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Ironman Maryland Recap

After the smoothest journey I’ve ever had, I knew something wasn’t right. The bike had arrived fine, the hotel was perfect, the cycle shop next door had all the bits I needed. The car was ok, body felt good, weather was dreamy. 

Before I knew it, I’d slipped across the Atlantic unnoticed by friends & family and I was cruising along to Maryland ready for action. 

452A9345Caught up in the excitement, I made a pretty poor set of decisions the next morning. I’d woken up early, around 5am cause of the jetlag. Spent a few hours working before waltzing down for breakfast. The usual chores slipped by. Breakfast, car pick up, shopping, drive to Maryland. I arrived around 1400, had some food & set out to do my sessions for the day.IMG_6971

I thought I’d planned this carefully to adjust to the 30 degree heat, smart move? What i’d managed to ignore was that my double session was starting at 8pm UK time, on day 1 of America. A time when I’m usually tucked up in bed in the UK.

A few spicy run intervals, bike ride out on the course, off to the shop and back to cook dinner. Before I knew it, we were on 8/9pm USA time and I was cooked.

Barely functional I went to bed to sleep it off. Wednesday I felt great. Registered, hit out some good hard sessions. Swim & bike with intervals, and I was ready.

IMG_5215But it had all been a bit too much for my already tired body, and by Thursday, I’d got a runny nose and a groggy head. I spent most of the day in bed hoping that I’d clear up. Though when Friday rolled around, I was like death warmed up.

I went through the normal motions, racking, transition bags, nutrition planning, super green risotto. But I felt truly awful. I had to come to terms with the fact I’d spent all year chasing a result circumstance now wouldn’t let me achieve. It was a difficult 12 hours.
The alarm went at 4:15am, I was up. Full of cold & achey from three days of rest, I knew I was in for a long day. We bumbled down to the start, I felt sick, my body wanted to be in bed, my mind wanted to be on the sofa. I couldn’t comprehend doing an Ironman.

6 minutes until the start and I still wasn’t in my wetsuit. We were away from the starting pens, me seriously considering the points it was acceptable to have my first DNF. Did I even need to start?

Vicky pulled me together. “We haven’t flown to America for you to watch a race you could have done. Off you go.”

33637f1f-e293-4299-8e6a-3a8e3772a903So a quick 3 minutes later, I was in the pen. Far from ready, but there.

The canon went, the tension snapped and it was on. The bang whipped the life back into my body, and I knew why I was here. 

I’d flown to Maryland to work as hard as possible for the day. Regardless of pace, so I was going to do exactly that.

IMG_9084Into the water and it was punchy. I couldn’t be bothered with this. Knowing that ending myself on the swim would only offer me a few extra minutes I tried to save the matches and enjoy myself. Quickly remembered I hate swimming so at least focus on one of the two goals, therefore stick to saving the matches.

Under the first timing mat everything was going alright. I knew I was off the pace but still felt pretty ropey, though on the plus side there’d been no jellyfish. As the thought crossed my head so did a nice long tentacle. The initial soft touch was quickly replaced with a ripping sting. Jellyfish Joe had come for dinner. Ouch.

Round the next part of the loop, I got a few more high fives from Jellyfish Jenny and her mates, this didn’t do much for my already erratic swimming stroke. 

Out the water in 1:06 and ready for bed. Face stinging. Nose blocked. Bike waiting. Time to see what the legs had. 

I knew still carrying the illness I wouldn’t be able to respond to many moves. So it would have to be stick to the game plan, easy 90km before reassessing. Easy jack. Easy. 

Through the first 10km and onto some clear road, I felt like I was moving well, though I suppose that’s what happens when you come out of the water in close to 1:07. In the first out and back I saw the leaders going the other way, I was 10km in and they already had 12 minutes. I knew I was going to have to let this one slide. 

_MG_2104Hit 20km and that’s when I knew I was in for a long day here. My heart rate was high, my legs were hurting and the power wasn’t where I wanted it to be. We’d only made it 30 minutes down the road! 

I thought I could hold this power until the end of the bike, though I knew it might erupt 100km down the road. I just had to trust the training and know that if there is one thing I can do, it’s to push the pedals for 180km. 

