Even beds of roses have thorns

I have been pretty quiet recently and to be brutally honest it’s because things have not been going well. I wondered whether to even bother writing a blog at all but I have been told that it is important to show people that real life is not always a bed of roses.
So as regular readers will be aware that my season goal was to qualify for and race in the ITU World Championships in Rotterdam in September. You will also be aware that this season goal literally crashed during the qualifying race at Eton Dorney in May.
Three months have now past and the injuries I sustained in the accident have long since healed. However, my mojo has taken a massive hit and I just have not been able to get back into the swing of good consistent training.
It’s difficult to feel fired up and passionate about training when your season goal is now out of reach. Many people have said to me “It’s fine, there’s always next year” but that doesn’t really sit well with me. I’m a very goal driven individual who is currently without a meaningful goal.
I don’t like wasting a season and still want to achieve something in 2017 and although it is only August, the triathlon season ends in a little over 6 weeks. So, I’m stuck in between a rock and a hard place, do I a) pull myself together and see what I can do in September or b) right off this season completely and start planning next season. Only I can answer that and at the moment, I simply don’t know. It would be very easy to mug this season off but I would feel that I have failed. Given up. Quit.
Due to the lack of consistency in training my speed on the run isn’t quite there, I have lost a little strength on the bike and my swimming was never my strong point anyway – and remains that way. I will race in September because I have paid for race entry but it certainly will not be the best version of me.
I am of course my own biggest critic and although this admittedly sounds like a very negative blog, I am confident that I will come back stronger and hungrier.
I am still hungry for success and I still want to challenge myself to the limits. It just won’t be this year.
To all the people who have supported me this year, I feel I have let you all down. I wanted to make you proud of me. I’m sorry.
Here’s hoping my next update is more positive, no one needs grey skies and we have certainly had enough of them this “summer”!

Until next time ….

One month later

Hi all

Just a brief update as I left you last month feeling somewhat sorry for myself having being taken out on the bike at the Eton Dorney ITU qualifier. You will be glad to know that I have pulled myself together and am in a much more positive frame of mind this month.

The first piece of good news was hearing that my shoulder will not require surgery and that with hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and sensible rehab I should be back training fully in 6 – 8 weeks. Luckily I’m in a fortunate position to have the very best Osteopath by my side.  I may be biased but she has worked wonders on me before so I trust her completely.

The downside is of course that I will miss my “A” races for the season and I will not qualify for the ITU World Championships in Rotterdam. However, all is not lost!

Upon hearing the news that surgery will not be needed I stopped feeling sorry for myself and took another look at the events calendar for 2017. With a bit of luck I hope to be back racing by the end of July \ start of August which “should” allow me to train and be ready for plan B.

Its early days in the recovery so I don’t want to jinx it and say too much, but I am really positive and have the best support around me. My coach and girlfriend have been amazing as have the rest of my friends and family. I was overwhelmed by the number of messages received on social media. It means a lot, thanks all.

I have at least started running again and doing some meaningful work on the turbo trainer. The last week has seen a return to the pool but I am only able to swim until I feel an ache. That said, I have gone from 500m to 1800m within 10 days, so again that’s positive.

If I do not get to race again this season then that will set me up to be hungrier than ever and qualify for the worlds next year. It’s on the gold coast so why not!

That’s it from me. Just to say thank you again for all the support.

 

2016 Season review

If I had to summarise my 2016 season in a single sentence it would go something along the lines of…

“2016 has been an experimental year with a lack of an end goal, with many challenges and a change in focus which on reflection I haven’t enjoyed as much as previous seasons”.

Reading that sounds rather negative I have to admit, but, it isn’t entirely and that is certainly not the case.

After the ITU world championships in Chicago and having represented GB at both the European and World championships I made a conscious decision to step up a distance and have a year where I would try Middle distance triathlons. For those readers that are not aware that is a 1.9km swim, 56 miles on the bike and a half marathon thrown on the end for good measure. A total of 70.3 miles. Don’t get me wrong 2015 and in particular the grand final in Chicago was a fantastic season. The best yet, but I just fancied doing something a little different.

Having made that decision I realised that my season didn’t really have any goals to aim for. No qualifying races, no world finals…. So alongside my longer races I decided I would attempt to do my bit for charity and race 500 miles in 2016. In addition I would attempt to break the 3 hour mark for the marathon.

