It has been a while since I have written a standard race report.  Most of my recent entries have been somewhat ‘deep and meaningful’, or not as may be the case.

Anyway, here it is…..

THE SWIM

For once, I got this VERY wrong…..

Why?

Well…. if you sprint off the front, flat out for maybe 200m without taking a breath you will never guess what happens??  You get to a point where you simply run out of air.   At this point, I simply could not get enough oxygen into my system.  Even turning to breast stroke did not allow me enough oxygen.  I had to completely stop and tread water for what seemed like hours before I was able to return to the race.  To be honest, I probably only stopped for 20-30 seconds, but when you’re in the middle of a race and being swum over by a lot of people, trust me, a 20-30 seconds seconds seems like a very long time!!!

Having said all that, I was really pleased with how I kept my head and got back into the race.

The rest of the swim was fine, nothing special.  I felt a little wiped out from the ‘hyperventilating start’ for most of the swim, but was confident that once I was on dry land I would be able to get some more oxygen into my system and everything would be OK.

THE BIKE

Starting out on the bike, again I felt a little more blown than I would have liked, but I tried to ignore the feeling and get stuck into the course.  I had raced the Dambuster earlier in the year, so the course was fairly fresh in my mind.  I think this helps get the most out of yourself on the day, when you have a good idea of what is round the next corner….

The course in summary – is a climb out of T1, a fast descent, three punchy climbs, a long fast 10 mile TT down hill section, a longer climb, then a few shorter climbs takes you to the end of the first loop.  Then repeat the same again for the second loop and back into transition.

By the end of the first lap, I felt like I was riding pretty well and the numbers were looking decent.   My ave power was sitting at 331W.  At this point I was sitting in 2nd place (1st place was WAY up the road) with a group of maybe 4-5 other riders strung out behind me.  I kind of expected this to happen and had a plan in my mind for when it did.

The plan was pretty simple, wait until we are riding into the head winds I knew we were going to have out on the course, and then drop the hammer.  So at the start of the second lap as the head winds and hills kicked in, I put the hammer down.  This section was the best part of the course to try and build a sizeable lead on the guys behind me, so I continued to press for the next 20mins.  Looking at the data after the race I averaged 350W for this section, with normalised power was probably up around 370W at a guess!  It was ‘mostly’ a controlled effort but within that 20mins I did put in a couple of bigger 3-5mins efforts over 400W.  Putting surges like this into the mix in a race is always a bit of a gamble.  Still I think that is what racing is all about.

I reached the 10mile TT section of the course with a pretty decent gap now established and was able to back the effort right down to closer to 300W and let the wheels roll.   It is an awesome feeling cruising along at 30mph with minimal effort and this really allowed me to recover from the last 20mins surge.  By the time the next few hills arrived I felt pretty fresh and ready to up the effort back up to normal again.

Entering T2 I felt like I’d had a solid ride…..

gkIjom

Looking back at the numbers after the race, I averaged 324W with a normalised power of 340W.  IF was 0.87 and VI was 1.05, so I would say that was about as much as I could have asked for out on the bike.

THE RUN

At this point in the race the gap to 1st place was huge, so unless he pretty much walked his 1/2 marathon I was never going to catch him.

I had a 2 minute lead on the next man and set off knowing there would be some speedy runners close behind.  I was actually running really quite well for me and after 5km was still in 2nd place!

At this point speed runner number 1 came flying past.  The think I even said “alright speedy” as he flew past.  My mind was in the right kind of place today 🙂 At the half way point I was overtaken by another chap, but this time the difference in pace was really not that much and I almost thought about going with him.  But I was worried I might pop and blow my entire race so I let him slowly creep out of sight over the next 5km

Looking back at that moment now, I kind of wish I had gone with him.  Not because I think I could have held the pace, but because it would have been the brave thing to do and made the race tougher and more exciting, at least from my perspective.  Next time I find my self in that situation, which as it turns out is in 3 days time (Weymouth 70.3 – 8 days on from Vitruvian), I hope I am brave enough to take that gamble.  Time will tell…..

Anyway I was now sitting in 4th place with 10km left to race.  I held pace and my head and with 5km to go I pushed as hard as I felt I could without popping.  No more runners passed me that day 🙂

My final run time – 1hr 24mins.  Again, about as much as I could have hoped for, give or take.

As it turns out, a chap from a wave further back also posted a speedy time, so the final standings – 5th overall and 2nd in age group.

Going into the race, honestly I was hoping for a top 10.  I thought a top 5 might be possible and if I had a perfect perfect day maybe, just maybe a overall podium spot.  So looking back on how the day unfolded I was chuffed to bits to make the top 5 in the British Champs.

To top it all off, my Bro was racing as well.  He seems to be turning himself into a bit of a triathlete these days and I was more concerned about being beaten by him than anyone else doing the race.  Thankfully, while he had a good race I am relieved to say he did not beat me!!!  To be honest I don’t think I could have handled the banter if he had.  But he is getting closer!!!!!!

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Before I sign off I just want to say thank you to the team at Pacesetter Events.  Having raced both the Dambuster and Vitruvian this year, on both occasions I was really impressed with the organisation and the smoothness in which the event just ‘happened’ without any issues or problems.  When things run so smoothly I know us athletes sometimes take it for granted, but Thank You guys.  Without all your efforts, events like this would simply not happen.

Next up Weymouth 70.3, which, as I write this report is in 3 days time!!!  Mentally I am ready to smash it out of the water, I just hope I able to recover in time.  Not feeling quite at 100% yet, but it is Thursday.  Three days to go, so we will just have to wait and see……

 

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The good AND the BAD

Posted: July 4, 2017 in Iron Man, Training, Triathlon

Triathlon Tales – the ups and downs of life in the saddle.  In 2010 in the aftermath of my bike crash, Carli (my then girlfriend, now wife) set up this blog for me and this was the name she gave it.

