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 ….

January Blues

So it has been just over a month since I last wrote and I hope you are all well and  still keeping your resolutions?

It’s been a mixed month personally. Having found some run fitness I went and destroyed any progress I had made by pushing myself too hard whilst on my Level 2 coaching course. Stupidity and male ego took over and something that was meant to be a simple drill turned into the biggest race on the planet. Detect the massive undertone of sarcasm as I say “Hoorah, I won”. The cost of this “win” was another 21 days of not running. Let’s just say my Osteopath and Coach were less than impressed. Lesson learned!

So it’s been a month of further frustration on the run front but again I have found myself pushing the bike, Swim and Strength and conditioning so all is not lost.

The last two weeks have seen me running again and completely pain free which is fantastic. I made the decision to pull out of the Ashridge Duathlon as I don’t think I would do myself justice and that is not the biggest focus of the season.

On the 24th January I also turned another year older! However, I had a great birthday and got some great gifts which is always nice.

So now I am fit it’s time to buckle down. I am a little behind where I would prefer to be in training but the important aspect to remember is that I still have 3 months until the first Humanrace ITU qualifier at Eton. So that’s the target fixed firmly in sight now. I need to ditch a few KG, regain some run speed and continue to work on the top end of my cycling which seems to be coming along nicely.

It’s a recurrent theme but I’d like to thank Carly @ Luton Osteopathy (https://luton-osteopathy.co.uk/ ) for her patience and knowledge to continue to “fix” me and get me back on the path to Rotterdam.

The next few months are critical for the success of the season.

 

Oh and…. keep an eye out for this – Spring 2017!

 

 

 

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.

asics_greater_manchester_marathon_logo_2

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.

grafman-bike-2 grafman-run-2

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.

mf

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.

20x30-swim024220x30-hevc132320x30-heva0328

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

swimexit bike-1

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.

fb_img_1473008628450

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.

castle-triathlon-series-logo

 

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”.

4626667590_1045x312

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!

Basic RGB

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.

huub-logoinsight-logoPSCstriders

 

 

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.

HSV

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!

IMG_20150108_164716

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.

USA

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!

inframon

Insight

 

Roller coaster week!

As I loaded my car up on Friday evening ready to tackle the two hour drive to Nottingham I wondered if I was mad! I was about to make a four hour round journey in order to take part in a race that lasts about a quarter of that time! Then it occurred to be that this is nothing out of the ordinary. When I think of the amount of people who travel to foreign countries to represent their countries or even just take part for fun.  The drive itself was fairly uneventful and slow due to people fleeing back home after a week in the city, at least I wasn’t one of those people!

I arrived at my hotel in Nottingham and couldn’t help but notice immediately that it was full of triathletes, there were bikes all over the place and the smell of deep heat and Lycra seemed to fill the hotel. Of course this was one of the closest hotels to the race venue so it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. I checked in and went up to my room where I went through the regular process of investigating every drawer and seeing what I could steal. The outcome was as follows:

Bathroom: 2 shower caps, 2 shower & bath gels, 2 soaps, 2 shampoos and 2 sachets of shoe shine.

Bedroom: 2 packs of biscuits, 4 sachets of coffee, 4 tea bags, 8 sugars and 2 hot chocolates.

Having eaten one pack of biscuits, made a coffee and unpacked there was not much left to do then to set out the next day’s race gear on a chair like I always do. Have a bath, work out how to use the toilet (long story!) and hit the hay!

I awoke the next day and made my porridge in my room, I then made my way down to the breakfast room to research what could be potentially lifted from that area, the answer – not a lot.  A pretty poor selection of breakfast options, I ate a slice of toast and honey, drank a tepid cup of coffee, helped myself to 2 (or 5) Nutrigrain bars and packed up and headed to the race venue.

I have given a full race report over in the race reports section of this blog, but I will just add that the level of athletes at his event was off the chart, I really felt I was competing against the best of my age group at this event. I learnt a lot about myself just watching other athletes and dealing with pre-race nerves etc.

What an amazingly organised event, this is by far the best venue \ organisation I have ever been to. I know it was the British sprint championships and a qualifier for the Worlds in September but the layout, registration, marshalling, entertainment, location……. Everything was brilliant – a massive well done to the organisers.

So if you haven’t or can’t be bothered to read the race review then I will tell you now, I raced really well and was really happy with my time, however due to the phenomenal standard of athlete there I still placed 20th in my age group. Not really the result I wanted at all but a good solid race performance none the less. I headed home a little disappointed but not too unhappy with my own performance.

So that was the weekend!

Monday morning came around all too quickly and it was back to work. However the usual Monday morning blues were interrupted; very happily; with a check on the BTF website.

I had wondered briefly if the BTF team had finished updating the result from Grendon for the European Sprint Championships in Austria in 2014. They had. As I scrolled through I saw the following news…

Nathan Scott      Q4          GRENDON

What? I took another look….. It’s true. I had claimed the fourth qualifying spot in Grendon. I was Team GB!

However ……………. Tuesday held bad news – there had been an admin error at the BTF around another competitor’s date of birth – apparently a chap didn’t know his own date of birth when he entered the race!

BTF

Therefore I am currently NOT qualified for Austria next year and will have to seal my place by racing New Biggin Triathlon in early September. Close, but not close enough!

What that does tell me is that I was close, really close. A bit more work with my coach and I should secure my spot in Newcastle in September. Time is on my side!

Bring it on coach!

M1 concept 2

Next up is Bristol ITU Qualifier on 23rd June swiftly followed by a jaunt to Wales for the Llandudno Sea Triathlon.