2020 – Cancelled ❌

Last night we got the news that the pinnacle of the racing calendar has been cancelled. The Ironman World Championships in Kona, will not be taking place in 2020.

And I won’t lie to you, that’s a deep blow. I’ve spent the last 24 hours not in the best frame of mind. It sucks.

I obviously knew the writing was on the wall, and when Roth got cancelled I knew it’d be unlikely Kona would happen. But still, kona symbolises a lot of things for me, and for it to not happen wasn’t any easier.

It’s not even that we won’t be able to go to Hawaii this year that’s upsetting, it’s what that means. With no Kona, it means no racing. I’m not the kind of athlete that puts a half hearted performance in every other week at a little event. 

I race to be the best version of myself, two days a year. 2/365 (366 in this case). That’s all that counts. Careful planning. Nowhere to hide. All or nothing. 

Ironman offered us 3 options. 1) defer to any other Ironman race. And waste 5 years of training to qualify in this sort of shape? No thanks.

Second – defer to the new date, February 6th 2021. 

Third – defer to the 2021 race on October 9th.

Before i’d even finished reading the options I knew the answer, and here’s why.

Big races like Kona are everything to an athlete like me. With every single decision I make in life, I consider the impact it’ll have on me as an athlete. I devote everything to trying to become the best possible athlete I can be. And that’s showcased two or three days a year. I sacrifice everything for that opportunity, as do many others around me. 

53_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_151469-12559900Now in 2019 it never happened for me, I never quite strung it together, I just wasn’t good enough when it counted. So I’ve got a lot to prove. Throwback to Kona 2017, I stumbled round in 11:57, the first and only time I’ve finished an Ironman in the dark. And I’ve had a lot of demons since that day.

It’s not racing purely against other people that excites me. It’s not beating them. It’s lining up next to some of the worlds best age groupers and pushing each other the the edge of our limits. It’s about bringing the best out of ourselves and those around us, and testing just what we’re capable of.

The only time this can happen, is if we’re all there at the same race, in good shape, ready to lay it out. Nobody wants to win under bad circumstances, nobody wants to lose due to things they can’t control. Everyone wants to be the best in a fair contest. 

If we race in February, the Southern Hemisphere will have had perfect preparation, and we’ll have been training for the hottest race on the calendar, in sub 0 temperatures. Yes, I’m aware that the Aussies train in winter for kona every year – your winter is very mild, Europe’s is not. Winter means snow, ice & crashes. Nobody wants to race a reduced field. Nobody wants to see crashes.

36_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_113520-12559883Nobody can qualify. There’s no races, so how are the strong athletes going to qualify for a February race? Again, a reduced field doesn’t bring out the best in us. Even if a few more find their names on the list. 

It’ll ruin Christmas for us all. Imagine it. You waltz into a family buffet, it’s the Christmas period, beer & snacks are flowing. 

Except you’ve waltzed in late cause you’ve just finished a 5 hour winter (or summer) ride on a time trial bike and you’re wandering about worried about getting ill or fat 5 weeks out from Kona. You don’t have any beer. You don’t have any buffet. Race weight is hanging over you. Kona is coming. And that sucks. 

You’re trying to get heat sessions in the week before running in -3 degree winter mornings. Morning -3, evening +40, ermmm?

It just wouldn’t be a championship. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be Kona.

So I’ve opted for October 2021, the closest thing we’ll get to a “normal” Kona.

That way it won’t impact on the 2021 calendar. I won’t be trying to cram extra races at the end of the year. Unwinding and taking downtime in March. Building through April. I’ll be fresh, ready and prepared by the time the racing starts. 

My last 3 years were meant to culminate in Kona 2020. We’d planned every detail for me to be execute the race I’d be proud of. So that’s difficult. But the island will still be there in 2021. (I hope).

I still want to go to kona in 2021 and 2022, and I still want to do something special.

So what’s next?

Well more downtime. Not physically this time round, but mentally. Cut myself a bit of extra slack, hit the big sessions, see what we can produce and how far I can stretch the limits. 

I still want to race Roth & Western Australia in the next 18 months.

I still want to go sub 8:30.

I still want to be the best version of myself.

So until that time, racing or not, I’ll keep grinding behind the scenes. Ready for when we can once again, toe the line. 

2020: Survival Mode

It’s been a while since I’ve tickled the keyboard of little iPhone screen and sent some useless sport related nonsense to you all, so thought I’d drop in for a little catch up!

It’s been a difficult time all round, nobody knows what the future will look like, people are struggling to earn money and now more than ever helping each other out is the highest priority. 

Ruth Astle Calpe (82 of 144)A few people have been wondering where that leaves us in our crazy world, and honestly, I’m not entirely sure myself. Races are cancelled, flights are cancelled, nobody will be able to qualify for races like Kona.

2020 has been a bit of a whirlwind and I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to end. I had a long call with Joel my coach last week to put some ideas on paper for what the future might look like for me, but staying healthy and looking after those around me has to be the first priority. 

First things first, I owe a huge thanks to Cyclestore & Glass and Stainless through this time. Currently I’m still able to work, and while my freelance work has completely dried up, getting money into my bank account has been incredibly helpful and for that I’m grateful.

