Race Fast, Live Slow.

“What have you been up to mate?”
“Not a lot. Adventuring, writing a book, working out what success looks like, getting really really fast.”

DJI_0344Nothing too dissimilar to normal. Sounds quite fun on the surface I suppose, but behind the scenes there’s been some really hard graft going on. 16 hour working days, triple training sessions, sleep hasn’t been high up the agenda, nor has food.

I didn’t think I’d ever see a 1am working evening again, let alone 3 in a week. The most depressing thing is, I haven’t even started writing the book in that time. I’ve been working crazy hours on the businesses, on the podcast (the morning after the life before), and creating a new vehicle where the books will be released.

But I’ve made time to adventure in the coming weeks – as well as a couple of weeks ago. I’ve also been diving headfirst into wild blue photography – with new enquiries daily which have been amazing. The characters I’ve been encountering that are letting me take part in such a special moment of their life has been great!

As you’re probably already aware – if you’re here for the usual triathlon related ramblings – you’re in the wrong place…

So what’s been getting me through?

_MG_6481Well the cats out the bag, I’m writing a book, actually two books… It’s a really exciting project that I’ve been formulating over and over in my head for the last 18 months. How it’ll look, what the space for that is, how people will interact with it, the story it’ll tell. Sure, it’ll obviously be a picture book. Partly because, like me, my audience have a limited reading ability… and partly because I take nice photos – or so I’m told. Well – Mitch took half the photos – so that’s 50% that are guaranteed to be good…

But as it slowly starts to take shape – it’s a constant self assessment. Am I doing this for the right reasons? Who do I want to connect with? How do I want to do that?

I’ve been assessing and analysing all areas of my life in close detail to better understand the space they occupy and the way the different pieces work. The way the people close to me influence that, and those that are in my wider support bubble that I couldn’t go without. How the books may give back to them. How they can play a small part.

DSC03585Side note: one things for sure, I’ve realised my biggest peeve in life is working hard with or for people that don’t work hard. Yeah nothing angers me more. Crazy huh.

I now understand why I find it so difficult to settle into big teams or allow a member of the group to coast through. Why I lead from the front and won’t wait to be told what to do. Why I’m constantly questioning what I’m told to do and why I’m told to do it.

I’m not sure lazy people and me will ever see eye to eye. If you can’t do your job properly, don’t ask me to improve mine, especially when the phrase “hard work” – means half the day pushing your pen around or chasing the mouse around a screen. That being said, it is something I’m working on and learning. Understanding and trying to be more patient.

I do enjoy working with people – they’re my favourite part of my job. For people is a different story.

Lifestyle.

In the 21st century we’re completely absorbed by the lifestyle others lead. We want to be just like them, have just what they have. It’s accelerated as it echoes and bounces off the walls of social media. Before we know it, what we see reflected back to us is so rippled and warped from the starting concept – it turns out it’s absolutely nothing like we originally anticipated. We’re becoming so materialistic in the western world, we flick through media at 100mph. Photos come and go in seconds, friendships whistle away while people kid themselves they’re finding the mundane lifestyle in some way fulfilling wishing they were Sally the Influencer in Barbados.

452A9244The average millennial spends 5.7 hours a day on their phone. And those of you that are getting on a bit aren’t much better any more at slightly below 5. How is that in any way producing the next generation of worker bees that add value to those around them and society as a whole.

People that understand the concept of being present, enjoying the company of those around them and the beautiful places we’re lucky enough to have so close. You only have to climb to the top of a mountain to see everyone capturing it on their phone. This isn’t promoting the connections between people that we’re quickly losing. And it’s fast uninspiring me personally.

What I’ve Learned:

In these ramblings and reflections over the last few weeks that I’ve worked out the direction I want to move forward in. Through the meetings, the conversations and the adventures – the water has become less hazy. In sport it’s always been so clear to me. Do a fast ironman. And that is still the single biggest goal I have. Though I work every day towards it, I’ve had to assess what’s important to me outside of sport.

I’ve found it so hard to articulate the things that are important to me to those that are close. And today, on my morning run (which was an absolute ripper in case you’re still here for the triathlon)… it came to me.

All I want to do is race fast, live slow.

Work hard when I need to, but slow the pace of life. Add value to the projects that interest and excite me. As well as those that will help me grow as a person. Sure some of those have to be financially, but some will be emotionally, technically & physically. There are so many things I’m yet to learn, but I’m so eager to try and apply myself wholly.

452A8993Help the people that inspire me. Work hard for those that set an example in the way I want to live. Give something back to those that invest endlessly into me. And I want to forge deeper connections with the people I encounter – as that’s where I find the most fun and excitement. It’s the values I’ve been better understanding that inspire my work and my businesses.

I don’t want to make money for lazy people. I don’t want to make money for the sake of making money. I don’t really want to make money (Sorry E.W.)

What’s Next Then?

I want to add value, I want to be good at what I do, I want to work hard, I want to dive in head first and I want to feel fulfilled. As we all do. But from that I’m sure will be born something amazing. I’m tired of chasing someone else dreams. I’m tired of fulfilling someone elses story of success.

DSC03835And so, the books were born. There’s something about physical media that really appeals to me in a fast progressing digital world. A new skill set, a scary prospect, but something that will challenge everything I’ve learned as well as me as a person to take the skills to the next level.

So adventure has been high up the agenda, through the long days and late nights. There’ll be less than 100 copies of each book, so come Christmas make sure you ask Santa really really nicely.

Over the last few weeks I’ve sat, watched, listened, felt. I’ve walked, run, ridden, swam & lay. I’ve absorbed, learned, reflected – and beyond grasping lists of pretty words – I’ve worked out the things that are important. Hard work is what makes me tick. If I’m not applying myself fully, I’m restless. I have to be all in, all the time. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t space to live slowly. Explore the area around me, sport has always offered me and endless list of new places that some people will never have the privilege of seeing. The outdoors is what brings me to life – and if I can in some way bring a small piece of that back to those close to me, and learn a thing or two in the process – this project will be a success.

