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Ironman Maryland Recap

After the smoothest journey I’ve ever had, I knew something wasn’t right. The bike had arrived fine, the hotel was perfect, the cycle shop next door had all the bits I needed. The car was ok, body felt good, weather was dreamy. 

Before I knew it, I’d slipped across the Atlantic unnoticed by friends & family and I was cruising along to Maryland ready for action. 

452A9345Caught up in the excitement, I made a pretty poor set of decisions the next morning. I’d woken up early, around 5am cause of the jetlag. Spent a few hours working before waltzing down for breakfast. The usual chores slipped by. Breakfast, car pick up, shopping, drive to Maryland. I arrived around 1400, had some food & set out to do my sessions for the day.IMG_6971

I thought I’d planned this carefully to adjust to the 30 degree heat, smart move? What i’d managed to ignore was that my double session was starting at 8pm UK time, on day 1 of America. A time when I’m usually tucked up in bed in the UK.

A few spicy run intervals, bike ride out on the course, off to the shop and back to cook dinner. Before I knew it, we were on 8/9pm USA time and I was cooked.

Barely functional I went to bed to sleep it off. Wednesday I felt great. Registered, hit out some good hard sessions. Swim & bike with intervals, and I was ready.

IMG_5215But it had all been a bit too much for my already tired body, and by Thursday, I’d got a runny nose and a groggy head. I spent most of the day in bed hoping that I’d clear up. Though when Friday rolled around, I was like death warmed up.

I went through the normal motions, racking, transition bags, nutrition planning, super green risotto. But I felt truly awful. I had to come to terms with the fact I’d spent all year chasing a result circumstance now wouldn’t let me achieve. It was a difficult 12 hours.
The alarm went at 4:15am, I was up. Full of cold & achey from three days of rest, I knew I was in for a long day. We bumbled down to the start, I felt sick, my body wanted to be in bed, my mind wanted to be on the sofa. I couldn’t comprehend doing an Ironman.

6 minutes until the start and I still wasn’t in my wetsuit. We were away from the starting pens, me seriously considering the points it was acceptable to have my first DNF. Did I even need to start?

Vicky pulled me together. “We haven’t flown to America for you to watch a race you could have done. Off you go.”

33637f1f-e293-4299-8e6a-3a8e3772a903So a quick 3 minutes later, I was in the pen. Far from ready, but there.

The canon went, the tension snapped and it was on. The bang whipped the life back into my body, and I knew why I was here. 

I’d flown to Maryland to work as hard as possible for the day. Regardless of pace, so I was going to do exactly that.

IMG_9084Into the water and it was punchy. I couldn’t be bothered with this. Knowing that ending myself on the swim would only offer me a few extra minutes I tried to save the matches and enjoy myself. Quickly remembered I hate swimming so at least focus on one of the two goals, therefore stick to saving the matches.

Under the first timing mat everything was going alright. I knew I was off the pace but still felt pretty ropey, though on the plus side there’d been no jellyfish. As the thought crossed my head so did a nice long tentacle. The initial soft touch was quickly replaced with a ripping sting. Jellyfish Joe had come for dinner. Ouch.

Round the next part of the loop, I got a few more high fives from Jellyfish Jenny and her mates, this didn’t do much for my already erratic swimming stroke. 

Out the water in 1:06 and ready for bed. Face stinging. Nose blocked. Bike waiting. Time to see what the legs had. 

I knew still carrying the illness I wouldn’t be able to respond to many moves. So it would have to be stick to the game plan, easy 90km before reassessing. Easy jack. Easy. 

Through the first 10km and onto some clear road, I felt like I was moving well, though I suppose that’s what happens when you come out of the water in close to 1:07. In the first out and back I saw the leaders going the other way, I was 10km in and they already had 12 minutes. I knew I was going to have to let this one slide. 

_MG_2104Hit 20km and that’s when I knew I was in for a long day here. My heart rate was high, my legs were hurting and the power wasn’t where I wanted it to be. We’d only made it 30 minutes down the road! 

I thought I could hold this power until the end of the bike, though I knew it might erupt 100km down the road. I just had to trust the training and know that if there is one thing I can do, it’s to push the pedals for 180km. 

It certainly didn’t take 100kms for it to blow up in my face, though by half way I’d ridden through some slippery looking guys. I was making good ground but i was paying for it. This wasn’t helped when special needs was 10miles further than it was meant to be meaning my legs were peppered and there was no magic juice waiting to fill them up. 

IMG_8116Sounding like an 8 year old with an empty slush puppy, I was being constantly reminded that the hydration system was empty, as was my body!

Special needs. Carbs. Electrolytes. Legs?

The carbs lasted the remaining 75kms, the legs lasted the next 5. I was desperately fighting to stay anywhere near the target we set, clinging onto any hope of a sub 9 dream. 

Rattling along the over congested roads was quite strange. I was moving through people like stop signs but I knew that they were 3 hours behind me in the race. I couldn’t seem to make any time on the people I was actually chasing. 

At around km 140 the legs truly fell off. To this point I’d managed to flatline a power I might have been happy with. There was now one focus, get to T2 with your eyes open. 

On the way into town I overtook one more guy, though he looked in a worse state than me, a truly impressive feat. Even on the 2 mile straights there was no trace of any athletes heading back into town. I knew I couldn’t be leading the race, so my general rule of thumb is assume 10 are ahead. Seems to work. 

As I turned the last corner a little old guy in his deck chair with a beer shouted “4th in, good job” and I knew he’d single handedly just ordered me to finish the race. The DNF was now even less of an option.

Off the back into transition. Blurry eyes, head throbbing, legs nowhere to be seen. There was now only one job left. Jog and don’t stop jogging, ignore the watch, just listen to the body and keep moving forward.

