Life Underneath an Instagram Filter

Today started not too dissimilar to any other day. The 5:20 alarm buzzed to wake me, and I was quick to snooze it, bleary eyed and groggy, knowing I still had a brief time left in bed.

I’ve been having a rough week, swimming was the last thing I really wanted to be doing, but I know I have to. In the quest for excellence there isn’t anywhere to hide. Every time you miss a session, you get slower. Everyone else is out there, getting it done, making no excuses, feeling a millon dollars.

3_m-100779636-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2141_001833-10660446The guys I have to race don’t make mistakes, they don’t miss sessions, they never let up.

I finally got out of bed, had a small breakfast and made my way over to the Macclesfield pool. My toe was incredibly sore, my head wasn’t in the moment, I just didn’t want to get in the pool.

The moment I broke the water I had perfect clarity. My mind was clear, all my worries were gone. It’s so easy to hide here, behind the numbers and the work. I don’t have to be myself, I can just become monotonous. I just follow what the numbers say on the board, and don’t think any more than that.

Slowly the clarity began to become hazy and clouded. My toe was letting me know it hurt, conversations from the week creep back into my head, my body is tired, I haven’t really slept this week. What am I doing here?

I pushed on, into the main set and I’m setting the pace. Like normal we start strong, a testing pace that we know we can hold. Except it doesn’t feel like normal – there’s a battle in my mind. I’m not myself. I’m not hungry to go fast, to push myself, to work hard.

In fact, all I really want to do is get out of the pool, and go back to bed. Shut myself off from the world, and sulk.

But that won’t make me faster. That won’t get me where I want to be. If I’m not training, I’m getting slower…. right?

1/4 hard blocks completed. Just.

img_5743Into the second and I’m not pulling away like I normally do, I don’t have the will to push, in fact, I’m holding everyone up.

I fought on, it’s just a bad day. We all have those, you can do this.

2/4 done. Every turn was a battle, why don’t I just get out? I shouldn’t be here and I know it. But I just can’t quit.

I was using more mental strength to keep going, than I’d used to get round some races. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.

3/4 and at the half way point, I threw in the towel. I was done. Cooked.

And before I knew what was happening, I found myself on the side of the pool in pieces, genuinely sobbing.

Had you asked them before the session, I’d have been one of the last people pinned to get out early. Resilient, tough, robotic. Training & emotions separate – park it before the session, pick it up afterwards.

But does that mean I’m always ok?unnamed

As I’m moving forward through sport I’m realising more and more, it’s so easy to hide our emotions, so easy to lock ourselves away and so hard to just open up.

And it isn’t just restricted to athletes. It goes right across the board.

img_3080We can assume that because people are in a better situation than us, they have it easy. They don’t have any battles.

We live in a society where we’re made to feel guilty for having a bad day, a tough time.

Crying is seen as weak. Mental health is dismissed as “nothing” – and before you know it, you can be completely isolated at a time when the planet is the most populated it’s ever been.

On Earth it’s estimated that we can speak over 7,000 different languages. From the moment we’re born, we begin to communicate. You don’t even need eyes or ears to convey your intentions. We can talk to different species, and we’re sending communications to space.

But we can’t even ask the person next to us if they’re ok?

Is it that we don’t want to hear it? Or is it that we’re all so involved in our personal battles, that we forget to pay attention to the people around us?

As athletes we can forget about it all in sport. Numbers, data, training.

But other people can hide in work, deadlines, hobbies. Just hide behind a facade.

We act confident, we’ll tell you we’re fine. You’ll barely know anything is up, just a moderate silence. A quick change of conversation to move on.

20180520_11141And before we know it, it all gets a bit too much. We can’t hide it. And we need to release it.

If an olympic champion had a bad race, but still won – nobody wants to talk to them about the race. Nobody apart from their coach. If they had a tough day between the ears, you wouldn’t believe them & you wouldn’t wanna talk about it.

Everyone else wants to hear how hard it was, how tough they had to fight. After all, they bloody won, how can they possibly feel bad?

If a big city boss is wealthy – but the numbers are down with the business so they’re making £500,000 less… you don’t care cause they’re still rich. They still have money. Even though their life evolves around the business… how could they be sad?

And with social media, the whole situation is elevated. These “perfect” people that live the dream life – do they not have problems? They look pretty, travel the world and have fun. They don’t have issues at all…. right?

Who do all these people turn to when times are tough? Are they any different to me or you?

20160724_968Why are your problems any different to theirs? And why is this even relevant?! 99.9% of the population, me included, will never be in that situation, but that doesn’t make us any more or less isolated.

Yes, your problems may be different. But that doesn’t make them any worse, or any better. And that doesn’t make it acceptable to just isolate these people. Or tell them to “stop moaning”.

It’s not ok that they feel scared to speak out, feel like they’re being silly or ridiculous, because they know they have it good. And that in turn trickles down the tree.

Cause we’re all lucky, the fact you’ve read this means you’re in a better situation than over half of the planet.

We have a habit of glossing it all over, making it look ok. Telling everyone “we’re fine”. We don’t open up for fear of being judged, fear that they’ll tell you “you’re just a drama queen”. Fear that they just won’t want to listen.

So look after the person next to you, ask your friends if they’re ok. Genuinely ask them – listen to the answer. Find it out. Before it all gets a bit too much. If I can change one thing today, or get one person to check that someone is alright, then this post will be a success.

