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A Foreign Discipline – Lost in Transition.

So yesterday I had a little whack at the South Manchester triathlon.

I fly to Hawaii first thing tomorrow (Tuesday), so just wanted to put my demons to rest and have a little hit out despite carrying a few injuries!

The race takes place in Wimslow, cheshire & consists of a 400m pool swim, a 24km bike and a 6.5km run.

Some of you will have seen me down at Congleton park run yesterday, where I clung on to a 18:04 as my first run back since Canada, three weeks ago.

Saturdays Park run.

I then spun the legs out with a 75km recovery ride over to the Wirrall, so my legs weren’t quite on peak form waking up this morning.

With a bit of magic cream (voltarol), & a long stretch and roll. I was ready to go. I only really had one goal – don’t do anything stupid. No more injuries please.

It’s strange starting a race at 1:45 in the afternoon, I’m used to bleak 4am starts & a 6am transition close.

So after a lazy morning in bed, I bumbled over to the start, ready to battle. Set the bike up, pulled my new tri suit on, & we were ready to go.

Is it lunch time yet?

I went out pretty hard. A 16 lap pool swim doesn’t sound like a lot, so my heart rate was quickly up and away.

Starting the swim.

Despite losing my swim cap & one eye of the goggle, I managed to splash my way to a 6:26 swim. Fairly happy. I knew that the top boys wouldn’t be hours ahead of that, damage limitation as always.

Out of the pool and into the fun.

A slow first transition but I was away in under 2 minutes, far from slick, but enough to keep me in contact, just about. Although yet again it would transpire the race was essentially lost here.

After i’d spent 8 minutes putting socks on.

Now the bike, I haven’t really ridden since Canada with my knee flaring up every time I try to spin the legs, & still sore from the day before. None the less I went out hard & attacked the technical course.

Powering away from the mount line on my CycleStore, giant.

In hindsight, socks were a bad idea.

Fairly flat, very windy (both versions of the word). I managed to battle round in a 38:07, an average of 38.6kph. The lack of training certainly showed as I couldn’t really find the red zone. A heavy amber was all my legs had, the zip had been left at home. Or somewhere late February.

Coming back into transition.

I only had one job left. Despite struggling to take my shoes off in t2, very amateur, I managed to get in & away in 46 seconds.

This is where I really suffered.

My legs had no snap, no pace, no speed.

And so it begins.

Heavy from yesterday & no track work, ever, was really showing. I managed to hold a sub 4 minute pace despite steps, hills & trails. Finishing with a 23:59.

1:10:57 overall, a fairly happy boy with yet again lots of unfinished business, a recurring theme for 2017.

Third overall, 2nd in AG.


Receiving my award for third overall.

See you in Hawaii!!

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World Championship Silver – Bitter Sweet.

It’s always a tricky one when you race a big event like world champs, a lot of pressure, a big stage, fierce competition.
And your goals at the start of the day swiftly change as it unfolds before you.

It’s hard to be annoyed at myself considering I got a silver medal, I raced some really good numbers, and I’ve only had a few weeks training.

Although considering I had to do it one legged, I know there was plenty more in the tank.
The swim:

Going into the water I felt good, I found a nice rhythm early on and found some clear water in amongst the crowds. Considering I hadn’t swam for so long I felt like I was moving well & I knew this part of the race would be damage limitation. As always.
I managed to sight well & swim a good line, for once.


Until we turned into the sunrise.

Trying to sight through misty goggles heading towards the sun is like trying to ride a uni cycle on one leg blindfolded. If you’re me anyway. There was zero chance of that happening. It lasted around 400m before we turned back and headed for land. I managed to keep a decent rhythm the whole way and keep my energy levels nicely in check.

I emerged from the water in 59 minutes. Job done.

I took a bit of time in T1 (transition) to regather, apply suncream & head out on the bike.

The bike:

Usually my favourite part of the race, it’s very safe to say I hated 80% of it. A beautiful course that I couldn’t even play on.

The first bit was tasty. I knew off an hour swim the top guys were only maximum 20 minutes ahead, so I’d be able to get a visual early on and scope out who I was chasing.

