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The price of your bike – does it really matter?

Bikes.

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The bane of my life, our lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well what’s all the fuss?

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

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

And it’s metal.

With 7 gears.

I may as well ride a wheel barrow.

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

So I’m certainly not letting you blame that.

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

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

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

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

They are slower.

Fact.

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

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

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

And I’m by no means the fastest cyclist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Doing a Triathlon – 5 top tips from novice to beginner

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is:

“I’ve just signed up for my first triathlon, any tips?”
or
“Jack, I’m doing a triathlon, help”

So below I’ve compiled my top 5 tips for any new starter.

Whether you’re doing an ironman or a sprint distance, I’m sure these will help you in your quest.

I’m by no means an expert myself, having only started in the sport a little over two years ago, I’m still very much a novice. Learning a whole set of new tricks race to race, but I’m slowly getting there. So here’s my best advice for you all to complete that new years resolution.

1. Get the right gear.

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Now this is a very important one. No i’m not talking about spraying £5k+ at a bike, or £150 on running shoes that don’t fit your feet properly, or getting so much swim gear you make Michael Phelps look ill-prepared.
I’m talking about getting a solid bike, that fits. Go to a shop, chat to the workers. Chat to your friends that cycle. Anyone that knows anything about cycling, they’ll be able to help you buy a steady bike, that gets you from A to B in a solid time.

Yes, some bikes are faster than others.
And yes, some are a lot more expensive, but really, unless you’re attacking top end times, it doesn’t make a world of difference.

 

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I’ve got a £350 Pinnacle Dolomite 1, Evans Cycles bottom of the range bike. And I can keep up with almost any chaingang on it, it really goes!
Your legs are worth more than any bike can buy.

Now once you’ve got your bike, get it measured and fitted, this will make sure you’re comfortable and not setting yourself up from a fail from the get go.

Cycling or padded shorts are a very helpful purchase, you only need to spend £20/30 to save your behind from getting very sore! I don’t mean super tight lycra, any mountain bike shorts will do the trick.

(Heathen, sorry roadies!!!)

The second most important thing is running shoes. Again, go to a running shop, get on a treadmill and get a good pair that fit your running style. They’re there to help you, it’s their job, their lifestyle, they know what’s what.

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This is literally one of the best bits of advice anyone can give you. Running is where you will pick up all of your injuries.
Trust me, you’re chatting to the injury veteran.

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In my triathlon career I’ve spent more time on the bench and in the phsyio than running, so these are a fantastic investment. A good pair of socks will also go a long way to keep the blisters at bay.

Then get yourself a comfortable pair of goggles, and you’re ready to take on the world!

Stay warm through winter, don’t over dress through summer and you’ll be sure to have a smile on your face come race day.

 

 
2. Don’t get injured.

Now this sounds trivial. Duhhhh. Don’t get injured, how hard can it be?!

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Well, it’s tricker than you think. There are a few simple ways to keep the injuries down and the training up.
Firstly, don’t do too much too soon. I know you’ll think you’re superman now you’ve put down the beers for electrolyte drinks. But don’t let yourself get carried away.
Listen to your body, and take it one step at a time. Don’t run before you can walk, so to speak.
Next, make sure you stretch before or after training. This helps keep your muscles loose and reduces the likelihood of injury.
And lastly, if it hurts, stop.

The extra 3k is never worth 4 weeks off.

After all, recovery is 50% of training, if you don’t recover, you don’t get faster!

 

 

3. Play to your strengths.

This is one of the most common mistakes in triathlon. Most people start triathlon because they are strong in one of the disciplines but wanna branch out and try something new.
But don’t neglect that discipline.
If I use myself as an example, most people will know that I’m a cyclist, that’s what I do.

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And yes, I’m focussing very hard on my swim and run at the moment, to try and catch up.

BUT.

That doesn’t mean I don’t cycle. Keeping my cycling legs on top form gives me edge in that part of the race, giving me a bit more space to breathe in the other two. If you’re good at it, use it.
Also that makes you more likely to enjoy it, so do what you enjoy!! It’ll help, I promise.

