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A Foreign Discipline – Lost in Transition.

So yesterday I had a little whack at the South Manchester triathlon.

I fly to Hawaii first thing tomorrow (Tuesday), so just wanted to put my demons to rest and have a little hit out despite carrying a few injuries!

The race takes place in Wimslow, cheshire & consists of a 400m pool swim, a 24km bike and a 6.5km run.

Some of you will have seen me down at Congleton park run yesterday, where I clung on to a 18:04 as my first run back since Canada, three weeks ago.

Saturdays Park run.

I then spun the legs out with a 75km recovery ride over to the Wirrall, so my legs weren’t quite on peak form waking up this morning.

With a bit of magic cream (voltarol), & a long stretch and roll. I was ready to go. I only really had one goal – don’t do anything stupid. No more injuries please.

It’s strange starting a race at 1:45 in the afternoon, I’m used to bleak 4am starts & a 6am transition close.

So after a lazy morning in bed, I bumbled over to the start, ready to battle. Set the bike up, pulled my new tri suit on, & we were ready to go.

Is it lunch time yet?

I went out pretty hard. A 16 lap pool swim doesn’t sound like a lot, so my heart rate was quickly up and away.

Starting the swim.

Despite losing my swim cap & one eye of the goggle, I managed to splash my way to a 6:26 swim. Fairly happy. I knew that the top boys wouldn’t be hours ahead of that, damage limitation as always.

Out of the pool and into the fun.

A slow first transition but I was away in under 2 minutes, far from slick, but enough to keep me in contact, just about. Although yet again it would transpire the race was essentially lost here.

After i’d spent 8 minutes putting socks on.

Now the bike, I haven’t really ridden since Canada with my knee flaring up every time I try to spin the legs, & still sore from the day before. None the less I went out hard & attacked the technical course.

Powering away from the mount line on my CycleStore, giant.

In hindsight, socks were a bad idea.

Fairly flat, very windy (both versions of the word). I managed to battle round in a 38:07, an average of 38.6kph. The lack of training certainly showed as I couldn’t really find the red zone. A heavy amber was all my legs had, the zip had been left at home. Or somewhere late February.

Coming back into transition.

I only had one job left. Despite struggling to take my shoes off in t2, very amateur, I managed to get in & away in 46 seconds.

This is where I really suffered.

My legs had no snap, no pace, no speed.

And so it begins.

Heavy from yesterday & no track work, ever, was really showing. I managed to hold a sub 4 minute pace despite steps, hills & trails. Finishing with a 23:59.

1:10:57 overall, a fairly happy boy with yet again lots of unfinished business, a recurring theme for 2017.

Third overall, 2nd in AG.


Receiving my award for third overall.

See you in Hawaii!!

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World Championship Silver – Bitter Sweet.

It’s always a tricky one when you race a big event like world champs, a lot of pressure, a big stage, fierce competition.
And your goals at the start of the day swiftly change as it unfolds before you.

It’s hard to be annoyed at myself considering I got a silver medal, I raced some really good numbers, and I’ve only had a few weeks training.

Although considering I had to do it one legged, I know there was plenty more in the tank.
The swim:

Going into the water I felt good, I found a nice rhythm early on and found some clear water in amongst the crowds. Considering I hadn’t swam for so long I felt like I was moving well & I knew this part of the race would be damage limitation. As always.
I managed to sight well & swim a good line, for once.


Until we turned into the sunrise.

Trying to sight through misty goggles heading towards the sun is like trying to ride a uni cycle on one leg blindfolded. If you’re me anyway. There was zero chance of that happening. It lasted around 400m before we turned back and headed for land. I managed to keep a decent rhythm the whole way and keep my energy levels nicely in check.

I emerged from the water in 59 minutes. Job done.

I took a bit of time in T1 (transition) to regather, apply suncream & head out on the bike.

The bike:

Usually my favourite part of the race, it’s very safe to say I hated 80% of it. A beautiful course that I couldn’t even play on.

The first bit was tasty. I knew off an hour swim the top guys were only maximum 20 minutes ahead, so I’d be able to get a visual early on and scope out who I was chasing.

Unsurprisingly I was chasing everyone.


The first 25k was an out and back flat road to the north of the lake, and I had only one job. Shut them down.

Legs on like a rocket, I felt alive. I knew I was on for a good day, ticking over counting people off one by one. The new bike was really purring, ripping up the road like it had an engine.

Going through some of my age group like they were a stop sign – make a statement – you won’t catch me.

Back through town and my knee began to twinge, trouble. Big trouble.