Unsurprisingly I was chasing everyone.


The first 25k was an out and back flat road to the north of the lake, and I had only one job. Shut them down.

Legs on like a rocket, I felt alive. I knew I was on for a good day, ticking over counting people off one by one. The new bike was really purring, ripping up the road like it had an engine.

Going through some of my age group like they were a stop sign – make a statement – you won’t catch me.

Back through town and my knee began to twinge, trouble. Big trouble.

95km left and the pain has started, do I quit now & discharge myself, or keep going?

I put my head down & carried on. More flat before we hit the first hill. More people ticked off the list.

By the top of the first of the 4 hills, I knew I knew I was in for a bad day. I was still moving ok but I’d been limited to one leg. The left leg was spinning, but not generating any power. And it wasn’t a little niggle, it was an all out pain. I was burning through my Science in Sport hydration mix & bars faster than I’d have liked, the pain was talking it’s toll.

With every pedal stroke a knife been stabbed into my knee, I told myself I’d stop if I slowed down.

It was a draining experience, I felt sick with pain & I didn’t even know if I’d be able to run. I carried myself through the next hour before taking the foot off the gas & just coasted for the last hour.

A 3:10 bike split – job well done but a bitter taste in my mouth. There was more in the tank & I knew it wasn’t good.
A quick moment to pull myself together in t2 & decide whether I was actually going to run, before heading out on the course, ready to walk the last 30k for a medal. Happy with the day I’d had.

The run:

I was approximately 2.37 seconds into the run, I don’t even think I’d crossed the timing mat, when I heard mum scream ‘you’re in 4th, and there’s 5 minutes in it’.


Fantastic, as if I didn’t have enough to worry about even finishing the race, the pressure was now on. 5 minutes over 30k, unless I’m racing a pure bred runner, I back myself to shut that down.

So I made the decision there and then. Push through the pain, deal with that later, run hard & have a go at gold.

My legs felt good, the constant twinge in my knee took my mind off anything else. As the sun began to really set in, the temperature started to approach the 30’s and I knew it was going to be a tough one.

For 3 days I’d drank nothing but electrolytes, science in sports finest, so I knew the cramp should hold off, at least for the most part.

Quickly into third mum was relaying the times to me, 3 minutes & two beyond him. I’ve not travelled all this way to be outrun, it’s a mental game from here anyway.

I found a nice routine through the aid stations – water to the face – ice down the top – energy gel – something to drink. It was doing the job. I had an asics bottle belt keeping my hydrated between so I didn’t miss a single drop.

Step by step I knew if I stayed consistent, I’d get there.

And then, at 15km, bang on the half way mark, he crumpled. Second came tumbling backwards as I glided through & I knew at that point it was on.

Chasing & chasing. I’d already taken 3 minutes, could I take another two?

I was running hard, I’d thrown the game plan out the window completely and this was an all or nothing job.

My knee was agony but I knew if I didn’t stop, it wouldn’t buckle. Stay strong.

Counting out the km’s I could see myself getting closer & closer, could I take gold?
I managed to shut the gap to around 40 seconds before he opened his legs & started his final sprint. I had nothing to match. I gave a brief chase before residing to enjoy the last 2.5km, a smile on my face, knowing I’d done what I set out to do.


59′ swim.

3:10 bike.

2:18 run.


If you’d have offered me silver the morning before, the week before, two months ago, even four months ago. I’d have bitten your hand off.

But knowing I lost out by two minutes, when I could have had another 10-15 on the bike and maybe 5 on the run. Is a bitter sweet ending.


So I’ll get myself fixed up, piece it back together. And get after the next one.
Kona.

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Hard Decisions – Dropping Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, rest, recovery and rehab!

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

They’re wheely good!

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Winter – The Extra Mile

Winter.

Unless you’re a snowsports fanatic, toy shop owner or polar bear. It’s unlikely winter is your favourite time of year.

Yeah I can obviously see how you’d enjoy it, christmas, big hoodies, hot chocolate, mince pies. Especially mince pies, they should be available 365 days a year. Tesco, get on it.

The perks are all there.

But really though…. Does anyone actually like winter?

I mean, come on now.

