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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.

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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.

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Winter – The Extra Mile

Winter.

Unless you’re a snowsports fanatic, toy shop owner or polar bear. It’s unlikely winter is your favourite time of year.

Yeah I can obviously see how you’d enjoy it, christmas, big hoodies, hot chocolate, mince pies. Especially mince pies, they should be available 365 days a year. Tesco, get on it.

The perks are all there.

But really though…. Does anyone actually like winter?

I mean, come on now.

Really?

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Short days, bad weather, training’s tough, if you’re studying you’ve got exams or deadlines, if you’re working your inbox is forever full and your commutes just seem to drag, and lets not forget the bank account takes the biggest hit of the whole year.

But you enjoy that?!

Fat from christmas, sluggish and slow, no imminent holidays in the pipeline, no sign of the ‘beach bod’. Just getting by hoping the summer holidays come round faster.

Summer racing, holiday tans and short shorts. Surely that’s more appealing?!

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So what really happens in the winter? Where does everybody go?

Unfortunately we can’t all live the professional athlete high life, South Africa for the winter, Girona for the spring. Constant sun and nice weather. Miles on miles of training, never a dull day. Or the CEO of some global corporate firm, playing golf or skiing the days away.

It’s often said that a good winter makes a good summer. Fact.

For the athletes, miles make champions. Fact.
For the students, revision gets the grades. Fact.

There is no gods gift, no magic potion. Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard.

But when you’ve got 5 tops, 3 pairs of leggings, 2 sets of socks, the worlds thickest gloves and your face covered up to the brink of your vision. You do have to ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?

Is it really worth it?

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Well yes, yes it is.

For any endurance sport building a base is one of the most important aspects of the training programme. I’m aware that you need the high tempo, top quality sessions to get that peak fitness, and you also need ample recovery, hindered by a high volume programme. But the science is there, you’ve gotta build your base.

There are athletes that will go a season training 10 hours a week, and pump out a 9 hour Ironman. I’m not denying that that’s possible, I’ve seen it happen. But what you haven’t seen is the athletes 25 hour weeks, for 10 years previous to this. An endurance base so big, that it just needs topping up and maintaining through the hectic day to day life.

I know some of you will shun it as junk miles, but when the athlete that put in 10 hours a week more training than you cruises past you in the last 10% of a race. You’ll be the first to cry.

There are many similarities between sport and the business world, a blog that will follow in the coming weeks, but I think building a ‘base’ is one of them. And no, I don’t mean you have to start riding a bike, or run more. I mean going the extra mile. Putting in a bit extra here and there, helping others out when they need it, makes a big change.

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Everybody is looking for shortcuts. The easy way out. The quick way round. Well unfortunately ladies and gentlemen, if you want to succeed at a high level. There isn’t one.

And that’s where you need our good friend, The Winter.

Make your short days longer, your time to be out with friends enjoying the sun is coming, trust me. But you have to earn it.

Nights in the library, in the gym, on the treadmill, in the office… it doesn’t matter where your hard work takes place, it just needs to get done.

And unfortunately, there is no audience for hard work.

Some days are really, really long. Trust me, I know this one. I’ve been in the office past midnight. The studio for 3 straight days. Done 10 hours of training when your body just can’t take any more.

I know how it feels.

Work is just too much, your stressed, tired, hungry.. you’re not sure if you need 3 weeks sleep, 8 shots of tequila, 3 espressos, a hug or a combination of the lot.

But it will pay off.

This off season is the time where all the little changes you make, the little extra you put in, it’ll all swing back round.

And trust me.

Your future self will really thank you for it.

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Doing a Triathlon – 5 top tips from novice to beginner

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is:

“I’ve just signed up for my first triathlon, any tips?”
or
“Jack, I’m doing a triathlon, help”

So below I’ve compiled my top 5 tips for any new starter.

Whether you’re doing an ironman or a sprint distance, I’m sure these will help you in your quest.

I’m by no means an expert myself, having only started in the sport a little over two years ago, I’m still very much a novice. Learning a whole set of new tricks race to race, but I’m slowly getting there. So here’s my best advice for you all to complete that new years resolution.

