Posts

Top Tips for your First Endurance Event

Entering your first endurance event can be daunting. No matter what the discipline or distance, I’ve given you all a little help along the way. Hopefully for when the time comes and you all line up next to me on the start line!

unnamed (6)

 

Logistics:

 

Many things come under this category. But the main one is do you know where you need to be, when and how you’re going to get there? Check for all the hidden costs. Things you might not think of if you’re staying a bit further out like how are you going to get to registration the day before? check in/transition, the start line. All these places require transport to and from, and if you’re doing a triathlon your bike is involved too. These simple things are often the ones you overlook when trying to plan an event.

Is your accommodation suitable? A young party hostel maybe isn’t ideal, nor is the 9 bed mansion 2 hours drive away.

 

 

Equipment:20916130_345037499253567_1071983538_n

 

Have you got everything? You can find great checklists online but mainly you need to stick to what you know. Have you got your race kit. swim stuff? Bike stuff? Run stuff? Easy but important. Then the second tier items. That help a race go smoothly but aren’t as essential. Sun cream, a cap, sun glasses, Vaseline.

 

 

Nutrition :20863712_345034512587199_2140900916_n

 

This is the downfall of almost every single beginner, but don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The most important rule is yet again that you stick to what you know. Don’t do anything you haven’t tried in training, and the main one. You’re out there for 5/6/7 hours if you’re doing a half ironman. Up to 17 if you’re doing a full. Let’s be serious about this, you can’t survive on energy gels and water for that period of time. Even a half marathon gets a bit funky if you’re not taking in the right stuff. It’s just not doable. Think about alternative approaches, breakfast biscuits, fruit & but bars, even sandwiches aren’t a terrible idea! For the extra minute you spend eating them, you’ll save 20+ at the end of the run when your stomach tries to rip itself apart.

 

20863752_345034489253868_1053004376_nClimate:

Check the weather, it’s a better idea to choose a race based on climate, but I know that’s not always possible. Races in the south of France, Italy, South USA are glorious, baking sun, but if you’re not used to it, you better be prepared. Electrolytes are key here. The biggest mistake people make is drinking water the 2/3 days before a race. You’re not hydrated, you’re full of liquid. You need to start to replace the salts and nutrients you’re going to lose through sweat on race day. Are you covered in sun cream? Fill your top with ice, take measures to cool your core temperature, you’ll thank yourself for it later.

If it’s a cold event, a swim, or long run. Do you have enough layers on? Do you need a wetsuit? Have you trained in these climates. Are your feet going to blister in the rain. Better to be prepared because otherwise that 4 hour race is going to feel like a life time.

 

20840414_345034522587198_358733662_n

 

Relax:

This is an important one. It’s easy to get swept up looking around at all the gear, all the super skinny lean looking athletes, the all show no go middle age men.

No matter what anybody else does in the race, it’s not going to change your time. Forget about them. Interact, chat, be friendly, they’ll help you out & make you feel better. But don’t psych yourself out. You’ve probably trained hard for this & may out perform many of them! I found at my second ironman and also my first half, my gear was very sub par, but I put in some exceptional performances. And it didn’t change a thing anyone else did, so you learn not to worry.

 

 

Achievement:

This ones important, especially for everyone out there that’s done one or two races and is now hunting for an ever elusive pb. Maybe you’re trying to gain a few minutes here and there. What you have to remember is where you started and how far you’ve come along this journey. The majority of the population don’t complete endurance events, so getting them done is something to be proud of. Taking a step back and giving yourself some credit is often helpful to keep perspective. It’s only a race at the end of the day!

img_7522

Return to Fitness – The FAQ Section

Hello!

How’re you?

Are you well?

DCsJDnXXsAA420d

19983304_1393499890731595_1330354792382518316_o

 

I know, I know, it’s been a while. I’m sorry.

In the mean time I’ve been trying to convinced the next generation to get out on their bikes & try something new.

I’ve been really struggling with this knee injury. Diagnosed at a 2 week recovery, it’s now been 5 months ongoing! So I know there’s been lots of unanswered questions, so just a quick update on where I’m up to, how everything is going & what my plans are moving forward.

 

 

 

How’s your knee?

