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 ….

Its good to be back!

Wow Mid-March already! Where is this year going?

February was a really positive month for me. Training has been consistent with only a brief interruption due to a dose of the deadly man flu which I managed to survive. Just.

The injury that has plagued my off season seems to have finally disappeared and this has been down to a combination of things.

  • Sensible training. Not rushing to get back up to speed and building gradually to protect the injury and not risk having any further setbacks.
  • Regular treatment from Luton Osteopathy. Ensuring I am fit and well and ready to put my body under the strains of pre-season training.
  • Finally daily stretching and using the foam roller. I used to think I hadn’t got time to do this daily, perhaps I even managed to convince myself I didn’t need to. Needless to say it is now part of my daily routine and my legs and back have certainly thanked me for it. I am a convert!

Things went so well I decided to enter the Winchester 10km held on the 26th Feb. Those of you that know me well will know my nerdy side involves Vikings and Norse mythology. So a visit to Winchester was a good excuse for a race. Winchester is where Alfred the great defended England (OR more specially Wessex) from the Vikings.

The race itself went well. A great course and a really well organised event saw me finish 38th out of 900+ entrants. The time was 40:15 which is over 3 minutes away from my PB but the important thing was that I raced pain free for the first time in two years. Brilliant T Shirt and Medal too! (Viking related of course)

 

The final week of February featured a visit to Alex @ Insight Nutrition. I had feared the worse but actually I was pleasantly surprised. I left feeling boosted by my visit and a nice finish to February.

Before I got injured I made plans for my 2017 season. My main focus is of course to qualify for and represent GB in Rotterdam in the World finals in September. My “B” goal is much the same but for the ETU Europeans next year. A sub goal was to qualify for GB ITU Duathlon.

My one shot at this sub goal was 12th March at the Bedford Duathlon. Based on not being 100% fit and not having the best preparation over Winter I was not overly hopeful at achieving this goal and certainly wasn’t looking forward to the event. I was put off even more when I woke up and saw the rain lashing down. However, I decided to pull my finger out and race, if nothing else it would act as a line in the sand to understand where I am in the road back to fitness. This would also be my first race in a draft legal race, so good practice for the rest of the season. One less thing to get disqualified for!

The weather didn’t improve much and transition was wet and grey, it was clear that the competition on the day would be fierce. I prepared my Transition area and retreated to the warmer pit lane buildings to keep warm and await the start of the race. After a brief warm up and race brief we were called to the start line.

Bedford Duathlon – Race review

Format: 5km run \ 20km Bike \ 2.5km run.

Organiser: NiceTri Events

The horn sounded and we were off. I followed my coaches’ advice and hit the first 5km run hard and came in just under 18 minutes (17:58). I was really happy with that considering my lack on running over the last few months!

With no wet suit to faff around with T1 was quick and I was out on the bike in around 30 seconds. I managed to chase down a decent group on the bike and working together managed to progress through the field and pick up additional riders. A group which started as 5 grew to over 15 and as usual we had 3 or 4 of us working on the front while some slackers sat and drafted happily for the entire 20km. The conditions were wet and slippery and the hairpins on the bike proved interesting as a few places were gained by some people sliding off onto the verges. There was some pretty impressive road rash on show after the race. Fortunately I stayed out of trouble and posted at 29:55 bike split.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T2 was trouble free and I was quickly out onto the final 2.5km run. The legs were tired from the first run and a hard bike but I pushed on and did whatever I could to hold position.  The final 2.5km run was sluggish and something I need to work on as I came across the line in 10:15.  My overall time was 59:15. A good race and I am really pleased I took part, it gave me a boost in confidence and highlight areas I need to work on. In addition it gave me some practice in racing a draft legal event. Not only that but……

As I type I believe I have qualified as Q4. I am awaiting confirmation from the BTF but we are certain that my position and time was good enough to earn a spot on the GB AG Team. Not a bad day all in all, watch this space!

 

Up next – 10 days in Majorca J

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!

 

 

 

Happy new year

Firstly, Happy new year to you all. I trust you all had a good Christmas and enjoyed your new year celebrations.