Really?

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Short days, bad weather, training’s tough, if you’re studying you’ve got exams or deadlines, if you’re working your inbox is forever full and your commutes just seem to drag, and lets not forget the bank account takes the biggest hit of the whole year.

But you enjoy that?!

Fat from christmas, sluggish and slow, no imminent holidays in the pipeline, no sign of the ‘beach bod’. Just getting by hoping the summer holidays come round faster.

Summer racing, holiday tans and short shorts. Surely that’s more appealing?!

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So what really happens in the winter? Where does everybody go?

Unfortunately we can’t all live the professional athlete high life, South Africa for the winter, Girona for the spring. Constant sun and nice weather. Miles on miles of training, never a dull day. Or the CEO of some global corporate firm, playing golf or skiing the days away.

It’s often said that a good winter makes a good summer. Fact.

For the athletes, miles make champions. Fact.
For the students, revision gets the grades. Fact.

There is no gods gift, no magic potion. Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard.

But when you’ve got 5 tops, 3 pairs of leggings, 2 sets of socks, the worlds thickest gloves and your face covered up to the brink of your vision. You do have to ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?

Is it really worth it?

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Well yes, yes it is.

For any endurance sport building a base is one of the most important aspects of the training programme. I’m aware that you need the high tempo, top quality sessions to get that peak fitness, and you also need ample recovery, hindered by a high volume programme. But the science is there, you’ve gotta build your base.

There are athletes that will go a season training 10 hours a week, and pump out a 9 hour Ironman. I’m not denying that that’s possible, I’ve seen it happen. But what you haven’t seen is the athletes 25 hour weeks, for 10 years previous to this. An endurance base so big, that it just needs topping up and maintaining through the hectic day to day life.

I know some of you will shun it as junk miles, but when the athlete that put in 10 hours a week more training than you cruises past you in the last 10% of a race. You’ll be the first to cry.

There are many similarities between sport and the business world, a blog that will follow in the coming weeks, but I think building a ‘base’ is one of them. And no, I don’t mean you have to start riding a bike, or run more. I mean going the extra mile. Putting in a bit extra here and there, helping others out when they need it, makes a big change.

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Everybody is looking for shortcuts. The easy way out. The quick way round. Well unfortunately ladies and gentlemen, if you want to succeed at a high level. There isn’t one.

And that’s where you need our good friend, The Winter.

Make your short days longer, your time to be out with friends enjoying the sun is coming, trust me. But you have to earn it.

Nights in the library, in the gym, on the treadmill, in the office… it doesn’t matter where your hard work takes place, it just needs to get done.

And unfortunately, there is no audience for hard work.

Some days are really, really long. Trust me, I know this one. I’ve been in the office past midnight. The studio for 3 straight days. Done 10 hours of training when your body just can’t take any more.

I know how it feels.

Work is just too much, your stressed, tired, hungry.. you’re not sure if you need 3 weeks sleep, 8 shots of tequila, 3 espressos, a hug or a combination of the lot.

But it will pay off.

This off season is the time where all the little changes you make, the little extra you put in, it’ll all swing back round.

And trust me.

Your future self will really thank you for it.

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Doing a Triathlon – 5 top tips from novice to beginner

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is:

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

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

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

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

1. Get the right gear.

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

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

 

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

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

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

(Heathen, sorry roadies!!!)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
2. Don’t get injured.

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

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

The extra 3k is never worth 4 weeks off.

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

 

 

3. Play to your strengths.

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

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

BUT.

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

 

 

4. Practice racing.

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

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

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

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

Especially how to fix a puncture!

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

 

5. Eat your greens.

Now this will make a lot of you laugh.

Eat your greens?

You serious?

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Yes, yes i’m very serious.

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

Yes, recover and fuel yourself properly.

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

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

Ok, ok, I know they’re not green.

Clever cloggs.

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

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

I look forward to racing some of you this year.

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

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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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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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The Chronicles of Northern – My First Three Day Adventure

All it takes is an off-hand comment, a little joke, someone probing me and my mind is off. Crazy adventures spring out of the most ridiculous situations, ideas that just grow and grow in my mind, ideas that become plans, plans that quickly come round to reality.