Even if you think they have it all under control. That doesn’t mean they do.

Because one day you’ll be in their situation – and you’ll want someone to reach out to.

But don’t worry. They’ll be there.

Why your PB time doesn’t actually matter.

I’ve had a few very interesting conversations with various people recently, and I’ve decided that actually, PB’s don’t mean anything.

img_5743I know, I know, crazy talk. But hear me out.

It’s that time of year where you’ve entered a load of races, you’re absolutely hammering yourself in & out of training to get yourself in the best possible shape to set a new pb. But why? What exactly are you doing it for?

So pb’s are great for a number of reasons. You’re only really ever in contention with yourself, and pushing yourself further and further each day to be better, is something I’m absolutely behind. Every day I push myself to new limits, just trying to be a better person than the day before. However… are you ever just in contention with yourself? Or are you really constantly comparing yourself to everyone else in a society full of external pressures.

The first question anyone asks me is ‘ooo, what’s your pb’. Or, ‘oo how fast could run x-km. How quick can you do this on a bike. What’s your best park run… What’s your best ironman time?

 

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Well first of all, who actually cares? I can move pretty fast, there are plenty of people that can move a lot faster. But second of all, surely every single time/race/course/person is going to be different. If you think you’re quicker than me, turn up at world champs, and we’ll race. Fine. A proper fair test, same day, same course, then you win the bragging rights…. if you win… until the time we race again.

EventPhotoHandler (17)But what if we race again on a different course, I win this time round, we’re both twice a fit, but we go an hour slower, same distance?

Are you quicker because your pb is quicker than mine… or am I quicker cause I just beat you, fair and square? And even though we both know we’re a lot fitter, we went slower. It was windy, raining, icy, hilly… but we’d have run rings around the athletes we were the year before.

Are we slower because our time is slower? Is that what you’re telling me by asking me what my pb is?

Now when people ask me what my best ever race was, I’ll tell them the World Championship in Canada. Not because I made the podium, not because I managed a good time, neither of those things matter.

But because I had a torn tendon in my knee, I’d only been back training 4 weeks after a 4 month break, and I’d spent 6 months coming to terms with the fact that physically I wasn’t where I wanted to be mentally. But I went out, and from start to finish I battled, and there was no way I was going to let up before I crossed that finish line. And that’s something I’ll hang on to for a long time, I really earned my stripes.

One of my most liked instagram posts recently was one where I made the statement “nobody cares how fast you were in 2017, or even 2016. While that will gain you respect on the start line, it’;ll mean nothing when you cross the finish, and only you can influence that… Get your miles in, cause 2018 is gonna write itself, with or without you”.

And there is so much truth to that. My friends love the saying “we’ve all done stuff”, and there’s a lot of truth in that.

Week in, week out people complete training, race events, test themselves. And that’s great, but I could turn up at a park run this week and smash myself to bits… maybe set a pb, maybe not. I could do the same course next week, in driving rain, ice & wind… on much better legs, but go slower. There’s so much more to this sport than a stop watch.

Be proud of what you’ve achieved, you worked hard for it! But don’t cling on to the times, the numbers, there’s so much more to a good performance than that. Remember your best races as the ones where you performed well beyond how you expected. Where you were mentally tough, you fought against the odds. The races where you influence other people, maybe you paced a friend to a pb and you hold success in that. Together, as a team you can enjoy the victory.

Don’t hang on to the time, hang on to the moment!

Couch to Athlete – why you can do it.

Some of you will know that recently I’ve started to dabble in the world of “coaching”.

I’m by no means an expert coach – and I wouldn’t even consider taking on any high end athletes. And not just because I’d be scared they’d beat me. But because the carefully managed, fine tuned programmes are something that can take coaches years to perfect.

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But that being said – by applying some basic training principles along with my knowledge in the three sports I’ve enjoyed over the last 9 years, I think I’m beginning to see a few patterns.

Maybe you’re reading this as an ironman, or an elite athlete thinking “I’ve been through this”, so now it doesn’t apply. But your family, friends, colleagues – the people that say “I couldn’t do it”, tell them they can!

First of all – I really believe that anyone can do it. You can be riddled with all the excuses in the world – but you’re not fooling me.

“My knees are shot” – find a cycle or swim event.

“I’m just not built for it” – that can be changed.

“I like food too much” – not as much as I do, trust me.

And what defines an athlete? someone that completes athletic events. I don’t care if you want to run a sub 25 park run, or get round your first ever marathon. I think you can do it. Even if they sound crazy to your right now.

img_5676Already the excuses will be creeping in, why you can’t, why you wouldn’t be able to.

I’m currently working with three women running their first marathon, all of whom separately believed they’d really struggle at a park run. And all of whom I’m fairly convinced, have the potential to run a a sub 4:30 marathon.

Why?

Because they want to.

And because who’s to say they can’t?

It comes from three basic ideas:

Number one – get your body used to training.

You have to want to do it. You have to want to be helped & you have to break down the barriers of “I can’t”. People aren’t born good at sport, it comes through hard work.

3But not the hard work you associate it with. I’m not talking 3 hours of running or 10 hours cycling. I’m talking 4 sessions a week, of an hour each.

Ask a trainer, find a coach, join a club, there’s loads of people that can help.

Get out of the door, and join the gym. Do 20 minutes on the bike. Go home, watch tv, do whatever you want. But you’ve started. You’ve made the first step, it’s much easier from here!