452A9932So while the racing is cancelled, and although I’ve been getting really really fast, it’s been the new adventures that have been getting me through. And I’m really really excited for the next pages to be written (excuse the awful pun).

If you actually made it to the end of that, you probably deserve a medal. But here’s a present instead.

https://imgphotography.co.uk

Coming soon.
Watch this space!

Injury or Opportunity?

I’ve not exactly tried to hide it, the last couple of weeks I’ve struggled with an injury. It’s something I’ve known has been coming for a while, but been a bit too lazy to sort. Though in part I should cut myself some slack, with gyms shut it wasn’t as easy to do thorough strength & conditioning!

452A2303It’s not your classic injury: overtraining, lack of rest or an unfortunate accident. Instead it’s more an imbalance and a shift in my body, that’s causing discomfort on the bike. 

There’s no real issue, nothing me or anyone around me are worried about. But a lack of gym work over the last few months has uncovered a past demon that I’ve not been vigilant in correcting.

So what does that mean? Well, a bit less cycling, a bit more gym work and a change in focus. Working on other areas. My run, swim & some exciting business prospects.

A couple of weeks ago I tied up a 100km running week, we’ll 98km if you’re counting… something which I’d have been close to anyway, but a fun milestone none the less. An extra 8km I ran Saturday shut the gap further – into marathon training we go! 90km, 80km, 90km, just clocking up miles Monday to Saturday, then going all in on a key marathon session Sunday mornings.

452A2267At the moment there’s an overriding sense of calm. Unusual for an athlete that can’t train fully due to injury?

It all fell into place for me a couple of weeks. I was heading to Kettering for a bike fit. A 2.5 hour drive each way, followed by some work in the afternoon to make up lost time. 

I had a 75 minute run to do with some hard hilly tempo. 

All the usual questions, how am I going to fit it in? Could I swap days? Will I manage it? What if I did if there? How tired will I be in the evening? What will I eat before it?

452A3594In the end it was a fairly simple solution. A 3:40am alarm. 

A slow breakfast, followed by an hour of work while my stomach settled, into a 5:30 start, and a big hit. An hour of work already ticked off, I was ready to dance.

It was probably about 6:05am when the penny dropped.

I was rattling across the roads half way up Bosley cloud, a fairly big hill just out the back of our town. Not a person around. I’d completed an hour of work, watched the sun come up and I was now hammering my way through 20 minutes of hard running in the hills, squeezing out everything I had. 

My lungs were burning, legs were tired, heart racing. 80% of me wished I was still in bed. But I felt so alive. I was getting faster, and you were still asleep… (probably). 

It takes a different breed to wake up at 3:40 in the morning. Well really, that’s the middle of the night. And it just reminded me of a younger, more naive version of myself. We used to be on the river to row at 5:30am, 4 days a week. We never questioned it really.

Now, nearly 7 years on, I was back at it. We never trained for races, medals or kudos. Not to impress others, brag about times or achievements. But pushing to the limit and testing the motives. Bringing out the best version of myself, regardless of anything else in the world.

452A2806It was there, in that moment that I remembered just how lucky I am, and how much I love everything that sport gives me. How there’s nothing that’ll hold me back from applying 100% of myself to the task at hand – getting faster. Day in, day out. All 366 of them this year towards the same goal. 

Since then it came full circle. A week dragging myself out of bed, hauling myself out the door and battling through each session. Nothing feeling quite right, never ticking over nicely, never the effortless spring in my step that the great sessions bring.

A never ending work load hanging over me, limited sleep and too much on outside of training. But still, day in day out, I’ve been ticking the boxes and working towards the goal. Some days you roll out of bed at 3:40 ready to knock it for 6. Other days I’m up at 10, breakfast, hydration, coffee, , tv, work, phone calls, another nap, and it’s 2pm before I’m ready to go.

I never let myself make excuses, I never cut myself the slack, I’ll never be the athlete that “just” missed one session. I’ll never give my competitors the satisfaction of knowing I was having a forced day off while they were out there crushing it. Because when it comes to crunch time, these are the times that’ll pay.

When you know the why, the how is pretty simple. 

So a small injury and no bike? No worries. I’ll still be hard at it, and I’ve got other opportunities to be working on. 

2020 – Cancelled ❌

Last night we got the news that the pinnacle of the racing calendar has been cancelled. The Ironman World Championships in Kona, will not be taking place in 2020.

And I won’t lie to you, that’s a deep blow. I’ve spent the last 24 hours not in the best frame of mind. It sucks.

I obviously knew the writing was on the wall, and when Roth got cancelled I knew it’d be unlikely Kona would happen. But still, kona symbolises a lot of things for me, and for it to not happen wasn’t any easier.

It’s not even that we won’t be able to go to Hawaii this year that’s upsetting, it’s what that means. With no Kona, it means no racing. I’m not the kind of athlete that puts a half hearted performance in every other week at a little event. 

I race to be the best version of myself, two days a year. 2/365 (366 in this case). That’s all that counts. Careful planning. Nowhere to hide. All or nothing. 

Ironman offered us 3 options. 1) defer to any other Ironman race. And waste 5 years of training to qualify in this sort of shape? No thanks.

Second – defer to the new date, February 6th 2021. 

Third – defer to the 2021 race on October 9th.

Before i’d even finished reading the options I knew the answer, and here’s why.

Big races like Kona are everything to an athlete like me. With every single decision I make in life, I consider the impact it’ll have on me as an athlete. I devote everything to trying to become the best possible athlete I can be. And that’s showcased two or three days a year. I sacrifice everything for that opportunity, as do many others around me. 

