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Hard Decisions – Dropping Out

As many of you will know it’s been a tough few weeks for me. Since the week of Manchester marathon I’ve been struggling with a knee injury that I just haven’t been able to overcome, no matter how hard we tried.

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It’s put me in a really bad mind set for the last few weeks, I’ve been constantly trying to get myself patched up for a race, that I’d never have given myself time to be ready for anyway. Beating myself up and rushing back to training that I shouldn’t really be doing. I need to be 100% before I start thinking about racing, not competing for the sake of it.

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I’ve been able to run and swim, although not to my full potential, and I’ve been forced to take a full 6 weeks off the bike. Only breaking the curfew to race a couple of times, making the pain worse again.

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Because of this we decided it best for me to take a complete week off training, resuming this week and holding off riding my time trial bike for another 2 weeks.

And unfortunately the first morning after my test ride my knee was back to being very sore. Due to this I won’t be racing the 70.3 I had planned tomorrow as my practice race and an attempt to qualify for the 70.3 worlds this year.

It’s sad that I won’t be able to race, although we’ve known for a couple of weeks that I wouldn’t be at my full potential. And I have to look at the bigger picture. There’ll be plenty more 70.3’s for me to enter, and I now have unfinished business here in France.

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I’ve started to realise over the last few days that life is too short to worry about these things. I’m only 23 years old. I’ve got 5 years before I even scratch the surface of these pros. And scrambling around trying to string a few little races together isn’t going to help me get there.

So I think some time off, figure out the source of the problem and get myself fully fixed is on the cards. Not rushing the recovery, so I can put together I full rebuild to hopefully save the end of the season.

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It may mean that I miss the championship, my BBAR attempt, and possibly even Ironman UK. Even if it plagues the rest of the season, that’s not ideal for any athlete, and it’s not what anybody wants to hear. But I’ll be back. I have age on my side and I know this is gonna be a long slog, so I have to keep the focus, and know that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. And soon I’ll be back to smash through that 9:30 and 4:15 barrier respectively.

I’m hoping to rebuild the strength through my knee in the coming weeks so I can get stuck into the volume of training my mind and body love. Fitness will take time to rebuild, but it’s time I have on my side.

A big block could see me regain fitness just in time for Ironman UK mid July, provided I don’t encounter any more setbacks! But fate is a cruel mistress.

I’d like to thank my ever supportive friends & family for putting up with me and helping me realise that missing a few months of racing won’t end the world.

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Along with John Honey Physiotherapy for their fantastic work through this period to get me to the start line of races and optimising my recovery time. Hopefully we can work to get this problem solved.

If you’re local to the cheshire area they’re definitely the team for the job!

Until then, rest, recovery and rehab!

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Stay tuned over the coming weeks for a big announcement about my final 2017 sponsor.

They’re wheely good!

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The Next Step – Learning To Race

New Zealand was great.

Sunny, peaceful, relaxing.

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Finally back in the UK it’s time to reflect on the positives and negatives of the trip, pass judgements and decide the next steps moving forward.

Flying out to New Zealand I had one job:

Win the age group. And therefore – qualify for Kona.

Get that golden ticket that so many people spend a life time hunting for.

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And it’s hard for me to say I had a bad race, because I didn’t. I stuck to the plan and executed the result. So when people ask me am I happy with it? Well yes, on that day that was the best I could have done.

On one side of the coin, I biked a 5:05 into the wind. However on my side of the coin I finished the swim with 500 people ahead of me. Not a place to be competitive.

I am capable of so much more. My build up let me down, I was lazy with my diet, amongst other things I wasn’t quite as disciplined and regimented as I like to be.

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And there are so many unanswered questions.

You see, that was the first time I’ve ever ‘raced’ an ironman. By which I mean, pushed on from start to finish, holding an uncomfortable intensity, attempting to go fast rather than purely see the finish line with a smile on my face.

And I learned a lot.

But now I have a whole mind of curiosities. Unanswered questions about myself. So much unfinished business with what I’m capable of.

