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Recovery, Results & Running… Another Marathon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can catch that race report here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 days out – Get Involved.

As we move closer to the race the anticipation is definitely building.

Kona is filling up & people from all over the world are starting to strut their stuff up & down the course.

With my race starting 18:05 on Saturday 14th that means we’re almost exactly 10 days out.

And I know a lot of you have been messaging me various questions over my social media, so I thought I’d try to get you all involved by doing my next blog as a Q&A format.

You ask the questions, I’ll give the answers!

These can be anything from Ironman or Kona related, race or training related, to nutrition & lifestyle related. I don’t mind! & (if there’s more than 3 questions) I’ll do my best to answer them all in a blog early next week!

You can ask me on social media, comments or messages, or drop me an email at schofield.tri@gmail.com

Well?

What’re you waiting for!!

Here’s my training video for anyone that missed it at the back end of last week 🙂

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Ironman – A Team Sport.

As the Ironman World Championships come closer, we’re now almost exactly two weeks out from the event.

I know you all really want to track the event instead of sleep on a Saturday night, I can just tell. So details of how to do that will appear here much closer to the time.

22156865_361850904238893_498181739_nI’ve spent a lot of time out on the infamous “Queen K”.
(The colloquial name for the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway on which most of the Ironman World Championship is battled out, and has been for the last 38 years, (This being the 39th edition).)

 

Hours spent cooking away, pounding mile after mile, day in day out has given me a lot of time to reflect on my season & short career in the sport.

 

I did a very interesting series of video interviews recently with a friend of mine all about the psychology of sport & triathlon including with what keeps me going, why I do it and what inspires me. The series will be appearing here over the next few months.

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For the most part of my career I’ve been one of the really annoying athletes that just seems to get it right when it matters. It all comes together in the nick of time to allow me to pull performances out of the bag that we didn’t think were possible.

 

Small moments of brilliance, just as I start to slip under the radar, that bring a race back to life. The Oklahoma bike leg, the Canada run, even the easter 10k. Sections of races, that transform the whole day.

And sure, I put a lot of it down to luck. Right place, right time, good legs. You could say it’s a good training programme (harder to justify that one this year), “talent”, a whole host of different reasons.

What do I think it is really?

It’s dedication, resilience and a belief so strong – that really there simply is no other option…

But don’t worry, not from me. I’m not talking about myself here.

I’m talking about my team.

One of the earliest lessons you learn in school, sport or elsewhere is that everything/everyone functions better with a team. It’s just more successful.

Now I know what you’re thinking, Ironman isn’t a team sport. It’s a solo event.

Sure, the athlete goes through the motion of training, races at the event, stands on the podium, all fun and games! You have to wake up early, work hard, eat properly (ish), get plenty of rest & recovery.

But behind the scenes there are a team of people working tirelessly to make that happen.

22119342_361850914238892_656800012_nAnd I don’t mean one or two people… I mean a whole host of people, that you wouldn’t even think made a difference.

There are the obvious ones that you could name instantly – the coaches, physios, mechanics, sponsors. Kit suppliers, partners, people I go straight to for advice.
Then obviously no less importantly, my family & friends, my training partners & the people who started sport with me, back when I was splashing in a different sense. (rowing). Some of who continue to influence & inspire me!

The people that if they weren’t there, it just wouldn’t be possible & I just couldn’t keep going.

My body wouldn’t function, my bike wouldn’t work, there’d be nobody to pick me up when I just think I can’t do it any more.
I wouldn’t be able to afford races, I’d have no food to eat, my recovery would be poor.

22140578_361851440905506_1308141462_oBut then there’s a third layer to the team. The substitutes bench, the people a bit further back.

The followers Social Media, Strava, you reading this right now.
The people I’ve raced against/with, people I’ve bumped into & people that just stumbled across me.
The people that you don’t really know care, the people watching from a distance, and the people that just want to feel a small part of the journey.

They all make up the team.

Because at the end of the day, in an Ironman race anywhere – Kilometre 32 of that marathon is a dark, dark place.

And what gets you through that?

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The team.

The people you don’t want to let down.
The good luck message/snap/post you got the night before.
The endless messages of support you come back to, no matter what the outcome.
The person that you bumped into 3 weeks before, who you haven’t seen for 5 years who just said “mate you’re doing great, keep it up”.

The people that have believed in you, every step of the way, even when you didn’t believe in yourself.

These are the things that pop into your mind, and when you’ve retreated to the back of your mind & every fibre of your body just wants to stop, it’s these small things that keep you going.

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22127493_361850917572225_586943722_nSo enough of the heavy stuff, why is this at all relevant to you?
Has he been on the medicinal herbs?

Well no, obviously not.

It’s relevant because it’s relevant to all of us. Great, I do ironman. But really, it’s no different to any other hobby, job, pastime.

If you’re having a bad day, it’s not your week, or maybe you’ve just not had a good September.

Have a look around & find your team. The people that care about you, believe in you, want to support you. Even if you can’t see them straight away, they’re definitely there, & they’re the people that matter most. The people that can pick you up & get you through it.

Reach out to them, have a chat, say thank you.

Because behind the scenes, without them, none of it would be possible!

Stay tuned for a more up beat post next week 😉

#myteam

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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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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.

 

 

Equipment:20916130_345037499253567_1071983538_n

 

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.

 

 

Nutrition :20863712_345034512587199_2140900916_n

 

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 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!

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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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