the 70.3 course. The best place to train and conditions were near perfect, the course looked brilliant, definitely time trial bike, sorted!

Injury!

Unfortunately I tried to cram a bit too much running in after the trip to get ready for London Marathon and turned up for the Bevoir Half Marathon (my PB course) with tired legs and should have gone straight home. But regretfully I pushed it with a 36min first 10km and then seized up after 10 miles and limped back with calves and an achilles on fire (though looking back with a 1:17 it couldn’t have been that bad). No London Marathon then, and an injury that plagued me all the rest of the season.

Majorca 70.3 - 11th May

No races for a month then, physio, ice, rest and compression socks for weeks, the 11th May trip to Majorca for the 70.3 questionable. Would the run end up as a walk? At least an opportunity to do more swimming and cycling meantime. I managed a 5m run the week before Majorca but stayed sore for days. Majorca 70.3 was started with some doubts about the run, but the swim was ok (by my average standards) the bike went well on a superb course, all the time worrying about the run. A couple of Ibuprofen at the end of the bike and the first 5km of the run was fine at 6:20m/mile pace, until the injuries started really hurting regardless, but by holding back and really focussing I got through on a more sedate 7m/mile pace for a 1:26 run and an happy time of 4:40, 11th in age group, with only a smidgen of what might have been fully fit!! Later I could barely walk and after a few days it was obvious that I’d done my leg no favours! More rest and rehab!

National Age Group Sprint Champs - 1st June

The next race was the National Sprint Champs at HPP Notts on 1st June, the qualifier for London Age Group Worlds. There was also a host of DTC vying for London places too supporting each other. But I wasn’t confident because my swimming is too shaky, it was just a question of whether I could make up enough time and places in the 750m/20km/5km format on the bike and run with a dodgy calf to get one of the 7 GB places up for grabs. Again a couple of short steady runs in the week before and I thought I’d get round ok. As usual a pretty rubbish swim (12:08) and a poor transition getting the wet suit off and I was 28th (so the results say) at the start of the bike. Blasting the bike I knew I’d moved up quite a lot (3rd fastest age group bike split) and off on the run. Starting steady I felt ok and picked up the pace (a Garmin GPS watch is brilliant for this) the second mile was at 5:35m pace and I was picking people off. Then the hurt set in and I was limping. I recall passing a chap with 400m to go and hanging on with gritted teeth. In the end 8th fastest age group run, 7th place the last qualifying spot, job done. But I could barely walk off the course.

Alpe Duez Tri

So time now hopefully to get the calf sorted before August 8th and Canada. The Alpe Duez short course 2 weeks before hand was booked as a final training trip 2 weeks before, and a great event to go to, especially with a host of DTC members there with families enjoying the great weather and scenery. In the meantime no real running but two cycle road races with top ten results which was good to do again (I did 10 years of bike racing before starting in tri in 2002).

In the end I started running again on sore calves with the hope that active (painful) recovery may actually help, and I seemed better when running off the bike (warmed up). I’d paid the entry fee for Ottawa but not paid for the trip/flights until I knew I could go and be competitive. So I entered a 10km 4 weeks before to see how things were going and if I had a chance of getting run fit. A steady start until 5km and then pushing on I did a 35:16 which was really pleasing if not entirely comfortable with it. So I paid the £1500 for the flights and had 4 weeks to get proper fit including Alpe Duez.

July was therefore spent on speed work both running and on the bike with little swimming. A good DTC sprint event on a wet night on the 18th was the warmer before France. This was a 5 day training trip, the sprint race aim was to go hard but not to give it everything and to train for the next 3 days too at elevation if not ‘altitude’. This sort of went to plan, but whatever you think you can’t really go steady riding up the Alpe as you’d go backwards if you did, and it was damn hot too! The highlight was actually supporting the other DTC members and my brother Ed who lives out there on the killer of the long course race. I hired a bike rather than take my own which was ok if not ideal, and the saddle sores I got were remarkable if quite private! The best news race wise was the run was fine and I also managed bike/run brick sessions over the next 3 days with improvement towards the sub 6min/mile pace I knew was needed for Canada if I had any chance of a good result.

World Age Group Duathlon Champs - 8th August

Ottawa came around then and because of the late arrangements I had to travel solo, flying from Heathrow but the hotel I got was close to the start and it was good that Colin Warden from DTC was down the road in the ‘official’ GB hotel. Ottawa is the capital city of Canada but probably no bigger than Derby, though with a lot more trees and little traffic! Where are the shops then? The answer is underground because the average winter temp is like -28oC. Thankfully the weather was warm and sunny with a bit of a breeze. A lovely place but not one I trouble too much to visit again.