But with the exception of the first entry, IM Lanza crash, where you see me smashed up and in a bad way and Challenge Henley 2013, nearly, in fact all of my blog entries have been positive ones.  This is not because everything that has happened to me has been positive.  It is just that I have only chosen to write about positive things.  So much for the ‘downs of life in the saddle’!

It feels great to write positive stories of success and happiness, but the reality is that is not real life.  With the good always comes the bad.  Since 2012, I have had quite a few terrible race experiences and not surprisingly, no desire to share these experiences with anyone.  I think it is just human nature.

Anyway, on to 2017.  As always I had thought long and hard about how to approach the year.  The work / family / training balance is an almost impossible equation to answer. But after a couple of years getting this very wrong, I finally felt like I had found balance to this ‘almost’ impossible equation.  My answer, kind of like healthy eating, was everything in moderation.  Well relative moderation anyway….

So things were going well and my form was probably the best it has ever been.  I was hitting power PB’s in the few local TT races I had done (420W for 10 miles and 390W for 25 miles) and I had even managed to sneak a win at the Dambuster triathlon

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This was a great day racing topped of with A LOT of beer being poured over my head!!!!!

Things were looking really good.  So much so I even thought I should write a blog about  the Dambuster race.  Like I said, when things go well it is great fun writing about it!!!!

What happened next……. I did not see coming.

It was the Wednesday morning after Dambuster and I was doing some gentle stretching, when BOOM!!!!!!  Something in my back went.  Now I had meningitis a year or so back and the docs had to try and get a sample of my spinal fluid by sticking a massive needle into my back.  Twice they missed my spine and hit my sciatic nerve.  Trust me when I say that was VERY painful.  Well, the pain I was in on that Wednesday morning was pretty similar!!!  I was in a real mess and could barely move.

Carli and the girls were in Spain, my folks were in France and I needed to somehow get to work.  I made it to the car and then straight to get a sports massage, which did actually help a bit.  I struggled through the day and finally to bed, hopeful that it might be a little better the following day.

Sadly, when I woke up it was pretty much as painful as the second my back went on Wednesday.  I knew that I needed to just MTFU and start moving, so with a lot of swearing and screaming…. I did.  I made it to work and over the course of the day my back started to get a little better.  I saw a chiropractor that evening and the back was starting to feel OK 🙂  I really thought I was over the worst and on the mend.

The next morning was like ground hog day.  The pain was as bad as ever and mentally I was near breaking point.  Carli was still in Spain but she managed to get me a docs appointment and I slowly made it to the surgery in hope of some serious pain killers.  I got some and also booked in to see a top physio in the afternoon.  In true ground hog day style, my back slowly got better during the day and after seeing the physio I felt fantastic.  I would say 8/10.  This time I really thought I had cracked it and was on the mend.

The next morning…..  Saturday morning and ground hog day hit me like a truck.  It flattened me.  Without a reason to leave the house, just getting out of bed took hours.  On previous days, things had got better with movement, so I figured I just needed to MTFU and start moving once again.  The trouble was, mentally I was broken and had very little get and go left in me.  I just lay on the floor thinking – what the fuck am I going to do……..

I kept on saying to myself over and over again MTFU, MTFU, MTFU, MTFU……..  Eventually, with quite a lot of tears I made it on to my bike and started to pedal, somehow hoping for a magic fix?!?!?  I was going to beat this, I was going to beat this…. but I just couldn’t.

10 minutes later I got off my bike and this time I really did not have any fight left in me.  I went back to lying on the floor totally and utterly defeated.  I must have stayed there for hours drowning in self pity.  It is moments like this that really separate the men from the boys in terms of mental strength.  AND in this instance I would classify my self as having the mental strength of a small child.  I was like chicken little from the children’s cartoon – “the sky is falling… the sky is falling”.  Many people have to deal with much much worse than this for years and years.  Four days in and I am a complete mess.  I felt pathetic.

Carli kept on telling me to call a friend.  Chat to the people I never have the time to talk to.  “Call Dave Mc, he always makes you laugh”  etc… But I was hearing none of it.  Surely, nobody would want to talk to me in my sorry state.  So I called nobody, got out the violins and just went on feeling sorry for myself.

Somewhere in all this, my very good friend Alex Gattas came to the forefront of my mind.  Alex took his own life in January 2016.  He was a complete legend of a guy.  The life and soul of every party and one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure to know.  Alex taking his own life came completely out of nowhere.  He had talked to no one, told no one about his struggles.

Now we all have ups and downs in life.  We all love a good happy story.  But nobody wants to share the bad ones.  Nobody wants to phone up a mate and spend the whole phone conversation moaning about how shit everything is.  But we all have bad moments.  Some people have moments worse than others, but at the end of the day it really does help to have a person on the end of a phone to talk to.

On that Saturday, Carli kept on telling me to call someone.  Half of me felt like I really needed to just spend hours complaining and moaning about how shit my back was and how it might never get better… ‘the sky is falling’.  But there was no way I was going to call up a friend to spend the day moaning to them.  Stupid really, as that is what friends are for.  In that moment I really got the importance of talking.  Maybe not to a friend, but to somebody.  That is where charities like CALM come into the mix.

So this brings me on to the reason for this long drawn out soap story about my back, which by the way is much much better 10 days on (As I said Chris ‘chicken little’ Goodfellow – the sky is falling, the sky is falling…..) and that is mental health.

Sometimes, it is important to share the bad stuff as well as the good stuff, and if like me you find yourself in a dark place, not wanting to talk to a friend but wanting to

logo-black CALM

talk to someone, perhaps pick up the phone and call the people at CALM.  Talking about ‘it’ might just help……

Now please don’t get me wrong, I was not in a suicidal state on that Saturday morning.  I was just really blue and feeling very sorry for myself.  My back got better after a few more days and all was good in my world once again.  Mini crisis over 🙂

The reason for writing this blog was because in my sorry state I found that I could suddenly relate to why, when people are depressed, they don’t want to call out for help.  Just as I did not really want to give my friends a call on that Saturday morning to cheer me up.  I thought I would just suck it up and deal with it by myself and in so doing I spent the whole bloody day miserable.  What I should have done is pick up the phone, catch up with old friends, have someone take the piss out of me for being such an old woman, start to laugh and before long I would have realised I was being a complete arse.

