Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Het Ardennenweekendje

Even though I lived in Utrecht for nearly 3 years and was a member of Hellas Triatlon for most of that time, I never managed to make it to one of the club's patented weekend training trips to Belgium -- til now. This past weekend was the road cycling variant (in November it's the mountain bike one), so once I had confirmed that I could go, I set about planning how I was going to get all the way from Kingston to a little village in the Belgian Ardennes called Petit Mormont.


It began with Jim dropping me off at the station in London for the 06:59 Eurostar train to Brussels, where I grabbed a Belgian Intercity train to Liège, then loaded up a rental car to drive the last 90km to Mormont. Everything went smoothly, though I cursed my soft-sided bike bag with every step I had to carry it through the train stations and down to the rental car place. Certainly the bag is a lot more discreet than a giant bike box, but some small wheels would have been handy! Traffic along the E25 highway was light and I managed to arrive around 1pm at our hostel-like accommodation in Mormont. I unpacked and built up my bike, and got ready to head out on a sunny but windy ride.

By then several others had arrived from Utrecht, so we got a small group together and did 60km through the Ardennes, taking in villages with names like Samrée and Erezée and Manhay. Villages in that part of Belgium, I soon found out, consist of a few houses, some cows and maybe a gas station. Hardly a pub or cafe or convenience store to be seen. And judging by how quiet the secondary roads were, I had to wonder what these Wallonians did for provisions, let alone for fun. Then again, I suppose there just aren't many of them living there. After spending several years in crowded Holland and England, I guess I've forgotten what it's like to be in the middle of the real countryside where there's maybe 30 people per square km. In fact, the Ardennes reminded me more of rural Canada than anywhere else I've been in Europe so far: forested valleys as far as the eye can see, logging operations along the twisty and rolling roads, and friendly albeit simple and slow-moving local folks.


By morning our full complement of 40+ triathletes had arrived at Mormont. Most of the bunk beds were taken and the common areas were jammed with bikes and various clothing and gear. In typical Dutchie fashion, the cars coming from Utrecht carried not only people but bins full of the groceries we needed for the weekend -- everything from huge sacks of potatoes and kilograms of cheese to a few dozen packages of ontbijtkoek -- so our only local requirement was fresh bread from one of the bakeries in a nearby town.

After breakfast, the cycling groups for the day began to form, based on distance and speed of the ride (and the company!) desired. I ending tagging along with the "long, fast and strong" group heading into Luxembourg, led by one of the club's cycling coaches who was marked closely by our club's resident pro Dirk Wijnalda. I figured at the very worst, if I couldn't keep up, at least I had my Garmin to find the way back. But I needn't have worried; even though the first 2 hours were a hammerfest at times, as the stronger guys relentlessly attacked each other up every climb and across the flats, I managed to hang on pretty well without blowing up.

At the 60km mark, our first stop for coffee and cake, the group split into two with half turning back for home to complete a respectable 110km for the day. The rest of us ventured further into Luxembourg, with the highlight of the day being Vianden and its 6km climb from the river valley to the castle above, the first km of which was on typical Euro cobblestones (photos found on flickr and courtesy of HappyMac, since I forgot to bring my camera along).

The rest of the day ebbed and flowed, the biggest ebb being at 135km when we realised we were over 35km from home, it was beginning to rain, and we'd nearly run out of food. A quick stop at a Wiltz gas station and its miraculous bakery section with fresh cakes and bread for an energy refill and we were off for the last hour or so, climbing yet another beautifully paved 6km 4% grade traffic-free Luxembourgian road and then descending into the less-well-maintained Belgian roads back home through Houffalize. In the end I was quite happy with my day: 172km, 2220m of climbing, 174 watts normalised power, for just under 6 hours of riding at 28.8km/h. I even managed to hit the final 2km climb with good legs, hitting an average of 230 watts (pretty close to my FT) and proving that the longer the ride, the better I get relative to most of my riding companions!


This was the day of Liège-Bastogne-Liège aka Luik-Bastenaken-Luik aka La Doyenne, the final race of the spring classics season. The riders were going right through Houffalize, a mere 9km from where we were staying, but since they weren't due to pass through til 2pm or so, a few of us decided to ride west towards one of the earlier climbs on the route at Ny. We got there just in time, dropped our bikes by the side of the road and tried to create something interesting for the TV cameras to see (note the yellow helmet in the photo below; from left to right Peter, Jeroen and Gerard hamming it up).

