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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It’s been a crazy few weeks!

Firstly I have to apologise for the delay in writing this week’s blog. I will explain all below, but I have good excuses….. Honest!

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Last week began superbly and training was definitely on track which included a visit to Ampthill and Flitwick Flyers (http://www.affrunningclub.org.uk/) for an early speed work session, the session itself was excellent and the people were really welcoming and friendly. The following day I decided to do my weekly long run with my mentor, thank goodness I did it early in the week. The long run was based around Woburn and was by far one of the most punishing runs I have ever done on tired legs. This session hit me pretty hard and I felt it for days afterwards.

Last week also saw me bid EasyJet goodbye and as a result my leaving do was on Thursday night. I was joined by all of the friends I have made in my time there and it was a nice break in training. I took the opportunity to top up my carbohydrate stores (beer is carbs right!?) this more or less ruled me out for Friday, who am I kidding, it completely ruled me out for Friday. However it was great to be joined by Sean and Zach from Inframon (my race sponsors). www.inframon.com

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Training resumed on Saturday and I was very pleased to have got my long run out of the way earlier on in the week.

Monday came around very quickly indeed and with it bought two things, the sun and my start at Tesco.com.  Just to remind you the sun is a big yellow thing that sits up high in the sky and warms you up! My initial fear was that different hours and strains on my time would have a negative impact on training but even though the workload is heavier and the hours are longer I am already seeing opportunities to train around the long working hours. The facilities at work are brilliant so once I am settled in I intend to use the 15 miles to and from work to my best advantage on the bike. I wonder how fast I can cover the 15 miles?!

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This weekend was meant to see me compete in the Grizzly in Seaton, Devon. Billed as the toughest race in the U.K.  I was really looking forward to a challenge, but, unfortunately race logistics and getting to and from the race venue proved too difficult and so I am having to pull the event from my race diary.

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I had some news later on in the week which really put the icing on the cake. I am really chuffed to announce that for the 2013 season I have been accepted as an ambassador for Xterra UK. So if you see me during the season I will be sporting my new Xterra wetsuit and associated apparel. I am very proud to be selected to represent such a great brand.

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What a superb finish to a hectic training period! To find out more about Xterra and their products please visit the website http://www.xterrawetsuits.co.uk/ or hunt them down on Facebook and Twitter.

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So you see, heavy training, alcohol related activities, finishing at one company and started the next chapter in my career are all very plausible excuses for the blog being late. Well, I think so anyway.