1. Get the right gear.

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Now this is a very important one. No i’m not talking about spraying £5k+ at a bike, or £150 on running shoes that don’t fit your feet properly, or getting so much swim gear you make Michael Phelps look ill-prepared.
I’m talking about getting a solid bike, that fits. Go to a shop, chat to the workers. Chat to your friends that cycle. Anyone that knows anything about cycling, they’ll be able to help you buy a steady bike, that gets you from A to B in a solid time.

Yes, some bikes are faster than others.
And yes, some are a lot more expensive, but really, unless you’re attacking top end times, it doesn’t make a world of difference.

 

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I’ve got a £350 Pinnacle Dolomite 1, Evans Cycles bottom of the range bike. And I can keep up with almost any chaingang on it, it really goes!
Your legs are worth more than any bike can buy.

Now once you’ve got your bike, get it measured and fitted, this will make sure you’re comfortable and not setting yourself up from a fail from the get go.

Cycling or padded shorts are a very helpful purchase, you only need to spend £20/30 to save your behind from getting very sore! I don’t mean super tight lycra, any mountain bike shorts will do the trick.

(Heathen, sorry roadies!!!)

The second most important thing is running shoes. Again, go to a running shop, get on a treadmill and get a good pair that fit your running style. They’re there to help you, it’s their job, their lifestyle, they know what’s what.

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This is literally one of the best bits of advice anyone can give you. Running is where you will pick up all of your injuries.
Trust me, you’re chatting to the injury veteran.

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In my triathlon career I’ve spent more time on the bench and in the phsyio than running, so these are a fantastic investment. A good pair of socks will also go a long way to keep the blisters at bay.

Then get yourself a comfortable pair of goggles, and you’re ready to take on the world!

Stay warm through winter, don’t over dress through summer and you’ll be sure to have a smile on your face come race day.

 

 
2. Don’t get injured.

Now this sounds trivial. Duhhhh. Don’t get injured, how hard can it be?!

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Well, it’s tricker than you think. There are a few simple ways to keep the injuries down and the training up.
Firstly, don’t do too much too soon. I know you’ll think you’re superman now you’ve put down the beers for electrolyte drinks. But don’t let yourself get carried away.
Listen to your body, and take it one step at a time. Don’t run before you can walk, so to speak.
Next, make sure you stretch before or after training. This helps keep your muscles loose and reduces the likelihood of injury.
And lastly, if it hurts, stop.

The extra 3k is never worth 4 weeks off.

After all, recovery is 50% of training, if you don’t recover, you don’t get faster!

 

 

3. Play to your strengths.

This is one of the most common mistakes in triathlon. Most people start triathlon because they are strong in one of the disciplines but wanna branch out and try something new.
But don’t neglect that discipline.
If I use myself as an example, most people will know that I’m a cyclist, that’s what I do.

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And yes, I’m focussing very hard on my swim and run at the moment, to try and catch up.

BUT.

That doesn’t mean I don’t cycle. Keeping my cycling legs on top form gives me edge in that part of the race, giving me a bit more space to breathe in the other two. If you’re good at it, use it.
Also that makes you more likely to enjoy it, so do what you enjoy!! It’ll help, I promise.

 

 

4. Practice racing.

This is one you read in almost any internet post about starting triathlon. Don’t try anything new on race day, it could ruin your race!
From equipment, to nutrition to pacing. If you’ve not practiced it, don’t try it.

When you get to race day, you want it to be monotonous. Enter auto-pilot and enjoy the day. Soak in the atmosphere.

Not spend your race worrying about what’s gonna happen next!

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Train with the right nutrition, walk through your transitions and make sure you cover every eventuality.

Especially how to fix a puncture!

Nobody wants to end a race over something trivial that could have been covered at home the week before.

 

5. Eat your greens.

Now this will make a lot of you laugh.

Eat your greens?

You serious?

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Yes, yes i’m very serious.

Everyone rages on about protein shakes, carbs, high calories. Arguably you don’t need any of these.

Yes, recover and fuel yourself properly.

Yes, take food on your rides, actual food, not greens.

But the micro-nutrients vegetables offer you can do things for your muscles that you never even imagined. Spinach, pineapple, cherry juice, beetroot the list goes on

Ok, ok, I know they’re not green.

Clever cloggs.

But the point still stands, fruit and veg will make you feel fresh and clean, you’ll know when you’ve tried it. Not stodgy like the morning after a takeaway. You won’t regret it, and it’s guilt free calories, the unrefined sugars will make you struggle to put weight on!