Within 10 minutes the caravan of trucks, motorcycles and official race cars had started to drive through. Then we heard the helicopter and spotted the riders through the trees below, with the peleton moving very fast to the bottom of the climb. Even on the climb they never dropped below 30km/h, I'm sure. They were past us so fast there was no time even to identify the riders! I did make a video of them going by, however, catching the beginning of the attack off the front that would turn into the day's long 4-man break, not to be reeled in til more than 150km later. And listening to this video makes me realise how annoying my voice is and how bad my Dutch has become...

We had planned to head to Houffalize where the riders would come through again in a few hours, but in trying to avoid the busy main road, we ended up underestimating how far it was and realised that we'd miss them. So instead we rode a leisurely few more km, a couple more long draggy hills and nice fast descents, stopping for coffee and to sit in the sun for a bit, then continuing back to Mormont. I grabbed a quick snack then a few of us rode down to Houffalize in search of the town's beer tent where they were showing the last bit of the race on big TVs. Wallonian Philippe Gilbert had escaped solo at this point so the crowd was quite excited; a short while later, Andy Schleck caught and dropped him and then went on to win the race, much to the Belgians' disappointment. We rode back up the hill to Mormont for 120km on the day, with 1600m of climbing over 4.5 hours.


It rained quite heavily overnight, and the morning dawned with a chilly wind and variable weather. With 350km of cycling in my legs for the weekend -- added to the 250km I had already done in England earlier in the week -- I was happy to take a day off the bike and go for a short run instead. Many of the off-road routes around the Ardennes are well-marked with signs on the trees and arrows pointing the way, with big signboards showing how they intersect. Mistakenly thinking that since the paved roads had all been a nice gradient, the walking paths must be as well, I followed the 5.5km route down to the river and was met with a narrow path that descended 60m in 240m: a 25% grade! In my running shoes on wet, slippery, rocky and rooty ground I descended as carefully as possible, and didn't dare turn around and try to go back. The path along the river was equally treacherous, but I was finally rewarded with the climb back up to Mormont, an Achilles-punishing kilometer averaging 10% that I half-ran and half-walked. It took nearly 40 minutes to run 5.5 km in the end, ouch!

Though I didn't have my camera with me, I managed to find some shots taken by a previous traveller, Karen Hendrix, of the same path, giving a pretty good idea what I was up against.

Monday afternoon I drove back to Liège and took a train to Brussels, then dropped my stuff at the left luggage kiosk at the station and wandered around touristy Brussels for a few hours until my train back to the UK was ready to board. My legs are still recovering from the weekend's punishment, but in a few weeks I'll be all the stronger for it.

And I had a great time! I got to hang out with my Dutch friends for a weekend, re-experience my summer camp days, cycle tons of miles, catch a bit of a pro race, see two countries I'd never visited before, and tax my brain to remember a bit of its rusty French. Definitely worth the trip!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A tale of two races

Sid Standard Memorial Race

Having had a little break from cycle racing the past few weeks for the marathon, I was eager to get back to it. Last week my monster 15 hours spent training (but the weather's just been too nice not to get out there and ride!) meant that Sunday's National Women's Team Series race just outside Nottingham would be an interesting test of the legs. As a member of the Surrey League ladies team, I was racing with a handful of other women from local clubs -- all of whom, like me, don't have enough teammates to put together their own teams -- for the first time this season. It's a team series, meaning that the top 4 results per team count toward the points ranking, and the final trophy goes to the winningest team rather than an individual (though each race rewards individual winners too of course).

The race started out fast with several riders on the front (most notably elite rider Charlie Blackman of the London Dynamo) driving the pace and controlling the attacks, but after four laps when it appeared that no cohesive break would stay away and the bunch was whittled down to 30 or so riders, things settled down a bit. On the sixth lap as we approached the main climb on the course, a little 500m 3% affair, I found myself at the front and decided to take a run at it and see what happened. I hit the climb hard and didn't look back til I got to the top -- much to my surprise, the bunch was more than 50 metres behind me! Unfortunately I was now descending into a crosswind so I tucked down and did my best, but after 2km the bunch came back (note to self for next time: if the motorcycle pulls in front of you, you've been caught and can stop working now).