We can start with the obvious one. A 1:23 swim leaves so much to still be desired.

And what happens if I push the swim? Race myself for the best possible time, rather than just get to my bike. Will my cycle legs still hold out? Will it bite me on the run?

And the bike leg, what happens if I swim faster and get myself into a strong group? Could we use the 12m legal zone to gain 5-10 minutes? Maybe even more.

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My 3:28 marathon was solid, the proudest part of my race. That’s what won the age group for me and running it home down that finishing shoot is a feeling that will get me through a lot of hard sessions in the coming months.

But the medics weighed me at 83kg before the race, and I’ve only been running 6 months. So what can I run at 75kg? What’s my real race weight? Can I push a 3 hour with more training and more resilience? Can my transitions be quicker? Is my nutrition right? Can I handle more caffeine? A new bike position? Better prep? No niggles?

All of these things flying round in my head, and the real answer to a lot of them, is unknown.

But now. In my 3rd season in the sport I’m in the position where Im ready to learn. I can afford to attack races, make mistakes. Fall down, break, push myself too far.

I have to remember that this time last year I’d just started back after 6 months off. And it’d still be another 3 months before I managed to run anything over 5k. So I have a lot of progression still to come.

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It’s time to step it up, and try to begin the transition from a good age grouper, to a seriously competitive one.

And build up the pieces, create the jigsaw of the ‘perfect race’.

I may never find the perfect combination of speed and efficiency, I may never string together a flawless race. But the more mistakes I make, and the closer I get. The faster I’ll become.

And it won’t happen overnight, it’ll be a long journey, a tough process. Nobody likes losing, giving everything and it just not being good enough. A deflating feeling.

But you can’t win every time, and every time you lose it makes you that bit more resilient.

So my next big race is in 4 months time at ironman UK. Everything else will be used as a warm up, a test, an experiment.

I’ll be racing everything I can find from park runs, time trials, duathlons and triathlon. Of all distances, testing myself to work out what I am really capable of.

And as always, the most important part – don’t get injured.

July 14th. Ironman UK.

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See you there.

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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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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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The Rest Day Conundrum

Rest day. Just the thought of it is enough to get any athlete excited.
A day of doing nothing, no training anyway, replenishing the nutrient stores, doing the general admin from the week and making sure you’re fresh for the next block of training.

But do we really need a rest day? Is it just me that gets bored of not being able to train for a whole day once a week?!

Jan Frodeno the current ironman world champion has said that he can take up to three days at a time off training just to make sure he is ready to get every session done at 100%. Although GB rowing coach Dan Harris gives his athletes a morning off once a month, and he’s produced some of the biggest ergos in the under 23 rowing squad!

Had to be careful of the typo there 😉

So what really is the benefit of a rest day? And do we really need one every week.

Well first things first, any good coach will tell you that you need to listen to your body. If you’re overly run down, picking up too many niggles or getting ill. You need to stop, take a rest, get some sleep, get some food in and come back in a couple of days time.
And we all know it’s a fine line between form and failure, many athletes can be injured or ill just after peak as their bodies are pushed right to the limits, working harder than they ever have before.


And yes, I’m also well aware that you don’t get fitter from training, you get fitter from recovering. Recovering well is the key to any athletes success, as much of it happens behind the scenes as it does in the session. Prehab and rehab, fuelling and resting. All major parts of the process.

But if you’re eating well, getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night, and all that’s really making you take a rest day is a little bit of fatigue in the legs, then why not crack on?

 

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Sure, do a lighter session or two once a week, cut back the intensity or the mileage, get some active recovery in. But a rest day doesn’t necessarily have to mean you completely take the day off, there are still gains to be had! A rest day once every two weeks can be just as effective, pushing 100% out of every session for 12-14 solid days can really take it out of you, although testing the physical and mental ability is only going to make you come back stronger, fitter, better.

Everyone is different and each athlete is going to have something that works that may not work for everyone else. Listening to your body is key, but don’t miss a days training just because the bloke in the office wants you to be lazy and stop him feeling guilty!