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.

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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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!

Ironman New Zealand 

Flying out to the other side of the world for an ironman was an interesting one, here’s how I got on and coped with the challenge of Ironman New Zealand.

No support. Lots of speculation. Lots of doubt.

Was it too early in the season? Was I still too heavy? Had my running progressed enough? Would I manage the time zone? Had flu taken too much out of me?

I’d like to take this opportunity to make a huge shoutout to my partners Vigilance QA, without their financial backing for travel & race entries, none of this would have been possible. And avoiding the jetlag had a massively positive impact on the race.

But none the less, worries and doubts aside, I would be on the start line, and I was determined to make it count.

Transition all set, a slight blip in forgetting a key part of my hydration system, luckily the wonderful Australian family in the hotel ran me back in the car to pick it up. Babysitting me once again as they have all week, something for which I’ll be forever grateful! A great group of people I’ve really enjoyed being around.

The weather looked set for a fast day, slight clouds, 21 degrees, not too much sunshine. One of the reasons the race was picked in the first place. Warm, but generally mild for a Southern Hemisphere ironman.

Well that was until the wind picked up, and everything fell apart.

The swim was nearly cancelled, with the waves being so high, with 5% of the competitors being fished out of the water before this leg of the race had even reached half way. And 13.5% not making it to the end of the day.

A day in which the pros added 30 minutes to their normal ironman New Zealand time, the age groupers were in for a long day.

So into the surfers paradise we went, being hurled & thrown about in the Great Lake Taupo, taking no prisoners.
Generally the number of scuffles was kept to a minimum. I only encountered another swimmer once as they were thrown over me by a big wave. Rare for the normal washing machine of a mass start.

Everyone was too busy focusing on staying the right side of the water. No sinkers today.

As we approached the turn boy at half way my numbers were good. I was in control. I’m a slow swimmer, despite improving week on week, I’m still a way off, but I’m aware of that.

For me the swim is about damage limitation, you can’t win the race on the swim, but you can throw it away.

These words ringing in my ears I knew I had to attempt to plow on, work with the waves, don’t fight them.

It was only after the turn point when I realised, despite swimming fast, I was swimming far. A new pb on speed, but it counts for nothing when you swim an extra 700 metres. An extra 20%. That I didn’t need.

It lasted forever.

When I was finally out of the water I knew it had been a brutal one. 1:25 on my watch, i’d have to pray the others had a rough time too.

I knew on a good day the other boys were capable of swimming about 50 minutes, so I called them half an hour ahead, and moved on.
Obviously there were only 3 bikes in transition, the rest gone. A sight I’m not unfamiliar with.


Half an hour to take back, 180km bike.

That’s a tall order.

I’d left a lot of work to be done, but there was still 90% of the race left.

And the only thing I love more than riding my time trial bike, is riding my time trial bike in a chase.

Head down, legs on, play time.

And everything sprung to life.
I’d read in Laura Trott & Jason Kenny’s book recently, when you’re at your peak it feels smooth, effortless.

And I was really firing on all cyclinders.

My heart racing at 145 beats per minute, higher than it’s been for exercise over 4 hours in 2 years. But I barely even felt like I was racing.

Little did I know at the time, it would sit there for the full 9 hours.

I was still so far back, people at home would be panicking. Well, Mum would be panicking.

The one woman that I knew would be watching the race inseparable from the screen, heart on her sleeve, living & breathing every time stop as if she were there. From thousands of miles away, the other side of the world to me, at ironman new zealand.

So I’d have to make that time check fast, and move through the field.

First time check, 7 athletes down, into 15th. Hundreds passed in the process.

Breathe mum. Breathe.

Now a lot of people say I do too many miles. Too much junk.

Riding to Skegness into a headwind for 9.5 hours, at 115 beats per minute.

Useless.

Useless until you turn into a headwind for 45km. 45km, 145bpm. 90 minutes.

Not a single bit of me was phased, this was child’s play.

My legs could eat through these miles without even telling me they were tired.

Keep your “junk miles”.

45km of brutal, hard work. Up the hill and into the wind. Legs in full swing, athlete after athlete going back past me, none in my age group.

I could see it unfolding, I knew what was happening on the other side of the world. A small smile crept across my face.

There would be panic at home: “He’s blown up”. “Went too hard”. “Falling to pieces”.

The reasonable voice dad would definitely wade in “he knows what he’s doing, it’s a long way yet”.