95km left and the pain has started, do I quit now & discharge myself, or keep going?

I put my head down & carried on. More flat before we hit the first hill. More people ticked off the list.

By the top of the first of the 4 hills, I knew I knew I was in for a bad day. I was still moving ok but I’d been limited to one leg. The left leg was spinning, but not generating any power. And it wasn’t a little niggle, it was an all out pain. I was burning through my Science in Sport hydration mix & bars faster than I’d have liked, the pain was talking it’s toll.

With every pedal stroke a knife been stabbed into my knee, I told myself I’d stop if I slowed down.

It was a draining experience, I felt sick with pain & I didn’t even know if I’d be able to run. I carried myself through the next hour before taking the foot off the gas & just coasted for the last hour.

A 3:10 bike split – job well done but a bitter taste in my mouth. There was more in the tank & I knew it wasn’t good.
A quick moment to pull myself together in t2 & decide whether I was actually going to run, before heading out on the course, ready to walk the last 30k for a medal. Happy with the day I’d had.

The run:

I was approximately 2.37 seconds into the run, I don’t even think I’d crossed the timing mat, when I heard mum scream ‘you’re in 4th, and there’s 5 minutes in it’.


Fantastic, as if I didn’t have enough to worry about even finishing the race, the pressure was now on. 5 minutes over 30k, unless I’m racing a pure bred runner, I back myself to shut that down.

So I made the decision there and then. Push through the pain, deal with that later, run hard & have a go at gold.

My legs felt good, the constant twinge in my knee took my mind off anything else. As the sun began to really set in, the temperature started to approach the 30’s and I knew it was going to be a tough one.

For 3 days I’d drank nothing but electrolytes, science in sports finest, so I knew the cramp should hold off, at least for the most part.

Quickly into third mum was relaying the times to me, 3 minutes & two beyond him. I’ve not travelled all this way to be outrun, it’s a mental game from here anyway.

I found a nice routine through the aid stations – water to the face – ice down the top – energy gel – something to drink. It was doing the job. I had an asics bottle belt keeping my hydrated between so I didn’t miss a single drop.

Step by step I knew if I stayed consistent, I’d get there.

And then, at 15km, bang on the half way mark, he crumpled. Second came tumbling backwards as I glided through & I knew at that point it was on.

Chasing & chasing. I’d already taken 3 minutes, could I take another two?

I was running hard, I’d thrown the game plan out the window completely and this was an all or nothing job.

My knee was agony but I knew if I didn’t stop, it wouldn’t buckle. Stay strong.

Counting out the km’s I could see myself getting closer & closer, could I take gold?
I managed to shut the gap to around 40 seconds before he opened his legs & started his final sprint. I had nothing to match. I gave a brief chase before residing to enjoy the last 2.5km, a smile on my face, knowing I’d done what I set out to do.


59′ swim.

3:10 bike.

2:18 run.


If you’d have offered me silver the morning before, the week before, two months ago, even four months ago. I’d have bitten your hand off.

But knowing I lost out by two minutes, when I could have had another 10-15 on the bike and maybe 5 on the run. Is a bitter sweet ending.


So I’ll get myself fixed up, piece it back together. And get after the next one.
Kona.

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Long Distance World Championships – Lets play Triathlon.

Sunday 27th August, a date marked in my calendar for exactly a year and it’s come round really fast.

I’ve not had the build up I wanted, far from it. But we’re past that now, & you can’t influence the past.

My bike is racked, my kit bags are packed, my training is done and I’m sat in the AirBnB with my feet up.


By the time you read this I’ll be in bed, attempting to sleep, anticipating what’s going to happen to me tomorrow.


The race starts at 6:35 in Penticton. So that’s 2:35 in the UK. Or 3:35 if you’re swanning around in Europe.

You should be able to find tracking links online. But google will be able to help you with that, isn’t it a great bit of software.

I’m number 5012 which will make me easier to find!


The game plan is go hard. I’ve not flown to Canada to splash around, have a pretty bike ride & then have a 30km walking picnic.
I can train in the UK, the world championships is very much a race.

I’m here to see what my body can do, see how far I can push it, and see just how much heat I can handle.

I could list my niggles & injuries all day, knees, feet, hips…. but I’m now at the stage where I’ve just put them to the back of my mind, & we’ll play what’s in front of me.

If I feel like I’m putting my Kona chances at risk I’ll stop, otherwise I’m going to be flat out, for as long as my body will let me.


A good race would be a 1 hour swim, a 3:10 bike and somewhere around 2:30 for the run.

Races never go to plan, but no matter what happens, I’ll have given it everything I can, no matter how far I get.