53_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_151469-12559900Now in 2019 it never happened for me, I never quite strung it together, I just wasn’t good enough when it counted. So I’ve got a lot to prove. Throwback to Kona 2017, I stumbled round in 11:57, the first and only time I’ve finished an Ironman in the dark. And I’ve had a lot of demons since that day.

It’s not racing purely against other people that excites me. It’s not beating them. It’s lining up next to some of the worlds best age groupers and pushing each other the the edge of our limits. It’s about bringing the best out of ourselves and those around us, and testing just what we’re capable of.

The only time this can happen, is if we’re all there at the same race, in good shape, ready to lay it out. Nobody wants to win under bad circumstances, nobody wants to lose due to things they can’t control. Everyone wants to be the best in a fair contest. 

If we race in February, the Southern Hemisphere will have had perfect preparation, and we’ll have been training for the hottest race on the calendar, in sub 0 temperatures. Yes, I’m aware that the Aussies train in winter for kona every year – your winter is very mild, Europe’s is not. Winter means snow, ice & crashes. Nobody wants to race a reduced field. Nobody wants to see crashes.

36_m-100790953-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1835_113520-12559883Nobody can qualify. There’s no races, so how are the strong athletes going to qualify for a February race? Again, a reduced field doesn’t bring out the best in us. Even if a few more find their names on the list. 

It’ll ruin Christmas for us all. Imagine it. You waltz into a family buffet, it’s the Christmas period, beer & snacks are flowing. 

Except you’ve waltzed in late cause you’ve just finished a 5 hour winter (or summer) ride on a time trial bike and you’re wandering about worried about getting ill or fat 5 weeks out from Kona. You don’t have any beer. You don’t have any buffet. Race weight is hanging over you. Kona is coming. And that sucks. 

You’re trying to get heat sessions in the week before running in -3 degree winter mornings. Morning -3, evening +40, ermmm?

It just wouldn’t be a championship. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be Kona.

So I’ve opted for October 2021, the closest thing we’ll get to a “normal” Kona.

That way it won’t impact on the 2021 calendar. I won’t be trying to cram extra races at the end of the year. Unwinding and taking downtime in March. Building through April. I’ll be fresh, ready and prepared by the time the racing starts. 

My last 3 years were meant to culminate in Kona 2020. We’d planned every detail for me to be execute the race I’d be proud of. So that’s difficult. But the island will still be there in 2021. (I hope).

I still want to go to kona in 2021 and 2022, and I still want to do something special.

So what’s next?

Well more downtime. Not physically this time round, but mentally. Cut myself a bit of extra slack, hit the big sessions, see what we can produce and how far I can stretch the limits. 

I still want to race Roth & Western Australia in the next 18 months.

I still want to go sub 8:30.

I still want to be the best version of myself.

So until that time, racing or not, I’ll keep grinding behind the scenes. Ready for when we can once again, toe the line. 

2020: Survival Mode

It’s been a while since I’ve tickled the keyboard of little iPhone screen and sent some useless sport related nonsense to you all, so thought I’d drop in for a little catch up!

It’s been a difficult time all round, nobody knows what the future will look like, people are struggling to earn money and now more than ever helping each other out is the highest priority. 

Ruth Astle Calpe (82 of 144)A few people have been wondering where that leaves us in our crazy world, and honestly, I’m not entirely sure myself. Races are cancelled, flights are cancelled, nobody will be able to qualify for races like Kona.

2020 has been a bit of a whirlwind and I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to end. I had a long call with Joel my coach last week to put some ideas on paper for what the future might look like for me, but staying healthy and looking after those around me has to be the first priority. 

First things first, I owe a huge thanks to Cyclestore & Glass and Stainless through this time. Currently I’m still able to work, and while my freelance work has completely dried up, getting money into my bank account has been incredibly helpful and for that I’m grateful.

So, what have I been up to?!

Well, nothing exciting obviously. I started training December 30th in Leeds after a forced week off due to a broken foot. Working closely with Helen my podiatrist we managed to limit the damage to just a week on the sofa after Christmas, so before the break of the New Year I was into the full swing of things.

At the start of the year I had two main goals, run 2:55 off the bike, and swim sub 60. Nothing else really mattered through the year! 

Calpe Long Ride (2 of 69) Calpe Long Ride (3 of 69)To kick this off I spent two weeks in Congleton getting the work done before jetting off to Calpe, Spain to get some miles in the sun with my good friends Ruth & Dee. Ruth has recently turned pro and Dee is right at the top end of the age group field, so it was great to get some training in with them, and split a few good quality bars of chocolate at the end of each day…

Though the weather wasn’t great, it was good to get some high quality miles into the legs and I came back with a solid base to work off. I continued this through the later stages of January and mid February I pinned on my first number of the year. 

I was going to be running the Stockport Trail Half Marathon. I was just looking for a good honest effort in the legs too see if the extra run training had began to pay off. Though I covered the first 3km with the leader, I decided he was running a bit quick for my winter legs so took my foot off the gas.

5935960667848704By km 6 I was already beating myself up for the poor tactics as he was 15 seconds down the road, an agonisingly close distance, and it was clear we were moving the same pace. Nothing I tried let me shut the gap and I came home in 2nd with a time of 1:14:29.

Though I was disappointed in the bad tactics, I was happy with the run and it looked promising for later in the season.

Back to the drawing board I still had some weight to shift and some miles to cover before my next race rolled in 3 weeks later.

Unfortunately later that week I was hit with a virus and had to take the majority of the middle week off. Finally starting to feel human the week of Cambridge half marathon, I knew no matter what happened, I’d be able to run faster later in the year. Tipping the scales around 85kg, I was still 4kg above race weight, and nowhere near peak form.

None the less I donned the black & yellow Congleton vest, some shiny pink Nike Next% and took off with the second group on the road. We worked together through the wind and out of town, and I knew as we passed the half way mark we were in for a good run if the legs held out.