Checkpoint 2, 90km, 6th place.

Athletes were getting few & far between as I approached the front end. I knew I was chasing the better end of my age group, the racers, each more experienced than me by a good 5 years.

Still, it was no use to me to panic. All I could do was keep going, I’d barely even turned on the gas. A Diesel engine ticking over at a single speed: fast.

I raced back to the final turn, emptied some of the tank. I knew everyone else would be taking it easy, anticipating the brutal haul back into town, saving their legs for the marathon.

Not me.

My legs would take the marathon no matter what, because I was going to tell them to.

This was my chance, on the bike, attack while they’re resting.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Bingo.

135km in, 1st place.

I’d later find out my bike leg was under 20 minutes behind many of the pros, but could I hold it together.

Get up, stay up. You’re not throwing this one away. Not this far from home.

I really worked that last leg of the bike, retreated deep inside my mind and just let my legs go into auto pilot. One job, 145 beats per minute. That would be enough.

Off the bike and transition was empty. 80 bikes set in place, the race wasn’t even close to being over.

Months of work on my running, 2016 was a terrible year. Forever on the back foot, 2017 was going to be different.

Too heavy to run. Not enough track sessions. Need a coach.

They said.
My legs were out to tell them otherwise.

My legs felt strong, the winter miles on the bike had really paid off. A 5:05 to the front of the field, with gas left to go.

But a marathon is a long way, so I got my head down and worked my way out.

My IBS started to struggle, it was a warm day but my nutrition couldn’t ruin this course. Not now. Listen to the body, push through the pain.

In New Zealand the marathon is a 3, 14km loop course. I knew this meant the second loop was going to be make or break.

First loop – fresh.

Second loop tired and one to go.

Final loop – run it home, make it count.

The ironman marathon is a crazy place, a series of bonds, friendships, agreements. Some with chats, others the odd word, many in complete silence. Just two people, heads down, enjoying the suffering with another.

My first lap was strong, I kept reserved in the sun, plenty of ice, the odd orange and some electrolytes. Please don’t cramp later.

The clouds had pushed away in the wind, leaving the sun baking down.
Then it hit me, and it hit hard.

I knew stopping wasn’t an option, I’d travelled too far to bottle this medal and world championship place, goals on my mind almost all my life. 

And so the mind games begin.

Fighting every natural instinct the body has. Stop. Drink. Shade. Ice.

Run.


I pushed through the second lap, slowly but surely creeping to the end, fighting off the cramp, hoping I wasn’t overtaken.

If I could hold 3:30 pace, it’d be a mean feat in the sun for someone to come round me, especially from the gap id opened up on the bike.

Dragged on by person after person, people next to me, people on the other side of the world, people I don’t even know.

And then it struck me. As I started the last lap.

Since I got on my bike, I’d been over taken by 3 people, all of which were on the run.

People were hurting, everyone was hurting. All I had to do, was get after it, and bring it home. Make it count.

Step by step, I managed to run a 3:28 marathon.

Ironman New Zealand completed.

First place in the bag, Kona in the calendar, all world athlete rankings points on the board.

2017 has begun.

Ironman New Zealand Trophy

Ironman New Zealand 20-24 podium

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.

2016: time to reflect 

2016.

Check your watch and you’ll miss it.

Well where did that even go?! Gone in a heartbeat I’m sure 2017 will be the same.

Is it just me that feels like time moves faster the older we get?

Well lots has happened this year, two of my best friends have got engaged, and not to each other.

We graduated, somehow all got degrees. Few races here and there, a vicious amount of miles, and into the big wide world.


19,529km cycling.

988km running.

232,212m swimming.

And a few gym sesh warms.

Curls get the girls right?


Hamstring curls obviously.

Considering this time last year there was talk of scratching from euros to focus on my degree as I hobbled round the architecture building, I managed to pull it out of the bag.

Let’s start with the degree. Despite returning to training in march, just under 3 months before we finished, i managed to get my head down and pull some work out.

Sessions 6 days a week, studio for up to 15 hours a day, sleep was limited.

After getting the degree out of the way, 2:1 in the bag, it was straight to the drawing board for the summer season.

How do you prepare for a stacked summer of racing with average fitness and a running ban.

Miles.

And miles.

And more miles.

We had to think, what am I good at? Cycling.

So what am I gonna do?

Yep.

Cycle.

Up to 1,000km a week in the chair, with high quality sessions coming from the time trials my legs were starting to pick up some form.

