Ironman Hamburg – Brave faces and dark places.

It’s arrived, we’re here. Ironman Hamburg has swung around and yet again, I find myself in race week. We fly tomorrow super early doors and so far, so good… touch wood.

_MG_1827If you’re just here for tracking information, that’s relatively simple. Get yourself the ironman app downloaded, search for Jack Schofield, and a little smiley picture of me and my mum should pop up. Get notifications on, get me on your tracker and off we go. Start time is around 6:45am in Germany, so 5:45 at home.

Though it wasn’t originally on the calendar, it’s been running through my head ever since Africa went wrong for me. Of my last 5 full Ironman races, 4 haven’t gone the way I like. But that’s taught me a lot about my goals, targets and how to deal with bad results.

I’ve had bad nutrition, bad run numbers, back spasms, a bike crash, punctures, you name it, I’ve had it. All the possible triathlon excuses.

But there’s always another day, always another race and that perspective is why I think I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in.

There’ve been a few bumps and bruises in the last week or two. A complete nutrition revamp because of a leaky front system among others. But that’s how it goes and I think I’ve got to the bottom of it all.

_MG_1944It’s no secret that I want to go to Kona again this year. That’s been a goal of mine for quite some time, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m ok with that.

A bigger goal of mine, that’s been on my radar for the best part of 5 years, is completing the ‘perfect race’.

Now we all know that doesn’t quite exist, but in the pursuit of perfection you can easily stumble across excellence.

There’s absolutely nothing I’d change about the last 3 months of training and preparation. I’ve worked hard, eaten well and it’s been a great journey. My mind is in a good place and physically I’m in the shape of my life. I’ve been racing consistently and the people around me have been working endlessly to keep me propped up and moving forward. And for that I’m incredibly grateful.

I’ve learned first hand how quickly it can go wrong. I have to respect the monumental task I have in front of me, another ironman in very warm conditions!

3.8km swim.
180km bike.
42.2km run.

So how does that look?

_MG_1775Well, after a shiny new wetsuit with a huge thanks to Glass & Stainless, my swim will hopefully be an improvement on where it’s been in the past. I’m looking to dip pretty close to that 1 hour marker, probably just above. Though probably still 10 minutes back on the people I’m planning on rubbing shoulders with.

I’ll be straight into transition, socks on, shoes, helmet, race belt, go.

And I’m going to attack that bike course like nothing I’ve ever done before. Sure, I’m not riding to blow up in the first 40km, but there’s a fire in my belly that hasn’t been there before. I want to explore the limits of what my body is capable of and just how fast I can take to 180km. What can I do flat out after 2 years of average bike performances? The dream is to hold a pace not too dissimilar to that in Slovakia…. which brings me in on the better side of 4:30, something I know I’m very capable of.

If I get a flat. I’ll fix it.
Lose my nutrition, I’ll sort it.
If I fall off, we’ll have to hope everything is ok and I’ll keep battling.

_MG_1848I’ve spent the last 2 weeks going over and over every scenario in my head. So should one happen, I’ll stay calm and work out the best possible way to keep me in the race. I’ll play my hand with the cards I’m dealt on the day… and statistically, I’m due a good hand.

Peel myself off the bike, hopefully less literally than in Africa… shoes on, belt round, visor, glasses, nutrition, go.

Get after that ever elusive sub 3 ironman marathon.

I’ve spent 7 years in & around sport.. beating myself up day in, day out, aspiring to be like the athletes I surround myself with. And I’ve learned a lot about myself. Hopefully I can get back into the darkness and come out the other side… a grimace on my face, but a smile underneath.

Sunday will be entirely dictated in the last 15-20km of the marathon. Everyone can run the first 10km fast, but who can run the last 10km fast? It’ll be a delicate balance of having nutrition perfect so that there’s no gut issues or cramp in that latter part of the race. Mixed with a mindset that allows you to perform.