Erm, well if I’m honest. It’s sore. It still hurts 80% of the time, maybe a 2 or 3/10 pain so nothing too much to worry about, but it’s not completely fixed. The problem is we’re not entirely sure what is cause the inflammation, so we’ve kind of been working in the dark to get it fixed up. But I’m in the best hands now and we’re confident it’s moving forward.

20495688_338762979881019_1812047333_o

Have you been training?

If you follow me on Strava you’re probably missing my regular updates & crazy adventures. Don’t worry, I’m missing them just as much! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been out on the bike, I’ve been in rehab for 3-4 weeks now, but in that time I’d say I’ve done 3/4 sessions I would count as training. The rest are just making sure that my body is working properly & trying not to aggrovate the knee. 20-30 minutes here and there.

Are you planning on racing Canada/Kona?

I’d love to say yes, but in truth I have absolutely no idea. Canada is only 4 weeks away & I have an anti-inflammatory injection booked for August 14th, so I suppose we’ll see how that goes. I may bumble round the course for a long training day, similar to Tony Weeks, who medalled with me at last years World Champs. These things happen, but now it’s time to look to next year.

Kona… I’d like to say yes, I’m planning on racing & navigating the course. Whether my fitness is up to scratch we’ll have to see. I won’t be “racing” this year, but that was never the plan anyway. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I am planning on seeing what the event is all about.

 

What’re your plans for next year?

Well I’ve been in lots of discussions with a lot of people, and I think we’ve come to the decision that I won’t be racing any full ironman events next season. The plan is to target a late season Ironman such as Wales or Barcelona. I’m planning on working hard with Ric my swim coach, & my new running coach at City of Stoke AC to push the boundaries through the winter & into the early season to really see what my legs are capable of. That will hopefully lead me to lots of middle distance & maybe even some olympic distance early season.

 

I will be running a marathon April time.
I will be trying for a fast half ironman time.
I will be having another go at BBAR and a fast 12 hour Time Trial.

 

*injury dependant.

There are also rumours of me making an appearance in some international duathlon races.
For those of you that don’t know, it’s like a triathlon without the swim…. I don’t think I’d be very good at that though, so will currently neither confirm nor deny these rumours.

19264564_1163053673801357_6868691060625942384_o

18880341_1149315725175152_1739032410084837259_oHave you sold your Canyon?! (Sad face)

It’s true. I have in fact sold the canyon.

However I’ve got a new weapon of choice. Over the next couple of seasons I’ll be working with Cyclestore.co.uk and they’ve provided me with some shiny new kit all round. So I currently have a Giant Trinity Advanced. It looks just like the canyon, but is black & blue, not black & white. Cyclestore only sell the best gear so I’m very sure that it will be just as quick if not quicker than the canyon. But you’ll have to watch this space for confirmation.

 

20428014_338762983214352_1920355448_n

You were doing a lot of running races this year, will that continue when you can ride?18056679_1115158271924231_5447854826666611028_n

 

Absolutely!


I’ve been absolutely loving running  recently. & when I could get the long miles in I was really enjoying myself. Asics have provided me with some great gear and a top set up. The Asics Frontrunners are a seriously slippery group on a running course. So i’d like to try and keep up with some of them guys at races. I loved the 10k I did and I’m really keen to try a park run. I’ll be joining City of Stoke as soon as my fitness is back to full strength and I can’t wait to see where they can take me!

 

 

 

 

 

So what’re the next steps?

 

  1. Get fixed up. August 14th is my injection so hopefully around then I’ll be back.
  2. Get my fitness back. This will take 6-12 weeks to get me back up and running.
  3. Do something crazy. Got a few crazies in the bag, maybe cycle to london first.
  4. Train really hard – I move up an age group next year so need to be fitter than ever.
  5. Repeat.

Stay Tuned!

20228874_1192672637506127_8289393339574804740_n

 

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.

unnamed (3)

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.

unnamed (5)

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.

18195990_296909790733005_1113836549_o

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.

unnamed (7)

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.

18190939_296913224065995_435137917_n

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.

unnamed (4)

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!

unnamed (6).jpg

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

They’re wheely good!

