9 April 2012

I've moved!

Dear Followers,

I'm delighted to announce that I have a new website at nick-baldwin.com!  Regular blogging will continue from the website blog here.  All my previous blog entries have been transferred to the website blog, so for anyone hoping to check back through archived posts, that can be done from the new site. 

Thanks for following!


19 March 2012

Run Volume 2009 - 2011

I sometimes have a tendancy to over analyse things, but this time, I'll keep things simple.

June 2009 - IM UK 70.3 - Run Split: 1:29:57
July 2009 - IM Austria - Run Split: 3:33:43
December 2009 - Mauritius ITU - Run Split (10km): 43:16

July 2010 - IM Austria - Run Split: 3:26:11
September 2010 - TriStar 111 Monaco - Run Split (10km): 40:29
October 2010 - IM Hawaii - Run Split: 3:27:22

April 2011 - IM South Africa - Run Split: 3:24:53
October 2011 - IM Hawaii - Run Split: 3:18:32
December 2011 - IM Western Australia - Run Split: 3:22:05

2009 - 1468.92 miles
2010 - 1509.18 miles 
2011 - 1804.17 miles 

My run improved in 2010 despite no appreciable increase in total volume over 2009.  However, at Kona 2011 there was a good improvement, where between May and September that year I increased both volume and intensity, logging 920.95 miles in that 5 month period.  In general, more running = faster run times, but there is of course a point of diminishing returns, although a tiny percentage of triathletes are in danger of reaching that point.  Run more and run faster.  The trick is getting the balance right, and that's before you've thought about integrating swim and bike training.  Getting this balance right is, in my opinion, the most important role a coach plays.

7 March 2012

Abu Dhabi International Triathlon 2012 Report

Since the inaugural race in 2010, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has been on my to-do list.  In just a few years, the event has already established itself as one of the premier races outside of Hawaii, with the who’s who of triathlon competing.  After spending 5 days in Abu Dhabi and competing last weekend, I can see why the event has become such a success – it’s simply a very, very well run event.
My start time was scheduled for 7:05am, which was the first age-group wave to go off.  I woke up at 4am to start the morning preparations.  Fortunately the hotel we were staying at had breakfast available from 4am for all athletes.  At 5:15am I got a taxi to the race site, getting there nice and early with plenty of time to spare.   

I spotted Herbert (editor of Slowtwitch) and had a quick chat with him before getting into transition and going through the process of prepping the bike.  There were some rumours around that the start had been delayed by 30 minutes, and there was soon confirmation of this on the loud speaker.  Purely by coincidence, I’d racked my bike next to two friends who were in the same wave as me, so after we found out about the delay we just sat down and relaxed.  With the race start approaching, I put on the sunscreen and wetsuit and headed down to the beach.  

We had a minute (literally) to warm up, so I quickly jumped in the water, did a few strokes then ran back to shore to get my place on the start line on the beach.  With no countdown, the horn sounded and the race was underway.

I’d positioned myself slightly to the right of centre on the front row.  I wasn’t expecting to be one of the best swimmers, but I didn’t want to handicap myself by starting too far back.  I managed to run a fair way until diving in, at which point my right goggle filled with water immediately.  In a lake swim this wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but in the salty Arabian Gulf, my eye was burning.  I wasn’t going to stop to adjust my goggles for a few reasons.  Firstly I would have been swum all over, and secondly I’d have made my task of sticking with the leaders impossible.  I decided to wait until the first turn buoy to adjust them, which was about 500m into the swim.  Unfortunately by that time I’d already lost touch of the lead group, and I remember thinking there were at least 10 guys ahead of me.  I swam the remainder of the first lap solo, just about keeping those ahead in sight.  As we approached the swim exit for the first loop, I made a bit of a navigational error which cost me a bit of time.  There was a short beach run before starting the second and final lap of the 3k swim.  

