Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.

11709415_433412573507690_5175621136774302769_n

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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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

 

 

 

 

Quote from Challenge Copenhagen race report 2011 – 8 hours 59 minutes 42 seconds

“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.”

One of the great things about writing this blog is looking back over past entries.  It reminds me of the roller coaster ride that is ‘SPORT’.  Following on from Challenge Roth 2013 I found it very hard to bring myself to write anything.   The race was without a doubt one of the most mentally gruelling experiences I have been through.  After 2hrs on the bike, physically I was broken.  The power had dropped like a sinking lead weight, I was seeing stars and struggling to ride in a straight line.  For the first time in my life I seriously thought about quitting.  This was then followed up by pure anger at myself for even thinking such a thing!  And so this battle continued for the next 6hrs.  By the time I crossed the finish line I was mentally broken.   My mind was spent and I had nothing left to give.  I was totally and utterly gutted.

Challenge Roth 2013

In the days after the race I remember feeling broken like never before.  I am used to physically being broken.  That has happened to me 100’s of time and the body heals quick.  What I am not used to is being mentally broken.  Even after the crash in IM Lanzarote my mind felt strong and full of fight.  OK, my head had been through the wars and had some healing to do but I can still remember feeling that ‘fight’ inside me.  After Challenge Roth for the first time in my life that ‘fight’ felt completely gone.

After the race there were some kind words said to me, from people who had no reason or need to say anything.  So I just want to say thank you to them.  If you are reading this, you will know who you are.  It was very much needed and you have no idea how much it helped.

Over the next 12 days I spent ALOT (probably too much) of time thinking about the race and what went so horribly wrong in Roth.  I explored almost every avenue I could think of, had doctor check ups, spoke to various experts and carried out some tests.  After all this analysis it all pointed to one thing – THE HEAT.  It boiled down to one thing.  I had massively improved my race pace power over the winter.  In the Forestman I had averaged 304W and it had felt comfortable.  It was 16DegC that day and I was warm.  What I had not even thought about was the associated problems of increasing your power output – the increased heat you generate!  Basically, on a hot day at 300-310W I generate too much heat for my body to cope with.  My core temperature rose above a critical point and bang – game over.  That is what happened in Roth.

I had not even considered Germany to be a hot place to race and had done zero heat acclimatisation.  Right up to the taper the weather in the UK had been cold and wet so I had zero heat training in my system.  I had no chance out there.

Being a UK based athlete, even with heat training, I am still going to have this overheating issue.  I can’t just say “well it is a hot day, so I won’t be able to perform well today”.  I needed to find an answer….

This ‘answer’ was sparked by a conversation with Simon Smart.  The idea was simple and at that point it was no more than a concept.  But from the moment this ‘idea’ entered my head it was like someone flicked a switch.  Fuelled by the prospect of an answer to this overheating problem I could feel the ‘fight’ surging back.   This was more than an idea, it was a spark of ‘hope’.

Ironman Copenhagen is in 9 days time.  I have never felt such a sense of calm before a race as I do right now.  I know what I am capable of, I have not doubt in my mind.  Whether this happens in Copenhagen…….  Well that is what sport is all about………..

The Goal Posts…

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

2012 was one hell of a year for me.  I can vividly remember writing my blog entry about ‘making the step up to the next level’ at the start of the year. It was actually the process of writing the entry that allowed me to take a step back from the moment and look at things from a slightly bigger perspective. I don’t think I would have ever made the jump into the pro ranks if I had not written that entry. The process of writing things down, somehow allows me to appreciate the moment, the memories, from a different view point. That is the only way I can really describe it.

Anyway, I made the step up AND held my own! Something I am incredibly proud of.

It is funny how the ‘goal posts’ constantly change. Carli and I moved house recently and I was going through things in the attic. Up there I found a massive framed picture of my first Ironman. Ironman Switzerland, 2005.