Start with 30-40 minutes of exercise, up to 4 times a week. Do park runs, classes, whatever you fancy. Find a routine, stick to it, make yourself accountable. And after 21 days, a habit sticks. You’re in, we’re go, you’ve got this.

One of the training programmes I’ve written started in October with the goal of London marathon, (6 months), and one started this week, with the goal of manchester marathon (3 months).

Sounds like a tight turnaround – but I’m very confident it can be done.

Block two is the worst of the three.

Teach yourself how to work hard:

combo3By the time you start this, you’ve done the hard work. You don’t sit around as much any more & you enjoy exercising. So you need to start exercising hard.

It sounds so daunting – but there’s a very easy way to start. Go to a gym, or run, and set yourself a time goal. Roughly 30-45 minutes. Maybe a park run. And go as hard as you can.

You don’t have to tell anyone how far you went, & even if you don’t think you worked as hard as you could, it honestly doesn’t matter. The hardest part is done!!

Now it’s a game. It’s a challenge, it’s a race.

img_1888You’ve set your bench mark, so next time, you have to beat it! Either go for longer at the same speed, or go faster/further for the same time. You have a target, go get it!!

And slowly it becomes a game, you race yourself, break records, set new limits. You can push this as far as you want. But you don’t ever have to do more than an hour, just make sure you’re absolutely flat out! Once you’re within touching distance of that personal best, you won’t let yourself stop.

By the end of the block, you’ll have nailed it. You’ll really know how to work hard, – how to test & push yourself. So when you’re up against it, you’ve been there before. You know how to cope.

 

Step 3 is the easiest of them all.

Practice – and go get it.

24_m-100793362-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2000_177477-12947444Whatever your end goal is, you’ll be able to reach it by now. So practice running, practice cycling, swimming, rowing… whatever it is. The event isn’t far away, so make sure you’re confident in yourself, how far you’ve come & where you’re going.

It might be that this is now just a stepping stone, you’ve decided you can do more, go better, further.

If you’re running a marathon, you really don’t need to run that much until this block, when your legs have to start getting more used to miles. You don’t have to do any silly 20-30 mile practice runs. If it makes you feel good, fine, but otherwise, just stay injury free & work on your fitness.

And when you’re nailing your event, enjoy yourself. You’ll have worked hard for it, the tough stuff is done!

Just go out, with a smile on your face and soak it up. You can’t change the outcome, whatever it is. But you can certainly surprise yourself. You’ll have come a long way – be proud of yourself.

 

 

Get used to training.

Learn to work hard.

Go and prove yourself wrong.

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Top Tips for your First Endurance Event

Entering your first endurance event can be daunting. No matter what the discipline or distance, I’ve given you all a little help along the way. Hopefully for when the time comes and you all line up next to me on the start line!

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Logistics:

 

Many things come under this category. But the main one is do you know where you need to be, when and how you’re going to get there? Check for all the hidden costs. Things you might not think of if you’re staying a bit further out like how are you going to get to registration the day before? check in/transition, the start line. All these places require transport to and from, and if you’re doing a triathlon your bike is involved too. These simple things are often the ones you overlook when trying to plan an event.

Is your accommodation suitable? A young party hostel maybe isn’t ideal, nor is the 9 bed mansion 2 hours drive away.

 

 

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Have you got everything? You can find great checklists online but mainly you need to stick to what you know. Have you got your race kit. swim stuff? Bike stuff? Run stuff? Easy but important. Then the second tier items. That help a race go smoothly but aren’t as essential. Sun cream, a cap, sun glasses, Vaseline.

 

 

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This is the downfall of almost every single beginner, but don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The most important rule is yet again that you stick to what you know. Don’t do anything you haven’t tried in training, and the main one. You’re out there for 5/6/7 hours if you’re doing a half ironman. Up to 17 if you’re doing a full. Let’s be serious about this, you can’t survive on energy gels and water for that period of time. Even a half marathon gets a bit funky if you’re not taking in the right stuff. It’s just not doable. Think about alternative approaches, breakfast biscuits, fruit & but bars, even sandwiches aren’t a terrible idea! For the extra minute you spend eating them, you’ll save 20+ at the end of the run when your stomach tries to rip itself apart.

 

20863752_345034489253868_1053004376_nClimate:

Check the weather, it’s a better idea to choose a race based on climate, but I know that’s not always possible. Races in the south of France, Italy, South USA are glorious, baking sun, but if you’re not used to it, you better be prepared. Electrolytes are key here. The biggest mistake people make is drinking water the 2/3 days before a race. You’re not hydrated, you’re full of liquid. You need to start to replace the salts and nutrients you’re going to lose through sweat on race day. Are you covered in sun cream? Fill your top with ice, take measures to cool your core temperature, you’ll thank yourself for it later.

If it’s a cold event, a swim, or long run. Do you have enough layers on? Do you need a wetsuit? Have you trained in these climates. Are your feet going to blister in the rain. Better to be prepared because otherwise that 4 hour race is going to feel like a life time.

 

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Relax:

This is an important one. It’s easy to get swept up looking around at all the gear, all the super skinny lean looking athletes, the all show no go middle age men.

No matter what anybody else does in the race, it’s not going to change your time. Forget about them. Interact, chat, be friendly, they’ll help you out & make you feel better. But don’t psych yourself out. You’ve probably trained hard for this & may out perform many of them! I found at my second ironman and also my first half, my gear was very sub par, but I put in some exceptional performances. And it didn’t change a thing anyone else did, so you learn not to worry.

