Archive for the ‘Iron Man’ Category

Zermatt Five Peak Challenge

Posted: December 9, 2011 in Iron Man, Training

What happened out in Kona?  This is a question that has gone around my head endlessly.

Looking back on the race, in the days that followed I could only explain my poor performance by my body’s inability to cope with the extreme heat.  However, this did not sit well with me.  I had put so much effort into trying to adjust my body to the heat in the build up to the race and it had been working well.  My body was adapting I was making major improvements in the heat training sessions that I had done.  I found it hard to believe that after all that effort I still ended up melting out there, but short of another explanation, this was the best I could come up with.

Eight days after the race I was still feeling utterly shattered.  Something was not right so I popped into the doctors for a quick check up.  It turned out that I had shingles.  Which, for me ended up being a few sores on my forehead, unusually low energy levels and swollen glands around my ear.  The drugs I was prescribed knocked it on the head pretty fast, but here is the question that has been with me since then. Did I have shingles before the race, or did I get shingles as a result of the trauma I was exposed to by doing an Ironman in temperatures that my body could not cope with?

The logical answer to this would be the latter of the two scenarios.  However, if I look back on the week building up to the race, I was already starting to show symptoms of shingles, in the form of few raised bumps on my forehead that eventually turned into the sores you associate with shingles.  The thing is, in my search for an explanation, it could just be my mind trying to find any possible sign, however tenuious, that could confirm I had shingles before the race and thus an explanation for the days events as they unfolded.  At the end of the day, it could just be my mind playing tricks on me and I honestly I don’t think I will ever know if it was shingles or the heat out in Kona that broke me.  I will just have to move on and let that one go.

I have a tendency to lose perspective on things sometimes, and let my drive to succeed blur things.  Adam Moore wrote some very kind and wise words after my last entry – “When I saw you were on your way Kona it did put a smile on my face and despite not knowing you that well I felt my self really egging you on to have a good race.  So despite the fact you are not entirely happy with the result (when are we ever!) I think on this occasion you don’t need to worry about it, because in my eyes you have won.. because after this incredible 17 month journey, you got to kona, completed the race and got the girl!!!”.  Adam, thank you for that reminder and help to keep things in perspective.  Like you said; after that crazy crash in Lanza, I made it to Kona, completed the race, AND GOT THE GIRL!!  Things don’t get much better than that.

So where do I go from here?  For me, the whole reason I ended up doing triathlon is because I truely love getting out there pushing my limits and enjoy every second doing it.  So I am going to carry on doing just that.

Over Christmas and New Year I am heading out to Zermatt again with my family.  Last Christmas I ran up and down three ski mountains in 6 hours.  However, it was only midday when I finished.  There was still a good 4hrs day light to play with so why stop at three?  There are five skiing peaks in Zermatt and this Christmas I going to try and run up all of them in one day!!!  The ‘ZERMATT FIVE PEAK CHALLENGE’: Rothorn (3103m) – Hohtalli (3286m) – Gornegrat (3090m) – Schwarzee (2583m) – Kl Matterhorn (3885m).  It is a crazy idea, I know, but I get excited at the very idea of this.  I will need to leave the chalet at around 4am and will probably reach the first peak around sunrise.  How cool does that sound!!  I have run up all of the peaks before and kind of know what to expect.  But like all of these crazy things, it is the journey and the unknown of it all that makes it all worth doing.

Can I make it?  Probably not, but I learnt a very long time ago, NEVER say NEVER.

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Getting ready for the heat in Kona

Posted: September 22, 2011 in Iron Man, Triathlon

The race at Challenge Copenhagen feels like a lifetime away and it’s hard to believe I am heading off to Kona tomorrow.