There are obviously plenty of other things to consider when starting a triathlon. But if you keep yourself healthy & recovered through your new programme. As well as happy and fuelled, I’m sure you’ll do well.

I look forward to racing some of you this year.

I promise you’ll enjoy it, although your legs might not!!!

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Crikey – they look good!

The classic pre-race anxiety is hard enough let alone when you psych yourself out over what your opponents looks like. And nine times out of ten, you’re wasting your energy. And this is why.

What are you actually perceiving when you pre judge someone? You’re basing their ability entirely on the aesthetic they have.


And yes, we all do it.

In fact I’m one of the worst for it.

But 80% of sport is won or lost in the mind. So don’t talk yourself out of it before you’ve even started!!


But are you even racing them?

The beauty of our sports is that there can be 25,000 competitors. And you’re still only racing yourself.

If you come home with a smile on your face at the end of the day, you’re the real winner.

And yes, in the new debate I am on the side that believes if you finish last, you are a loser. And that will follow in another blog.

However if you have worked hard, improved and taken a step forward, that is to be commended.


I remember being at the start of a team time trial in Wales, Port Talbot 4up.

Now I was always going to be nervous, first team time trial, first 25m time trial, two men that had just finished 10th at nationals to follow and only my third time on a time trial bike.

Safe to say I was laying eggs.

This wasn’t helped when half way through the warm up team bottrill purred past, full matching kit, perfect precision in their line, all 4 with slick disc wheels singing the slow, deep “vroom, vroom, vroom” sound we all love.

They looked sharp. Really sharp.

But why were we worried? Just cause they can afford nice kit, didn’t mean they could use it.

And often people are looking at you thinking the same thing.

I mean, this year I rode a brand new canyon, bambino helmet and a sharp skin suit. For anyone looking at a 12 year old on gear like that, they’re either fairly nippy, or just too rich.


Just too rich.

A common phenomenon in cycling.

As the middle aged, mid life crisis cyclists begin to get more serious, the competitive racing side of the sport is evolving rapidly.

And people have realised that by throwing money at some nice gear, it does make a big difference.

But.

That doesn’t make you fast.

Miles do that.


Anyway… So as we stand in port talbot expecting to have team botrill plow through us. I was petrified.

But my legs really wanted to play.

Dropping the 4th member of our team 15km in, meant we were a 3 man job from a long way out.

15km left one was hanging on.

And the last 8km was the Schofield choo choo train, dragging the boys home.

My eager, over excited legs having to control themselves.

A very bitty, jumpy first ttt. Not one to be proud of.

But we finished second. One second behind first, and almost 20 seconds ahead of team botrill.

And it made me remember, yet again.

There’s so much more to our sport than fancy bikes, shaved legs and middle aged men in Lycra.

Attitude, resilience, personality, the list goes on.

If you believe you can succeed, you will.

On that start line, there will always be people with a nicer bike, nicer gear, bigger legs, whatever else you judge them by.


But you will always be you.

And you will always bring it.

So stop worrying about the fanny with a 15 grand pinarello, he’s probably worked hard in other aspects of his life to deserve that.

Most of the time, you’re not even gonna be in the same race.

Just worry about yourself.

Lay it all out.

Hit that pb.

And go home with a smile on your face.

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Who We Are is Why We Win.

“You can’t do that”.

A phrase in my life I’ve come to get pretty sick of, first off, why? why can’t I do it? Who’s telling me I can’t? Who makes the rules?
Now we’ve all heard the phrase, I do what I want. And yes, yes you do.

I remember one of the first times I was told I can’t do something, it’s still striking in my mind. One of my old rugby “coaches”… less one of the actual coaches and more one of the many self proclaimed, told me I’d never be able to dance and play rugby, it made me soft. Only a few months later I was one of the only players in the squad to make county trials, and not long after I was captaining our side whilst doing ballet 4 times a week. Who was he to tell me what I can and can’t do?

Now I know, that’s a minor story in the grand scheme of things. I was told in College by Roisin Dunn, the vice principle at the time, that I’d never go anywhere in life, never be anything. Since then I’ve earned a spot on 3 GB times and am due to graduate with a BSc in Architecture from one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the country.. She’s since been fired, who’s winning that one?