_MG_1636I’m hungry for an 8:45 ironman. It’s been a long time coming and I really hope that this weekend I can punch that ticket. 525 minutes from A to B. As hard as possible. With no excuses. No if’s, no buts. I’m under no pretence that to accomplish that I’m in for the hardest race of my life, but I’m prepared for that. I’ve done all the work I need to, no stone has been left unturned.

But really, I don’t care about time, don’t care about wins, losses. As I’ve adapted as an athlete, I’m out there to race myself and see just how far I can stretch my own limits.

Fight and fight and fight, until I cross the finish line.

Hopefully this time when we get there, it’ll be a performance I can be proud of. A day I can look back on and think “Wow, now that was a race!”. Sure, I have my targets. But it’ll be warm and so many factors can come into play… so I just want to work hard, race well and race strong.

And if it’s not my day, again…. then the next ironman start line I’m on, I really wouldn’t want to race me!

See you on the other side.

Eating healthy – my crazy fad diet plan.

It’s taken me a while to write this, but on request from a few people, here it is. My new crazy fad diet that I’m on…

Among a lot of comments about how lean I look and how much weight I seem to have lost, a lot of people have been asking about my new diet. I haven’t actually lost any weight, but I’m enjoying the compliments.

And the secret? A crazy new fad diet… it’s called the balanced diet… I don’t leave anything out, I don’t restrict myself, I just eat a bit of everything in moderation. Keep it very fresh, very whole and it’s great!

I’ve been working with Alan Murchison, @performancechef, who is one of the leading nutritionists at British Cycling and looks after the dietary habits of some of the worlds top athletes.

_MG_1944Now while I’m not about to give all of Alan’s secrets away, that’s what I pay him good money for, I’m going to outline a few of the more important features. 

I’m into week 6 of Alan’s diet, and while I’ve lost a bit of weight… I’ve consciously tried not to lose too much, but not worry about it. The main focus is filling my body with good nutrition to make sure I’m properly fuelled for each session and feeling good.

  1. Make sure you’re fuelling properly in training.

You can eat as well as you like out of training, but if you’re not fuelling your sessions properly, you’re going to create huge deficits. This is going to make you crave food when you shouldn’t be having it! So making sure the timing of your meals is good around sessions and your nutrition on the go is good is really important. Anything over an hour, consider taking a gel or a bar! 

  1. Go gluten free.

I was also a sceptic at first, but being gluten free has really helped my stomach. I have IBS and I’ve had all the tests under the sun. I’m not allergic to gluten, but by removing it, it’s helped a lot.

  1. Make your own snacks.

_MG_1633Might sound trivial, but the less time you spend in a supermarket in front of the snacks, the less you’re going to buy. Sure, snacking has it’s place, but plan it into your day. When are you going to feel hungry? When do you need to boost the calories before a big day? Nut, oat and dried fruit bars are great to make at home and cart about. 

  1. I’m eating meat.

Controversial and not something I particularly want to preach, but of the British Cycling olympic squad, only 1/2 are vegetarian. That doesn’t mean you need to have a steak every night, or even meat every day. You can make conscious choices to help the planet including meat free days. But the high quality proteins make a huge difference.

  1. Fresh, green veg… all of it.

I’m eating a hole host of high quality vegetables every day. Along with some other superfoods and seeds, you just can’t replace fresh veg! Make sure you’re getting plenty into your evening meal to keep the nutrients high. I’ve been ill once in the last 2 years, that’s not a coincidence. 

  1. Learn a routine and stick to it.

I eat the same things for breakfast every day, fuel training sessions with the same supplements and eat similar balanced dinners. I fuel the night before big sessions with certain foods so that when racing comes around, nothing changes. My body knows exactly how to burn what it’s given, and I’m not taking any risks of trying new stuff. Pasta for breakfast on race day? Hahah u mad?

  1. Sunday funday.

Sunday I eat a strict breakfast, eggs, avocado & seeds on toast for lunch… or some form of superfood salad and then eat what I want for the rest of the day. This is great, I always look forward to it and know that a small blowout isn’t going to affect my performance at all. 