 

 

4. Practice racing.

This is one you read in almost any internet post about starting triathlon. Don’t try anything new on race day, it could ruin your race!
From equipment, to nutrition to pacing. If you’ve not practiced it, don’t try it.

When you get to race day, you want it to be monotonous. Enter auto-pilot and enjoy the day. Soak in the atmosphere.

Not spend your race worrying about what’s gonna happen next!

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Train with the right nutrition, walk through your transitions and make sure you cover every eventuality.

Especially how to fix a puncture!

Nobody wants to end a race over something trivial that could have been covered at home the week before.

 

5. Eat your greens.

Now this will make a lot of you laugh.

Eat your greens?

You serious?

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Yes, yes i’m very serious.

Everyone rages on about protein shakes, carbs, high calories. Arguably you don’t need any of these.

Yes, recover and fuel yourself properly.

Yes, take food on your rides, actual food, not greens.

But the micro-nutrients vegetables offer you can do things for your muscles that you never even imagined. Spinach, pineapple, cherry juice, beetroot the list goes on

Ok, ok, I know they’re not green.

Clever cloggs.

But the point still stands, fruit and veg will make you feel fresh and clean, you’ll know when you’ve tried it. Not stodgy like the morning after a takeaway. You won’t regret it, and it’s guilt free calories, the unrefined sugars will make you struggle to put weight on!

There are obviously plenty of other things to consider when starting a triathlon. But if you keep yourself healthy & recovered through your new programme. As well as happy and fuelled, I’m sure you’ll do well.

I look forward to racing some of you this year.

I promise you’ll enjoy it, although your legs might not!!!

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If you didn’t win – did you lose?


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

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

If you didn’t win, did you lose?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

But are they losers?

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

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

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

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

And it’s the taking part that counts right?

Right?

Ah.

If only that was the case.

Unfortunately, life isn’t that easy.

They lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But believe in yourself.

Because it will pay off.

And losers, become winners.

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

 

 

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Crikey – they look good!

The classic pre-race anxiety is hard enough let alone when you psych yourself out over what your opponents looks like. And nine times out of ten, you’re wasting your energy. And this is why.

What are you actually perceiving when you pre judge someone? You’re basing their ability entirely on the aesthetic they have.


And yes, we all do it.

In fact I’m one of the worst for it.

But 80% of sport is won or lost in the mind. So don’t talk yourself out of it before you’ve even started!!


But are you even racing them?

The beauty of our sports is that there can be 25,000 competitors. And you’re still only racing yourself.

If you come home with a smile on your face at the end of the day, you’re the real winner.

And yes, in the new debate I am on the side that believes if you finish last, you are a loser. And that will follow in another blog.

However if you have worked hard, improved and taken a step forward, that is to be commended.


I remember being at the start of a team time trial in Wales, Port Talbot 4up.

Now I was always going to be nervous, first team time trial, first 25m time trial, two men that had just finished 10th at nationals to follow and only my third time on a time trial bike.

Safe to say I was laying eggs.

This wasn’t helped when half way through the warm up team bottrill purred past, full matching kit, perfect precision in their line, all 4 with slick disc wheels singing the slow, deep “vroom, vroom, vroom” sound we all love.

They looked sharp. Really sharp.

But why were we worried? Just cause they can afford nice kit, didn’t mean they could use it.

And often people are looking at you thinking the same thing.

I mean, this year I rode a brand new canyon, bambino helmet and a sharp skin suit. For anyone looking at a 12 year old on gear like that, they’re either fairly nippy, or just too rich.


Just too rich.

A common phenomenon in cycling.

As the middle aged, mid life crisis cyclists begin to get more serious, the competitive racing side of the sport is evolving rapidly.

And people have realised that by throwing money at some nice gear, it does make a big difference.

But.

That doesn’t make you fast.

Miles do that.


Anyway… So as we stand in port talbot expecting to have team botrill plow through us. I was petrified.

But my legs really wanted to play.

Dropping the 4th member of our team 15km in, meant we were a 3 man job from a long way out.

15km left one was hanging on.

And the last 8km was the Schofield choo choo train, dragging the boys home.

My eager, over excited legs having to control themselves.

A very bitty, jumpy first ttt. Not one to be proud of.