IMG_9122There was no way I was catching the three guys ahead as I was already in survival mode. In fact, I don’t think I’d have caught a sloth crossing the road. My legs were ruined, my head was pounding and everything was starting to shut down. But there was no way I was walking any of this marathon; not again. 

Before I’d even hit the 10km mark it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. I was in a dark place, fighting tooth & nail to not quit. I didn’t want to know how I was doing, I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to get myself to the finish line.

At the start of the second lap I got the news. I had a 10 minute lead but 3rd was closing in. Was kona calling? Who was ahead of me? Nobody had come past at that point (still unsure how) apart from the eventual race winner.

IMG_9120I was crawling. Walking the aid stations, trying to get some nutrition into my failing body. I wouldn’t give up the fight.

I battled from start to finish. Never gave up. Crossing the line I was satisfied. Not the result or time I wanted, but under the circumstances, all I had and more. And I can’t ask for more than that.

Crossing the line to the news that I’d hung on to win the age group and take 10th overall in a time of 9:13:52 still hasn’t quite sunk in. One of my best results to date, on a performance I feel was slower than my race in Germany! Though Kona ticket punched, I certainly won’t be complaining!

452A9040

I’ve had the last week to reflect, take some time away and really come to terms with my 2019 season. Overall it’s been a difficult year, but it’s taught me a phenomenal amount about myself, my resilience and exactly what I want moving forward in both triathlon and otherwise.

452A9033I’ve had some really promising results. I didn’t quite achieve all my goals, but I set myself high standards. I’ve already set my 2020 goals, picked my races and began to formulate an attack. I’ll use this next period to rest, recuperate and refocus. Before hitting winter hard and attempting to come into 2020 with a bang.

452A9046I’ve had some amazing support this year, and I wouldn’t have been able to get back to my feet without it. I owe a lot of people gratitude, and I’ll forever be grateful for the part they play in my journey.

But for now, where’s my beer?! 

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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!

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Training camp? Completed it.

On the way back to the UK after my 5th of 5 weeks on training camp. Yet again it’s been a success, with my third biggest training week of all time, backed up by a second, very solid week.

DSC02077All 4 camps had very specific purposes – and we planned them well to achieve that. Spain & Portugal were to build the base. Big miles, consistent training, heavy volume.

Gran Canaria was about adapting to the new bike. Chasing some amazing cyclists up the mountains and starting to find some run form on heavy legs. Those Ironman replica sessions that have become the bread & butter of my training.

And Lanzarote was for racing. Rolling roads, fast efforts & heat. Really hunting for that top end speed I only really see on race day.

452A40913 weeks to Africa and the race plays over and over in my mind. Each time more specific than the time before. 

I’ve rigorously checked the course, decided where the most crucial points of my race will be. Planned my nutrition, my gear. The pain and elation of Barcelona still echoing in my mind. Reminding me that it can all go wrong so quickly, but a pleasant nod to the fact that no matter what, I’ll race through. And as always the reality is – it’ll be nothing like any of the 964,732 scenarios I’ve already thought out. 

This winter I’ve worked harder than ever. I haven’t always hit my numbers and I haven’t always wanted to train. I’ve dragged my feet, moaned at those around me and been very very tired at times.

DSC_9687But one theme has been constant through – a relentless consistently. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with. Training has been first on the menu and when I start, I’ve carried out every session with complete focus. Left the baggage at the door, and got to work. 

I’ve been more disciplined in my recovery, I’ve worked hard day in day out – and finally, I think I’m starting to be ready to race.

So far in 2019 I have:

Swam – 31 hours. (109.9km)

Cycled – 129.5 hours. (3,737km, 54,319m elevation).

Run – 52.5 hours. (717km, 5,645m elevation).

20180520_11141And my average weekly TSS since starting the season in November has been 1,112. For those of you that don’t know – that’s some solid work! 

And my legs know about it. But hopefully, three weeks today, the results sheet will too. 

Exceptional performances are made up of hundreds and hundreds of average sessions. Trust me – 90% of my training has been very very average. 9% has been pretty poor.

But there’s the magic 1%. The region where I’ve shown signs of form that have never been there before. A PB swim on a heavy body in Lanzarote. A pb half up a climb in Gran Canaria. A time trial effort into the wind. 

DSC02054They peak out now and then, remind me that it could all be worth it. 

All that’s left is two light weeks, and one final big push to ensure that I really am in the best shape of my life. Both physically and mentally. Hopefully the British weather does its best to play along through the final push. 

It’s strange being ready for a race. I’ve always performed my best when I’m not quite expecting it. Wales, Canada, Maastricht, Almere. If you’ve followed my short triathlon career you’ll know I’ve always managed to race the best, when I feel the worst.

DSC01646Though I’m scared, really scared about it all going wrong. Finding myself looking up at the sky in another bike crash. Getting yet another flat. And I have to remain realistic – you don’t get a prize for turning up at an Ironman. 

If I stick to my race plan, it’ll be the most testing day of my life. But I’m ready for that. And if it doesn’t come off. If it does go wrong. Then I’ll learn the lessons, and be ready for the day I get it right. 

Discipline. Focus. Graft. 

2019, here we go!

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Challenge Almere – Swim like a brick, bike like a moped, run like a gazelle

Finally starting to recover from this morning events, and while I begin to piece it all together in my head, I’ve had the afternoon to reflect, regather, and compose myself.

First things first – if you’ve seen my Facebook video from this morning you’ll know that upon finishing the race and shortly afterwards I came across quite disappointed. That would be true. It’s obviously never nice to be on the receiving end of a beating when you know a podium was well within your grasp.

Though while I know I could have performed better on the swim this morning as well as transition, there was absolutely nothing I’d have changed with my bike or my run – and that’s exciting.