With these targets in place I started the hunt for suitable races. I needed a flat (preferably downhill) marathon and enough races to keep me busy all season and get me to the magical 500 mark.

After much deliberation I decided to sign up for Manchester marathon, where better to get my sub 3 hour marathon than in the shadow of Old Trafford.

I decided to sign up to the Grafman middle distance triathlon as that was nice and local to me and also the wonderful Brian Adcock donated a place at each of the Hever castle “Gauntlet” triathlons to assist me on my way to 500 miles. Hever Castle would be a return to my childhood as I grew up in that area between the ages of 9 and 12. That would do for a start and I would find other races as the season progressed.

So I am going to go through my races and key points in chronological order at a fairly high level in an attempt to keep this review as brief as possible.

Milton Keynes 20 – As part of the training preparation for my sub 3 hour attempt I entered the MK 20 in early march as a final check that my pacing and training was where it should be. In short it was. 20 miles completed in 2:14:44 which meant and average pacing of 6:45 per mile which essentially meant I was on for a sub 3.

Manchester Marathon – 16 weeks of training, 700+ training miles, Travel costs, Hotel costs, all for one event. Imagine that one event going truly tits up after 18 miles. Well, I don’t have to imagine. I started the race feeling good and ready to crack the 3 hour mark, I paced well until about 18.5 miles and then things just fell apart, cramping and sickness took over and I eventually crossed the line in 3:27:27.

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MK Marathon – With the disappointment of Manchester I felt I owed it to myself to have another shot at the Marathon sub 3 before my triathlon training kicked in. Unfortunately it was like de ja vu, the 18 mile mark came and went and I was comfortable then bang, just before the 19 mile mark the wheels came off again the same way as in Manchester, the time was worse at 3:42:04.

It was later discovered that I have a “defect” in my body’s ability to retain or create its own salt. Therefore, at the pace I was pushing myself over 2 (ish) hours my body was simply reduced of the salts it needed to continue. Causing cramps and sickness. This helps now but at the time my love for running disappeared completely.

Grafman – Time to forget about my marathon disasters and focus on what I love. Triathlon. The first event of the season was the Grafman, based at Grafham water in Cambridgeshire. A great event and perfectly organised by the guys and gals at Nice Tri. I can safely say that I enjoyed the first tri of the year and was reasonably happy with the splits considering my focus had been marathon training until 3 weeks prior to the event. Swim 33:54. Bike 2:40:34. Run 1:34:35.

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Southwark 10km – I entered this race last minute as my training plan suggested a 10km pace test. The only way to get me to push hard is to get me into an event. It worked! I nailed a 10km PB in a time of 37:38 and second place overall.

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Hever Gauntlet (Round 1) – Excited to return to a place I spent many happy years growing up I neglected one very important aspect of racing. ALWAYS read the race information. I learnt a valuable lesson during this race as I attacked the hilly bike course on a TT bike and the toughest off road hilly half marathon in a pair of very light race shoes. Having said that, despite the tough course and the cold wet conditions I did enjoy myself.  My Swim time had improved since the Grafman but the bike and run was significantly slower due to the dramatic profile of the courses. Swim 31:54. Bike 3:20:12. Run 1:44:43.

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Boxend County club championships – So back to sprint distance in the name of the team. Stopsley striders fielded its first ever triathlon team for the county championships at Box end. I really enjoyed being part of the team and used this race as a hard training session the splits a fairly average 12:49, 32:32, 21:55.

Stewartby Sprint – Having returned from holiday I decided to enter my second sprint of the season. Again, using this as a hard training session. The event itself was run by Active Training World and fairly local to me. I was surprised to exit the water in second place and battled between 2nd and 3rd place until the end of the race. A slightly long 12:59 swim, 31:08 bike and a 15:46 (4km) run saw me finish in second place overall.

