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Weymouth 70.3

Posted: September 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

Wow – This one REALLY hurt.

Racing two 70.3 races on back to back weekends is definitely an interesting approach to take.

I can remember having some grub with a friend a few hours after the Vitruvian and saying that “I could not think of anything I would like to do less than another half IM triathlon in 7 days time!!”.

Still a few days on from the race and my perspective was changing… By the time I got round to writing the Vitruvian race report on the Friday I was actually feeling mentally fresh and ready to rock.  I stress the words mentally ready.  I had no idea how my body was going to hold up.  Here is what happened next…..

The Swim

It was funny listening to all the people around me complaining about how cold it was at the race start.  For me I am happiest in pretty much ice cold temperatures and I was loving the freshness in the air.

After the shocker I had in the previous weekend’s swim with hyperventilation hitting me like a big truck I made the call to start VERY slowly in the swim this time round.  Interestingly enough, I could almost feel the same thing happening at the start, but as I slowed the pace a touch the moment passed and I could crack on with the swim.  There was a real swell in the water and this would have made sighting a real problem had it not been for the fact the direction we needed to swim in, was directly in line with the rising sun.  It felt great being out in the ocean in the swell and while I did not have a super fast swim, I really did enjoy the time in the water and was almost a little disappointed when the swim came to an end.

As I hit dry land I got my race head on and when I hit the bike, I hit it hard.

The Bike

I was not planning to ride the bike especially hard, it kind of just happened.  Out of T2 and I hit a steady climb after a few minutes, so I figured I would push HARD on this one.

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I rode up it at a solid 400+W, completely intending on backing the pace off at the top.  But then there was somebody just up the road so I figured I would keep on pushing just a bit until I passed him.  Then there was another cheeky hill so I figured I would push on that to keep the momentum going.  Then I could see someone else just a little bit up the road so I kept on pushing.  Then I picked up a bit of a speed line so I pushed a bit more to drop them.  But this did not seem to work….  So I put in a couple of HUGE surges and within seconds they were gone 🙂

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Then there was another hill and I figured I would keep pushing to build a decent gap.  Then I spotted some more people up the road and the whole process repeated itself over and over again for about 80 minutes.  What started out as a surge up the first hill ended up as a huge 80 minute surge to the front of the Age Group race.

I was like a horse with a carrot and a proverbiale stick going round on repeat.  I found myself near sprinting to the top of some of the hills and over the other side.  This felt like proper RACING and I was loving every second of it.

At this point I overtook the first pro rider.  The pros went off 10mins ahead of us so it gave me a real boost to catch one of them after 80mins of riding.  I think I would have been safe to take the hammer off, but it simply was not possible since immediately after that we hit the one really big climb of the day.  With the chain ring combination I was riding I only had one option and that was to push well over 400W to the top, but once at the top I wanted to try and gap the pro I had just passed, so once again, I kept the hammer down.  Pretty quickly he was gone from sight and as I hit the 2hr mark I finally managed to let myself ease up, stop ‘pushing’ and return to what I would have called my normal 70.3 bike effort.

After the last 2hrs craziness, this felt like a recovery pace, which I kind of figured I needed, if I was going to stand a chance in hell of running more than two step once I was off two wheels.

For those of you interested in the numbers, the training peaks graph (with zero ‘smoothing’) below tells a pretty good story of the ride too.

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Approaching T2 I caught another pro and we rolled in together.  I was at the front of the Age Group race but I knew that as always, the speed runners would not be far behind.  To be fair, they were a little further back than I expected but they were still ‘there’.

The Run

The second I hit the run I KNEW it was going to be a VERY VERY long painful half marathon.  My heart rate was already north of 160.  When I hit the start of the Vitruvian run, a week earlier, my heart rate was sitting at 145-150.  It did not go north of 160 until the last few miles when I really started to push.

The fact my heart rate was already sitting at 160, meant I was going to have very little / no reserve to call on as the run progressed.

The first few miles actually were OK, but I knew my heart rate was slowly creeping up to 170.

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After about 20mins of running my heart rate hit 170.  That right there was my ceiling.  If I went my above 170, I would only be able to do so for a matter of minutes before the lights well and truly went out.

The best way I can describe the rest of the afternoon is like walking a tight rope.  My heart rate continued to slowly creep above 170 and every time it did I was forced to back the pace down another notch.

When the inevitable happened and I got passed by the odd age grouper, all I wanted to do was push and go with them.  But every time I did, my heart rate got dangerously close to 180 and I felt like I was about to pass out.  I would then have to slow to almost a walk, wait for my heart rate dropped to below 170 and start running properly once again.

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And so the run progressed pretty much in that manor all the way to the finish.  I have got to be honest, I did not think it was possible to run SO slowly with my heart on its limit, but I think the fatigue from racing the previous weekend combined with the crazy bike effort probably played a big part in that.  If someone would have told me before the race, that I would run for 60+ minutes with my heart rate sitting at or around 170 I would have told them that that was simply not possible.  I have always said, every now and then your body surprises you, and today it certainly did.

Crossing that finish line, I may not have had a fast run time, but I was very proud of the amount of effort I put into holding it together out there.

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I had no idea of of my position in the race at that point. I was just in a daze and chatting happily to the people around me who I had been racing.  Maybe 10minutes or so passed and I finally saw a friend who had also been racing.  He was a little more clued in with the results and filled in the spaces for me – 1st in the 35-40 age group, 5th age grouper overall and 16th overall included the pros.

The icing on the cake was my mate had finished 2nd in the 35-40 age group.  I was chuffed to bits for him, and maybe a little relieved he had not smoked past me on the run 😉

From a racing perspective this has been a pretty decent year all things considered.  Between falling off my bike in May and my back completely going at the end of June I can’t believe I managed to make it to the start line, let alone have a few half decent results along the way.  I think as I get older, I appreciate each result a little more than I used to, as you never know whether this might be your last top 5 / top 10 / Age Group win / podium place etc.. that you will get.

So a big thanks to everyone who has been part of helping me this season and over the years, in particular:

drag2zero – A great team and aerodynamic experts who ensure I ALWAYS hit the run as close to the front of the race as I could hope for.

Bosworth Clinic – Holding my back together so that I can even think about getting somewhere near the start line.

swim4tri – Ongoing advice and swim programs for the last 6 years.

Steve Bowerman – One of the best sports massage chaps I know in the business and helped me out of quite a few pickles where I have maybe pushed it all a little too hard!!!

Joe Beer – Ongoing coaching for the last 7 years and part of the building blocks behind EVERY result to date.

STAR of the show, my resident PT – Carli Goodfellow.  A friend asked me this morning what was the biggest contributing factor to the results I have had this year.  My answer to her was “all of the strength and conditioning Carli has had me doing.  It has been a real game changer…”

To all of you, from the bottom of my heart thank you.  You have no idea just how much I appreciate everything you have done for me.

Next up, Breca Consiton swim/run race.  That is going to be a cold one and I honestly can not wait.  Bring on the adventure 🙂

 

 

 

 

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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…..

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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……

 

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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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!!