IM Switzerland 2005

I looked so different back then!!! And my times….. I can remember the whole day like it was yesterday. From hugging my Bro before the start, to the very last km of the run, where my Mum ran along side me (that is how slow I was moving) shouting at me to keep going!!! It was a very special day.

Since then the ‘goal posts’ have changed dramatically. In fact, the ‘goal posts’ are pretty much on a different pitch entirely. But here is the funny thing. Looking back at the memories of my first Ironman in 2005, I honestly could not say whether finishing my first ever Ironman, or breaking into the top 10 in the Challenge races last year, was more special. The ‘goal posts’ may be on a new pitch, but it makes very little difference. I guess that is the great thing about sport.

AND…. the ‘goal posts’ are STILL MOVING.

At the start of 2012, I set myself a target – 8hrs 45mins. At the time, even saying that out loud, it sounded crazy. But looking at the numbers, the time was doable. I came home in 8hrs 47mins at Challenge Copenhagen, so I was pretty close!

Since November, the numbers have just got better and better. So much so, that when I do the maths, the end result just sounds crazy. Totally nuts!! So nuts that I find it hard to even say my goal for 2013 out loud. Let alone, to put it down in words…. Suffice to say, it involves Challenge Roth and the magic number 8.

That is about all I can say. July is not that far away, so time for me to get my head down and work harder than I have ever worked before!!

The Jump

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Following on from the Outlaw on the 1st July I had 6 weeks run in to Challenge Copenhagen.  Not a lot of time!  Factor in 1 weeks recovery after the Outlaw and 1 week taper that left exactly 4 weeks in which I was hoping to get some quality training.  History has shown that I always perform better in my second Ironman distance race of the season – In planning out my 2012 race calendar, I took this into account and the plan was to use the Outlaw as a spring board to jump off.

The final training block leading into Challenge Copenhagen went as well as I could have hoped.   One week after the Outlaw and I was feeling awesome.  I was like a horse chomping at the bit.  I know I recover quickly but I was careful to wind things up slowly over the next 4 weeks.  Building each session on the last, I could feel myself getting stronger and stronger.  But more importantly, with each session, I could feel the “BELIEF” inside me growing.  For me, that last 4 weeks training was a much about convincing myself I was good enough to make this jump into the pro ranks as it was about anything else.

Standing at that start line along side all the other pro’s I honestly believed ‘I could do this’.  No doubts, no fears, just focus and a lot of pride.  To be even standing along side all these awesome athletes was the best sporting achievement of my life and the gun had not even gone off yet!

The swim went pretty well.  A few guys shot off the front pretty early on.  As it happened I settled into the second group of swimmers at what felt like a very comfortable pace.  After about 1000m the pace settled down and I found myself swimming a bit slower than I would have liked.  However, by now the gap to the guys in front was just too big to bridge, so it was either swim solo or stick with the pace in the group.  I opted to stay with the group.  I had made the call not to wear a watch for the swim so I had no idea of my swim split.  To be honest I did not even give it a seconds thought.  I just got my head down and went through T1 as fast as I possibly could.  I was surprised to find that having come into T1 in a group 8-9 strong this quickly spread out.  Leaving T1 I could only see 2 other riders.  I had either been super quick or super slow?!?

The bike was very strange territory for me.  Normally, I am solo for the entire bike leg in Ironman distance races.  I knew going into the race and starting with the pro’s it was likely that other bikers would be around me.  My biggest concern was about staying 10m or more behind the bike in front.

How do you gauge 10m?  To solve this problem I had practised spotting points in front of me and then making sure those points were 11 long strides or more away from me.   I did this while walking to the race briefing and was relieved to find that, with a bit of trial and error using this method, it was actually very easy to gauge 10m 🙂

I love the bike course out in Copenhagen.  It starts out winding through the city before you head north along the coast on a fast stretch of road.  By the time we had reached this section of road I had passed 4-5 riders and a speed line had formed behind me.   The course then heads inland and onto some smaller roads with a bit of climbing and some more technical sections.  As the 1st lap went on things changed around a bit.  A few riders took their turn at the front of the speed line and a few riders were dropped.  As we hit the second lap the group had whittled down to three riders.