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St Albans Stampede – Back in March when I suggested to my team mates that we entered this race it sounded like a really good idea. At the start of September it seemed like much less of a great idea. That said, the team of four started the relay strongly and took our turns on the 4 mile loop. It was clear from the second loop that the course would test our legs before the 12 hours was up. The team was in high spirits throughout the day and with three teams from Striders there it made for a great event and a good day out despite the very best of British weather trying to dampen our spirits. Our team continued to run well and we quickly found ourselves challenging for second place. However, in the 11th hour (literally) they just beat us into second place and we had to settle for third. We had run a combined total of 104 miles in 123 hours and I personally had covered 27 miles.

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Unfortunately the hangover from the Stampede meant I had a common runner’s overuse injury. Initially thought to be bursitis of the hip eventually turned out to be damaged tendons in the hip\ glute meaning I would not run for two months. It was clear then that any running related races were not going to happen. That said, back to hever!

Hever Gauntlet (Round 2) – So back to Hever Castle again for the second time this year. My goals were to nail a sub 30 minute swim and beat the time I had completed in back in July. Well as mentioned above I knew I wouldn’t finish the race as I was unable to run. It is a strange feeling getting up at 4am on a Sunday morning, driving 2 hours to Kent to take part in a race you know you won’t finish. Regardless of that I decided to push hard on the swim and the bike and call it quits and grab a massage after T2. So, having left my trainers at home, that is exactly what I did. I swam harder than I have ever done before and way outside of my comfort zone, but that gamble paid off as I exited the water bang on 29:59. The official results pinched another 1 second off me but I’ll take that. 30:00 bang on for my swim was a huge PB for me and proof that the increased hours in the pool with PSC had paid off. Onto the bike and again I was conscious that my triathlon would end once I had finished the bike, with that in mind I pushed hard and managed to keep a decent average pace up over the two hilly loops. I knocked over ten minutes off the time in July. Finishing the bike split in 3:08:13. Into T2, packed up and headed to the massage tent. My triathlon season had ended.

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Nice to Cannes Marathon – Well I had planned to do the French Riviera marathon all year and I hoped it would yield the magical Sub 3 hour marathon and along with it sign off on my 500 mile charity challenge. Unfortunately, again due to the injury this would not happen.

Summary

In a year which has had a lot of change personally I think this season was as good as it could be in the situation.

I have moved house, struggled through the worst employment of my life and eventually been made redundant (thank god!). I found another job and have settled into that job nicely and then just when I thought I could finish the season on a strong note. I got injured.

As I alluded to at the start of this blog, it was an experimental year and I have had some good results. Some good memories and some good learning’s. I have forged a new partnership with my fellow GB athlete and friend who will coach me into 2017 and beyond and I am really looking forward to the time ahead. This was certainly not a wasted season, I tried something different and I didn’t enjoy it as much as previous seasons. That doesn’t make it a failure. Not trying is a failure. Never be left wondering “what if”.

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One thing it has done is fire me up for next season! The best version of me comes out in 2017. I can’t wait!

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For now, it’s a little bit of down time and a decent recovery block before the off season training starts. Thanks to everyone for the support throughout the year. My friends and family have been as wonderfully supportive as ever and I couldn’t have done it without you.

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That’s a wrap!

So I have started my working life with TUI and so far, so good. It is certainly busy, but busy in a good way. As always in a new role it will take time to get to grips with 100% of things but as I say, so far I am enjoying it.

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September started fairly brutally with the St Albans Stampede. For those that are not aware what this is (lucky you!) then allow me to explain. It is a 12 hour endurance race which you can complete as a team of 8, 4, as a pair or if you’re totally mental you can do it on your own. Back in March it seemed like a really good idea to enter a team of 4 from the running club. On Saturday morning it seemed far less of a good idea. The loop was four miles (measured by the same person as the Luton parkrun clearly!) and the plan was simple. I would start, run a loop, hand over to the next runner, and so on and so forth until the 12 hours was up. To be honest, things went to plan, the off-road course was tougher than expected and soon started to take its toll on the legs and of course tiredness set in but on the whole, yes, I’d say it went to plan.

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Overall, it was tough but really enjoyable. The team did well and there was a great team spirit. The men’s team which I was part of finished safely in 3rd place which earned us a nice trophy, a bottle of wine and a Brewery tour.  On the downside, my legs felt it for the following week and my hip has not been the same since.

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No time for rest as the training continued as normal towards the Hever castle triathlon at the end of September. However, Disaster struck as a hangover from the Stampede hit home. I had Bursitis of the hip. No running! Not the greatest race prep, fortunately I have two other sports to focus on!