The Paleo Diet – Why to Try

Dieting.

A concept I for one have certainly struggled with this winter. As we move into summer and the weight starts to come off, I’ve pulled it together… just about?

560152_470422766350898_1737244872_n.jpg

Me just before my summer diet.

But why is a good diet so important?

Well for a start, you can’t run a petrol car on diesel.

You wouldn’t choose start a fire with damp wood.

So why try and fuel your body with less than adequate nutrition?

And yes, it’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of a ‘baked good’ here and there. I mean, did a cinnamon swirl really ever kill anybody? Can a vanilla cupcake ruin your life?

17859152_288570438233607_8481741_o


Probably not. But moderation is the key as we all know.

So after a meeting with a nutritionist I know quite well, we formulated a couple of options for my diet to move out of winter and into the summer, with the goal of keeping energy levels high and weight low.

A lot of you know that I struggle with IBS. For those of you that don’t know, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), is an irritation inside the digestive system, caused by anything from stress to gluten. And in my case, it gives me unbearable stomach cramps limiting my movement. Generally caused by an overdose of Oil, Gluten, Lactose or sugary foods. In recent months we (me and head chef Momma Schofield) have managed to keep it under control by keeping oily food down, and minimising gluten in my diet.

Now I generally sit around 83kg, and I only have to look at a chocolate bar to put 1kg on.

But that’s certainly no excuse.

So to get to 79kg there was work to be done.

Many athletes are the same, you work so hard for so many hours a week. You feel like you’ve really earned that dairy milk. I mean, a little dairy milk can’t harm right? We only bought a 500g bar….

17858918_288570498233601_1695078840_o.jpg

Some paleo treats whipped up for between sessions

But it’s a trap, meaning that many athletes remain at a constant weight, treating themselves far more than they realise. A dangerous game.

Me and the dietitian decided that the best solution while we had the time in the off season was to try the Paleo diet.

The what?

Yes, most people think the same.

I was familiar with the paleo diet as my old rowing coach Tony Larkman was a big advocate.

The paleo diet is a healthy derivative of the Atkins diet. It works to remove highly processed foods, refined sugars and carbs as well as trans fats.

Essentially, no carbohydrate, no dairy, no alcohol.

The latter being an easy one for me.

17887270_288570584900259_2059523838_o

Fish & Vegetables. The most basic paleo meal.

So what’s the theory behind this diet?

The idea is that similar to the cavemen, our body has to break down fat for fuel. This makes the body do more work to process food and help burn through the fat stores. High volumes of vitamins and minerals keep the body healthy, with fat becoming the primary energy source. This removes all the sugary foods & carbs that cause so many people in modern society to gain weight.

Yes that’s right.

It’s not fatty foods getting you, it’s the pasta and chocolate bars.

Not at the same time I hope.

A lot of people fall down on the paleo diet because they forget to replace the carbohydrates with fat.

Your body needs fuel to function.

17887564_288570548233596_1180817032_o

Without the potatos this would count!

If you cut carbs & turn to lean meat and vegetables.

It’s going to hit you hard.

Very hard.

So after trying the paleo diet for 6-8 weeks, and losing a substantial amount of weight, I managed to get very ill, and proceed to put it all back on again. My body adapted to the diet quicker than normal due to my high volume training & racing programme.

There’s only so long your body can burn carbs for before it uses the fat stores. So my system was already a step ahead. I had to occasionally cheat to include a bit of full fat Greek yoghurt or some peanut butter. But I was generally rather strict.

Would I recommend this diet?

Yes, yes I would.

And here’s why:

Despite the increase in oil and fat disagreeing with my ibs, the increase in vitamins and minerals really helped my body stay fresh and recover. The added micronutrients go a long way! I learned a huge amount about the composition of meals, different recipes, healthy snacks and a great breakfast recipe.

17837851_288570531566931_1484765700_o

Although I’m not paleo now I’ll still eat paleo meals 50% of the time as they’re healthy, fresh and fast. I didn’t think I’d be sitting down with a fish salad and a smile on my face.

Removing carbs allows you to make meals work without them. So adding enough clean carbs to recover becomes a very easy job!