6531046170558464 6359116415107072Through mile 10 and I knew my legs had written cheques they couldn’t cash. Battling to the finish, I lost a lot of time in the last 5km and managed to cross the finish line in a time of 1:11:38. Though the course was around 200m short, this would have put me comfortably in the 1:12 region, an effort I was incredibly happy with.

Looking back, it was a great position to be in at the start of 2020, though that’s when things fast deteriorated! 

Thursday that week I flew to Calpe again with Ruth, Will Clarke and the riot racing team for a week of hard swimming and miles in the sun. 

It’s easy to get distracted when you’re so far away about what’s happening back home. The simplicity of training camp draws away from everything else that’s going on. Saturday morning I headed out for 100 miles in the mountains with Ruth & Kim Morrison, in good hope and optimistic about the week.

Calpe Long Ride (58 of 69) Calpe Long Ride (49 of 69) Ruth Astle Calpe (53 of 144)

By Saturday afternoon we’d booked flights home from Madrid, packed by evening and on our way by Sunday lunch after a morning long run. It was like something out of a film driving to Madrid, 5 hours on the roads and a total of 10 cars. Though not surprising considering the Spanish lockdown had just been announced.

Due to us being in two high risk areas of Spain it was clear on arrival to the UK we’d have to self isolated. So with some complicated logistics only a mad family like mine would consider pulling off, I made it from Stanstead to Northumberland via Wigan in the following 12 hours. Swapping bikes and kit in the process.

I self isolated in Northumberland for 2 weeks and continued training camp there. Managing to knock out 50 hours of training despite the pools being shut, I knew it was time to get back to Congleton and the safety of home. 

Though that now leaves us in an interesting situation. Later this I’m meant to be flying to Italy for the third race of the season, instead it doesn’t look like we’ll be racing at all in 2020, and Kona is in a precarious position.

DSC02854So the foundations have been laid, the base is solid and I’m in incredible shape. Though what for? So it’s back to the drawing board. Through the next few weeks I decided I’d be completing some testing to create benchmarks in the fitness, before unloading and taking a mid season break. Funny considering we haven’t had a season. 

Yesterday was that testing. I did an all out two hour bike on my turbo, in the garage. I managed to match my best 70.3 2 hours which was in Slovakia last year, a day I had one of the strongest bike splits. Before heading out into the cheshire lanes to run a 1:19:30 half marathon. A PB off the bike, with nobody to hunt! It was weird racing with no race. A real battle of the mind. 

DSC02874 DSC02817I think I won.

So what’s next? I’ll use the time to reflect & recover, help my family out where I can and look to the future to see where that leaves us. Try and earn some extra money to get me through the next period and ready for when the racing picks up again.

I’ll keep you in the loop about what we’ve been up to, how we’re moving forward, and anything else exciting that happens in lockdown.

For now though, stay happy, stay healthy, help those around you, and let me know if I can help in any way! 

2020: Survival Mode.

Can you run a marathon?

It’s that time of year when everyone is enjoying the festivities, Christmas meals, too many drinks and catching up with friends. In 2 weeks time there’s a shift in mentality and everyone suddenly seems to start thinking about summer.

DSC_4813The New Years resolutions flow in, people start looking for crazy things to do to fulfil themselves moving into 2020, and some people just want to lose the extra weight from the Christmas indulgence. 

Quite often in these times when you want to get fit or do some crazy sporting achievement, you turn to someone who knows what they’re talking about to ask whether it’s possible.

So absolutely no idea why some of you ask me…

You’d be amazed how many people ask me if I think they can run a marathon, do an ironman, or some crazy endurance event. Often people don’t even ask, they tell me they’ve signed up and ask for my help in getting them to the start line. I’m currently offering advice to around 8/9 people running different events in 2020 from 10k’s to Ironmans. 

_MG_1612While I’d never call myself a coach, nor do I want to be. From 8 years in high level sport, I’ve learned a thing or two about the things that make people stick around and the things that don’t. So I’ve compiled a few tips that I think stand you in the best stead for running your first marathon. (This is applicable to any distance). 

  1. Get your body used to moving

Now I’m aware this sounds a bit strange. You walk around all the time, you might go to the gym now and then, you often make it from the sofa to the kitchen cupboard for a snack. You can move? I mean basic exercise. Over 30 minutes, working fairly hard. There’s a really easy way to do this and set a bench mark, park run. Get yourself down to park run and jog the 5km. It happens all over the world, every Saturday and it’s free. No excuses.

DSC02440Apart from giving you a stark reminder of how unfit you currently are, you’ll notice (hopefully), a few other things about the way your body moves. If you run hard there’ll be muscles and areas that ache the next day, your heart will want to beat out of your chest and you’ll barely be able to breathe. That’s ok.
When I’m racing hard, I go through all of these emotions & feelings. My body hurts just as much as yours, trust me. The only difference is I’m going a touch faster & I know I can make it out the other side.

So you have to get your body used to movement.
It takes 3-4 weeks to build a habit. It’s much more beneficial to you early on, to do little and often. To build the base that you can later build off. If you did 20-30 minutes exercise 6 days a week, that’s infinitely better than 40-60 3 days a week. 

Which sounds crazy, but I’m not talking about the physiological benefit. You just need to get used to getting out the door, moving and your body needs to get used to taking out.

  1. Training with others & letting them see it.

DSC02441People are so scared about training with other people at first. As well as posting times and scores on Strava. They hate the thought of it. What if other people think you’re slow?! What if they see how unfit you are?! What if they think you’re stupid?!
I hate to break it to you, you are pretty unfit and it is very obvious. However, and a big however. We’ve all been there. It even happens at the top level when athletes come back from a break or an injury. They can’t just slot back into the squad & do exactly what they did before.
But because of this, everybody is incredibly accommodating. It’s a great sport and everyone is in it together. Nobody really cares what speed you’re running or what your pb’s are, or if you even have any! Everybody just wants to see you do well, and will offer endless support. Plus, it’s much harder to bail on a run if you’re meant to be meeting your friend at 7 to do it together.