So there you go.  I hope I have explained myself OK and before I go, I would like to pass you over to a very good friend of mine Dave Mc. who puts Alex’s story into words better than I ever could.  Over to you big man..

 

Dave, Alex and I were great friends and when Dave gave me a call thinking of doing a challenge in order to raise money for CALM, he asked what I thought about the idea of doing a Ironman???

Now for those of you that don’t know Dave, he is a big rugby playing guy built for power NOT endurance.  So doing a Ironman or even a Ironman 70.3 is a BIG challenge.  I said, ‘the idea of Dave doing an Ironman would have Alex pissing himself laughing.  He would have thought it was a fantastically brilliant but crazy idea’.  I did point out that with the arrival of his second child late last year, maybe starting with an Ironman 70.3 would be the most sensible approach.  Surprisingly, and much to his wife’s relief,  he followed my advice and on the 23rd July Dave is racing a half ironman.  I have been honoured to have been part of his journey thus far getting him ready for the race.  He is raising money for the charity CALM and for those of you interested in helping this cause, please see the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-macaulay2?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=David-Macaulay2&utm_campaign=pfp-share

https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Dave – Good luck big man.  Hope you smash it out of the water.  Alex would be proud…..

 

Looking Back on 2010

Posted: April 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

At some point last year I was asked by Joe Beer to write a few words about the 2010 crash in Lanza and the events that followed for a book he was writing….

I found it impossible to just write a few words and sent him pages!!!  I am honoured to say he published every word in Time-Crunched TRIATHLON earlier this month.  Even reading this today it puts a smile on my face.  So I thought I would share ‘my story’ once more….

 

4 middle distance triathlons in 36 days – THAT WAS THE PLAN!

If you average it out, that works out as one middle distance race every 9 days. It takes your body 10 days to absorb any training, so there isn’t really any beneficial training that can be done to improve fitness between races.  There isn’t really enough time to absorb the overload from the previous race before you do the next one!  In fact, if you look at this idea on a ‘micro scale’ with the sole purpose to perform at your very best in every race, no part of this is a good idea.  It is more than probable, that performance would deteriorate a little bit in every race, leaving the athlete wasted at the end of the process with little to show for it.  At least that is one way of looking at this ‘idea’.

But there are always two sides to every coin. So here is the ‘other side of the coin’.

The race schedule was:

  • BEDFORD MIDDLE DISTANCE TRIATHLON
  • One week recover + 1 week build
  • BALA MIDDLE DISTANCE TRIATHLON – ‘A’ RACE
  • 1 week recovery
  • COTSWOLD 113
  • One week recover + 1 week build
  • GRAFMAN MIDDLE DISTANCE TRIATHLON

The plan for the Bedford was to get some race practice in.  Test out nutrition, race kit and get a feel for ‘race pace’.  Mostly importantly, dial the effort back just a few % on the bike and NOT push on the run.  This would give me a pretty good idea of ‘race pace’ and hopefully allow me enough time to absorb the race having not given it 100%.  Of course I wanted to win, but if this run of races was going to work in my favor I would need to be strict about this.

With two weeks between Bedford and Bala, assuming I had got pacing right in Bedford, this would allow me enough time to recover, make any necessary kit and nutritional changes, and build into the Bala race.  This time, hopefully increasing to full gas ‘race pace’.

Next up…. And only 7 days later – the Cotswold 113.  This was the only real question mark race I had entered.  When I say question mark, I mean I was really not sure if this was a good idea.

Bala was my main focus of the series.  It was the one I really wanted to nail.  So the Cotswold 113 was a bit of a ‘gamble’ race.  Over the years, on a number of occasions I have put in some of my best performances or training 1 week after my ‘A’ race of the year.  Back in 2011, I clocked 1hr 47mins for a 50mile TT one week after my first ever sub 9hr Ironman.  Sometimes your body just surprises you.  So, I had entered this race with the hope of being surprised.  You never know…..

After that I had another two weeks before the final race, the Grafman.  Now this was what I was hoping would happen.  My body would have absorbed the 3 almost back to back races and I would have moved my fitness up another notch.  I would have also learned a lot about where my limits were at this distance and be able to execute a near perfectly paced race.

This was ‘THE PLAN’.  How it turned out?  Well it is a bit of a long read but bear with me.

 

RACE 1 – Bedford

The race in Bedford was an interesting day to say the least, with a multitude of navigational mistakes on my part.  People who know me will probably not be surprised to hear this.  Anyway, I felt pretty good in the swim.  I was not able to stay with the lead swimmer, but led the rest of the field around the course.  I came out of the water a minute or two behind the leader only to be told that I had missed a buoy and to be sent back in the water.  Navigational mistake number 1!

By the time I came out of the water for a second time I was probably a good 5mins down on the leader and well down the field.  Out on the bike I was not feeling fantastic and quite happy to sit at my slightly conservatively planned power (around 310W).  I was still moving through the field pretty quickly, that was until I made navigational mistake number 2.  There were some other signs on the course for a local TT.  I mistook a TT sign for a triathlon sign and went the wrong way at the T junction.  One of the benefits of not yet being at the front of the race was that I soon noticed a lack of cyclists up the road to over take so I figured something must be up and did a quick U-turn.

Back on the correct course and I managed to almost complete a full lap before navigational mistake number 3. Again, I mistook a TT sign for a triathlon sign!  But this time, I was alone at the front of the race with no more cyclists to overtake up the road. As a result I continued on this detour for about 5km before almost by chance finding myself back on the triathlon course (All of this I did without even realizing I had gone wrong).

On to the second lap and I managed to avoid navigational mistake number 2 but not navigational mistake number 3.  By the time I had finished the bike I had cycled an extra 10km. Doohoo. Still other than a FEW navigational mistakes, I had been really happy with kit, nutrition and the slightly conservative pacing strategy.