The leading group ahead of me had broken up a bit and I could see that I could potentially catch some of them.  It wasn’t until this second lap that I started to get into a nice swimming rhythm, and I was feeling a bit more confident in the water.  From 2k onwards, I started passing some of the slower swimmers from the wave behind us who were on their first lap.  There was a bit of dodging to do for the remainder of the swim, trying to avoid swimming into others.  I knew I hadn’t had a great swim, having swum almost the entire portion alone.  I looked at the watch to see nearly 45 minutes, which for 3k was a slightly disappointing start to the day.  This was going to be a long race though, so losing a couple of minutes wasn’t the end of the world.   

I ran through transition and unfortunately proceeded to waste quite a lot of time.  It was a catalogue of errors from not being able to put my wetsuit back in my bag, dropping my nutrition and having to re-pin my race number.  I was quite relieved to get on the bike and start what would be the longest ride of my life.

I was prepared for the bike to be flat and perhaps borderline boring, but it turned out not to be the case.  The first 20km or so were flat and fast and I was seeing speeds of 25-30mph for the majority of that time.  There were a few athletes around me, some I passed, and some flew by me.  My strategy was to stick to my race watts and not get caught up in what others around me were doing.  On the way to the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit there were a number of bridges to go over, which provided the chance to get out of the saddle and change position briefly.  Around the 40km mark we entered the Yas Marina and had our chance to play F1 driver for the day!  I must say, it was cool! 

The first 50km went by very fast and I was preparing for a slow ride back to town.  Surprisingly, the speed didn’t drop significantly and I made the turn, which should have been approximately 80km, in less than 2 hours.  I then realised that without doubt, conditions were giving us a seriously fast bike leg.  I made the 180 degree turn and headed back out for the second lap.

With the halfway point of the ride approaching, this was where the plan was to settle into a nice pace effort than I could maintain to the 200km mark.  The course was now quite congested with athletes taking part in the other distance events, so there was a fair bit of concentration needed to ride safely and avoid any collisions.  The wind was picking up, but the average speed was staying steady.  The thing about a flat course is that, whilst it sounds easy, there’s no opportunity to coast or take a short break from pedalling.  It’s a relentless effort.  I was now welcoming the bridges as a chance to get out the saddle and change gears.  I wasn’t feeling particularly comfortable on the bike, but neither was in any discomfort.  It was just one of those days where you get through it.  I tried to concentrate on sticking to my nutrition and fuelling plan as my watts started to drop off slightly. 

The final 40km was quite a bit slower as the wind was blowing harder, proved by more and more cones on the road being uprooted.  I’d been keeping my eye on the competition at the various turn points on the course, and I figured that I was in second place in our wave, but about 8 minutes behind the leader who had a really strong ride.  As I rode the last few miles back to transition I saw that although my pace had slowed slightly, the ride time better than I had anticipated.  Total ride time of 4:56:45, although it should be noted that the bike was very short at around 188km. 

Unlike T1, I went through T2 smoothly and quickly and I was soon out on the run.  The plan was to ease into it, starting out at a steady effort and trying to finish the final miles at a good pace.  One of the pro women had exited just ahead of me and was going at a nice pace, although a touch faster than I wanted to go.  I kept her in my sights for the first three miles, keeping even splits at just under 6:45min/mile.  The wind and moderate temperature meant that it felt reasonably cool, allowing for fast running.  Aid stations were everywhere, and it never seemed to be long before you were being handed out another sponge or more coke and water.  I was really enjoying the run and felt completely comfortable ticking over the miles.   

I went through the halfway point in around 39 minutes, which I was very pleased with.  Sticking to 6:45min/mile pace, I was still feeling extremely comfortable.  I’d made up about a minute on the age-group leader, but he still had 7 minutes over me with half the run to go.  The miles seemed to pass quickly and I soon had 3 miles to go.  I made an effort to pick the pace up slightly towards the 6:30min/mile mark.  I remember thinking ‘this is great’!  I was absolutely cruising at what felt like a low effort.  I approached the finishing chute, grabbed the Seychelles flag from my mum and crossed the line, delighted with the way I closed out the day.