A sleepy start:

bored-cat_FotorThe alarm buzzed at 6am and my body had welcomed the lie in. I’ve been struggling with my IBS for the last couple of weeks, a mixture of stress and bad decisions. I wasn’t sure how this would impact my race but I couldn’t use it as an excuse before I’d even started!

We ambled down to the start and I was apprehensive. This isn’t my preferred distance – it’s snappy, fast and there’s no room for mistakes. I knew I was on good form, but I’ve been clumsy in races in the past, and I wasn’t going to let that stop me today.

It’s weird racing without a support crew. Floating through transition, not having anyone to communicate with, nobody to settle the nerves. But I made my way through my check list and before I knew it, we were in the starting pen.

The snake pit:

20180624_11318I hated the swim from start to finish. It was absolutely savage out there. We were instantly into the back end of the long distance field – and it was carnage.

I seeded myself quite early to try and get a good start going into the bike, as I know I’m a weak swimmer. But I just couldn’t pick my lines at all. All the spray and other athletes made it absolute carnage out there. I couldn’t see the buoys at all – let alone aim at them, so I found myself weaving around in the busy lake, trying to string a time together.

I couldn’t find a rhythm and I knew all the extra distance was going to add up against me, though I didn’t know at the time it’d be the decider. Finishing at 2.1km, not my finest.

Onto the bike:

DSC_9168I knew coming out at 35 minutes I’d be 11/12 minutes down on the rest of the field. The pro men had come out in 48 on the long course, so age groupers in our field would have done the same. This meant I’d need to do something exceptional to even put myself in contention for this race.

I got my head down and attacked the bike. And my legs didn’t disappoint! I was ticking over around 290-300W – and with the tail wind I was clocking approx 53kph! That’s 33mph in old money – quicker than my car will go!! I didn’t feel strong but I was battling and my legs had brought the boom.

I stuck to the nutrition plan and made my way through the field one by one. The string of riders went on forever – not once did I find myself with open road to ride, which scared me. Normally by 70/80k the athletes out front begin to die down, just how bad had my swim been?!

I knew I’d make all my time when we turned back into the head wind – though I also knew I’d be battling guys in packs of 5/6 athletes up front. Keeping motivated and sticking to the plan, I was still reeling people in. I was pushing through the pain, I had to keep the power up to contend.

T2 infinity and beyond:

IMG_98742I came off the bike in around 2:14 – on a windy day I knew this was solid, but there was a lot of bikes in transition and plenty of guys still up the road.

This was where I really wanted to test myself and apply everything we’ve been working on this season. I set out hard, picking people off one by one, and the first lap felt great. 7km down and I had to stay strong. As the legs started to feel the pinch – I powered on.

I was racing hard knowing everyone tracking me at home would be behind me, willing me not to stop! Little did I know my tracker had broken and my results weren’t being shown.

KM by KM I kept the pace strict at 3:50. It looked like a 1:20/1:21 was on the cards after all. And with 5km to go I stepped on the gas. I had to back myself from here and believe I could bring it home. I’d raced the bike/run to the letter so far, I wasn’t about to let myself down now.

It was a long way out, but my mind was calling the shots, and my legs were going to obey. They didn’t have a choice.

Flying past people with the odd grunt or grumble for them to move, the last km ticked by. I was in that euphoric state where my whole body was hurting, tingling, but I was somewhere at the back of my mind. The lights were on, but nobody was home. I was in robot mode – with one job to do. Run.

I crossed the line with 1:20:23 on the clock. A 4:19:58 overall and a new personal best – despite very long transitions and a howler of a swim.

A full list of the results can be seen here! And yes, I came out of the swim 263rd….

Reflections:

20180624_11491To run within a minute of my half marathon Pb, after holding 290 watts on the bike for over 2 hours, is one of the most promising results I’ve had this season – and in my triathlon career. As the disciplines start to come together – I know there’s a big result in there.

It’s easy for me to get hung up on the swim, beat myself up because it’s not there yet. And cling to them 3 minutes, because I know I had that in my legs. But I’m still new to it, and this is a long game. It won’t change in the 4 weeks to Barcelona – but we’ll certainly work on it through the off season.

When Joel was a pro his all time power pb for this distance was 292W. I’ve just done that and there’s more to come… I even managed to string a tasty half marathon on the end – and this wasn’t even one of my main races for the year.

There’s plenty of work to be done, and over the next couple of weeks, months & years I’ll work tirelessly to iron out the weaknesses – and strive to be the best possible version of myself.

Despite my frustrations today was a massive success. To overturn a 12 minute deficit and finish 6th in the Age group and 11th overall against some phenomenal athletes – is something that will motivate me right through the winter, I’ll be hunting for them 3 minutes to the podium! If I wasn’t slightly disappointed with my result, then I wouldn’t be the athlete I am. I want more.

In 4 weeks time I’ll be on the start line of Ironman Barcelona, which is where I’ll end my 2018 season. I’ll leave nothing to chance, and no stone unturned in the preparation between now and then. Every race I get hungrier for results, and hungrier to see how far I can stretch myself. And every race I get that little bit closer to the ideal race.

October the 7th. See you there.
Until then – watch this space!

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ITU Long Distance World Championship 2018 Race Report

After some wild young Danes partied into the earlier hours of Friday morning – I can’t say I slept exceptionally well the night before the race. Though there’s not much new there.

The 4:30 alarm buzzed – but I was already wide awake. It was time to play, I didn’t need any warning.

5:15 we left the house to walk to transition and I was one of the first there. People that have seen me prepare for big races know I get incredible nervous. I’m often sick on the start line, hard to talk to, very twitchy.

But this time I felt different. I was very calm, very relaxed. I think the biggest difference was I was confident.