The legs felt good though, almost like that little super-threshold effort woke them up, so I stayed near the front of the remainder of the race, hoping a late break would still materialise. My teammate Jen Hewitt had a few digs, as did some other riders, but again nothing stuck. So the flat finish meant a bunch sprint, where my skills are not particularly well-suited. Being a bit scared off by the argy-bargy and generally poor bike handling of the field in the final lap, I did not try to contest the sprint and instead just stayed safely out of trouble, finishing 23rd overall. The race was won by Laura Trott, the up-and-coming and talented junior who placed quite well at the recent KW Dunsfold 3rd cat road race. I discovered one of my teammates, Nikki Wheeler, can put in a sprint, so next time I'll know to try and help her out better if it comes down to a bunch finish. The photo above of Jen on the front with me a ways back in the bunch (both of us in white jerseys) is a pretty typical view of the Sid Standard race. The British Cycling write-up, where we both earned a nice mention despite finishing outside the top 20, is here.

But the truth is, for me to have any success at women's racing (or any racing for that matter), I need to create, join, or force a break to happen -- not solo! -- so I can put my ability to suffer at threshold for a long time to good use. Looking at my power profile according to Coggan, my five-second peak power is the equivalent of a lowly cat 4, and at one and five minutes I'm only a bit better at mid cat 2 level. It's power at FT where I'm strongest, as I'm putting out ~230 watts with my 54kg, making me a 4.25watts/kg solid cat 1 equivalent. And given what seems to be some hill climbing ability on steeper grades, I think I need to find some hillier races with better prospects for a break escaping and staying away til the finish. (As an aside, now that we've got our new Powertaps, I need to do another round of testing to make these numbers a little more firm and set myself some goals.)

Hillingdon Tuesday Night Series

Jim's been wanting to do some more racing, so despite a nice steady 90km ride on Monday afternoon that left our legs a bit tired, last night we headed over to the Hillingdon summer series (my favourite local circuit of all that I've raced so far) to take on the cat 4 race. I had been playing with the idea of entering the E/1/2/3 race as there's a £15 prize for the top female finisher, but once I got there and saw a) how huge the sign-on list already was, b) a well-known pro men's team warming up, and c) women's pro rider Leda Cox who would undoubtably take the prize money, I wisely decided that the cat 4 race was the way to go. And that way Jim and I could race together, a first!

All was going well, with both of us in the front 5-10 riders for most of the race. I had gone off at a good pace almost immediately, as the bunch had started so slowly that I feared a massive acceleration where I would not be able to grab a wheel, and ended up leading most of the first lap. Then the attacks started, but with a headwind going up the hill and a tailwind coming down the back straight, conditions were not great for a solo break to last. Jim bridged to (or chased down, depending on how you saw it) a London Dynamo rider but that didn't last, and he ended up on the front as the E/1/2/3 race stormed by. A few other guys put in some digs and the bunch always collected them back into the fold after half a lap or so. The E/1/2/3s passed us once again, rather scarily through the hairpin turns where a lot of riders have difficulty holding a line, but everyone made it through safely.

Around 15 laps into it, I put in some effort latching onto escaping riders, thinking that even though the sun was setting, there was a lot of time left in this one-hour race. That cost me as I had
slipped back to 15-20th place by the time we got to the lap board, and stupidly failed to notice that we were heading for the bell lap til the bell was actually ringing. Well out of position to do anything in the final lap, I tried valiantly to move up on the back stretch and nearly did it on the final corner, til the wheel I was following sat up and stopped working. Alas, unless I'm in the top 5 or so coming around that corner, I just don't have the power to put in a strong finish against the guys, so even though I got around him and got some speed up for the little climb, it was too late. To add insult to injury, some well-meaning guy who was determined to get 19th instead of 20th place muscled me over towards the grass in the final chicane, killing all my speed.

At that moment, I could see Jim ahead who was in a better position for the final sprint, but then a massive crash took down four guys right in front of him, so I slowed up completely and just rolled across the line (after I had a close look at the four downed riders and determined with relief that he wasn't one of them!) The crash looked nasty and I think one of the guys involved was a Twickenham rider that I'd already shouted at twice during the race to hold his line (the second time after he'd been weaving all over the back straight in an attempt not to do any work on the front and get people to come around him). Jim had to lean into a rider next to him to avoid riding over one of the downed rider's heads, but he stayed upright himself, though his sprint was finished.

I'm a bit annoyed with myself for missing the lap boards and losing focus right at the moment when I needed it the most, but given the crash, maybe I'm glad to have been in the back half of the pack towards the finish. It didn't look good and an ambulance with flashing lights turned into Springfield Rd as we were riding home, presumably to collect one of the victims. That's about the 3rd or 4th race I've done at Hillingdon that contained an ambulance-worthy crash, and I've only raced there 5 times! I wonder how long til the law of averages gets me. I definitely wish it could have been longer as my legs felt great and longer races suit me anyway. As it was, the one-hour came up a bit short, only 42 minutes which was about 17 laps, 38.6km/h avg speed.

