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 ….

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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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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2016 – I best write something!

So it’s been a while since I last did a blog entry so I thought I would put virtual pen to virtual paper and let you know what I have been up too!

First off I am really pleased that my cross country season has come to an end and I am still in one piece. Cross country has never particularly been a friend of mine but I was committed to completing all five of the league fixtures this year without injury and I’m happy to say that I did that. I will never set the world alight in such a race but over the course of the season I was happy with my performances. Only one performance was poor and that was down to a rather heavy hangover!

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With Manchester marathon approaching ever closer and with a sub three hour target in mind my training has been largely run focussed in the first few months of 2016, with swimming and biking both being reduced dramatically to allow for the extra run mileage.

Training is going well, I have already completed my first 20 miler ahead of schedule and no sign of any injuries or marathonoia creeping in. So all is good on that front. February and March are a key time in the training plan and week 8 marks the halfway point of training, so I guess I’m on the home straight now!? Right??

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Away from racing and training I am really happy to announce that Inframon have agreed to sponsor me again for the 2016 season. They join Insight Nutrition in supporting me in my debut season in middle distance racing. This season will very much be a transitional season for me and in truth I do not know what to expect. Perhaps I will love stepping up the distance, perhaps I will just hate it. Watch this space I guess.

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One thing I do know is that during 2016 I will be attempting the sub 3 hour marathon and racing a distance of 500 miles for charity. I have decided to raise funds for a local (Luton) charity called Signposts. Why not pop along to www.signpostsso.com to find out who they are and all the good shizzle they do in the community.

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On that note please pop along to my fundraising site and make a donation. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Sub3500

I have a couple of races coming up in the next month so the next instalment should be a little more thrilling. But for now, keep safe and speak soon.

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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.