See you on the other side.

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Canada – Catch you if I Can.

Well we’re here. It’s come around fast, the week of World Champs 2017 numero uno.It’s no secret that the plan was to be hunting for medals, moving well, feeling fast, feeling strong.


Buuuut it’s just not going to be one of them years, and that’s ok! It’s just going to be one of the learning curve types. 


If I said this season has been easy, I’d be lying. Easy on the body sure, sat on the sofa watching junk tv on loop isn’t exactly challenging. But tough to cope with mentally.

It’s for this reason that I’m super excited to say that I’ll be on the start line of the World Championship this Weekend (26/27th August), in Canada. 


My knee is still quite sore and causing me issues, however all the structural problems have been resolved. That means I can’t do any more damage, by smashing my legs to bits. In theory. 

So how is the race going to unfold? 
First of all it’s probably wise to now say I’m not afraid of dropping out. I’ll race myself into the ground – given. But if I feel like I’m doing damage or my knee won’t hold, I’ll be pulling out immediately. Kona is top of the priority list this year and I need all the prep I can get for that. 

Well I haven’t swam for roughly 2-3 months, and I’m not exactly known for being a fish…. woops. So if I survive the swim, I’ll be a happy boy!

Then it’s onto the bike, the part that normally would be my strong point. Although with 5 months off who knows what could happen! 

  

I’ve got a new bike that some of you will have seen on photos and I’ve been working with the guys at CycleCentre congleton to make sure it both fits me well and is in top working condition. Both of which were working well (until I pulled it apart and put it in a box for travelling). But it’s fast. Really fast. So touch wood it won’t be the machinery letting me down. 

and the run? 

Well still slightly over weight, a predicted 32 degree day, we’ll just deal with that when we come to it. It’s going to be a painful afternoon in the office, that’s for sure. Nutrition will have to be executed perfectly for any chance of performance.

If you follow me on strava you’ll have seen I’ve been doing bits and bobs to make sure I’m in a good enough position to attempt the course. I’ve done a 100+ mile ride on the bike, the course is 75. And I’ve run a half marathon, the run is slightly longer, although I apparently ran a 1:32, so fun could still be had.


32 degrees will play against me.

I’m 2/3kg up on race weight. Not worried.

I haven’t swam – ah well.

Guaranteed chance of pain.

Slim chance of success.

Where do I sign up? 

Keep in touch, follow my social channels for plenty of photos to make you jealous in the office, and watch the race unfold at the weekend when I publish my start time and numbers.
After all, who doesn’t want to see a slightly crazy, undeniably unfit, marginally overweight northerner line up against the best in the world? 

 

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Top Tips for your First Endurance Event

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

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Logistics:

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

20863752_345034489253868_1053004376_nClimate:

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

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

 

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Relax:

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

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

 

 

Achievement:

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

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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!

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The price of your bike – does it really matter?

Bikes.

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The bane of my life, our lives.

In our sport, the bicycle is like an endless pit that just swallows money.

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And no, this blog wasn’t me trying to convince myself it’d be ok if my bike still never showed up in New Zealand, as for the second day it remained MIA.

But as we move into the new season, time trials and racing starting to spring back to life, here’s a few things worth considering.

Generally things wear out, they get tired, they break. Unfortunately that’s the way life goes.

The more you use something. The more it’ll break, but at up and over £500 for components in high end bikes, just what are you paying for?

It’s quite common for people to ask me what bike they should buy. New starter, commuter, entry level club rider.

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Experience and funds are limited, you’re just after a bike to get you up and running. And I generally answer along the same lines.

Those of you that know my family will know that we’ve always been into a bit of cycling. Mountain biking as a kid, long weekend cycling holidays as a family, coast to coast at 14. I’m no stranger to the world of cycling and bikes, but I’m by no means a professional.

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At home we’ve owned around 15 bikes in the time since I finished growing. Everything from mountain bikes, hybrids to bottom end road bikes and of course, a brand new, full carbon, canyon time trial bike.

The super secure “bike storage unit”, originally known as the dining room, is now home to some rather tasty bit of kit all of which is regularly used and abused out on the beautiful British roads.

But just how much difference is there between a bottom end road bike, and a high end time trial bike? And what does your investment buy? Well it’s easy do quantify these figures.

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Through price analysis mixed with wind tunnel testing, you can see the power saved by swapping in and out each component to give you an estimate.

And yeah you could put a rough figure on the power saved per GBP. But is that what we’re trying to do? I love my time trial bike, ever since my first session it’s treated me very well.