I was told you couldn’t do architecture and play sport. Sure, I’m not set to get a first, but I’ve had two good jobs, had my work complimented by many people and it’s certainly no worse than the majority of the year.. And I’ve rowed for the university first VIII for two years, finished two ironman’s and barely missed a days training.

I cycled 240km into a headwind at almost 34kph. in my first season of cycling, on a road bike, stopping once briefly for water. I didn’t think that was possible! Until you try, how do you know that? You read it? Some chop on the internet told you? Riiiiight.


So why isn’t that possible?
It’s because it’s tough. Life is tough. And people want to tell you you can’t do it. They want to make excuses, so they themselves feel better. Give themselves the excuse of ‘it’s impossible’ therefore they’re missing out.


Season two and I’ve done a sub 10 ironman, sub 4 100 miles, broken a 23 year old club record, pb’d on numerous 10’s & 25’s, all on heavy legs. We decided what’s possible for ourselves.

Would Ironman be growing so fast if it was easy? No. But is it really that hard? When 50 year old guys get round at the best part of 100kg… really ask yourself, how demanding is that? We turned up to an ironman, 6 months into triathlon, and in 31 degree heat all went comfortably sub 14. Huub told us we’d never go sub 14, they bet £200 and some doughnuts against us, well why not?

I saw a man in Wales, with one arm and one leg, go sub 10 hours. At some point in his life, he’s probably been told he can’t do it. Probably numerous times, but look at him. Setting an inspirational example, why can’t you do it?

A 13 year old and an 80 year old have climbed everest. Yes. it’s £50,000. Yes, it’s technically one of the hardest things to do in the world. But I’ll repeat, a 13 year old has done. Come on now, you’re not telling me that 13 year old is in better physical condition than some of the people I know?

Probably not.


Lets move away from me, and away from the crazy. Lets look at some more real examples. Sam Courty, she started rowing at university. 3 years later she was sat in the GB women’s 8 racing the Huskies in Washington for the Windermere Cup. People would say that’s not possible… well it is, she did it.

UW mens crew, ‘who we are is why we win’. They don’t listen to anyone. They’re a university that races international crews for goodness sake, they’ll tell you what they can and can’t do. And you’ll sit and listen.

Bradley Wiggins, Olympic medal holder, Tour De France winner, he was told a million times he couldn’t do it. Did he listen? No. Did he care? No. There are literally thousands of examples I could bounce around.


You can’t do it.

Just mull that over for a second in your mind. Ask yourself why? Literally. Why?

Lets take a step back, a big step back. To about 100 years ago. Flying was impossible, reaching the moon was impossible. For goodness sake electricity was impossible once upon a time. But it’s there, we have it, we can’t get rid of it!


So why are you letting yourself be governed by people that are in no better a position to comment than yourself? Try new things, take up a new hobby, let your hobby become your job. Believe in yourself.

The older I get the more I’m beginning to believe the cliches. They’re thrown around by mums, minders, grandparents. You can be anything you want to be, follow your dreams.


I hate cliches.
They make me sick.

But it’s unfortunately true. There’s so much truth in it. Take a step back and look how far you’ve come in life, everything you’ve achieved, everywhere you’ve been, everyone you’ve influenced.

And back yourself.
You decided what you can and can’t do.

Who we are is why we win.
“You can do that”.

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Miles and W’s.

Miles. My favourite concept.

Do miles, go fast. Fact.

I can already feel the high intensity, low volume advocates amongst you squirming. Wriggling around in your chairs.

Miles are speed.

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It’s been a long week. A really long week.

As I check in during my rest between sessions, nothing makes me more excited than the thought of tomorrow’s rest day.

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Another 30 hour week to slot into the start of July, May and June checking out at both exactly 92 hours of training.

That’s a lot of miles.

So I’m overtrained, fatigued, off form, going slow, doing damage. Maybe, maybe not.

I took a rest day last Saturday, didn’t do a lot. Socialised at Henley, did a 3 hour drive, had a nice dinner. Easy money. And after just one day off, I turned up to the start of the Manchester and district 100 mile tt.

Now I’ve never done a 100 mile tt before. In fact it was only the 4th time I’d ever sat on a tt bike.

I’ve heard the rumours, read the Internet reviews. ‘Tt bikes take 3 months to get used to’… ‘It’s only on your 3rd 100 you get close to pacing it right’.