I think some of the riders in our race could learn a thing or two from these guys on how to hold a line going up the final hill...

Monday, 20 April 2009

Theo Bos in his (translated by me) words

At the final stage of the Tour of Turkey on Sunday, there was a horrible crash in the final kilometre. Theo Bos of Rabobank and Daryl Impey of Barloworld went down into the barriers, and from the initial video it seemed that Bos had completely thrown Impey down! It was too unbelievable for words. Watch for yourself:

Seeing as Impey is South African and therefore blogs in English whereas Bos is Dutch and even the Rabo team doesn't have an English site (and judging from the way that the English and American press and forums immediately called for Bos to be banned, suggesting that what happened was purposeful and malicious), I decided to do my best to translate Bos' explanation. The original Dutch is here.

The usual caveats apply: the following is written in my words, Dutch is my second language so the translation is not going to be perfect, and any Dutch speakers who catch mistakes in context, please let me know!

The reaction to the crash in the Tour of Turkey speaks for itself. On Youtube it looks like the crash was caused intentionally. Even Lance Armstrong said that I deserve a long suspension for it. A response that I completely understand if you look at the video and the comments about it.

Of course I myself have been following the video and discussion rather painfully. From above it's difficult to tell but it seems like I'm pulling him off his bike. In reality, I'm completely trapped and I'm being pushed into the barriers on the left, and reflexively trying to keep him away from me as a last ditch effort. At that moment the only right option to prevent a crash. With my front wheel, I believe I hit the foot of one of the barriers and then together with Impey went sprawling.

Everybody who knows me well knows that I would never purposely take risks to cause a crash in such a way. Why would have I taken myself down. I've been sprinting for years at a high level on the track. The keirin is well known for its push and shove antics, and risk-taking. But know this: I'm not known in the cycling world as someone who takes extreme risks. In Japan it's even my nickname. It's not in my character. It's making me sick to hear of it.

When I switched from the track to the road, I deliberately chose Rabobank's continental team. This was so I could learn the sport in a sheltered environment. I wasn't expecting to be known in the sport for this incident. As a matter of course, I've given my side of the story to Barloworld. I want to make it right with Impey and I've said to the team that I would like to have a conversation with him and tell him my side of it. I've got no reason to hide from him, though I do understand that he's quite angry.

I feel really badly to have made the news in this manner. As a sportsman, I want it to be known that I'm quite beside myself over this. I'm bothered by it. I hope there are more videos out there. Maybe if they're shown next to each other and frame by frame analysed. I've done all I can to prove that there was nothing I could do. What happened was not on purpose. Not even in the heat of the moment. I would like everyone to understand that this is not how I win my sprints. I love this sport. Sport is on the cutting edge. In all respects, fair play is a part of it. Anything less than that is not worth it to me.


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Sunny weather, back to the grind, and why I love/hate cycle racing

After last week's sort of blah post-DNF-marathon feelings, the rainy cold weather over Easter weekend served to demotivate me even more from training (though I did get in a good 12km run through Bushy Park on Saturday at a 4:33 pace that felt dead easy). But the sun finally came out on Monday, both literally and figuratively.

Since then, I've racked up 10 hours of training, nine of which on the bike. When the weather's nice and the sun's shining, I just want to be out riding my bike! The running will catch up later this week as I've got a flat 6km planned for today, a hilly 17km tomorrow and another short fast run on Saturday (maybe a 5km parkrun in Bushy Park or Banstead Woods). As for swimming, well... my schedule's been calling for it since April started, but as I'm not a member of a local triathlon or swim club these days, I've been putting off getting to the pool. In a few weeks, the open water sessions at local lakes will start, plus some of the unheated outdoor pools will be open for prime wetsuit swimming. Triathlon London has the full list of training venues. In the spirit of it, though, I'm going to hit the Kingston pool today for lunchtime adult lane swimming for a quick few kms.

