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Ironman New Zealand 

Flying out to the other side of the world for an ironman was an interesting one, here’s how I got on and coped with the challenge of Ironman New Zealand.

No support. Lots of speculation. Lots of doubt.

Was it too early in the season? Was I still too heavy? Had my running progressed enough? Would I manage the time zone? Had flu taken too much out of me?

I’d like to take this opportunity to make a huge shoutout to my partners Vigilance QA, without their financial backing for travel & race entries, none of this would have been possible. And avoiding the jetlag had a massively positive impact on the race.

But none the less, worries and doubts aside, I would be on the start line, and I was determined to make it count.

Transition all set, a slight blip in forgetting a key part of my hydration system, luckily the wonderful Australian family in the hotel ran me back in the car to pick it up. Babysitting me once again as they have all week, something for which I’ll be forever grateful! A great group of people I’ve really enjoyed being around.

The weather looked set for a fast day, slight clouds, 21 degrees, not too much sunshine. One of the reasons the race was picked in the first place. Warm, but generally mild for a Southern Hemisphere ironman.

Well that was until the wind picked up, and everything fell apart.

The swim was nearly cancelled, with the waves being so high, with 5% of the competitors being fished out of the water before this leg of the race had even reached half way. And 13.5% not making it to the end of the day.

A day in which the pros added 30 minutes to their normal ironman New Zealand time, the age groupers were in for a long day.

So into the surfers paradise we went, being hurled & thrown about in the Great Lake Taupo, taking no prisoners.
Generally the number of scuffles was kept to a minimum. I only encountered another swimmer once as they were thrown over me by a big wave. Rare for the normal washing machine of a mass start.

Everyone was too busy focusing on staying the right side of the water. No sinkers today.

As we approached the turn boy at half way my numbers were good. I was in control. I’m a slow swimmer, despite improving week on week, I’m still a way off, but I’m aware of that.

For me the swim is about damage limitation, you can’t win the race on the swim, but you can throw it away.

These words ringing in my ears I knew I had to attempt to plow on, work with the waves, don’t fight them.

It was only after the turn point when I realised, despite swimming fast, I was swimming far. A new pb on speed, but it counts for nothing when you swim an extra 700 metres. An extra 20%. That I didn’t need.

It lasted forever.

When I was finally out of the water I knew it had been a brutal one. 1:25 on my watch, i’d have to pray the others had a rough time too.

I knew on a good day the other boys were capable of swimming about 50 minutes, so I called them half an hour ahead, and moved on.
Obviously there were only 3 bikes in transition, the rest gone. A sight I’m not unfamiliar with.


Half an hour to take back, 180km bike.

That’s a tall order.

I’d left a lot of work to be done, but there was still 90% of the race left.

And the only thing I love more than riding my time trial bike, is riding my time trial bike in a chase.

Head down, legs on, play time.

And everything sprung to life.
I’d read in Laura Trott & Jason Kenny’s book recently, when you’re at your peak it feels smooth, effortless.

And I was really firing on all cyclinders.

My heart racing at 145 beats per minute, higher than it’s been for exercise over 4 hours in 2 years. But I barely even felt like I was racing.

Little did I know at the time, it would sit there for the full 9 hours.

I was still so far back, people at home would be panicking. Well, Mum would be panicking.

The one woman that I knew would be watching the race inseparable from the screen, heart on her sleeve, living & breathing every time stop as if she were there. From thousands of miles away, the other side of the world to me, at ironman new zealand.

So I’d have to make that time check fast, and move through the field.

First time check, 7 athletes down, into 15th. Hundreds passed in the process.

Breathe mum. Breathe.

Now a lot of people say I do too many miles. Too much junk.

Riding to Skegness into a headwind for 9.5 hours, at 115 beats per minute.

Useless.

Useless until you turn into a headwind for 45km. 45km, 145bpm. 90 minutes.

Not a single bit of me was phased, this was child’s play.

My legs could eat through these miles without even telling me they were tired.

Keep your “junk miles”.

45km of brutal, hard work. Up the hill and into the wind. Legs in full swing, athlete after athlete going back past me, none in my age group.

I could see it unfolding, I knew what was happening on the other side of the world. A small smile crept across my face.

There would be panic at home: “He’s blown up”. “Went too hard”. “Falling to pieces”.

The reasonable voice dad would definitely wade in “he knows what he’s doing, it’s a long way yet”.

Checkpoint 2, 90km, 6th place.

Athletes were getting few & far between as I approached the front end. I knew I was chasing the better end of my age group, the racers, each more experienced than me by a good 5 years.

Still, it was no use to me to panic. All I could do was keep going, I’d barely even turned on the gas. A Diesel engine ticking over at a single speed: fast.

I raced back to the final turn, emptied some of the tank. I knew everyone else would be taking it easy, anticipating the brutal haul back into town, saving their legs for the marathon.

Not me.

My legs would take the marathon no matter what, because I was going to tell them to.

This was my chance, on the bike, attack while they’re resting.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Bingo.

135km in, 1st place.

I’d later find out my bike leg was under 20 minutes behind many of the pros, but could I hold it together.