But we finished second. One second behind first, and almost 20 seconds ahead of team botrill.

And it made me remember, yet again.

There’s so much more to our sport than fancy bikes, shaved legs and middle aged men in Lycra.

Attitude, resilience, personality, the list goes on.

If you believe you can succeed, you will.

On that start line, there will always be people with a nicer bike, nicer gear, bigger legs, whatever else you judge them by.


But you will always be you.

And you will always bring it.

So stop worrying about the fanny with a 15 grand pinarello, he’s probably worked hard in other aspects of his life to deserve that.

Most of the time, you’re not even gonna be in the same race.

Just worry about yourself.

Lay it all out.

Hit that pb.

And go home with a smile on your face.

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3rd in the world: A few Thankyous

So my 2016 season has finally come to an end.

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

Yes. A beer.

An alcoholic beer too!

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

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So the world championships.

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

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

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

Play cycling.

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

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

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

Then it hit me like a train.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with this:

New Zealand Course Records

#backyourself

#roadtokona

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A Tough Few Weeks

2016.

It’s been a strange one that’s for sure. A real roller coaster.

A bumpy start with 2 months out of training, then trying to balance finishing an architecture with starting training again.

A perfect end to my degree followed by a strong block or racing polished off with a fairytale silver medal at European championships.

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Throwing the canyon into the mix saw 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 3rd… A real burst of speed I didn’t know my legs had. But it can’t last forever.

4 weeks ago saw me take on my first 12 hour time trial.

Yes, you read it right. 12 hours. On a bike.

It’d be my first ever 12 hour to go with my first 50 mile & 100 mile, both completed this year. This would give me a ‘best all rounder’ score. They basically take your average speed from these three races and compare it to everyone else’s. Cheshire doesn’t have any particularly fast courses, but it would be a start.

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So, Long distance. Crazy time scale. Going to hurt…..

Where do I sign up?

A tough day on heavy legs saw me come home in 5th. 269.99miles.

A mixed set of emotions surrounded the result. It was another new all time bath record. And an all time Bath best all round season record. Which was the goal.

But once I’d done it, I knew there was more. With people being peeled off bikes I felt like i should have really emptied the tank in the mid section. Having raced my sister the 200m back to the car an hour after the race, I knew I’d let myself down.

So back to the drawing board, back to what I do best. Hard sessions and long miles. Finishing August with 101 hours of training. The first time I’ve ever completed all the Strava challenges in one month.

2,221km cycling.

205km running.

30,000m swimming.

A good month complimented by some good results.

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A brief 4 day taper took me into the middle distance European championships. A beautiful race in Austria, where the wheels well and truly fell off.

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4:20-4:25 was the target.

35′ Swim. 2:20 bike. 1:25 run. With transitions kept to sub 5.

I entered the water feeling good. The washing machine start not phasing me. A stitch half way was all that held me back.

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Out of the water in 33:38 I knew I’d started well. A slight fumble in transition saw me lose a few seconds but I knew I was still on track.

As I entered the bike course I saw a LOT of drafting. And not a single ref. Knowing I’d be up against it I put my head down, and let my legs start to purr away.

Finishing the first lap in 1:08 with plenty more in the tank I knew I was moving well.

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What I hadn’t remembered is that I hadn’t eaten yet, had only drank 1 bottle and it was 26 degrees.

Idiot.

I finished the bike in 2:20:38, spot on target.

Made it through t2 in an electric time, barely pausing for breath.

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And then I fell to pieces.

My stomach felt like it was being torn in every direction. I was nauseous, dizzy. I had blown like a train.

My legs had so much to offer, they were ready to play, anxious to be let loose at the 5k laps.

But my stomach didn’t want to play. Some terrible nutritional decisions had ruined my race. A 1:43 half brought me home in 4:42 with my legs underworked.

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A bitter pill to swallow.

My slowest run of 2016, on one of the biggest stages yet. Leaving me well out of the rankings for my age group.

None the less, a promising swim and solid bike leg on a hilly course leave a lot of positives.

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It’s just a shame that 18 hours later, my 11km relaxed recovery run was 7 seconds faster per km.