There was only one other bike in T2 when I got there and to be honest I was happy not to see more!  Out on the run and I stuck to my plan of not pushing too hard.  I held a steady pace and managed to avoid any further navigational mistakes!!  As luck would have it, the chap leading the race was not having a great run.  There was a 4 min gap but I was slowly closing him down.  By half way the gap was down to 1min and I broke my ‘not pushing hard’ plan for just for a couple of km to make the pass and put in a bit of a buffer before slowing things down again for the last few km’s.

Back in the car park after the race, I got on the turbo to warm down and reflect on the day.  I had won by around 3mins with plenty left in the tank.  Kit and nutrition had been spot on.  Pacing wise I felt confident I had not overcooked things.  So all in all, it was just the start I had hoped for.

Befdford trophies

 

RACE 2 – Bala

Despite holding back ever so slightly on the bike and run I still need ALL of the next week to fully recover.  Making me question my idea of racing the Cotswold 113 a week on from Bala even more.  But first things first and that was Bala.

Bala was the first middle distance race I ever did, way back when.  It is a hilly course and one that I have always thought does not really play to my strengths being somewhat of a heavy unit. Nonetheless, I went into the race determined to give it everything, and be happy with whatever that gave me.

The swim ended up only being 1000m, due to low temperatures in the lake.  I was a little annoyed but rules are rules.  My swim went OK I guess, but I was way off the pace.  I think I came out of the water around 14th and at least 2-3mins down on the race leaders.

On the bike I had a very simple race plan.  Hit ALL inclines hard and back the effort off just a little on the downs.  I was hitting crazily high power numbers for me.  The highest I have ever seen in middle distance racing.  I was feeling OK, so I figured I would push a little more and see what happened.  To my surprise I felt solid, strong and still not at 100% effort.  I love moments in sport like this when your body finds new limits.  Today was one of those moments.

By the time I caught the leaders I was feeling fantastic.  I took stock for a few minutes then went off the front…

As I reached the top of the final climb I had managed to build a pretty solid 2-3 min lead.  From this point it was around 15-20km down hill to T2.  Downhill was where I seemed to be making up the biggest inroads, so I would have hoped to entered T2 with maybe a 3-4 mins lead.

However, as many within the triathlon community now know – an incident out on the course brought all road traffic to a stop and no cyclists were allowed to pass.  Myself and a large number of the people racing, waited for 30mins or so before being allowed through.

In my mind the race was over.  We entered T2 in a group and explained to the organisers what was going on up the road.  It was felt by myself and many fellow athletes, that the race should be cancelled. It was.

It transpired that the person involved did not make it.  It was an incredibly sad, somber and sobering day.  My heart goes out to all the friends and family of the athlete involved.

So Bala was not the day anybody racing had imagined and it made me really stop and think about what’s important in life.

 

RACE 3 – Cotswold 113

The following Sunday at the start line of the Cotswolds 113, my mind was in a far more thoughtful and reflective place than a normal race morning.  I think that is the best way I can describe it.

Anyway, I had a pretty good swim.  At least I felt smooth and strong in the water.  I came out in first place and had felt very comfortable.  Good start.

113 Middle Distance Tri - 14.6.15 -- www.113events.com

113 Middle Distance Tri – 14.6.15 — http://www.113events.com

The plan on the bike was simple.  SMASH IT! No holding back.  After Bala, I wanted to see how hard I could push on the bike.  I had hoped to go sub 2hrs, but had to settle with 2hrs 03mins.  It had been a wet slippery morning.  Not the fastest conditions.  The reason for pushing extra hard on the bike was simple.  I wanted to put my body out of its comfort zone and just see what would happen.

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The run course was three laps and I had it in my mind that I would hold a steady pace for the first two laps.  If I was feeling good, I would to increase the pace for the final lap.  I actually felt pretty good for the first two laps and so as planned I upped the pace at the start of the final lap.

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After a couple minutes – boom, my heart rate spiked from 165 to 220 bpm!!

I know watches sometime give you crazy readings, but I was feeling really strange, so I slowed to a walk and manually checked my heart rate.  It was going too fast to be able to count properly but it was definitely north of 200!!!  It scared the hell out of me.  Not enough to make me stop racing, but I have never been that sensible when I have my race face on.  I walked to a short while until my heart rate had come back down to below my supposed ‘MAX’ then jogged the remaining 6 km keeping my heart rate down in ‘normal’ regions.

I came home in 4hrs 03mins to win by about 4mins.   I had mixed feelings immediately after the race.  My main concern was the stupidly high heart rate I had just seen while racing, so I headed straight to the medics tent to be checked out.  After being given the all clear and speaking to them in some detail I felt a lot better about the spike in heart rate.

It had been an interesting day.  I had wanted to see what would happen if I pushed it really hard on the bike.  Well, what happened was my heart just couldn’t keep up with the intensity my body was putting it through.  I am sure that there was an element of fatigue from the race in Bala the previous weekend that also contributed to the onset of this mega spike in heart rate.  That being said, the rest of my muscles were still feeling pretty good.

I think this is the first time that I have found my heart to fatigue before some other muscle in my body.  But then again, this is the first time I have ever tried to do some many races back to back.  So I guess it is hardly surprising, when you come to think about it.

If you look at the Cotswold 113 race in isolation, you might say that I simply overcooked the bike.  On the day I would 100% agree with you.  So the obvious solution, looking forward to the Grafman, would be to back the intensity off just a little on the bike and allow myself a better chance of putting down a solid run and a much better overall triathlon performance.  That was the obvious solution……

But the whole reason I came up with this crazy series of races, was because I wanted to test and push my limits.  Not back off at the final hurdle!!

IF…. my body is able to absorb all of this high intensity overload, maybe, just maybe I might be able to hit the same power numbers at Grafman as I did in the Cotswold 113, but this time be able to hold it together for the full duration of the run.