So much has gone on in the aftermath of breaking the 9 hour IM barrier.  To start with, one week after the race  in Copenhagen, I clocked 1hr 48mins for a 50 mile TT winning by over 4 minutes.  What really surprised me was how easy it felt.  Can not really explain that one.  I guess that with all this training you naturally go through cyclic peaks and troughs, with the aim being to peak in synch with your ‘A’ races.  Guess my peak came a week late in this cycle!  What followed on from this was a massive trough.
I got a terrible throat infection that meant I was not really able to eat for 3-4 days and was totally out of action for 1 week.  This was kind of like a blessing in disguise really.  The enforced weeks rest had allowed my muscles to fully recover and when I did finally get back on the bike, I felt absolutely AMAZING.  Happy days 🙂 (more…)
Sport can be heart breaking.  You see it every day in sporting events when things do not go ‘your way’ after all the focus and effort that has been invested.  This can cause grown men and women to break down is tears with the disappointment just too much to handle.  Conversely, the ecstasy you feel when you achieve your dreams in sport is like nothing you can imagine.  This is why I love sport.  It is an emotional roller coaster and you never know where the ride will take you.  But one thing is certain, it is always one hell of a ride.
Over the last 15 months I think I have just about experienced every type of emotion possible.  The crash in Lanzarote started it all off and if I am honest I am not really sure what I was feeling.  I don’t think my mind was in any state to really ‘feel’ anything.  In the aftermath all I can recall is this intense anger and frustration.  My response to this was to channel all this raw emotion into my training and recovery.  I was solely focused on getting back to racing and this focus consumed me, to the point that I was missing the things that really matter in life.
I had entered both Challenge Barcelona and Ironman Mexico with the goal of going sub 9 hours in both races.
Challenge Barcelona was emotional to say the least.  Standing on the start line watching the sun rise I just felt happy to be alive and lucky, so very lucky to have been able to find my way back to full fitness.  I wish I could explain in words what crossing that finish line meant to me.  It was like I had been going through the last few months with a red mist blurring my view of things and the process of completing that race slowly allowed that red mist to lift.  Hard to explain.  The finish time (9hrs 26mins) that day was not really what I had been aiming for but I let it go.  Always next time.  Next time being Ironman Mexico.  But as is often the way in sport, things did not quite go to plan and while I was happy with the result (9hrs 23mins & a slot for Kona) I felt like I had not performed to the best of my ability.  This bugged me.  I knew I was better than that.  I just did not have the performance to prove it.

With Kona scheduled at the end of my 2011 season, many people might have expected me not to race much in the build up.  The thing is, I still had a lot of unfinished business and did not want to leave it to be put right in Kona.  I really want to be able to enjoy Kona and not worry about the result.  I know I am probably going to melt on the run and just want to go there, soak up the experience with no pressure on my shoulders.
Instead I put that pressure on both Ironman Switzerland and Challenge Copenhagen with the hope I might at least in one of the races do myself proud.  Things in Ironman Switzerland did not go to plan. I clocked 9hrs 33mins and was frustrated to produce another performance that I felt was below par.  After the race I spent alot of time analyzing why things had gone wrong and put together a detailed race plan for Challenge Copenhagen that hopefully addressed all those issues.
In my last four Ironman distance races I had clocked 9:34, 9:26, 9:23, 9:33 and I was beginning to loose faith in whether I would ever actually make it under 9 hours at all.
Going into Challenge Copenhagen I can honestly say that I was not thinking about breaking 9 hours.  After the last four races I just wanted to have a solid race and a result I could be proud of.  Things started well and I clocked a 52mins swim.  I had felt smooth, comfortable and happy with the pace.  The bike took you through Copenhagen centre and I took it very easy in this section.  As the route headed north I started to up the anti.

By the end of the first lap I was bang on the race plan of 280 watts average and feeling very comfortable.  Second lap went well, I picked the cadence up a bit on the climbs and with 20km to go the power had only dropped slightly to 273 Watts average.  At this point I made a big call. I was still feeling good but I backed the pace right down.  Freewheeling the descents and putting minimal effort in on the flats.
This probably meant I was 5 minutes slower into T2 but I was hoping it would allow me to hit the run with at least a chance of running well???
Out of T2 on the run I was feeling OK.  The 4m40sec/km pace I hoped to hold felt refreshingly comfortable but for some reason I was not in a great place mentally.  I think I was expecting to blow up at any point.  But as the marathon progressed to my surprise I was still holding pace.  Two laps down and I was still expecting to blow up but didn’t.  One lap to go and even then I thought, ‘things like this just don’t work out, I am never going to make it below 9hrs’.  5km to go and still I was convinced I would come home in 9hr 05mins.
Like I said my maths is rubbish.  I had 12mins and 3km to go!! I thought F**k it.  If I blow up now so be it, but I am going to ‘sprint’ at my very limit until I do.  The rest was a blur of pain.  I only knew I was going to do this when i was within 5 meters of the finish line.  That is how close things were!!
As I crossed the line I was consumed with emotion.  The culmination of the last six years training and focus was all there in that moment and it is one I will remember for the rest of my life.