This all changed at the 150km mark.  We had just hit a short incline.  This is where you have to be really careful not to enter the 10m exclusion zone.  I was at the back of the speed line and the pace dropped much more than I was expecting.  So much so that I had to put the brakes on quite hard to avoid entering the 10m exclusion zone.  The rider in front of me did not.  He must have only been closer than 10m for just over 30 seconds and the motor cycle came up along side him to give him a yellow card and a 4 minute penalty.  I had been riding in and around this guy most of the day and it must have been the first time he had got closer than 10m, from what I had seen.  Gutted for him, but rules are rules I guess.

At that point I made the call to put my foot down and push for the last 30km.  I was still feeling strong and thought this would be the perfect time to break away from these guys.  It seemed to work 🙂

As I entered the edge of the city I could see three riders in front of me and by the time I entered T2 I had caught them up.  My bike split was 4:41:00 and was the 4th fastest of the day.  What really surprised me was what happened next.  All three guys in front got directed into the penalty tent to serve a 4 min penalty for drafting and I found my self leaving T2 4th in the race!!!

I was running with a bounce in my step and feeling good.  Only problem was I desperately needed a loo stop!  I really did not want to stop, but when nature calls, it calls.  So I found my self in the aid station toilets counting the seconds down.  It felt like the longest loo stop I have ever had!!

Back on the road and I was running well.  Nothing amazing, but a solid 2:55 – 3:00 marathon pace.  I was passed by a 2-3 pros over the first 20km but that really did not phase me.  I was running well, really well.  They were just running better.  Simple as that.  Around the 23-24 km mark the pace started to drop.  This happened to me in the Outlaw and fundamentally the reason why I was unable to win that race.  I was expecting this drop in pace to happen in Copenhagen.  At that stage of the race I have come to believe that holding pace is as much mental as it is physical.  I knew I needed to find something to mentally hold onto that would pull me through that dark patch when it hit, I just did not know what it would be.  With 13km to go I could feel the race slipping away from me.  What really upset me was the thought of failing to make this step up into the pro ranks after all the sacrifices Carli (my fiancée / wife in two weeks!!) has made in order that I could achieve my dream.  She has gone through so much, from sitting at my bed day and night after the crash in IM Lanzarote, to putting up with my relentless drive to get back into a sport that almost killed me.  Putting up with the never ending hours of training AND listening to my drivel about power, heart rate etc…..  Coming to watch every race I do.  In this instance she was up at 3am to make an early flight on Saturday morning.  She then was up with me at 4am on Sunday and flew home at 9pm after the race.  The thought of that all being for nothing was just not an option.  As all of this was going through my mind, Carli’s face just popped into my head and simply said ‘just run faster’.  So with 12km to go, I did just that with Carli ‘pulling’ me along all the way to the finish.

I had no clue what my overall time was going to be until I turned the last corner.  With 20m to go I saw the clock.  It read 8:46:xx.  It was all a bit to much.  As I crossed the finish line I could feel the tears starting to well up and the bottom lip starting to shake.  Good thing I was still wearing my sunnies!  I went straight through the finish area to find Carli.  I gave her a massive massive hug and said ‘we did it babe’ 🙂

In 2011 I crossed the finish at Challenge Copenhagen in 8hr 59mins 42 seconds.  At the time I remember thinking ‘it does not get any better than this’.  Well, it just did!


The final break down:

Swim 51:13   Position 8th

T1 2:35  Position 14th

Bike 4:41:00  Position 4th

T2 1:46  Position 8th

Run 3:10:34  Position 9th

Overall Time 8:47:06 Final overall position 8th

Sitting at the table having breakfast the morning of the race I started to read the welcome speech written by the race director, titled: Ko Aloha la ea – “keep the love”

“Each athlete has a vision, one representing strength and courage that begins with a dream and is filled with love.  The love that surrounds you and what is within you has brought you here.  No matter what challenges you face, no matter who you are or where you come from, with love you can surmount anything.  I encourage you to reflect on the journey that brought you to Kona and what it has taught you.  It is time to call upon your knowledge, inner strength and determination.  Embrace the power of the Big Island, conquer this championship and fulfil your dream.  As you continue your journey, embrace the purpose of competition.  Competition is not the domination of others, but rather the pursuit of excellence within you.”