 

RACE 4 – Grafman

 

So Grafman race day…

I had a really poor swim.  Everything felt hard.  I found myself swimming in a far from straight line and generally just feeling like I was going backwards, and fast.  I must have come out of the water 5 minutes down on the leaders and way back in the field.  Not a good start.

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Out on the bike and I felt much better.  The power numbers were where I had come to expect them to be.  I put my head down – let the chase begin…  I was making good headway on the guys up the road and after about 20mins I had moved from 22nd into 3rd place.  Another 20mins on and I moved into 2nd place.  At the 1hr mark I come to a U-turn.  As I retraced my steps back up the road my mouth dropped open.  Behind my lay a long pace line!  I had just assumed, given the speed at which I had overtaken everyone, that they were long gone.  I had not once turned to look behind me, which turned out to be a VERY BIG mistake.

A few minutes later I took the lead with a now very large pace line in my wake.  I slowed for a couple of minutes and allowed a couple of people to overtake me while I had a think about my next move.  Option 1, sit in this pace line.  Let someone else do all the work and hit the run with fresh legs.  This was a good plan, but I knew there would be faster runners than me in this group.  I wanted to win and to do that I needed to enter T2 with a good lead.  So I went for option 2…

Option 2.  Put your foot down and loose these guys.  By the next turn around I think I had 1 minute lead.  But the next lap was heavily congested with competitors and traffic.  I believe a couple of strong riders leading the pace line behind me were also trying to get away, but not having much luck.  All this meant I was loosing valuable seconds to the chasing group.  Add to that the ‘relay cyclist  factor’.  The only person to put in a slightly faster bike split than me was this ‘relay cyclist’ who came through the field towards the end of the bike.  With him he brought the pace line I had worked so hard to shake!!  So with 20mins left to ride I was back to square one!   ARRGGGG.

As this guy took the lead from me I actually managed to make a smart tactical move!!!  I waited.  Allowed a biggish gap to open up before surging back up to join him.  This actually worked and only one other rider went with this move.  We put 40 seconds into the pace line behind coming into T2.  The power numbers had been higher that in the Cotwold 113!  I had put it all out there on the bike and had a slim 40secs on the rest of the main field to show for it.  As I said to a few people after the race – “This was not the race for strong bikers!”.

IT WAS ALL DOWN TO THE RUN.

I started the run running along side Kit Walker (the other rider who had gone with my move in the dying stages of the bike).  He was breathing harder than me and I slowly pulled away from him over the first few 2-3 km’s.  But at the same time the first of the speedy runners came flying past.  I tried to surge to go with him and actually stayed close behind for a km or two.  But then I got passed by a couple more speedy runners and I could feel the race slipping away.

At this point I tried to ignore the race around me and focus on my day, running to the best of my ability and letting the rest go.  AND…. I did just that.  I held my run together all the way to the finish line.  No crazy heart rate spikes, just a solid run performance.  I crossed the line 6th and was happy with the performance my body had put together on the day.

Looking back over my MIDDLE DISTANCE MADNESS, I can honestly say I got everything I could have hoped out of the experience.

To me, it was as much about the exploratory nature of this race series as the results that may or may not have followed.  In this case they did not ALL follow, but I proud to say I loved the process of it all nonetheless.

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In December 2011, I came up with a challenge – ‘The Zermatt 5 peak challenge

The idea was simple.  Run up all five of the ski mountains in Zermatt in a single day.  This is not an organised event.  Just one crazy guys idea of an awesome day pushing as hard as you can until you reach your limits.

I first attempted this back in the Christmas of 2011.  At the time I don’t think I really thought I would ever complete the challenge.  I just wanted to see how far I would get….  That day, I made it to the top of the 4th peak before my legs gave in.  The 5th peak was the big one, Klein Matterhorn.  At 3885m, there was no way I was even going to get close.  Still, it was a great day out and I remember being chuffed to bits to have made it that far.

Move things forward a few years, to Christmas 2014.  I made a more ‘serious’ attempt at ‘The Zermatt 5 peak challenge’.

It was the perfect day.  Sunny skies, -10 to -15 DegC and not a drop of wind on the mountain.  This time, I attempted the route back to front.  Ascending the biggest peak, Klein Matterhorn (3885m) first.  I took loads of pictures and ‘checked in’ on FB at the top of every peak.

After a uphill running time of 7hr 08mins, I was 532m away from making it to the top of the final peak.  The sun was setting on the mountain and I had 25mins before the lifts shut for the day.  The very fastest time I have ever run this section on fresh legs was 30mins.  There was simply not enough time left to make it to the top.  I have got to honest.  A very big part of me was quite… OK, very happy to sit down and finish the day with a coke in the sun.  It had been a awesome day & I knew I had it in me to make it up those last 532m.  It was just not meant to be that day.

A few months on, in mid April, I found myself back in the ‘Big Z’ with my bro and a couple of mates for a boys ski weekend.  I had no intention to even run up the a single mountain that weekend.  But had packed my running kit, just incase…..

On the first ski run of the first day I managed to pull something in my back.  Same old story.  TOO excited, and I had gone too fast, too hard, too soon 😦

The next day, skiing was really quite painful.  BUT… as it turned out, it seemed OK to run 🙂

So what do you do if you are Chris, on a ski weekend in Zermatt, but can not ski???

Another ATTEMPT on ‘THE ZERMATT 5 PEAK CHALLENGE’ of course.

This time round was a very different running experience.   The last two attempts had both been at Christmas with temperatures around  -10 to -15 DegC.

Running in April is a completely different ball game.  It was a toasty 1 to 2 DegC when I set off.  I did question my decision to run in shorts and T-shirt, but as it turns out I think I made the right call.

Again, it was another perfect day.  Blue skies and not a drop of wind.  The snow was firm and crisp.  Great for running on and I quickly made up to the top of the first peak, back down and onto the climb to the second peak, The Klein Matterhorn.  This is were I made a really stupid mistake.  I was feeling great, really great and I started to push.  Not hard at first, but the closer I got to the the top, the harder I pushed.  This would have been absolutely fine if this was the end of my run.  But I was not even at the half way point yet.  Stupid, I know.