In my opinion the best team in the world to have nutrition executed is the cycling team: Team Sky. The sports scientists they have working around the clock over there are phenomenal. Between them and british cycling they’ve cracked training and nutrition down to the tiniest percentage gain. And do they eat carbs? Unfortunately for all you paleo lovers out there, they do. So in the long run it must be better.

However if I can do 30 hours training a week without carbs. Then you can do it too! If you’re looking to lose weight and find a diet that can work, is sustainable and will teach you an incredible amount about your bodys needs and the way to eat easy, clean and fast, the Paleo diet is the one.

You’ll be very tired for a week or two while the body adjusts, but I promise you’ll feel fresh and healthy afterward.

Just back yourself!

The price of your bike – does it really matter?

Bikes.

img_5403

The bane of my life, our lives.

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

img_2092

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.

Capture

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.

DSCF1987

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.

12562370_10156443795410346_1715514345_o-1

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.

img_4361

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).

11391146_10155703738555346_5413813838640368975_n-112544680_10156443795160346_680172517_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

img_6156

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!

Jack-shoot-2016-156.jpg

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.

img_5482

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!

img_3182

The Next Step – Learning To Race

New Zealand was great.

Sunny, peaceful, relaxing.

img_7816

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.

img_7853

 

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.

Jack-shoot-2016-77.jpg

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.

20160904_2479

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.

Jack-shoot-2016-24.jpg

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.

ironman_uk_2015.jpg

See you there.

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

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.

img_4938

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.

 

Capture
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.

Jack-shoot-2016-87
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.

img_1019
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?!

img_1099-1
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.

Jack-shoot-2016-140

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!

Jack-shoot-2016-188

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?

1317_emoji_iphone_thinking_face

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!!!

Jack-shoot-2016-46

Genetics or Hardwork? 

Many people will know my opinion on this one, hard work gets results, fact.

Genetics is a word thrown around by the many, to describe the few, as an excuse.

“He’s just genetically fast”

“She’s just genetically skinny”

No.

Let’s break this one down and have a proper look.


Yes, genetically Usain Bolt has the ability to run fast. Genetically Stephen Hawking was born with the capability of being clever.

And genetics play a big role in sport as they affect muscle size and muscle fiber composition which in turn affect strength & speed. They also affect your base anaerobic threshold (AT), and lung capacity.

One major limitation for endurance athletes is the heart’s ability to deliver enough oxygen to the muscles. Genetics play a large role in this ability.

But that doesn’t mean we were born that way.


I agree that some people are more up against it, some people struggle much more to achieve their goals.

Be it academically, physiologically or something else, there will always be people that pick it up faster. But 95% of the time, success is down to grit and determination.

Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.

Now I know some of you will be getting defensive, and you’ll be looking at me wondering what I know. And yes, understandably so as some things come quite naturally to me. However I’m born into a family line of diabetes, heart conditions and dietary problems. I only have to look at a chocolate bar to put weight on.

I know, you got me, I eat a lot of chocolate. But there’s a reason when my ankle was bad and I couldn’t train I put on 7kg in 4 weeks. I wasn’t eating thaaat badly.


The fact is, genetically everyone will be up against it in one way or another. It’s a well known fact that in Asia the average height is smaller, in Africa the best distance runners have slightly different ankle biomechanics, and an alternate bone density affecting their swimming.

But I’ve seen a man born with no legs run a marathon.

I’ve seen a 175cm Japanese basketballer in the NBA.

I’ve seen Galen Rupp win a bronze in both the 10,000m and the marathon in the space of a week.

Ok maybe he had a bit of questionable “help”.

But what about the 250kg people that drop their weight to 100kg, they’d have told you genetically they’re fat. But with hard work, they can change that.

I’m not going to argue that 10% of success is genetic, it can be that extra edge, the icing on the cake.

But the other 90% is flat out, hard work.

And there’s no audience for it.

So hang the excuses in the wardrobe. Pull up your socks. And get cracking.

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.

20160724_983

 

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.

20160904_2479

 

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.

20160904_2399

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.

20160904_2281

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.

20160904_2416

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.

img_8112

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.

20160904_2498

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.

img_81841

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.

20160904_2568

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.

20160904_2551