There’s so many crazy diets around. Do eat this, don’t eat that. The reality is our body is an immensely complex system that needs a bit of everything! I won’t pretend I’m a nutritional expert by any stretch of the imagination… But by eating well at meal times, fuelling well and cutting down on processed foods, I’m feeling better and my performance has shot up!

6 days out from Hamburg, lets see how it all holds up in a race situation! 

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Good performance, bad performance, good performance…. 

Hey! It’s been a while since I’ve put pen to paper (fingers to keyboards), and scribbled any results or thoughts down!

IMG_9782It’s been a tough few weeks and I’ve taken on a couple of the U.K.’s more viscious 70.3 races. Ironman staffs was quickly followed by Swansea half marathon, which in turn rolled in Hever Castle Gauntlet.

We’re just over 2 weeks out from Hamburg, and I’ll say it straight. I’m in the shape of my life. 

I won’t lie in that I’m not where I wanted to be this year in terms of a complete triathlete, but as we move forward, I’m happy with where I am. There’s still a lot of work to do on my swim & transitions. And we can definitely squeeze some more speed out of the bike/run moving forward, but for now I’m satisfied.

3 half Ironman races in 5 weeks, and I seemed to go from strength to strength. I start a bit flat and sluggish in Slovakia. I couldn’t quite string the bike performance together that I know I’m capable of, but ran well.

_MG_1848Staffordshire my swim let me down, but I biked strong on a limited gear set and managed to put a strong run on the end to make the podium and pick up a 70.3 world championship spot.

Two solid performances in the space of a week immediately indicated that the fitness is there. Better performances than any I put together in the 2018 season and nice to build on a slow start to the year.

I rolled out of Stafford with some good recovery, and it was time to build towards the next focus, Ironman Hamburg. On the way I did Swansea half marathon. I woke up the morning of the race really not feeling myself. Dizzy, sick and a nose bleed just before the start. The 5 hours in the car the day before, and 95 fairly spicy miles on the bike, might have had something to do with it! 

DSC_5749My heart rate was the second highest it’s been in 6 years, and my speed was down below how I ran in Stafford. Without the swim, bike or hill on the course. 

Ruling it straight out as a bad day, I had a couple of days to let the body recover before getting stuck into a big week and a build towards the Hever Castle Gauntlet. 

A middle distance race with 1500m of elevation on the bike and 300m on the run. By far the toughest 70.3 course I’ve ever lined up on, I knew I’d have to try and stay in contention on the swim to have a chance of making the podium.

Quickly shuffled backwards, I left T1 with a touch and go timing. Right on the edge of what was acceptable to keep me in the race. Unfortunately Matt Brooke managed to catch Brett before I managed to catch Matt Brooke. The duo worked well together to hold me off the bike coming into T2 with a 2-3 minute lead over me. I knew I’d have had to come off the bike in the mix to have a chance of keeping up on the run.

_MG_1599After a quick toilet stop I ran really strong from start to finish. Never really opening the taps, I managed to pull the gap to Matt back to 1 minute, the same he held over me in Stafford. Ed Castro finished 11 seconds in front but it was a place I was happy to let slide. I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone ahead of Hamburg, the hard work has been done.

Coming in 5th overall and putting yet another solid performance together, the confidence is building.

I feel like as a complete athlete I’m fitter than I was last year, though there’s still work to be done. I’ve gained a bit of extra speed on the bike from some tweaks here and there. My run is back to strength, and the swim is going from strength to strength.

_MG_1871Though I’m not naive enough to think that there’s no work to be done, the focus this winter will certainly be trying to get the swim down right into contention with the top athletes. 

But for now the focus is all eyes towards Ironman Hamburg as we enter the final stages. Looking to improve on my last two disappointing ironmans, and go comfortably under that 9 hour barrier.

20 minutes and 1 second under if you’re here looking for a time.

That being said, I’ve learned first hand how fast an Ironman can go down hill. So I’ll take the confidence from the races of the last few weeks, build on the form and make sure I’m completely ready to leave it all out there. And excited to see just what my body is capable of!