It certainly didn’t take 100kms for it to blow up in my face, though by half way I’d ridden through some slippery looking guys. I was making good ground but i was paying for it. This wasn’t helped when special needs was 10miles further than it was meant to be meaning my legs were peppered and there was no magic juice waiting to fill them up. 

IMG_8116Sounding like an 8 year old with an empty slush puppy, I was being constantly reminded that the hydration system was empty, as was my body!

Special needs. Carbs. Electrolytes. Legs?

The carbs lasted the remaining 75kms, the legs lasted the next 5. I was desperately fighting to stay anywhere near the target we set, clinging onto any hope of a sub 9 dream. 

Rattling along the over congested roads was quite strange. I was moving through people like stop signs but I knew that they were 3 hours behind me in the race. I couldn’t seem to make any time on the people I was actually chasing. 

At around km 140 the legs truly fell off. To this point I’d managed to flatline a power I might have been happy with. There was now one focus, get to T2 with your eyes open. 

On the way into town I overtook one more guy, though he looked in a worse state than me, a truly impressive feat. Even on the 2 mile straights there was no trace of any athletes heading back into town. I knew I couldn’t be leading the race, so my general rule of thumb is assume 10 are ahead. Seems to work. 

As I turned the last corner a little old guy in his deck chair with a beer shouted “4th in, good job” and I knew he’d single handedly just ordered me to finish the race. The DNF was now even less of an option.

Off the back into transition. Blurry eyes, head throbbing, legs nowhere to be seen. There was now only one job left. Jog and don’t stop jogging, ignore the watch, just listen to the body and keep moving forward.

IMG_9122There was no way I was catching the three guys ahead as I was already in survival mode. In fact, I don’t think I’d have caught a sloth crossing the road. My legs were ruined, my head was pounding and everything was starting to shut down. But there was no way I was walking any of this marathon; not again. 

Before I’d even hit the 10km mark it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. I was in a dark place, fighting tooth & nail to not quit. I didn’t want to know how I was doing, I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to get myself to the finish line.

At the start of the second lap I got the news. I had a 10 minute lead but 3rd was closing in. Was kona calling? Who was ahead of me? Nobody had come past at that point (still unsure how) apart from the eventual race winner.

IMG_9120I was crawling. Walking the aid stations, trying to get some nutrition into my failing body. I wouldn’t give up the fight.

I battled from start to finish. Never gave up. Crossing the line I was satisfied. Not the result or time I wanted, but under the circumstances, all I had and more. And I can’t ask for more than that.

Crossing the line to the news that I’d hung on to win the age group and take 10th overall in a time of 9:13:52 still hasn’t quite sunk in. One of my best results to date, on a performance I feel was slower than my race in Germany! Though Kona ticket punched, I certainly won’t be complaining!

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I’ve had the last week to reflect, take some time away and really come to terms with my 2019 season. Overall it’s been a difficult year, but it’s taught me a phenomenal amount about myself, my resilience and exactly what I want moving forward in both triathlon and otherwise.

452A9033I’ve had some really promising results. I didn’t quite achieve all my goals, but I set myself high standards. I’ve already set my 2020 goals, picked my races and began to formulate an attack. I’ll use this next period to rest, recuperate and refocus. Before hitting winter hard and attempting to come into 2020 with a bang.

452A9046I’ve had some amazing support this year, and I wouldn’t have been able to get back to my feet without it. I owe a lot of people gratitude, and I’ll forever be grateful for the part they play in my journey.

But for now, where’s my beer?! 

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Training camp? Completed it.

On the way back to the UK after my 5th of 5 weeks on training camp. Yet again it’s been a success, with my third biggest training week of all time, backed up by a second, very solid week.

DSC02077All 4 camps had very specific purposes – and we planned them well to achieve that. Spain & Portugal were to build the base. Big miles, consistent training, heavy volume.

Gran Canaria was about adapting to the new bike. Chasing some amazing cyclists up the mountains and starting to find some run form on heavy legs. Those Ironman replica sessions that have become the bread & butter of my training.

And Lanzarote was for racing. Rolling roads, fast efforts & heat. Really hunting for that top end speed I only really see on race day.

452A40913 weeks to Africa and the race plays over and over in my mind. Each time more specific than the time before. 

I’ve rigorously checked the course, decided where the most crucial points of my race will be. Planned my nutrition, my gear. The pain and elation of Barcelona still echoing in my mind. Reminding me that it can all go wrong so quickly, but a pleasant nod to the fact that no matter what, I’ll race through. And as always the reality is – it’ll be nothing like any of the 964,732 scenarios I’ve already thought out. 