The week so far:
  • Monday: Afternoon spent crisscrossing the Surrey Hills in the toughest ride I've done in a while. Started out strong as I'd had nearly 2 weeks of limited training and my HR showed it! My legs were so fresh for a change that my heart and lungs were the only limiter, and they weren't doing much limiting at all. But the 21% Winterfold climb got the best of me, shattered all ideas of ego and fitness and left me a shaking mess by the top. After that, I was determined to power up all the climbs I could in the big ring as I just couldn't stomach that sitting and spinning and feeling like I'm going nowhere feeling anymore. Box Hill was a new record for me with a time of 7:21, not bad considering the 80km we'd already ridden and the little headwind on the long 1st and 3rd sections of the climb. The roundabouts heading home were fast with a tailwind and I hammered it pretty hard, nearly dropping Jim in the process. 111km, 4:40, 1200m total climbing
  • Tuesday: Decided wisely to do a flattish ride, so I pulled out my TT bike (Cervélo P2SL, renamed this year to the P1) for a spin out to Windsor, through the Surrey Heath and back along the Thames. I haven't been on this bike very much yet this year so I'm still getting (re)used to saddle position and comfort. Once we got out past the M25 I was able to sit in the aerobars quite a bit as the roads were quieter and better quality. We took a little detour up to Windsor Castle as I'd never seen it up close before, then blazed back through the Great Park towards Chobham at 30km/h average. The wind had picked up a bit, making my aerobars all the more advantageous (and for Jim disadvantageous as I'm so low on that little bike that his entire upper body is exposed to the wind when he tries to draft behind me!) 82km, 2:50, for a 28.5km/h pace
  • Wednesday afternoon: This was the first real true spring day to me, as it was 20 degrees with a hazy sun and stiff but warm easterly wind. We headed to Richmond Park for some unstructured laps to see how we felt. The popular 1-lap challenge was out for today as my legs felt a bit trashed, but having not ridden the 3-lap challenge ever, I decided to set a base time for it at a moderate pace. We did the first lap clockwise, then 2 laps counterclockwise, then Jim headed for home and I did one last lap clockwise again. Total for the last 3 laps was 1:05, averaging 21:40 per lap. My goal is to get under an hour for 3 laps, which I'll probably only be able to do some quiet and still evening on the TT bike. 48km, 1:40, 400m of climbing
  • Wednesday evening: Our running club does a hill intervals session once a month, either on a longish not super steep hill, or a shortish quite steep hill. Tonight's was the latter, and I hadn't done it since cold dark December so I was curious to see how I'd get on with my recent bit of weight loss and the summer weather. Two sets of 7 reps with a 3 min rest interval between them. Going up the first rep, I discovered a good trick for maintaining momentum through the 10% grade bit through the last 50 metres: running on my toes, not letting my heels touch the ground. It was here that I made up the most ground on my fellow clubmates, as they all seemed to go off like rockets through the initial shallow climb, then slow down considerably on the steep part and drag through the flat at the top. I consistently hit each climb at about 38 seconds, which is nearly 5 seconds faster than the previous outing, so quite happy with that. 6.6km, 40 min, avg uphill pace 4:14/kmh
Between the riding and running yesterday, I managed to catch the last hour of the Scheldeprijs pro race with its promised sprint finish. Last year, Tom Boonen sat up and celebrated somewhat prematurely, as Mark Cavendish came through under his arm and nicked the win. This year, however, was mass carnage for the big boys as van Avermaet sprinted too early, Petacchi overtook him and cut across a bit soon, and McEwen tried to follow, tangled with van Avermaet and took down half the field including Boonen (Cavendish wasn't racing). The only bright light to come out of it was a 3rd place finish for Canadian Cervélo TestTeam rider Dominique Rollin, his first Euro podium ever. And a nifty 2nd place for the Dutchie Kenny van Hummel, riding for the continental Skil-Shimano team.

The massive crash below is the reason why I love and hate cycle racing at the same time: such an awesome sport, so on the edge, so hard-core, yet so completely dangerous and insane. This is why my races at the amateur level always end on hills!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Rotterdam Marathon DNF Race Report

Short version:

I DNFed. Before the start I thought I might, after 20km I resigned myself that I would, and now afterwards I feel somewhat annoyed but also realise it was probably the right thing to do. So my marathon goals and dreams will have to live to see another day, and more importantly, I've learned a thing or two about how to run one properly for next time.

Long version:

Jim and I were in Holland over the weekend to run the Rotterdam Marathon. We originally signed up for it last Christmas because we hadn't gotten into London and I wanted a spring marathon in the calendar to keep me running steadily throughout the winter. I'd done Rotterdam once before and while it's a fairly boring course, the support is good and it's flat and fast, good for a PB. Plus it meant a trip back to Holland to visit friends and go shopping.