I trusted my legs, the work I’d put in this season and the form I had. Joel and me had left no stone unturned to get me to the start line, we’d looked at every aspect of form and although I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be – I knew I had a big performance in the body and mind.

Having crashed out of a big race 3 weeks before – I knew what that felt like. And I was ready for it to happen again. The comfort in my resilience in these situations kept my mind at ease. Don’t over think it – what will be will be. If it’s over in that way, there’s always a next time.

DSC_8949As I approached my bike I could see instantly something was wrong. I had a flat front tyre.

No worries, I had 2 spare tubes with me and time. I quickly fixed it up and got underway.

Into the bag for nutrition and I’d only brought sparkling water. Fantastic. Don’t complain – pour it in, no excuses.

It was clear that this time round, this race – I was going to have to make my own luck. But I was ready for that.

A quick portaloo stop, a pretend stretch and we were into the starting pen. A few handshakes later – and it was time.

DSC_9058The water was nice. Fresh, clear, though slightly salty. The start line was compact so I knew it was going to be a punchy one.

As the horn went I was straight into the washing machine. I didn’t let myself panic or get cycled backwards. Instead I picked my line, and held it.

I picked a good line and good feet to follow on the way out. Although it’s hard to know how well you’re swimming, I was pleased with my efficiency. I didn’t let the jellyfish phase me – I just had to get to my bike in one piece. And hope it was in one piece waiting for me.

Out of the water at the turn around and up the steps, across the timing mat – there weren’t many people around, never a good sign. Had I been dropped already? Again…

Into the water and I tried to find some feet to follow. There was a small group just ahead but I couldn’t shut the gap. It was a long, lonely way back to transition from here. I was going to have to do it solo. The wave behind swam through me very late on – this gave me confidence – I can’t be that far back.

Out of the water and into transition. Safe to say it was an absolute shambles. I couldn’t find my bag as it was hanging on the wrong hook. After over a minute of faff with a marshal, I got my kit and got underway.

Out of the snake pit – into the fire.

DSC_9169When I started the bike I had little confidence. My position hasn’t been fully dialled in yet, I’d had a few mechanical issues in my warm up rides and I wasn’t sure how it would handle. It was a windy day and I knew that would suit me, so I just got my head down – looked for that 282 Watts on the screen, and ticked over.

3 words repeated over and over in my head. Calm. Collected. Composed. There was no point smashing everyone in the first 30km, it was going to be a long morning in the chair.

Joel had said to me the day before “if you hold that power, you’ll destroy people.”

I’d laughed at him. Brushed him off as a joker. Not a chance. Until the first 10km of the bike. When I realised he wasn’t messing.

I didn’t want to come out hard, burn any matches. I’d decided I was going to stick to the average and see what happened.

And people started coming towards me like they were going backwards.

I was riding through big powerful guys, on £10k bikes like they had glue on their tyres, and I was loving it. I couldn’t get enough. Not a single person came past me.

DSC_9198One by one I ticked people off. Sometimes moving through packs of 4 or 5. Straight on the back, round the side, and away.

My confidence was building km by km, athlete by athlete, but i knew I had a long day ahead and the big boys wouldn’t be waiting for me at the front.

In Penticton I passed British athlete Matt White at 95km on the bike – and he’d told me his form was good this year. I’d never caught my idol Tony weeks on a bike leg in my life, and he also flew out with good bike legs, but by 60km I’d ridden through them both. They can’t both be having a bad day, surely?

Letting myself believe – I just kept ticking. I had no concept of speed or time. Just distance and power.

Josh was still up the road, as were at least 4/5 guys in the age group. And 30km is a long run yet!

After accidentally throwing a bottle at tony – hitting him travelling at 45kph (sorry mate), I got stuck into the second lap.

I felt great. I was on top of hydration, nutrition and the numbers. This was where I was going to make a move – back into the head wind I needed to make ground on the front of the race. And if you’re going to make a move – make a proper one.

Working hard for the next 20km, I was still flying through people. And eventually, I finally caught Josh. 83km. Right at the point where this became a super tight race.

It was decision time. Do I gamble and smash the last 20km – knowing I might not have the running legs – but I’d make contact with the front. Or sit up & cruise – to attack the run and empty the tank.

With a German in our age group right on my wheel I wanted to do the first, but I know a smart race looked like the latter. So I bid my time, I’d gamble when I get to the run, I didn’t need to yet.

Into t2 and it was mission accomplished. I had to make a quick toilet stop as I hadn’t managed on the bike. And back out.

DSC_9426 DSC_9557 DSC_9264I knew I was around the top 5 and the lack of bikes implied i was on a good day, but it was a long way home. And josh was right on my heels.

I attacked the first part of the run. Not flat out – but a pace I’d have been able to hold earlier in the season.

At 10km it was getting tough and the splits my parents were giving me meant i knew I might hold some of these athletes – I was making ground. Coming into the middle 10 and I had to put the brakes on slightly. Dropping a few seconds per Km, it was a real battle.

I was fighting hard – deep into the uncomfy zone of racing, I was determined not to quit. Not to slow down.

My legs were burning, my stomach felt sick, I was getting dizzy and light headed. I’d pulled out bigger numbers in states worse than this – so I battled on.

DSC_9593Just past the half way mark and I knew I was going to get shut down by Josh. I couldn’t hold the pace and I couldn’t shut the gap to the front, but I didn’t want to lose too many places. I’d battle on as there was still a lot to play for!

Then it hit me. KM 22 – a 1:25 half marathon in the bag, on the money where I need to be. But the wheels fell off.

I thought I was going to stop, I was ready to. I could have thrown in the towel. But that isn’t me. I’d worked to hard to throw away 30 minutes and walk the last lap.