This winter I’ve worked harder than ever. I haven’t always hit my numbers and I haven’t always wanted to train. I’ve dragged my feet, moaned at those around me and been very very tired at times.

DSC_9687But one theme has been constant through – a relentless consistently. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m with. Training has been first on the menu and when I start, I’ve carried out every session with complete focus. Left the baggage at the door, and got to work. 

I’ve been more disciplined in my recovery, I’ve worked hard day in day out – and finally, I think I’m starting to be ready to race.

So far in 2019 I have:

Swam – 31 hours. (109.9km)

Cycled – 129.5 hours. (3,737km, 54,319m elevation).

Run – 52.5 hours. (717km, 5,645m elevation).

20180520_11141And my average weekly TSS since starting the season in November has been 1,112. For those of you that don’t know – that’s some solid work! 

And my legs know about it. But hopefully, three weeks today, the results sheet will too. 

Exceptional performances are made up of hundreds and hundreds of average sessions. Trust me – 90% of my training has been very very average. 9% has been pretty poor.

But there’s the magic 1%. The region where I’ve shown signs of form that have never been there before. A PB swim on a heavy body in Lanzarote. A pb half up a climb in Gran Canaria. A time trial effort into the wind. 

DSC02054They peak out now and then, remind me that it could all be worth it. 

All that’s left is two light weeks, and one final big push to ensure that I really am in the best shape of my life. Both physically and mentally. Hopefully the British weather does its best to play along through the final push. 

It’s strange being ready for a race. I’ve always performed my best when I’m not quite expecting it. Wales, Canada, Maastricht, Almere. If you’ve followed my short triathlon career you’ll know I’ve always managed to race the best, when I feel the worst.

DSC01646Though I’m scared, really scared about it all going wrong. Finding myself looking up at the sky in another bike crash. Getting yet another flat. And I have to remain realistic – you don’t get a prize for turning up at an Ironman. 

If I stick to my race plan, it’ll be the most testing day of my life. But I’m ready for that. And if it doesn’t come off. If it does go wrong. Then I’ll learn the lessons, and be ready for the day I get it right. 

Discipline. Focus. Graft. 

2019, here we go!

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Another Week in My Easy Life?

It’s a strange one, this triathlon game.

DSC02077On the surface, it’s the dream. New week, new place, new people. But underneath, is it as easy as it looks?

452A40934 weeks out from my next race. Arguably the biggest of my career so far, and one I’m really hungry to perform in.

I’ve just completed my third biggest training week, ever, and had my bike not thrown a wobbler, it could have been bigger!

4 weeks out, and the pre race jitters are really beginning to set in.

We all have it… that awful feeling that begins to set in… whether it’s for a work deadline, a big occasion, a new venture. We get cold feet, is this really the right decision? Is it what we want?

DSC02171Not sure if the training has paid off, if all the sacrifice was worth it. I’ve worked harder than ever and put more into this winter than I ever have in the past. But so much will still come down to chance.

So far this year, I’ve been quite fortunate. I’ve been out of the country more than I’ve been in it, but that’s only making me more uncertain, more dis-satisfied.

The more we invest – the greater the hit if it doesn’t come off. And it is a gamble. All this added pressure, and I’m not even close to being a pro yet!

It’s easy to see how on the surface, I’ve got it quite easy. Floating around the globe, bit of training here, bit of training there. Never doing any work. But in fact, at the moment, at this stage in my life, everything is the most uncertain it’s ever been.

DSC02073I look around my closest friends, buying houses, getting engaged, buying dogs, getting promoted, pay rises. It all just oozes contentment. And don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really happy for them. And they often tell me how hard “real life” is, and how lucky I am, how easy I’ve got it… but both sides come with their struggles.

While I’m working a 45 hour week half way down Africa, away from everyone close to me, whilst trying to push my mind and body further than they’ve ever gone, beyond all limits I know. I often ask myself, is this really worth it? And is it any different to anyone elses scenario?

DSC02068I mean, I’m not stuck in an office 9-5. But I don’t work any less, in fact, work never shuts off. And if you count training as a job, which it hopefully one day will be, it’s even worse.

