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Challenge Barcelona 2013 (part 2)

Nicki Combarro’s second installment in her blog series on training for an endurance triathlon. She is participating in a study at the University of Hertfordshire investigating the effects of training for an ironman distance triathlon.

Nicki on treadmill

So the weeks are ticking by and I am almost half way through my challenge of a lifetime!

Over the past few months I’ve been completing what’s called ‘base’ training – which ensures you have a good grounding in all 3 disciplines before the harder training starts!

My base training is going well, despite my having to spend 3 hours on the turbo trainer (static bike) in my dining room as the road conditions were too dangerous for me to attempt a road session.

After another batch of testing I was really pleased to see that the hard work is paying off; my skin folds and body weight were down and my lactate threshold had increased. (Your lactate threshold is the value your heart rate reaches before your body starts anaerobic respiration… this is a point of no return and cannot be sustained for long, so the aim of our training was to try and delay this point as much as possible).

The excitement of being a guinea pig continued in March and I was subjected to a Dexabody scan – this is (thankfully) a painless full body bone density scan and involves laying on a slab in your pants whilst a machine scans you. The only effort was getting to Middlesex University with 6 inches of snow on the roads! In addition to bone density, the scan was able to give accurate information on body composition – fat and muscle mass. This is something that is going to be redone later in the study to see what improvements have been made!

Nicki on the DEXA scanner (in her pants!)

Over the past month I’ve overcome my irrational fear of cleats and have actually managed to get my road bike on the road! Unfortunately I haven’t yet mastered the ability to take my hands off the handle bars without wiggling in the road terribly, so as a result my hydration and nutritional strategy on the bike is not going so well. I must also apologise to the other road users as my hand signals are not very confident and I tend to hog country lanes – but I am sure with more practice this will improve!

I’ve fixed my first puncture (although it took 3 of us to muster the strength to pull the tyre leavers!) and upgraded my saddle to something a little more comfortable! If only I could transfer my power generation from the turbo trainer onto the road – I would be awesome!

Nicki sharing her expertise in the field of puncture repair

Current training is now in 3 week blocks with the weeks being medium, hard and then a recovery week. After a bit of guidance from Nick Juba, coach at Hatfield Swimming Club, my swimming is also going pretty well and I can now comfortably manage to swim 3km in 1hr10. My technique is still not the best but after being told that the swim part of an ironman requires 9000-10000kj of energy and with you only retaining 3000kj in your body normally, I’m trying to work on energy preservation so that I can get out of the water and still have something left in my legs for the bike and run!

With all this hard graft I’m starting to notice little niggles, especially in my knees as a result of my tight ITB’s. I’ve made friends with a foam roller and now spend many a night rolling around on it in my living room – often with tears rolling down my cheeks! I even had my first ever Sports Massage session with one of the Bodybalance massage therapists; an experience that I’ll never forget!

So what ‘s next…?

Basically, the distances start getting longer over the next few months:

  • Swimming increasing from 3km – 3.8km with the additional excitement of open water and another irrational fear I need to conquer….. JAWS!
  • Bike increasing from 80km (4hrs) to 150km (6-7hrs)
  • Run increasing from 15km to 30km.