And that’s when i got the weapon.
From strength to strength on the canyon, I knew my cycling form was strong. With only 3 weeks of running before euros I knew I wasn’t going to be catching anyone up on the marathon, so I’d have to set the bike alight.

And that’s exactly what I did.

A comfortable 4:46 cycle brought home a silver medal.

But it just wasn’t enough.

I mean, yes, that’s a quick bike leg. People can try for years and never go sub 5. But it was a weak swim and a very poor marathon.

Moving on to set two club records for Bath Cycling club, my summer was only heading one way.

500km, 600km, 550km. Miles in. Second, first, second, third. Results in.

But my swimming & running just weren’t in the same room.

Now in January, if you had offered me a bronze medal at worlds. I’d have laughed in your face, and told you that would be a dream end to the season.

Which it was.

But it was so bitter sweet.

Take away the medal, and the bike. And I was poor to average.

So what for next year?

Another sequence of injury already holding back my running form, it doesn’t make for a promising start to the year. Along with some added Christmas weight to shift.

But the miles are getting done, especially in the pool. And fingers crossed for a spell of injury free training.

Because looking at my training peaks account, if I can get my running fitness back to normal. Next year could be a lot of fun!

If you didn’t win – did you lose?


So this video went viral this week, causing all kinds of arguments and throwing up some really heated discussions. If you haven’t already, just watch the video before you proceed.

Well this is quite a touchy subject, for many, as they disagree with the video and the message that it’s trying to send out.

If you didn’t win, did you lose?

and really, it’s so subjective that there isn’t really an answer, but here’s my stance on the topic.

And obviously you’re also entitled to your opinion, so I won’t call you right or wrong!

To lose: a verb in the english language meaning ‘the failure to win’.
If you lose, you are therefore a loser. The associated noun.

So if we’re talking techincal details, if you didn’t win.
You lost.
And you are therefore a loser.

Now in modern society the word ‘loser’ is more commonly associated with a derogitory term. Used by bullies and other intimitidating personalities to talk people down. It’s thrown around as an insult, a harsh term.

And thus, the word loser is something people don’t want to be associated with. Nobody wants to be known as a loser.

Now I believe that what the Louisvilles basketball coach is trying to get at, is that if you won’t be associated with the term loser, how are you going to improve? As he quotes ‘you gotta have a will’. Everybody thinks they deserve things without work, without sacrifice, without dedication. People don’t and shouldn’t be rewarded for finishing last, or only turning up, merely taking part.

Life can be tough, really hard, that’s no secret and won’t come as a great shock to many people. But tough times don’t last, tough people do.



And yes, I hate cliches as much as the next person. But more I spend time with high class athletes, influential business men & women, the more I begin to believe them. To realise there’s actually so much truth involved.

Local primary schools are currently trying to promote the idea of a growth mindset; that hard work gets results. And if you’re not there yet, you will be if you try hard enough.


If you take the example of an olympic podium. Most athletes are absolutely ecstatic with a silver medal, as they rightly should be. For many, it will be the pinnacle of their lives. Everything they have strived towards, all their hopes and dreams, coming true. There’s a reason there is so much emotion on an olympic podium.

Although for 80% of these bronze & silver medallists, it’ll last weeks, possibly months, before it just becomes fuel for the fire to attain the gold medal, four long years later.

Every day, pushing them further and further on. To do more than they thought posisble, exceeding the boundaries and reaching new limits. Because they didn’t win last time, they aren’t quite winners yet.

But are they losers?

In many sports, including my own, you can complete a whole season and not feel the need to race a single person. Sure, there will be lots of people in your race. But if you’re constantly striving for that personal best, them extra few miles, that constant self improvement. A few seconds off the park run, an extra 30 metres in your hour swim test.

So if you hit a PB every time, but cross the line last, are you a loser?

And I know what you’re thinking, no, don’t be stupid, of course they’re not losers.

No, the olympic silver medallist is not a loser. No, the person that finishes last at the park run is also not a loser. And the slowest swimmer included. They’re not losers, they’ve pushed themselves to the limit, and consequently they’re that little bit better.

And it’s the taking part that counts right?

Right?

Ah.

If only that was the case.

Unfortunately, life isn’t that easy.

They lost.

If me and you go for a job interview, and you get the job. I’ve lost. There is no second place. I don’t get paid, I’m still unemployed and I’m out of money.