And in fairness, you cyclists & triathletes do come up with some absolute nonsense.

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I choo’d round in a comfortable 3:53:04. My heart rate not even breaching the high 60’s. Second to Ben Norbury, Congleton’s finest, by 20 seconds. Who was later peeled from the bike.

How? Miles.

So that started the week off nicely. An hour in the pool Monday, my first run in 6 months, and another pacey 90km on the road bike. Fine. Tuesday another hour and a 10k run.

They’re adding up these miles.

So on a heavy set of legs I span over to the start of the Congleton 10 mile tt, only to see a fresh Ben Norbury on the start line again.

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Well it was my mums birthday, so I couldn’t put down a bad performance. But everyone else’s rest was sure to help their legs. I smashed round with a heart rate of low 160’s, again not over 170 or even getting near my max of 190.

So I must have gone slow, because I’m over trained, right?

I checked in a pretty 20:45, a win. 21 seconds up on Ben and almost 3 minutes out from third.

How? miles.

Since then the week has developed into 610km on the bike, 65km running and a cheeky 9,000m in the pool. (Not including last Sunday’s 100).

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Ok ok you get my point, I do miles, but could I be faster if I brought back the mileage?

Probably not. It’s all about the base. The bottom of the pyramid.

8 hours sleep a night, 20-30 minutes of stretching and rolling a day. And a healthy diet closely monitored by the head of athlete welfare (my mum) and I’m fresh from day to day.

As I start to taper for Europeans in 2 weeks I have 4 races to really explore the speed available.

I haven’t had the time to run far enough to do any damage to the race. The miles just aren’t there. But as my fatigue comes down and my form comes up.

Watch this space.

#kahaarecoming

DCIM102GOPRO

DCIM102GOPRO

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The Chronicles of Northern – My First Three Day Adventure

All it takes is an off-hand comment, a little joke, someone probing me and my mind is off. Crazy adventures spring out of the most ridiculous situations, ideas that just grow and grow in my mind, ideas that become plans, plans that quickly come round to reality.

It must be about 6 weeks ago that I came up with this one, I needed miles in my legs for the fast approaching Dragon Ride, and a kick start to the freedom of post uni life.

My ankle was bad, but that’s a minor detail.

I had decided that the first week post hand in I was going to do some miles. Some serious miles in the chair. I’d created the starve routes, told my sister, told Lightfoot, told my mum, I even told Sian and Polly at the filming. The idea was slowly being mulled over and over in my mind.

750km, in 3 days. Bath to Cheshire. Cheshire to Bangor. Bangor to Bath.

Easy right?

But I’m only 12 weeks back into training, and my ankle is still very sore… but I was determined to give it a crack. I’d cycled home in the past but remember barely being able to move the next day. 250km home I knew I could probably make with a solid day, a flat 160km over to Bangor as a rest, and then the big one. Bangor to Bath, 340km passing right through the centre of Snowdonia. The length of Wales.

It really didn’t take long for the 6 weeks to come round and me to find myself checking over the cannondale, making sure I had enough rations to survive the journey. Saddle bag on, pockets packed with Belvitas, a couple of gels and bananas, and I was off.
The 8am start didn’t feel too bad, and I started off in my home territory, the Bath/Bristol bike path. Legs quickly into a chunky rhythm and I was purring along the bike path, set for a solid days riding.

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The first few hours were pretty boring. Nothing different to a regular training ride, quite reserved not putting all my cards on the table, I was quickly through Gloucester and up into the unknown. I was following a route on my Garmin Edge 520 so the roads I was using were fairly quiet and reasonably surfaced. The next point of call was Worcester, Tewkesbury, 120km in and I knew I was half way, still making very good pace. I stopped at around 130km to refill the water bottles, have a quick pack of kettle chips and some magic juice.

Ohhhh the magic juice.

Those of you that know me well will know I’m caffeine sensitive. The slightest drop of caffeine and I’m a very hyper boy. So what better to knock back than a 500ml bottle of cherry Pepsi Max. It did’t take long for it to hit me and I was off again on my way to the North.

160km back and I knew I was into the unknown. I hadn’t ridden this far in a day since Ironman Wales back in September 2015, my ankle was still very sore but my power balance was at 50:50 so I knew it wasn’t misbehaving too much. So head down I cracked on. It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t left my big ring all day, my cadence very low as usual, I knew this would be draining my legs of power. Although I hadn’t encountered any real hills, just the odd lump.