 

 

Achievement:

This ones important, especially for everyone out there that’s done one or two races and is now hunting for an ever elusive pb. Maybe you’re trying to gain a few minutes here and there. What you have to remember is where you started and how far you’ve come along this journey. The majority of the population don’t complete endurance events, so getting them done is something to be proud of. Taking a step back and giving yourself some credit is often helpful to keep perspective. It’s only a race at the end of the day!

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Return to Fitness – The FAQ Section

Hello!

How’re you?

Are you well?

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I know, I know, it’s been a while. I’m sorry.

In the mean time I’ve been trying to convinced the next generation to get out on their bikes & try something new.

I’ve been really struggling with this knee injury. Diagnosed at a 2 week recovery, it’s now been 5 months ongoing! So I know there’s been lots of unanswered questions, so just a quick update on where I’m up to, how everything is going & what my plans are moving forward.

 

 

 

How’s your knee?

Erm, well if I’m honest. It’s sore. It still hurts 80% of the time, maybe a 2 or 3/10 pain so nothing too much to worry about, but it’s not completely fixed. The problem is we’re not entirely sure what is cause the inflammation, so we’ve kind of been working in the dark to get it fixed up. But I’m in the best hands now and we’re confident it’s moving forward.

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Have you been training?

If you follow me on Strava you’re probably missing my regular updates & crazy adventures. Don’t worry, I’m missing them just as much! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been out on the bike, I’ve been in rehab for 3-4 weeks now, but in that time I’d say I’ve done 3/4 sessions I would count as training. The rest are just making sure that my body is working properly & trying not to aggrovate the knee. 20-30 minutes here and there.

Are you planning on racing Canada/Kona?

I’d love to say yes, but in truth I have absolutely no idea. Canada is only 4 weeks away & I have an anti-inflammatory injection booked for August 14th, so I suppose we’ll see how that goes. I may bumble round the course for a long training day, similar to Tony Weeks, who medalled with me at last years World Champs. These things happen, but now it’s time to look to next year.

Kona… I’d like to say yes, I’m planning on racing & navigating the course. Whether my fitness is up to scratch we’ll have to see. I won’t be “racing” this year, but that was never the plan anyway. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I am planning on seeing what the event is all about.

 

What’re your plans for next year?

Well I’ve been in lots of discussions with a lot of people, and I think we’ve come to the decision that I won’t be racing any full ironman events next season. The plan is to target a late season Ironman such as Wales or Barcelona. I’m planning on working hard with Ric my swim coach, & my new running coach at City of Stoke AC to push the boundaries through the winter & into the early season to really see what my legs are capable of. That will hopefully lead me to lots of middle distance & maybe even some olympic distance early season.

 

I will be running a marathon April time.
I will be trying for a fast half ironman time.
I will be having another go at BBAR and a fast 12 hour Time Trial.

 

*injury dependant.

There are also rumours of me making an appearance in some international duathlon races.
For those of you that don’t know, it’s like a triathlon without the swim…. I don’t think I’d be very good at that though, so will currently neither confirm nor deny these rumours.

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18880341_1149315725175152_1739032410084837259_oHave you sold your Canyon?! (Sad face)

It’s true. I have in fact sold the canyon.

However I’ve got a new weapon of choice. Over the next couple of seasons I’ll be working with Cyclestore.co.uk and they’ve provided me with some shiny new kit all round. So I currently have a Giant Trinity Advanced. It looks just like the canyon, but is black & blue, not black & white. Cyclestore only sell the best gear so I’m very sure that it will be just as quick if not quicker than the canyon. But you’ll have to watch this space for confirmation.

 

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You were doing a lot of running races this year, will that continue when you can ride?18056679_1115158271924231_5447854826666611028_n

 

Absolutely!


I’ve been absolutely loving running  recently. & when I could get the long miles in I was really enjoying myself. Asics have provided me with some great gear and a top set up. The Asics Frontrunners are a seriously slippery group on a running course. So i’d like to try and keep up with some of them guys at races. I loved the 10k I did and I’m really keen to try a park run. I’ll be joining City of Stoke as soon as my fitness is back to full strength and I can’t wait to see where they can take me!

 

 

 

 

 

So what’re the next steps?

 

  1. Get fixed up. August 14th is my injection so hopefully around then I’ll be back.
  2. Get my fitness back. This will take 6-12 weeks to get me back up and running.
  3. Do something crazy. Got a few crazies in the bag, maybe cycle to london first.
  4. Train really hard – I move up an age group next year so need to be fitter than ever.
  5. Repeat.

Stay Tuned!

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Hard Decisions – Dropping Out

As many of you will know it’s been a tough few weeks for me. Since the week of Manchester marathon I’ve been struggling with a knee injury that I just haven’t been able to overcome, no matter how hard we tried.

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It’s put me in a really bad mind set for the last few weeks, I’ve been constantly trying to get myself patched up for a race, that I’d never have given myself time to be ready for anyway. Beating myself up and rushing back to training that I shouldn’t really be doing. I need to be 100% before I start thinking about racing, not competing for the sake of it.

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I’ve been able to run and swim, although not to my full potential, and I’ve been forced to take a full 6 weeks off the bike. Only breaking the curfew to race a couple of times, making the pain worse again.