The journey I have been on over the last 17 months was summarised there in that welcome speech.

Starting with the crash in Lanzarote and what followed.
I would have never made it to Kona without the amazing support of my friends, family and most significantly my truly legendary girl friend, Carli.  The weekend before the race we ventured over to Maui and on black rock, a lava headland, with the surf crashing all around us I asked her to marry me.  She said YES!  So for me, sitting there at 3.30am eating my breakfast, the reference to “love” in the welcome speech really did hold extra special significance.

The race its self was certainly one hell of an experience.  The swim was tough and like nothing I have ever done before.  The intensity and aggression of all the swimmers was crazy.  You would have thought it was a 100m sprint not the start of an Ironman.   I felt like I was doing OK so was pretty surprised to see my clock read a slow 1hr 01 mins when I exited the water.

Much like the swim, it felt like the bike was going OK.  I started out at a controlled pace and was feeling good.  It felt like I was slowly moving up the field and at the turn around point I don’t think I was more than a 5 minutes off the leading age groupers.  The return leg was always going to be where the damage would be done.  As the sun heats up the lava rocks, they in turn heat up the air around them and this then gets blown into your face by super strong head winds. I knew what to expect having checked out the course at the same time of day the week before.  However, at race pace effort I found myself overheating.   Backing off the pace slightly helped and I made the call not to try and push but find a comfortable pace in this heat, which was a disappointingly slow pace.Chris Goodfellow Kona Bike

I came into T2 in 5hrs 03 mins.  As with the swim, this was slower than I would have expected but I was hopeful I would still be able to run well.  It was immediately obvious that this was not going to be the case.  I could not even hold 5 mins / km.  People were flying by me like I was standing still.   The heat was just sapping the energy from me and the situation did not seem to improve.  This is what I was afraid would happen out here.  I know I suffer in the heat and I had hoped that the heat training and acclimatization might help.  After this race I don’t think any amount of heat training can help me.  I am just not designed / built to race in the heat.

Despite all of this, my mind was still in a good place and I was feeling surprisingly positive. I have become good at gauging the effort level needed for the run section of an Ironman.  So I just locked in on that and walked the aid stations.  The time was going to be bad, I knew that, but I just focused on trying to enjoy as much as I could of what was left of the day.  The run time ended up being an embarrassingly slow 3hrs 57 mins.  Probably one of my slowest ever Ironman runs.  Still as I crossed the finish line I felt honoured to have been part of what is truly an amazing event.

My finishing time was 10hrs 08mins.  Not a great time for me, but if you asked me what went wrong, I honestly don’t think anything did.  I always knew that for me, heat was going to be the limiting factor.  Given the conditions on the day, this was the very best my body could do.  Looking over the results I was 535th overall and 100th out of 171 in my age group.  The competitive side of my nature kicks in at this point and I cannot help feeling disappointed with my performance.  Then the other half of my brain reminds me that I gave my all and this was the very best my body could have done under the conditions on the day.  Honestly, part of me will always feel disappointed I was not able to perform to the level that I know I am capable of, but that is just the way things go sometimes.

Later on that evening we went back to the finish and watched 60, 70 and even 80+ year old men and women finishing the race.  Truly inspirational stuff.  I repeatedly found myself holding back the tears as athletes crossed the line.  This whole day has left me feeling very humble.  There are some truly amazing athletes competing in this event and I feel honoured to have been out there competing with and against them.  It has been an awesome experience and in the words of the race director, Ko Aloha la ea – “keep the love”.

Hawaii Sun Set