I then followed this up by another stupid mistake.  On the long descent back down, I ate far too much food.  By the time I had started the ascent of the third peak I could feel my stomach starting to shut down.  I knew from previous stomach shutting down experiences that I needed to stop eating and allow my stomach to recover.  Not ideal if you are trying to run up your third mountain of the day.

I had been running uphill for over 4hrs at that point and this was when things started to get tough.  Really tough.  There were a lot of hands on knees moments, when stopping seemed a certainty.  I kept telling myself over and over again,  “Just make it to the top of this peak, then you’re done”.

So I made it to the top of the third peak after what seemed like a VERY long time.  The crisp snow had turned to heavy slush and I have to say I felt like I was melting along with the snow.  I guess I could have stopped.  The thing was, it had only just turned midday.  I figured I might as well keep moving and enjoy the view on the go.  I honestly did not think I would make it much further.

There was quite a bit of walking involved in the ascent of that forth peak, but I could slowly feel my stomach coming back online 🙂  Suddenly I was back in the game.  Well sort off.  I had one more peak to go and over 2hr 30mins to make it to the top before the lifts closed for the day.  This may sound like plenty of time, and it is, ON FRESH LEGS.  But after 6hrs of running up inclines ranging from 10-20% I honestly had no idea how long it would take.  To make things just that little bit harder, the snow was now one seriously heavy going slush pit, making it very difficult to make headway, especially on the steep incline sections.

As back up, my bro had left my skis and boots at the top.  Worst case I could ski back down if I missed the cut off.

So….. I started the final ascent.

Now this final section of mountain is one serious heat trap.  It is south facing and I could feel the rays reflecting of the snow and burning through me.  I was quite worried about this, but there was little I could do about it.  (As it turned out I had every right to be worried.  I actually managed to burn the inside of my bottom lip!  This resulted in some seriously painful blisters all the way along the INSIDE of my bottom lip!!!  Note to anyone running up snow capped mountains in the spring.  Keep your mouth SHUT!!)

Quite randomly (I think I had just fallen over or something), I tried picking up the slush and clenching it tightly in hands.  This actually worked amazingly well and made me realise quite how much I was overheating.  I managed to pick the pace up quite a bit and quickly found myself on the final 532m stretch where I had abandoned the challenge last time.

Crossing this point was huge.  It was then, in that moment, I KNEW…… I had this.

Those last 532m was like an extended finishing cute.  I was on a massive high.  I could hardly feel my body, it was numb with excitement. I found myself wanting to shout at the top of my voice, smash my fists on my chest, jump up a down… I don’t know what.  It sounds stupid I know, but this was huge to me.

Over four years ago I had come up with what I thought to be an almost impossible challenge.  AND at the time, for me it was.  It is amazing how time and a little hard work can change the goal posts.

The final magic numbers where

5 peaks – 4700m ascent

Uphill Running time – 7hrs 30mins

I made it to the top at exactly the same time Nick (my bro), Jonny and Alex came to the top on the chair lift.  It was very cool to be greeted by those boys.  Perfect way to finish it all off.

So……..

What is next??  Loads of ideas!!    BUT…… for now ‘THAT’LL DO’.

 

Back in the game…. AGAIN

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

I always find it hard to know where to start when I am writing a blog entry.  I guess I will just start where I left off, back at 2013.

From a race point of view, it was a TOUGH YEAR!  After a solid win at the Forestman things just went from bad to worse.  At Roth  my body AND MIND just broke down. I crossed the finish line totally and utterly gutted.  Ironman Copenhagen felt like a bit of a nothing performance and then there was Challenge Henley …..  Even now, when I think back to that day, it makes me wince.  The scars left are just too raw.

THEN…..

Mollie arrived on the 16th October and the last 10 weeks of that year were a blur.  Best blur of my life, but a blur nonetheless.

In January, I found myself adopting the ‘Forest Gump’ approach to training.  ‘I just felt like running’ and so I did – ALOT.  In the first 4 weeks I ran 400km over the Oxfordshire trails and as the never ending rain hit the UK in February, I just ran some more.  Over the next 4 weeks I ran 500 ridiculously muddy km’s and topped out it off with a 151km week at the beginning of March.  Half the time I was running in the dark and torrential rain and I have to say I LOVED it.  Every run felt like a real adventure and the wildlife you see at night is pretty awesome too 🙂  I was doing a tiny bit of swimming and biking, but no more than 2 swims a week and 3-5 hours on the bike.  It was all about the running….

Up till now I have always considered myself a strong swim – biker who just about (some of the time) manages to hold on during the run.  During those 9 weeks and 1051km of running in the mud, something changed.  I could feel myself actually becoming a ‘real’ runner.  It may sound a bit corny, but that is the best way I can describe it.

During the course of March and April I kept up the high run volume while shifting the focus back to the bike.  If felt SO good to be back riding again AND somehow, the power numbers where still there – go figure?  The body is a strange beast!

I remember entering the long course POWERMAN UK back in the middle of January.  In the years gone by I would have never even considered entering a long course duathlon.  Running has always been my weakness and I would always choose events that played to my strengths with a strong swim & bike focus.  I guess I had decided it was time to face my weakness head on.  I entered the race on the 16th January and that……  was that.

So I found myself at the start of my 2nd ever duathlon, excited and a little nervous!

The first 10km – The plan was to hide in the middle of the pack.

Yeah, who was I trying to kid.  I am far to competitive to allow myself to hide in the middle of the pack.  So off I raced out at the front.  Doohoo!

POWERMAN UK Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took me about 400m to calm down and slow to a more sensible pace.  By then a couple of guys had taken the lead and I was happy to follow them around the 10km holding a comfortable pace, what ever that was?

I had made the decision to race without a watch.  To many times in the past, I have looked down at my watch to see numbers I did not want to see.  This then would start to play on my mind and negatively effect my race.  So this time round I was going to race on feel, race to the very best of my ability and… be happy with that, knowing I had given my best.

