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When a PB doesn't feel like a PB

PC_67PC_67 Posts: 196
Hi, long post follows but I’d appreciate if you could read through & offer some thoughts.

When is a PB not a PB?

I did 2:38 on Saturday, beating my previous best of 2:43, so I should be happy. I kind of am but…

I entered Upton on a mate’s recommendation – it’s a guaranteed swim PB as the swim is downstream. I thought it was a really good event despite it not going to plan. Well done to the organizers, and thanks. Thanks to wife and 2 young kids too for camping in a wet field 150 miles from home for 2 nights just so I could do a fast swim.

Swim leg:

Anyway, on Saturday the river was as calm as a millpond and I’m told the water level was ten feet lower than last year. The wind was actually blowing ripples Upstream!

At the start line I did have to swim back a few metres to stop going over the line so there was definitely some assistance but I’m allowing myself to think it was moderate. I swam a smart race, changed pace when necessary to catch up with people to draft off etc. and swam really straight & sighted well. My stamina was good, keeping a decent stroke rate & stroke length throughout.

I did 25 mins - better than my usual 36 mins at Windsor so I had a 11 minute head start. I felt strong out of the water.

A rule of thumb for me is that I do a 40k bike and 10k run & the 2 transitions in 2 hours, give or take 2 minutes. So, on exiting the river I had my sights clearly on a sub 2:30.

Wetsuit came off like a dream and T1 went fine. I’m always a little on the slow side as I wear socks and run out in my cleats. I think I was 2 mins and a few seconds in T1. It was a 100m run out to the next mat.

Bike leg:

Then came the tough bit: legs just never got going on the bike. The course was undulating – some hills took a bit of work, but nothing that’d frighten you – and there was a long flat stretch into the wind. But given that I do Windsor, which is at least 1k longer, in 1:14 I was shocked at my 1:20 bike split. I’ll look up how I did relative to the field but I stayed in touch with most of the people I started out with as far as I could make out. Maybe everyone was a bit slow? I hope so. 1:20 is my slowest EVER bike in my 6th OD race.


The run started with what felt like a longish gradual climb for the first 1.5k (though it looked less tough in the car on Sunday!) and I felt comforted by the fact that I overtook around 10~15 people in my category and only got overtaken by 2. I finished the run in 48 mins – 2 to 3 mins slower than I had hoped.

Still, my HR was in the 180s for a lot of the run versus mid 160s when I do a 6-7 mile tempo run standalone, so I reckon I did well to sustain that. The consensus was that the run course was hard.


Now for the diagnosis: where did my bike go wrong?

OK, I know I haven’t put in the bike miles this year as my daily commute stopped for a few months due to losing my job. That said, I had time off last year too for different reasons and I’d say 2008 vs 2009 was pretty equal in terms of bike training.

My running training this year has been good but I have felt tired in the last 4 weeks. I had a spring in my step in May that I haven’t quite rediscovered this summer. I can’t complain about the 48 min run: the bike was harder than usual for me, and there was at least 2k running on a grassy surface that my legs just sank into.

I did a country spin on the bike in May with a pal from Farnham Tri and was far sharper than him. I did a 7 mile run 15 minutes afterwards in searing heat too.

I’m thinking that maybe I was a bit over-trained and I’m going to take it pretty easy before Milton Keynes on 26th July. I’ve felt tired for about 3 weeks now.


  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    How did you feel before the event? Good or bad in training?

    Potential Issues:
    1) A hard training session to close to the race (all my worst times have been done if I haven't rested the day before - despite feeling OK - this gets worse as you get older)
    2) Lack of sleep (camping might not be best!)
    3) Wrong nutrition. You need the fuel in your tank
    4) Might be coming down with something. I tend to notice performances slipping before I notice things like a sore throat/cough
    5) Did you have an HRM - what did that say?
    6) So keen to get a fast swim - you knew if would be fast - so really hammered that (with the adrenaline rush, you might not have noticed).
  • PC_67PC_67 Posts: 196
    Thanks Jack.

    with regard to 1: I hadn't done a hard session for about 8 days and I tapered reasonably well.
    2) not ideal sleep, but not too bad. I've competed better on less sleep
    3) nutrition: not ideal and will be able to tackle MK in better shape as I won't be on a campsite beforehand.
    4) yes, I had wondered about a bug coming on as I often notice poor training as being a precursor to a cold. However, I'm fine today!
    5) HR was higher than usual on bike. Into the 170s after a short while on the bike versus 150/160 usually when I train (though this is first time racing with a HRM and I had swum beforehand).
    6) No, I went hard in the swim but I was relishing it. I'm used to an upstream struggle at Windsor and here I actually felt like I was competing - I snook a few looks back during the race and saw plenty of white hats behind me. I actually felt stronger than usual out of the water.
  • Jack HughesJack Hughes Posts: 1,262
    The mind plays tricks. I think you went harder than usual in the water. Although you felt great afterwards, the body wasn't so sure. This, plus sub-optimal nutrition, meant a hard bike leg. This then probably (possibly subconciously) gave your confidence a knock - going from feeling great to crap, which meant picking back up again was hard.

    Sometimes, when things feel easy, you go harder than you would when they feel hard. e.g. cycling into a headwind - you know it's hard, so you pace yourself better. With a tail wind you feel that there is nothing to hold you back, so go for it. When running on the flat you can go all out, but on a hilly course you hold back a bit, because you know it's hard.

    For example, my best run performance has been on a hilly course (not in terms of time, but in terms of finish position). I don't consider myself to be good at hills - too tall, too heavy for going up. But I beat people who normally, in a 10K, finish 1 or 2 minutes ahead. I was about 40 seconds slower than on a flat PB course - where most people were around 2 or 3 minutes down. Because I was thinking it is going to be hard, I ended up holding back a bit - and effectively ran negative splits for the first time.

    It's all part of experience - you have to learn these things, I guess!
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    You have got the blues about your PB,your time was good but you expected to get an equal improvement on all three disciplines.A PB is only comparable on the same course,and even then there are numerous variables to factor in,weather,training etc.I will always have a magic number for my PB for a given distance sprint,OD,IM etc,but I will not compare it against different courses,my best OD time is at Ripon,but I would consider my slower time at Scarborough to have been a better race as it was a harder course.A previous thread remarked that some races have slightly shorter than listed distances so that competitors rate the course as a good one for fast times.Don't beat yourself up about it by over thinking the race,you did a fast time,well done.
  • PC_67PC_67 Posts: 196
    Thanks for the comments guys.

    jon.e - that's eaxctly what I'd have said to anyone who had just done the same but I guess self-analysis is a bit harder.

    Anyway, having downloaded the race results & done a bit of spreadsheet analysis I'm feeling a lot happier.

    I came in the top half across all age groups for my gender and I came 19th out of 65 in the Vets category. OK, so I'd be among the youngest at 42 but still...

    My bike split was pretty much the average & the median split in both overall & age group category, so that makes me feel a bit better. My run was even 11th fastest in my age group and my swim seems to have been in the top 60 out of about 170 male ODers.

    Lesson duly learnt from the wise words above
  • gunforhiregunforhire Posts: 457
    There's one thing that everyone's forgotten...

    Where you smiling at the end?
  • jonEjonE Posts: 1,113
    When some tells me that I should be smiling and not frowning as it takes less muscles to smile,I just tell them that ''I'm in training''. (that should have been two smiling smilies)
  • PC_67PC_67 Posts: 196
    My kids were at the finish so I found an ability to smile that I'm not sure I'd have found otherwise. I really found it tough going on saturday, tougher than I've felt in a while.

    I was smiling into a pint of local ale about an hour later though.
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