My second ride on it was a mid 49 minute – 25 mile team time trial. Of which i spend 75% of the time in the Amber zone, being gentle to Mr. Gardner’s legs.

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And it’s fast, it’s really really fast.

But for the best part of £7,000 is it making that much difference?

At ironman Wales in my first season as a cyclist/triathlete, I managed l drop my weight to around 80kg, my usual summer race weight, so that I could deal with the hills slight better.

The ironman Wales bike course is 180km with 2,400m of rolling climbs, with no real flat or respite for the legs. That’s 112 miles with around 7,500ft of climbs.

I rode the course on my cannondale road bike, clip on aeros and a nice set of tubular wheels. (Wheels with no inner tubes allowing the tire pressure to be higher and giving more grip on the road).

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And I came round in a 5:40, the 33rd quickest bike split of the day, far ahead of many of the fancy tt bikes floating about.

So I know what you’re thinking, ‘it’s hilly, a road bike is better’.

Well no, the pros would never be seen on their road bikes doing the same course.

And the same can be said for 3 weeks previous, where I did the pan flat Cotswold classic course in circa 2:11 minutes, another top 10 bike split.

Well what’s all the fuss?

Even my pinnacle, a £300 entry level aluminium road bike from the retailer Evans Cycles, can hold onto almost any chaingang.

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Yes, I put the saddle up after the photo don’t worry.

And it’s metal.

With 7 gears.

I may as well ride a wheel barrow.

I’m no better at cycling than the majority of athletes that train hard and get their miles done.

So I’m certainly not letting you blame that.

There are much cheaper ways to save watts, an aero helmet, a skinsuit, smaller items that can be obtained for under £300. You don’t need to splash on a new bike first off!

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Liam Bromiley from Bath Uni, managed a 20:15 on the U375. A time trial course near Frome, Somerset. And that’s fast, really fast.

He holds the course record on a time trial bike around 19:45.

So what’s the extra £4,000+ worth? Where does it go? Well no matter who you are, unless you’re Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellera or similar, it’s unlikely that you’re going to go round setting course records on a road bike.

They are slower.

Fact.

But unless you’re trying to set course records, win championship medals or reach the top end of your speed. I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it.

Everyone knows my bike leg is my strength. It shapes my races, regularly transforming a bad situation into the perfect one. Out of the water in a bad place, out of conntrol. And onto the run in the driving seat, with everything to lose.

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But without the canyon, I’m not just suddenly slow.

And I’m by no means the fastest cyclist.

And obviously, a slower bike costs you a fair few more watts, and you’ll have to work harder. Granted I wouldn’t put out top end bike splits on the road bike, but I think you’d be surprised at just how close you can get if you don’t shut the door before it’s open!

The money you’ll save in service and maintenance is astronomical.

And that’s the defining factor. We can’t spray pay slip after pay slip on fresh gear.

Replacement parts. Besides, it’s far more fun to train hard and get quick without the gear, then watch your legs burst into life when you get it!

I’m not suggesting you buy a £100 bike for you new race season.

But if you’re on a budget, don’t panic yourself. You’re not out of the race!

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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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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

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Ironman New Zealand – Important Information

All set here for tomorrow’s race. Despite the set backs over the past fortnight. I’ve had lost bikes, valve extenders stuck in rims, ripped tires, cut up feet & the obvious sunburn. But I think I’m finally out the other side. 


By the time you read this it’ll be Fri-yay at home and I’ll hopefully be fast asleep. My bike will be in transition, my bags packed and everything set to go.

Here on the otherside of the world, 10,000 miles from home, 13 hours ahead, my race will start at 7am. That’s 6pm Friday evening for all of you in the U.K. 

The race can be tracked on this link:

http://tracking.ironmanlive.com/mobilesearch.php?rid=727828833938231&race=newzealand&y=2017&athlete=Schofield#axzz4aDj3Bt7H

If it doesn’t work then try this one:

http://bfy.tw/AO3W

But there is a tracker out there, and it shouldn’t be hard to find! 

My start number is 401. Keep your eye out.

A good race would see me finish before 3:30am GMT, that’s a 9:30 race time for me, so watch that screen after your rowdy Friday night. 

The 18-24 bike course record is 4:52:57. 

It’s on my mind, so it may as well be on yours! 

If I finish with a time of over 9:45. “Well done” or “good job” probably aren’t the terms I’m looking for, it’s a good job it’ll be after the watershed. 

But let’s not forget, nothing great ever came from a comfort zone.

And bad days do happen! It can’t always go the way you want, this is just the beginning.

See you on the other side.