At 180km the legs started to struggle and I hit a slight dark patch. Still riding somewhat reserved to my usual self due to my ankle and the looming days ahead, I kept ploughing northward, cutting through the beautiful English countryside, I think I even had a conversation with myself.

It’s at this point I realise that the story so far is quite boring. Boy sits on bike. Boy spins legs, eats a few biscuits. Few hours pass. Boy arrives at destination.

Sounds about right for the first day really. Nothing exciting happened and within 40km of home I was back in my own territory and knew exactly where I was. Mum quickly whipped a steak on, tub of Ben and Jerry’s at the ready and it wasn’t long before the three of us were watching pointless, while I stretched with the cats, oh I can’t wait for the next year…..

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So I finished the first day very uneventfully, with no mechanical errors, no real bonks (running out of nutrients) at 30.6kph and an average of 220 watts. A very successful day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/585494191

But we hadn’t even scratched the surface.

The next day was tough.
160km on heavy legs, again into the wind like the day before, in the overwhelming sun. My ankle again started very sore but I had little choice but to get my head down and crack on.

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The first 60km I knew very well, the back lanes of cheshire and over to Chester, soon to become my hunting ground, not many people love them more than me.
Pan flat, well surfaced roads, perfect for the fresh legged rider. But not today.
Time went slow for the first 60km, I was enjoying myself, but I was having to work. My heart rate was unusually low due to the fatigue and the sun wasn’t helping the situation. I was trying to keep my water consumption low so I didn’t have to make too many stops, an error I won’t be doing again.
I was soon on the Chester millennium Greenway. A beautiful sus-trans cycle path that took me across the border and the river, and onto the north coast of wales. Very flat and a joy to ride, I would thoroughly recommend this route to anyone looking for a gentle day out on the bike.

The north coast of Wales. Well theres a strange place.

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A mixture of beautiful coastal views, perfectly surfaced cycle paths, strange holiday resorts and plenty of retired biddies. Still only making my way through one bottle of water, the heat started to get to me. I stopped to put my arm warmers on. Arm warmers? if you were too hot?

They were actually a life saver.

Taking the sun off my skin, stopping it draining my energy and cooling my arms and I was quickly back to it. I didn’t really enjoy much of the route through north east Wales, it was windy, my ankle was sore, my legs were struggling and there wasn’t much of a view.

But the second I passed the station at Abergele and Pensarn my breath was taken away!

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The cycle path to the west of there is something I recommend anyone that possibly can to run, walk, crawl or cycle on a sunny day. Views that I can honestly compare to the sea front in the south of France.

All the way across to Conwy castle I was mesmerised.

 

I stopped at a little cafe on the coast to fill my bottles up, had a chat to some local riders and quickly got on my way. I managed to keep the days stoppage time to around 30 minutes similar to the day before, including traffic lights and junctions.

30km from Conwy and I had quickly slotted into Bangor. Up their ‘little’ hill and I was greeted by a hungover but smiley little sister. Packed with goodies for me, we enjoyed them in the sun, before I cooked her dinner, watched a film and she headed out for another lash with the gals.

Oh to be a fresher again. Another successful day with the average over 30kph, somewhat lower on the watt front but I had to be reserved for the final day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/586470245

And then the real party started.

34okm.

That’s a really long way.

I didn’t actually know if it was possible, if I’d manage it. Sure I know people that have done it, some people do it quite regularly. 440 people on strava have done it this month. Out of nearly 200,000 people signed up to the gran fondo challenge it didn’t fill me with hope.

I knew people that had done it with friends, on wheels, in groups. People that had support vehicles and flat roads. On fresh legs at the start of the week. But unsupported, solo, on very heavy legs, starting through the highest peaks in Wales. I actually didn’t know if I was going to do it.

But that wasn’t going to stop me trying.

‘Who we are is why we win’

Snowdonia.
“Snowdonia is a region in northwest Wales concentrated around the mountains and glaciers of massive Snowdonia National Park.”

Thanks wiki.

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It’s big. It really big. I started at 7am after cooking a great bowl of porridge for breakfast. Laura grumbled a hungover goodbye from under her sleeping bag on the floor and I was off. 7:30, later than I’d planned to leave, but I had lights so wasn’t scared of getting caught in the dark.