I fought on – step by step, corner by corner – to the finish line.

Pipped by the South African on the line. I’d lost 4 minutes on the last 8km. A battle to win another day – and a result I was extremely proud of. 6th in the world, my first top 20 overall and 3rd Brit in a field full of international medalists.

DSC_9656The running legs are in there, I’ve shown that in my early season races. Transitions were a shambles but that can be learned – and I even had more on the bike.

Which leaves just one area to work on – my swim.

Though I’d taken 6 minutes off my swim from Canada – on a swim where most people added on 4. So a success in itself. I hadn’t quite had the legs to challenge the podium.

Plenty of areas to work on before the tail end of the season, and lots of positives in this heavily competitive age group – before I even turn 25. It’s a bit surreal being up with some of the top athletes on the age group scene, especially when I know I have so much more to offer.

Although I have plenty to focus on this year – half an eye will be turned to world champs 2019. My entry is in, my mind is hungry, and if I come – it’ll be all to play for.

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Winning Races for Smiley Faces – The Summer Menu

It’s about time I did an update of the last few months and what my adjusted goals are looking forward to the summer. If you follow my other social media channels you’ll know it’s been a hectic few months of a bit of this and that. If you don’t follow them, well why not?!

But don’t worry, I’ll let you off if you don’t, you can get the important bits here!

First things first, where can we catch up?!
I’ve probably missed you in a world of rubbish excuses like bedtime, training tomorrow, “dieting”… so I’m going to be racing some local events to touch base with everyone!

img_3508-1I’ll be racing a sprint distance triathlon in Wilmslow (starting at the leisure centre) on the 20th May – start times are yet to be released, but stay tuned if you’re around to watch that one. It’ll be a super short race & I’m hoping to complete it in under 1 hour 10!

The summer season has come around very quickly and the real racing starts 4 weeks on Sunday.

This will kick off with Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 (10th June). That will be the first real indicator of summer form and what I can begin to expect moving forward into the season. This is a half ironman – so the distances are – 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run! Plenty of racing to watch and get stuck into!

Following that I’ll be doing one of the Castle Series in Cholmondeley Castle. This will be another 70.3 event on 24th June, and another little taster of my form to take into World Champs. Nice and local over near Nantwich so that I don’t have to travel too far to get into the swing of the big races.

World Champs will be in Denmark this year on the 14th July and will be my first A race of the season. This is one of two races that will be my main focus for the year, and after that we’ll regroup and re-assess to see where we’re up to.

So what’s been happening?!

It’s been a crazy one!

30125761_437555703335079_1698798986_o 1865912 1957076Two weeks in Mallorca on training camp racked up a crazy amount of miles and the legs began to show some real form. Something I haven’t really found in the last couple of years since a strong 2016 season. The hard work is really paying off and this led nicely to Manchester marathon.

 

The legs didn’t feel good the morning of the marathon, we’d got the build up wrong, I felt sluggish not sharp. But it’s a good learning curve. None the less I toed the start line and had a clear set of goals in my head. The outcome I wanted saw my time aorund 2:39:59 – although I knew early on that this wasn’t going to be the case. I battled from start to finish, and did the first 28km perfectly on pace. Passing the half marathon at 1:19:55 it was going to be touch & go but around mile 20 (km 32) it blew up in my face. Drawing on some really tough times in training I kept the focus. Thanks to the hero that is Pete Butler, we fought through it and I made it out the otherside, glued to his heels. I managed to make the finish line in 2:42:29 – a great time that I was happy with. This will qualify me for a guaranteed championship spot at London Marathon next year, something I’m excited to take up.

DSC_7731 DSC_7811 DSC_7788Following the marathon I had 2 weeks to let my legs attempt to recover before launching an attack on Storm the Castle duathlon, an event where I had unfinished business after just missing out next year. I still didn’t feel my best but again knew exactly what I needed to do. On the day my legs were good and I managed to hold on for the win. Breaking the tape was a fantastic feeling & something I’ll be working extremely hard to do again in the future. It was a great event and I learned a lot about my body through the day – despite not quite finding the bike legs, my running legs carried me through. Didn’t think I’d ever say that!

A report of the day can be read here.

DSCF7491 DSCF7489A very heavy 2 weeks training following STC meant that my legs were far from fresh when I arrived at the Cheshire Points Series 50 mile time trial on Saturday’s summer afternoon. None the less I managed a lifetime best in power output at 325W for the 1:52:10. Although I finished 6th Overall and 20 seconds behind my PB. Despite losing to some of my close competitiors it was great to line up with some of the top guys and perform amongst them again – though some changes need to be made to my time trial set up.

Since then I’ve had to rest a broken toe that I’ve been carrying since before Manchester, not ideal but better to take a break from running now rather than forced rest in the future.

All in all a very productive couple of months with lots of positives to be taken. Plenty of personal bests both in and out of training making me hungry to see what I can achieve this summer. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but the consistency is slowly coming together to get me there. Working closely with Joel Jameson at Jameson coaching is really paying off and I’m hoping I can stay in one piece to enjoy a hard season of summer racing!

2017: What I Learned.

It’s no secret that 2017 has been a bumpy year for me. Full of ups & downs. Now I’m back into training, hopefully the regular blogging will continue – & I’ll be aiming for a minimum of 2 a month through 2018 – so stay tuned.  Today I’m going to walk you through 2017, as it happened for me, & the lessons I learned.

img_5743img_7860I came into the year with some solid months of miles in my legs. All roads leading to Ironman New Zealand and a Kona place – it was always going to take a good run of form to achieve. January & February went exactly as they should have & when New Zealand came around – I was ready. A smooth journey & straight into the time zone meant the taper could commence & wasn’t heavily impacted. The race day went exactly as I’d planned. A rough swim saw me come out of the water a long way back. A strong, controlled bike took me through the entire field in some very tough conditions, and a well executed run took me over line exactly where I needed to be, in first place.