The following weekend I enjoyed a 60 mile sportive organised by TUI, aptly named the “Tour de TUI”. The sun shone, the bike flew and despite two punctures I completed the hilly 60 mile course in just over 3 hours, great training towards Hever and another 60 mile in the charity box for the year.

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Unfortunately my hip issues hadn’t disappeared before my second visit of the year to Hever castle, so I had a decision to make. Do I a) pull out completely or b) hit the swim and bike hard and stop after that, not getting a medal and obtaining a DNF. Well, I went for option B.

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It is a strange feeling getting up at 4am on a Sunday morning, driving 2 hours to Kent to take part in a race you know you won’t finish. Regardless of this I managed to get into the mind-set to swim outside of my comfort zone in order to achieve a sun 30 minute swim time and to push the bike harder as I didn’t need to run off the bike. The idea being to improve on my split times from Junes event.

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In summary, I did exactly what I set out to do; I swam hard and completed the swim in 29:59 – although the official timing robbed me of a second to make it 30:00.

A careful “hobble” into T1 saw me away onto lap 1 of 2 on the bike. It’s amazing how your brain forgets just how brutal certain aspects of races are! I was soon reminded. The endless slow draining climbs are occasionally rewarded but sweeping fast descents. Again, the knowledge that I wouldn’t actually finish this race played with my mind when the legs got tired but I managed to ignore that and push on, with lap one done, I pushed through the second lap with everything I had left and by the end I was very pleased not to be facing the tough half marathon. Instead, I went for a massage. This could be the future! Swim, Bike, massage.

So altogether a really good day out at Hever castle, a superb event and seamless organisation made it a great event to be at. I got a new 1900m PB and smashed my personal bike course record by just over 10 minutes. I also managed to tackle a few demons. Since my crash in 2012 I have suffered with confidence on the fast descents but on this course, you simply have no choice but to put your big boy pants on and get on with it. I’m hoping the more I throw myself down rapid descents, the more comfortable I will be with them.

So that pretty much puts a wraparound September and indeed the Triathlon season. It’s now time to sit back, relax and to get my bloody hip sorted. My next blog will be a very honest and open season review and race plans for 2017.

Finally if you have not given yet we are rapidly heading towards the end of the year! Yes, really! So my 500 mile quest is coming to an end. Please dig deep and donate for a very worthwhile local charity. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Sub3500

I’ve had a blast!

Regular readers of my blog will know that since July 22nd I have been on “Gardening leave” as I was made redundant in mid-June.  Fortunately I managed to find myself a job very quickly and agreed a start date of 22nd August! Therefore, I found myself with a month off… paid!

So of course as it is called “gardening leave” I decided that I would do no gardening whatsoever and immerse myself into training. A taste of what the pros do! The only exception was that I also had a week’s holiday in Mallorca, but more on that in a moment.

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Let’s just say, I have covered more metres in the pool, more miles on the bike and run than ever before and I have loved every minute of it. My hope is that it sets me up with a strong end to the season.

At the tail end of my last blog I told you that I had teamed up with my mate Fin who I raced with in Chicago to push me to my limits and he has certainly taken my training and given it a much needed shake up.

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So August continued very much the way June finished. Training anywhere between 2 and 5 hours a day. Most days hitting at least two of the three disciplines.

I enjoyed a holiday to Mallorca in the first week of August. It was my first visit to the Island and it will certainly not be the last. I took the opportunity to run and swim most days and hired a bike on two days to explore some of the awesome routes on the island and one or two of the climbs. I loved it and I will definitely be back. If anyone is heading to the north of the island and needs a hire bike I can fully recommend the “Pinerello Experience” which is based in Port de Pollensa. Great gear and superb service.

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Having retuned to the UK I raced the following weekend at a local Sprint Tri – my first Sprint of the season. A great race held by Active Training world in the old Brick works of Stewartby. Well worth looking out for next year.