  1. Structure.

A training plan is really important. All the top athletes have coaches to keep them on track, so why wouldn’t you? Having someone make a plan, or following one you get free online is really important to make sure you have the structure you need. This will let you rest guilt free when you need to and help make sure you’re ticking all the boxes in the progression. If you can be consistent with training, you’ll see results. If you can see results, you’ll want to keep going. And then everything else flows from there.

  1. Illness isn’t chance.

452A6330-2Controversial. Unfortunately, despite what you think, getting ill isn’t unlucky. Exercise boosts your immune system, but also temporarily weakens it. There’s a reason the worlds top athletes can go years and years without picking up illness. Because it’s not chance.

They do a whole host of things to make sure they’re not getting ill. Sure, some of them may seem far fetched to you, but if you’re getting ill all the time and it’s impacting your training, you’re going to struggle to run a marathon and you need to ask yourself why.

Poorly people spread germs. If you’ve got kids, you’ll be very aware of this. However, sharing cutlery/glasses with them, not using hand gel often & little things like this are a sure fire way to make sure you catch it. People often laugh when I over use hand gel in busy areas, but it’s the same people laughing when they’ve got flu & I’m knocking out training sessions having a blast.

 The others are rest. sleep and diet. If you train to late/early and compromise your sleep, this is going to get you run down. Hugely increasing your chance of illness. This happened to me in Maryland. I overtrained, didn’t rest enough, super ill for the race. It wasn’t chance. All 2/3 illnesses I’ve had in the last 3 years I can point at why on my training programme. Diet has the same effect as rest. Making sure you get good balanced food, lots of veg, lots of nutrients, lots of protein. This will help keep you recovering well and fighting fit. Don’t go vegan, but that’s a whole different blog…

  1. Don’t overtrain.

_MG_1978This is a classic for people coming into the sport. Though structure will help you avoid this. Overtraining will kill you off. The body only has so much energy, and this has to be split between all the elements of your life. Family, work, training, chores. If you’re super stressed, this will affect training. So the word overtrain is different from person to person, but making sure you’re properly recovered going into each session. 

You don’t need to run a marathon to run a marathon. You don’t need to run much more than 30km. You’ll pull it out of the bag on the day. You’re human, you have adrenaline and they have cookies… or aid stations. You’ll be fine. If you run 40km and then need to take a week off training, you’ve not helped anyone. Keep the distances down & the consistency up. Rest. Recover.. Rest…. Recover……

  1. Forget how far it is.

The quicker you get out of your head that a marathon is super far, the better. Yes, it is a bloody long way! And yes, it does need to be respected. But no, it’s not impossible. I ran my first half marathon 14kg heavier than I now race, in under 90 minutes. Why? Because I had absolutely no idea how far it was, or how much it’d hurt. If you talk yourself out of it, you’re going to make it infinitely worse. If you focus on keeping consistent in your training, you’ll make it.
Do I think you can run a marathon? Absolutely. Get used to moving. Train with other people. Get some structure into the programme. Rest up & go get it. 

Confidence & Patience – chasing a special performance and finding myself?

Good morning! How’re you? I’m assuming it’s morning, I have no idea what time all three of you read this… but it’s fun to write none the less.

4BF64B19-58B3-4AB2-876D-6BD1CB9168AEI’m back! Back from Nice, back in your life, back writing. Lots has happened since I last put fingers to key pad (pen to paper) and I’m excited to give you a brief summary of highlights, plus the usual overly dissected fairly deep summary of where I’m at in my life. 

Though it has taken me 2 weeks and 4 attempts to actually write this, so even more has happened. And I’m still not sure I’ve put my finger on what I’m trying to say. 

71413FC4-E52B-40AB-9398-BA07C5A18017Luckily since Hamburg I’m mentally in a much better place. I’ve started to really drive my business which is incredibly exciting, and there’s much more going on behind the usual swim bike run.

Though that’s why we’re all here… not to hear about what I’ve been taking photos of this week.

So what’s happened. Well I got myself into an absolute hole with training, ran a 16:02 5km, then managed to crawl out and string a fairly solid race together at the Ironman 70.3 World championships in Nice, France. 

6EA9678A-9170-4257-9C9F-E0F3B898C606I’ve then bumbled through a few more sessions and tried to avoid my body going into a melt down or accidentally waltzing down one too many confectionary isles. The shopping list awaits… I’ve knocked out some incredible sessions, and some have knocked me out.

One thing is for sure, my body and mind are ready for some time & space from this swim bike run malarkey. 

I’ve got one last red carpet to run down this season, it’ll happen between now and mid October sort of time, and we’ll go from there!

I’ve not been subtle about saying I’ve been disappointed with my racing this year. Out of line with my usually subtle character I know. But I’ve spent the whole year chasing a special performance, and I’ve felt I just haven’t delivered one.

Now I’ve had some time to reflect, I think the performance has been there. It just hasn’t happened on the same day.

4A096BE5-162D-4883-A640-683A55F18C4BThe 2nd fastest Amateur bike split in Hamburg, a 2:06 90km bike in Slovakia, four 1:20-1:22 halves off the bike, two a week apart. Leading the age group in Africa until my back pinged… among lots of crazy sessions that have pointed towards some real form. Overall I’ve shown that the fitness is there and I’m still developing.

Every Ironman I race with my heart & pour every ounce of energy, physical and mental, into both training & racing to allow me to do that. I’m not one for half measures, I’m all or nothing.

C27435E7-A4C8-47E3-ADD2-27428640733EOver the year this has certainly taken its toll, and I’ve still got a chip on my shoulder from the race in Barcelona where the time didn’t reflect my performance. 