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It was bitter morning. The shorts and jersey I’d be riding in the sun for the past couple of days, (washed by Laura and Mum, legends), was wearing thin. The higher I climbed the mountain pass the thinner they came. I found some solace in the beauty of the landscape, a very different but equally impressive spectacle to the day before.

It was already almost too much. By 60km I’d been riding almost 3 hours, that’s very very slow. I couldn’t feel my face, hands or feet. I was in a bad way.

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I kept ploughing on, 3 bananas and half a bottle of water down and I was struggling. It was really, really, really cold.

As the A5 dropped beyond Snowdonia and into the valley beyond I found a bit of warmth. Spinning my legs with all I had to avoid the juggernauts speeding past me my body began to thaw, and I started to find a rhythm.

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Now and again I would check my distance and average speed, it was slowly creeping upwards. Onto the A49 after Shrewsbury and I text mum, I knew she’d be worrying. My legs were beginning to warm up a bit, maybe they would spring to life soon. Ambitious.

The next 100km was a bit of a dead zone. 340km is a long way. But in my head it was 60, 60, 40, 30, 30, 50, 70.  Make sense?
Snowdonia, Shrewsbury, 100 miles, furthest ever week, Hereford, Gloucester, Bath. That’s how I broke it down.

Never once did I think ‘I’ve cycled (x) distance already today, I should be really tired’.. instead the mindset was ‘only this far to go, you can do that easy’. until the next checkpoint, and the next, and the next.

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The dead zone to Hereford took quite a bit of time. 120km down, 120km to go afterwards, 100km mid section. I span through 100 miles and my legs were feeling ok, they’d warmed up, my ankle pain had taken a back seat and I was just cracking on. At 190km I had a little chuckle to myself. I’d now cycled further than I ever had in a week, in my life, and it was 2/3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Legend.

And it wasn’t long before I was in Hereford. But I wasn’t in a good way.

I was tired, hungry, weary. There’s only so long bananas and belvitas can sustain you, and I was uncontrollably shivering. The route of A5/A49 had been successful, only a few points of dual carriageway and scariness. But I’m a big boy.

I bought a set of size 10 womens lycra leggings so I could stop crying about my legs. And knocked back 2 Cookies, 3 sandwiches, 2 cream brownies, 2 bottles of water, a pack of salt and vinegar crisps and a bottle of magic juice.

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And my word. My legs came to life.

They sprung into action like they were fresh off the shelf. I made incredible time to Gloucester and steamed right through. Before I knew it I was trundling off the A38 and choo chooing towards the bike path. And then I was in my element. I don’t know where all this energy had come from.

I raced myself faster and faster and faster down the bike path. I was actually laughing. I just wanted more. And more. And more. My legs could have just kept going, I really don’t know what had come over me! And before I knew it I was back. In Bath. In a day.

I’d cycled from the north west coast of Wales, through the whole country, and I was back in the kitchen. I could only laugh, I didn’t think I’d manage it! An average speed of 29.6kph, and I can honestly say I could have kept going. If the saddle sore and dodgy ankle had let me. But I was going to hurt in the morning.

https://www.strava.com/activities/587901480

Quite a boring story really. Boy rides bike. Stops, sleeps, eats, rides more.
But somewhere in there there’s something useful to be taken from it.

It’s easy for people to tell you you can’t do something. To tell you it’s not possible. Make excuses for you, hide behind the excuses. They make themselves feel better about not doing it by telling themselves nobody can do it.

Regular boy cycles 750km in 3 days, with torn ligament, after 11 weeks of training.

These kind of people don’t want to hear that, because they want to believe they can’t do it themselves, that they’re not just being lazy. But there’s no audience for hard work. Nobody was there watching me cycle, supporting through the rough points. But everybody was jumping to ask about it, congratulate me, ask how I did it, any tips I can give.

So don’t forget:

A) back yourself. If you set your mind on something, chances are you’re gonna be able to do it, no matter what other people say, or think, or do.

B) Don’t give up. It would have been easy for me to take a day off, stop in Gloucester, get the train. But by keeping going I’ve discovered what I really could be capable of. And I actually had fun in the process.

C) Don’t listen to the internet, they’re stupid. Find examples of why you can, not why you can’t.