Ironman Switzerland 2011

Posted: July 15, 2011 in Iron Man, Triathlon

It is almost a week after the race in Zurich and the dust is now starting to settle.

I have very mixed feelings about the race and to be honest am a little disappointed with how things went on the day.  But maybe I am being a little harsh on myself??
The race started pretty well.  I managed to position myself well for the start and after swimming hard for a few minutes I settled into what felt like a VERY easy pace. After the first lap I put in a 2-3 minute effort and quickly caught the group 50 meters in front of me.  At this point I made the call not to push on but to sit on the feet of this group.  I was swimming well within myself and came out of the water fresh in a slow time of 58 mins around 40th overall and 7th in my age group.  Looking at the times for the swim, I think all the swimmers were about 5mins slower than expected.  Looking back on it, this was the first ironman swim where I felt like I was not trying.  The question I have in the back of my mind is should I have put in some more effort and come out closer to the front?  Difficult to answer that one.
Out on the bike I felt solid and cruised along in the low 300 watt range for the first 30km around the lake.  This section was pancake flat and I spent very little time below 25mph.  I had passed a lot of people and think I was leading the age group race.  The course turned away from the lake and as I started the first climb of the day a pack of about 6 riders joined me at the front of the race.  I stayed with them for the climb but due to my nervous descending lost the group as we headed back down towards the lake.  No too worried about this I started the second climb of the day up ‘the beast’ holding around 350-360 watts.  At this stage of the race things were looking good.  Again I descended back to the lake slowly and was happy to be on the flat cruising at the low 300 watt range again.
I finished lap one and was averaging 300 watts but had only managed a 2hr 27min lap time.  The second lap started well but as I hit the first climb I started to get stomach issues which caused me to have to back the pace off.  It also meant I could not really take on the nutrition I needed.  Combine that with the heat of the day and that equals an unhappy Chris.  I made it around the reminder of the second lap,  but not in a great state.  I was a good 12 minutes slower on the second lap.  Nonetheless I came into T2 21st overall and 3rd in my age group.  I had averaged 283 watts, which was about 35 watts more than the Ironman in Cozumel so all things considered not to shabby.  It just goes to show that hilly courses are not really playing to my strengths!!  Put me on a flat course with that power and things would be very different out there.
Anyway, on the run things did not really start well.  I was quickly passed by about 10 people and running way below par.  This made it very hard to stay positive, but I just I tried to ignore all of this.  I have blown up too many times out on the run of an Ironman.
I managed to maintain a constant pace, albeit a very slow 5mins/km, but was low on calories due to the stomach problems out on the bike and the heat was starting to get to me.  After the first 8 km I picked up some ice packs from Carli and placed them on my forearms under my arm coolers.  The effect was amazing and my pace jumped from 5mins/km to 4mins 30secs/km (what should be my race pace) almost instantly.  The ice packs melted pretty quickly and as my core temperature rose again so my pace dropped back to 5mins/km.  I struggled on through the next lap still maintaining the same slow pace unable to keep my temperature down.  I was not in a great place.  At this point things were really starting to get to me and I was getting more and more pissed off with ever step. THEN THE RAIN CAME.  I could feel my temperature dropping and as it did back came my energy.  I had about 12km left on the run and I just felt angry with how things had gone over the day.  It was at this point, that I decided I would just run hard and see how long I could hold on for.  Not expecting to last very long.  This is where I surprised my self.  I was running at around 4mins 20sec/km pace with a kind of aggression unlike anything I have experienced in a Ironman.  And as the rain came down harder, so my pace picked up further.  I was loving the rain!!  In the last few km my pace dropped below 4mins/km pace and I was starting to pass people like they were standing still.  My aggression had slowly lifted over the last 40mins and I had the Rocky sound tracking rolling through my brain.  For the first time in ages I was in a good place.  My final run time was 3hrs 25mins.  Again not what I had been hoping but that being said it was awesome to finish the race so strongly.
I crossed the line in a 9hrs 33mins.  I was 36th overall and 7th in my age group.  It had been a tough day and I had mixed feelings about the overall result.  I felt disappointed with my biking on the day.  I was a good 12 minutes slower on the second lap and those stomach problems really made taking on the calories hard to do.  It also meant that going into the run I was is a much worse state than normal and it is very hard to recover from a situation like that.  What I was really please with was the way I had managed to hold it together out on the run and especially with the form I managed to regain for the last 10km.
Going into the race my form had suggested good things.  But as is the way in Ironman racing so many things have to come together for that to translate into a good result.  I felt that I was about 20 minutes off where I would have liked to have been.  Having said all that, if you look at the stats, my power output was 35 watts higher than it was in Ironman Cozumel and my run time was still a good 7 minutes faster.  So I guess it was a better performance, it was just the caliber of athletes were better in Zurich than Mexico.  Something you would probably expect.

