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Question & Answer: Your Turn.

So in my last post & on social media I asked if anyone had any questions about the race or life in general. Despite the fact nobody was brave enough to comment on any of the posts publicly, you’ve all been busy squirrelling questions to me on email & private message, so hopefully I manage to answer them all here!

At the time of answering these it’s Sunday evening here, Monday morning for you guys at home. That makes me 5 sleeps from the race.

6 if you include Friday night in which I won’t sleep. Slow down, I saw you trying to catch me out there.

We’ll start with general questions, of which there weren’t many, then we’ll get on to the Kona questions!

What’s your resting heart rate?

Well my watch tracks this, & I keep an eye on it from time to time but rarely do much with the data. Today is was 37bpm (shown top right of the image on the left), my average this week has been 38 apparently. It generally seems to sit around the 40 mark, hoping that means I’m just really fast at the moment? We can dream…


Are you careful with what you eat?

Yes, of course. Coach… Erm not really. I’m very careful to make sure I get the right amount of recovery in, eat well whilst training & don’t starve myself. The past few weeks I’ve been dieting very hard so shifted a lot of weight, but I always eat within 20 minutes of finishing a session and make sure my diet is full of veggies & fruit. But who doesn’t love an ice cream or slice of cake from time to time… in winter time to time is much closer together than currently that’s for sure!

 

What’s your biggest weakness?

This is a very broad question… but ‘m going to take the easy way out and say swimming. My attitude to training is good, I could maybe push myself a bit harder in races, I’ve still never made the medical tent, obviously I take to cycling well and my running has shown a lot of potential this season. Sunday indicates swim has come on a lot with me posting a 1:09:30 for the iron distance, beating my previous best of 1:23 comfortably. But there’s still a lot of work to do for next year when I move up an age category.

 

Who’s your biggest inspiration?

Honestly, I don’t really have one. There are so many people around that have so many incredible qualities to draw from it’s hard to count. The pro’s are great to look up to, but so are some of the top end age groupers. There’s also a lot of inspiration outside of triathlon. Obviously my parents but places like my Aspics Frontrunner group. It’s is full of some really inspirational people, they all make me feel really lucky to be associated with them on a daily basis. Some great examples to follow, and I don’t mean just fast people. They all have a phenomenal story and work hard to make both theirs & other peoples lives better. I’d love to be like that.

 

Now for the fun stuffs! KONA.

Last month you raced the World Champs, & now you’re at the World Champs, what’s the difference?

This is a good one! Last month was the ITU race. That’s international triathlon union. It was a bit shorter than this & they’re the guys that run things like the world championships that the Brownlees race. Kona is in the same place every year on the same weekend, it’s the Ironman Franchises world championships and it’s where it all began 39 years ago. It has a reputation as it’s the most prestigious triathlon outside of the olympics, and it brings the best of the best in the endurance world. It’s a real privilege to race here, and spots don’t get handed out easily!

How do we track the race?

The best way is to download the ironman app. It’s definitely available on apple, & surely is on android. And you’ll be able to click on ironman world championship, and search my name. That’s the easiest way. Also the ironman website will publish tracking links, & the pro race will be televised. I’ll post a full set of information on Friday for you, it’l also be on my Facebook page!

How is your Knee holding up, it was sore after your last race?

Yeah I don’t wanna jinx it, but it’s be handling really well. I tore the tendon on the inside in Canada which was pretty rough, & I’d had all the problems with the other knee all season, so bit of a kick in the face. I managed to handle it well & within 3 weeks I was back training. I did a full weeks training last week (End of September), & I didn’t seem to have any pain. Just gotta hope I can shake that out of the legs & we’ll be good to go. It’ll be nice to be on a start line without any injuries in the back of my mind.
How have you acclimatised to the conditions in Kona?

 
Yeah it’s been good out here. I can’t thank the guys at Glass & Stainless in Congleton enough for giving me the help I needed to do this. I haven’t raced yet, but it’s been invaluable to my fitness & preparation and I know it’s given me absolutely every opportunity to be the best I can be. I’ve been staying out of the sun a lot of the time, but I’ve done some really long sessions out there and put my body through it. I know what we could be in for & it’s the same for everyone I suppose. But yeah, we’ll see how the body responds but I know that I’m performing far better than I was when I got here!
Your prep hasn’t been ideal this year, do you think you’ve got good form?
This is a toughy. I showed a lot of promise in Canada & i’m moving better now than I was then. I haven’t really done anything long this year. I’ve done one long bike ride a couple of weeks before Canada, and Canada was the only time I’ve run more than a half marathon. If I’m honest I think this might tell towards the middle/end of the marathon out here, but we’ll deal with that when we get there! I’m currently moving ok, still a little clunky but I like that a week out, the speed is there.
Have you got a race plan?