“Big thinking precedes great achievement.”

— Wilferd A. Peterson

 

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There will always be losers…

Last month, feminists, liberals and anyone with too much time on their hands took to Twitter, the platform that allows them to dump their thoughts on the world, to praise Mattel for their decision to make different shapes for Barbie.

 

 

 

 

“Wow, all young girls can now be comfortable in their own skin”

“This is amazing. I’ve regained faith in humanity”

“About time!”

 

This is the same as when your friend (who is busy training for the Bath Half) is 1. Worried about finishing and 2. Is aiming for sub 2hrs 30mins- blaming some stupid injury they’ve never worked hard enough to get. For some reason, our society doesn’t champion winners. It comforts losers.

 

There will always be losers. Don’t kid yourself.

 

Some kids are better at Maths than you, most can run faster than you and a shed load will earn more in one year than you will in a lifetime. Blaming the body you were born with for your attitude is not ok.

As Gordon Gekko once said to Charlie Sheen: “It’s not a question of enough pal. It’s a zero-sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses.” Don’t be the loser.

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The Value of Sport

Sport, what a fantastic concept.

A group of people getting together to have fun, make friends, and push each other in a supportive, like-minded environment.


For many people sport and exercise are a massive part of the weekly ritual. Forgetting about the busy schedule and having some fun for an hour or 2 a week have been proven time of time again to be beneficial.

Even since the time of the greeks philosophers such as Plato have stressed the value of exercise, healthy body healthy mind right. And making a few friends in the process, win win!


But what really is the value of sport?

£3 a week for a single class?
£7.50 a week for the gym?
£20 for cheap shorts & a gym top
£40 for a race entry?
£70 for running shoes?
£100 a year for a membership to an association?
£250 for a wetsuit?
£400 for a long race?
£2000 for a bike?
£5000 for a bike?


When does it end? Granted these are triathlon related costs, but rowing would cost me £300/400 a year comfortably before kit, and many are associated with high level sport, but even my parents have £400 bikes and regularly spend money on badminton courts, rackets, shuttlecocks, general equipment to be used with friends.
And it all stacks up. An average cost of almost £1000 a year for cycling,ci know people that could eat for quest with that. It’s no surprise that British sport estimate it would cost £2.7 billion a year to pay the volunteers that aid sport throughout the UK.

How do people afford it? Where does the money come from? Having just paid £700 to fly to Oklahoma for World Championships, £400 for Europeans and another £400 on the way for long distance Europeans in July, the money just seems to be none stop. And if you’re like most people my age, already in debt of over £30,000 to the government, these costs are crippling.


Ironman is reeling in £450 for each entrant to a race, £225 for halves. With consistent fields of over 2,000 participants, and run by volunteers we’re looking at almost £1,000,000 for subsidised nutrition, the winners purse, trophies and course related assistance. Doesn’t strike me as costing almost 1 million? With a field of 2,500 like Nice we’re comfortably over that margin.

Plus the bike and kit companies making an average of comfortably £2000 per competitor, yearly with the amount of gear floating around.

So what really is the value of sport?

The psychological and physiological benefits of weekly sport for 3 hours a week can be monumental. Taken from 2012 statistics, sports admissions, leisure class fees and equipment hire cost the average household £6.70 per week. Coming out at just shy of £350 a year. A small price to pay to have fun with your friends some might say? In comparison to rent, a car, food, it almost seems negligible. A small price to pay.

However it’s no secret that high level sportsman can be required to pay up to £500 for race entries regularly. And training races, for example marathons and half marathons aren’t exactly cheap at £40 a pop.

And is there an alternative? Probably not, sport will never be free, materials used will always cost money, things break, people get injured and need assistance, and I can’t propose any form of alternative. Although is it worth the thousands we spend a year, working hard to fund races we spend the rest of our lives working for. Lining the pockets of the organisers and staff involved. For the 4 hours Bath half is on for, it generates a turnover of roughly £600,000. And it’s not even a big race!


For young and upcoming athletes without grants, scholarships or sponsors costs can be up to £10,000 a year for travel, races, accommodation, kit. And parents/guardians are expecting to come up with this sum of money to support their children. Everyone knows every parents hates disappointing their child, and should a parent ever feel responsible for hindering or limiting their children’s sporting promise?

Let’s hope the sports and grant system holds strong!