I had a decent swim for probably the first time ever and came out of the wet stuff in second place! Which is pretty unheard of for me. I left T1 in first place and put my head down on the bike but unfortunately I lost a place early on to a strong athlete, this time round I just didn’t have the legs to stay with him. The legs felt a little heavy, I put this down to holiday \ mountainous bike routes \ excessive holiday food. I hoped he was a poor runner! In the final 200m of the bike I was overtaken again and so I finished the bike leg down in third place. T2 could have been better as my bike decided it didn’t want to stay on the rail but with that issue dealt with I gave chase to second place and took it back midway through the run. It was an out and back run leg so I saw first place come back the other way, he wasn’t a poor runner! Oh well! I hit cruise control and was happy to hold second as I knew I wasn’t going to catch first, he had done the damage on the bike. I crossed the line just over the hour and claimed a nice trophy – so a good days work.IMG_20160814_115401

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I thought I has deserved a rest day, apparently not. It was straight into another tough week of training but as it’s the last one before I return to a full time job, I don’t mind at all.

The next event lined up is the St Albans 12 hour Stampede – which will see me cover around 30 \ 35 miles in 12 hours and is done as a relay team. I then have two weekends of no racing before I travel to Hever again with the aim of beating my time set on the same course in June. A busy month ahead.

I am on the lookout for corporate sponsorship for the 2017 season. So if you or someone you know think you may be able to help then please do get in touch. It would be very much appreciated.

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Its been a while

So its been a while since I last wrote but in truth it has been a pretty mixed start to 2016. If I am honest, its not one I have been particularly happy with.

My last update focussed very much on Winter training and the quest to land myself a sub 3 hour marathon. I am not going to bore you with the details around it but suffice to say, I had two attempts at it and failed. Anyone that knows me is no doubt bored to death of the reasons why and what I am doing to overcome the issues.

So that target is now going to be pushed back to the end of the year when I visit Nice in November.

With it being June and as I sit here and type the Sun is streaming down through the window and the Triathlon season is well and truly underway. My first Tri of the year was the Grafman middle distance. I had three weeks from my marathon to quickly remind myself what biking and swimming felt like before I took on what was only my second ever middle distance Tri.

The chaps and chapesses at Nice Tri events laid on a super event as always and the race went well, I went there with little expectation and no pressure on my shoulders so I actually enjoyed the race! I remember actually smiling when I was finishing the bike leg!

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I was pleasantly surprised with the result – the swim was shocking, but then what can you expect when you ignore the pool over winter in favour of tattoos! The bike was comfortable and perhaps I should have pushed harder. The run, was also pretty comfortable. That is until about the 6 mile mark when 3 big blisters decided to make me run like I had shat myself! I was happy with the performance on the day as I know I have got better in me. Remember I had managed just 3 weeks of Tri training since the marathon!

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I am now in week 2 of a 4 week building block which will see me train hard all the way up to the 10th July which will be The Castle triathlon at Hever Castle. I am looking forward to racing around the part of the world I grew up.

In summary, A disappointing start to the year has been now put behind me. I’m back doing what I do best. Racing. Triathlon. Bring it on.

Most importantly, please remember I am raising money throughout the year for a local charity based in Luton.

If you can help please do so – http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Sub3500

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May – Part 2!

The second half of May continued to be as busy as the first half. With the St. Neots race behind me I reviewed the race and identified areas which could be quickly improved. This is a process I go through after every race. I would advise anyone to do the same, no matter what level you are, each race gives us a chance to learn and grow.

I decided to enter a local sprint event based in Hatfield (HSV Triathlon) to iron out some transition issues and get some more race pace in my legs. It turned out to be a good plan. The pool swim of 400m went well and I hit my targeted time before exiting into T1 and tackling the undulating 20km bike course. I made up a few places on the bike and maintained a decent average speed throughout. The run was nice and flat which was a relief and again made up a couple of places which saw me cross the finish line in 4th place overall and first in my age group – which earned me a nice medal and a prize of a run training session with “Perfect Balance”. Something to look forward too.