Lots of reviews to read, attempt to dissect what can improve my IBS in the heat, and more discipline to stick to the game plan.

And pray I can resolve it in the next 3 weeks.

Until then, at world championships, watch this space.

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European Championships – 2nd

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

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

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

None the less I had no other choice.

The week of the race was a bumpy one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game time.

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

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

T1 was a shambles.

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

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

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

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

And I was flying.

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

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

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

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Mission accomplished.

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

A comfortable target, when I’m on form.

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

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

By the third lap I was in tatters.

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

But I was still running.

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

I wouldn’t quit.

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

10km left.

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

And then it got me.

The cramp.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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9:58, 2nd.

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

European championships – success.

Drinks all round it seemed.

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Let’s go get worlds.

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Miles and W’s.

Miles. My favourite concept.

Do miles, go fast. Fact.

I can already feel the high intensity, low volume advocates amongst you squirming. Wriggling around in your chairs.

Miles are speed.

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It’s been a long week. A really long week.

As I check in during my rest between sessions, nothing makes me more excited than the thought of tomorrow’s rest day.

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Another 30 hour week to slot into the start of July, May and June checking out at both exactly 92 hours of training.

That’s a lot of miles.

So I’m overtrained, fatigued, off form, going slow, doing damage. Maybe, maybe not.

I took a rest day last Saturday, didn’t do a lot. Socialised at Henley, did a 3 hour drive, had a nice dinner. Easy money. And after just one day off, I turned up to the start of the Manchester and district 100 mile tt.

Now I’ve never done a 100 mile tt before. In fact it was only the 4th time I’d ever sat on a tt bike.

I’ve heard the rumours, read the Internet reviews. ‘Tt bikes take 3 months to get used to’… ‘It’s only on your 3rd 100 you get close to pacing it right’.

And in fairness, you cyclists & triathletes do come up with some absolute nonsense.

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I choo’d round in a comfortable 3:53:04. My heart rate not even breaching the high 60’s. Second to Ben Norbury, Congleton’s finest, by 20 seconds. Who was later peeled from the bike.

How? Miles.

So that started the week off nicely. An hour in the pool Monday, my first run in 6 months, and another pacey 90km on the road bike. Fine. Tuesday another hour and a 10k run.

They’re adding up these miles.

So on a heavy set of legs I span over to the start of the Congleton 10 mile tt, only to see a fresh Ben Norbury on the start line again.

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Well it was my mums birthday, so I couldn’t put down a bad performance. But everyone else’s rest was sure to help their legs. I smashed round with a heart rate of low 160’s, again not over 170 or even getting near my max of 190.

So I must have gone slow, because I’m over trained, right?

I checked in a pretty 20:45, a win. 21 seconds up on Ben and almost 3 minutes out from third.

How? miles.

Since then the week has developed into 610km on the bike, 65km running and a cheeky 9,000m in the pool. (Not including last Sunday’s 100).

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Ok ok you get my point, I do miles, but could I be faster if I brought back the mileage?

Probably not. It’s all about the base. The bottom of the pyramid.

8 hours sleep a night, 20-30 minutes of stretching and rolling a day. And a healthy diet closely monitored by the head of athlete welfare (my mum) and I’m fresh from day to day.

As I start to taper for Europeans in 2 weeks I have 4 races to really explore the speed available.

I haven’t had the time to run far enough to do any damage to the race. The miles just aren’t there. But as my fatigue comes down and my form comes up.

Watch this space.

#kahaarecoming

DCIM102GOPRO

DCIM102GOPRO

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Team Time Trialling

Another trip to Wales saw yet another strong race for me.

The first time to lay down some real power on the canyon, and goodness me it didn’t disappoint.

Slippery is an understatement.


An immature approach to the start line saw me quivering at the sight of the other teams with their disc wheels and shiny skin suits on the start line.

Team Botrill purring past in a beautifully unified fashion.

None the less being 20 years younger and less experienced than anyone else on the team, they assured me we’d be ok.

So I went through my usual warm up. I was nervous, anxious to go. A good feeling.

My legs felt good, I’d done 1800km in the two weeks prior so I was slightly fatigued but the rest day previously had freshened them up nicely.