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Because of this we decided it best for me to take a complete week off training, resuming this week and holding off riding my time trial bike for another 2 weeks.

And unfortunately the first morning after my test ride my knee was back to being very sore. Due to this I won’t be racing the 70.3 I had planned tomorrow as my practice race and an attempt to qualify for the 70.3 worlds this year.

It’s sad that I won’t be able to race, although we’ve known for a couple of weeks that I wouldn’t be at my full potential. And I have to look at the bigger picture. There’ll be plenty more 70.3’s for me to enter, and I now have unfinished business here in France.

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I’ve started to realise over the last few days that life is too short to worry about these things. I’m only 23 years old. I’ve got 5 years before I even scratch the surface of these pros. And scrambling around trying to string a few little races together isn’t going to help me get there.

So I think some time off, figure out the source of the problem and get myself fully fixed is on the cards. Not rushing the recovery, so I can put together I full rebuild to hopefully save the end of the season.

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It may mean that I miss the championship, my BBAR attempt, and possibly even Ironman UK. Even if it plagues the rest of the season, that’s not ideal for any athlete, and it’s not what anybody wants to hear. But I’ll be back. I have age on my side and I know this is gonna be a long slog, so I have to keep the focus, and know that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. And soon I’ll be back to smash through that 9:30 and 4:15 barrier respectively.

I’m hoping to rebuild the strength through my knee in the coming weeks so I can get stuck into the volume of training my mind and body love. Fitness will take time to rebuild, but it’s time I have on my side.

A big block could see me regain fitness just in time for Ironman UK mid July, provided I don’t encounter any more setbacks! But fate is a cruel mistress.

I’d like to thank my ever supportive friends & family for putting up with me and helping me realise that missing a few months of racing won’t end the world.

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Along with John Honey Physiotherapy for their fantastic work through this period to get me to the start line of races and optimising my recovery time. Hopefully we can work to get this problem solved.

If you’re local to the cheshire area they’re definitely the team for the job!

Until then, rest, recovery and rehab!

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Stay tuned over the coming weeks for a big announcement about my final 2017 sponsor.

They’re wheely good!

Run Fatboy – Run

65kg, lean, leggy & from a small kenyan tribe is how we envisage most high end distance runners to be.

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Even the occasional white athlete high up in the distance rankings appears to be running to find a sandwich. Before they slip through a grid in the road.

It’s easy to watch these guys knock out a marathon faster than you can walk to the shops, and assume all runners are like that.

That running and athletics clubs are made up of 95% Usain Bolt like animals, and a few coaches that breath fire and will judge you for being slow.

But this really isn’t the case.

In fact, 80% of the running community is the opposite, and you should check it out.

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Some of you may find the title of this blog slightly offensive, I promise that’s not how it’s intended. I’m the “fat boy”, in this scenario.

This month I have run my first marathon, 10k, duathlon and got my first 5k lined up soon.

I’m 84/85kg, 6′ 1, and wide. You don’t have to look far in a 10k to pick me out from the field. Instantly out of place.

For a competitive runner, I’m considered heavy.. very heavy. But I’ve been out there getting it done.

And it’s all kinds of fun.

It all started 4 weeks ago when I ran the fabulous Manchester marathon for my new partner, Asics.

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Now I’ve ‘run’ 4 marathons after 180km on the bike and 3.8km of swimming.
Easy pickings for a man like me.You’d think….

With a 25mi time trial on the Saturday, 5 hours sleep and a greasy fully English. I was on the start line Sunday morning thinking, “why am I here?”.

Having planned to run with asics team mate, the incredible Nick Butter, www.nickbutter.com I quickly found a comfortable rhythm, and decided I had the legs to push a bit.

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So, off I trotted, leaving Nick to waltz round, stopping at Tesco for an ice cream. As you do mid 3:20 marathon?!

Around the 10k mark I found myself up with the 3 hour pacer and decided I’d push beyond, seeing how much the legs would stretch.


Picking up Tomas B, another top ultra runner around the 15k mark, we decided to hold a firm 4:05/km pace, and chat the mid section away.
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At this point I knew I was moving well, even hauling around my excess shoulders & big frame, I knew I could string together a solid time. So at 35km I kicked out, opened the legs, and hit the gas button.
Then as expected, it hurt. It hurt a lot. Pushing and pushing, gritting my teeth and chasing down runner after runner, I crawled my way through some of the field in front of me, crossing the line in a very respectable 2:53:53.
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And it gave me confidence.

All kinds of confidence.

I knew at that point, that everything I’d heard about the lightweight runners, was a myth.

Sure, if I want to be competitive at big races, kona, marathons, halves. I need to shred the weight. Lose the excess.

But James Cracknell just ran a 2:43 at London marathon near 100kg, so what’s the excuse?

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Off the back of my new confidence I decided I’d play, push it to see where I could get to.

Seeing the asics boys running 120km+ a week, I started to build and up the miles.

I was lucky enough to visit my best friends parents out for Easter weekend, and momma Lightfoot’s birthday. To ensure I didn’t miss training, Alex came out on the bike for a chat, so I could run accompanied.

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I ended up running a 1:31 half marathon, with more in the tank. Not the ideal prep the day before my first ever 10k!
None the less we turned up in Regent’s Park, weary eyed & full of 4 Easter eggs each. To see what my legs could produce.The regular comments on the start line as I shuffled to the front, “he’s a big boy”, “backing himself there”..