I think I got the pacing about right in the first 10km and managed a unusually quick T1 out onto the bike.  I hit the lead after about 1 minute, put my head down and just as planned, rode ON FEEL.  No numbers, just me and the road.  The bike course had a bit of everything.  Super fast TT sections, short sharp climbs, long drags, tight corners & constantly changing.  I loved it 🙂

Back into T2 and again a unusually quick transition for me.  I headed out onto the run with no idea how far behind second place was.  I was in my own little world and just enjoying every second out on the course.  I was not pushing the pace but focused on running smooth with the plan to push during the last third of the race.  And….. I did just that.  The laps flew by and before I knew it I was heading for home.

At this point I have got a little confession to make.  When I normally race I get some tunes bouncing around my head.  You know, the normal motivational stuff – eye of the tiger etc….  Well today’s song of choice turned out to be a song I sing to Mollie – The gummy bear theme tune from the 80’s cartoon.  When I was growing up I must have watched this cartoon and apparently I really loved the theme tune because I can still remember all the words, even today.  I tried singing this song to Mollie once is desperation to stop her crying.  She loved it and the song is now once of her favourite things!!  For those of you that are interested have a listen – Gummy bear theme tune.  It is kind of catchy?!?!?  Anyway, this song came into my head about half way through the run and it stay with me all the way to the finish.  I guess I had a little bit of Mol with me 😉

Crossing the line it turns out second place had been 100m-200m behind me all day.  I had been in a real battle for the win and not even known about it!!!

After the turmoil of last season, it meant so so much to me to cross that finish line PROUD of the performance I had done.

Not only that, for the first time in my life, it felt like I had actually won it on the run.  And that is something I thought I would NEVER be able to say!

Thank you to the whole POWERMAN UK team for putting on a quality race – I loved every second of it.

Here is to sport and never saying never……..

POWERMAN UK Finish

 

 

 

 

Thank you

Posted: September 12, 2013 in Challenge Series, Iron Man

I never really got the chance to write about Ironman Copenhagen 2013.

Time kind of ran away from me.  It was not a terrible day, but not a good one either.  I had planned to hold back A LOT on both the swim and bike, then run hard and hopefully fast.   I did exactly that on the swim and bike but tactically this turned out to be a bad decision.  On entering T2 I had a huge nose bleed that lasted for the first 5 maybe 10km of the run.  No idea if this affected me physically (probably not), but it completely blew my concentration.  Looking back on the race I just did not take on enough calories during the run.  I really should know better.  I came home in 8:59 and to be honest was disappointed & frustrated at how the day turned out.

But this blog is not really about Ironman Copenhagen at all.  It is all about Challenge Henley 2013 – a day I NEVER want to forget.

Ten days before the race I was flying.  I felt like superman.  The numbers (SWIM, BIKE & RUN) were looking better than I had EVER seen before.  The weather was set to be cold and wet – perfect racing conditions for me.  I was totally convinced Challenge Henley 2013 was going to be the day where I would do ‘something special’.

On Thursday night (two days before the race), I came down with a bug of some sort.  I was congested and unable to sleep at all that night.  The next day I had meant to go to the press conference but I was in no fit state.  I stayed at home and tried to sleep it off.  By Saturday morning I was feeling OK.  Not 100%, but much better, so I made the call to go register, rack my bike and just hope I would be back to 100% come race morning.

That night I could hardly sleep, not because I felt bad – the exact opposite in fact.  I was excited and fully of energy.  I remember just lying there looking at the stars for hours.  By the time 3am came, any thought of illness had completely left my mind.  I was going to start this race.  Carli, my amazing wife, who is also 8 months pregnant was adamant that she was going to come to the swim start.  So we left the house together both in good spirits with the music blasting out of the car.  If you told me then, what lay in front of me I can honestly say I would have never left the house.  However, if I went back to that moment right now, to stay at home that day would have been one of the my biggest mistakes.

BUT I didn’t, and so it began ….

I think it must have been one of my best swim starts.  I felt strong and powerful in the water and latched onto Steven Bayliss’ feet.  To my huge surprise, they were not moving away from me.  I sat there for a bit but slowly I lost touch with him and he drifted into the fog along with the lead canon.  I found myself leading a group of swimmers into the mist.  I was not pushing hard and honestly at that point I felt good.  We got to the turn buoy and out of nowhere I got hit by severe cramps in both my calves.   I stopped, tried to stretch them out.  I could loosen one, but my left calf was solid.  It would not budge.  I could see Joel and Tom (two of the race favourites) swimming away from me and had a split second decision to make.  Stop or crack on.  I didn’t really have enough time to think, so I just went on instinct and cracked on.  The rest of the swim was utter agony with other muscles joining the ‘cramping’ party.  Coming out of the swim I think I almost pulled two BIG volunteer support guys into the water.  When I finally did get out, the cramp in my left calf was so bad my foot looked fully dislocated!  I think it freaked a few of the helpers out!  Anyway, with all my weight I managed to put my foot back in place, the cramp FINALLY went, and I cracked on through T1.  Joel and Tom were 10-15 seconds ahead of me now so I needed to be quick.IMG_3991

Out on the bike, Tom was only 20m in front of me and I focused on trying to reign him in.  But I had nothing in my legs.  That first lap I buried myself and the power numbers barely went above my easy zone 1 ride levels.

I felt utterly ruined.

Heading out on the second lap I felt this anger building and I gave it one final push to try and bring my race back on track.  Pretty stupid really.  It is hard to describe what happened over the next thirty minutes.  To be honest I don’t really know.  I just felt like my body was falling apart.  My back started cramping, then my vision went a little hazy.  After that ….  I don’t really know.  I just remember lying on the grass and a guy (later on that day I found out his name was Clive) coming over to ask me if I was alright?  He offered me his phone and I texted Carli to let her know I was OK.  I have no idea how long I lay there? 10,15 maybe 20 minutes.  Clive would come over every now and again to check on me.