It must be about 6 weeks ago that I came up with this one, I needed miles in my legs for the fast approaching Dragon Ride, and a kick start to the freedom of post uni life.

My ankle was bad, but that’s a minor detail.

I had decided that the first week post hand in I was going to do some miles. Some serious miles in the chair. I’d created the starve routes, told my sister, told Lightfoot, told my mum, I even told Sian and Polly at the filming. The idea was slowly being mulled over and over in my mind.

750km, in 3 days. Bath to Cheshire. Cheshire to Bangor. Bangor to Bath.

Easy right?

But I’m only 12 weeks back into training, and my ankle is still very sore… but I was determined to give it a crack. I’d cycled home in the past but remember barely being able to move the next day. 250km home I knew I could probably make with a solid day, a flat 160km over to Bangor as a rest, and then the big one. Bangor to Bath, 340km passing right through the centre of Snowdonia. The length of Wales.

It really didn’t take long for the 6 weeks to come round and me to find myself checking over the cannondale, making sure I had enough rations to survive the journey. Saddle bag on, pockets packed with Belvitas, a couple of gels and bananas, and I was off.
The 8am start didn’t feel too bad, and I started off in my home territory, the Bath/Bristol bike path. Legs quickly into a chunky rhythm and I was purring along the bike path, set for a solid days riding.

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The first few hours were pretty boring. Nothing different to a regular training ride, quite reserved not putting all my cards on the table, I was quickly through Gloucester and up into the unknown. I was following a route on my Garmin Edge 520 so the roads I was using were fairly quiet and reasonably surfaced. The next point of call was Worcester, Tewkesbury, 120km in and I knew I was half way, still making very good pace. I stopped at around 130km to refill the water bottles, have a quick pack of kettle chips and some magic juice.

Ohhhh the magic juice.

Those of you that know me well will know I’m caffeine sensitive. The slightest drop of caffeine and I’m a very hyper boy. So what better to knock back than a 500ml bottle of cherry Pepsi Max. It did’t take long for it to hit me and I was off again on my way to the North.

160km back and I knew I was into the unknown. I hadn’t ridden this far in a day since Ironman Wales back in September 2015, my ankle was still very sore but my power balance was at 50:50 so I knew it wasn’t misbehaving too much. So head down I cracked on. It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t left my big ring all day, my cadence very low as usual, I knew this would be draining my legs of power. Although I hadn’t encountered any real hills, just the odd lump.

At 180km the legs started to struggle and I hit a slight dark patch. Still riding somewhat reserved to my usual self due to my ankle and the looming days ahead, I kept ploughing northward, cutting through the beautiful English countryside, I think I even had a conversation with myself.

It’s at this point I realise that the story so far is quite boring. Boy sits on bike. Boy spins legs, eats a few biscuits. Few hours pass. Boy arrives at destination.

Sounds about right for the first day really. Nothing exciting happened and within 40km of home I was back in my own territory and knew exactly where I was. Mum quickly whipped a steak on, tub of Ben and Jerry’s at the ready and it wasn’t long before the three of us were watching pointless, while I stretched with the cats, oh I can’t wait for the next year…..

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So I finished the first day very uneventfully, with no mechanical errors, no real bonks (running out of nutrients) at 30.6kph and an average of 220 watts. A very successful day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/585494191

But we hadn’t even scratched the surface.

The next day was tough.
160km on heavy legs, again into the wind like the day before, in the overwhelming sun. My ankle again started very sore but I had little choice but to get my head down and crack on.

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The first 60km I knew very well, the back lanes of cheshire and over to Chester, soon to become my hunting ground, not many people love them more than me.
Pan flat, well surfaced roads, perfect for the fresh legged rider. But not today.
Time went slow for the first 60km, I was enjoying myself, but I was having to work. My heart rate was unusually low due to the fatigue and the sun wasn’t helping the situation. I was trying to keep my water consumption low so I didn’t have to make too many stops, an error I won’t be doing again.
I was soon on the Chester millennium Greenway. A beautiful sus-trans cycle path that took me across the border and the river, and onto the north coast of wales. Very flat and a joy to ride, I would thoroughly recommend this route to anyone looking for a gentle day out on the bike.