You can read my Ironman New Zealand race report here.

Back home to the U.K. I was in a great place. Kona spot bagged, my first ironman win, lots of confidence. I knew I could control a race from start to finish, not let nerves or emotions get the better of me. & put exactly what I did in training into practice on the big stage.

A new half marathon pb 6 days after Ironman New Zealand definitely wasn’t the most sensible thing I’ve ever done. But a solid few weeks in March and April saw the start of the U.K. season and back to training. And before I knew it I’d picked up my first injury. 7 months injury free had been refreshing, but I’d picked up a niggle in my knee that I just couldn’t shift. I bumbled from race to race, a 2:53:53 at Manchester Marathon. A 10k debut and win at the Easter Classic 10k race in London, before picking up 2nd place overall at Storm the Castle duathlon in Shropshire. But through it all, I wasn’t training properly & I couldn’t get the the bottom of my knee issues. I was learning how to run, and it felt great! Showing that with a bit of time and a strict diet, my legs can really tick over.

StC_2017_0370Races ticked by one by one, and I was sidelined. Nothing could be done. May, June & July were really tough for me. Watching races that I had been targetting all year fly by, with me on the sideline. But through this time I learned how to deal with injury. When all you want to do is get out & train, race, get back to the work – it’s tough to be sidelined. It was a very tough time mentally, 4 months of no real training really got to me. But I know next time I’m injured, I’ll be in a much better place to deal with it.

15_m-100793362-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2000_094606-12947435Then on to Kona. And probably the biggest learning curve I’ve had in triathlon yet. And definitely the most valuable. I learned how & where to train, how not to string a race together, what not to

The end of July saw the start of training again. A slow build but nobody knew what I’d be capable of – how long it would take to come back. I build up slow – but the sessions were hard. My body had forgotten how to work hard, lost all the fitness I’d spent so long working for. Restricted to the gym, I was desperate to get out and back at it – but I knew I’d only hurt myself again. A very focused rehab and I made the decision. I was going to fly to Canada for World Champs, & I was going to race. 3 weeks of training in the legs, what’s the worst that could happen?

In the build up to the race I managed to rupture a tendon in my knee. As if the season hadn’t been vicious enough – there was another road block. Managing to string a strong race together, I came away with a silver medal. It taught me never to rule out a race, even if the odds are stacked against you.eat and more importantly, when to draw the line. It was one of the best experiences of my life – despite being the worst race. & I can’t WAIT to get after it again.

A good race at Dublin Marathon came with a sociable 3:14 in the bank and a glance towards 2018. Lots of exciting races to come and together with my new coach – Joel Jameson, I’m excited to see what we can produce. Limits only exist in the mind, right?

The stats from the year for you number crunchers:

649 hours of exercise – (7.5% of the year)
303,471 metres Swam  – (Equivalent of Cheshire to London)
10,568 km Cycled – (Equivalent London to Kuala Lumpur)
1,920 km Run. (Equivalent London to Sofia, Bulgaria)
Endless Personal Bests.

3 Continents.
10 races.
3 wins.
2 second places.
1 Ironman Age Group Win.
2 World Championship Finishers Medals.
1 World Championship Silver Medal.

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Recovery, Results & Running… Another Marathon?

2_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_015979-12559849It was just over 2 weeks ago that the Ironman World Championships ended and since then my feet have barely hit the ground. It’s always a strange feeling getting home from races. Not helped by getting back to the wonderful British winter. But this year it’s been especially strange.

It’s been three years since I first started in triathlon, being talked into it by my two friends Lightfoot & Livo (the two really tall boys from the Kona photos). And it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Ever since I finished that race at Ironman Wales, I knew all I wanted to do was make it to the start line of Kona. It didn’t seem like too tall an order having only missed it by a little over a minute, that was literally putting my shoes on faster in transition.

I still had to make it through my final year of uni & keep my legs in one piece, but in March this year, I managed to get my entry. And sure enough, I made it to the start line of Kona.

10_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_045392-12559857 64_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_178008-12559911It’s very strange when you set such long term targets, because once you hit them, you feel a bit lost. It took me two and a half years from starting triathlon to treading the warm waters of the bay, waiting for the canon. And it’s all over in a flash.

Sure, I’ve set myself new targets, and as always they already sound ridiculous, and pretty far fetched. But not completely out of reach. But my biggest one so far is done – over.

It’s no secret that Kona didn’t quite go how I wanted it to. In fact, it couldn’t really have gone much worse to be honest. And if you haven’t read my race report, that’s because it doesn’t exist yet. And I’m still debating whether it ever will exist – although it may appear on the Asics Front Runner blog feed.

And while I’ll beat myself up about it every single day until I’m next on that start line – it’ll be what gets me through every session this winter. When I don’t want to get out of bed, when I don’t want to do another set, when my legs are too beaten up to do any more. I’ll keep going. And until I’m next on an Ironman finish line – the race will be a demon that I have to face. But I’ve proved enough times that I can string a solid race together to not let it get to me.

In the 3 years I’ve been in the sport I’ve had:

Multiple time trial wins.
A 10k win.
Endless PB’s.
UK Triathlon/Duathlon Podiums.
Two Ironman Podiums.
A European Silver Medal.
A World Championship Bronze Medal.
& A World Championship Silver Medal.

It looks great on paper, but I’m still not satisfied. I’ve only ever had one race I’ve been pleased with, & I was only pleased because I had a ruptured tendon in my knee, hadn’t trained for half a season and somehow still managed to battle round in a semi-respectable time.

You can catch that race report here.