I don’t get time away, I don’t get weekends. Christmas, bank holidays, birthdays. You go out to celebrate, I go out to train again.

I can’t afford a house, I can’t afford rent. Some months, I can barely afford to put petrol in my car.

I don’t see my friends, I don’t get to socialise often, I can’t go out on the weekends.

There are times that I really, really struggle.

DSC02048I’m completely committed to being the best possible athlete I can be, and everything else is there to support that. But there are a lot of days, when I don’t move quickly. When I perform very, very average. When I’m not where I should be, not hitting the mark. And it is hard to take. Sport comes with some phenomenal highs, but the lows are intense. And in the set up I currently have, it’s easy to get isolated very quickly.

In Portugal I went a whole week and spoke face to face with three people. The week where the demands on my body were the highest they’ve ever been.

In Krakow, I had to spend my best friends stag do sober. Not because I wanted to, because it gave me the best chance of being fast on April 7th.

DSC02039And when I finally got some time off, to go to Sicily and spend a nice long weekend with my girlfriend, I had to spend 12 hours working, and 6 hours training.

I know what you’ll tell me. You’ll tell me that’s my choice, that’s what I’ve decided… and that’s partially true, but that doesn’t make it any easier. By the same thread, you choose to go to work 9-5, I bet you still moan on a Friday!

All I have is some marginally oversized legs, a nice camera and two expensive bikes. Though mixed with a support team that I wouldn’t trade for the world, some days I believe that this little set up, might actually work out.

DSC02067There’s no guarantee I’ll get good at this triathlon thing. Or the photography thing for that matter. And juggling setting up your own business, whilst staying committed to the “normal job”, mixed with trying to chase the best in the world at three different sports, is taxing.

Contentment has never been a trait I’ve had. Trust me, I wish it was. But in the pursuit of excellence, there is no room for error. No time to cut yourself some slack.

I’m my own biggest critic if I’m not on the mark. I’m never satisfied, I’m always hungry for more.

And don’t get me wrong, I know I don’t always have it hard.

452A4088I have a fantastic network of support to allow me to do what I do. And I’ll always be grateful for that. And I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to explore these amazing places, to do these amazing things. Even if I do spend 95% of the time staring at a little computer screen that tells me I’m not pushing hard enough.

But it’s not always as fun as it looks.

I’m just one of a new generation, amongst a phenomenal amount of people trying to pursue the things that make them feel alive. Brought up being told we can do whatever we want to, being reminded that we don’t have any limits. Being shown that we deserve nothing but the best.

We see it every day in social media, on TV, in the news. People doing new and exciting things, careers in the things we’ve always dreamed of. We often assume that because people “have it better than us”, that they’re sorted. That they’re content.

But the reality is, none of us have it any easier than the next, and we’re all fighting our own, individual struggles.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making excuses for ourselves, and not considering just how everyone else is actually feeling. Not engaging with their vulnerabilities. If you do nothing else today, call your friend/friends that you assume have it all sorted. And check in, check they’re alright, ask if they want to talk.

Because some days, they might!

Don’t worry, I’m fine… I’ve been prodded a few times to write this! Though if you this made you feel like you should have asked, then maybe next time, do!

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Ironman Barcelona #214 – A game plan

The time of year has come around again – the A race. The pinnacle of the year. 11 months hard training, comes down to one single day.

452A0299I’ve struggled this weekend with a bit of a harsh cold from taking on too much the past week or two, but I’m sure I’ll have shaken that off in no time.  

For those of you looking to track me, download the Ironman app and tap in number 214. That’s where the magic will happen.

Last year, it was a bit of a shambles. It’s no secret that Kona boiled down to one of the worst races of my life. But there and then I promised myself I would be better. I promised myself I’d never put myself or the people around me through that again.

So shortly after, I signed up for Ironman Barcelona. 

20x30-CAAM0917Every single day since I crossed that finish line in Hawaii 12 months ago, this race has gone through my mind. 

I decided just before Christmas in 2017, that I was going to go sub 9 hours for the first time. 

Yes, I’m very aware that hasn’t happened yet, and we’re still a few days out from the race. The season has been full of ups and downs. The lows have been very low, but the highs have been phenomenal. 

20x30-CAAN0053 20x30-CAAS0060This season I’ve gone from strength to strength, and really raced myself into form.