The north coast of Wales. Well theres a strange place.

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A mixture of beautiful coastal views, perfectly surfaced cycle paths, strange holiday resorts and plenty of retired biddies. Still only making my way through one bottle of water, the heat started to get to me. I stopped to put my arm warmers on. Arm warmers? if you were too hot?

They were actually a life saver.

Taking the sun off my skin, stopping it draining my energy and cooling my arms and I was quickly back to it. I didn’t really enjoy much of the route through north east Wales, it was windy, my ankle was sore, my legs were struggling and there wasn’t much of a view.

But the second I passed the station at Abergele and Pensarn my breath was taken away!

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The cycle path to the west of there is something I recommend anyone that possibly can to run, walk, crawl or cycle on a sunny day. Views that I can honestly compare to the sea front in the south of France.

All the way across to Conwy castle I was mesmerised.

 

I stopped at a little cafe on the coast to fill my bottles up, had a chat to some local riders and quickly got on my way. I managed to keep the days stoppage time to around 30 minutes similar to the day before, including traffic lights and junctions.

30km from Conwy and I had quickly slotted into Bangor. Up their ‘little’ hill and I was greeted by a hungover but smiley little sister. Packed with goodies for me, we enjoyed them in the sun, before I cooked her dinner, watched a film and she headed out for another lash with the gals.

Oh to be a fresher again. Another successful day with the average over 30kph, somewhat lower on the watt front but I had to be reserved for the final day.

https://www.strava.com/activities/586470245

And then the real party started.

34okm.

That’s a really long way.

I didn’t actually know if it was possible, if I’d manage it. Sure I know people that have done it, some people do it quite regularly. 440 people on strava have done it this month. Out of nearly 200,000 people signed up to the gran fondo challenge it didn’t fill me with hope.

I knew people that had done it with friends, on wheels, in groups. People that had support vehicles and flat roads. On fresh legs at the start of the week. But unsupported, solo, on very heavy legs, starting through the highest peaks in Wales. I actually didn’t know if I was going to do it.

But that wasn’t going to stop me trying.

‘Who we are is why we win’

Snowdonia.
“Snowdonia is a region in northwest Wales concentrated around the mountains and glaciers of massive Snowdonia National Park.”

Thanks wiki.

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It’s big. It really big. I started at 7am after cooking a great bowl of porridge for breakfast. Laura grumbled a hungover goodbye from under her sleeping bag on the floor and I was off. 7:30, later than I’d planned to leave, but I had lights so wasn’t scared of getting caught in the dark.

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It was bitter morning. The shorts and jersey I’d be riding in the sun for the past couple of days, (washed by Laura and Mum, legends), was wearing thin. The higher I climbed the mountain pass the thinner they came. I found some solace in the beauty of the landscape, a very different but equally impressive spectacle to the day before.

It was already almost too much. By 60km I’d been riding almost 3 hours, that’s very very slow. I couldn’t feel my face, hands or feet. I was in a bad way.

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I kept ploughing on, 3 bananas and half a bottle of water down and I was struggling. It was really, really, really cold.

As the A5 dropped beyond Snowdonia and into the valley beyond I found a bit of warmth. Spinning my legs with all I had to avoid the juggernauts speeding past me my body began to thaw, and I started to find a rhythm.

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Now and again I would check my distance and average speed, it was slowly creeping upwards. Onto the A49 after Shrewsbury and I text mum, I knew she’d be worrying. My legs were beginning to warm up a bit, maybe they would spring to life soon. Ambitious.

The next 100km was a bit of a dead zone. 340km is a long way. But in my head it was 60, 60, 40, 30, 30, 50, 70.  Make sense?
Snowdonia, Shrewsbury, 100 miles, furthest ever week, Hereford, Gloucester, Bath. That’s how I broke it down.

Never once did I think ‘I’ve cycled (x) distance already today, I should be really tired’.. instead the mindset was ‘only this far to go, you can do that easy’. until the next checkpoint, and the next, and the next.