I’m a loser. I don’t get a medal for taking part, I don’t get a certificate. I have to try again, and again, and again. Until I win.

I might have to rethink my CV, change the way I dress, improve my first impressions, gain more experience. There are many things that might have to be worked at.

But slowly, we start to become like the park runner, like the athlete, needing to improve, striving for the best out of ourselves. Everybody starts from the bottom. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reach the top.

Slowly, we can transform from being a loser, to being a winner.

Realistically, in any scenario there is only one winner. 2nd, 3rd, 4th, they can be great, but there’s still that bit of room for improvement.

So that leaves us with a middle ground in which, we are still losers. And until we win, we are all losers.

But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you’re happy losing, and happy settling where you are. Take home the medal for taking part, wear it with pride.

Although you won’t have pushed yourself, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.

So accept the fact that you’re a loser. But embrace it with a smile on your face. A smile because you know that that’s not the end, you’re not going to be forever a loser. And it could take time. People work for years before it pays off.

But believe in yourself.

Because it will pay off.

And losers, become winners.

“Rise and rise again. Like the Pheonix from the ashes. Until lambs have become lions”

 

 

3rd in the world: A few Thankyous

So my 2016 season has finally come to an end.

I’m sat in a bar, in OKC, with a beer.

Yes. A beer.

An alcoholic beer too!

it’s been a bit of a crazy season and looking back at what I’ve done it’s hardly been a bad one!

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So the world championships.

Well the swim was none wetsuit, 4.75km. Yes 750m longer, in the worst conditions I’ve ever swam in. And that was probably the best thing that happened to me all day.

Getting out of the water in 1:45 I thought that was it. Race over. I knew everyone would be so far ahead, I’d never catch them.

So I took the pressure of myself, put my head down and do what I do best.

Play cycling.

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So I set about lighting up the bike course. If I wasn’t gonna medal, I was gonna make a statement.

Averaging just under 40kph I was reeling people in like they weren’t moving. Passing 10-15 of my age group on the bike, I knew I was in the top 5 starting the run.

So I cracked on with the first lap, and in true triathlon fashion, I felt awesome.

Then it hit me like a train.

But I dug deep, and brought home the honey. Averaging 5:28/km in the heat. Overall a good day out.

Seeing as I completely missed winter there were lots of sacrifices to be made early on in the season.

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I missed a lot of big races along with hours of training, and getting back into it alongside finishing an architecture degree was a real struggle. Having only had alcohol twice since mid March, my already limited social life took a hit too.

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To get me back up and running I’d like to make a massive shoutout to Lucy for putting up with my moaning day & night and the studio morale support. Along with all the architects, despite constant training related abuse, they’re a great bunch.

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It literally wouldn’t have been possible without the boys in the flat constantly having a laugh through the hours we were home. And Lightfoot & Berry’s culinary workshops.

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And the forever mighty ‘famous five’ dinners that would put a smile on any food lovers face.

 

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Considering I started triathlon last year I still can’t quite believe I’ve broken two of the Bath CC records from 1993 along with a silver medal at European Champs and a bronze at the worlds.

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Not to mention a 25.07 BAR score in my first season racing anything over a 10 mile time trial.

Bath cycling club have been an incredible support throughout this and I’d thoroughly reccomend them to cyclists of any level.

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I owe a special mention to Jim at 73 degrees cycles and Darren, without who my bikes would (& did) fall apart.
img_3459 Getting back to it post injury has been hard, mixed with having my first international races in some really strong fields & local racing being barely easier, it’s been a bumpy season.

The local time trials have been great to keep me on my toes but a heavy race schedule with an average of 1.7 races a week since June it’s been really telling on the body.

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I’m more than excited to have some down time without having to perform at a high level for such a long time.

The normal life of a 22 year old with beers, catch ups & nights out are definitely on the line up for October. Along with some quality time back with these animals.

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Obviously only two beers though. Let’s not get carried away…

I’d really like to thank Congleton Town Council for their generous donation to help me race in America. Along with Federal Mogul who’s payment will be put to great use for next year.

I owe John Honey a thanks for keeping me fresh in the build up to Europeans along with afterwards and I’m excited to keep their support through the off season to keep my body in one piece through the high volume months.

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But finally I really can’t thank Cath & Rob Midgeley & vigilance QA enough for the support. Along with obviously mum, dad & Laura. Without this power 5, I wouldn’t even have made it to the start line of 80% of these events, and I definitely wouldn’t have made it to the finish.

