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

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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ITU World Championships – Chicago

Well, what can say about the World Championships? Actually, it’s pretty simple. Firstly I want to say thank you. I was totally overwhelmed by all the support in the lead up to the race and all the messages whilst I was out in the US.

So, thank you to all my family and friends. The people that have perhaps been neglected the most over the past few months. Thank you for your understanding and your unending friendship and love. I couldn’t do it without you all.

Next, thank you to all my club mates at Transition Tri, Stopsley Striders and Putteridge swim club. You have all been amazing and your support and help along the way has been one of the reasons I love doing what I do, no matter how hard the sessions get or how cold the lake gets!

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Finally, none of this would have been possible without my sponsors. triathlon is a pricey sport and without the help of Inframon (www.inframon.com) I wouldn’t have been able to represent my country in Chicago. Alex at Insight Nutrition (www.insight-nutrition.com) has been keeping a close eye on my nutritional needs and this ensured that I fuelled correctly through all my phases of training and hit Chicago in the best possible shape. Of course, thanks also to Fabio at Fabio’s Gelato (www.fabgelato.com) for making sure those well-deserved treats were of the highest standard.  I hope by wearing your brands I did you proud.

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So, I guess I better mention the race and Chicago itself!

Ok the flight to Chicago was full of GB age groupers so I made the right decision and decided not to wear my GB colours on the flight. I prefer instead to stay clear of the macho BS that begins the second a group of triathletes are in a confined space. You can see people eyeing each other up, wondering if they are doing the same race distance or are in the same age group. I stayed largely under the radar, put my earphones in and made my way through 4 films. Upon arrival the transfer was appalling, I won’t go into it but if you ever visit Chicago do not use “Go airport shuttle”. Simply appalling.

My apartment was superb. I decided to use “Air BnB” and found a great apartment which was just outside the city in a cool little American suburb. It meant I had my own space away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the event hype itself. I also had my own kitchen so I was able to keep the race nutrition on track. Based on this experience I would definitely use Air BnB again. A fraction of the cost of a hotel and so much better.

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The next couple of days were spent with the usual race registration, packet pick up, meet and greet, opening ceremony and team briefing. All of which lead nicely up to race day itself.

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My start time for the race was 11:10am which meant an early racking time of 07:30. With everything in place I had an anxious three hour wait until I was finally called to the swim loading pen. We entered the water and had a few minutes to get used to the temperature and the waves. (It is a very big lake!) then we were called to get ready, this is it I thought, months of hard work. A season of focus. Everything I had worked for put into one final race. The hooter sounded.

A hundred pairs of arms started pounding the water and each other. I had made the decision to start wide on the left to ensure I got away unharmed and settled into a good pace right from the start. This paid off as I got into a solid swim immediately and stayed clear of any fist fights in the water. I felt the swim was slow but in fact upon exiting the water (and confirmation later on)  the swim was actually 100m longer than the published 750m. A solid swim. I was glad to get my weakest discipline out of the way.

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The transitions both comprised of long runs. T1 meant a run in my wetsuit over about 600m. That together with the usual chaos in transition meant a 3 minute transition time. Again, on reflection this turned out to be a good, fast transition.

The bike course was frustrating. I would have expected a better course for the world championships but it was what it was. I guess it was the same for everyone but the course was very technical with two hairpins and numerous narrow segments. The course was also too congested and it was difficult to find a clear route through. Whenever I could, I put the hammer down hard and went for it. I felt strong on the bike and the legs felt like pistons hammering up and down. The road surface was also pretty poor considering the event it was hosting. I know in the UK we should be used to potholes, but these were ridiculous. As I said, the bike was a little frustrating, very stop and start and slowing down for obstacles that I wouldn’t expect to be there in a race of this magnitude. My bike made it safely through in just under half an hour for the bike leg and into T2. One thing I did suffer with was the heat under my new TT helmet. I thought my head was on fire!

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T2 was long again, another 300m run to rack the bike and switch the shoes and out onto the run course. I was relieved to get the bike helmet off my head!

At almost midday the run course was hitting around 29 / 30 degrees and you could feel it with every step. The heat was bouncing back up off the road. That said, I wanted a strong run so I started well. I held a good solid pace as I headed away from transition towards the city, the first 1.5km went as planned and the heat wasn’t too bad. I approached the first hairpin and POW the heat hit me full on. Not only could I feel it on my head and skin I could actually feel the heat in my mouth and tongue. I used the water stop to take a sip and then pour the rest of the cup over my head. I tried to continue to push the pace but the more the run went on the more the heat took its toll on me. I managed to hold a decent pace throughout and managed to speed up a little for the final 400m around Buckingham fountain. I stepped on the blue carpet and crossed the finish line of the World Triathlon Championships 2015.