Challenge Barcelona, Calella, Spain.

Standing at the start of the Challenge Barcelona (Ironman distance triathlon race) on Sunday I took a step back from it all and watched the sun rise.  It was a pretty emotional moment for me.  Four months ago I was in a Hospital bed on Gran Caneria having suffered a brain haemorrhage and fractured vertebrae from a bike crash while racing Ironman Lanzarote.  That now seems like another lifetime away, or a bad dream.  In the months after the crash my mind seemed to be stuck in race mode and was unable to let go.  I have been totally focussed on racing again will little room for much else.  The reality of this meant that I have been my own worst enemy, and was forgetting what really mattered, enjoying every second of living and the people around me.

Standing at the start on Sunday it all seemed to make sense.  Sure I was going to give absolutely everything I had in the race today, but the red mist that had been clouding my mind for the last 4 months was finally lifting.  I was just appreciating the view and chatting to the people around me.

The Challenge series operates a multi wave starting system.  The Pro’s had gone off 30 minutes ahead and I was in the 4th wave of the day (Male 30-35).

The start was pretty chilled and I got clear water from the off.  I was just behind the lead swimmer but could not stay on his feet for long.  The rest of the swim I was on my own and came out of the water 2nd.  Not a bad start.

Out on the bike and I was riding my new toy, the Giant SL O time trial bike.  This is a speed machine and a pleasure to ride.  I was on my own for the first two laps with nothing but the tarmac and great views to keep me company.  I would get the odd glance of the pro wave that set off 30 minutes before me.  The guys were all operating in a peloton style with a draft legal (ish) 7m gap between riders.  It must make a big difference when travelling around 25mph to be riding in this way, even with the 7m gap between them.  Unfortunately, this was not something I was able to take advantage of and the 39km/hr average speed I was holding for the first two laps slowed to 38km/hr on my final lap.  My legs were feeling the pace and I was unsure if the run was going to go to plan.  As usual, I was still hopeful I would be able to hold the 3hr marathon pace that I was aiming for.  I came off the bike in 4hrs 46mins and 3rd in my Category.  The multi wave start nature of this race meant that was all I knew at this point.

In T2 I changed tops, put on my tri top and arm coolers both soaked in energicer.  It felt amazing and the cooling effect was immediate.  Heading out onto the run I took my time to get going and built the speed up slowly.  The run course was four laps and the race plan had been to hold 4:30-4:40mins/km pace for the first two laps and build the pace up over the last two laps if I was feeling good.  This pace should have been very easily achievable for me.  However, it quickly became apparent that I was not running well.  I made the decision early doors to back the pace off to 4:50-5:00min/km pace.

It was tough going out on the run and the heat of the day was building.  At the middle aid station Carli (my girlfriend) was waiting with ice cubes!  Amazing!!!  I put ice cubes inside my arm coolers on my forearms.  The effect was unbelievable.  I could actually feel the ice cooling my veins and in turn my entire body.  While my legs were pretty shot, the cooling allowed me to at least hold my current pace.  Using this cooling technique, I managed to hold the 4:50-5:00min/km pace for the first three laps.  On the final lap I was giving everything I had but there was just nothing left in the tank.  I think it must have slowed to around 5:15min/km pace and it was all I could do to hold that.  The run time was going to be in the 3hr 30mins region.  Way off what I had been hoping for.  But that is the nature of Ironman racing and I was just pleased I had been able to hold it all together and maintain the roughly the same pace throughout.

Running down the finish chute this time was a blur of emotion.  This was so much more to me than just finishing another Ironman.  It was putting to rest the crash in Lanzarote and all the shit that followed.  I was close to tears.  I can’t really explain what this meant to me.  I had no idea how I had done in the race, and if I am truly honest I don’t think it really mattered.