So, what have I been up to?!

Well, nothing exciting obviously. I started training December 30th in Leeds after a forced week off due to a broken foot. Working closely with Helen my podiatrist we managed to limit the damage to just a week on the sofa after Christmas, so before the break of the New Year I was into the full swing of things.

At the start of the year I had two main goals, run 2:55 off the bike, and swim sub 60. Nothing else really mattered through the year! 

Calpe Long Ride (2 of 69) Calpe Long Ride (3 of 69)To kick this off I spent two weeks in Congleton getting the work done before jetting off to Calpe, Spain to get some miles in the sun with my good friends Ruth & Dee. Ruth has recently turned pro and Dee is right at the top end of the age group field, so it was great to get some training in with them, and split a few good quality bars of chocolate at the end of each day…

Though the weather wasn’t great, it was good to get some high quality miles into the legs and I came back with a solid base to work off. I continued this through the later stages of January and mid February I pinned on my first number of the year. 

I was going to be running the Stockport Trail Half Marathon. I was just looking for a good honest effort in the legs too see if the extra run training had began to pay off. Though I covered the first 3km with the leader, I decided he was running a bit quick for my winter legs so took my foot off the gas.

5935960667848704By km 6 I was already beating myself up for the poor tactics as he was 15 seconds down the road, an agonisingly close distance, and it was clear we were moving the same pace. Nothing I tried let me shut the gap and I came home in 2nd with a time of 1:14:29.

Though I was disappointed in the bad tactics, I was happy with the run and it looked promising for later in the season.

Back to the drawing board I still had some weight to shift and some miles to cover before my next race rolled in 3 weeks later.

Unfortunately later that week I was hit with a virus and had to take the majority of the middle week off. Finally starting to feel human the week of Cambridge half marathon, I knew no matter what happened, I’d be able to run faster later in the year. Tipping the scales around 85kg, I was still 4kg above race weight, and nowhere near peak form.

None the less I donned the black & yellow Congleton vest, some shiny pink Nike Next% and took off with the second group on the road. We worked together through the wind and out of town, and I knew as we passed the half way mark we were in for a good run if the legs held out.

6531046170558464 6359116415107072Through mile 10 and I knew my legs had written cheques they couldn’t cash. Battling to the finish, I lost a lot of time in the last 5km and managed to cross the finish line in a time of 1:11:38. Though the course was around 200m short, this would have put me comfortably in the 1:12 region, an effort I was incredibly happy with.

Looking back, it was a great position to be in at the start of 2020, though that’s when things fast deteriorated! 

Thursday that week I flew to Calpe again with Ruth, Will Clarke and the riot racing team for a week of hard swimming and miles in the sun. 

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re so far away about what’s happening back home. The simplicity of training camp draws away from everything else that’s going on. Saturday morning I headed out for 100 miles in the mountains with Ruth & Kim Morrison, in good hope and optimistic about the week.

Calpe Long Ride (58 of 69) Calpe Long Ride (49 of 69) Ruth Astle Calpe (53 of 144)

By Saturday afternoon we’d booked flights home from Madrid, packed by evening and on our way by Sunday lunch after a morning long run. It was like something out of a film driving to Madrid, 5 hours on the roads and a total of 10 cars. Though not surprising considering the Spanish lockdown had just been announced.

Due to us being in two high risk areas of Spain it was clear on arrival to the UK we’d have to self isolated. So with some complicated logistics only a mad family like mine would consider pulling off, I made it from Stanstead to Northumberland via Wigan in the following 12 hours. Swapping bikes and kit in the process.

I self isolated in Northumberland for 2 weeks and continued training camp there. Managing to knock out 50 hours of training despite the pools being shut, I knew it was time to get back to Congleton and the safety of home. 

Though that now leaves us in an interesting situation. Later this I’m meant to be flying to Italy for the third race of the season, instead it doesn’t look like we’ll be racing at all in 2020, and Kona is in a precarious position.

DSC02854So the foundations have been laid, the base is solid and I’m in incredible shape. Though what for? So it’s back to the drawing board. Through the next few weeks I decided I’d be completing some testing to create benchmarks in the fitness, before unloading and taking a mid season break. Funny considering we haven’t had a season. 

Yesterday was that testing. I did an all out two hour bike on my turbo, in the garage. I managed to match my best 70.3 2 hours which was in Slovakia last year, a day I had one of the strongest bike splits. Before heading out into the cheshire lanes to run a 1:19:30 half marathon. A PB off the bike, with nobody to hunt! It was weird racing with no race. A real battle of the mind. 

DSC02874 DSC02817I think I won.

So what’s next? I’ll use the time to reflect & recover, help my family out where I can and look to the future to see where that leaves us. Try and earn some extra money to get me through the next period and ready for when the racing picks up again.

I’ll keep you in the loop about what we’ve been up to, how we’re moving forward, and anything else exciting that happens in lockdown.

For now though, stay happy, stay healthy, help those around you, and let me know if I can help in any way! 

2020: Survival Mode.