Changing, adapting and improving every race. We’ve ironed out nutrition, running and the bike, into a very dangerous combination.

For me 2018 was all about making myself fast. Plunged into a very competitive age group – I couldn’t expect to immediately jump to the top. And we’ve achieved that. I’m really happy with where we’ve got to, and I want to show case that this weekend.

It’s no secret that i want to go to Kona in 2019, and I’d quite like to get my spot in Barcelona. But if it doesn’t happen, that’s fine. I don’t really care.

Why?

Because all I can offer, is my best.

20x30-CAAQ0841And make no mistake, I’m absolutely in the form of my life. Over the past 11 months we’ve worked tirelessly to make sure of that.

This season I’ve crashed out of races, pulled out of them before they’ve started, messed them up half way round. And if that happens in Barcelona – so be it. 

We all know I’ll probably come out of the swim 15/20 minutes down on the leader. 

But then you better keep half an eye open – cause I’m gonna be coming. 

 

My goals are to swim a PB. 

20x30-CAAN0054To ride a power & speed PB. 

To run a sub 3 hour marathon.

The finish sub 9 hours.

No matter what happens – if I tick these boxes, it’ll be job done – a happy boy. And all of these are very achievable on current form. 

This season has been a roaring success for me. We set out to learn to run, and since then I’ve broken my 10k, half and full marathon PB.

Broken my half Ironman PB.

Broken my Ironman PB.

I’ve finished top 10 overall at an Ironman. Run a 1:20:14 half marathon off the bike. Finished in the top 5 bike splits numerous times. And knocked another 10 minutes off my swim time. 

So if Barcelona all falls apart, I’ll finish with a smile on my face, and fire in my belly for next season.

And if it doesn’t, watch this space. 

Cause my legs are lining up nothing short of something special. 

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Challenge Almere Half – Testing the Limits

Tomorrow will be the penultimate race of my 2018 season. It’s been a crazy one, full of all kinds of ups and downs. I barely feel like the season has started and we’re already at the end! 

99_m-100832874-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2235_068632-19178258It’s been a whirlwind week, burning the candle at both ends has really taken its toll on my body and my mind, but I think I’m finally starting to move through that and feeling rested again. 

Some of you will have seen the social media storm I uploaded yesterday. I had yet another double flat on the bike which ended up in a €80 taxi home and another £40 tyre to add to the credit card bill. 

In a lot of ways that relaxes me – it wouldn’t feel normal if everything didn’t go wrong in the few days immediately prior to the race. 

But in other ways it leaves me very stressed, anxious. I haven’t had much trust in the bike this season, it’s let me down more times that I can count. My form has been the best I’ve ever had, and my legs have come ready to party. But the machine just hasn’t played ball.

And that’s completely out of my control! 

32_m-100832874-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2235_025566-19178191In tomorrow’s race I’ll be applying myself to the full in every moment. I’ll give it my all and the pointers indicate that there’s a big performance in the legs. If the bike gets in the way of that, I’ll have to adapt and do what I can to get round, or add it as fuel to the fire for Barcelona. 

The course is flat, potentially fast, and probably windy. I’m excited to sink my teeth into it and mix it up in yet another stacked age group field.

I chose this race 4 weeks out so that I could test the legs and test the limits. I want to know just how far I can stretch myself, before it all caves in. This season I’ve always said in these big races, I’d take the risk and roll the dice. Risk finishing at all, for the chance to perform at my best.

For this reason, I’ve decided after all the faff with the bike, wheels, tyres and inner tubes. That I’m going to be racing without a puncture repair kit. I’m going to carry an extra bottle of fuel meaning that I should be able to complete the course with entirely my own nutrition.

I’ve chatted to Joel, and we’ve agreed, this is the strategy we’re taking. So if my tyre does go flat, I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to panic. I know that’ll be the end of the race.

Yes, I’ll probably spit my dummy out, and yes I’ll probably throw a strop. But it’s just fuel to the fire, and if the bike happens to be the limit – we’ll reconsider the strategy we’re using.

There’ll be more races in the future – and I have no doubt it’ll come together at some point.

DSC_8950I’ve got a game plan, it doesn’t differ too much to normal, and I know exactly what I’m capable of. 

At this stage all I want is a smooth, event free race. Do what I know I can, and finish with a smile beneath the grimace. 