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The dead zone to Hereford took quite a bit of time. 120km down, 120km to go afterwards, 100km mid section. I span through 100 miles and my legs were feeling ok, they’d warmed up, my ankle pain had taken a back seat and I was just cracking on. At 190km I had a little chuckle to myself. I’d now cycled further than I ever had in a week, in my life, and it was 2/3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Legend.

And it wasn’t long before I was in Hereford. But I wasn’t in a good way.

I was tired, hungry, weary. There’s only so long bananas and belvitas can sustain you, and I was uncontrollably shivering. The route of A5/A49 had been successful, only a few points of dual carriageway and scariness. But I’m a big boy.

I bought a set of size 10 womens lycra leggings so I could stop crying about my legs. And knocked back 2 Cookies, 3 sandwiches, 2 cream brownies, 2 bottles of water, a pack of salt and vinegar crisps and a bottle of magic juice.

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And my word. My legs came to life.

They sprung into action like they were fresh off the shelf. I made incredible time to Gloucester and steamed right through. Before I knew it I was trundling off the A38 and choo chooing towards the bike path. And then I was in my element. I don’t know where all this energy had come from.

I raced myself faster and faster and faster down the bike path. I was actually laughing. I just wanted more. And more. And more. My legs could have just kept going, I really don’t know what had come over me! And before I knew it I was back. In Bath. In a day.

I’d cycled from the north west coast of Wales, through the whole country, and I was back in the kitchen. I could only laugh, I didn’t think I’d manage it! An average speed of 29.6kph, and I can honestly say I could have kept going. If the saddle sore and dodgy ankle had let me. But I was going to hurt in the morning.

https://www.strava.com/activities/587901480

Quite a boring story really. Boy rides bike. Stops, sleeps, eats, rides more.
But somewhere in there there’s something useful to be taken from it.

It’s easy for people to tell you you can’t do something. To tell you it’s not possible. Make excuses for you, hide behind the excuses. They make themselves feel better about not doing it by telling themselves nobody can do it.

Regular boy cycles 750km in 3 days, with torn ligament, after 11 weeks of training.

These kind of people don’t want to hear that, because they want to believe they can’t do it themselves, that they’re not just being lazy. But there’s no audience for hard work. Nobody was there watching me cycle, supporting through the rough points. But everybody was jumping to ask about it, congratulate me, ask how I did it, any tips I can give.

So don’t forget:

A) back yourself. If you set your mind on something, chances are you’re gonna be able to do it, no matter what other people say, or think, or do.

B) Don’t give up. It would have been easy for me to take a day off, stop in Gloucester, get the train. But by keeping going I’ve discovered what I really could be capable of. And I actually had fun in the process.

C) Don’t listen to the internet, they’re stupid. Find examples of why you can, not why you can’t.

“Big thinking precedes great achievement.”

— Wilferd A. Peterson

 

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A Catch Up

Hello!

How have you been?

So nearly 2 months since I actually appeared or wrote anything decent, what’s been happening?!

Well I took a break. Stepped back, focused on my degree, and even saw my family over Easter!


Since October I’ve been struggling with a torn ligament and 2 inflamed tendons in my ankle, although I’m glad to say my Strava has now sprung to life and were really starting to get somewhere.


I’ve just been hovering  in the middle of the 90′ indoor bikes and long days in the architecture studio. Hitting deadlines and attempting to build mileage!

I’ve always been very public in posting everything i do, I don’t see any reasons not to. If anyone wants to copy they’d always be one step behind, and there’s no harm in people seeing how fit you are, so you might have caught up on strava.

You may even have seen my guest appearance at the Bath Cc chaingang, helping Rob Pears with a few watts.



I need to give a special shout out to Malcolm at physioimpulse, bath. His extensive knowledge of the mechanics of the body whilst running and cycling has helped me no end in my rehabilitation. His techniques to release the tension in my lower legs and pelvis has really helped my recovery and started me off on a fantastic platform to move forward.

It’s still causing me some pain, and I can’t run yet. However, I can cycle. So watch this space!

Maybe.

When I’ve lost 5kg.

And got through the 33 days until I hand in 70% of my degree. Uh oh!