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June racing – triple race recap

Boy, June was a busy month, on all levels! Including 3 races this month: a swike, and 2 standard distance triathlons. Read about my growing form. For an overview of my results this year, go to races in 2017.

Swike Harelbeke (2.5 – 80)

Just back from our trip to Denmark, I drove down to Harelbeke for an unusual race format: a 2.5 K swim + an 80 K bike. I thought it could be an interesting brick workout, with the New Forest middle distance triathlon in mind. It was a beautiful day for it. A relatively small field lined up (110 participants).

After a calm but long swim I reached the shore in 51 minutes, which makes me think I swam aerobicly and/or it was more than 2.5 K. Whatever it was, endurance wasn’t the problem, I just had no speed in me, like I was stuck in second gear. I was speedy in transition, though. Quick onto the bike, I started pushing. We had to ride out to a lap course, repeat the lap 5 times, before riding back into town, squeezing out every last bit of power left, real TT-style. The lap format made it a bit easier to pace. My power curve was quite even, no real fading. Although I had to raise my heart rate significantly to keep pushing the same wattage till the very end.

I finished 54th in 3:06. I was happy with the long open water swim and the well-paced effort on the bike, for their training effect. I chose to focus on these positives, rather than being disappointed with the average placing in the field. After the initial replenishments with fruits in the athlete zone, I did an easy 15 minute jog. It was a perfect opportunity to run on mashed up legs. In all, a very useful and much needed brick training day.

What's a brick session?
In English triathlon lingo, a combination workout is referred to as a brick session, usually a medium to long bike ride immediately followed by a short to medium run. While the term “brick” arose more than 20 years ago, there is some debate about how it came to life. Its most concrete origin has been claimed by Scott Zagarino, a veteran in the sport. Supposedly, he and Mark Sisson, another tri veteran, would do ridiculously long bike rides followed by long runs on Saturdays, back in 1988. Spending that much time together, they would do trivia quizes and name-that-tune. One Saturday, in the middle of another long ride, they were asking themselves “what are we doing here?” The words to Pink Floyd popped into their heads almost simultaneously. From then on, every Saturday workout became “another brick in the wall”, and a bike-run session became a brick session.

I first picked up the term in Bournemouth when I joined the local triathlon club, Zoom Tri Club. I remember the brick sessions I came up with myself, to drill going from bike to run into me. Basically, it was a bike-run-bike-run-bike-run type workout, totalling about 60km of riding and 15km of running. For years after that, the bike-run combo felt easy. Now I come to think of it, perhaps I should try and do my oldschool brick session again before the New Forest triathlon in August…

Beernem Triathlon (0.9 – 43 – 9.5)

A week later, race no. 5, only the first triathlon of the year. Thinking of the disastrous run I had in September (Zwintriathlon in Knokke), I was a bit nervous for how the run would go. So the plan was to be a little conservative on the bike. Main thing for me was to regain confidence in the run. It was going to be a hot day. Waiting around under a scorching sun when you’re wrapped in a wetsuit is hot! The moment we were let into the water was as good as it was gonna get that day. (apart from that ice-cream after the race, perhaps)

The swim went alright, albeit slower than I would have liked. It was definitely short, perhaps only 900m. After a fairly swift T1, an even effort on the bike. Mentally, I was quite laid back. Not really holding back as such, but not pushing on in my usual time-trialing fashion either. It turned out to be a similar effort to the swike, except for half the distance. Coming off the bike, I felt alright. Running was hard, but manageable to the extend where it felt like I could find a rhythm and hold on until the finish line. Well, it kind of went like that. I got into a stride, seemingly keeping it up, but gradually fading and slowing. Content with the race overall, I crossed the line in 2:10:19.

Some statistics Standard triathlons
Beernem Bruges
swim pace 1:44 / 100m 1:43 / 100m
bike pace 38 kph 37.8 kph
bike NP 209 Watts 217 Watts
run pace 12.7 kph 13.9 kph

Bruges Triathlon (0.9 – 45 – 9.2)

Two weeks later, and a 4 hour brick workout under the belt, it was time for one of my favourites. Having raced in Bruges 4 times before, I always seem to do well, for as far as my fitness allows, of course.

The swim is known to be just over 900m (about 930m). I had a similar swim to Beernem, perhaps marginally faster. My bike was positioned 10 meters from the swim exit, so I had to undo my wetsuit halfway very quickly. Smooth T1 and off we go. The bike course can be a fast one with long stretches along the canal Bruges-Ostend, despite the typically strong polder winds. This year, however, it had rained for the first time in weeks, just hours before the race. This made cornering very risky. At one point, right in front of my eyes, a triathlete ended up in a ditch. I slowed to get a “I’m okay!” from him before riding on. The remainder of the bike leg, I pushed on harder than in Beernem. I felt generally stronger, as well, pushing about 10 Watts more on average.

Off the bike, I felt pretty solid. I found my running legs right away, beginning at a faster pace. The 2 guys I entered T2 with, were getting away a bit. I was hoping to find another gear and reel ’em in. Reality, however, was a very gradually slowing and fading running pace, albeit much less than in Beernem. Finish time: 2:10:32. Considering the wet roads, slightly longer bike course, and a twisty run course on cobblestones, it was definitely a better performance than Beernem. A better placing overall confirms that conclusion.

I am very satisfied with my performances across these 3 races. My form is clearly growing. The last two weeks, I’ve been working on my swim and run more, as I feel I’m falling short in these disciplines. After Aarschot, I’ll have to be content with and accept my swim level, and work on a strong bike-run combo. A strong bike effort followed up by a solid run will yield more time gains in the New Forest than a slightly faster swim. So that’s the plan!

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