You’ll be able to track me on the challenge website by clicking —> Here <—  and I’m number 2121 – doing the middle distance. If it doesn’t work, challenge also have an app! and the website is http://live.challenge-family.com.

Same old story – don’t panic when I’ve left the water last – panic if I’m doing well!! 

I’ll see you on the other side, and hopefully do a live race report on Facebook shortly after I finish, don’t miss it!

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ITU Long Distance World Championship 2018 Race Report

After some wild young Danes partied into the earlier hours of Friday morning – I can’t say I slept exceptionally well the night before the race. Though there’s not much new there.

The 4:30 alarm buzzed – but I was already wide awake. It was time to play, I didn’t need any warning.

5:15 we left the house to walk to transition and I was one of the first there. People that have seen me prepare for big races know I get incredible nervous. I’m often sick on the start line, hard to talk to, very twitchy.

But this time I felt different. I was very calm, very relaxed. I think the biggest difference was I was confident.

I trusted my legs, the work I’d put in this season and the form I had. Joel and me had left no stone unturned to get me to the start line, we’d looked at every aspect of form and although I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be – I knew I had a big performance in the body and mind.

Having crashed out of a big race 3 weeks before – I knew what that felt like. And I was ready for it to happen again. The comfort in my resilience in these situations kept my mind at ease. Don’t over think it – what will be will be. If it’s over in that way, there’s always a next time.

DSC_8949As I approached my bike I could see instantly something was wrong. I had a flat front tyre.

No worries, I had 2 spare tubes with me and time. I quickly fixed it up and got underway.

Into the bag for nutrition and I’d only brought sparkling water. Fantastic. Don’t complain – pour it in, no excuses.

It was clear that this time round, this race – I was going to have to make my own luck. But I was ready for that.

A quick portaloo stop, a pretend stretch and we were into the starting pen. A few handshakes later – and it was time.

DSC_9058The water was nice. Fresh, clear, though slightly salty. The start line was compact so I knew it was going to be a punchy one.

As the horn went I was straight into the washing machine. I didn’t let myself panic or get cycled backwards. Instead I picked my line, and held it.

I picked a good line and good feet to follow on the way out. Although it’s hard to know how well you’re swimming, I was pleased with my efficiency. I didn’t let the jellyfish phase me – I just had to get to my bike in one piece. And hope it was in one piece waiting for me.

Out of the water at the turn around and up the steps, across the timing mat – there weren’t many people around, never a good sign. Had I been dropped already? Again…

Into the water and I tried to find some feet to follow. There was a small group just ahead but I couldn’t shut the gap. It was a long, lonely way back to transition from here. I was going to have to do it solo. The wave behind swam through me very late on – this gave me confidence – I can’t be that far back.

Out of the water and into transition. Safe to say it was an absolute shambles. I couldn’t find my bag as it was hanging on the wrong hook. After over a minute of faff with a marshal, I got my kit and got underway.

Out of the snake pit – into the fire.

DSC_9169When I started the bike I had little confidence. My position hasn’t been fully dialled in yet, I’d had a few mechanical issues in my warm up rides and I wasn’t sure how it would handle. It was a windy day and I knew that would suit me, so I just got my head down – looked for that 282 Watts on the screen, and ticked over.

3 words repeated over and over in my head. Calm. Collected. Composed. There was no point smashing everyone in the first 30km, it was going to be a long morning in the chair.

Joel had said to me the day before “if you hold that power, you’ll destroy people.”

I’d laughed at him. Brushed him off as a joker. Not a chance. Until the first 10km of the bike. When I realised he wasn’t messing.

I didn’t want to come out hard, burn any matches. I’d decided I was going to stick to the average and see what happened.

And people started coming towards me like they were going backwards.

I was riding through big powerful guys, on £10k bikes like they had glue on their tyres, and I was loving it. I couldn’t get enough. Not a single person came past me.

DSC_9198One by one I ticked people off. Sometimes moving through packs of 4 or 5. Straight on the back, round the side, and away.

My confidence was building km by km, athlete by athlete, but i knew I had a long day ahead and the big boys wouldn’t be waiting for me at the front.

In Penticton I passed British athlete Matt White at 95km on the bike – and he’d told me his form was good this year. I’d never caught my idol Tony weeks on a bike leg in my life, and he also flew out with good bike legs, but by 60km I’d ridden through them both. They can’t both be having a bad day, surely?