A wry smile spreading across Alex’s face. He knew the drill.

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And as expected, 500 runners set off at 10am, me & 3 immediately off the front, hard at it.

Having never run a 10k I didn’t know how hard to run, what to do, how to pace it. So we’d come up with a plan.

Run on the heels of the fastest guy. And stay there.

How hard can it be?

Lead by a strong runner from St. Albans, the 3:35/km pace was just right to feel the pinch, without feeling burned out.

Sat on the back of the 4 I was sticking to the game plan. Lap one, 3.3km down. All 4 runners still in the game.

This could get real fun I thought. But these boys can run, they’re playing with me. Half way and someone was gonna open up that gas and ask all kinds of questions of our legs.

So I just held the pace, sat on the heels, kept the speed.

4K, 4 becomes 3.

5k, 3 becomes 2.

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Half way and I was feeling good. Hurting, but I knew I had a lot more.

And there was only two of us left?!

I couldn’t hold this guy the end surely. Lean, skinny, athletic. Clearly seasons from many a 10k skirmish.

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So I tried to hold him for lap 2/3. And managed to stay in contact, just sat on his heels. The awkward athlete that you just can’t shake off.

That’s when I passed Lightfoot. I couldn’t see the runners face but a crisp not from the main man, and I knew. I knew he was hurting, clearly more than me, so I could be in with a shot here?

If I could hold him to 8km, I could be in with a shot here.

The last 2km is just a viscous mind game, no matter how fit you are, how fast you’re going, it’s gonna hurt and you’ll have to dig deep.

But I had an advantage, my brief few years in rowing had taught me how to race side by side. A position few road runners or triathletes ever find themselves in.

The track mentality, knowing the mind games.

8km, I was still there, and he was looking around, worried, what was I going to do.

So I waited, picked my moment carefully. And as we split ways to pass a group of runners, I kicked out.

And for the first time in my life, I felt like I was running. Really, really running.

9km, 5 metres ahead.

Just two sentences on repeat in my mind.

“Don’t fudge this up, don’t fudge this up, don’t fudge this up”

“Go go go go go go go go go”

And I ran, and ran, and ran. Emptied the tank and came home a comfortable distance ahead. With a first ever 10k time of 35:18. Another very respectable start for a ‘big boy’.

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And the duathlon played out much the same. A bike course record even after 3 weeks off the bike, no shocks that was my strongest discipline.

Coming off the first run in 4th, off the bike in second. With gas still in the tank I ran the fastest second run leg, causing a bit of a stir amongst the athletes at the top end of the field.

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Who is this tall, unusually overweight man snapping at our heels?

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But the most important question, just because you think you’re heavy, are you?

The running community is one of the most welcoming in the world. Fellow Asics frontrunner Matt Rees showed that at the London Marathon carrying a fellow runner over the line in a video that fast went viral.

 

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Whether you run 5k in 15 minutes, or 50 minutes. Almost every club will welcome you with open arms, and have runners of your ability! You might not even think you can run 5k. It does not matter.

They’ll encourage you, help you, teach you tips and tricks. Chat to you, learn about your life, your interests, your hobbies. And before you know it, you could fall in love with the sport.

And you’ll ask yourself, what was I so scared of?!

Nobody will judge you. Because if you’re out there, getting it done, and striving for self improvement. You’ve already won the battle.

So get online, look for your local running clubs, find one with a time that suits, and go have yourself some fun!

I promise, you won’t regret it!

The Paleo Diet – Why to Try

Dieting.

A concept I for one have certainly struggled with this winter. As we move into summer and the weight starts to come off, I’ve pulled it together… just about?

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Me just before my summer diet.

But why is a good diet so important?

Well for a start, you can’t run a petrol car on diesel.

You wouldn’t choose start a fire with damp wood.

So why try and fuel your body with less than adequate nutrition?

And yes, it’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of a ‘baked good’ here and there. I mean, did a cinnamon swirl really ever kill anybody? Can a vanilla cupcake ruin your life?

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Probably not. But moderation is the key as we all know.

So after a meeting with a nutritionist I know quite well, we formulated a couple of options for my diet to move out of winter and into the summer, with the goal of keeping energy levels high and weight low.

A lot of you know that I struggle with IBS. For those of you that don’t know, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), is an irritation inside the digestive system, caused by anything from stress to gluten. And in my case, it gives me unbearable stomach cramps limiting my movement. Generally caused by an overdose of Oil, Gluten, Lactose or sugary foods. In recent months we (me and head chef Momma Schofield) have managed to keep it under control by keeping oily food down, and minimising gluten in my diet.

Now I generally sit around 83kg, and I only have to look at a chocolate bar to put 1kg on.

But that’s certainly no excuse.

So to get to 79kg there was work to be done.

Many athletes are the same, you work so hard for so many hours a week. You feel like you’ve really earned that dairy milk. I mean, a little dairy milk can’t harm right? We only bought a 500g bar….

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Some paleo treats whipped up for between sessions

But it’s a trap, meaning that many athletes remain at a constant weight, treating themselves far more than they realise. A dangerous game.

Me and the dietitian decided that the best solution while we had the time in the off season was to try the Paleo diet.

The what?

Yes, most people think the same.

I was familiar with the paleo diet as my old rowing coach Tony Larkman was a big advocate.

The paleo diet is a healthy derivative of the Atkins diet. It works to remove highly processed foods, refined sugars and carbs as well as trans fats.