So in this last race, I’m forgetting about performance, speed, ambition. I’m going to race hard, race passionately, but above all, love racing again. Love turning the dials & twisting the screws. Hurting the packs on the bike & seeing how long I can keep my running legs together before I go pop. Hopefully 42.2km of course. 

The last couple of months since Hamburg I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve relit the fire for the things outside of triathlon, and remembered to keep a more grounded perspective. 

I’ve learned that I’m most alive when I’m out running on the quiet roads of Eaton, feet hammering the concrete, heart beating out of my chest & legs screaming to stop. When I’m turning the pedals, chewing the stem & praying my legs don’t slow up. When I’m in the pool fighting tooth & nail for the extra 0.5 seconds an interval, whole body in pain but desperate for more. 

531C0EFA-D6FB-484A-93FD-B50331694268But equally I get the same buzz when I’m locked away in a corner of a cafe editing shots and adding value to other people’s journey. When I’m planning the next move for myself and business and how I can be more efficient driving forward. When I’m faced with a new challenge that I have no idea how to solve.

These are the moments when nothing else in the world matters to me, I’m completely fulfilled, at the edge and on the rivet. And these are the moments when nobody else is around. There’s no audience. Nobody checking in to see what’s going on, nobody to account to. I’m not trying to prove myself, not seeking some strange external validations. I’m just comfortable in working hard and seeing how far I can stretch my own limits. 

8C0044D6-FAEA-4E76-BCAC-DAFA80C0EBA2This then means I have the joy of sharing this amazing journey with the people close to me. I’m more bearable to be around and I’m not seen mumbling about watts/kg or what splits I ran for 10km before breakfast. And I’m much more present when I’m around those closest to me.

I’m the version of me that’s excited and inspired. Mischievous and giddy. Moving forward, this is who I want to be. Pursuing the best version of myself, regardless of where it takes me. 

And it’s taken me a long time to realise that. Going fast is fun and I’m sure I’ll continue to achieve that, but it’ll just be at stopping points on the journey; rather than the end destination. 

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey”.

Ironman Hamburg – Brave faces and dark places.

It’s arrived, we’re here. Ironman Hamburg has swung around and yet again, I find myself in race week. We fly tomorrow super early doors and so far, so good… touch wood.

_MG_1827If you’re just here for tracking information, that’s relatively simple. Get yourself the ironman app downloaded, search for Jack Schofield, and a little smiley picture of me and my mum should pop up. Get notifications on, get me on your tracker and off we go. Start time is around 6:45am in Germany, so 5:45 at home.

Though it wasn’t originally on the calendar, it’s been running through my head ever since Africa went wrong for me. Of my last 5 full Ironman races, 4 haven’t gone the way I like. But that’s taught me a lot about my goals, targets and how to deal with bad results.

I’ve had bad nutrition, bad run numbers, back spasms, a bike crash, punctures, you name it, I’ve had it. All the possible triathlon excuses.

But there’s always another day, always another race and that perspective is why I think I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in.

There’ve been a few bumps and bruises in the last week or two. A complete nutrition revamp because of a leaky front system among others. But that’s how it goes and I think I’ve got to the bottom of it all.

_MG_1944It’s no secret that I want to go to Kona again this year. That’s been a goal of mine for quite some time, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m ok with that.

A bigger goal of mine, that’s been on my radar for the best part of 5 years, is completing the ‘perfect race’.

Now we all know that doesn’t quite exist, but in the pursuit of perfection you can easily stumble across excellence.

There’s absolutely nothing I’d change about the last 3 months of training and preparation. I’ve worked hard, eaten well and it’s been a great journey. My mind is in a good place and physically I’m in the shape of my life. I’ve been racing consistently and the people around me have been working endlessly to keep me propped up and moving forward. And for that I’m incredibly grateful.

I’ve learned first hand how quickly it can go wrong. I have to respect the monumental task I have in front of me, another ironman in very warm conditions!

3.8km swim.
180km bike.
42.2km run.

So how does that look?

_MG_1775Well, after a shiny new wetsuit with a huge thanks to Glass & Stainless, my swim will hopefully be an improvement on where it’s been in the past. I’m looking to dip pretty close to that 1 hour marker, probably just above. Though probably still 10 minutes back on the people I’m planning on rubbing shoulders with.

I’ll be straight into transition, socks on, shoes, helmet, race belt, go.

And I’m going to attack that bike course like nothing I’ve ever done before. Sure, I’m not riding to blow up in the first 40km, but there’s a fire in my belly that hasn’t been there before. I want to explore the limits of what my body is capable of and just how fast I can take to 180km. What can I do flat out after 2 years of average bike performances? The dream is to hold a pace not too dissimilar to that in Slovakia…. which brings me in on the better side of 4:30, something I know I’m very capable of.

If I get a flat. I’ll fix it.
Lose my nutrition, I’ll sort it.
If I fall off, we’ll have to hope everything is ok and I’ll keep battling.

_MG_1848I’ve spent the last 2 weeks going over and over every scenario in my head. So should one happen, I’ll stay calm and work out the best possible way to keep me in the race. I’ll play my hand with the cards I’m dealt on the day… and statistically, I’m due a good hand.

Peel myself off the bike, hopefully less literally than in Africa… shoes on, belt round, visor, glasses, nutrition, go.

Get after that ever elusive sub 3 ironman marathon.

I’ve spent 7 years in & around sport.. beating myself up day in, day out, aspiring to be like the athletes I surround myself with. And I’ve learned a lot about myself. Hopefully I can get back into the darkness and come out the other side… a grimace on my face, but a smile underneath.

Sunday will be entirely dictated in the last 15-20km of the marathon. Everyone can run the first 10km fast, but who can run the last 10km fast? It’ll be a delicate balance of having nutrition perfect so that there’s no gut issues or cramp in that latter part of the race. Mixed with a mindset that allows you to perform.