Just in case anyone is interested, the results finally emerged the next morning.  I finished in 9hrs 26mins, 3rd in my age group, 8th non-pro and 35th overall.  I had been hoping to break 9hrs so not quite what I had aimed for.  There is always next time though 😉

I even got a trophy for coming 3rd in my age group. It now sits to the right of our mantelpiece, reminding me every day how lucky I am to still be here.

Back in the saddle

Posted: July 20, 2010 in Bike Accident, Iron Man

Right after the crash:

Imagine you have just got out of bed and not quite woken up properly yet.  That is pretty much how I am feeling 247 at the moment.  I feel in a daze, half there and half not.  The severity of the crash and what has happened to me has not really sunk in.  I am still thinking that it is race day and my mind can not wind down.  This all seems like one big bad dream at the moment.  I hope I wake up soon.

1 week after the crash:

I am awake, finally!  I have just been to the docs and been given the all clear!!  The doctor said I could slowly ease back into training over the next 2 months.  This means that I am going to miss pretty much all the races this season though.  I’m determined to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and this determination is consuming my every thought.

8 weeks after the crash:

I am back!  Just got home after a long weekend in Zermatt.  I spent 4 days running up mountains clocking over 11hrs running and climbing over 10,000m.  Before this trip I was still feeling stupidly tired for no reason in particular.  Out in Zermatt I seemed to feel better with every step and after the 4 days felt well and truly back.  OK I still have a way to go before I am back to full fitness but I feel like me again finally after 8 weeks and it is the best feeling in the world.  Happy days.

IM Lanza crash

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Bike Accident, Iron Man

I can’t write much about this myself, as I have no memory of the accident, race day or the  following week I spent in Hospital Dr Negrin on Gran Caneria.

I have however been able to piece together the cause and my subsequent re-location to Gran Caneria through family who were out with me, and the team at Club La Santa whose help and support has been phenomenal.

I was fortunate  (I think!) to have crashed at the spot where Terry Jones, the Welsh Triathlon Coordinator was spectating, and he has since been able to provide me with the following explanation of the turn of events:

We were sitting right at the bottom of the hill in Haria and watched the bikes come down the hill, Chris must have been in the first 30/40 bikes and was on his own as he descended down the hill, we think that he either was taking out or replacing his drink bottle when he probably hit a pothole or something and his front wheel turned and he came down heavily on the road. This happened at 11.20hrs (this was the time on the camera) It is hard to estimate how long it took for the Ambulance to arrive but I would guess approx 10/15 minutes. The last picture I took of the bikes which also showed Chris in the background, was 11.41hrs this was just before he departed in the ambulance.

As soon as he crashed the police marshalls immediately left their positions and went to help him. They couldn’t do a lot other than call an Ambulance and make the area around him safe, put barriers up etc., to divert the oncoming bikes. Chris had actually landed in a recovery position but appeared to have knocked himself out. There were quickly quite a few people around him trying to help.

When all the police and marshal’s left their positions to go and help him there was complete chaos down in Haria, as traffic was now turning out in front of bikes coming down the hill and some of the bikes were trying to take the road to Arrietta instead of turning to go up through the village to Mirador, there was a young lad left to marshall there but he could not cope, as all the crowd were shouting at him what to do?

When the Ambulance arrived it came down a side street at the bottom of the hill and tried to turn up the hill into the oncoming bikes, he couldn’t turn for some, but a Paramedic jumped out of the Ambulance and ran up the hill to attend to Chris, I think by now Chris was sitting up?

To make matters even worse it appeared that a member of the public who had witnessed the crash also collapsed on the opposite side of the road to Chris and one of the Paramedics also had to attend to him.

It was amazing to sit and watch the amount of traffic which was trying to get through the village of Haria, at one point when Bert Jammer was coming through he had to slow up and actually wait for a bus full of tourist’s to slowly go around the tight bend in the village. From an observers point of view the whole part of the bike route through the village of Haria, from a point of safety should be shut off to traffic and that should also include the hill coming down from the top of Haria, but I guess this would be hard to achieve?

I think I was taken to Arrecefe hospital in Lanzarote where I was examined, stitched up and medicated. It transpires that I had a mild subarachnoid haemorrhage and a fracture in my C7, along with a broken nose, 8 stitches in my head, lip and I was also a few teeth down! I was air lifted to Gran Caneria on a medi-plane where I spent the next week. The hospital had specialist neurosurgeons, so I was in the best hands. I was given a safe to fly certificate toward the end of the week, and headed back to the UK, for the next round of specialist doctor appointments!

When can I get back on my bike?