And even then I beat myself up that I didn’t get a gold medal.

But really, I know that going into 2018, absolutely none of it matters! I’m moving up an age group, playing with the big boys. They don’t take prisoners. I can’t afford to bumble through races any more, making an endless list of silly mistakes. Although I know you never make the same mistake twice.
I have to go into the winter with no expectations, no limits and no pressures. Just let my legs do their thing – not get injured – and see really how far we can push it.

After two weeks of eating doughnuts, boozing and sitting on the sofa. Mincing around San Francisco, eating everything I see and seeing just how fat I can make myself. I was ready to get stuck in. We had an absolute blast and it’s been great catching up with everyone I’ve possibly had chance to see – and there are still plenty more of you on the list don’t worry. But I’m ready to get back to training.

I don’t have a bike – american security made sure of that. My legs are still tired. & I’m much later starting than last year. But I’ll find every possible way I can to start moving forward – the cycling can wait anyway…

23114920_373350736422243_539080177_nOn Sunday, my 2018 started with a jog round the Dublin marathon. I was literally in the country 24 hours – including the extra hour from the clocks falling back, so wasn’t expecting anything special.

I just had to prove to myself that I hadn’t completely lost it all. Plus I’ve started “coaching” a couple of friends in their run-up (excuse the pun) to the London Marathon. So I had to prove I know (slightly) what I’m talking about.

Asics had sorted us free entries to the event, as they’re the main run sponsor, so it was a bit hard to say no! In true – Jack Schofield fashion, the day before was spent wandering around Chester, eating pancakes and not drinking water. Doing everything on the list of things NOT to do the day before a marathon. I then caught a late night flight to Dublin to meet fellow Frontrunner Jon Baguely.

We had a twin room out near the airport so wandered out to find some dinner around 11pm. Managing to find a cute little Italian in swords, (restaurant that is, behave), we sat down and had a nice candlelit dinner. Waltzing home around midnight before chatting until 1am.

 

It was clear performance wasn’t on the menu for the run. We clearly hadn’t had a huge amount of sleep, drank a porridge sachet from a mug a couple of hours before, and had a little banana. Just the big feed I needed before a marathon… or not. We started fairly far back after getting stuck in the queue for the portaloo – but managed to get across the line in the front 3,000.

We had one plan – have fun. Cross the line smiling & not injured. Everyones happy.

23146161_373352209755429_2144529068_n 22885762_10159469945700153_6177195149603569934_nWith a quick toilet break after the 10km mark – we knew it would keep people tracking us happy knowing we’d made it to at least one check point first.

We jogged round with a smile on our face until the 36km marker where we had a very easy decision to make.
Push the legs for a 3:10 – or cruise for a 3:15.

Well that was a no brainer – 5 minutes in a marathon we aren’t targetting was an easy decision. We sat in with the runners around us and worked the crowds all the way down the final straight. Having an absolute blast – running step for step as we had all day.
We crossed the line in 3:14 – a respectable marathon time by any standards. And a 12th place for me.

After two weeks off it was clear there’s still something in my legs. After a days rest I’ve since done my first track session with my coach at City of Stoke AC & jumped in the pool for the Satellites to rip my arms apart. Again with the new head coach. Lots of change but nice to settle into the routine.

I’m in a great place heading into the off season & I’m excited to see what I can get out for 2018.
Lets hope the injuries stay off, the smile stays on & I’ll be writing to you all again soon!
Thanks for the ongoing support – you guys are the best.

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Ironman World Championships – Tracking the Race 

We’re nearly there.

Can’t even describe what I’m currently feeling, as I’m not sure myself what it is.

Nerves. Excitement. Stress. Apprehension.

You can track me on either the ironman website, by googling ironman world championship.

Or download the app & track me there. The app looks like this:

 

I’m number 2409, & the race starts at 18:05 Saturday, UK time.

 

I’m not putting any pressure on myself, I know this year a podium is out of reach & I’ll be back in the future.
The plan is to race firm, play to my strengths, keep it together, & get myself to that finish line in one piece.

 

 

Swim Smart.

Cycle Firm.

Run Consistent.

See this with a smile on my face.
If I can string together a solid race alongside the best in the world, then we’re on for a very exciting 2018.

I can’t ask myself for any more.

See you on the other side!

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Question & Answer: Your Turn.

So in my last post & on social media I asked if anyone had any questions about the race or life in general. Despite the fact nobody was brave enough to comment on any of the posts publicly, you’ve all been busy squirrelling questions to me on email & private message, so hopefully I manage to answer them all here!

At the time of answering these it’s Sunday evening here, Monday morning for you guys at home. That makes me 5 sleeps from the race.

6 if you include Friday night in which I won’t sleep. Slow down, I saw you trying to catch me out there.

We’ll start with general questions, of which there weren’t many, then we’ll get on to the Kona questions!

What’s your resting heart rate?

Well my watch tracks this, & I keep an eye on it from time to time but rarely do much with the data. Today is was 37bpm (shown top right of the image on the left), my average this week has been 38 apparently. It generally seems to sit around the 40 mark, hoping that means I’m just really fast at the moment? We can dream…


Are you careful with what you eat?

Yes, of course. Coach… Erm not really. I’m very careful to make sure I get the right amount of recovery in, eat well whilst training & don’t starve myself. The past few weeks I’ve been dieting very hard so shifted a lot of weight, but I always eat within 20 minutes of finishing a session and make sure my diet is full of veggies & fruit. But who doesn’t love an ice cream or slice of cake from time to time… in winter time to time is much closer together than currently that’s for sure!

 

What’s your biggest weakness?