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To say that I am looking forward to 2017 is a huge understatement. As I said in previous posts, 2016 was an experimental year with a disappointing end spending 3 months on the injury bench. However, I don’t believe in dwelling on the past and there was certainly my fair share of good that also took place in 2016. As I have said to one or two people recently, I now know that everything happens for a reason, you just may not know or appreciate it at the time.

The past month has seen me get back some much needed base mileage in the run which in turn has given back some fitness whilst fighting off the inevitable Christmas calories. I have also managed to clock a couple of sub 20 minute Parkruns which I can’t really complain at having been off for so long and I even managed to represent the run club at a local cross country race which was as pleasant as ever. I still think back to the days in upper school when the very mention of cross country simply meant having to run to the local railway bridge, hide underneath it, extract the cigarette and lighter from ones sock and wait patiently for the rest to return and join on the back. Job done. How times change!

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My swimming has remained constant throughout winter and over the festive period which I know will pay dividends when the season comes knocking. For that I have to thank Putteridge swim club for being such an awesome club, not just the coaches but the other members who make getting up at 5:15 worthwhile.

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The bike has been fairly static, as most are this time of yeah. Ice on the roads and freezing conditions making it a little too dangerous to venture outside, so plenty of sessions spent on the Turbo trainer trawling through episodes of Vikings, The grand tour, The walking dead and anything else I can find on Amazon.

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Another mention has to go out to Carly @ Luton Osteopathy. Without her dedication and knowledge (not to mention patience) I don’t think I would now be running pain free, so a huge thank you to her for getting me back out there. However, I am still getting nagged to stretch and foam roll on a daily basis. My only question is, does foam rolling ever become pain free?

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Looking forward to January there are no specific race plans but the plan is to shift the winter weight and get back down to what I consider to be the racing weight. This is a weight that I have felt I have raced best at in the past. Since working with Alex @ Insight Nutrition I have learned that it is key not to focus on numbers too much but focus more on how strong you feel come race day.

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I will continue to build up the race pace on the run. I need to find 2 minutes over the 5km distance before the first race day lands in May. However, I trust my coach and my training so I don’t see that as an issue, it will come. I just have to believe… always.

All the key races are now booked, hotels reserved and plans are firmly in place, so it’s truly time to hit 2017 with full force and make it a year to remember. Watch this space!

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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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September Already!

With the recent good news about making the GB Age Group squad for Austria next year I of course went away and purchased my GB Tri Suit, I couldn’t resist; I’m excited! However it is important to remember that this season is not quite over yet!

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It is September already! I mean seriously where has the year gone? It has been a lovely warm summer which has provided lots of racing opportunities, good running, cycling and open water swimming balanced nicely with family days out and holidays. So my attention turns now to what is the tail end of the season.

Next up I have the final “big” race of the season, The Anglian Water standard distance triathlon held at Grafham Water in late September. I have already qualified for the Sprint distance in Austria next year so I thought I would give the standard distance a shot too. It will be the first and only standard distance triathlon that I have done this year so it should be interesting to see how my bike and run legs have improved over a longer distance.

After that I intend on finding some “fun” events to take part in before the autumn chill kicks in. Then it’s straight into an off season of hard running and endless hours on the turbo with Austria firmly in mind!

Again I’d like to state that the success I have experienced this year and the improvements I have made would not have been possible without the financial support from my sponsors. They are a superb bunch and really supportive. If you are in the IT business, in particular a support function then why not take a look at the website to understand what they do. www.inframon.com.

I am really happy to announce that Inframon have agreed to be my financial sponsor for the second year running in 2014. This is superb news and thank you so much to Sean, Gordon, Di and all the team for being such fantastic support. Bring on 2014!

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Secondly, as you are all aware by now, back in March I left Boxfit Triathlon club as I felt I had outgrown what was on offer there. I decided to take on a coach and I have to say that decision was probably one of the most important decisions I have made this year. Mark One Coaching has worked me hard each and every day to help me achieve my goals this season. Again if anyone is looking for help, guidance and support why not give them a tri….. excuse the pun! (clever!)

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So, it’s onto the Anglian water Olympic distance race then I have a few spaces in the diary which I will look to fill with low key local races for fun. So if anyone has any suggestions or recommendations then let me hear them.

Stay safe everyone and keep smiling!