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The following weekend saw me return to the scene of my first ever triathlon back in 2012, Eton Dorney.  Again this was an ITU qualifier and the field of athletes was of a very high standard. I was relieved by a later than usual start which is one advantage of racing at Dorney, the bike being 100% on closed roads means we do not have to get underway in the small hours of the morning to avoid traffic. That said, in my usual fashion I still arrived early and racked before watching a couple of friends set off in their earlier waves. Once underway I was disappointed again with my swim time and exited the lake further down the field than I wanted. Out onto the bike and I started to gain back some places, a lot of places. I surged through the field again keeping my average speed high and powered through the slightly over distance flat 20km course. The run is fairly non eventful at Dorney, its flat, you go up and down the side of the lake twice and then you finish. That said I had pushed my legs hard on the bike so the run was fairly tough but I was still happy to post a decent 5km time. Overall I finished 10th in my age group and had a decent time for ITU qualification. Lots of positives from this race and I was happy with my own performance on the day.

 

Eton Dorny looking glorious on race morning

Eton Dorny looking glorious on race morning

The following week saw me take a proper taper week, with a few tougher sessions on the Monday and Tuesday with a couple of easier sessions and some days off towards the end of the week, I used this time to escape to the coast for a few days with the family and to go fossil hunting in Lyme Regis, which was awesome! I highly recommend a visit if you are down that way.

The final race in May and the final ITU sprint qualifier loomed on the last weekend in May. Again returning to a venue I have had a love hate relationship with in the past. Last year I had a great race but upon finishing I discovered the loss of my timing chip. Having stayed and registered in Nottingham (Holme Pierrepoint) on the Friday I was once again relaxed and ready to race on the Saturday morning. Again a later than normal start meant I got to cheer a club mate on in his race before racking my own bike and preparing transitions. With the race briefing done we entered the 11 degree water and awaited the starter’s horn. Once sounded the washing machine was in full spin! For once my swim was improved and I clambered out of the water slightly battered and bruised in a reasonable time. T1 went smoothly and I was out on my bike on a nice flat fast course. Again the bike saw me gain a huge amount of place and a great bike split saw me dismount into T2. Again, transition went smoothly and I was out on the single loop run course. The legs felt good considering the effort they had put in on the bike and I finished the race in a decent time. Another good race under my belt. I walked upstairs and printed off my race splits and made my way to pack up my stuff and return to the car, that’s where it all went wrong!

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A text came through from a friend simply saying “Mate, why the DQ?” At first I thought he was joking so I sent the usual abusive reply but he seemed adamant. Sure enough, he was right. I had been disqualified. Why? I am still trying hard to find out. The event organisers are unable to tell me, the race referee wasn’t present (don’t get me started on this!) and the BTF themselves have been very close to useless. At the time of me writing this I am still none the wiser as to why I was awarded a DQ, without knowing that I am unable to appeal (which they charge you for!) and therefore a potential qualifying race for me has been declared null and void. So all I can do is wait….

That sees the end of the sprint qualifiers and to be honest it has been a bumpy road and a lot tougher than I had expected. Will I qualify to race the sprint distance in Chicago in September or Lisbon in 2016? Truthfully, I don’t know. I will have to wait and see.

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June now turns my attention to Olympic distance qualifiers, races to enjoy and a bloody long bike ride. Oh and who knows maybe the race organisers and the BTF between them will perhaps let me know why I was disqualified. I wouldn’t hold my breath!

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Insight

 

Race Season – At last!

OK so I know it’s only the second week of May but it has already been such a busy month that I fear if I don’t write down what has happened so far, I will just forget. Or (even worse) the blog entry for May will be about 27 pages long and very dull….

I knew May was going to be a busy and tough month in terms of training and racing but it really has lifted off with a vengeance.

The tail end of April saw my final pre-race visit to my nutritional sponsor Insight Nutrition. (http://www.insight-nutrition.com) and the news remained positive, I am at a good racing weight with good lean muscle mass and a body fat percentage that remains in single figures. However, the nutritional intake balance is vital because I need to ensure I am eating enough of the right things to fuel the training and racing in the coming month.

Saturday 2nd May was the day in 2015 that I dared to enter open water and yes it was bloody cold. I joined my transition Tri team mates for the first “Galeforce Mass swim series” races. I figured if I was going to get cold I may as well do it for a reason! So, as the horn sounded I headed off on the 750m loop of the lake. I think it was after about 200m my left foot went numb, the right foot followed shortly after and both hands and my face had gone before I finished the loop. However, I did learn that I was the first male home. So I got a nice trophy for my efforts… and more importantly first in the hot shower!