The course (10km/40km/5km) was not initially to my liking as it was a flat run and bike and not very technical. The good thing about living in Derbyshire is that you get good at riding the hills, none on this course. A massage in the team hotel with Lee Piercy (you will recall from the National Champs) bigging up his prep and lying alongside Olympic rower and all round sport addict James Cracknell (who had qualified at Cambridge) were memorable. On the day the run which was an out and back affair was on a closed main road and more undulating than expected because of a couple of flyovers. At 5:30min mile pace every change off a flat gradient is noticed. I started pretty steady running off the pace I hoped to sustain and stay in touch with the leaders and what I had managed in training. It was a 2 hour race after all. Lee went off on a flyer and he was the man to catch. My split time of 35:55 and 5th was not really that quick by world standards but I was still in touch which was the aim. Off on the bike, again I just hammered it and got up into 3rd within a few miles. On the turns I was slowly catching up on 2nd place with Lee still well out in front. I did go off too hard and from 20miles was beginning to suffer and cramp up but it was at this point I caught the Canadian for 2nd place so couldn’t back off. In fact I tried to get something of a gap as he was obviously a good runner and I didn’t know how my legs were going to hold up. Coming into transition I had a good gap and thought it would be ok, but the Canadian came out flying and caught me after 1km. I hung on as he came past and I could tell he was starting to cramp but so was I! We stayed together until 4km when I pushed off up a flyover and got a gap and coming into the last 400m had 10m which I thought with my kick was enough. I kicked with 100m to go and going flat out was gutted to sence him come past me to take the silver on the line, DAMN! Lee had won deservedly by some 2mins which is huge at this standard. I had to be happy with a medal which is what I went for even if silver was so close!

World Age Group Sprint Tri Champs London - 13th September

Coming home the treadmill of events was moving towards the London Sprint Worlds on the 13th Sept. So back to the pool and some more fast work on the bike and run. Three 5km run races and the great Club Relays back at Nottingham was the prep for London. The runs went well with two wins and 16:11 at Chesterfield 5km an all time PB but sadly not an official English Athletics event, and always sore calf afterwards but the injury was obviously largely behind me. I neglected swimming too much due to work issues on swim training nights but turned up at London knowing I should be ok even if not threatening for a medal.

The London event was huge but a massive rip off too (like all GB Age group events are) at over £100 for a 1hr race. I don’t want to be too grumpy but you do feel exploited both for entry and kit. I have had to buy 3 sets of GB kit in 7 years at £90 a time for something you should get at cost price which I expect is less than half that. My first task was to go back to the spot I marshalled in 2012, 100m from the finish and on the run course! The bike course was short and flat and to be honest not enough of a test! The event was however, very well organised with many 1000s of competitors. The run up wasn’t without hitches about what slot we were racing in, signing on times etc. but experience counts on these events, stay chilled! Racing on Friday morning was also new!

The swim shouldn’t have been too congested because we were allocated a slot on the pontoon for an in water start, but by Christ some folk can’t swim straight! I think there was about 100 in my leg (2 legs in the age group) and I was kicked twice and thumped in the face, having to reset my goggles, but to be honest I didn’t expect anything so wasn’t too upset with an average time (the slowest in the top 25 finishers). The bike (and run) was obviously where I was hoping to make up time, but it became obvious straight away that the heavy rain made the bike course very slippy and folk were sliding off regularly. There was even wooden ramps over sleeping policemen and lots of off camber sections which with a slick tyre on the rear disk was not helpful and I barely held it together more than once. Maybe I went too steady but I stayed on the bike and did an average time but did feel I had lots left in the tank for the run. Curiously I saw a chap fly out of transition while I was jogging to the exit point and thought I’d not catch him, and then did so after a km, I realised I was going well! This time I just hammered the run, flat out holding nothing back and caught plenty, to finish with the fastest run split of the day in a 16:09 (5:22 2nd mile) and 15th overall. Satisfied without being elated! It was nice to see Andy Tarry storm to a win after he has won so many of our local events it’s some relief to know he really is world class!!

Post London

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to do the Derby Sprint 48hrs later and after an awful swim (while thinking ‘what am I doing this for?!’) was good enough for 4th. The rest of the September and October has been a steady ‘warm down’ with a couple of events including Carsington Duathlon to try for an active injury free rest period including the start of the XC league. Even a few beers!

Conclusion

A national gold, world bronze and world top 15 along with a few wins at open runs has to be a very good injury affected year. What it reinforced was the requirement to plan for events and to peak for big races and not try to be fit all year, finally to tailor training for specific events. Writing this has been a really interesting exercise and I recommend a bit of reflection for all you athletes before committing to 2014.

2014

So far:

  • National Duathlon Champs March
  • World Duathlon Champs May
  • London Marathon April
  • Ironman Majorca September

Race Result Summary 2013

February

  • 10 XC League 4th
  • 17 XC League 6th
  • 24 Blackpool Half M 6th/1st Vet 01:14:29

March

  • 3 XC League 1st
  • 9 National Duathlon 9th/1st Vet

April

  • 7 Bevoir Half Marathon 6th/3rd Vet 01:17:46

May

  • 11 Majorca 70.3 128/11th Vet 4:40.

June

  • 1 Nottingham Tri 7th vet 1:00:48 Qualified for GB
  • 16 Darley Moor Race 6th
  • 27 Derby Tri SS 1st
  • 30 Stan Jones RR 63m 10th

July

  • 7 Catforth 10km 2nd/1st vet 00:35:16
  • 10 Derby Tri SS Burton 3rd
  • 13 Crich Fete Run12km 5th
  • 18 Derby Tri SS 1st
  • 25 Alpe Duez Tri Short Course 121/14th vet 02:25:37

August

  • 8 Ottawa World Duathlon 10th/3rd Vet Bronze
  • 17 Catforth 5km 4th/1st vet 00:17:02
  • 25 Club Relays 5th vet team

September

  • 1 Chesterfield 5km 1st 00:16:11
  • 8 Salford 5km 1st 00:16:32
  • 13 World Sprint Tri London15th vet
  • 15 Derby Sprint Tri 4th/1st vet

October

  • 7 Carsington Duathlon 3rd/1st vet
  • 13 XC League 4th/1st Vet

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