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I had earned my right to be there. I had raced. I had completed and I was 33rd in the world. I’ll take that 😉

My splits were as follows:

Swim 14:01 (850m)

T1 3:24

Bike 29:44

T2 2:30

Run 19:56

 

Certainly not the best race I have ever had in terms of speed, in fact there was a lot of things “wrong” but definitely the most special race. I was happy with my individual performance on the day but disappointed in the course itself. Like I said, it was a level playing field so everyone had to put up with the same issues. Just one of those things.

With the race over it was time to enjoy my first trip to Chicago, so I did!

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In summary. It has been a long road to Chicago. It started way back in May with the qualifiers and there was plenty of drama involved there! The news of my qualification meant I had to save hard to make it to Chicago but make it I did at the expense of a family holiday! I went, I raced, I completed and I know have a world ranking. I am the 33rd best AG triathlete IN THE WORLD. That is something that I am very proud of and it has made the endless hours of training worthwhile. I had a great time in Chicago, I met some great people and had a great laugh and even managed to rub shoulders with some stars. It will be an event that I will remember for the rest of my life.20150919_19403420150919_194332 IMG_20150918_205145IMG-20150918-WA0005received_10153489205805861received_10153489206810861received_10153489209620861

Once again. Thank you to everyone who made this dream come true.

 

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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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Train hard to race hard

Since my last blog there has been a good period of hard training sessions and plenty of open water swimming.

I am definitely swimming more than I ever have before and the results are showing that the time in the water is paying off, I am getting faster.

Of course it would be difficult to write this particular blog without mentioning the weather, it’s just fantastic to head out on the bike or run without seventy layers on! Even the turbo trainer has now left the “hurt locker” and is now located in the garden so I can top up the tan whilst training. We have to make the most of it, who knows when it will end!

The main focus of this block of training is of course the final qualification races in September. Firstly the European Sprint distance race in New Biggin at the beginning of the month followed a couple of weeks later by the Standard distance European qualifier at Anglian water.

My priority of course is the Sprint and to cement my qualification place for Austria in 2014. However it would be nice to post an improved time in a standard distance race.

Speaking of standard distance races I was please to represent Transition Tri at the Virgin Active London Triathlon last weekend. We took part in the relay event on the Saturday, with team mates picking up the swim and bike legs all I had to do was hang around until the end then smash out a run.

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However, if anyone out there has done the Virgin London Triathlon you will know this isn’t a course for a PB, the run course was just far to narrow and far too busy, at some points I found myself jogging on the spot until the crowds had dispersed. That said I managed a 42:42 run leg and I was happy enough with that on the day. It was a great day, and the first relay I had ever done, so teaming up with two other team mates was a really good change. I really enjoyed it, and we got to cross the line together too which provided some decent photo opportunities.

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So next week I am on holiday and have a run focus week planned, just to get a good week  worth of runs into my legs before coming back and preparing for New Biggin.

I must just mention my fabulous sponsors who have stuck by me all year and supported me all the way, they really are a superb bunch of people and without them a lot of the racing and success so far wouldn’t have been possible. Their support has also enabled me to book a place on a training camp in early 2014. This will provide me a perfect block of training prior to the racing season and ahead of Austria next year!

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Also – I better also mention my coach, Mark Racher of Mark One Coaching. We have now worked together for five months and my game has really picked up. His daily support and advice is second to none.

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For  now it’s one final week of training followed by a holiday then hit it hard before racing my behind off!

Until next time, take care and race hard 😉

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Race time getting nearer! eeek!

With only two weeks remaining until my first competitive triathlon this year I am pleased to say that the training program that Mark One coaching has provided for me seems to be paying off, I certainly feel I have managed to shake of the “slow twitch” marathon legs and introduced some speed back into my training.

I am also feeling stronger on the bike which is great news. While I am on the subject of bikes I am happy to say I have FINALLY received my new rims from Planet X and they will make a welcome addition to the TT bike.