I'd managed an even run split of 1:17:56, but as with the bike, the run was short at 19km.  Still, the average pace was better than I expected, especially given that we haven’t been prioritising run training in the last few months.  The finish time of 7:05:36 sealed 1st place in the 20-24 age-group and 2nd age-grouper overall.  After chatting with a few pros around the finish area, I went to pick at what was one of the better post-race food areas.

Overall I’m delighted with my first result as an Accelerate 3 coached athlete and I’m looking forward to the upcoming training months.  There are certainly some things to take away from the race which I can work on, but considering its March, I’m pleased with where I’m at.  To anyone considering doing the race, I’d encourage you to give it a go.  The distance is unique and there’s a great atmosphere around the event, with everyone from first-timers to the world’s top pros racing.  There’s certainly a lot to do in the UAE and everyone that I met was extremely friendly.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be back next year as a pro ;)  Cheers.

3 March 2012

Abu Dhabi Diary - Day 4 - Race Day

At the time of writing, the long course results are not yet available online and the race website has crashed, so the times that follow are approximations and are not yet confirmed (I'll look a bit silly if it turns out to be wrong)!  To confirm the distances: Swim 3k - Bike 200k - Run 20k.

Swim: 45:00
Bike: 4:59
Run: 1:18
Finish: 7:05

I think that was enough for 1st in the 20-24 age-group and second age-grouper overall.  I'm about to head off to the awards dinner, so we'll soon find out... fingers crossed!  In any case, it was an interesting day out there, with lots of positives, but also some things to take away and work on for the rest of the seasons training.  Conditions were, I'd say, sporting.  I didn't have a very good swim - more on that in the race report next week.  There were strong winds on the bike, but when you had a tailwind you were absolutely flying.  It was a fast day out there and the bike splits reflect that.  The run was definitely the highlight of the day, as I managed a well paced effort and felt comfortable throughout, without digging myself in too much of a hole.  I'll try and get the times and result confirmed as soon as I can, but if I'm not able to before leaving Abu Dhabi, then I'll close by saying thanks to all who followed the Daily Diaries - hope you enjoyed it!

EDIT TO ADD: The times are slightly off, but the results are correct.  1st 20-24 age-group, 2nd age-grouper overall.  Thumbs up :)

2 March 2012

Abu Dhabi Diary - Day 3

After a frustrating night with less sleep than I would have liked, I headed out on the bike for a very quick spin, getting in some short intervals above race pace.  As soon as I finished the ride, I jumped in a taxi to get myself to the swim start, which was all of one mile down the road.  The day before the race I like to be as lazy as possible, so any unnecessary walking is out.  After having a look around, I bumped into Matt Molloy, who’s also racing the long course.  I only had a short swim scheduled for the morning, so I swam the short course (750m), which gave me a chance to check which buildings to site for during the swim tomorrow.  The water is around the 20 degree mark and all indications are that it will be a wetsuit legal swim.  I’d have been happy either way to be honest, but the wetsuit will make times a bit faster.

With training done for the day, I was just in time to catch breakfast before the end of service.  The new 2012 race kit is ready to roll – tomorrow we’ll see how fast red really is… I then spent some time getting my transition bags in order, ready to head down to bike racking.  

The back drop to transition is pretty impressive.  This is the first race I’ve done that has a real ‘big city’ feel to it, and although there are compromises that come with that - such as difficulty cycling in the build up to the race – it’s really quite amazing to have the chance to race here. 

Unlike most Ironman races, you’re not given a time slot to rack your bike, so you can show up any time during the day.  I got there just after 11am and didn’t have to queue at all, which is always good.  Once I chose my spot for the bike (again, no numbered racks, but you are allocated a row), I hung up my transition bags.  Another point of difference with the transition is that there’s only one tent, so both swim to bike and bike to run bags are racked on the same peg.  Also, there are benches below the bags, but space could get tight if there are lots of people around you.