We went out quite steady, 25 miles was a distance I’d never raced before, so I was anxious to reserve myself slightly to not burn out.

And we built and built and built. It soon became apparent that the boys were struggling and my caffeine induced friendzy had kept me in the green.


So I took longer turns on the front, struggling to keep a pace sustainable by the back rider.

Three times my over excited legs dropped them off the back, a position that doesn’t benefit anyone.

Despite my inexperienced pacing we pushed on. Steve struggling to hold my wheel, Darren his, and Laurence gone.

I knew there wouldn’t be much help in the last 6 miles so I gritted my teeth, put my head down and let my legs take care of business.

With nothing left in the tank to sprint Darren smoothly whirred across the line, putting us firmly in third place by 1 second.

49:34. Not bad for a first effort!

There’s more to come.

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The Dragon Ride

Everywhere you go in the south west someone has heard of it.

“Oooo the dragon ride”.

305km with near to 5,000m elevation. Enough to make a tour rider shiver.

It was back in December that I signed up, bit the bullet with some others that had since backed out. And before long I was on the train to Cardiff ready for the quick pre race spin to my hotel in Bridgend.

It’s a strange experience staying in a hotel by yourself pre race. Sure there were lots of riders around, but they clustered in groups, intimidating and unsociable. So I prepped my bike, readied my kit and left the hotel room, for a little explore.

Almost giving in to the jungle book at the cinema, I bought myself some breakfast and snacks, and headed into the pub for chicken and chips.

The 5am alarm made me glad I was being somewhat antisocial. A quiet recluse.

Does it count as a race if you sleep the night before? The classic loud, stuffy hotel room minimised the hours spent sleeping. But none the less I was up, eaten, and spinning over to the start line by 6.

A quick debrief and we were off, 6:55, we were the second wave.

My ‘whatever happens, DO NOT, DO NOT AT ALL attack off the start’… Lasted a strong 1600m before I was the 5th man in splinter group of 5 rapidly attaching off the front.

My heart rate abnormally high, I knew we were in for a long day. Especially when 5 became 4, 4 became 3, and before the top of the second climb we were a 2 man attack.

Me and Paul, (my new best friend).

By 100km I was in a bad way, 3 climbs down and a solid 30km average I wasn’t going to cope.

The first 3 main climbs were tough but beautiful. Stunning roads that twisted up through the mountains, deep into the Brecons.

Paul battered on, dragging me through, and we soon found ourselves beyond the majority of the first wave, with a few animals long gone ahead of us.
The new  group of four lasted until just after half way when me and Paul decided to veto the food stop and keep our heads down. 160km in and we were politely informed there was only 4 riders out ahead. Making us 5th and 6th.

But I was hurting, really hurting. We made it round the next 80km slowly, getting over taken by a very strong group of 4 on the second timed climb.

A climb I didn’t know I was going to finish. I was fighting off the nausea and we still had 120km.

But I was never going to let myself quit.

Head down and sucking Pauls wheel I was in the depths of the pain cave. Deep within myself doing everything I could to hang on, trying to absorb the breathtaking Welsh countryside.

With 60km to go I lost Paul and found myself with no group, no morale and no energy. I had food and water so would just have to take care of business for the last 60km.

But that was no easy feat.

With 30km left I had all but given up, I was done, empty. The physical exhaustion id searched for for so long had engulfed me. Chewed me up and was ready to spit me out. It was a horrible place to be.

Then out of nowhere, a quick tap on my shoulder and a loud, welsh ‘come on buddy!’

PAUL!

He’d snook into the rest station to wait for me, but I hadn’t stopped. Although now he was here to drag me around the last 30km.

Reinvigorated, new life in the legs. We smashed on. We might actually make this!

We crossed the line in 11:15, roughly 13th and 14th.

I had a horrible ache through my whole body, an empty set of legs and a terrible sickness from the sun…. but I did have a brand new friend.

The dragon ride is one I’d reccomend to anyone. Beautiful views, incredible climbs and landscapes. I’d do it again in a heart beat. But it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. 

A lengthy roll, a kfc and good nights sleep before a full buffet of cooked breakfast ahead.
Dragon – slain.