Finally, I stood up….. to go home.  It was down hill all the way into Henley.  Carli had text to say she was going back to the car and she would meet me there.  Then my friend Clive wondered over.  I think he kind of assumed I was carrying on.  I remember him saying in a really kind softly spoken way “carry on mate, come on,  you can still do this”.

My head was in turmoil.  Yes, I could stand up and yes I could just about pedal.  But the time I would walk away with and end result would be so bad….. It was hard to find a reason to carry on.  I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself.  All I can remember saying is “PRIDE (long pause) is a terrible thing sometimes” as the tears rolled down my face.  I sat there for another 5-10 minutes battling with my own thoughts.

Finally I stood up for the second time.  I was not feeling any better, or any more positive about anything.  It was just I could not sit there all day.  I had to make a decision.  Right to go home, left to carry on.  As I stood up for that second time I still did not know what I was going to do.  I just found my self on my bike turning left.  I honestly don’t know why.  I said to Clive “Tell Carli I am carrying on” and tried to smile.

IMG_3998

That second lap was very emotional.  I went through stages of trying to fight and pushing the power, followed by long periods when I realised my body could just not handle it.  The process repeated itself over and over again.  I was balling my eyes out half the time.  I felt pathetic!  But I was still moving.

At the end of the second lap, I stopped and gave Carli a big LONG hug.  I really needed it and did not want to let go.  Finally I did and started out on the 3rd and final lap of the bike.  This lap was survival.  There was no fight left.  I kept saying to myself I would just make it to the next junction and then call it a day.  I had decided I could not do it any more.  This was it.  I was done.  But every time I got to one of those junctions a part of me deep deep down could just not let myself do it.  So I would say to myself.  OK to the next junction, then call it a day.  FINALLY I found myself entering T2.  I had completed the 3rd lap but that was it.  NO MORE.

I stubbled towards the side on the path and sat down.  At this point I was beyond tears.  I just stared at the ground totally spent, freezing and to be honest I don’t know what…   Carli came over, put a jumper over me.  We sat there for a long time.  I kept saying  “I don’t know what to do?”.  I said it over and over again as if I would get an answer from somewhere, but of course I didn’t.  I must have made the decision to quit dozens of time during that long 20 minutes in T2.  But I could not walk away.  I have no idea why, I just couldn’t.

Eventually I asked Carli to get me a top to run in.  My kit had my name, sponsors logo’s etc. on it.  I was embarrassed, so very embarrassed to be racing as a ‘pro’.  I felt like a joke.  Finally, after maybe 30mins I started the run.

From the second I left T2 my path was fixed.  I have no idea why, it just was.  Don’t get me wrong, my body was still ruined.  My mind had quit a long time ago, over AND over again.  But there was ‘something else’, don’t know how to describe it.  It is so deeply part of who I am that I don’t know what word to use.  It has always been there, but it is buried so very deep, I never really notice it.  Anyway this ‘something else’ had been boiling under the surface all day.  And as my body and mind faltered it had come right to the surface to take charge.  It had been behind every decision that could not let me walk away and it was pulling me along right now.  I found myself running, not fast, but I was running.

As I passed the supporters going out on the first lap every smile, every friendly face, every clap, every cheer meant the world.  It really really did.  I tried to smile (probably failed badly) and say thank you to everyone.  My emotions were still all over the place and again I spent most of the time running in tears.  Half way round the first lap I passed my friend Clive.  He did not say much.  He did not have to.  He just nodded, smiled said something like “you’re still here Chris”.   As I came towards the end of the first lap I was passing some friends who had joined Carli.

Their cheers and their smiling faces meant more than I can put into words.  I stopped & gave Claire (a great friend) a hug.  I just wanted to say thank you for coming down, taking the time out of your day to cheer me on, and sorry to be such a disappointment.

The second lap was a bit of a blur – Literally.  Not sure why but everything went hazy.  The only thing I can really remember vividly is my niece Lucie handing me a bottle and shouting “come on Uncle Kanga”.   I will never forget that moment.  Oh and yes for those of you who don’t know me, my nickname when I was a kid was Kanga, for obvious reasons I hope.

Half way round the 3rd lap, whatever had  been pulling me around started to fade.  At that exact moment in time, when walking the rest of the run seemed a certainty, a chap called Steve came along side me.  I had meet Steve at the Forestman.  He waited for me to try and help.  That gesture was so very kind and meant more than I can explain in words.  We started chatting and I told him what had happened today, in brief!!  What he said next was, well awesome.  He quoted something once said by Theodore Roosevelt’s.  I had never heard it before…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid should who neither know victory nor defeat”

It is hard to believe that someone in the middle of an event like this would be able to quote the entire thing.  But trust me he did!

It is hard to explain but I felt like I was inside that speech.  Its message consumed every part of me and from somewhere I found new strength.  That is the only way I can describe it.

The last lap was a very emotional one.  When I ran past my bro, friends and Carli I almost broke down then and there.  A bit further on Sophie, a friend I have not seen for a while, jogged with me for a few meters to cheers me on.  I gave her a big hug.   I just could not believe how kind everyone had been to me ALL day.  I remember passing Clive with 5km to go.  He had a massive smile on his face and for the first time today, so did I.

I crossed the finish line of my 20th Ironman distance race in 10hr 50mins 29 secs.  I am not going to lie, I was devastated.  Afterwards, I sat there with my bro saying nothing for a long.  There was noting to say.

Later on I sent my coach a text that I think sums it all up pretty well.

“So so many amazing people out there.   Spent most of the day in tears and have no idea how I finished.  Have to say worst and at the same time best sporting experience of my life.  All because of the people”

At the start of this blog I wrote “I was totally convinced Challenge Henley 2013 was going to be the day were I would DO ‘something special’.”.  I am not going to claim that I DID something special, but to me Challenge Henley 2013 WAS ‘something special’.

Over the last 8 years I think I have experienced just about every emotion possible in sport.  It has been one hell of a roller coaster ride, but one that I would do over and over again if given the chance.

I just want to say, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart to EVERYONE who has made this ride possible.

medals