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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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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Easy week

Having completed four weeks of swim focus training, last week was all about rest and recovery. For anyone that actually knows me they will also know that this means no such thing, I may do different things, but just as much!

With the winter weather truly setting in last week, all of this week’s training was done in the comfort of either the gym or at home. The training featured a lot of weight work as I don’t get to do this very much during the season so I like to do some dedicated sessions regularly throughout the off season to build some supporting muscle.

When you haven’t done heavy weights for a while it is guaranteed to make you ache for days!

The weights were broken up by some quality turbo sessions, the first being a guided audio set from www.audiofuel.co.uk which featured 60 Minutes of Chrissie Wellington shouting orders into my ears. Very effective workout though and certainly made the legs burn. The second major turbo session was using one of Sufferfest’s (http://www.thesufferfest.com/) videos, entitled “Angels”. These are ridiculously hard sessions and certain get a sweat going!

This week I start a five week block of bike focus, the aim is to bring the bike mileage up and increase leg strength in the run up to Christmas.

In addition I am having my first consultation with Insight Nutrition (http://www.insight-nutrition.com/). Those of you that know me will know that I have always had a bad relationship with food. If you have read the section entitled “The story so far” then you will understand where this has come from.

However it’s time for me to face my food demons and admit that I still have a very unhealthy relationship with food, eating really the bare minimum I need to be able to train. My goal is to better understand my personal calorie intake allowance and what I should be eating to obtain my maximum performance and beyond. Hopefully Insight can help me with this and make a real change. I am looking forward to it with some trepidation…. I will let you know how I get on.