 

3rd Place overall. 1st Male

3rd Place overall. 1st Male

Two days later and I was racing 13.1 miles around Milton Keynes. I won entry to this event in a raffle way back in December and didn’t really put any specific training in for it. I turned up on the day and ran well throughout finishing in 30th place overall and only 10 seconds outside my half marathon PB. Does make me wonder what time I could do if I actually trained for a half! The race itself was…… forgettable. The start was heavily congested, despite being organised into pens and as it turned out the first 2 miles cost me a PB as I weaved and winded my way through the crowds. The route was very dull, numerous out and back sections which left very little to inspire the legs and lungs to keep going. In my personal view the best bit was the final km. Firstly, you’re near the end which is never a bad thing, secondly, a nice scenic loop of one of MK’s numerous lakes and finally a stadium finish at the home of Wimbledon FC… sorry I mean MK Dons.

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Just 10 seconds off my PB

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Just after the climb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two days later I took part in a midweek Aquathlon in Welwyn (Stanborough lakes). The 750m swim and 5km run served as a good timely brick session and again I was happy to exit the water in a good position and complete the run to finish in 3rd place overall.

Three days after that I decided to take part in the new Luton park run which is only in its 4th week. The route is 3 and a bit laps of the towns Wardown Park and attracts around 200 people every Saturday morning. Aware I had a big race the following day I eased off a little as I raced round. Happy to complete the course just under 20 minutes and in 7th position.

Full of smiles

Full of smiles

So that’s four races inside a week. Not the best taper for my first triathlon but some valuable training all the same.

Sunday 10th May saw my first triathlon of the 2015 season take place. Talk about in at the deep end! The first race was held in St Neots and happened to be the British Sprint championships, an ETU European qualifier and also an ITU world qualifier. So it’s safe the say the competition was fierce!

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The race itself was disappointing, it’s not often I write something downbeat about a race but my performance on the day just wasn’t there. The swim was laboured due to a niggle in my shoulder and was about 90 seconds slower than it should have been, this meant that the bike leg was spent gaining places that should have already been mine. The bike performed well but lack of race practice meant I held back too much and in retrospect I should have pushed the average speed of the ride much more. As I hit the start of the run my feet were like two blocks of ice and it took the first half of the 5 km run to regain any sense of feeling in them. This did however lead to a reasonably strong finish and a decent run time overall. I finished 16th out of 40 in my Age group which for me is far from acceptable. I know people will say that the field of athletes and times were phenomenal that day but I still believe my individual performances should have been much better.

Still, that said it was the first one of the season and the next one is fast approaching. So it’s time to take lessons from that first race, work them out and move on and hit the next one stronger and faster. I’m a triathlete, it’s what we do.

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A dabble at 70.3

So this past weekend saw me down in Weymouth to take on my first ever half iron distance race, Challenge Weymouth.

As regular readers will know, I entered this race way back at the beginning of the season when I didn’t have to commute to and from London on a daily basis. The last month or so has seen a sharp decline in time available to train and I wasn’t sure I had done enough to make it round a distance that was alien to me.

Anyway, I decided not to let the negatives ruin race day and I arrived in Weymouth on Saturday with the full intention of just making sure I completed the race, no other targets, just complete and learn from the experience.

Saturday turned out to be crazily busy, the drive down took the best part of 3.5 hours and I went straight to registration. As soon as Transition opened I went down and put my bike and transition bags in place. Transition bags was a whole new experience to me, as was the changing tent, but more on this later! So for those of you that don’t know, I usually do sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. This means you have ALL your kit, by your bike in Transition. With longer distance triathlons, transition is more “relaxed” and you have time to take a bag, get changed between legs and then hand the bag back in for one of the Marshall’s to take care of. However, this takes some thinking about ahead of time! Enough said.

Anyway, with bags and bike stored overnight it was time to hot foot it back to the pavilion for the race briefing (another thing that doesn’t happen in Olympic\sprint races). Once finished I left to go and find my hotel, some dinner and my bed.

The alarm sounded at 5am and it was still dark. 5am on a Sunday is still a foul and evil time to be getting up! I had my pre-race brekkie and found a suitable place to dump the car for the day before heading back to load up the bike with drinks\gels\bars etc.