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As I have said Grendon Sprint Tri is fast approaching and being a lake swim I thought it was about time to man up and slip into my wonderful new Xterra wetsuit and brave the waters of Brogborough lake. I am not sure if I am getting used to the cold or the fact that the wetsuit was just that good but I was pleased to find that it actually didn’t feel that cold. I managed to swim out to the central flag and back before darting back out and into the clubhouse for a coffee. It was good to remind my mind and body of open water swimming, the plan is to get these swims in over the next couple of weekends just to prepare for Grendon. The meaningful swim session will still remain very much pool based.

Wetsuit review to follow….

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We continue to use Training Peaks for the training schedule and I find it a really good tool. What is also pushing me is the fact that I have to upload all my data from my Garmin to TP for Mark to see; therefore it’s like having Mark over my shoulder during the session. I have always pushed harder for longer if I am being watched. I think if we all were honest we would all admit to taking things a little easy on ourselves at times! However, I can’t do this with the combination of TP, Garmin and the wrath of mark looking over my shoulder.

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I am now a fully paid, signed up member of Ampthill and Flitwick Flyers. This run group is by far the best running club in the area and with so many athletes that excel I hope this extra focus will really start to bring down my run times. I look forward to seeing my times drop over the next few months. I am certainly finding the Tuesday night track sessions an absolute lung buster!

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TT season has started so I hope to include these little testers into the schedule soon. More lung busting \ thigh burning action (at least you get tea and cake afterwards!).

I don’t think much else has happened really so I won’t bore you all any longer. Training is going well and I am really impressed and happy with the support that I am getting from my sponsors and my coach.

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and now for something completely different!

Training has continued to go well this week but once again the weather has caused interference with pre- marathon preparation. Oakley 20 was cancelled by the race organisers as was my back up plan of the Gade Valley Harriers 20 mile practice run. I am not in any way challenging the decision as safety must come first every time, it’s just frustrating. I just want the snow\sleet\rain and cold to do one! Really, had enough now!

So, with that it gives me an opportunity to talk about something else, totally away from triathlon, running, bikes, swimming and lycra!

I am not just a triathlete trying to obtain age group status I am also a husband and a father. It is the latter of these two that I want to talk about and during this week I was struggling to think about what I was going to dribble on about this week and on Friday evening I found what I was going to talk about. That subject? Ellie, my eldest.

Fatherly pride is something that fortunately I experience fairly often, however this was something else. Over the last few months I have been very critical of Ellie going off in the evenings and doing a rehearsal for some theatre show that I knew nothing about. I have had a go at her for being in late. Questioned what the point of it is and most importantly (and this still stands) worried how much it was effecting a very critical point in time in her studies.

So, Friday rolls around and I hand over my £5 to visit Luton Library Theatre and witness this production that has caused so much grief. The show was a musical produced by Olympian Productions and was based on the once popular Dunstable ballroom “California Ballroom” (http://www.lutonculture.com/luton-library-theatre/whats-on/2013/03/21/ballroom-california/455/) and is a work in progress, meaning that you get the first thirty or forty minutes of what will be a two hour plus show.

Anyway, so having forked out the vast sum of a fiver and queued to get a seat, I found myself sitting just behind the VIP are so not too shabby. The small audience settled and we were introduced to the show by that fella that plays DS Lewis (you know Inspector Morse’s sidekick – yeah him!). The music started and the main character and narrator came out and began to set the scene. The first musical number kicked in, the curtain went back and OH MY GOD! Where the hell has my little girl gone? Ellie looked fantastic and performed so well, I sat there speechless for the entire show and for those of you that know me will know that doesn’t happen too often. I really enjoyed watching her perform and the immense amount of pride I felt throughout the show was overwhelming.

Ellie if you are reading this; which I doubt; I am very sorry for all the hassle I have given you over this show, I was wrong and you proved it up there on stage. I really enjoyed the show and am very proud of you. I love you, well done.

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Like I said, this show is a work in progress and as long as they secure funding there should be more one the way, so keep an eye out for it.

Right, there we have it, the first blog entry that’s completely unrelated to triathlon. I guess only fathers will appreciate what I felt on Friday night, but I still felt it was important to share.  The only thing I will add though is that Ellie’s male colleague on stage wants to be VERY careful where he places his hands! Not impressed young man!ells

Don’t worry folks, back to triathlon and lycra next week

 

Come on Spring!!!!

As expected I have had to start learning how to juggle training and family life around the new job and this continues to be a learning exercise.  However, I am not the first Age Group hopeful to have the pressures of work and family and I certainly will not be the last. I am sure that everything will fall into place.