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Although it doesn’t look like that hard a job.

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Fingers crossed I’ll stay injury free through winter & I’m excited to see what next year has to offer. Hopefully a mixture of hard miles, a full time programme and a new mindset will open more opportunities next season.
So stay posted for the winter blogs, that time we all love with bad weather, short daylight hours and dangerous conditions.

And if not. I’ll see you in New Zealand.

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with this:

New Zealand Course Records

#backyourself

#roadtokona

European Championships – 2nd

Well the title doesn’t lie, and no I can’t quite believe it myself.

A few weeks out from the race I knew I was moving well on the bike, and fairly well through the water, but I still hadn’t had the all clear to run.

It was only 3 weeks before that I finally started putting one foot in front of the other and making progress. A good two weeks running, running a max distance of 10km (6 miles) was hardly the ideal marathon prep.

None the less I had no other choice.

The week of the race was a bumpy one.

I turned up in Poznan excited, eager and anxious. I started my heat adjustment, training in the sun, met the other members of the team and started to settle in. Standard procedures.

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Before id even made it to registration Id come down with a very chesty cold. Leaving me drained & achey I wasn’t sure what to do.

Could I race? Would I be ok? Should I rest?

It came on too fast to have caught it on the plane, I must have come down with it in Britain. A classic British cold.

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Determined not to make excuses and to race on the bigger stage I filled myself with orange juice & vitamin C, and sucked it up.

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When race morning finally came around it had improved to a sniffle and a small cough, nothing I couldn’t handle. So I put on my pre race playlist, had my oats, yoghurt & granola. And walked over to the start.

There was nothing more I could do from here, nothing that would change the outcome of the day. I knew I just had to trust my training, believe in my miles & pray the run didn’t blow up in my face.

The opening ceremony was soon out of the way & we were in the water, ready to go.

Game time.

The canon erupted next to us, sending a thunder of noise echoing down the lake and this was it. Head down and go.

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The swim was fairly smooth & felt over almost before it had started. The course was slightly short which I knew would play to my advantage. Barely seeing any other swimmers I knew I’d held off the next wave & kept myself in contention for the race.

T1 was a shambles.

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Tripping up the ramp and leaving my Garmin in my transition bag I had to re rack the bike and go back. A direction nobody wants to be headed.

None the less I was finally out on my bike and making strong progress.

I knew id have to keep my heart rate exceptionally low if I wanted to finish the marathon after only running 10km. So I was aiming for a 140bpm.

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I’d have to trust my cycle legs would still take care of business in this zone.

And I was flying.

Ticking people off one by one I knew they wouldn’t hold me off for long.

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After an uneasy patch on the second lap I began to build again. Turning on the heat as the others started to hurt.

And true to form I got out of the chair feeling fresh in a 4:45 cycle. 142bpm.

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Mission accomplished.

Now in the back of my mind was the infamous sub 10 ironman. Propelling me into the top 2% of ironman athletes. I didn’t know my current position but I’d assumed I’d need roughly a 4 hour marathon.

A comfortable target, when I’m on form.

I took the first 12k very steady, but before I made it to halfway, the pain came on. And it came hard. And it wasn’t stopping there.

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I was determined to not stop running. No matter what, no matter how much it hurt, I was just gonna put one foot in front of the other, and run.

By the third lap I was in tatters.

My legs had blown up, my head was swimming, my lungs tight & empty. I was in pieces scattered around poznan.

But I was still running.

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With a monumental will power, like nothing else I’ve ever had, I wasn’t stopping.

I wouldn’t quit.

And before I knew it I was on the final lap.

10km left.

The pain was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Every fibre in my body was screaming out.

And then it got me.

The cramp.

My toes curled up with a force I couldn’t control and my calves seared with pain.

Falling into the sand I curled up, was this it? Game over?

I couldn’t let myself stop 6km from the finish.

I managed to get up and keep going. 1km later it got me again, another brief pause. I could do this. Come on.

And with a final push I trundled round to the finish area, through the crowds not even managing a wave or a smile.

 

It was over, the clock showed 10:13 and I was done.
Curled up & whimpering into my family I finally stabilised and sorted myself out. Never again will I run ill prepared.

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A quick glance at the online results quickly revived the mood.

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9:58, 2nd.

In an unreal turn of events, the clock had been showing the male pro time and I had done it.

European championships – success.

Drinks all round it seemed.

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Let’s go get worlds.

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