Essentially, no carbohydrate, no dairy, no alcohol.

The latter being an easy one for me.

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Fish & Vegetables. The most basic paleo meal.

So what’s the theory behind this diet?

The idea is that similar to the cavemen, our body has to break down fat for fuel. This makes the body do more work to process food and help burn through the fat stores. High volumes of vitamins and minerals keep the body healthy, with fat becoming the primary energy source. This removes all the sugary foods & carbs that cause so many people in modern society to gain weight.

Yes that’s right.

It’s not fatty foods getting you, it’s the pasta and chocolate bars.

Not at the same time I hope.

A lot of people fall down on the paleo diet because they forget to replace the carbohydrates with fat.

Your body needs fuel to function.

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Without the potatos this would count!

If you cut carbs & turn to lean meat and vegetables.

It’s going to hit you hard.

Very hard.

So after trying the paleo diet for 6-8 weeks, and losing a substantial amount of weight, I managed to get very ill, and proceed to put it all back on again. My body adapted to the diet quicker than normal due to my high volume training & racing programme.

There’s only so long your body can burn carbs for before it uses the fat stores. So my system was already a step ahead. I had to occasionally cheat to include a bit of full fat Greek yoghurt or some peanut butter. But I was generally rather strict.

Would I recommend this diet?

Yes, yes I would.

And here’s why:

Despite the increase in oil and fat disagreeing with my ibs, the increase in vitamins and minerals really helped my body stay fresh and recover. The added micronutrients go a long way! I learned a huge amount about the composition of meals, different recipes, healthy snacks and a great breakfast recipe.

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Although I’m not paleo now I’ll still eat paleo meals 50% of the time as they’re healthy, fresh and fast. I didn’t think I’d be sitting down with a fish salad and a smile on my face.

Removing carbs allows you to make meals work without them. So adding enough clean carbs to recover becomes a very easy job!

In my opinion the best team in the world to have nutrition executed is the cycling team: Team Sky. The sports scientists they have working around the clock over there are phenomenal. Between them and british cycling they’ve cracked training and nutrition down to the tiniest percentage gain. And do they eat carbs? Unfortunately for all you paleo lovers out there, they do. So in the long run it must be better.

However if I can do 30 hours training a week without carbs. Then you can do it too! If you’re looking to lose weight and find a diet that can work, is sustainable and will teach you an incredible amount about your bodys needs and the way to eat easy, clean and fast, the Paleo diet is the one.

You’ll be very tired for a week or two while the body adjusts, but I promise you’ll feel fresh and healthy afterward.

Just back yourself!

The Next Step – Learning To Race

New Zealand was great.

Sunny, peaceful, relaxing.

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Finally back in the UK it’s time to reflect on the positives and negatives of the trip, pass judgements and decide the next steps moving forward.

Flying out to New Zealand I had one job:

Win the age group. And therefore – qualify for Kona.

Get that golden ticket that so many people spend a life time hunting for.

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And it’s hard for me to say I had a bad race, because I didn’t. I stuck to the plan and executed the result. So when people ask me am I happy with it? Well yes, on that day that was the best I could have done.

On one side of the coin, I biked a 5:05 into the wind. However on my side of the coin I finished the swim with 500 people ahead of me. Not a place to be competitive.

I am capable of so much more. My build up let me down, I was lazy with my diet, amongst other things I wasn’t quite as disciplined and regimented as I like to be.

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And there are so many unanswered questions.

You see, that was the first time I’ve ever ‘raced’ an ironman. By which I mean, pushed on from start to finish, holding an uncomfortable intensity, attempting to go fast rather than purely see the finish line with a smile on my face.

And I learned a lot.

But now I have a whole mind of curiosities. Unanswered questions about myself. So much unfinished business with what I’m capable of.

We can start with the obvious one. A 1:23 swim leaves so much to still be desired.

And what happens if I push the swim? Race myself for the best possible time, rather than just get to my bike. Will my cycle legs still hold out? Will it bite me on the run?

And the bike leg, what happens if I swim faster and get myself into a strong group? Could we use the 12m legal zone to gain 5-10 minutes? Maybe even more.

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My 3:28 marathon was solid, the proudest part of my race. That’s what won the age group for me and running it home down that finishing shoot is a feeling that will get me through a lot of hard sessions in the coming months.

But the medics weighed me at 83kg before the race, and I’ve only been running 6 months. So what can I run at 75kg? What’s my real race weight? Can I push a 3 hour with more training and more resilience? Can my transitions be quicker? Is my nutrition right? Can I handle more caffeine? A new bike position? Better prep? No niggles?

All of these things flying round in my head, and the real answer to a lot of them, is unknown.

But now. In my 3rd season in the sport I’m in the position where Im ready to learn. I can afford to attack races, make mistakes. Fall down, break, push myself too far.

I have to remember that this time last year I’d just started back after 6 months off. And it’d still be another 3 months before I managed to run anything over 5k. So I have a lot of progression still to come.

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It’s time to step it up, and try to begin the transition from a good age grouper, to a seriously competitive one.

And build up the pieces, create the jigsaw of the ‘perfect race’.

I may never find the perfect combination of speed and efficiency, I may never string together a flawless race. But the more mistakes I make, and the closer I get. The faster I’ll become.

And it won’t happen overnight, it’ll be a long journey, a tough process. Nobody likes losing, giving everything and it just not being good enough. A deflating feeling.