That said this week has been a good week of solid training with no “wasted” miles. I have kept my base of runs to an interval session, a mid-week half distance tempo run and a weekend long run. In between these I have added a healthy spattering of good turbo and swim sessions. The new Sufferfest training video “Blender” is highly recommended …. for the slightly insane! Great workout though. (www.thesufferfest.com)

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This weekend I decided to take part in the Nice Tri 18 miler in rural Cambridgeshire (www.nicetri.co.uk). This was actually my first race of the season as the two previous ones have not happen for me for one reason or another. This race meant another thing as it was an 18 miler, not a distance I have “raced” before so I was guaranteed a PB. What a PB though, I wasn’t expecting to hold 7 minute miling all the way round, but I did and that led to a great 2:06:00 time over 18 miles. Really happy with the result and stands me in good stead for Paris.

Race report for St. Neots is now on the “Race Reports” page.

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Me taking a much appreciated drink from one of the well manned water stations.

Next weekend sees the running of the Oakley 20 race in Bedford and as this is a race I have run before I will be in search of my first real PB of the year.

Another first happened for me this week, when I was asked by a friend to give advice to a triathlon newbie. I had always seen myself as a newbie as I have only been doing this for 2 years. However I was honoured to be recommended to help someone who was just starting out. So I thought to myself “why not put this in the blog”…. So here it is, here is the advice that I gave to him based on what I found as a beginner.

Male, Age 30, Experience: Beginner,

First race: Jenson Button Trust Triathlon, Goal: Top 50 and to make the second wave.

OK, so let’s start with the bad. I need to warn you about the 2 worst bits of triathlon.

Number 1 is the start of the swim. You have a good strong swim time for your 1km; therefore I suggest you position yourself in a strong position in the swim so that you are not being held up by slower swimmers. However the start is always frantic and you will be right in the “washing machine”. I’m sure you have heard this phrase but it’s a melee of hands feet and elbows, expect to be squashed, punched and kicked!
So my advice is more for the start of the swim, the longer it goes on the calmer and more spread out it gets, it’s all about the start.

  • In the pool after a warm up, time yourself over 750m, but push REALLY hard at threshold (as hard as you can) for the first 200m, then swim at your normal pace… do not rest. This will replicate the frantic start on race day when the adrenalin is pumping.
  • Swim with others if you can, or ask people to swim alongside, in front, behind etc. So you get used to people being all around you when you swim.
  • Practice your sighting, don’t always trust the feet you are following, they may be going wrong. Stay aware of where you’re supposed to be going.
  • Get open water experience, it is NOTHING like a pool. Wearing a wetsuit, cold water, unknown depths etc. etc.


Ok, so onto the second worst bit of a triathlon….. jelly legs. Again I’m sure you know what it is but basically it’s the feeling in your legs when you transition from bike to run. This generally isn’t too much of an issue in half and full Iron distances as you have time for your legs to adjust. However in the short stuff this is VITAL, you don’t have 1km to “get used to it” you want to be off and running at your best immediately.

  • Practice going from bike\spin\turbo to run as much as you can. Brick sessions are so important. A great session that you can do inside (gym) or outside is; 10 mins bike, 10 mins run repeat 3 – 5 times. Try and run as fast as possible as soon as you get off the bike, but don’t use the bike as a chance to rest. Hard session but the benefits are massive.

Additional stuff.

People think triathlon consists of 3 disciplines. It doesn’t its 4. Learn to go through your transition (even if it’s in your garden\front room etc.) I can’t tell you how important this is in short distance races. Practice your layout, practice everything. For example I have been known to put on my wetsuit in my garden, goggles, swim hat etc. submerge myself in my daughters paddling pool, then run to my “transition area” and prepare for the bike, do a loop on the bike around my block (literally half a mile) then back into the garden to change for the run and another loop. Sounds like a tiny session but I see so many people fuck this up and cost them serious time and places, and even worse get disqualified. I will be practicing this soon heading into the season.

I would recommend going to the race location one day and having an easy run \ walk around. Get a feel for where the fast sections will be, where the hills are etc. Just so that there are no surprises on the day.

 Wow….. I don’t half bang on! Sorry – a lot to digest there….


In summary…

Practice a fast and frantic swim start then hold the race pace for      the 750m. (time it)

  1. Brick sessions! VITAL! Run off the bike – always.
  2. Practice Transitions
  3. Know the route      and prepare.

Hope all this helps, stay in contact and give me a shout if you need to. Happy to help

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