With the work for the day done, my mum and I had a leisurely lunch.  The whole race has had a very laid back feel to it, and that in turn has helped me stay relaxed.  My wave starts at 7:05am local time, which is the first wave after the professionals.  This should leave the bike course wide open, so I’m mentally preparing myself for a lonely day in the saddle.  Tomorrow’s gonna be fun!  Race #82 for those that have the chance to track the race online through www.abudhabitriathlon.com

1 March 2012

Abu Dhabi Diary - Day 2

Before going to bed last night (and after a delicious Chinese dinner) I reassembled the bike – a task that I’m well practiced at!  I managed to get just over 8 hours sleep, which was a good start to the day.  Breakfast was a little lighter than the previous day, and afterwards I headed back to the room for some more sleep - coaches orders!  After a little reading and an hour of napping, it was time to get my training done for the day.  The temperature was higher than yesterday, hovering around 30 degrees C.  I’m assured that race day should be much cooler, with the temperature in the low 20’s.  Once on the Corniche, I quickly warmed up and started running at a steady pace.  The run session was very short, with a few strides just to wake up the legs.  Whilst the humidity isn’t high like Hawaii, the air felt quite stuffy.  I then jumped on the bike and headed out for a short ride, as much as anything just to check that everything was in working order.  

The morning had flown by and it was time for another late lunch, with today’s choice being chicken salad and risotto.  After lunch I headed to the temporary bike shop at the race hotel to pick up some CO2 cartridges for race day.  There were far more athletes around than yesterday, although it still wasn’t all that busy.  Surprisingly I haven’t yet seen a single professional athlete, although in fairness I did skip the earlier autograph signing.  I’m sure they’re laying low and preparing in solitude for Saturday.

I’m about to go across the road (literally!) to the race briefing, which is followed by the welcome dinner.  It will be interesting to see how this compares to other Ironman events.  I have a feeling that it will be fairly low key, but we’ll soon see.  Tomorrow will be a fairly relaxed day, with some training in the morning, bike and bag racking before lunch, followed by an afternoon off my feet. 

29 February 2012

Abu Dhabi Diary - Day 1

The first thought I have after landing is of my bike – did it make the journey with me?  Thankfully it did.  During the 6.5 hour flight to Abu Dhabi I managed to get a few hours of sleep, albeit not in the most comfortable position.  After arriving at 7:15am local time, the process of clearing immigration and baggage reclaim was swift, and my mother (my support crew for the race) and I were soon in the taxi headed for the airport.  It was a cool morning, with the temperature below 20 degrees C, with a thick fog hanging in the air that limited visibility to a few hundred metres.  After 30 minutes in the taxi he driver gestured to the hotel indicating it was ‘just there’, but I couldn’t see through the fog!

Fortunately the hotel was expecting our morning arrival and we managed to get an early check-in.  First thing to do was to head down to the buffet breakfast and restore energy levels.  Feeling very tired, I then took the opportunity the sleep for about 3 hours and although I could have slept for longer, I knew that would make adjusting to the time difference more difficult.  With a free afternoon we walked down to race registration, which was held at the official race hotel nearby.  There were only a handful of athletes around and not a queue in sight, making the registration process the quickest I’ve ever experienced.  After collecting my timing chip, race numbers, swim cap and other bit and pieces, we hopped in a taxi and headed to one of the nearby shopping malls for a quick wonder and a late lunch.  

I’m about to put the bike together ready for a ride tomorrow morning, which will be followed by a quick run.  I haven’t trained today, but the next two days will have some short workouts just to keep things ticking over until Saturday morning.   My first impression of Abu Dhabi is that it’s very clean, organised and clearly very wealthy.  There’s construction work going on almost everywhere you look, with new buildings cropping up all the time.  I’m looking forward to getting the chance to learning more about the local culture and seeing a little more of the area before leaving.  For now, hopefully I’ll get a good night’s sleep and will be reasonably well adjusted to the time zone by tomorrow.