Yes.Ok fine. This kind of rolls over to the next question but I’ve just gotta do what I’m good at. If I can come out the water in 1:10/1:15 I’ll be in some good company. Obviously I’m strong on the bike so I’ll push the pace a bit, but I don’t wanna burn out. There’ll be a lot of people getting carried away around me, so I have to pick my pace well & stick to it. Get my nutrition right then I’ve got a good structure for the run. No tells as to what times I’m looking at though. And really, the conditions will change that, so I’m not too number focussed. I’ll stick to my plan & hopefully come good.

Are you looking to compete or survive?
Is there a difference? Yeah obviously it’s a dream of mine to get top 5 & stand on the podium at Kona. But if we’re being realistic, I think I’d have to have a perfect race, and someone else would have to make a mistake. It’s not impossible, but the chances are slim. I’ve had a really rough year and I’m a firm believer that you can’t really make your ironman result faster. Sure you can grab a few minutes in the swim or bike, but your form is your form. & you can very easily ruin it. Once you hit that wall there’s absolutely no coming back, it’s game over. So I’m just gonna go out there, give it the best I’ve got & we’ll see where that leaves me. I can’t really do much more than that!
Do you have any pre-race rituals? What will you do between now (mid week this week) & the race?
I wanna say no. But that’s probably a lie, my parents would be better at answering this one I reckon. Nothing weird, but I suppose the whole thing is a ritual. I eat well in the build up to make sure that my IBS is really under control & settled. I do the exact same sessions the 3 days before every race, so I know how my legs should feel. I get plenty of sleep & rest, stay out of the sun to save energy. Watch a good film sports like invincible, coach carter or remember the titans and go to registration/racking/the various admin stuff.
Is there anything really worrying you?
Not really. I’ve had a bad year but I’ve trained well the last few weeks, I can’t do any more than that. The difference between a good race & a bad race can cost you 90 minutes and 30+ places in your age group, so I’d quite like to get my nutrition right & have some legs left to do myself justice. I really don’t want to get it all wrong. But really it’s just another ironman. I’ll be stood next to the best athletes in the world. The conditions are gonna be very rough (currently predicting 30+ degrees & thunder storms). & I have to travel a long way, as fast as possible.
There’s plenty of other races to come, & I’m sure I’ll be back one day. For now I’ll just give it everything I’ve got, do my best & we’ll see where that leaves me. If I can cross the line and think “that’s me, that was everything I had & nothing I could have done could improve that”, then it’s mission accomplished!
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Ironman – A Team Sport.

As the Ironman World Championships come closer, we’re now almost exactly two weeks out from the event.

I know you all really want to track the event instead of sleep on a Saturday night, I can just tell. So details of how to do that will appear here much closer to the time.

22156865_361850904238893_498181739_nI’ve spent a lot of time out on the infamous “Queen K”.
(The colloquial name for the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway on which most of the Ironman World Championship is battled out, and has been for the last 38 years, (This being the 39th edition).)

 

Hours spent cooking away, pounding mile after mile, day in day out has given me a lot of time to reflect on my season & short career in the sport.

 

I did a very interesting series of video interviews recently with a friend of mine all about the psychology of sport & triathlon including with what keeps me going, why I do it and what inspires me. The series will be appearing here over the next few months.

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For the most part of my career I’ve been one of the really annoying athletes that just seems to get it right when it matters. It all comes together in the nick of time to allow me to pull performances out of the bag that we didn’t think were possible.

 

Small moments of brilliance, just as I start to slip under the radar, that bring a race back to life. The Oklahoma bike leg, the Canada run, even the easter 10k. Sections of races, that transform the whole day.

And sure, I put a lot of it down to luck. Right place, right time, good legs. You could say it’s a good training programme (harder to justify that one this year), “talent”, a whole host of different reasons.

What do I think it is really?

It’s dedication, resilience and a belief so strong – that really there simply is no other option…

But don’t worry, not from me. I’m not talking about myself here.

I’m talking about my team.

One of the earliest lessons you learn in school, sport or elsewhere is that everything/everyone functions better with a team. It’s just more successful.

Now I know what you’re thinking, Ironman isn’t a team sport. It’s a solo event.

Sure, the athlete goes through the motion of training, races at the event, stands on the podium, all fun and games! You have to wake up early, work hard, eat properly (ish), get plenty of rest & recovery.

But behind the scenes there are a team of people working tirelessly to make that happen.

22119342_361850914238892_656800012_nAnd I don’t mean one or two people… I mean a whole host of people, that you wouldn’t even think made a difference.

There are the obvious ones that you could name instantly – the coaches, physios, mechanics, sponsors. Kit suppliers, partners, people I go straight to for advice.
Then obviously no less importantly, my family & friends, my training partners & the people who started sport with me, back when I was splashing in a different sense. (rowing). Some of who continue to influence & inspire me!