Letting myself believe – I just kept ticking. I had no concept of speed or time. Just distance and power.

Josh was still up the road, as were at least 4/5 guys in the age group. And 30km is a long run yet!

After accidentally throwing a bottle at tony – hitting him travelling at 45kph (sorry mate), I got stuck into the second lap.

I felt great. I was on top of hydration, nutrition and the numbers. This was where I was going to make a move – back into the head wind I needed to make ground on the front of the race. And if you’re going to make a move – make a proper one.

Working hard for the next 20km, I was still flying through people. And eventually, I finally caught Josh. 83km. Right at the point where this became a super tight race.

It was decision time. Do I gamble and smash the last 20km – knowing I might not have the running legs – but I’d make contact with the front. Or sit up & cruise – to attack the run and empty the tank.

With a German in our age group right on my wheel I wanted to do the first, but I know a smart race looked like the latter. So I bid my time, I’d gamble when I get to the run, I didn’t need to yet.

Into t2 and it was mission accomplished. I had to make a quick toilet stop as I hadn’t managed on the bike. And back out.

DSC_9426 DSC_9557 DSC_9264I knew I was around the top 5 and the lack of bikes implied i was on a good day, but it was a long way home. And josh was right on my heels.

I attacked the first part of the run. Not flat out – but a pace I’d have been able to hold earlier in the season.

At 10km it was getting tough and the splits my parents were giving me meant i knew I might hold some of these athletes – I was making ground. Coming into the middle 10 and I had to put the brakes on slightly. Dropping a few seconds per Km, it was a real battle.

I was fighting hard – deep into the uncomfy zone of racing, I was determined not to quit. Not to slow down.

My legs were burning, my stomach felt sick, I was getting dizzy and light headed. I’d pulled out bigger numbers in states worse than this – so I battled on.

DSC_9593Just past the half way mark and I knew I was going to get shut down by Josh. I couldn’t hold the pace and I couldn’t shut the gap to the front, but I didn’t want to lose too many places. I’d battle on as there was still a lot to play for!

Then it hit me. KM 22 – a 1:25 half marathon in the bag, on the money where I need to be. But the wheels fell off.

I thought I was going to stop, I was ready to. I could have thrown in the towel. But that isn’t me. I’d worked to hard to throw away 30 minutes and walk the last lap.

I fought on – step by step, corner by corner – to the finish line.

Pipped by the South African on the line. I’d lost 4 minutes on the last 8km. A battle to win another day – and a result I was extremely proud of. 6th in the world, my first top 20 overall and 3rd Brit in a field full of international medalists.

DSC_9656The running legs are in there, I’ve shown that in my early season races. Transitions were a shambles but that can be learned – and I even had more on the bike.

Which leaves just one area to work on – my swim.

Though I’d taken 6 minutes off my swim from Canada – on a swim where most people added on 4. So a success in itself. I hadn’t quite had the legs to challenge the podium.

Plenty of areas to work on before the tail end of the season, and lots of positives in this heavily competitive age group – before I even turn 25. It’s a bit surreal being up with some of the top athletes on the age group scene, especially when I know I have so much more to offer.

Although I have plenty to focus on this year – half an eye will be turned to world champs 2019. My entry is in, my mind is hungry, and if I come – it’ll be all to play for.

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Winning Races for Smiley Faces – The Summer Menu

It’s about time I did an update of the last few months and what my adjusted goals are looking forward to the summer. If you follow my other social media channels you’ll know it’s been a hectic few months of a bit of this and that. If you don’t follow them, well why not?!

But don’t worry, I’ll let you off if you don’t, you can get the important bits here!

First things first, where can we catch up?!
I’ve probably missed you in a world of rubbish excuses like bedtime, training tomorrow, “dieting”… so I’m going to be racing some local events to touch base with everyone!

img_3508-1I’ll be racing a sprint distance triathlon in Wilmslow (starting at the leisure centre) on the 20th May – start times are yet to be released, but stay tuned if you’re around to watch that one. It’ll be a super short race & I’m hoping to complete it in under 1 hour 10!

The summer season has come around very quickly and the real racing starts 4 weeks on Sunday.

This will kick off with Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 (10th June). That will be the first real indicator of summer form and what I can begin to expect moving forward into the season. This is a half ironman – so the distances are – 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run! Plenty of racing to watch and get stuck into!