_MG_1636I’m hungry for an 8:45 ironman. It’s been a long time coming and I really hope that this weekend I can punch that ticket. 525 minutes from A to B. As hard as possible. With no excuses. No if’s, no buts. I’m under no pretence that to accomplish that I’m in for the hardest race of my life, but I’m prepared for that. I’ve done all the work I need to, no stone has been left unturned.

But really, I don’t care about time, don’t care about wins, losses. As I’ve adapted as an athlete, I’m out there to race myself and see just how far I can stretch my own limits.

Fight and fight and fight, until I cross the finish line.

Hopefully this time when we get there, it’ll be a performance I can be proud of. A day I can look back on and think “Wow, now that was a race!”. Sure, I have my targets. But it’ll be warm and so many factors can come into play… so I just want to work hard, race well and race strong.

And if it’s not my day, again…. then the next ironman start line I’m on, I really wouldn’t want to race me!

See you on the other side.

Eating healthy – my crazy fad diet plan.

It’s taken me a while to write this, but on request from a few people, here it is. My new crazy fad diet that I’m on…

Among a lot of comments about how lean I look and how much weight I seem to have lost, a lot of people have been asking about my new diet. I haven’t actually lost any weight, but I’m enjoying the compliments.

And the secret? A crazy new fad diet… it’s called the balanced diet… I don’t leave anything out, I don’t restrict myself, I just eat a bit of everything in moderation. Keep it very fresh, very whole and it’s great!

I’ve been working with Alan Murchison, @performancechef, who is one of the leading nutritionists at British Cycling and looks after the dietary habits of some of the worlds top athletes.

_MG_1944Now while I’m not about to give all of Alan’s secrets away, that’s what I pay him good money for, I’m going to outline a few of the more important features. 

I’m into week 6 of Alan’s diet, and while I’ve lost a bit of weight… I’ve consciously tried not to lose too much, but not worry about it. The main focus is filling my body with good nutrition to make sure I’m properly fuelled for each session and feeling good.

  1. Make sure you’re fuelling properly in training.

You can eat as well as you like out of training, but if you’re not fuelling your sessions properly, you’re going to create huge deficits. This is going to make you crave food when you shouldn’t be having it! So making sure the timing of your meals is good around sessions and your nutrition on the go is good is really important. Anything over an hour, consider taking a gel or a bar! 

  1. Go gluten free.

I was also a sceptic at first, but being gluten free has really helped my stomach. I have IBS and I’ve had all the tests under the sun. I’m not allergic to gluten, but by removing it, it’s helped a lot.

  1. Make your own snacks.

_MG_1633Might sound trivial, but the less time you spend in a supermarket in front of the snacks, the less you’re going to buy. Sure, snacking has it’s place, but plan it into your day. When are you going to feel hungry? When do you need to boost the calories before a big day? Nut, oat and dried fruit bars are great to make at home and cart about. 

  1. I’m eating meat.

Controversial and not something I particularly want to preach, but of the British Cycling olympic squad, only 1/2 are vegetarian. That doesn’t mean you need to have a steak every night, or even meat every day. You can make conscious choices to help the planet including meat free days. But the high quality proteins make a huge difference.

  1. Fresh, green veg… all of it.

I’m eating a hole host of high quality vegetables every day. Along with some other superfoods and seeds, you just can’t replace fresh veg! Make sure you’re getting plenty into your evening meal to keep the nutrients high. I’ve been ill once in the last 2 years, that’s not a coincidence. 

  1. Learn a routine and stick to it.

I eat the same things for breakfast every day, fuel training sessions with the same supplements and eat similar balanced dinners. I fuel the night before big sessions with certain foods so that when racing comes around, nothing changes. My body knows exactly how to burn what it’s given, and I’m not taking any risks of trying new stuff. Pasta for breakfast on race day? Hahah u mad?

  1. Sunday funday.

Sunday I eat a strict breakfast, eggs, avocado & seeds on toast for lunch… or some form of superfood salad and then eat what I want for the rest of the day. This is great, I always look forward to it and know that a small blowout isn’t going to affect my performance at all. 

There’s so many crazy diets around. Do eat this, don’t eat that. The reality is our body is an immensely complex system that needs a bit of everything! I won’t pretend I’m a nutritional expert by any stretch of the imagination… But by eating well at meal times, fuelling well and cutting down on processed foods, I’m feeling better and my performance has shot up!

6 days out from Hamburg, lets see how it all holds up in a race situation! 

Ironman Staffs – We Go Again?

Still licking my wounds from the Challenge Championship, as fast as it came round, it’s done. And my eyes have to turn to Ironman Staffordshire.

DSC_5218Two 70.3 races a week apart was always going to be a tall order, but with a solid performance at the Championship, I feel like I’m in a great position headed into Staffs. 

On Sunday only 41 seconds separated me and Brett, who went on to win our Age-Group and the overall age group race…. That’s if you ignore the swim and transition 1. Almost 10 minutes actually separated our times. So we know where the work is to be done.

Yet again I got on my bike completely out of touch with the rest of the race. I biked within myself, for some reason my legs just didn’t have the same aggression I often have. I was flat, empty, though still moving fast.

DSC_5306I managed to come home with the 4th fastest overall age-group bike split, only a few minutes behind some of the pros.

Then my run, this is where I wanted the focus to be. I wanted to run like I knew I could. Hard, fast and controlled. With a 1:21 half marathon and 10 seconds between my slowest and fastest 7km lap, I’d say it was pretty much text book for what I was capable of. I know there is more time in there, but on the day, I didn’t have an extra ounce of speed. 

To finish the day in 6th and 11th amateur is still a solid effort considering I came out the water in 155th!

DSC_5176So we turn to Staffs. And the focus has to be on seeing if I can show the gains I’ve made in the pool through the off season. I have to swim a good line, on good feet at a good pace. And it may not click into place, but I’ll be giving it a good go.

It’s nice to have a pressure free race in front of a “home crowd”. A lot of people will be able to support that often can’t get out to see me race!