The people that if they weren’t there, it just wouldn’t be possible & I just couldn’t keep going.

My body wouldn’t function, my bike wouldn’t work, there’d be nobody to pick me up when I just think I can’t do it any more.
I wouldn’t be able to afford races, I’d have no food to eat, my recovery would be poor.

22140578_361851440905506_1308141462_oBut then there’s a third layer to the team. The substitutes bench, the people a bit further back.

The followers Social Media, Strava, you reading this right now.
The people I’ve raced against/with, people I’ve bumped into & people that just stumbled across me.
The people that you don’t really know care, the people watching from a distance, and the people that just want to feel a small part of the journey.

They all make up the team.

Because at the end of the day, in an Ironman race anywhere – Kilometre 32 of that marathon is a dark, dark place.

And what gets you through that?

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The team.

The people you don’t want to let down.
The good luck message/snap/post you got the night before.
The endless messages of support you come back to, no matter what the outcome.
The person that you bumped into 3 weeks before, who you haven’t seen for 5 years who just said “mate you’re doing great, keep it up”.

The people that have believed in you, every step of the way, even when you didn’t believe in yourself.

These are the things that pop into your mind, and when you’ve retreated to the back of your mind & every fibre of your body just wants to stop, it’s these small things that keep you going.

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22127493_361850917572225_586943722_nSo enough of the heavy stuff, why is this at all relevant to you?
Has he been on the medicinal herbs?

Well no, obviously not.

It’s relevant because it’s relevant to all of us. Great, I do ironman. But really, it’s no different to any other hobby, job, pastime.

If you’re having a bad day, it’s not your week, or maybe you’ve just not had a good September.

Have a look around & find your team. The people that care about you, believe in you, want to support you. Even if you can’t see them straight away, they’re definitely there, & they’re the people that matter most. The people that can pick you up & get you through it.

Reach out to them, have a chat, say thank you.

Because behind the scenes, without them, none of it would be possible!

Stay tuned for a more up beat post next week 😉

#myteam

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Canada – Catch you if I Can.

Well we’re here. It’s come around fast, the week of World Champs 2017 numero uno.It’s no secret that the plan was to be hunting for medals, moving well, feeling fast, feeling strong.


Buuuut it’s just not going to be one of them years, and that’s ok! It’s just going to be one of the learning curve types. 


If I said this season has been easy, I’d be lying. Easy on the body sure, sat on the sofa watching junk tv on loop isn’t exactly challenging. But tough to cope with mentally.

It’s for this reason that I’m super excited to say that I’ll be on the start line of the World Championship this Weekend (26/27th August), in Canada. 


My knee is still quite sore and causing me issues, however all the structural problems have been resolved. That means I can’t do any more damage, by smashing my legs to bits. In theory. 

So how is the race going to unfold? 
First of all it’s probably wise to now say I’m not afraid of dropping out. I’ll race myself into the ground – given. But if I feel like I’m doing damage or my knee won’t hold, I’ll be pulling out immediately. Kona is top of the priority list this year and I need all the prep I can get for that. 

Well I haven’t swam for roughly 2-3 months, and I’m not exactly known for being a fish…. woops. So if I survive the swim, I’ll be a happy boy!

Then it’s onto the bike, the part that normally would be my strong point. Although with 5 months off who knows what could happen! 

  

I’ve got a new bike that some of you will have seen on photos and I’ve been working with the guys at CycleCentre congleton to make sure it both fits me well and is in top working condition. Both of which were working well (until I pulled it apart and put it in a box for travelling). But it’s fast. Really fast. So touch wood it won’t be the machinery letting me down. 

and the run? 

Well still slightly over weight, a predicted 32 degree day, we’ll just deal with that when we come to it. It’s going to be a painful afternoon in the office, that’s for sure. Nutrition will have to be executed perfectly for any chance of performance.

If you follow me on strava you’ll have seen I’ve been doing bits and bobs to make sure I’m in a good enough position to attempt the course. I’ve done a 100+ mile ride on the bike, the course is 75. And I’ve run a half marathon, the run is slightly longer, although I apparently ran a 1:32, so fun could still be had.


32 degrees will play against me.

I’m 2/3kg up on race weight. Not worried.

I haven’t swam – ah well.

Guaranteed chance of pain.

Slim chance of success.

Where do I sign up? 

Keep in touch, follow my social channels for plenty of photos to make you jealous in the office, and watch the race unfold at the weekend when I publish my start time and numbers.
After all, who doesn’t want to see a slightly crazy, undeniably unfit, marginally overweight northerner line up against the best in the world? 

 

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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?

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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?

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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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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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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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.

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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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