But you can’t win every time, and every time you lose it makes you that bit more resilient.

So my next big race is in 4 months time at ironman UK. Everything else will be used as a warm up, a test, an experiment.

I’ll be racing everything I can find from park runs, time trials, duathlons and triathlon. Of all distances, testing myself to work out what I am really capable of.

And as always, the most important part – don’t get injured.

July 14th. Ironman UK.

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See you there.

Be Young – Be Foolish

A week before my first ironman world championship qualifier of 2017.

On the other side of the world New Zealand, with nothing but sun, scenery, laid back lifestyles and time to reflect.

If you’re one of my friends, this title will excite you. A sponsor, panic you. And if you’re neither. But not to worry, I hope whichever you are you can take something away from my usual mumblings.

Life’s hard. It’s no secret that day to day there are many struggles that most of us could just do without.

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You spend your adult life going from handshake to handshake, emailing back and forth saying ‘sorry for the delay’.. until one of you dies…

It’s really easy to fall out of the habit of doing the things you enjoy, to let work & ‘adult life’ take over.

Gone are the school days of dashing home so you could do absolutely nothing and not a soul would care. Copying your homework off whoevers turn it was to do a few questions, so at least it looked like you’d given it a go.

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Really you were all out riding tiny mountain bikes round town, playing heads and volleys in someone’s back garden or a huge game of manhunt.

Occasionally you’d have a sports fixture that would get in the way, but you all played in all 10 different sports teams so you knew there’d be nobody missing out.

SAT’s, GCSE’s, detention, break time, the 3 o’clock bell, the chuckle brothers, dick and dom on a Saturday morning.

PS1, PS2, word shark and the word paper clip that used to do fun things for you.

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The list is endless, a continual reel of things that defined & shaped your childhood, and every kid your generation knows. They’ll remember all the things as if it was yesterday.

And the funny thing is, that was just my generation, for the older folk among you, you’ll have things you relate to. All be it a completely different list, like the invention of the wheel and the dinosaurs getting wiped out.

Just messing.

But your parents will have it, and theirs before them, and it goes on.

It’s very easy to forget that everyone has been there, everyone was young once. In an ever changing world there’s far more uncertainty. The 21st century is a crazy place where nothing is set in stone. The average person can have up to 9 careers, 7 sexual partners and a brand new super virus that back in your day, you’d have just shaken off and got on with. Obviously.

Freddos are almost 30p, you can buy your way into the main seat in the White House, but you can’t buy an actual house, if you’re under the age of 30.

In the worlds most powerful country buying a gun is easier than buying a beer.

It’s hard in the new world. The struggle is real.

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But why do we go day to day, doing things we just don’t care about? Things that really, have absolutely no benefit to our lives.

We just slot in with the rest of society, doing things because we think we should. Because that’s the way it’s always been.

Well stop.

Just stop doing it, and make a change.

Be foolish, make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or you’re 50. You don’t know everything, and in 20 years time you may still look back and think: ‘I really wish I’d done that’.

Well now is the time.

Quit your job, go travelling, start a business, take a risk. If you’re young, move away, try new things. It gets a lot harder when you settle down, get engaged, have a wife and kids.

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And no, I’m not saying be reckless, I’m not saying throw your life away.

You have to be serious, and you have to understand that it’s tough. It’s scary, and it’s going to be hard. But than doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Nothing in life comes free, you have to be prepared to go through tough times, but make them work.

In the final few weeks of our architecture degree, we had a lecture about why not to be an architect. And it really caught my attention.

It’s very easy to go through your degree certain on what you’ll become, because you have to, because it seems obvious. A straight choice.

But that doesn’t necessarily point in the right direction.

Degrees now are fantastic at teaching you a diverse range of skills. You can leave university with a transferable skill set broad enough to point you in any direction, and the world really is your oyster.

All of you will know I turned my back on architecture to attempt to become a triathlete.

Why?

I hear the same things over and over. Architecture is a solid career, pays the bills, design cool stuff, have lots of fun.

Well not exactly.

Now I’ve changed career I’ve noticed something very clear.

Everyones perception of everyone else’s career is a glamorous high life that everybody should envy.

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And really that’s just not it.

Architecture isn’t designing amazing buildings day to day.

Triathlon isn’t flying around the world racing here there and every where.

And all the rich city folk you know that graduated on £45k+ are mostly earning the same rate per hour as an employee at McDonalds.

Of course, each has its perks. Architecture is designing the dream building, once or twice in a career.

The summer of triathlon is all racing, if you can make it through the vicious winter of cold, wet, boring miles.

And the city jobs do pay a fortune for when you get chance to spend it.

But you have to find something you enjoy, something you’re good at, and something you want to make work.

Because if you’re realistic with yourself and you’re prepared to put the work in. It can, and will, happen.

So go travel the world, but think how you’re going to fund it, where you can work, how you can save.

Start up your own business, but be careful with the money, and make sure you’re ready to go through to the tough times with it too.

Go out and make mistakes, get stuff wrong. Cause that’s how we learn, and no matter how old you are, you can still give it a shot.

Follow your dreams and all that. The clichés are true. You have to be prepared to work, but it can work! Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Because the last thing you want, is your future self to start a story with ‘I wish I’d’…

Be the one saying ‘remember when’.

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P.s. Life isn’t here forever. If it isn’t getting in the way of your career, have the beer, eat the cake.