I’ll be starting around 7:15 Sunday in Chasewater park. Though you won’t see me swim, and I’ll fairly shortly vanish off onto the bike course to try and dish all kinds of damage into my legs.

DSC_5368The plan is to start running in Stafford some time around 10:15, and this is where the atmosphere will be. So if you want to get yourself down, make sure you’re well positioned by 10am to watch the fun. It’s a 2.5 lap run course that does a lap of the centre, before making it’s way up to do a lap of the castle.

I’ve got no expectation for this race. I’d quite like to pick up a spot for the 70.3 World Championships in Nice, but the focus is still to race hard, enjoy it and see what my body is capable of before we head into the last block before Ironman Hamburg.
If you’re tracking at home I’m number 110. Enjoy! 

DSC_5508

2019 – the next steps.

Hello!

DSC02405It’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything. A lot has happened! World champs, a bit of training, another new bike fit, finalising the race calendar, a change of club, working on my photography business.

While writing this it’s Friday Morning. I’ve just got out the pool after hitting some big PB’s over 100 metres and yesterday I enjoyed my first rest day since we flew back from Spain. It’s amazing how long ago three weeks feels!

I won’t lie, I’ve kept no secrets in saying that I am disappointed with my performance in Spain.

I swam poor, I biked well considering the terrain, and I ran poor. The result, 7th in the AG and 26th in the AG field, you might say is a good one. But when I look to how I’ve been performing in training, I know I am capable of so much more. I won’t pretend I’m a strong cyclist in the hills, we all know I’m not. So to hold my own was a great positive, and there were no back issues! But, I know there’s more in there.

DSC_4107I don’t have any excuses for the run, I just didn’t have the legs on the day, and since then we’ve been working tirelessly to find out why.

I’ve had another bike fit, to see if that allows me to run stronger off the bike, we’ve worked hard in open water and in the pool to look for some cheap gains. And we’ve improved my run. I currently feel like my swim/run is up there with the best it’s ever been, but, that needs to start being translated into the way I race.

Last week was the 2nd biggest training week I’ve ever had, and the few days that followed were no smaller. Running off the bike when the body is exhausted at the end of a long block is the closest we can come to replicating an Ironman run leg. For those of you that want numbers, it was 2529 TSS in 11 days. 230 TSS per day average.

DSC02432For those that don’t understand that, TSS is a training stress score. The stress put on your body from any given session, calculated by some clever algorithms. And 230 for me is the equivalent of a 36km (22.5 mile) run, at 3 hour marathon pace. Or a 5 hour “steady state” bike ride with some intervals. Every day, for 11 days.

So as you can imagine, by day 4 I was smoked.

Day 8 of the block was a 1 hour bike and a 20.5 mile run off the bike, 33km to be exact. I was lucky enough to share it with my parents, them on the bikes, me pounding the pavement. It was thoroughly enjoyable, though my legs didn’t have quite as much fun.

DSC_4815We talked the world away, and with a strong last 30 minutes, I came home almost on the nose of the 3 hour marathon average pace.

Day 9 was another tough day, I woke up with understandably heavy legs to knock out 4.5km in the pool, weights and a 30 minute jog. This really made sure the legs were cooked before day 10. The last of the big runs.

I struggled to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone the thought of a chunky 90 minute bike and 2x5km run off the bike. But none the less I had a good go at the bike, despite my legs feeling completely ruined.

What followed was the first sign since February of the performance I know I can do. The type of spark I’ve been working so hard to find.

DSC02415I bumbled in through the front door from the bike, kit off, change jersey, running shoes on. And I was out. 2x5km “hard”.

The goal time was 19:10 per 5km, a tall order.

It didn’t take long before I was well up into the amber heart rate zones, knocking on the door of the red. Trying desperately to control my breathing on the small “hills” of my local Eaton loop.

“Stay smooth, stay strong”.

452A6279-3The words echoed in my mind. And before I knew it, the first 5km was over. I didn’t check the time, but I knew the pace was solid. And there was absolutely no way my body was going to be doing another.

But none the less, I took the full 3 minutes rest to talk myself into the second, and I was off.

“Stay smooth, stay strong.”

A quick look at my watch and it confirmed what I already knew. The pace was good, but I was hurting for it. Not fully emptying the tank, I knew there was still one day before I could let my body rest, and an injury wouldn’t help anyone at this point in time.

DSC_4786My heavy legs were hammering the silent roads, my panting all that I could hear. 1km…. 2km…. 2.5km… 3km…. 3.1km… I was breaking the distances smaller and smaller, into manageable chunks for myself.

But one thing was for sure, I was running, actually properly running.

I was back and it felt great.

Into the last 1km and I knew I just had to get to the end in one piece, nothing special, nothing magic, just don’t slow down, and don’t hurt yourself. Easy enough?

Job done.

Jog home, report to base.

I slumped on the grass outside the house to check the times.
18:14, 17:38.

DSC02441Wait what?

Far beyond what I thought I was currently capable of, and back to the form I was starting to see early season.

There and then, I’d run the confidence back into my legs. We’re back in business.

Now all this is great, and looks super promising for what’s to come in the next few weeks.

But the harsh reality is that nobody cares about how fast you train or how well you move behind closed doors. So, a week on Sunday, we go again.

DSC_4804At the Challenge Championships, Slovakia. A 70.3 race, where I’m hoping to show what I’m really capable of this year.

Then another go a week later, at Ironman stafford 70.3… and again at Swansea half marathon at the end of the month.

Why?

Because they’re pressure free hit outs. Who cares what happens? Until Ironman Hamburg I certainly don’t!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be there and I’ll be racing hard to really see what I’m capable of. Turning myself inside out. But not for a time, not to win, not to beat people. Just to see how far I can take push my body, and where we’re up to after another solid block.

If at first you don’t succeed – try, try and try again.