Get up, stay up. You’re not throwing this one away. Not this far from home.

I really worked that last leg of the bike, retreated deep inside my mind and just let my legs go into auto pilot. One job, 145 beats per minute. That would be enough.

Off the bike and transition was empty. 80 bikes set in place, the race wasn’t even close to being over.

Months of work on my running, 2016 was a terrible year. Forever on the back foot, 2017 was going to be different.

Too heavy to run. Not enough track sessions. Need a coach.

They said.
My legs were out to tell them otherwise.

My legs felt strong, the winter miles on the bike had really paid off. A 5:05 to the front of the field, with gas left to go.

But a marathon is a long way, so I got my head down and worked my way out.

My IBS started to struggle, it was a warm day but my nutrition couldn’t ruin this course. Not now. Listen to the body, push through the pain.

In New Zealand the marathon is a 3, 14km loop course. I knew this meant the second loop was going to be make or break.

First loop – fresh.

Second loop tired and one to go.

Final loop – run it home, make it count.

The ironman marathon is a crazy place, a series of bonds, friendships, agreements. Some with chats, others the odd word, many in complete silence. Just two people, heads down, enjoying the suffering with another.

My first lap was strong, I kept reserved in the sun, plenty of ice, the odd orange and some electrolytes. Please don’t cramp later.

The clouds had pushed away in the wind, leaving the sun baking down.
Then it hit me, and it hit hard.

I knew stopping wasn’t an option, I’d travelled too far to bottle this medal and world championship place, goals on my mind almost all my life. 

And so the mind games begin.

Fighting every natural instinct the body has. Stop. Drink. Shade. Ice.

Run.


I pushed through the second lap, slowly but surely creeping to the end, fighting off the cramp, hoping I wasn’t overtaken.

If I could hold 3:30 pace, it’d be a mean feat in the sun for someone to come round me, especially from the gap id opened up on the bike.

Dragged on by person after person, people next to me, people on the other side of the world, people I don’t even know.

And then it struck me. As I started the last lap.

Since I got on my bike, I’d been over taken by 3 people, all of which were on the run.

People were hurting, everyone was hurting. All I had to do, was get after it, and bring it home. Make it count.

Step by step, I managed to run a 3:28 marathon.

Ironman New Zealand completed.

First place in the bag, Kona in the calendar, all world athlete rankings points on the board.

2017 has begun.

Ironman New Zealand Trophy

Ironman New Zealand 20-24 podium

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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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World Champs – “But it’s only Age Group”

I’m very excited with the news that despite missing out on Kona this year by 90 seconds, I’ll be able to race a world championships anyway. An opportunity that will only boost my racing character and add invaluable world championship experience. A different time zone, different weather and the classic hotel accommodation will all be experiences helping me get used to big races in the future.


Qualifying for long distance World’s in Oklahoma with my time in Wales and middle distance from my Cotswold Classic time. A 4:20 half and a top 100 finish in Wales made for a comfortable qualification, with a lot of work to do this year.

Qualifying through the British Triathlon system is an interesting one, you have to be within 115% of the winning AG time to qualify. An easy feat some might say, however if this is the case, why isn’t everyone racing for GB?

One of the most common phrases in amateur triathlon. They’re a GB athlete… yeah but ‘it’s only age group’. But unless you’re in the Olympic team, there are no other GB teams outside of age group.

Oh… Yeah.

Hadn’t thought of that had you?



Well for a start any stash with the words GBR followed by your surname should never ever be turned down. Ever. And secondly, to qualify for Kona you don’t have to be too far off the times achieved for an age-group athlete going to ITU’s.

Granted it doesn’t hold the same prestige as Kona, or the same prize money, but even the elite triathletes race ITU and Challenge events for race experience, prize money and to keep the sponsors happy. Having just attained sponsors for 2016 that will be helping me through my path to World and European championships this summer I am already starting to feel the heat.


4 months off with injury and no heavy training on the cards any time soon it’s a struggle to see myself in any form for the coming season. Although that doesn’t matter, because it’s only age group right?

Although there is no team outside of age group for long or middle distance, thus making it impossible to represent the country in other ways at these events? Jan Frodeno the world champion doesn’t race for Germany, he represents Canyon, Aspics, 2xu and his other sponsors. So this is the perfect stepping stone for gaining sponsorship, experiencing races and keeping the dream alive.

So how is it possible to be anything other than ‘only age group’ if you want to represent your country?

It’s not!


I will also be racing for sponsors, and luckily my sponsors will be helping me with the financial side of racing, but is it not everyones dream to represent their country in some way? And unless you’re an olympic athlete, this is rather hard to do, especially for those of us who are made for them slow twitch gains.

Personally holding the dream of one day holding a pro card, I’m not too worried about the stepping stones to bigger things. Being able to cycle 240km at over 33kph, being able to run a half marathon sub 1:23, and slowly but surely getting there in the pool, I’d thoroughly enjoy a race with any amateur turning their noses up at age group athletes, however even if you’re .01% under that cut off, and take one of the last team spots, take the chance, buy the kit, do yourself proud.