The weather had turned pretty windy which meant the sea swim course was altered for safety reason. The chop was fairly bad and this caused a number of athletes to drop out of the race there and then. As I watched athletes being swallowed up and dispersed in the sea by the waves I wondered the sense of attempting the swim, but I didn’t come all this way to be put off by a little surf!

At 08:20 my wave was off and we were instantly assaulted by the waves. The swim to the first buoy was very physical and took a lot out of the arms. Once round the first buoy swimming became somewhat easier and easier still coming back to shore for the second loop. Oh yeah, the second loop! Once again I was battered by the waves and even more so with tired arms from the first loop. The swim was completed in 37 minutes. 10 minutes or so slower than what I would expect in a nice flat lake. Oh how I missed a nice flat lake!

I was in and out of transition as quickly as I could and onto the bike. I had been warned that there was a climb out of Weymouth but “once you’re out its flat and fast”. This was complete b*llsh*t. The course was hilly for the entire 56 miles. You were either pushing hard uphill, pushing hard against the wind or focusing on going downhill very fast without crashing. In short, there was no time to sit back and take in the beautiful surroundings of the Dorset countryside. I kept a decent average speed on the challenging bike course and completed the bike in around 2 hours 45 minutes. It’s a long time to spend on the bike, I didn’t have to tell my arse this, it knew!

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Speaking of arses, I returned the bike to transition and grabbed my run bag… i.e. a bag with my trainers in! I headed into the changing tent and proceeded to remove bike gear and place trainers on my feet. While doing this I made the mistake of looking up and found someone bending over directly in front of me. Words cannot describe how this has damaged me mentally, time will tell. Again, something that is unique to longer distance racing and something that is definitely NOT welcome. I never wish to be that close to a man’s O ring EVER again!

With that memory lodged firmly in place I headed out onto the over distance run. Two and a half times up and down the seafront. At least it was flat! I started well, clocking 4 minute kilometres and I decided to walk the aid stations and take on water. It was great to be surrounded by so much public support and it really spurred you on. I continued to push on and continued to walk at aid stations and this worked well for me. I completed the run and entered the red carpet in around 1:35, which is only 7 minutes off my half marathon PB! My total time of 5 hours 8 minutes landed me in 14th in my age group. Not bad for my first middle distance triathlon.

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So, will I do another middle distance? Yes, I would, but I would ensure I had time to train effectively for it. For now I will stick to Sprint and Olympic distances as I can train effectively for that around my commute.

That was my final planned race for 2015 so it’s time to start thinking about my season review and goals for 2015.

It’s all about the team!

So the second half of August came and went pretty quickly. Can you believe we are in September already!

On the 24th August I raced in my first ever team relay event which was held at the water sports centre in Nottingham. Transition Tri fielded two teams of four on the Sunday; the format being that each person swam, and then biked then ran so it made for an interesting and somewhat chaotic race. I have to say though it was a fantastic day out and the fact that I was racing as part of a team made it even better. It was nice to be racing for someone else’s benefit, rather than just your own.

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The day went well and everyone raced well. Our team finished in 17th place with some VERY serious teams up the top end of the table. A great day out had by all.

The following weekend I managed to get in a decent 140km bike ride ahead of Challenge Weymouth that is fast approaching. I have still not managed to settle into a decent rhythm of training since working in London. The commute is more tiring than I had expected and it is taking its toll on me and my training time more than I thought it would. That said I am still managing to get in some decent training, just not as much as I would like.

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I have also joined a swim squad (www.putteridgesc.co.uk/) which I will swim with twice a week. Firstly, to make sure I get my arse in the pool over winter and secondly to improve and make sure I am in touch with the leading pack come next year.

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The start of September saw the annual Stopsley Striders Vs. Putteridge swim club Aquathlon. Stopsley had lost the trophy last year and were determined to get it back. This was a great little local event and it was well represented by both clubs. I am happy to say that I did my bit for the team and came in 1st adult male. With Stopsley also obtaining 2nd and 3rd female places we claimed the trophy back.

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So, what’s next? Well, that would be Challenge Weymouth. As I said, the training has been far from ideal for this one but I am confident I will get round in a decent time. We shall see.

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. I’ll let you know how I get on n Weymouth.