This is a very broad question… but ‘m going to take the easy way out and say swimming. My attitude to training is good, I could maybe push myself a bit harder in races, I’ve still never made the medical tent, obviously I take to cycling well and my running has shown a lot of potential this season. Sunday indicates swim has come on a lot with me posting a 1:09:30 for the iron distance, beating my previous best of 1:23 comfortably. But there’s still a lot of work to do for next year when I move up an age category.

 

Who’s your biggest inspiration?

Honestly, I don’t really have one. There are so many people around that have so many incredible qualities to draw from it’s hard to count. The pro’s are great to look up to, but so are some of the top end age groupers. There’s also a lot of inspiration outside of triathlon. Obviously my parents but places like my Aspics Frontrunner group. It’s is full of some really inspirational people, they all make me feel really lucky to be associated with them on a daily basis. Some great examples to follow, and I don’t mean just fast people. They all have a phenomenal story and work hard to make both theirs & other peoples lives better. I’d love to be like that.

 

Now for the fun stuffs! KONA.

Last month you raced the World Champs, & now you’re at the World Champs, what’s the difference?

This is a good one! Last month was the ITU race. That’s international triathlon union. It was a bit shorter than this & they’re the guys that run things like the world championships that the Brownlees race. Kona is in the same place every year on the same weekend, it’s the Ironman Franchises world championships and it’s where it all began 39 years ago. It has a reputation as it’s the most prestigious triathlon outside of the olympics, and it brings the best of the best in the endurance world. It’s a real privilege to race here, and spots don’t get handed out easily!

How do we track the race?

The best way is to download the ironman app. It’s definitely available on apple, & surely is on android. And you’ll be able to click on ironman world championship, and search my name. That’s the easiest way. Also the ironman website will publish tracking links, & the pro race will be televised. I’ll post a full set of information on Friday for you, it’l also be on my Facebook page!

How is your Knee holding up, it was sore after your last race?

Yeah I don’t wanna jinx it, but it’s be handling really well. I tore the tendon on the inside in Canada which was pretty rough, & I’d had all the problems with the other knee all season, so bit of a kick in the face. I managed to handle it well & within 3 weeks I was back training. I did a full weeks training last week (End of September), & I didn’t seem to have any pain. Just gotta hope I can shake that out of the legs & we’ll be good to go. It’ll be nice to be on a start line without any injuries in the back of my mind.
How have you acclimatised to the conditions in Kona?

 
Yeah it’s been good out here. I can’t thank the guys at Glass & Stainless in Congleton enough for giving me the help I needed to do this. I haven’t raced yet, but it’s been invaluable to my fitness & preparation and I know it’s given me absolutely every opportunity to be the best I can be. I’ve been staying out of the sun a lot of the time, but I’ve done some really long sessions out there and put my body through it. I know what we could be in for & it’s the same for everyone I suppose. But yeah, we’ll see how the body responds but I know that I’m performing far better than I was when I got here!
Your prep hasn’t been ideal this year, do you think you’ve got good form?
This is a toughy. I showed a lot of promise in Canada & i’m moving better now than I was then. I haven’t really done anything long this year. I’ve done one long bike ride a couple of weeks before Canada, and Canada was the only time I’ve run more than a half marathon. If I’m honest I think this might tell towards the middle/end of the marathon out here, but we’ll deal with that when we get there! I’m currently moving ok, still a little clunky but I like that a week out, the speed is there.
Have you got a race plan?

Yes.Ok fine. This kind of rolls over to the next question but I’ve just gotta do what I’m good at. If I can come out the water in 1:10/1:15 I’ll be in some good company. Obviously I’m strong on the bike so I’ll push the pace a bit, but I don’t wanna burn out. There’ll be a lot of people getting carried away around me, so I have to pick my pace well & stick to it. Get my nutrition right then I’ve got a good structure for the run. No tells as to what times I’m looking at though. And really, the conditions will change that, so I’m not too number focussed. I’ll stick to my plan & hopefully come good.

Are you looking to compete or survive?
Is there a difference? Yeah obviously it’s a dream of mine to get top 5 & stand on the podium at Kona. But if we’re being realistic, I think I’d have to have a perfect race, and someone else would have to make a mistake. It’s not impossible, but the chances are slim. I’ve had a really rough year and I’m a firm believer that you can’t really make your ironman result faster. Sure you can grab a few minutes in the swim or bike, but your form is your form. & you can very easily ruin it. Once you hit that wall there’s absolutely no coming back, it’s game over. So I’m just gonna go out there, give it the best I’ve got & we’ll see where that leaves me. I can’t really do much more than that!
Do you have any pre-race rituals? What will you do between now (mid week this week) & the race?
I wanna say no. But that’s probably a lie, my parents would be better at answering this one I reckon. Nothing weird, but I suppose the whole thing is a ritual. I eat well in the build up to make sure that my IBS is really under control & settled. I do the exact same sessions the 3 days before every race, so I know how my legs should feel. I get plenty of sleep & rest, stay out of the sun to save energy. Watch a good film sports like invincible, coach carter or remember the titans and go to registration/racking/the various admin stuff.
Is there anything really worrying you?
Not really. I’ve had a bad year but I’ve trained well the last few weeks, I can’t do any more than that. The difference between a good race & a bad race can cost you 90 minutes and 30+ places in your age group, so I’d quite like to get my nutrition right & have some legs left to do myself justice. I really don’t want to get it all wrong. But really it’s just another ironman. I’ll be stood next to the best athletes in the world. The conditions are gonna be very rough (currently predicting 30+ degrees & thunder storms). & I have to travel a long way, as fast as possible.
There’s plenty of other races to come, & I’m sure I’ll be back one day. For now I’ll just give it everything I’ve got, do my best & we’ll see where that leaves me. If I can cross the line and think “that’s me, that was everything I had & nothing I could have done could improve that”, then it’s mission accomplished!