Through sickness and other distractions Jim hadn't done enough training to run the marathon, so he ended up switching to the 10k when we picked up our race packets. (In fact, he did rather well at that distance, shattering all previous PBs and slaying the 40 minute dragon.) So that left me alone in the marathon, trying to make a decision that I'd been mulling over for the past few weeks: run the whole distance (for which I really hadn't trained enough, either) or try for a new PB in the half and drop out after that. In the end I picked the least attractive and more common third option: start out like you're running the whole thing, be on pace and target through the half for the full, but drop out a few kms later and call it a day with nothing really to show for it.

Note to self: drinking copious amounts of beer two nights before the race, and then eating a giant steak dinner the night before the race probably weren't the smartest things to do. The morning of the race, I woke up feeling less than 100%. After not sleeping well all week and then flying to Holland and sleeping even worse in the hotel, I had my doubts that Sunday would be my day. Nevertheless, we got our stuff together and took the train to Rotterdam. The weather at 9am was chilly and foggy, about 6 degrees. I hemmed and hawed in the changerooms near the start of the race about what to wear, finally going with a short-sleeved t-shirt and 3/4 length tights along with my calf guards, and lightweight gloves to take the chill off. We did a little warmup jog, then I left Jim to enter the sub-3:30 corral that I'd managed to get myself registered for. Somewhere between 10:45 and 11am, the sun came out and suddenly everything heated up, and I stood around in the corral and realised I should have used the portapotty one last time... sigh. One of these days I'll get that right!

The gun went at 11am and one minute 14 seconds later I had crossed the start line and was running down the wide Coolsingel. The first 2km passed with me anxiously looking for somewhere, anywhere, to stop and have a pee, but no such luck; the crowds were lining the streets and while I was desperate and this was Holland (where wildplassen is a national pastime), I wasn't about to completely embarrass myself. Thankfully just before the 3km marker there was an aid station and a single glorious, virgin portapotty. A minute later, I was out and running again with much relief.

The next 22kms passed pretty easily. I was clipping along at 4:50min/km pace, more or less on target for my sub-3:30, and feeling all right. Not pushing it but not dragging either, but completely and utterly... uninspired. Just blah. Thanks to the crowds and my little pit stop, the first 3km took me 16:30, but I gradually and mind-numbingly clawed all that lost time back: 5km went by in 26:14, 10km in 50:13, 15km in 1:14:56, 20km in 1:39:21 and 25km in 2:04:55. The mind games that had started before the gun even went off -- finish or no finish? -- were creeping into focus at 15km, niggling me relentlessly by 20km, and full on by 25km.

By then the sun had come out and I was getting more than warm. My shoulders and upper back were in knots. My legs felt all right but they were already warning that while finishing was possible, the next 17km and in particular the final 7km would be rough. Then I saw Jim, standing alongside the road having finished his own race more than an hour earlier, and I stopped running. With 25km on my Garmin and a 4:58min/km pace on the go, I just gave up and dropped out.

And at that I came to understand with painful clarity a vital part of marathon running (for me, anyway) that I'd previously missed: you need to go into the race with your bargaining power already harnessed and ready to go, or your body and mind will just talk you out of finishing it, and no comeback or argument you make up on the spot will be enough to overcome that. If you don't start the race with your motivation for finishing clear in your mind, you just won't finish it, period. The marathon is just too tough a distance to get through on mild interest and a distracted sense of obligation alone.

So with that, my third marathon attempt ended in a DNF. As the course was a figure eight in shape, the start/finish line was a mere 2km from where I dropped out, which made it pretty easy. Knowing that 25km was just enough to give me sore legs but not enough to keep me from training for the rest of the week made it even easier. Thinking that while I was on pace for sub-3:30, I might hit the 40km mark and crash and burn, making all that effort for nothing, was just the icing on the cake of reason. In fact, only three positive things came out of this whole experience:
- I got in a reasonable 25km run on Sunday
- I realised that I'm just too logical to run marathons without a heart-and-soul goal
- I'm not so mentally and physically spent that I don't want to even look at my running shoes for a month (as was the case after the last marathon)

Monday I was back on my bike and I'll go for a run probably tomorrow. And I've ordered myself a rubber bracelet with HTFU on it. While I think my goals for Ironman UK are pretty solid, I could use a reminder now and then to quit rationalising why I shouldn't do something and just get on and do it. Lesson learned.