Following that I’ll be doing one of the Castle Series in Cholmondeley Castle. This will be another 70.3 event on 24th June, and another little taster of my form to take into World Champs. Nice and local over near Nantwich so that I don’t have to travel too far to get into the swing of the big races.

World Champs will be in Denmark this year on the 14th July and will be my first A race of the season. This is one of two races that will be my main focus for the year, and after that we’ll regroup and re-assess to see where we’re up to.

So what’s been happening?!

It’s been a crazy one!

30125761_437555703335079_1698798986_o 1865912 1957076Two weeks in Mallorca on training camp racked up a crazy amount of miles and the legs began to show some real form. Something I haven’t really found in the last couple of years since a strong 2016 season. The hard work is really paying off and this led nicely to Manchester marathon.

 

The legs didn’t feel good the morning of the marathon, we’d got the build up wrong, I felt sluggish not sharp. But it’s a good learning curve. None the less I toed the start line and had a clear set of goals in my head. The outcome I wanted saw my time aorund 2:39:59 – although I knew early on that this wasn’t going to be the case. I battled from start to finish, and did the first 28km perfectly on pace. Passing the half marathon at 1:19:55 it was going to be touch & go but around mile 20 (km 32) it blew up in my face. Drawing on some really tough times in training I kept the focus. Thanks to the hero that is Pete Butler, we fought through it and I made it out the otherside, glued to his heels. I managed to make the finish line in 2:42:29 – a great time that I was happy with. This will qualify me for a guaranteed championship spot at London Marathon next year, something I’m excited to take up.

DSC_7731 DSC_7811 DSC_7788Following the marathon I had 2 weeks to let my legs attempt to recover before launching an attack on Storm the Castle duathlon, an event where I had unfinished business after just missing out next year. I still didn’t feel my best but again knew exactly what I needed to do. On the day my legs were good and I managed to hold on for the win. Breaking the tape was a fantastic feeling & something I’ll be working extremely hard to do again in the future. It was a great event and I learned a lot about my body through the day – despite not quite finding the bike legs, my running legs carried me through. Didn’t think I’d ever say that!

A report of the day can be read here.

DSCF7491 DSCF7489A very heavy 2 weeks training following STC meant that my legs were far from fresh when I arrived at the Cheshire Points Series 50 mile time trial on Saturday’s summer afternoon. None the less I managed a lifetime best in power output at 325W for the 1:52:10. Although I finished 6th Overall and 20 seconds behind my PB. Despite losing to some of my close competitiors it was great to line up with some of the top guys and perform amongst them again – though some changes need to be made to my time trial set up.

Since then I’ve had to rest a broken toe that I’ve been carrying since before Manchester, not ideal but better to take a break from running now rather than forced rest in the future.

All in all a very productive couple of months with lots of positives to be taken. Plenty of personal bests both in and out of training making me hungry to see what I can achieve this summer. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but the consistency is slowly coming together to get me there. Working closely with Joel Jameson at Jameson coaching is really paying off and I’m hoping I can stay in one piece to enjoy a hard season of summer racing!

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Couch to Athlete – why you can do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Because they want to.

And because who’s to say they can’t?

It comes from three basic ideas:

Number one – get your body used to training.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Block two is the worst of the three.

Teach yourself how to work hard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Step 3 is the easiest of them all.

Practice – and go get it.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Get used to training.

Learn to work hard.

Go and prove yourself wrong.

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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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Ironman World Championships – Tracking the Race 

We’re nearly there.

Can’t even describe what I’m currently feeling, as I’m not sure myself what it is.

Nerves. Excitement. Stress. Apprehension.

You can track me on either the ironman website, by googling ironman world championship.

Or download the app & track me there. The app looks like this:

 

I’m number 2409, & the race starts at 18:05 Saturday, UK time.

 

I’m not putting any pressure on myself, I know this year a podium is out of reach & I’ll be back in the future.
The plan is to race firm, play to my strengths, keep it together, & get myself to that finish line in one piece.

 

 

Swim Smart.

Cycle Firm.

Run Consistent.

See this with a smile on my face.
If I can string together a solid race alongside the best in the world, then we’re on for a very exciting 2018.

I can’t ask myself for any more.

See you on the other side!